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Let the ego be concerned with something beyond itself || On Advaita Vedanta (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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Vidyā does not take you to Brahman. That is another popular misconception, kindly get rid of it. Vidyā has to go away for only Brahman to remain. Brahman is immortality. When you believed in the universe, then you also believed in the study of the universe. So, a belief in the study of the universe implies a belief in the universe itself. When the universe will drop, the study of the universe, too, will simultaneously drop. So, with the universe gone, avidyā too has gone. Similarly, with the mind gone, vidyā too has gone.

No vidyā can, hence, take you to the Truth. Because though vidyā is the study of the mind, vidyā can only reveal to you the falseness of the mind. And if the mind is false, what have you been studying? If the mind has ultimately shown up as non-existent, then are you studying the non-existent? So, the entire field of the vidyā, too, must drop as non-existent. This is especially important for those who are seekers of spiritual knowledge.

~ Acharya Prashant

Questioner: I have this conviction from what I have learned called nididhyāsana . However, through honest observation of my daily living, I see that I probably still have doubts because I suffer and at times take things too seriously. I feel as if the Truth is breathing down my neck, wanting to swallow me whole, which I know I deeply want. Yet doubt keeps me in conflict and at a distance from Him, and this is causing me too much grief. I feel I am Arjuna, trembling and frozen. I feel I am now just killing time until the inevitable occurs. What holds me back? How can I remove my doubts? Why am I hesitating in acting right now? Please help me see myself.

Acharya Prashant: Anything that has anything to do with the false will be an extension of the false. The Truth is complete in itself; it doesn’t add anything to itself, or eat anything up, or swallow anything down its throat. It is stuff in the world that relates to more stuff in the world.

The python swallows the deer. Now, is there really a great difference, a fundamental difference between the python and the deer? Because they both are one at the biological level, that is why one relates to the other; that is why one can become the food of the other; that is why one can swallow the other. You too cannot just eat anything. You cannot gulp stones, can you? Man takes only other living matter, organic matter as food.

No creature, no organism takes anything for food other than some other organism. Anything that you eat would always have been alive at some point. So, there is a clear similarity between the eating one and the eaten one. Life takes life as its food; an organic being takes an organic being as its food. So, the python swallows the deer.

Now, tell me, will the Truth swallow the ego? Will the Truth have anything to do with the ego? Oh, too bad! But we keep thinking as if ego will make way for the Truth, as if the ego will go and merge into the Truth. And, very fancifully, we give it the nice and rather preposterous name of Yoga. Yoga is possible only when two alike beings meet, right? Two plus two can be four. Therefore, a better name is laya , dissolution. Laya , dissolution: gone, finished, nivṛtti .

All this that you are feeling, you are feeling. The Truth is not feeling. And whatever you feel, you would be feeling with respect to something like yourself, not the Truth. Man cannot feel anything towards the Truth.

You can have feelings towards this handkerchief. You can have feelings towards another man or woman, bodily-constituted just like you. You can have feelings towards some material matter: you can have feelings for this house, you can have feelings for another planet, you can have feelings for a spaceship, you can have feelings for a river or a dog. What’s common between all these? They are just like you. Either they are alive, or they are material; either they are conscious, or they are material. Man is both conscious and material. Therefore, all your thoughts and feelings will be towards an entity similar to you. Towards Truth, you can have nothing.

Therefore, all the grand stories that we weave with respect to the Truth are not only false but actually dangerous: because in the name of Truth, we are actually referring to something just like ourselves and calling it grandly as Truth.

“I feel as if the Truth is breathing down my neck,” you say. The Truth will not breathe down your neck, rest assured. If there is some feeling in your neck, consult a physician. Or is it one of those old habits that you were carrying in 2016? I think we need to meet. What’s breathing down your neck?

“…wanting to swallow me whole, which I know I deeply want.” You cannot want the Truth. Fundamentals. You can only want some tea, coffee or weed. Truth cannot be wanted; it is not an object of desire.

What do you mean by Truth? In the name of the Truth, you will start wanting some fancy story, some glamorous image. And, unfortunately, traditions and religions have given plenty of those images to us. Oh, that was all done with a noble purpose, but man’s ego co-opts everything. The images were given to us clearly stating that these are images, but we started calling the images as Truth. The image is not the Truth, or is it? Be it the beautiful image of Krishna or the Christ, it is not Truth really, and all your thoughts are with respect to the images. Do not call the images as the Truth.

“Yet doubt keeps me in conflict and at a distance from Him, and this is causing me too much grief.” Distance from what? Do you understand distance? Distance itself is a temporal and spatial concept. Distance belongs to this universe. Distance is a mental construct: no mind, no distance. If you say you are at a distance from the Truth, then you are placing the Truth within the confines of your mind. All distances, where are they? In the mind. All closenesses, where are they? In the mind. And if you say that you are at a distance from the Truth, where have you then placed the Truth? In your mind. So small is your Truth that it can be contained within your mind! What do you, then, mean by distance?

I understand, there has been a lot of poetry that has used the word ‘distance’. Even I have used the word ‘distance’ numerous times in my discourses. I say you are a distance from this and that. But I have no other recourse, I am just eluding. It’s a pointer, not to be taken too seriously.

“I feel I am Arjuna, trembling and frozen.” Where is your Krishna? Arjuna was never found at a huge distance from Krishna. Where is your Krishna? And Arjuna was found fighting the right battles. Are you fighting the right battles? Arjuna was trembling because he was required to fire at his deep attachments. Are you really in a battle where you are being compelled to fire at your attachments, your relationships, your near and dear ones?

“What holds me back?” Yourself. There is nothing that is holding you back. Even if you are not held back, you will move forward within the mind. All back and forth movement is within the mind because all space and all allowance of movement is within the mind. Go back, you are just going back in the mind; go forth, you are just going forward within the mind. It is not a question of being held back or being pushed ahead. It is a question of who are you and why do you want to remain who you are, whether here or there, whether at the back or in the front.

“How can I remove my doubt?” The ‘my’ is the doubt. With the ‘me’ remaining, the doubts cannot be removed. You are making a basic and simple mistake. You want to preserve yourself and achieve something. You think that you remaining who you are, you can cover the distance between you and the Truth, and therefore you talk in terms of distances: because it is the ‘me’ that covers the distances, right? The ‘me’ and the distance are in the same dimension. They are both in the dimension of the mind.

So, the ego finds it quite nice to talk of attainment and distances and separation and this and that. The fact is, the ego does not have to cover a distance. The ego does not have to overcome any separation. The ego simply has to go. You don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to reach anywhere; you just have to fall off, disappear.

And it’s easy to disappear because you are forcibly adamant on remaining on the scene. You are uninvited, unnecessary, like an excess character on the stage. Think of it. The entire drama is playing on nicely, but there is one uninvited, redundant character loitering around. Nobody knows why he is there. The name of that character is Jamie Serret. Why are you there on the stage, Jamie? What’s more, it’s duplication because there is another Jamie already on the stage, the real one. If you go away, the real one would still remain. And this double role is not at all pleasing to the audiences, or even to the real one. Everybody is wondering, “What is happening?”

Don’t tell so many stories about yourself. The more stories you tell about yourself, the more stories you are telling about a fictitious character, and by telling these stories in such an impassioned way, you are giving credence to the stories. You never know when all these stories, these myths become truths.

Especially in India, we know this because we see this. Just a few years back in old Delhi, there was an entire network of stories feeding upon each other. And what were those stories about? Kala bandar. You understand ‘kala bandar’? Black monkey. You know of those stories, right?

So, the story was that a black monkey is going around slapping kids, teasing women, entering people’s kitchens, or even toilets and bedrooms, hacking passwords—I mean, anything can happen. And there was terror, there actually was terror. Some mischievous fellow would have just initiated it, but it soon spread as wildfire. An entire community consisting of lakhs of people was paralyzed for several days, rather weeks. Soon after sunset, there would be curfew-like conditions. People would not dare to step out of their homes. “Kala bandar would come and beat you up!”

And, you know, such beatings were regularly taking place. Every other day there would be a couple of such stories. The fellow has been beaten up and you go to the hospital, you find somebody is lying there beaten up, his hand is fractured. Now, it was only much later that it was discovered that his own son beat him up, wearing a black robe and using a rope as the monkey’s tail. The mother kept wondering, “Where has the washing line disappeared?” Somebody took away the damn line. She didn’t know that the monkey is using it to beat up the father!

The more people talked about it, the more the myth grew. The thing is to not talk so much about it; that’s the only way. How do rumors spread? When you talk so much about them. The ego is a rumor; it spreads so much when you talk about it. Don’t talk so much about it. Don’t talk so much about it—it is gone.

People come to me or send me long messages; often those messages are of repentance or contrition. “You know, I was such a big fool, I did that, I was doing this…” The fellow is still talking a lot in terms of ‘I’. Earlier the fellow was saying, “I am right, I am right, I am right”; now the fellow is saying, “I am wrong, I am wrong, I am wrong.” But still, both are talking in terms of ‘I’; the rumor is still being fueled, ‘I’ is still being supported. The thing is not to talk.

Somebody can say kala bandar is very generous. Even if you say kala bandar is not a demon, not a villain, kala bandar is extremely generous. Still, what is it that you are validating? The existence of kala bandar. So, even if you say, “I am now a transformed one,” what is it that you are still validating? ‘I’.

Who is the liberated one, then? Who has no need to talk of himself. He will talk of so many other things, not of himself. Neither will he say “I am suffering”, nor will he have to say that he is alright. Liberated, liberated from the ‘I’, and that is the only liberation possible. What else is there to be liberated from?

What is the sign of the bonded one? Read anything from him or hear him out. In five minutes, fifty times will he utter the word ‘I’. Now, one can say “I am a seeker of gold” or one can say “I am a seeker of God”; at the center of both these seekings lies the ‘I’. Even in the garb of seeking God, what is being promoted? The ‘I’.

Don’t talk so much of yourself. “I am the Arjuna, I feel, I grieve”—ignore. Involve the self in something other than itself.

The self is very passionate about itself, you know. The ego is its own admirer. The ego is deeply concerned about itself. What is liberation? Let the ego be concerned about something else. The moment the ego is concerned about something else, it goes. When I say ‘something else’, I do not mean something that is related to the ego. Do not say, “I am no more concerned about myself, now I am concerned about my kid.” That’s not what I am talking of.

Let the ego be concerned with something beyond itself. Liberated of its concerns, liberated of itself.

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