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Most spirituality is either self-delusion or self-deception
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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Questioner: My question is not about concept, it's more about attitude. I see in the spiritual community, normally we spend a lot of time talking about thoughts, about god, about concepts, about the subjectivity of things and when we go back to our daily life, we just do as everybody does. Maybe now we do two hours of yoga practice or little changes, but the things that we really use every day; for example, diet, we just ignore and do as everybody does. And when we quest people in the spiritual community about that, they use spiritual excuses like Advaita Vedanta, when they say everything is God, everything is Brahman or Iswara. So, there is no difference between me and the chicken on my plate, it’s just energy, or when they start to study more and look mitahara, jnana yoga or dhairya, karuna, ahimsa; then they go to Lacto-vegetarian diet and forget about the small things that happen like the dairy and eggs and just follow what everybody does and don’t go beyond. I just want to listen to your words.

Acharya Prashant: I will just repeat what you have said. I will repeat in probably more colorful ways but that’s what...

This is spirituality —to observe our real ways, that’s how we are. You know in India, here we say that Maya , you know Maya ? Of course, you were referring to Advaita Vedanta. So Maya is like a bull. The ones who are not spiritual or not religious at all, Maya hits them, tosses them up with her - Oh! she has to be a cow then - with her horns, she takes them head-on and tosses them up with her horns!

And then the ones who are religious or spiritual, those who know all kinds of Yoga and Vedanta; they are the ones who go past this animal. And as they go past this animal, she tosses them up with her hind legs, right? And it’s probably the spiritual ones who get beaten up more savagely. The beast has a special liking for the spiritualists.

An ordinary man remains a victim of Maya , right? And never claims that he has been able to conquer Maya or understand Maya . The spiritual man is hit and defeated doubly. He remains as much a victim of Maya as the ordinary folk but with the added confidence that he has been able to transcend the world or go across its traps and delusions. So, all those who are seeking to live beyond their little selves, all those who are seeking to have a life a little less ordinary, a little less mundane, a little less full of suffering, must be very honest in these small daily matters.

You talked of diet, that is something very important to watch out. If you can kill an animal to have its flesh then irrespective of your spiritual knowledge, your inner world is quite beastly, there is no doubt about it. Similarly, if you use the spiritual arguments to put the other person down, to win a debate then your knowledge is not dissolving you, rather you have started using your knowledge as your ammunition. Ordinary people have ordinary egos, spiritual people have extraordinary egos, and that is bound to happen, probably that’s a part of the spiritual process; so, you really have to watch out, really have to watch out.

Knowledge that is meant to dissolve the ego can be so easily co-opted by the ego and the ego can feast on all that knowledge. In this matter what you require is a purity of intention; therefore, I keep coming back to the word 'honesty' again and again. No text, no technique, no teacher can be of help if the intention itself is not quite pure.

First of all, the intention has to be to go beyond one’s bondages; if one is relishing her bondages, how can anybody come and help?

The ego is really capable of very very devious games and there is a book by M Scott Peck, many of you might have already heard of him- “People of the Lie”. Every spiritual seeker must go through this, it is not a spiritual book, it’s a book on the ego. The writer is a psychiatrist and he details case studies of his own patients; very very interesting, supremely horrible case studies of the extent of self-deception we are capable of.

We can keep ourselves sick to gain sympathy and that’s just the beginning. There is so much more we can do and that is you know, the reason why religion is almost becoming a reviled word today. People are falling off religion more and more, it’s become trendy to declare oneself an atheist, and for good reason.

In the name of religion, there is exploitation, in the name of religion there is war and all kinds of violence and terrorism, and so much more. Superstition. Gullible people are being fleeced. So, the entire process is a double-edged sword and the chances of one receiving harm rather than liberation are very high.

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