Acharya Prashant is dedicated to building a brighter future for you
Know this, and be liberated || Acharya Prashant (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
21 min
530 reads

Questioner (Q): It's an overwhelming moment of joy to have my revered teacher Acharya Prashant come here at such a short notice and share his wisdom with you all. I’ve had the privilege of listening to him for the past one year and also attending in-person Q&A questions which have brought me profound clarity and I've been able to make some very difficult lifestyle changes, which have also been very strengthening. So, it's my excitement to share this Joy of clear seeing, which I have experienced listening to him with you all, and he agreed to come at such a short notice.

So, a short introduction is due: Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed authority on Vedānta, an author of over hundred books, including the bestseller Karma and Ananda, and a powerful voice of Socio-Spiritual Awakening in the world today. After graduating from IIT-Delhi, Acharya Prashant went on to qualify both UPSC and CAT in the same year.

After two years at IIM-Ahmedabad and a few years at corporate, He found himself a higher calling of spreading the ancient wisdom of Vedānta across the masses. And for that purpose he founded his mission which is at the forefront of creation of a new humanity through intelligent spirituality.

As a response to the situations mankind today finds itself in, Acharya Prashant has taken on the solemn project of bringing the essence of Vedānta to the world today. His calling is to bring the pure essence of vedantic spirituality to all and apply it to solve today's problems. These problems of today are born out of man's ignorance towards himself, and therefore, they can be solved only by sincere self-knowledge.

Today, Acharya Prashant's movement has touched the lives of tens of millions of individuals. Through his direct contact with people and through various virtual interactions, he continues to bring clarity to all. It's rare that a public figure like him has agreed to come to this setting where actually most of the people didn't know about him till almost yesterday. So that's very adventurous of you Acharya ji, thank you for being here.

And welcome all of you, and for the trust and showing up in such a little time as well, and I hope you will make the most of this gathering. It's an open free flowing Q&A session, because as I told you earlier, he responds to questions and would you like to add something more?

Acharya Prashant (AP): That’s a very generous invitation in the first place and a very kind introduction. Not audible? I'll become audible… I warm up as I proceed, so, just thanks! just thanks! So, let's just begin and…

I'm not quite the person… As has been read out, I like to be open, informal. I think that would be the best use of this evening. Please… Actually, this is my ninth day on the trot. And here the weather is far better than in Delhi. But that meant that the throat has taken a beating. It’s a little cold here, but I'll be loud enough.

Q: Good evening! I'm Deepak. What interested me in the brief that Nita shared was “Socio-Spiritual”, like I wanted to understand how you place socio and spiritual together and your perspective on that, because that interests me a lot.

AP: A couple of ways… in fact, even I had not thought about this combo ‘social-spiritual’. But you see first thing, spirituality cannot be a purely individual thing or a personal pursuit. It cannot be that way ever, and it especially cannot be that in today's times. A person who says he or she is spiritual and does nothing to affect the wider social conditions as they prevailed today, is obviously not fulfilling her social responsibility and can't be called spiritual either.

So, what has happened is that conventionally a lot of people have had the idea that spirituality can be about finding your own self in a corner or trying to gain peace just for yourself through some kind of practice or Sādhanā or Svādhyāyaḥ (reading).

So, for a lot of people, it has been something very-very limited to themselves. Now, it is limited to you, then it's lot to do with your personal and specific welfare. And that's the exact definition of ego. It wants only its own welfare. So, any kind of personal betterment cannot be the aim of spirituality.

I will get better. I will get better for myself because I have been facing stress or anxiety. So, I want to get rid of it. Hence, I become spiritual and maybe I do attain a degree of success via spirituality in terms of my personal welfare. Now, that is not Adhyātma.

Limited Ātmā we all have, that itself is called Ahankāra. Adhyātma means ātma in the broadest sense possible, Adhi + Ātmā and ‘adhi’ refers to broadness, Vistār (expanse). So, going to the Himalayas and you know, finding refuge in a cave, and discovering your own peace and letting the world be, that just cannot be what spirituality is. So, in that sense socio-spiritual. One could look at that combo from another angle as well, but I think this one would suffice.

The spiritual person has to first of all, see that, what corrupts the mind beyond obviously the biological disposition, is the social factors that act on the mind. So, how can you just overlook the state of the society and seek something especially and personally for yourself? And that is, if you want to go into the roots of it, that is also where Advaita-Vedānta comes from.

Dvaita is the fundamental illusion - ‘Duality’ and Duality basically means that you have taken the world as real. You have conferred the status of reality on something beyond yourself, and because you take it to be real you allow it to influence you. That's the fundamental illusion.

So, the society by which we mean the world, everything that surrounds us has to be definitely looked into, because it does influence the mind, because that's the way we are conditioned - to believe in ‘Duality’. And if it does influence the mind and you really do want the welfare of mind or purity or peace of mind, then you have to go into the society in terms of firstly, studying it, secondly, in terms of affecting it, changing it.

So, yeah, socio-spiritual! Otherwise, there is no need to speak or to write or to do anything. One could comfortably settle down in his own peaceful and realized corner if anything like that exists and then simply enjoy life. You see the best ones have also been social activists.

Kabir saab - the one I really love, is remembered both as an icon of spirituality and also as a social reformer. So, you cannot be spiritual without being a social reformer. That's my take.

Q: I can resonate with what you are saying Sir, thank you for that perspective.

AP: I mean that tree is being hacked down, and here I am meditating in my corner, doesn't look honest to me.

Q: This is just a follow on question to what you were saying. You said ‘Duality’ is taking the world to be real. Could you just elaborate on that?

AP: Yeah, to believe in ‘Duality’ is to believe in two realities. And we take those two realities as ‘myself’ and ‘the world’. I am, I exist, I am real and then it becomes an imperative to call this sofa set as real. Because if I'm real, what am I sitting on? So, this (pointing towards himself) is the ‘I’ and this (pointing to the sofa) is the world, and both have to be concurrently taken as real.

And that's the reason the Saints laughed at it - “भाई रे द्वि जगदीश कहाँ से आया” “Bhai re dvi Jagadīśa kahaan se aaya” How come you have two realities? ‘Dvi Jagadīśa’ means two truths. How come you have these two truths? If Truth can be one, how come there is this (pointing towards himself) and there is this (pointing to the sofa)? And that’s the Duality we are genetically conditioned to believe in.

The child is born. It takes itself as real, it takes the mother as real. So, then the purpose of life is to somehow get rid of that illusion. And it's not for the sake of ideological purity or something that Duality has to be overcome. It's just that Duality is experiential suffering. It's not ideological, it's experiential. If you continue to believe in Duality you will continue to believe in the truthfulness of the world.

What happens when I take the world to be real? I start expecting things from it that one can expect only from the Truth. For example, reliability. If the world is real, it must be reliable. If the world is real, it must be Eternal. If the world is real, then I could trust it and expect it to be as it looks to me. The thing is, the world deceives us on all counts. It is just not how it appears to be. That's one end of The Duality.

The deceptive and the other and more vicious end is this one (pointing towards himself), because ‘I am’ the one that takes the world as real. Not only is the world unreliable, first of all, ‘I’ am doubly unreliable. Do we know ourselves? Are we trustworthy in the first place? Do our resolutions hold good? Do we stay committed to what matters? And the ‘world’ is not the conscious entity. The conscious entity is this side (pointing towards himself), Purush (us) and Prakṛti (the world), We are the conscious ones. We decided to take a fundamentally unreliable entity as reliable. So, out of these two poles, which one is the most vicious? The more one? This one, this one (pointing towards himself).

So, that's what Duality is, that's how we all live, I mean that’s how we are born and that's the reason the lifetime has been told by Saints to be a precious opportunity towards Redemption. You are not here to seek happiness in the world because there cannot be anything real in something that you yourself project all the time.

You are here rather to seek Liberation from all this that appears to be. Obviously, using all this (the world) because there is no other way. So they say use all this (referring to everything in the world) and use all this in a way that it's real nature shows up. And when it's real nature shows up then you can live amid all this but in a liberated way.

Q: Can we not understand the real or the Truth as something that is ever changing, ever unreliable, ever non-eternal. But that doesn't make it ‘not true’, it doesn't make it unreal. It is real and that is the nature of reality that it is constantly in flux.

AP: When you say, ‘it is constantly in flux’, there has to be something that is constantly in flux. There is nothing! There is only the flux, first thing. Secondly, even if you say this, yet, when you will look at the sofa, you will not look at it as a flux, as a process, you will look at it as a ‘thing’.

And that's the Māyā, that's the illusion. Does it appear to us as a flow? as a work in progress? as something that is constantly changing? It is constantly changing, obviously, but it does not appear that way, and that is the illusion we fall to. So, if one can be in a state, where one does not take this (the sofa) as a thing at all, then fine. But that requires a fundamental condition to be met. Before I take this (the sofa) as a no-thing, not a thing but just a flow, I will have to take this (pointing to self), not as a thing then, no identity can hold. Because all identities that we have are based on a certain degree or a certain assumption of permanence.

I am this (pointing towards himself), yesterday my name was Prashant, even today I hold the same name. Yesterday, these clothes were fitting well, they do the same thing today. From here you will return to the same place you came from, a few hours back. So, that's the trap.

We take ourselves at least semi-permanent, and when we are in a happy mood, we want to take ourselves as fully permanent. And taking oneself not as an illusory entity but as something that lasts, it will be very, very difficult to take this sofa which represents the entire world as something that is ephemeral.

Q: I hear you and a small follow-on. At the back of your book on Maya, it's very interesting statement. It says, if you want to be free of her, set her free. So I was just very curious because when I think of Māyā or false beliefs, I think we are in her grip and you have overturned that, so can you explain that?

AP: I want to be the same person that I was yesterday, so that I can return to the same house that was yesterday. Because I want to own the house, therefore, I am obliged to remain the same person I was yesterday.

I want to own Māyā, the house, but if I want to own Māyā, then I must be the same owner that I was yesterday. The house is in the name of Mr. X. If Mr. X realizes that today he is Mr. Y, then he does not own that house anymore, or does he?

But I want to own that house. I want to keep owning that house and the house has been registered in the name of Mr. X. So, if I want to keep owning the house, I must continue to remain Mr. X. Which means that, even when X has changed to Y, I must continue to believe I'm still X and that is Duality. If I am still X, then the world is still the same thing that was yesterday. So, I’ve accorded the status of Truth to the world because my greed made me accorded the status of Truth to myself.

What is Truth? By definition Truth is that which has permanence, which lasts. Truth is that which time cannot change. If time could not change X, it was X yesterday, it was X today, then X is the Truth. But X wants to remain X so that X can enjoy the same pleasures that it enjoyed yesterday… no? So, we own Māyā. If you own Māyā, Māyā says, fine, I could have been the force that liberates you, but instead now, I will become your trap, your prison.

Māyā acts both ways. "माया दोय प्रकार की, जो कोय जानै खाय । एक मिलावै राम को, एक नरक ले जाय ॥" ~ संत कबीर

The same Māyā could have been a liberating force that takes you to Rāṃ, instead, Māyā became your bondage.

Q: So, if this is entirely in flux and there's nothing to say that ‘that is real’, or there's no-thing, then what is Liberation and who is being liberated if there is no one to be liberated?

AP: You see, Why do we need these questions at all? Why is spirituality needed at all? From where does the question of Liberation arise? Obviously, firstly there has to be an acknowledgement of bondage. All spirituality exists because we are in a state of suffering. Had we not been suffering? Why do we need to go into our condition and inquire into this and read that and practice that, there was no need.

So, once you see that you are suffering, and even if you realize the things that make you suffer, you still cannot leave them. You have allowed those things to become your master. Then the word Liberation becomes meaningful. I am in bondage. Definitely, I am in bondage. I am not my own master. I am following something that is not me. And what is not me, that is what is called the world. I have become a slave to the world, in a lot of ways. And then you start talking of liberation. This is not making it clear, right? So please.

Q: Yeah, my question is then who is in bondage? Because as I understand it, the bondage is that you believe that the world is permanent, that it is reliable that you said, and that is not in flux. But when you realize that it is, then suddenly the person who you thought was in bondage is also in flux, is no more.

AP: So, if you could stay there, you are liberated. But we come to that point only to return to our biological self. We do not stay there. You asked, who is to be liberated? The one who suffers. Who suffers? There is somebody who suffers. It's that same entity that cries for Liberation or that at least needs Liberation, even if it does not cry for it.

A lot of us need to be liberated but do not want to be liberated. Who is the one to be liberated? The one who suffers, or the one who suffers but is so deeply unconscious, that does not even know of his suffering. In absence of suffering, Liberation, emancipation, Realization, Mukti, nirvāṇa, none of these words have any meaning.

First of all, there has to be an acknowledgment that there is suffering, and a rebellion against suffering, a realization that to suffer is not one slot, that there can be life beyond suffering and that's when the journey to Liberation begins.

If one is well settled with her old ways and suffering has been given decent names… Naming matters a lot, does it not?One can name suffering as something else, something beautiful, something respectable. No, it's not suffering, it's responsibility. No, this is not suffering, this is just ambition. No no no, not suffering, just attachment, and attachment need not be called as attachment, attachment can be called as Love. We are experts at word play.

So, I'm not suffering, I'm just in love and if you are in love who wants to get rid of love? So, you’ll stay in suffering. Had you acknowledged that it's a state of suffering, then Liberation were possible. But nobody can be liberated of suffering, if one rather says she is in love, or we have so many ornamented words and phrases so…

We were listening to: मत कर माया को अहंकार, मत कर काया को अभिमान, काया गार से कांची हो काया गार से कांची रे जैसे ओस रा मोती।

That's what is Duality. “ओस रा मोती” (Os ra moti). It appears beautiful. You want to believe it is permanent, but it's like the morning star. Just as you begin to believe in it, it vanishes, “Os ra moti”, and it doesn't take much to make it disappear. A little bit of wind, change of seasons, change of perspectives, change of mood, and the world is gone. What do I mean by the world? Do I mean that as perspective changes, this tree will disappear? No, your relationship with this tree will change. There is no tree, there is only your relationship with the tree, and if you don't have a relationship, there is no tree at all.

As you sit there, is there a tree? Please tell me. As you sit there, is there a tree? There is no tree because as you sit there you don't have a relationship with it. So it's not as if the physical entity called the world is projected by the self. No, not physically, but psychologically. That's a Vedantic fundamental, the thing is it's relationship that it has with you, and if there is no relationship, there is no thing.

So, ‘world is ephemeral’ means the relationships are baseless. They can collapse in a moment. Today, something appears so important, next moment it is gone. How can that happen? That fundamentally means that whatever you thought of it in the first place, was very misplaced. And why? Because whatever we think of ourselves in the first place is badly misplaced because we don't have the right eyes, therefore, we cannot see anything clearly.

So, getting rid of duality is not so much about inquiring into the world. First of all, it is about inquiring into one's own mind, one's own beliefs. What do I live with? What am I so confident about? The object of my confidence, will it really pass the test when it comes to it? Or am I depending upon something that will betray me? Or is constantly betraying me without me knowing it?

Not that the Saints want to make us suspicious and circumspect about everything in life, just that because they really loved life, therefore, they wanted to live it to the fullest. They didn't want it in a lukewarm kind of way. They didn't want to live a life full of hurt and wounds and regrets and so on. Because they wanted so much, hence, they went to the extent of pointing at even the smallest flaws in our perception.

If I really love to have great tea, Then I'll look at this and I'll say, “no, 99.9% great but still there is something left”. But if I'm just taking it in for you know, formality sake, then anything goes. A Saint is one who loves life to such a great extent that he will not allow himself to be satisfied with even 99.9% of what is possible. He says, ‘I have to cover the complete journey. If something is possible, who am I to deny myself?’

Super ambitious fellows. They will not stop at anything short of Rāṃ. You give them this, that… No no no… Only the absolute would do, nothing short of absolute is okay with me and anything that prevents me from reaching and being the absolute… I have no affection for. I'll drop it.

Are we connecting? Too fast, too abstract or whatever?

YouTube Link:

Receive handpicked articles, quotes and videos of Acharya Prashant regularly.
View All Articles