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The fundamental mistake we make || Acharya Prashant, with BITS Pilani (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
4 min
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Questioner: We recently celebrated our 75th Republic Day. In this context, I would like to know what were the mistakes made by our ancestors that led to the invasions and colonial rule by the Mughals, the British, and other foreign powers in the past thousand years. What can we learn from those mistakes so that the same thing does not happen again? Is it true that presently we are still under their rule in a different sense?

Acharya Prashant: You see, there is only one mistake for a human being: to not realize your internal stuff and remain a slave to it. That is where all weakness comes from, that is why we were defeated in most of the battles we fought over the last ten centuries, and that is also the reason why, as people, we are not progressing fast enough even today.

Man is nothing without wisdom. Weapons don’t win wars; even if weapons manage to win you a few battles, it is wisdom that wins wars. And wisdom wins wars in very subtle ways. You lose wisdom and somebody might declare you a world winner, but you will still be a loser. The tragedy first takes place internally, and then its effects manifest themselves externally in all ways possible.

See, because man is special, because man is not like any other animal—when I say man I mean human beings, not excluding women—therefore man needs spirituality. I could have said religion, but ‘religion’ has become a very abused word today, so I would rather say spirituality or wisdom.

So, we need spirituality. That is the center of our existence—our religiosity, our wisdom. It has to be. If we lack that then we lack a center itself, and if there is no center, there is no power because you are scattered. What would you say about a motorcycle rim that has no axis at all, no center at all? Would the spokes offer any strength? The center is needed to keep the thing intact and strong.

Man needs a center. That center is wisdom; that center is religiosity or spirituality. When religion itself gets contaminated, then there is nothing that can save you.

The trouble with India has been that religion got contaminated many a times, remained contaminated, and even today it is extremely contaminated. And that is why you find lack of strength in various fields in the Indian population. The core of wisdom, the very name of wisdom, Vedanta, was there, always there; the very essence of religion was always present, but along with it much else was also present. Unfortunately, we chose to focus on all the garbage around the core and more or less totally ignored the core. In the name of religion, all that we patronized was hollow practices, empty rituals, discrimination based on birth and gender, imaginative stories, and many other kinds of nonsense. That is what we started calling as religion, and the core, Vedanta, was ignored.

When religion gets corrupted, then the entire population, the whole set of people, are left with nothing. They lose their scientific temper, there are no discoveries. No literature worth reading is written. There is no exploration; they don’t want to go around and know things. They remain a society deeply divided, fragmented, and exploitative of each other, and then they also lose wars. Losing wars is not the central problem. The central problem is the corruption of religion, and that corruption of religion leads to many problems, including losses in wars. And that corruption is especially tragic because India is the mother of religion.

India had all the diamonds that religion needs and religion has to offer. The saints, the sages, they offered the highest wisdom. But instead of that wisdom, we just kept concentrating on very deplorable kind of rubbish—and that is also what constitutes the bulk of Indian religiosity today: rubbish. Instead of religion being the highest thing possible, it has become the lowest kind of curse.

Unless we return to pure religion, which I propagate as Vedanta, not only is the past bleak—I also see very little hope for the future.

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