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Sir, Why are you so dissatisfied? || Acharya Prashant, Vedant Mahotsav at IISc Bangalore (2022)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

12 min
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Questioner (Q): I had been part of the last Delhi Camp, IIT Delhi Camp. During those three days, I have seen that you have spoken to the participants continuously for 6 hours, then later in the evenings, with hostel students, for another two, to three hours till 2 a.m. in the morning. And we also get to hear it from the volunteers that you have a very rigorous work schedule.

So I wanted to put forth this question which I came across on Twitter, directed to you, and I quote “what kind of dissatisfaction do you have in you, that makes you teach Vedanta and offer yourselves in the service of other people, to ease their suffering? A witness will not intervene or will he?

Acharya Prashant (AP): This is not a question this is a taunt. Give it to me (asking for the mobile). ‘What kind of dissatisfaction do you have in you? That makes you teach Vedanta and offer yourselves in the service of other people to ease their suffering? A witness will not intervene’ (Read out the mobile). Obviously this is more of a barb. What kind of dissatisfaction you have that, you do these things? A witness will not do anything.

Obviously the witness is not doing anything, whatsoever is done, is done by this form in Prakṛti. Who told you that the hand can be the witness my hand moves when you say, I am doing so much. Who is doing so much? The Self the Ātmā is a non-door, and it does not do anything.

When you say “I am doing something”, who is doing something? The lips move, the tongue moves, the throat is working, the brain is working. These are moving. And in the middle of all this bodily movement, surely there is something immovable. And it is by the virtue of that immovable thing; whatever I am saying is coming. The fellow is saying, “Why do you work so hard? A witness is not supposed to work, right?”

It's a smart taunt. The only problem is that, wherever you learn this from is not the place or you have not learnt it rightly. You said, a witness does not do anything. The body is not the witness. The body is working, the eyes are seeing and the body will get tired, and fall off one day.

The witness remains, the witness ever was, the witness is beyond time. What to say, these are, these are just botched up spiritual concepts that float in the mediocre kind of spiritual market. I think I have spoken on this witness concept, no less than a hundred times. When people are afraid of the right action, they seek refuge in such concepts.

They say, “But, you know, we are supposed to be the witness of everything.” Why work just witness? Why can't you witness yourself, not working? And know how you are using the concept of witness to evade the right action. Further if witness is really a witness, how are you talking so much about the witness?

Witness is supposed to be hidden by definition, right? A witness is someone who sees but cannot be seen. If the witness can be seen, then somebody is witnessing the witness as well. So the witness is not a true witness right? There is a witness behind the witness.

But then people don't exercise the kind of basic intellectual rigor that is needed to go into these concepts. They just shabbily, hurriedly pick something up from some pop book and start tossing it around, witness!

The only witness is the Self itself, Ātmā, and that's why nothing can be said about the witness, the Ātmā, Acintya, Ajñeya, Akalpa. The witness is the center, with no existence of itself in time and space. Around the witness is the entire universe, and the universe is constantly in motion. The point is that your motion must be centered on the witness, not that you must become motionless.

Our friend here seems to imply, that if you are the witness, then you should not move at all. No. The knowers told us of the witness so that our lives are centered on the witness. The witness is at the center immovable, and everything else is moving in the right way in the right force, in the right direction, around the witness.

The witness is like the eye of the cyclone. There has to be tremendous activity around the witness. In your entire being, the witness is the point, that always remains untouched, unblemished, unmoved. And because there is something within you that remains untouched, it enables you to accept all kinds of daring challenges. That is the witness.

In fact, if you do not have that point of absolute stability and certainty within you, you cannot move freely, because you know that there is something within that will never be touched or corrupted or destroyed.

So you can plunge into situations that threaten to corrupt and destroy you. You can plunge into any kind of worldly afire knowing fully well ‘na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre’ There is something within that will not be destroyed even if that śarīr is. That is the witness. Witness does not mean you will avoid the worldly afire. Witness means you will plunge into the world fire because ‘na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre’ . It will never be lost. And if the body goes, let the body go, the body, any way supposed to go. The real thing will never ever die. So, why should I be afraid? That's the witness.

The witness is somewhat, like the very, very broadly put, the axis of the ceiling fan. Does it move? Because it does not move, therefore the fan can move with all its speed. What happens when the axis itself starts moving? You run out of the room. Because now anything, any mad thing is possible. That's the witness. The center around which all the worldly motion, all the activity of life can take place. That center should never move.

The point is to ask yourself, do you have something in you that the world can never ever touch? Or is everything within you vulnerable to touch and exploitation and influence? You must have something within you that the world can never touch, let alone Master. That's the witness.

Something within that will never participate in anything in life or in the world, never a participant. “I'm not involved.” Even if the mind is involved, and the body is involved, something within should never be involved. Something just sits. Just sits untouched. It's not interested even in watching. To say that the witness watches is also an infringement on the nature of the witness. The witness is not interested even in watching, the witness just is. Are you getting it?

So, these are like adolescent quips, “ Heh, why are you working? The witness never works.”

Teenage, you know pre-college kind of stuff. I've had enough of it, several years back, till several years back. No, I get it even today as well. So, you have done the worst kind of injustice to yourself when you have corrupted, even the holiest.

You have all kinds of random things in your kitchen and you get sick because you consume them. And then somebody gives you a bottle of medicine. And even in that bottle you fill up your regular stuff. Now is there any hope left? The one thing that could have redeemed, you even that you have lost to yourself.

It is tragic, when there is, there is an intoxicant in the bottle and you gulp it down, obviously it is bad. The thing is poisonous. But it is absolutely a thing of sorrow when in the bottle of medicine, you fill in an intoxicant, and take it in.

Even to the words, the holiest words, we start according mediocre, lowly worldly meanings. We have corrupted great medicines like Ātmā, like Turīya, like Sākṣi. Each of these words stands corrupted in the worldly market of mediocre spirituality.

Prem, Satya, Ānand, every third person, and every single Guru, is touting these words with pure impunity. Nobody comes and seeks accountability. And because these things are not mathematical, therefore, you cannot instantly prove someone wrong. The fellow can speak for 2 hours, let's say on Ānand, and he's talking pure crap, but it's not possible for most people to prove that he is talking crap. So he continues without any punishment. Ātmā, Brahma, Īśvara. Great, renowned person, I was reading him recently and it was such a shock, he was equating Ātmā with Īśvara. How can you do this?

And the results have been massive. It's not that these are small mistakes that go unnoticed or unpunished in existence. For all the misery that mankind is experiencing today, it is this misrepresentation that is responsible.

It will sound strange to you, but yes, this is the fundamental reason because spirituality is the last resort, the ultimate medicine. We have corrupted the ultimate medicine as well. Now, tell me what will save us. The worst offenders are the spiritual writers and pop gurus.

Observation is not the same as witnessing, huh? You sit here, and you watch me speaking. In ordinary language, it is permissible to say that you witnessed me speak. And you’ll say that. You say that “There was this Mohastav organized at IISc and we witnessed Acharya Prashant speaking”. That is permissible in ordinary parlance.

In pure spirituality, in technical Vedanta, you cannot use the word witness this way. Yes, you observed me, you didn't witness me, you observed me. You observed me because the observer and the observed object both were present. It was an act in duality. The two are there.

Did you disappear internally while watching me? That hardly happened, so you didn't witness.

To witness is to not to be, when you are not, then you are the witness. But you constantly are, so how can you witness? Observation and witnessing are not the same thing. But gurus, tell you, “Oh, you must be a witness to everything that is happening in your life.” What nonsense? It's, and it's not just a matter of wordplay it has severe implications, because it is a technical thing.

Just as in physics, force, and power are not the same thing, but sometimes we use these words interchangeably in ordinary language, don't we? Sometimes you say he hit me with great force, or you say, he pushed me with great power. But a student in physics, basic Newtonian physics will tell you force and power are not the same thing at all. Similarly, The Observer and the witness are dimensions apart. How are you using these two words interchangeably? Getting it?

Q: Krishnamurti also used to say the observer and observed.

AP: That's what that's a more practical usage. The observer is there, and the observed is there and that's the way the worldly duality functions. Witness is a very sacred word; it has to be used with caution. Remember that the language of Vedanta proceeds via negativa.

So witness does not mean actively witnessing, it is not a word that affirms an action, to witness only means a negation of participation. You get the difference. So when you say somebody is a witness that does not mean that he is actively witnessing rather in the tradition of Vedanta. It means that he is not participating, that's all.

To witness is not to do the action of witnessing. It is to not to do the action of participating that is witnessing, that's all. You must have something within you that is so contended in itself, so joyful, so peaceful, so absolutely complete, that it does not seek to participate in anything.

Great party going on? “Oh I am alright, I won't participate.” A great sorrow has fallen? “Oh, I am still okay, I won't participate.” That's the witness within you. That's called as Ātmā, Ātmā alone, true self alone is the witness. And that's the endeavor of the entire spiritual process to reach internally where Aham meets the Ātmā, the ego, meets the true self. And then so many things happen on the periphery internally you remain blissful, okay, all right, healthy. Even in the moment of your death, okay. That's the purpose of the spiritual process and the purpose of life.

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