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What is common between saint and sinner, animal and man? || Acharya Prashant,on Bhagavad Gita (2020)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

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विद्याविनयसम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि ।

शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिता: समदर्शिन: ।।

vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini

śhuni chaiva śhva-pāke cha paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśhinaḥ

The learned ones look with equanimity on a Brahmin endowed with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, and even a dog, as well as an eater of dog’s meat.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 5, Verse 18

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Question: In what way is the vision of the learned one equal towards all of them? And is this sense of equanimity different from numbness or insensitivity?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Obviously, when you look at these different beings with a worldly eye, all you see is differences. Right?

So, there is the learned Brahmin, and there is the cow, the elephant, the dog. And then there is the eater of the dog’s meat. So these five entities have been mentioned, and it is said that the one who is really learned looks equally upon all of them. The questioner is asking: "What is this equanimity and how is this different from numbness or insensitivity?"

Looking at differences is an intermediate state of consciousness. The lowest state is when you do not see any differences. For example, a drop of rain. It was raining this afternoon, right? And the droplets made no difference between the Ganges, a shrine, a dog, and cow dung. Did it matter to the drop? Some of the drops fell into the Ganges, some landed on the shrine’s spire, some landed on your head maybe. Some of them did land on your head. And many a drops would’ve landed on cow dung. That is not equanimity, that is deadness. That is lack of consciousness. That is the lowest level of consciousness. The drop is endowed with no consciousness at all; therefore, it makes no difference.

Then there is the intermediate level of consciousness, in which all that one sees is differences. That is what one popularly calls as 'consciousness' itself. The more you see differences, the more conscious you are called. Right? That’s the worldly definition of consciousness; see diversity, see differences. You must be able to tell apart black from white and yellow from red; then you are called 'conscious'. If you are lying and somebody shows you yellow and red, and you can’t differentiate between them, you’ll probably be called drunk or a little unconscious, or whatever.

This worldly ‘I’ looks only at forms and appearances, and forms and appearances are obviously different for different entities. It does not go deep into the essence of things. Therefore, all that this ‘I’ perceives are differences. The ego lives in differences. If there are differences, only then the ego has something to do. Right? “There is this, and there is this, so I have to make a choice; I have to achieve something; I have to reject something; I have to find something.”

Then there is a higher level of consciousness that is being referred to in this verse. At this level, the looker wants to penetrate beyond the appearances into the underlying reality.

"Where are the appearances coming from, and to whom are all these appearances?"

(Repeating) "Where are all these appearances coming from, and to whom are all these appearances?"

The moment these questions are asked, diversity disappears. You find that all the appearances are coming from the same place, and what’s even easier to see is that all the appearances are coming only to you. It’s to you that all the appearances are there. And why do you see all of them? You see all of them because you are searching for something-somebody who has so far remained elusive. You are the one who is seeing things, different things. And you have a need to see different things, because the one you are desperate to really see has so far not been found in a single thing. Now, how do you really differentiate between this and that? That’s if you address the question — "To whom are these appearances?"

You could take the other route, and go into the appearances themselves. What is it that all the appearances really want? I see them as conscious, right? At least the five entities mentioned here in the verse are all conscious entities. What is it that all of them want?

The moment you investigate into — why those entities exist at all, why do they continue to breathe, why do they continue to open their eyes and look at the world — you discover that all of them are looking for, searching for, crying for the same thing. How do you now distinguish between them?

The most learned priest really wants to reach the same place as the one who is spending his life eating dog’s meat. It’s just that the learned one is making it easier for himself by being learned, and the one who is busy killing animals and eating them, is not doing himself a favour by doing what he does. But both of them want the same thing. Not only do both of them want the same thing, even animals want the same thing — be it a cow, an elephant, or a dog, or a single-celled amoeba; as if life itself exists to reach one common, shared, and ultimate destination. Doesn’t matter what the lifeform is.

Looking from our position, it does appear, however, that a few lifeforms—and even among those lifeforms a few categories—are more suited to reach that destination. But that’s only from our point of view. And no point of view is absolute, you see.

From where man looks at himself, from where man looks at a cow and a dog, it actually does appear that Liberation is more possible for a man than a cow, or a dog. But this conclusion should be taken with a pinch of salt. Why? Because this conclusion is from man’s frame of reference. It’s the man who is looking at himself as a 'man'; it’s a man who is looking at a cow as a 'cow'. A cow does not look at itself as a man does. Right? We do not know what a cow is in a cow universe. We do not even know what a pebble is in a pebble’s universe. A pebble appears inanimate to us. In its own universe, we do not know what that pebble is, and how men look. Getting it? We do not even know whether a pebble universe exists at all.

But what is certain is, irrespective of the form, shape, expression of consciousness, all conscious entities exist to be liberated. Therefore, at some fundamental level, you cannot differentiate between them. They all exist for the same thing. How to distinguish?

Getting it?

Ask anybody who has spent time with an animal, and he or she will say that he’s friends with the animal. The two of them actually talk as human beings do. The two of them share a relationship that might actually be deeper than the one human beings have among themselves. If that kind of a relationship is possible with an animal, how will you distinguish between an animal and a human being?

But that you see only when you first of all come close. If you do not come close, then from a distance you will see only the exteriors. And when you see the exteriors, all you see is differences — the cow is not the dog, the dog is not the man; they’re all different. And if they are different, and if they are different from you, then they are foreigners, then they are aliens, then they have nothing in common with you, then their existence is totally exclusive of you.

And then you can slaughter them.

Therefore, if you are someone who relishes slaughter of any kind, it becomes important for you to keep a safe distance. If you’ll come too close, you will not be able to kill.

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