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Is there a real difference between one and the other? || On Raman Maharishi (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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All that one gives to others, one gives to one’s self. If this truth is understood, who will not give to others? ~ Sri Raman Maharshi

Questioner: In this statement, Raman Maharshi is saying that giving to others is giving to oneself, but the mind discriminates between ‘I’ and ‘the other’ and always works towards giving to oneself, and does not care much about others.

How can one see that the other is the same as self?

Acharya Prashant:

The other is not the same as self. The other makes the self what the self appears to be, and the self creates the other, that the self sees.

Are you getting it?

It’s not as if there is no distinction between self and the other. Their proper relationship has to be understood.

All that is material is created by the environment, simple thing. Marx would happily give his consent to this. All that is material is a product of the environment. When you call the other, ‘the other’, do you look at the other as some kind of consciousness? This very concept of ‘otherness’, is it a material concept, or a conscious concept? Where do you find separateness – in the material world, or elsewhere?

It is in the material world that there are objects. In fact, wherever you find an object, you must know that the world is material. Are you getting it?

Objects are a characteristic of the material world. What is an object defined by? Shape, color, size, and most importantly – its boundary. If an object is not delimited, you cannot even call it ‘an object’.


So when you say, “‘I’ and ‘the other’”, you are talking of two different entities, and both these entities are carrying their names, form, shapes, sizes, and boundaries. They necessarily need to have boundaries for them to be separate. Right? So you are talking of two material entities.

When you say, “I and the world”, or “I versus the other”, you are only talking of two material entities. And all that is material, we said, is a product of the environment. If all that is material is a product of the environment, then you who are material, are surely a product of the other, because the other is the environment.

What is it that you call as ‘the environment’? The total minus ‘you’, is called ‘the environment’. And every material is a product of environment. So the other is a product of you, and you are a product of the other. That’s the relationship between you and the other.

I am explaining in very material terms, you could explain it in a different way as well. But in today’s world, in today’s concept, probably it’s easier to appreciate it this way.

Which means you cannot exist without the other, and the other would become meaningless without you. This has been expressed in so many ways. Somebody says, “You and the other are mirror images of each other”. The ones who like to put it more classically say, “The other is a projection of you.” Somebody says, "You and the other see two sides of the same coin."

But what is to be understood is that the separation between you and the other is fictional. There is no real separation. Remove the other and you won’t exist. Remove yourself, and there is nothing called ‘the other’.

Getting it?

So if you are a product of the environment, and if you want to change, won’t it be one of the ways to change the environment? That’s what Maharshi is talking of. He’s saying, “When you give to the other, you give to yourself.”

If you want to improve, help your environment improve. And your environment will ensure that you improve. If you want to improve, improve your environment, and the improved environment will ensure that you improve.

It’s not exactly what I’m saying right now. It’s not exactly how I’m putting it right now. And previously, and variously, I have explained the same thing in very different ways as well. But let me try out this line of elucidation too. Maybe it would help a few people.

Are you getting it?

So it is actually not about altruism or Compassion. In helping the other, you actually help yourself. And probably it is just not possible to help yourself without helping the other.

Thus what I have called as ‘the fallacy of individual Liberation’. There is nothing called ‘a liberated human being’. It is not possible for a ‘single’ human being to be liberated. Therefore Liberation, as we classically perceive it, is quite false, quite a childish thing.

Are you getting it?

You want to proceed a bit differently to appreciate it, you are most welcome.

You could say, “When I look at the other, I see the same fundamental tendencies that I observe in myself. It’s just that due to the difference in upbringing, difference in culture and conditioning, the conditioning of the other is expressed differently compared to my own. But the fundamental tendencies are just the same. So how is the other really an other?”

“I am possessive, so is the other. It’s just that we too are possessive about slightly different objects. To make matters worse, sometimes I and the other are possessive about the same object” – then there are wars, or jilted lovers.

“I feel afraid, you too are afraid. How are the two of us really different?”

“I yearn for Liberation, so do you. How are the two of us really different?”

“Because we were born in different years? Because our skin color is different? Because we appear contained inside different sacks of skin bags?”

So you want to conclude that you and the other are really different.

Look into his eyes, don’t you see yourself? How are the two of you different?

You are afraid of death, so is he.

You were born one day, so was she.

You weep in the nights, so does he.

How are the two of you different?

You get misled, so does he.

You are an utter fool, so is he.

You have the utmost potential for greatness, so has he.

You are a life going wasted, so is he.

How are the two of you really different?

You look at the other as ‘the other’, he too looks at you as ‘the other’, how are the two of you ‘other’ to each other?

We could try many other ways of composing poetry on the same thing, but I suppose enough for this night.

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