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When lust overpowers you || Acharya Prashant, with IIT-Hyderabad (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
11 min
143 reads

Questioner (Q): I have a question, sir. You said that when we have the feeling of lust, we act like an animal; we are animals now. And you said that you need not be an animal; I need not be an animal. But the thing is, when we are in that situation, it is very difficult to get reminded of ourselves that we should not be an animal, like that.

Take an example of any negative feeling, not only lust, say anger, or being egoistic, or having any powerful, negative feeling. When we have that, at that time, how to remind ourselves? How to be conscious, and come out of that animal? That is my question. That how to?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, there is a pleasure that lust, or anger, or envy, or hatred, or possessiveness offer you, and there is another pleasure that is offered by the high stuff of life. It's just that the ego is not convinced that there is any pleasure at all in the higher things. Why is the ego not convinced? Because the ego has a history of deriving pleasure from all the lowly things. A child is born, where does the child get its first pleasures from? From the Bhagavad Gita? No, it gets its first pleasures from skin-to-skin contact; from something very sensual; from something very bodily, right? So, the ego is convinced of that dimension.

‘In the sensory dimension, in the dimension of flesh, there indeed is pleasure, and I can experientially verify that. It is in my history. I know of that. Nobody needs to come and convince me. Since the moment of my birth, I have derived pleasure from all the sensory things.’ The mother wants to put the baby to sleep, she need not tell the baby stories from the Upanishads. She has to just hum some meaningless tune, and pat the baby a little, and it sleeps off. So, there is pleasure, and that pleasure is not coming from any higher domain. That pleasure is coming from something very basal, so the ego is convinced.

Now, the Bhagavad Gita comes into the picture, and someone says, “Well, there is higher pleasure in the Gita.” Why must the ego believe that? The ego has derived pleasure only from food, from the beds—you can have a comfortable sleep, or from sex, or from other things, like, snatching something away from somebody; there is pleasure there. The ego knows all of that. And now suddenly, you are saying, “No, no, no! You go to the Bhagavad Gita, and there is higher pleasure there.” Why should the ego believe you?

So, the ego needs to be given a taste, and that's a difficult thing to do. Because the ego already knows where to get its dose of pleasure from, so, how to lure the ego away from that place? Something has to be done—some trick, some method. Sometimes, a little force has to be applied. Something has to be done. That's why the world of religion has been so colourful, you see. Do you see how colourful our religious practices are? Do you see how religious festivals have been designed to offer you pleasure, even to the kids? —Throw colours on someone.

Now, the festival is arising from a spiritual core, but care has been taken to add an element of very normal pleasure to it so that the normal public can be attracted. “No, you come! You come! You come!” And as you come closer, you find that now the spiritual core starts beckoning. So, some trick has to be used. Something has to be done. Somehow the mind has to be brought close to Vedant. And once the mind has sufficient proof that pleasure need not necessarily come from all the lowly things only, it can come from a higher place too, then it becomes easier for the mind to make a better choice.

Well, you see, there is pleasure in envy, greed, whatever, anger, lust, but there is pleasure in solitude. There is pleasure in reading something sublime. There is pleasure in singing the couplets of saints. Why not go for that pleasure? The ego is a calculator, you see. It calculates. It is very animalistic, and it is very calculative. If you can display clearly to the ego that a higher quantum, a bigger dollop of pleasure awaits at a higher point, then it will be possible for the ego to rise higher. Otherwise, you can keep sermonizing; you can keep lecturing.

The first experience, that first glimpse has to be given. Sometimes, that glimpse comes not by way of a book. That glimpse sometimes, initially, comes in the form of a person. A person stands in front of you, and that person is a living proof of spiritual Joy or spiritual power, and then you say, “Well, well, well! There is something important; there is something rather magnetic in the personality of this person. How do I refute his fact?”

When Gautama Buddha was to deliver his first sermon, he started looking for listeners. There was nobody to listen to him. So, he thought, “To whom should I speak?” He thought of one person and started looking for him. It came out that the person had already died. Then he thought of another person, he too had already died. The Buddha had been searching for more than a decade, and in that period people had expired. And then he thought of the five chaps who had abandoned him when he was rejecting the path of severe austerity— Kaya klesh.

So, he said, “Why not go to these people? And they were my good friends, and they were good listeners; just that they got very angry with me because I rejected the doctrine of senseless austerity.” So, again, he tried to somehow locate them and found them, and he went to them. And when he was approaching them, they saw him coming, and they were angry with him because he had refuted their doctrine.

So, they thought among themselves, “When he comes to us, we will not offer him any respect. We will not even talk to him.” It is considered courteous to take the other’s belongings when he approaches. When a senior one approaches, then you go and you take his luggage, as we still do in India, don't we? So, they said to each other, “When he comes close, we will not offer to take the luggage, or whatever stuff he's carrying. We will be very obviously disrespectful to him. We want to make a point loud and clear.”

But literature says that as the Buddha approached them, they forgot all that they had planned. It was the sheer weight of his personality that made them bow down. And they bowed down to him, and they offered him a decent place to sit, and he sat there, and they had nothing else to ask. You know what was the first question they asked? “What did you do, sir, after we left you?” So, that's the childlike simplicity that an awakened personality can induce in you. It was induced simplicity.

So, there has to be a proof. Now, those five got a proof. They said, just by looking at this man, it becomes obvious that there is something of the Truth within him. So, now they opened up to listen to him. They said, “Please tell us! Please tell us! We want to listen to you.” And he preached to them, and it was the first sermon. So, it's a long-drawn statement I have made.

But the point is, the short and simple point is: convince the ego of some higher happiness, and then you will find that the lower things do not remain relatively that attractive, relatively, right? To the body, the attraction of all the sensory things will remain because that's the way the body is configured. But something else, something higher in comparison will open up, and therefore you will lean towards the higher thing.

Q: And sir, one small doubt was that, like, can you give some examples of what are those highest things which we can remember at that time.

AP: See, there are pleasures that come from the world, and there are pleasures that come from the Truth. You sing a beautiful couplet, a very insightful couplet, insightful yet very simply put, and there is a deep pleasure there. It's not as if there is pleasure only in making merry, eating, and frolicking, and such things, right? There definitely is pleasure in all those things, and those pleasures we share with the animal kingdom.

But there are pleasures exclusive to our species; pleasures that only we can enjoy. So, when you, for example, are witnessing the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, there is a deep, subtle joy there—the joy of understanding what is going on; the joy of seeing how Arjuna's condition resonates with yours, and how Krishna is able to very simply, and yet very tactfully communicate to Arjuna who he is and therefore what he must do. Right?

This understanding is something very unique to human beings. And in this understanding, there is that higher pleasure called Joy. So, look at the world. Look at your condition. The internal training must be to try to understand. And you understand when you are not lost, when you have the intention to know, and that is called attention. The intention to know—attention. And then you do not need those little filthy pleasures.

Equally, those little pleasures actually now become little to you, therefore, you do not despise them either because you cannot despise something so small. And then, things are put in their place. It's not as if, you started the question by talking of lust, it's not as if you read the Bhagavad Gita, and you will totally abstain from sex— that does not happen, and that is not supposed to happen. It's just that the thing is put in its right place. The thing is put in its right place.

By the way, that was also the content of the Buddha's first sermon. He told those five, “You know, obviously the ones who are living lives of relentless consumption are idiots. But look at you five.

You have chosen the path of starvation. You have said, “We want to simply kill the body through starvation.” Now, even this is not proper. Everything has to be put in its right place. Those who are appeasing the body all the time are body-minded. You too are body-minded because you are hurting the body all the time.”

So, when you know of the higher thing, then everything else falls in its proper place. And that's the yardstick of your humanness, the depth of your understanding in which there is deep joy.

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