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Sir, are you liberated? || Acharya Prashant (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
22 min
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Questioner 1 (Q1): What I want to know is, suppose with all the discussions and with our own thought process, to some extent we understand Vedānta or spiritualism. But understanding is not enough. We have understood what to do—whether it is to reach the stage of bliss, or to separate Chetanā (consciousness) from Prakṛti (body/physical nature).

If I have understood, how to attain that? Are there any practices? Maybe, it can be meditation, it can be cleaning, it can be anything? Will just understanding bring me to that stage, or is there anything, any certain practices which I need to follow to reach to that stage?

Acharya Prashant (AP): No, no practices can help. I will have to disappoint you here. There is no practice that can bring you to understanding. Even if you intellectually absorb something, it does not attain the level or the status of understanding.

To know something intellectually is to have this handkerchief, right? Now, what I do with it depends on my intention. I could use it to wipe my forehead, I could use it as a mask to prevent Covid, or I could use it to smother myself and die. That can be done, right? I could use it for a thousand things.

Who is the one who is going to use the knowledge that you have attained? Knowledge is not understanding. To be knowledgeable is not the same as to be a knower, or to be in knowing; that is not the same. Knowledge is just a resource, you have it. You read a book; you got knowledge. You had an experience, that experience told you something.

If you just continue living, living itself gives you information that can turn into knowledge. But that will not liberate you from knowledge itself. You see, knowledge is like that mic; what you say into that mic totally depends on you. What you do with your knowledge depends on your intention; and there can be no method to change your intention.

The saints have tried hard. Finally, they have said that grace is the only method. Grace is the only method. When it has to happen, it just happens. Elsewhere they have said, be in the right company— Satsang , Satsangati , or continue reading. But irrespective of what you do and how much you do, there is no guarantee that knowledge will definitely turn into understanding.

There is a special kind of knowledge that is difficult to be used by the ego, that is called Vidyā . Vidyā is a technical term here. The special kind of knowledge that the ego will find difficult to use as its own ammunition to secure itself, or to fatten itself. That special kind of knowledge does exist. And with that knowledge, the probability that you will be liberated by the knowledge increases; but still it’s just a game of probabilities.

The Māyā within is very powerful and it has a huge appetite. It can consume anything and digest it. Even the best of methods can be co-opted by Māyā .

Tīrat main bhāyi pānī, śiva ki bhavan bhavānī तीरथ में भायी पानी, शिव के भवन भवानी

That which you take as the place of liberation can itself become the place of ego, or captivity, or bondage. So, the usual worldly knowledge that you take in, will always become food to the ego. That knowledge is obviously not going to liberate you. After all, the ego must be liberated of itself, and we are feeding knowledge to the ego. What will the ego do with the knowledge? It will use knowledge to secure itself, to beef itself up all the more.

That’s the use the ego has for anything that it gets. It gets knowledge, it gets experience, it gets power, it gets resources; it uses everything to just secure itself. So, obviously knowledge is not going to turn into understanding.

Understanding is dissolution of ego. The usual worldly knowledge will not lead to dissolution of the ego because it is the staple diet of ego. The special kind of knowledge that we just referred to, Vidyā , that does help. But even there, there is no guarantee. No guarantee! So, you can read the Upaniṣads, and the chance that they will help you towards liberation becomes higher, right? But there have been enough instances where the ego has gobbled up even Upaniṣads, entire Vedāntic literature, whatever you have to offer it.

So, it all depends on what you want. If you want liberation, you will get it. If you do not want liberation, no amount of knowledge can help. If you do not want liberation, and somebody tries his best to give even the most liberating kind of pure knowledge to you, you will still use that purest knowledge to your own detriment.

The myth of Rāvaṇa is a case in point. He was so knowledgeable, and he had not merely worldly knowledge, it is said that he had all kinds of spiritual knowledge as well. What did he do with all the knowledge he had of both kinds, Vidyā and Avidyā ? What did he do with that? He used all his knowledge to just further his own evil self.

So, it all boils down to the question, do you even want to be liberated? If you want it, you will get it. If you want it, you will get it. How do you want something? You asked me the method; I said want is the method. Pure childlike desire is the method. Now you are asking me, “How?” Basically, you are asking me, “How to desire?” Can there be an answer? You either desire or you don’t. How does one teach someone to desire? Desire is something very personal. It can be induced at most, not taught.

How do I induce desire for liberation in you? May be by talking to you, may be by sitting next to you, may be by leading you towards the greats. Go to the liberated ones. See whether you feel charmed by them, see whether their presence exerts a liberative effect on you, see whether you fall in love with what they were? But you cannot make someone forcibly fall in love, can you do that? So, it all depends on whether you fall in love or not.

Who gets liberated? The one who falls in love with liberation. Who gets liberated? The one who gets fed up with his current state of suffering.

How do I force someone to feel fed up? We have infinite appetite for suffering; we are never fed up. We suffer daily and yet the next day we are ready again. “Come on! Make me suffer more.” Someday you have to call it quits, someday you have to say, “I was not born to live an indignified life.” Or someday you have to say, “I have been won over. Something has possessed me now. The great charm of Rām , I am now a captive, I have been charmed.”

कबीर कुत्ता राम का, मुतिया मेरा नाऊँ । गलै राम की जेवड़ी, जित खैंचे तित जाऊँ ।।

Kabīr kutā rām kā, mutiyā mērā nāuṅ galai rām kī jēvḍī, jit khaicē tit jāuṅ

Kabīr kutā rām kā —I would rather be his dog, than be a master in this world. That declaration has to arise and you cannot make that declaration arise. How do I make you fall in love with someone? Making you fall in love with even a bodied being is not an easy task. How can I make you fall in love with the Nirākār , the formless? But some people do experience that magnetism, that charm, that ineffable pull and when it happens it happens. It just takes control of you. The world then calls you a mad man.

Q1: So, if I am charmed, or attracted, or inclined towards such conversations; if I am inclined towards liberation and if I try to interact with those kinds of people; am I on the right path towards it?

AP: Do not remain on the path for too long. You want to reach the destination, right? You don’t want to turn the path too long for yourself, or do you? And if the path is so long, it is taking decades, I will ask, “Do you even want to reach, or do you want to forever stay on the journey?” Because the journey itself offers so many great sights to behold, there are nice Dhabas , and there are co-passengers and one is attached. Why let the journey conclude? Why let the crowd disperse?

So, one stays forever on the journey and that itself is called as the bhavachakra —one is constantly in the cycle. Someday you must opt out.

Q1: That’s what I wanted to know. Is it just intellectual entertainment then, if I am on the path?

AP: You are perfectly on the path and you have read so much and heard so much. It merely means that you want to have nice entertainment while continuing to be on the journey.

The saints were so restless and impatient, they don’t even want you to sleep for too long. And I am not talking of the metaphorical, metaphysical sleep. They didn’t want you to take even this normal bodily sleep for too long.

नींद निशानी मौत की, उठ कबीरा जाग । और रसायन छांड़ि के, नाम रसायन लाग ।।

nīnd niśānī maut kī, uṭh kabīrā jāg aur rasāyan chāṅḍi kē, nām rasāyan lāg

Nīnd niśānī maut kī —Don’t sleep, don’t sleep, you have a distance to cover, you have a place to reach. Get up! Get up! Get up! Uṭh kabīrā jāg —What are you doing? How long will you sleep? One day you will be sleeping forever. Why are you wasting time today when there is an opportunity to get up? One day there will be no opportunity, everything would be lost. Today, get up.

Nobody has time, that’s the illusion we cultivate. “Oh, we have a future, a tomorrow, some time we have.” No, you don’t have time. Make it today.

Q2: Sir, are you really liberated?

AP: Not at all. Why would I be here if I were liberated? Even if you allege that I am liberated, I will stoutly, sternly refuse. That’s an allegation. Don’t get into these things. There is a journey and one rather make it fast. Talking too much about the destination might cause delays, no? Just fall in love and start running. Don’t pause to ask, “Who all have reached there and how does it feel there?” Just take whatever help is available along your way and rush.

You will meet a lot of people who will say, they indeed are liberated. Fine, if they can offer help, take it. Just be mindful whether they are there to offer help or to seek help.

These things are not important. I am unwell, I better talk about my disease. Or should I hold a great discussion on how it feels to be healthy? Health is something so distant. And if I am unhealthy, all my imaginations about health will again carry the same stamp of disease, no? My imaginations will be of the same quality as the imaginator, right? Being where I am in a state of bondage, I can only imagine liberation. And that particular picture, image, would hold no truth, no value; because it is coming from an enslaved mind. So, no point talking of those things. Together let’s just rush.

Q3: I have a very simple question, I am almost embarrassed to ask it. Where does sleep come from?

AP: The biology, the body. For its own preservation it needs that.

Q3: But sometimes it’s not for the body’s preservation. Someone’s going to tell you very important and you kind of start feeling sleepy.

AP: Then sleep becomes an instrument of the ego, just as the entire body is an instrument of the ego. And it’s not as if just the bodily sleep can be used by the ego. Let’s say at this instant, you feel like falling asleep. It’s the ego using the body, because the ego has become the lord of the body. Being associated with the body, it is using the body for its own preservation.

It can make you fall asleep, it can make the brain suddenly throw old memories at you, it can make certain parts of the body itch suddenly for no reason, it can make you pain in the knees. Why? Just so that you do not remain attentive. And why? Because attention in this moment, here, can be dangerous to the ego. So, the ego will start using all its instruments, one of the instruments is the body. The body.

So, strange things will start happening in the body. Those who have just had food two hours back will start feeling hungry, somebody will start feeling like visiting the loo. Somebody will suddenly remember some important pending work—because memory too is a thing from the brain and the brain which is the body is being controlled by the ego. So strange things can start happening.

Q3: So, one more question I have related to this. If you are looking for inner guidance, how do you know which is the real one? Because this voice, when do you know which is the one to listen to and which is the one to not listen to?

AP: See where that guidance is coming from. Inner is not one place, inner is a thousand different places. See where is that guidance really coming from, enquire into it. Is it coming from a point of attachment, or fear, or greed, or ignorance, or just blind belief? What’s the name of the mother of the guidance? Who has given birth to you?

The mind is a fragmented entity, that’s why it has so many voices. And each of these voices is a separate centre. The more you go closer to these voices and want to know the root, you will know where it is coming from. Mostly, all the voices that emerge from the so-called inner space are false. Not one, but all of them.

Occasionally, something exceptional might happen, but in general, if you have five voices emerging from within, chances are if you investigate, you will reject all five. Because all those voices are after all coming from experiences of the past, or your biological drives and conditioning. What is the maximum those voices can give you or suggest you? A repetition of the past, or a security when it comes to the physical self—physical self and its comforts. Either the mental self is being sought to be secured, or the physical self is trying to be secured. Otherwise, where would the voices come from?

What’s the language these voices talk to you in? I hope you don’t know Russian. Have you ever heard the inner voice in Russian? See how badly conditioned the inner voice is. It only knows the languages you have been expose to in the past. That tells you about the origin of these voices—they all come from the past, they do not know anything new. So, if you want to repeat your past, listen to one those voices. If you want something original, new, fresh in life, like liberation; don’t listen to any of those voices.

Why do I need to hear to these voices in the first place? Because something is not right right now, correct? If everything is perfect right now, I do not need any voices to listen to, correct? Which means that the entire stream of the past has brought me to a point of not being well. The entire stream of the past has brought me to a point of lack of wellness, that’s the reason so many voices are there, and they are competing. So, the past has brought me to a point of problem, and several voices from the past itself are not trying to act as guides. Should I listen to them?

It is the past that has led to this problemed state of mine, has it not? I kept flowing in a certain way and here I am, feeling troubled. Now all these voices are actually things from the past. How can they help me? The maximum that they can offer me is a repetition of some experience I have had in the past. But had that experience been of any worth, why would I be troubled today? Because worth is determined by its ability to liberate you. Had any of the experience in the past been great enough, I would not have felt troubled again today.

So, the best thing is to not to listen to anything that arises from within. That so-called voice of conscience and all those things. Look at how life is, look at what is happening, and then if you are really honest in your rebellion and your love; then something entirely new opens up, entirely new and therefore often scary. So, one needs to have courage which comes only from love.

Otherwise, one will just repeat the past, which is a nice way of somehow passing time till one meets death. Just keep repeating the favourable or so-called favourable experiences one has had in the past, repeat them, repeat them, repeat them. Feel secure-repeat-feel secure-repeat. Die!

Q4: How do you know when your Ātman is saying something to you if there are so many voices? Does your Ātman not speak to you?

AP: There’s first of all nothing called your Ātman ; Ātman is totally impersonal—it is not related to you. When you are gone, then that which remains is Ātman . Ātman is pure self. It carries no imprint, no trace whatsoever of your personal existence. This personal existence is itself the veil on Ātman . When the veil is lifted, what shines is Ātman . Ātman is not a personal thing you can possess; Ātman is not something that lives within your physical body.

So, nothing like your Ātman , first thing. Secondly, Ātman is non-dual. So Ātman has no body to speak to.

Q4: So, what is intuition?

AP: Nothing. Repetition of your biological past. Evolutionary history is millions of years long and all that is contained in the body. So, the body knows a lot by way of past experiences. An intuition is useful when it comes to something that you have already encountered in the past. It’s just that you have never encountered liberation in the past, else you won’t be here. So, intuition helps when it comes to day-to-day matters. It may, right?

Even animals have intuition. Intuition is the body’s way of securing itself; nothing more than that. Intuition is the body’s way of securing itself. The body has learnt a lot along the evolutionary journey. And what does the body want to do? It wants to continue and with the purpose of continuing, the body has some knowledge about the worldly conditions.

For example, when you are about to have an earthquake, there are certain animals and insects that just know, just know. There are scientific reasons as well, but they just know. That’s the ability long passages of time have conferred on them.

Similarly, we too know. It’s a way to defend the body. In fact, that’s the reason why women often are more intuitive than men, because there the need to prevent the body is more acute. Because bodily, there is lesser strength. So, there an additional capacity is needed that men do not have. That additional capacity is the sixth sense or intuition or whatever, that mother nature has gifted to women and to all of us.

Q4: So, while ago you referred to ‘me’ in your context and what you were saying. What were you referring to? Its specific to telling me and the sofa, in that context?

AP: Right. If I speak from a point that is insecure and wants to take care of its own self-interest, then the ‘me’ refers to ahaṅkār , the good old dirty self. And if I am a little free of the need of self-preservation, then the ‘me’ refers to something beyond me. Totally depends on what is truly happening. The ‘me’ word can be very deceptive.

We do not have one ‘I’. We are two, in terms of there being two poles within us. Unfortunately, for both the poles, there is one shared common word—‘I’. So, you never know which ‘I’ is talking. If you can be very conscious of which ‘I’ is talking, you are done. Game up! It’s just that the false ‘I’ talk as the real ‘I’. It never says, “I am the false one.” It says, “I am the real one,” and it believes in itself.

Q: Sir, can you recommend or suggest one technique or process or something to liberate ourselves, or be happy, or make better versions of ourselves? What is the one thing which can I carry or take from you, or you can offer something to help us or guide us?

AP: The session still has some way to go. Be here. Not that I will answer in the next few minutes, I have already answered. Be here, that’s the answer.

In the middle of the journey, you stop the driver and you ask him, “Can you please take me to my destination?” He will say, “Stay where you are, you are already travelling. Just don’t jump out.”

Q: I don’t know where I am going. That’s why we are here, right?

Audience: You need to trust the driver.

Q: Who is the driver? We don’t even know that, right?

AP: No, it’s not that difficult you see. Suppose you are travelling because you want to reach a place with better weather. Suppose you are moving towards a hill station—you live in Delhi and you find the heat oppressive, its forty five degrees—so, you are travelling towards a hill station. And after a few hours of the journey, you find its fifty two degrees. It’s not that difficult. You don’t need to always shrug and say, “Who knows? It’s Māyā .”

You can know, provided you know your real state, provided you know your own suffering. Your suffering was forty five degrees, you opted for the journey because you wanted it to reduce it from forty five degrees. Is the journey offering you reduction or has it taken you to fifty two? Can you not know that? Who else will know? It’s your life. So, it’s not all that unpredictable or unknowable. The Truth alone is unknowable, everything else is knowable. And if you term other things as unknowable, then you have given them the status of Truth. So, please avoid.

Everything in this world and beyond this world is knowable. The only unknowable is called the Truth. Never surrender in front of anything here, it can be known. For things outside of your eyes, you have science; things can be known. For things behind your eyes, there is the capacity to observe; even those things can be known, everything can be known. We are not here at the mercy of Māyā . It can be fought out and victory is possible.

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