Acharya Prashant is dedicated to building a brighter future for you
The doubt is the disease || On Advaita Vedanta (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
51 reads

तपसा प्राप्यते सत्त्वं सत्त्वात्संप्राप्यते मनः । मनसा प्राप्यते ह्यात्मा ह्यात्मापत्त्या निवर्तते ॥

tapasā prāpyate sattvaṃ sattvātsaṃprāpyate manaḥ manasā prāpyate hyātmā hyātmāpattyā nivartate

Through penance, one gets to know the inborn disposition (sattva); from sattva one gets (stability of) the mind; through the mind, one realizes the Ātman; by realizing the Self (worldly life is) prevented.

~Maitreya Upanishad, Chapter 1, Verse 6

✥ ✥ ✥

Questioner: My life seems to be going well. I feel like I am doing everything correctly, and my routine is very orderly and stable. The state of my mind is mostly very clear throughout the week and I do not observe many disturbances. I wake up, go to work, spend time with spiritual literature, listen to you, and try to keep myself attentive towards my inner state constantly. The mind is still, and I witness my activities and the world. Still, I want to ask you for clarification. Am I missing something? Should I be cautious of something? Please help me understand if I am in the right direction.

Acharya Prashant: If one has doubts regarding his internal states, then they really are not doubts, they are affirmations. If you have a doubt regarding your internal well-being, then you don’t even need to consult a specialist. The doubt is the disease.

When you have doubts regarding your physical well-being, then you go to a physician and he advises you a diagnosis, and the diagnosis can go either way: the diagnosis can say you are perfectly healthy, or the diagnosis can suggest that there is something wrong with your body. So, the doubt can have two results, either confirmation or negation. This is with respect to the body. If you doubt the health of the body, then your doubt might be well-founded or baseless.

But when you have a doubt regarding your internal well-being, then there is no need even for a diagnosis. Even without a diagnosis, it is certain that there is a disease because the doubt is the disease. When it comes to the body, the doubt does not confirm the disease; you require tests in the laboratory. But when it comes to the mind, the doubt confirms the disease, we will repeat, the doubt is the disease.

So, obviously there is something amiss. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been a need to benchmark and ratify. The way you have recounted the happenings throughout your day itself tells me that you are keeping an eye over them. One keeps an eye over things only when there is suspicion, only when there is a lack of certainty and security. If you know that everything is alright, why would there be a need to have an internal CCTV? The very presence of the CCTV indicates suspicion; and, in the internal sense, suspicions can never be belied, all suspicions are true.

I will have to speak to you to understand what really is going on, but here is what I can see from the limited words you have sent over to me: you are probably emulating, and that’s a very common trap in which spiritual seekers fall. You are trying to imitate something or somebody. You have an image that you are trying to live by, and that is why there is no internal compass. There is an external image that you are measuring yourself against and there is no internal compass, so internally you do not know whether things are happening rightly or wrongly. Internally, there is a vacuum, probably even confusion. Externally, there is an event, there is an effort rather, to live as some other perfect ones have lived or advised to live.

So, you are saying the mind is still, this is happening, that is happening, witnessing is happening. How do you really know that these things must happen? Would you have talked in these terms had you not read all those books?

You will not find total rest till you give up everything that has come to you from outside, including all the spiritual knowledge that you have obtained from external sources. Dependency on world is a dependency on world, even if it is dependency in a spiritual way. Even if you are dependent on the world just for your spiritual orientation, it is still a dependency.

You will find freedom and total relaxation only when your heart is sufficient to tell you that all is well. And, you know, the heart does not really speak; it is only the mind that loves to chat. The heart indicates your well-being by not saying anything. The mind indicates your disease by saying a lot. When you will have no words, no emotions, nothing arising from within, then you will know by not knowing that all is well. That is the only way to know that there is internal health: by not knowing anything at all.

You know you are healthy when the scan does not reveal any of those dreaded spots, right? The absence of the spots indicates health. But when you are emulating something or somebody, then it is the presence of something that you are emulating, right? Absence cannot be emulated.

Now, here is a technical problem. In emulation, you are only emulating that which can be emulated, and that which can be emulated has to be something positive, something affirmative. You will emulate a particular line, or spot, or happening, or action. But all that you can emulate is not the real thing. The real thing is the absence of all lines and spots and actions.

When you try to emulate health, you are only emulating that which is not health.

How will you benchmark the Ineffable? You might not be doing it consciously. My words might be surprising or even shocking you at this instance, but do test what I am saying. When one has been with spiritual literature since long, the age-old tendency applies itself even to the spiritual literature and the lives of saints. It creates images and tries to duplicate those images. And I concede that much of this might be happening subconsciously with you. But even if it is happening subconsciously, it is to your detriment. You cannot support it.

You are saying, “Acharya Ji, please help me understand if I am in the right direction.” What do you mean by the right direction? Where are you trying to reach? What do you mean by the right direction? Top of Mount Everest? Antarctica? The lost city of Atlantis? The heavens above the clouds? What do you mean by the right direction? Go into this. What is this ‘ the right direction’? How do you know that there is a right direction? To where? You surely are carrying an image. Where do you want to reach?

And those who you say had reached, did they reach by following the right way in the right direction? Did they have a particular right way to start with? As far as I know, several of them actually had to eschew the ways they already had. Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak were born Hindus. Jesus was born a Jew. What do you mean by the right way? Did they follow the right way?

For Gautama Buddha, what would have been the right way? To follow the Vedic tradition; that is the right way. Did he follow the right way? And, did he follow the right way? Depends on what you want to underscore, ‘the’ or ‘right’. Where is your emphasis, on the right way or on the right way? Most of us give very little importance to ‘right’; we give a lot of importance to ‘the’ right way. The emphasis must be on ‘right’, and only this knows what is right (pointing at his heart) .

J. Krishnamurti, therefore, will remain timelessly precious. Because the ego suffers from an inferiority complex, so it is bound to get intimidated by the authorities of all sorts, and when you are intimidated, then you emulate. Imitation is often just a result of intimidation, is it not? Imitation follows intimidation. When you are intimidated by somebody, then you also want to imitate him. Like Indians who still love to imitate the Englishmen a lot. Why is there that tendency to imitate the Englishmen? Because, first of all, for a couple of centuries this country remained intimidated by them.

Therefore, I said, J. Krishnamurti will never lose his relevance. The teachers, the gurus, the scriptures never wanted to dominate you, but those who followed the teachers, the classes of priests, and the mechanisms of organized religion, they thrive upon authority. They want to sit upon you, and they want to project certain ways as ‘the’ right ways. They say, “If you are a good Hindu, a decent spiritual seeker, then this is how you must live. Here is the code of conduct, follow these things: wear this way, live this way, think this way, behave this way.”

The teachers themselves, the original teachers themselves, did very little of these things. Very little. Even if they did all these things, that was purely for practical and organizational reasons. So, the Budhha had his sangha. Probably, the sangha would have had rules, surely it did have, but those rules were only for practical reasons of management. They had very little to do with benchmarking one’s inner progress.

I was in Mumbai this year, and one of the camp participants came to me and talked about his affiliation with a particular ashram or order, where he said enlightenment certificates are issued. So, this fellow is enlightened, this fellow is not. And if this were not amusing or scary enough, he said a 100% enlightenment certificate is rare. Usually, it is like Ramesh Ji is now 25% enlightened, grade A, and Suresh Ji is now 35% enlightened, grade something.

Now, this is authority at its intimidating worst. And obviously there are strict rules. How do you measure whether somebody is at 25 or 45? By benchmarking him: “If you are able to do this, then you have reached 25. If you are able to do this, then you have reached 45.” It is in the same vein that you are asking me this question. “Am I in the right direction, and how far have I reached? What am I missing?” You are asking me, “I have reached 65, Acharya Ji, what do I have to do to cover the remaining 35?”

What do I tell you? In the free sky of liberation, you are asking me for a path. But if you have an image of the open sky, you can draw some kind of a path. It is impossible to chart a path in the real open sky. But if you have a picture, you can do anything with the picture.

The liberated one is nobody in particular; therefore, you cannot target to be like the liberated one. Unfortunately, we all do have images of the liberated one. If I show twenty pictures here and ask you which of these looks like a liberated one, you will not say, “There is no way we can guess, sir.” Will you say that? Because all of us are carrying images, so we will be able to quickly point at two, three, or five of those images and say, “These look more liberated than the others.” That’s the trap we are falling into.

And that’s a huge trap, because once you have an image of liberation, then it is not only you who has that image. You know very well that it’s a common image, it’s a public image, it’s a shared image, like a public superstition. It’s an epidemic, it’s a public disease—everybody has it. And because everybody has it, so anybody can copy it and fool you. According to you, the liberated one looks always happy, right? So, anybody can pretend to always look happy and declare, “I am the liberated one!”

And that’s how all the babas and gurus fool the public: they know what the public looks for in a liberated personality. And it is a matter of common, general knowledge, is it not? We all know what a liberated baba looks like. So, just look like the liberated baba and the public will respect you. Use big words, appear as if you are beyond the world, laugh with a lot of abandon, smile, never display any signs of anger, wear untraditional clothes, wear very few clothes, or wear a hell lot of clothes; in either case, do not look like a commoner.

That’s your image of the liberated one that the babas are copying. You and the baba are in cohorts, together. You have the image, baba is personifying the image. There is no dissonance at all. You and the baba are parts of the same machine, both agreeing with each other, talking to each other. You very well know that the liberated ones, especially in India, wear either white or orange. The baba also knows the same thing, because you and the baba are one. So, the moment you see somebody in white or in orange, you know that the holy one has arrived, and the holy one also knows that you know that the holy one has arrived.

Look at all the stuff that you have written. See how the tone and the content tallies with the tone and content of all the religious books. Half your words are coming from the dictionary of commonly used spiritual words, and not too many words are there. In that dictionary, some hundred or two hundred words suffice, and all the spiritual seekers are using the same words.

Today, there was this YouTube comment and the fellow was abusing me. He said, “You claim to be a spiritual person, and in your talks you used words like ‘andu pandu’! What kind of an acharya are you? Is it ever written in the Vedas, anywhere? ‘Andu pandu’? From where did you learn ‘andu pandu’? Why are you always using such language?”

That’s the thing. My trouble is, when I look at you, I have no other words to use!

Receive handpicked articles, quotes and videos of Acharya Prashant regularly.
View All Articles