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Let realization command your action || IIT Kharagpur (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
13 min
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Questioner (Q): You just said that when we make a decision, we need to see whether that decision uplifts our consciousness or not. So, firstly, how to know whether a decision will uplift my consciousness or not? And the second part is, after I come to understand that a particular decision can uplift my consciousness, how do I gain the strength to take that decision in the midst of resistance and opposition from external factors such as peer groups, family, etc.?

Acharya Prashant (AP): The strength will follow from the right choice. The right choice itself delivers the strength. It is benediction. It is grace. When you make the right choice, then you actually surrender yourself to the right choice. The right choice is a big thing, and that big thing then starts taking care of you. Your task is to choose the right thing, that big right thing. And after that you find that unpredictably and unasked for, strength and help is coming from various directions—most importantly, the inner direction. So, that will happen.

So, only the first part of your question is more relevant. Let’s go into it. The first part is, “How do I know which choice really elevates the consciousness?” Let me try to answer it by the opposite. How do you know that a particular choice is depressing your consciousness?

Q: If I am not gaining anything out of a particular choice, or if I become unhappy because of that choice.

AP: Okay, let me revise the question. Give me an example of a choice that you definitely know will lower your consciousness. You very well know that “If I make this choice, it has a bad impact on my mind.” Give me one example.

Q: For example, if I start smoking, I know it will affect me negatively.

AP: Great. And let’s make that a bit extreme: not merely smoking tobacco, let’s say you have weed, let’s say cocaine. Now, here you won’t dispute that it is having a bad impact on your consciousness. Now, tell me, how do you know that the impact is bad? Surely you have some criteria. Let’s use that criteria in knowing what is called elevation of consciousness, but on that later. First of all, tell me, how do you know that drugs depress your consciousness? How do you come to know?

Q: By looking at others, maybe. If I haven’t tried it till now, I have to make a choice.

AP: Be sharper.

Q: By looking and observing others who are…

AP: Forget others. You are under the influence. You have had the night party at the hostel or somewhere, and a lot of smoking and drinking has happened, a lot of substance has been burnt. How do you know that your consciousness at 4 a.m. is not elevated, rather depressed? How do you know?

Q: It is an emotion that comes from within. I am not feeling very happy about that.

AP: Give me tangible proofs. How do you know that right now your mind is not in a fit state? How do you come to know that?

Q: I am not able to do what I want to do. I am not able to translate my wants into action.

AP: Yes. You are not able to, may I say, think properly?

Q: Yeah, I am not able to think properly.

AP: So, that is an important characteristic. The decision you are going to make, is it going to facilitate thought or impede thought? The decision you are taking, is it coming from a lot of thought or thoughtlessness? Similarly, when you are under influence, how easy will you find to address a problem in mathematics? It will be difficult, will it not be?

Q: It will be.

AP: When under influence, will you know how to respond to any situation?

Q: No, under influence I will be having multiple thoughts.

AP: Multiple thoughts. And will you have a response, a right response to anything in life? Let’s say you receive a call at that time from one of your friends or even from your family, and they tell you about a particular thing that is happening at home. Will you be able to give a good response to them?

Q: No.

AP: So, now you know the characteristics of a lowered state of consciousness. Similarly, will you have control even over your physical movements when you are under influence?

Q: No, I will not.

AP: You may even fall at the wrong places, vomit at the wrong places, and not identify people. Everything about your body will just be a loose cannon, a loose and irresponsible cannon firing this side, saying this to that, abusing, falling, laughing for no reason, crying, and so many things happen; certain people fall silent. But whatever they do, they very well know this is not a state they want to carry on with for a long duration in their life, right? Nobody wants to have a long hangover. In fact, the next day you want to go to the laboratory, you want to attend your classes, and you want some lemon to help you come back to your senses. Is that not so?

So, if you know what a lowered state of mind looks like, how do you not know what an elevated consciousness looks like?

Q: I have gone through this process. I know this is lowering my consciousness. But I am going to cite an example. So, before the student starts smoking or taking weed or taking alcohol, he or she might not know the after-effects. But under influence, they start doing so.

AP: When you absolutely do not know what you are getting into, no problem. If you absolutely do not know and you have absolutely no way to gather prior information, then no problem. Experiment. There is no penalty in experimentation. Experimentation is a good thing; it is a step towards knowledge.

But when you do all these things, do you do these things with the curiosity to know the effect on your consciousness, or do you do these things with the deliberate attempt to kill your consciousness? Tell me, please. Think of the people who smoke or drink or whatever. Are they curious people innocent of the results that the substance is going to have on their minds, or do they know fully well, and knowing fully well, they deliberately want to hurt their consciousness?

Q: Majority of the parties deliberately want to lower their consciousness. But yes, some might be doing it in ignorance.

AP: So, if you can deliberately hurt your consciousness, why can’t you deliberately, with discipline and resolve, heal your consciousness?

Q: Then comes the factor of externalities and the peer pressure. What if I don’t have that kind of strength to say no to something which I know will deteriorate my consciousness? That seems to be the prime factor I can see in most of us.

AP: No, the problem here is not that the right choice is not being backed by the right strength. The problem here is that even the right choice is not coming from the right reasons. You, let’s say, are in the campus, and you decide not to drink. Chances are you have refused to drink because of moral reasons. Ma and papa had asked you not to drink, so you say no to drinks. It is not that you are refusing drinks because you know of the deleterious impact on the mind; that is not the prime concern with you. The prime concern is the promise you made to ma and papa.

So, even if you are making the right choice here, that right choice is not coming from the right reason, and that is why that choice does not carry much strength. And even if you make that choice, you find yourself short of stamina to live with it, to live by it, to carry on with it, or to remain committed to that choice. Sooner than later, you find that you have subscribed to one of the parties. You rejected thrice, four times, you resisted; you said, “No, no, no.” And one day you will find yourself saying yes, because your ‘no’ never had any core to it, any right source to it. The ‘no’ was a very flimsy ‘no’; the ‘no’ itself was coming from an unconscious place.

See, just doing the right thing is not sufficient. The right thing must happen from the right place and because of the right reasons. Otherwise, the right thing will find itself powerless and defeated. And then we will say, “Oh, even the right things, you know, they get defeated. How do I gather the strength to do the right thing?”

I said right in the beginning that the right thing brings its own strength. If you are really doing the right thing with the right consideration, you will never find yourself short of strength.

Q: So, to make a choice that is right and elevates my consciousness, I must go deeper into why I am making that choice.

AP: Obviously. You must go deeper into why you need to choose this way or the other. You must go deeper into what you hope to get from any of these choices. It is not just about participating in that party. Choices are aplenty. All the time you are being asked to decide this way or that way. You must know why you must make that decision, what exactly do you want to get, and what good would it bring to you. If you do not know these things and you keep making choices from a random point with this consideration, that consideration, then life amounts to not much. And it is a good council, rather a warning to all students.

We all have a moral compass. If you are asked about the list of things that are good, you will write down, “Helping others, not stealing, not getting angry, not hurting others, studying well, respecting elders,” and so many things. We will say, “Oh, these are good things that must be done.” And if you are asked to list horrible things that must not be done, you will write down those as well.

So, we already have that moral manual to live by, and we think that that will suffice. We feel that if we know what are the good things to do in life, what are the bad things to do in life, that will take us through life. No, this will not take you through life. This will be highly insufficient because this kind of a road map lacks any heart. There is no conviction to it. There is no real depth it is coming from. It is just an external thing handed over to you: “Son, in such a situation, do this; in such a situation, do that.” And this ‘do this and do that’ has no strength. Therefore, you find yourself doing things that the manual has prescribed, that the manual has rejected, or advised you never to do.

We all do those things, right? We all do those things that we would not want to share with ma and papa. You have been told that those things are not good: “Bad! Bad! Don’t do these things, beta (son), beti (daughter).” But beta and beti are doing most of those things. Why does that happen? Because an external instruction, a moral algorithm just has no power because it has no heart. It gets defeated very easily by temptations, by fear, or by circumstances.

So, let your dos and don’ts not come from established principles. Let them come from your clear realization. Let the decisions be instantaneous, because life anyway gives you just so many questions to answer that you cannot always refer back to some helping book or something. The questions are just too numerous and just too frequent. No help, no algorithm, no code of conduct, or no externally prescribed basis for decision-making is going to suffice.

Q: So, we just need to experiment and realize what choices elevate our consciousness?

AP: Mostly, you do not even need to experiment. Mostly, you just need to observe very clearly. See, you need to experiment only in those things where you do not have knowledge. But look at your life—how many fresh things or situations or thoughts or ideas do you really encounter every day? Not too many. Mostly, you know those things, know in the sense of being familiar with those things.

You make the wrong decisions even in the most familiar of environments. Why? Because even if you are familiar with them, even if you have past experience with those things, you have never bothered to closely investigate. Experimentation comes later. First of all, investigate what is already present. Experimentation will take place when something new or fresh comes to you. Have you even investigated what has been there in your life since decades? Do you really know that? Or have you been living with ready-made answers?

Investigate, ask, probe, just as you do things in the laboratory. Do stuff with your own life, your own mind, your thoughts. “Where is this happening? Where is this coming from?” And read, read a lot. That will open up new perspectives.

When it comes to self-knowledge, there is just self-observation and Vedanta, self-observation and words of the sages. Keep observing your life, and parallelly keep seeing what the wise ones had advised you. Both these should go together.

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