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The highest acts come from the highest within || On Mundaka Upanishad (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
17 min
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तस्मादृचः साम यजूंषि दीक्षा यज्ञाश्च सर्वे क्रतवो दक्षिणाश्च । संवत्सरश्च यजमानश्च लोकाः सोमो यत्र पवते यत्र सूर्यः ॥

tasmādṛcaḥ sāma yajūṃṣi dīkṣā yajñāśca sarve kratavo dakṣiṇāśca saṃvatsaraśca yajamānaśca lokāḥ somo yatra pavate yatra sūryaḥ

From Him are the hymns of the Rig Veda, the Sama and the Yajur, initiation, and all sacrifices and works of sacrifice, and dues given, the year and the giver of the sacrifice and the worlds, on which the moon shines and the sun.

~ Verse 2.1.6

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Acharya Prashant (AP): The scriptures, the spiritual books, are the highest works of man. Every action comes from a point within our consciousness. Behind the action is an actor, and in the actor there is a choice: the actor could be a lowly one, the actor could be a higher one.

The Rishi is telling you that great creation comes when you operate from the highest point of your consciousness.

You could choose to be a lowly actor. You could choose to operate from some random, low base point of your consciousness, and then the action would have a corresponding quality: low quality action. Low quality not from the perspective of society or your employer or the prevalent norms; low quality from the point of view of your potential.

The society may say you have done very well. Your boss will say that you deserve a good appraisal, he might say that. But if the action is not coming from a high point of your self, then you will keep suffering. And if all that you do is intended to relieve you of your suffering and initiate you into joy, then acting from a low point is self-defeating and self-destructive.

Do you get this? This basically is a commentary on the nature and purpose of all actions.

We just act without ever being quite clear on why must we act at all. No action must be coincidental or random. Action must be purposeful. Action must be targeted at your inner elevation and ultimate liberation. Action that is haphazardly done, action that comes from a lost state of the actor, is just wastage of your one precious opportunity called life because all action involves expenditure of time. You will be acting and going around in circles reaching nowhere; you will be acting, expending your energy, resources, only to find that your action has been to your own loss.

Let your action be such that it is a living scripture. If the highest point of your self gives rise to the Vedas—Vedas implying the highest scriptures—if the highest point of your self gives rise to the highest scriptures, then live a life that is a scripture in itself. You don’t always have to write a scripture. It is probably better to live a scripture.

So, from Him come all the great things. Read it in reverse. If you want to produce great things, they have to come from Him, and ‘Him’ implies the highest point of your self. If you want any great actions to happen through you, then you will have to leave all fondness for lowly places. As long as you are attached to this and that, your output will not be worth looking at. It actually won't be worth anything.

Don't even wait to know or measure the quality of your output because that can be misleading. As we said, someone may come and tell you, “You have done a great job.” It doesn't matter how your work quality is measured on social standards. You must know, on your own, within, the point from where your action originated.

So, if you know that your action has come from a high point, do not wait for or seek social validation. The output is great. Why is the output great? Because it comes from a great point. Equally, even if the entire world is saying that you are a boss, wonderful performance, well done, you must know that you have just wasted yourself if your work has not come from the highest of intentions. That is an important word here, useful: ‘intention’.

How do you know which point or which level of consciousness you are operating from? Just look at your intention. Your intention decides the state and level of your consciousness.

Who is operating from high consciousness? The one who has high intentions. Who is operating from a low place? The one who has lowly intentions. What do you call as high and what do you call as low? The more something is done for your personal preservation, the more you can call it lowly. Do you get the definition of a low place? A low place is a personal place. The more personal it is, the more lowly it is. What is a high place? The more impersonal it is, the higher it is.

The personal self is a cage. The more you do something for it, the more you just reinforce the cage. Don't do much for yourself. You cannot do much good to yourself. The best thing you can do for yourself is nothing at all. If you have to take care of somebody, you should be the last person to be taken care of. If you have to care for somebody’s interests, let those interests not be your own.

But be very careful when it comes to intentions, because there are conscious intentions and there are hidden, subconscious intentions. Sometimes we feel that we are operating from very sublime intentions, but actually behind the conscious façade are lurking very deep and ugly and dark motives which we are not quite aware of. We may think, because we are not quite self-aware, that we are extending our hand to somebody to help the fellow, but deep within us might be sitting a force that is using our hand to arrest that person and later on exploit him.

So, don’t just trust your intention blindly; interrogate it, question it. We are saying the level of your consciousness is decided by your intention. But the matter of intention is a bit complicated, so your intention is not to be taken on face value. You have to dive deep into yourself to know what your hidden intentions might be. And when you are as sure as possible that your intentions are good, healthy, loving, then indeed your life, your work, everything, will be scriptural. You will be a living scripture in yourself.

Then, all the initiations, dīkṣā , they come from That. What is That? Our own highest point. When we say That, it might mislead because ‘That’ is usually to refer to something external. But in spirituality, whenever you come across Tat or That, it refers not to something outside of you but to your own best, highest, purest possibility. That which you deserve to be and must be, that is That.

So, from That come the scriptures, from That come the initiations. What is meant by saying that from Him come all the initiations? Even the desire to be with a teacher and all the learning that comes from a teacher comes from That. We talked about it yesterday, didn't we? What is the force that will propel you to your highest self? The suffering you experience on being separated from the Highest. So, what is it that brings you to the teacher, to be initiated? The suffering that you experience in absence of the teacher. In other words, the absence of the teacher brings you to the teacher, to be initiated. Do you see this?

Similarly, from Him come all the sacrifices, yajña , and all the offerings, and all the dues that are paid to everybody. Everything that is holy, that entire ecosystem can come only from a high place. It has various implications. Even if you are indulging in religious ceremonies, without those ceremonies really originating from a high place you will get nothing because it is not the ceremonies that come first, it is the origin of those ceremonies that matters. What are you doing it for ?

Tomorrow is Holi, and Hiranyakashyap performed a great sādhana , no? In a way, he was a legendary tapasvī . So, he pleased Brahmā. But where was his penance coming from? What was the origin of all these austerities? A point that just wanted to fatten the personal self. And therefore, when it came to asking for the boons, what did he ask for? He said, “Make my personal self immortal, make me invincible.” And therefore whatever he got was of no use, neither to him nor to anybody around him. He was a cause of destruction and suffering all around.

Actions are not to be measured by their apparent volume or width or grandeur. Actions, irrespective of whether they are large or small, are to be measured by the point they are coming from.

Think of two events from the life of Shri Rama. There is a little squirrel, and the little squirrel really isn't performing much of a work, right? The bridge to Lanka is being built, and what is she doing? Commensurate to her size, she is picking up a few grains of sand and carrying them to the site. And she is saying, “This is my contribution. When everybody is busy working, I too have to contribute.” But that was the maximum she could contribute: a little bit of sand. So, to and fro, to and fro she would go, and she was creating this little cute pile. And Rama saw this and picked her up, and the legend says that he just touched her body, her back with his fingers and left a mark over her that continues to date.

On the other hand, there was Ravana and he was performing a major tapasya . His army was being slayed, the brother had been killed, the son too had gone, and what does Ravana decide for the final battle? That he will sit in front of Shiva and ask for a great power; and probably he would have succeeded. So, what does Rama arrange to do? He arranges to disrupt his tapasya .

Now, what is this? On one hand, the squirrel is being rewarded, praised, and what is she doing? What she is doing does not amount to much, a little sand, that is all, and still she is being blessed. On the other hand, Ravana is doing something that is apparently religious, religious and big: he was going without food and water and he was deeply immersed in his practice. And Rama decides that this has to be stopped, disrupted. Why?

Because what the squirrel is doing is coming from the highest place possible, even if the work is small. On the other hand, what Ravana is doing is apparently quite big, grand, massive, but it is coming from a very low place. The intention is to defeat Rama and keep Sita; this is all that Ravana wants at this point. Because the point of consciousness from where all this is happening is low, therefore it had to be disrupted; therefore it means nothing; therefore it did not benefit Ravana in any way.

So, you have to ask yourself: you might be doing great things in life, but where are they coming from? Anything that is coming from the need for self-preservation or self-furtherance is not going to do much good. You might have a top job in a top MNC, but why? Why do you go there every day? What exactly keeps you there? And this question applies not only to the big decisions in your life, it applies to every small thing that you are doing. That must be your level of inner honesty.

You must keep asking, “Why am I going there? Why am I not going there? Why do you need to have this? Why do I avoid that? Where are my choices coming from? Ultimately who is being gratified through my choices? Ultimately who is being served through my choices?” That is a beautiful word, no? ‘Serve’. “Who is the master I am serving? Who is the master?” And master there will be. Let it not be a lowly master, that’s all. Who is a lowly master? You are the lowly master.

Don’t do much for yourself. When I say, “Don’t do much for yourself,” what do I mean? Don’t do much to maintain yourself as you are; that is what I mean. Do everything possible to uplift yourself; that is a totally different thing. Do everything possible to uplift yourself. When I say, “Don’t do much for yourself,” I mean don’t do anything to maintain your status quo, to preserve your world, your universe, your center as it is. Don’t do anything that goes towards that.

“From Him are the various worlds on which the moon and the sun shine.”

The entire game of Prakriti is from Him and for Him. What is more useful to us is that it is for Him, so it has to be dedicated to Him. And what do we mean by Him? Repeat: our own higher state.

So, when I say this entire expanse of Prakriti , which is our world, our universe, has to be dedicated to Him, what do we mean? Use everything at your disposal for upliftment of yourself. Use all that you have to uplift your life. Don’t make it bigger, make it higher. In the process of making it higher, if bigness is achieved, alright. In the process of making it higher, if bigness is sacrificed, alright. Bigness has to be coincidental. Bigness is a resource, not an end.

Sometimes in the process of rising you will find that you achieve worldly fame, money, respect, a lot of things, which is alright. “I never intended that; it just coincidentally came to me. My intention was vertical, the horizontal thing just came.” Equally, sometimes it is possible that rising upwards may require that you give up on or sacrifice or invest all that you have in the horizontal direction, fine. Both the situations are fine because ultimately what you wanted was elevation, upliftment.

If upliftment gives you something worldly, you take it. If upliftment consumes everything worldly that you have, you are still okay and happy. And these things will happen, both these things. Sometimes you will get something, sometimes you will lose something in the world, but neither of those two things should matter much. What must matter? Your assessment of how far you have gone on the vertical axis. That is what must matter to you.

Any questions?

Questioner (Q): In layman terms, could you give an example of an action that is directed towards the highest?

AP: You don't have to worry about the highest; you just have to worry about the lowest. Now it is very workable and very practical. Now you cannot say that you do not know how to implement it.

You see, it is this way. There are six places you spend your time at, six places, let's say. One, two, three, four, five, six. Arrange them in descending order of their real importance, and then just avoid the lowest. At the bottom of the pile, you will have the place that is of the least importance, and yet you give yourself to it, right?

Q: Yes.

AP: Right. So, what do you have to do? You are just to avoid the lowest. Just forget the highest; the highest is such a delusion. Worry about the lowest.

Now, avoid the lowest. The moment you avoid the lowest, you find that time has been released, now you have something in spare. What do you spend it for?

Q: The highest.

AP: Not merely the highest, you spend it to push the highest even higher, because now you have time. That time was being spent on the sixth one, the lowest one, and now that time and that energy is available to you, it is not being misused, right? So, how do you spend that spare energy now? You use it to push the highest one even higher. Now, when the highest one is pushed even higher, the lowest one, which was the second lowest still yesterday, gets even lower. Do you see how it is happening? So, now what is it that you reject? The second lowest one.

You could put it this way: these were the six things, and the one at the bottom of the stack has been removed. So, you have added a seventh thing on the top. That makes it easier to understand, right? There were six things: A, B, C, D, E, F. Let the lowest one, the least important one, the least deserving one, be A. With A gone, now what is it that you can add to your life? G. And why was G not in your life till now? Because you were too busy with things like A. With A removed, now G can enter your life. Now, G has entered your life. Now, what becomes the lowest? B.

So, we are not talking of the highest at all. We are now talking of the lowest, and the lowest is now B. It is a dynamic thing. Now, B is lowest. Do you see how the thing moves? And you come till Z, and then we will see what happens from there. This is what is meant by having a negative approach.

The Upanishads proceed through the negativa, through elimination. Eliminate the nonsense; that’s the method. Just keep cutting out the nonsense. Don’t worry about what is it that you need to add to yourself because addition is anyway not possible till you do not cut the crap out. But we talk too much about what to do, what to do.

The Upanishads tell you what not to do.

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