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The scriptures address the one you are || IIT Kharagpur (2021)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

9 min
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Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, you talk a lot on the importance of Vedanta. Should I get familiar with it at my age already?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You haven’t yet started?

Q: No, sir.

AP: It is too late!

Q: Sir, how? I wasn’t actually sure if I would be able to digest it or not.

AP: How did you decide on that without even trying? Please! Which all scriptures have you laid your hands on?

Q: Sir, almost none.

AP: And having tried on none, you concluded that it is too early for you to start, or that it is too difficult for you to start!

Q: Sir, my family has taught me about Bhagavad Gita and all, but initially I used to find it irrelevant. Maybe I was not ready then. But lately, I have been thinking about trying it again.

AP: You know, if there is a compulsory twenty-credit course on the Upanishads, you will not only read the Upanishads but even try to secure an A, right? The moment you know it carries twenty credits, you will forget all your hesitation. That is how we are, you know. “If it gives me placement, money and CGPA, I will read.”

Poor Bhagavad Gita , it is not there in the curriculum! The placements are not linked to it. No employer asks you, “Have you read Sāṅkhya Yoga ? What is the difference between niṣkāma-karma and vairāgya ?” Nobody asks you these things. Why don’t they ask these things? Because they themselves don’t know a thing. They themselves are in deep delusion, so they don’t know what to really look for in a candidate. And they also know that if there is a candidate who actually knows the answers to the right questions, then that candidate will never appear for their interview, let alone join their company.

So, that is the ecosystem you are in. Why do you want to become another victim of that ecosystem? Your ecosystem is never going to drive you to the Gita or Upanishads or anything of any worth. Isn’t it upon you now, as a mature adult, to see that life is not just about the stuff that your courses contain? I have all the respect for what is taught in our institutions, but I have greater respect for life and liberation from it. Technology and profession are a very small part of who you are. Life is a much bigger affair. Life is not about dealing with machines. Life is first of all dealing with yourself and realizing that there is a deep need within, waiting to be addressed. Resnick, Halliday or Irodov are not going to address that need.

Q: But sometimes even if I am reading a śloka (verse) or something, I feel that I will not be able to apply that to a greater extent because of the lack of my vision or maturity.

AP: Where do you think you can apply the Fourier series? Where all have you already applied the Laplace transform? Please, tell me. Please, please! Ninety percent of the things I read at IIT I could never apply anywhere; I still read them. But when it comes to the Gita, you say, “Oh, I don’t know where to apply them, therefore I am not reading those things.”

Where in your life have you applied even complex numbers? Please, tell me. Square root of minus one—what have you done so far with it? But you know all about complex numbers, right? In the first year, there would have been an entire course on complex numbers, and you went through it and probably secured an A or A-, and wow! Well done. Then you don’t ask, “But is it going to be of any practical use?” And you don’t ask.

I am not insinuating that this stuff that we are taught at IIT is not of practical use, obviously it is. Obviously, everything has its use; obviously, without the Fourier transform this laptop cannot exist. My question is not whether those things are useful. My question is: the question that you ask with respect to Gita, why you never ask it with respect to the other things that are taught to you?

How many students ask this question to their professor: “Sir, this that you are teaching to me right now, will it ever be useful in my real life, in my professional life?” Computer science graduates are taught basic science courses in chemistry, are they not? How is it there? First year you don’t have a chemistry course even for computer science graduates? Now, why don’t the computer science graduates ask, “Sir, what will you do with chemistry?” I am not saying that they will have nothing to do with chemistry or that knowledge won’t be useful; it would be useful. But you never ask; you take it on trust that “If this has been given to me to study, it surely must be having some use somewhere.”

But when it comes to spirituality, there is a great distrust, and that great distrust has been implanted in you by your ecosystem—by the media, by the education, by everything that comes to our mind and affects it. They tell you, “If you read mathematics, it will give you happiness by giving you some success, money. If you read economics, it will be of some use to you. Even if you read current affairs, you will gain in knowledge. Even if you read erotica, you will at least gain some pleasure. But Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads? They give you nothing, neither success nor pleasure! So who wants to read them? We might worship them, but we don’t want to read them.”

At least try. And when you try, you will find that they are not giving you knowledge; they are addressing the very person you are. They are addressing everything that you relate yourself to—your name, your desires, your feelings, your choices, your livelihood, your relationships, your family, your very existence. Now, your very existence is obviously much more important than the technologies you know of, no? What is of more importance to you: the fact that you exist, or the fact that you have knowledge about a certain technology?

Gita, Vedanta, and all texts of wisdom address who you are.

We don’t know who we are. Our very existence is hazy. One thing is certain: you are not what you think you are. You are not what you operate as. You are not what you are so confident about. Therefore, all of us are very dangerously placed. We don’t know who we are, yet we continue to operate as if we know. It is an extremely precarious position. If you don’t know where you are standing, if you don’t know a thing about what is going on, do you want to choose, decide and move ahead? Makes no sense, right? Before you do anything, before you think anything, before you allow yourself to feel anything, must you not know something about yourself?

But that is the vacuum we operate in. Without knowing the very facts of our existence, we continue to live, eat, walk, choose, decide, that too confidently. What does all that result in? Just total wastage of this special life.

Q: Sir, what I feel is that our self-image is greatly influenced by what others think of who we are, by what this ecosystem thinks.

AP: Exactly. What others think of who you are and what your body wants you to believe in. Others will tell you, “You are a smart girl.”

Q: And I will start believing it, and more and more people will start saying it.

AP: Your body tells you, “You are a girl.” Both of these are not necessarily true. By that I don’t mean that you are not smart or that you are a boy. Others tell you things about yourself; the body gives you, in a very deceitful way, your basic identity as a body. And we continue to trust these two cheaters and operate as per the education, the advice received from them. It is like writing an examination in somebody else’s name. If you write your examination in someone else’s name, what will you get? So, if you live your life as your body, what will you get? You went to write the JEE, right? You wrote it in somebody else’s name—what do you get?

Q: Nothing.

AP: Right! That is how we all live: we live as the body. The body might be getting some pleasures or something, I don’t know what it gets, but ultimately it turns to ashes. But, for sure, you don’t get anything.

Q: Sir, by that do you mean that our soul doesn’t get anything out of it?

AP: You are not your soul. You are not your body.

Q: Then who are we?

AP: Go to the Gita. It is already too late, I said. If you are talking to me, one of the options is to go to my website and put in your name. We have initiated a program to send the Upanishads to whosoever enrolls with us. Within a month or two, you will receive a copy of the Sarvasara Upanishad . It might answer some of your questions. It is a free copy, you may just go there and enter your details, and you will receive it. And if you don’t want to wait for a few months, then you may enroll in some of the Gita courses that we have; that might help. Or you may decide to begin with your own copy of Gita.

Whatsoever you decide, just begin.

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