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If Buddha lost his memory, would he still be a Buddha? || Acharya Prashant, with DU (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
20 min
100 reads

Questioner (Q): I have been suffering from a type of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) called somatic OCD for the last two years. I was in constant fear, every single moment, for around two years. I was on sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills, but I think what helped me a lot is a book named ‘The Power of your Subconscious mind’. My question is, is there something beyond mind?

I have been listening to you for the past 2 years, since 2020. I was getting convinced about Bodh (Understanding) concept, but when I was going through my OCD problem, that book helped me to recover. Right now, I am 90 per cent recovered from OCD. I am also convinced with the concepts in that book, but I don’t want to get convinced with that book, so I want your perspective for clarity.

The book says that if we are thinking in a certain pattern, that thinking will become our whole world. So, as I was constantly thinking about my OCD problem, I wasn’t paying attention to my studies, my parents, and I even failed my exams due to that reason. So, when I read that book, the method suggested in that book was that we should think in a certain right way because every one of us knows what is right and what is wrong to some extent. So, I started thinking in an opposite way, in a more positive way and it took my mind around 7 to 8 months to get convinced with that concept of positive thinking.

When you talk about ‘beyond-mind’, Truth, or Bodh concepts, is that another state of mind, albeit a higher state of mind? Is it within the parameters of the mind or beyond that?

If we take the example of Buddha, he took 12 years to attain Truth, Bodh or Nirvana. If we erase all the 12 years of his memory completely—that he was a prince of a mansion, that he had a wife, a son, etc.—will he be the same Buddha? If not, then isn’t Bodh also a part of the mind? Because Bodh is also a part of the memory and if I erase the memory, Buddha will come back to be a normal human being. So, this is my question: whether Bodh is a part of mind, a state of mind which can be achieved by practice or is it something beyond mind?

Acharya Prashant(AP): Let me invert the question. What if you give the same memories to some random person? Will he become a Buddha?

Q: No, Sir

AP: Think of it. There are so many people who are born in similar circumstances as Prince Gautam, who live much the same life—get married, have a kingdom waiting for them, get a baby, so, this is a very common kind of situation. Do you see these situations engendering, producing a Buddha?

Q: Sir, I don’t know if it was his luck. He found his circumstances to be disturbing, so he worked to change them.

AP: Why don’t all people do that? There are so many people in these situations, why don’t more people do that? Let's say, if not all, then at least 10 per cent of people, why doesn’t that happen?

Q: Because not everybody is brave enough to do so.

AP: So, what is this bravery? Is it memory? Or what is it?

Q: Just a state of mind.

AP: What do you mean by ‘state of mind’? What do you mean by ‘mind’? The mind is a concept. All states of the mind come from somewhere. The mind is just a concept. So, what do you mean by state of the mind? Where does Buddha’s uniqueness come from?

Q: I see it only as a coincidence.

AP: So, then you can even say that if you take away the Buddha’s memory then it's a matter of coincidence whether he will remain a Buddha or not.

Q: But I want to know that, sir.

AP: But then, you have brought randomness into the picture. You are saying it's just a coincidence. See, it's a subtle thing; understand.

The Buddha is not his body, at the same time, there is no Buddha without the body. Take this and meditate over it: ‘The Buddha is not the body of the Buddha, equally, there is no Buddha without the body.’

Q: So, does one complete the other?

AP: Think of it. It's not that one completes the other, they are not two parts. They are something far deeper than the book that you are reading.

Q: Sir, I never used to believe in such books, but that book actually helped me.

AP: We are not saying that only deep things can help people. A lot of superficial things help a lot of people, so, it's okay. To be helped, you do not always require a Buddha. Sometimes, you may even require a porter, or a plumber, or an electrician. You don’t always require a master surgeon, sometimes, even a pharmacist is okay to help you.

So, I am not denying that the stuff that you read might have helped you. The thing is, help has various levels. We do not know the level of our disease. So, often, we do not even know the level at which we need help. But nevertheless, it's great if you find relief by plunging yourself into positive thoughts and newer patterns. May it last. (chuckles)

Q: I don't want to be dependent on that. It helped me and the fact that it helped me actually bothered me.

AP: Then, you are still being bothered by this thing? Where is the lack of botheration?

Q: But the wrong thing helped me. That's what I am bothered about.

AP: If a wrong thing has a certain impact on you, it is not called help. It is called delusion. As you admittedly say, “It's a wrong thing but it helped,” the wrong thing, the impact that it has on you is called delusion. It is called misleading, it is not called help. It may appear like help for a while, but sooner than later the bubble will burst. The real thing is the real thing, there is no substitute. You cannot have positive thinking as a substitute for Buddha’s wisdom.

Q: I want to know the real thing. That is the question.

AP: How is it possible? You have already been helped.

Q: I don’t want to get helped by that book, because I know that won’t last.

AP: There is going to be a problem, you see. The real thing requires abstinence, parhez . You understand abstinence, parhez ? You have to stay clear of stuff that causes sickness in the first place. Optimism and thought patterns are the very food of sickness. That's what the ego feeds on. First of all, one has to stop all that. The doctor, even as he prescribes you pills, also prescribes you stuff to stay away from, right? If you don’t stay away, the pills won't work.

Don’t you see that the centre your thought is coming from is itself the problem that the centre itself is facing? How can you extend the problem to treat itself? How can you energise the problem and hope for a solution? How can you trick yourself into being wiser? (chuckles)

That’s what most of these ‘self-help books’ do. They say, ‘You can fool yourself into getting wiser.’ The thing is if you can be fooled, how are you getting any wiser?

Q: I had read that book many years back. At that time, I ignored that book. But my friend suggested that book again.

AP: Why do you have such friends? Maybe that's part of the problem.

Who suggested me to you?

Q: My brother.

AP: Your brother. Are your friends with your brother?

Q: No.

AP: You fight with your brother because he suggested me to you. And that some random rascal is your friend who is suggesting you all kinds of stuff that you shouldn’t be into.

Most often, it's not people who recommend me to people. Most often, it's money that recommends me to people. That’s the problem if you see. Nobody will come, nobody in your circle will come to recommend me to you. But ‘nonsense’, people are experts at recommending. Nonsense spreads like wildfire and becomes a national bestseller or international bestseller in no time. For you to come to me, I have to spend tons of money, just so that you can get a glimpse of what I want to say.

Do you see where the problem is? The problem is in the environment. Unless you turn your back to the environment and move into yourself, there is no redemption. You will have to be with people, with sources who encourage you to know yourself. If you continue to keep the company you do, you will continue to keep the disease you do. And your brother deserves better treatment. If he has recommended me to you, you have a very nice brother.

I am just patting myself on the back. That’s, as they say, a backhanded compliment. (Acharya Ji and volunteers in the room start laughing) By praising your brother, I am indirectly buttering myself. One indulges sometimes, you know. Even in spirituality, you have cheat days. So, you can feed the ego on those days. (chuckles)

Q: Sir, I am bothered about that because I know that is a wrong thing. My question is, if the wrong thing helped me…

AP: It didn’t help you. You see, just the day before there was Holi. And some people in the foundation—they took copious amounts of Bhang (an indigenous drink that’s mildly intoxicating) and then, they were so happy, they were continuously happy, they were so happy that I became miserable. (Volunteers in the room burst into laughter) They didn’t do anything for 24 hours straight. One of them occupied my bed, refused to budge, and didn't do a thing. You can be happy for anything! Bhang, ganja, weed, LSD, PSD—anything can make you very happy. So, happiness is not a criteria. Don’t you see what makes the general person happy? How can you treat happiness with such reverence? Our friend Julius (one of the volunteers at Advait foundation) is so happy. He came from Finland to us just to enjoy Bhang , and is still happy; it's been three days now, but the happiness isn't subsiding.

Q: You might be taking me as a girl who is trying to defend that book, but that’s not the case.

AP: I am not taking you as someone who is defending that book. Girl, yes, I am taking you as a girl. But the other part, I am not considering.

Q: Let me express myself completely.

AP: See, I too have a right to be happy, all right? So, allow me to be happy at your expense. (Everybody in the room, including Acharya Ji, enjoys the moments of laughter) Yes, please.

Q: My question is if that Bodh concept or whatever it is called…

AP: It is not a concept. Wait. Where are you coming from? Who told you Bodh is a concept? Bodh is to look at all your concepts. Bodh in itself is not a concept. Bodh ‘concept’! Atma ‘concept’! Are you coming from one of those humanities schools that deal only with ideas and claim that there is nothing beyond the human mind and human ideas? I was disgusted when I read one of those books by a, supposedly, famous author. And he talked of the Atma ‘concept’, the Brahm ‘concept’. This is so disgusting. Atma ‘concept’? Is Atma a ‘concept’? If Atma is a concept, what are you living for?

Q: Truth, or Self-realization, or Understanding, whatever that thing is, which cannot be expressed in words, I have not experienced it so far; I do not know anything about it. So, is it just a state of mind, perhaps a higher state of mind, or is that thing completely beyond the boundaries of the mind?

AP: First of all, it is not a ‘thing’. Why do you want to go to a higher state of mind? Why?

Q: To get rid of our problems.

AP: Okay. So, where is the problem?

Q: It’s within us.

AP: It's within us. That means it lies in the lower plane of consciousness. We are having problems because we are living in a lower state of consciousness. Only by going to the higher states, you are saying, “I am getting rid of my problems.” So now, you had problems at a lower level, so you moved to a higher level and you got relative, comparative relief from your problems. When you are at higher levels of consciousness, did your problems disappear completely?

Q: No, the problems did not disappear totally, but they were reduced. AP: You went to higher levels from the lower levels for a reason; the reason was your problems. Now, for the same reason, what will you do when you are at a higher level?

You will continue your journey and move further to an even higher level. This journey is called continuous ascension towards Atma .

Atma is not a concept. Atma is not a destination or an end goal. Atma is the energiser, the foundation for the upward movement of consciousness. If it were not there, why would one move towards higher levels of consciousness? That is why Atma is also called Anant or infinity because no matter how close you move towards it, there will always be some small gap, some distance that will need to be bridged between you and Atma — and that gap is what makes this whole game a joy ride. This game is about the progress of the human mind into higher levels of consciousness. If everything were attainable, then the very purpose of the game is defeated.

Q: When we are progressing towards higher states, the progress is only because of the mind, right? We are using the mind for this ascension…

AP: Yes, the mind is being used for further progress into higher states.

Q: By this logic, It is the mind that is ascending, right?

AP: Yes, it is the mind that is moving higher, and it is moving higher because it feels inadequate and incomplete by itself.

Q: So, then there is nothing apart from the mind?

AP: Why would the mind ascend continuously towards a higher dimension, if there is nothing else apart from the mind?

Q: All these efforts are to take the mind to its full capacity.

AP: There is nothing called as full capacity. When you say ‘full capacity’, you are putting a limit, just like there is a limit to your bike’s fuel capacity. Your bike has a capacity of ‘X’ litres and in that ‘X’ litres, it will cover ‘Y’ kilometres of distance. But the mind wants to exceed all capacities, all limits, right? And when you put limits on the mind, happiness vanishes. If you put limits on yourself, your happiness is bound to be affected. Do you want to accept any limits? You do not want any limits to your life.

So, the mind must continuously ascend towards higher levels of consciousness and the very motivation, purpose or goal of the ascension is called Atma . Atma is not any kind of mental state because if there is still a mental state, that means the journey is not yet complete. As long as the mind remains, the journey also remains.

But you are absolutely right when you say that this whole journey is of the mind and from the mind. But if there is only the mind, then there is no purpose for the journey.

Q: How will we know that we are on the right path on this journey?

AP: You are sitting on a chair. A nail has come out of the chair and is causing continuous pain in your back. How will you know that the pain has reduced?

Q: When the intensity of pain lowers.

AP: When you stand up, your pain decreases. Similarly, when the mind moves to higher levels of consciousness, the suffering reduces. Does anyone from outside come and tell you that your pain has reduced?

You were experiencing the pain. That experience in itself is the proof of the intensity of your pain. But the new experience of moving into higher levels of the mind is also not an end in itself. You have to keep progressing and keep moving further into even higher states of consciousness.

You may look at it this way: The intensity of suffering was much higher in the lower state of consciousness. Then, the intensity reduced when you moved to a higher state. It reduced further when you moved to an even higher state of consciousness. But remember that none of these experiences is to be confused with happiness; it is not. It is only in relative terms that your suffering has decreased. Now, the suffering has reduced, but remember that you have changed too, you have become more sensitive. So, even the reduced levels of suffering would still bother you as much as the suffering you had experienced in the past.

To put things in perspective, consider this example: You are in the 2nd standard of a school. At this level, usually, you will not be able to solve simple maths problems. When you move to the 4th standard, you can solve the same problem which you were unable to solve in the 2nd standard. But now, in 4th standard, there are more difficult maths problems that you are unable to solve. So, by moving into the 4th standard from the 2nd standard, has your happiness level increased? Your ignorance has comparatively decreased—you were not able to solve a simple problem earlier but now, you are easily able to solve that problem—but has your happiness levels really increased? Why didn’t they increase? It is because you, too, have changed as a person. The question has changed, and so have you.

So, in the same way, we continue to improve our state of happiness on the level of our mind, but we do not much benefit from that because the one who is experiencing the happiness is also changing; his expectations are changing.

People extract happiness from money, right? When you were 25 years of age, you used to get a salary of 25,000 rupees, and you had a certain level of happiness. You wished for an increase in salary, right? Now your age is 35, and you are getting a salary of 35,000 rupees. Have your happiness levels increased compared to what they were at the age of 25? No.

Because even though your salary has increased, you too have also changed. So, as a net result, your state of happiness did not get better. This is the story of every common man. We think we are making progress, but we fail to see that when we change our situations, we ourselves also change. So, in the end, after all the so-called progress and development, happiness levels of people do not really improve. You may continue to change your external situations, but the one within you who is experiencing those external changes will also continue to change accordingly. Now, tell me, what can you do in such case?

It is like a fraction X/Y which has to remain constant; X/Y = C. You go on increasing X but you forget that Y is also a function of X. So, howsoever high the value of X may be, Y also increases proportionally, so as to keep the value of X/Y equal to C or constant. ‘C’ is the letter to represent today’s modern man. We keep thinking that we can increase X and our work will be done, but we completely forget that the denominator Y is also increasing at the same pace. In the end, what do we get? Nothing. Just ‘C’ remains.

So, you cannot say that by attaining any higher state of mind, you can settle there perpetually. In reality, any mental state is not very different from any of the preceding or lower states of the mind because when the mind changes, the one sitting in the centre of the mind has also changed. So, you must keep ascending continuously to higher and higher levels, and with the same urgency and intensity as you did when you started the journey.

Q: I still have doubts regarding my question.

AP: When did I say that your doubts will be cleared in 15 minutes?

You spend 3 years completing a basic degree program. To get a PhD, in which one does not actually do much, one sacrifices 30 years of his life. And when it comes to something like self-knowledge, which is much higher than a PhD, you say, “I have been listening for the last 2 years! And I have listened for 15 more minutes, so 2 years and 15 minutes! Come on! Let's get back to business! 2 years is too much! Not more than that!”

Go and study Vedant for at least 3-4 years continuously.

Q: Will I get the answers to all my questions?

AP: Don’t know what you will get, but you will definitely get a solution to the happiness problem.

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