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Whom to listen to, and whom to avoid? || (2021)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

13 min
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Questioner (Q): Pranaam sir, my question is- I have this very low self-image of myself in my mind, and I have this need to seek validation from others all the time and this has been for a long time for almost till whenever I can remember. But, just recently I have been understanding the intensity of the problem and all my actions and all my goals are coming out of that self-image that I have. So, I have always heard you talk about this inner sureness and I have also seen it in a lot of people like when I read some books, the characters and all. I have always wanted that inner sureness, so my question is- how do I make that journey towards that inner sureness?

Acharya Prashant (AP) : First of all, stop seeking validation from invalid. It's not so much of a problem to ask for validation or sureness. The question is, to whom are you going to seek it? Are you getting it?

It's alright to get oneself tested or examined, but not from a quack. Go to a doctor. Would you say that it's a mark of self-doubt and low self-esteem to go to a doctor? Do you say that?

Q: No.

AP: No. So it's alright to go to someone and ask for an opinion. The problem is elsewhere. The problem is when you go to the wrong person.

When you go to the wrong person, the advice you will get would be such that your need to go to the wrong person would not only remain but actually deepen. So, your dependence would continue.

You would become more and more unsure of yourself by following the person's advice, opinions. And the more unsure you become the more will be the need to keep depending on somebody.

So ask yourself- Have the advice really benefited you so far? If they have, then continue taking them, If they haven't, then stop.

Kindly get rid of the notion that any of us is self-sufficient and does not need external guidance. I am being very unequivocal on this. I know it's a fad currently, the in thing to say, be your own light, don’t depend on anyone, decide for yourself, whatever. It's a very ignorant thing to say with all due respect to the Buddha.

Such advice is meant only for very selected disciples. And even from the Buddha, it went only to a very few and privileged disciples, not to everybody.

The way we are born, the way we are configured, we won't get light just on our own. Illumination won't happen automatically. We require guidance. Now that comes with associated risks. The risk is that if you seek guidance at the wrong place, that's the worst thing that can happen to you.

But just because there is a danger of something bad happening to you, if you get false guidance, you cannot avoid or stop taking guidance altogether. That would be an equally disastrous thing.

So these are two extremes, two ends of duality, and unfortunately like in every other thing in the world, both these ends of duality are quite crowded. You have people at both these ends. The real thing is somewhere else and very few are found there.

Which two ends am I talking of? One end is- I am a follower, I am prepared to follow, I am prepared to follow. But I am following a quack, a charlatan, an unqualified fellow, an ineligible teacher. There is a huge crowd at that end. And there is an equally huge crowd at the opposite end.

What is the opposite end? I don’t follow anybody.

So you have followers and non-followers, and both are equally deceived. The non-followers are deceived because they keep on following themselves and you are probably one of the worst gurus you can get. And you are surely the worst when you are a guru to yourself.

So there are non-followers who follow themselves. What's the name of their teacher? I, me - which is the Ego.

And then there are those who follow. They say, “Oh, we are humble people, we are prepared to listen.” But whom do they follow? They follow all the stupid and the fraudulent chaps.

Both these ends are to be avoided. Right? Negate both these. And you need to negate both these with equal ferocity.

If you are someone who has been following somebody outside of you, some other person. Ask yourself with great discipline, without any attachment, without any emotion- “What am I getting there? What am I learning there? Is my life changing? Are my doubts vanishing? Am I stronger? Am I more fearless now?” These are the questions to be asked.

And these questions have to be asked very dispassionately, very objectively. Are you getting it? This is in case you are following somebody outside of yourself. It could be a person, a book, a line of thought, ideology, anything.

And if you are someone who prefers to follow himself or herself, the same questions have to be asked. "How good a teacher or guide have I been to myself? Have I been really of any use to myself?" Yes? Very rigorously, very rigorously. Don't play favorites. Don't be biased. Getting it?

The outer guru and the inner guru, both have to be rejected, then you come to the real Guru. The outer guru is the quack, the inner guru is the Ego. And these two are hand and gloves with each other, by opposing each other.

What do you do in a tight rope walk? It appears that this thing is trying to go this way (right) and this part of the pole is trying to go this way (left). So, these two seem to be opposing each other. Let's hack down one half, what happens to you now? You fall.

So, what do you see? They were not opposing each other, they were actually supporting each other. Often the two parties in a dispute are necessary for each other. Without the dispute, they cannot support each other. So don't be deceived when you find two parties quarreling, whether in the physical sense or the psychological sense. That quarrel does not mean that one of them wants to end the other. It merely means that through the quarrel both of them are ensuring their mutual continuation. Without the quarrel, both will die down. It's necessary for the two to fight. If the two fight, both survive. If the two don't fight, neither survives. Are you getting it?

On the surface, it will appear that these two are opposites, they are not opposites. On the surface, it will appear that the two are aiming at each other. They are not aiming at each other; they are supporting each other. Are you getting it?

To begin with, go to the right books. There is no guarantee that books cannot deceive you or that your relationship with books is going to be full proof. But books are time-tested you know, books are ancient. So, the probability of you being deceived by them is a bit lower there.

Any person you go to would at most be 40, 60, 80 years old—the fellow has not been yet tested fully. And time is a great test. So, it is possible that the fellow's intentions have not yet been fully revealed. Or the flaws and fallacies in his thought, logic, philosophy have not yet been tested and exposed.

So that's always my advice. If you have to seek guidance or validation, as you say, why not go to a time-tested book? Why not see what the greats had to say? At least listen to them. Then if you don't find them convincing enough, reject them, fine. It's okay. Nobody is asking you to follow blindly.

But I find it very puzzling when somebody says, “You know I have neither read the Gita, nor do I want to read it, or I have not gone to Ashtavakra. Upanishads- what are these things? Let's talk sense." What are you saying?

Or if you have a taste for Western philosophy, go to the western philosophers, fine. But that's all that far better than going to your Uncle. No? Or your faceless Facebook buddy. People do that because there is some security involved there. He cannot come to shame you. You can block the fellow any time. Anonymous helpline.

And life is one subject everyone thinks he is an expert in. There is nobody who would say, I know nothing about life. You would probably be sensible enough to say, you know nothing about nuclear physics. Right? Or brain surgery. I hope we admit that much. Else our dear ones are in danger.

So that we are somehow sensible and humble enough to admit. I really do not know how exactly that camera or that laptop works. So, I will go to a specialist, right?

When it comes to life, everybody is somehow an expert. Everybody has not merely an opinion but a very solid opinion.

How are you so sure of the thing? Or is an atom bigger than life? If you want to know an atom, you have to go to nuclear physics, right? There you do not just proudly claim, "Oh I know atoms, everything is an atom. I have been with atoms since my birth." There you want to read a book. There you want to consult someone who knows. Is life smaller than even an atom? Then how do you act as a specialist in life of yours?

“You know I will tell you, that affair won't last.” Yours did last, and what came of it is that one won't. But yours did, right? And your affair is your hell and still you have the perverse audacity to guide the other person. And if the other person is of a diffident kind like you, does not act big, does not ooze out confidence, then it becomes even more tempting to dominate the other person, shoot advice on her. And those advice are just hidden injunctions. It's not as if you are left with a choice to follow or not. It's an advice that you have to follow, like government advisories.

There is one thing that each of us needs to definitely stop and now. Stop listening to people who are not qualified to speak. Please!

And in that, I am not asking you to reject a person per se. I am saying if you want to talk about welding, don't talk to a dentist, would be a horrible dentist who specializes in welding as well.

To a dentist, talk about your tooth. Don't take life advice from uncles and aunts and models and celebrities, would you? Don't let cricketers tell you what kind of house to live in.

Your mom is beautiful, great, good, lovely. Is she the right person to tell you of so many other things in life? Please avoid. And you do avoid, don't you? Do you rush to your mom with a question on differential calculus? Who does that? Show me. Does your mom even bother to teach you differential calculus? No, there she steps back. Because even if she pretends to be an expert, her expertise would be exposed. The equation won’t equate. LHS and RHS would keep running away from each other.

But life is subtle, intangible. There anybody pretends to be an expert because you cannot concretely see that LHS and RHS are not in sync. Just anybody sets it up for you and you take it, "Haan, this is nice".

This is not nice. If it's about life, I repeat- go to Krishna. There is Krishna, there is Ashtavakra, there is Kabir, there is a full lot to choose from. You will have your choice, don't worry. It's not as if something is imposed on you.

Fortunately, for us, there have been a lot of wise people in history and again fortunately enough their words have been recorded. Why not benefit from them?

And the more you go to those wise people, the more you will see how those around us are gravely unwise. And that will tell you why those around you do not like it when you to the really wise ones, because if you do manage to spend time with the really wise ones, the unwise crowd would be swiftly exposed.

And that's why you have cases of your near and dear ones not liking it when you turn to real spirituality. Because when you turn to real spirituality, you immediately start seeing what is unreal and that includes your so-called life experts. They are very very unreal.

And that's why, in current spirituality, there is very little emphasis on going to the classics. They just do not want you to read the scriptures. The moment you read the scriptures; you will reject the current lot of gurus, immediately. They are a blemish on the word Guru, they don't deserve.

So, let this be the position. “I will listen but to the right one. Neither will I take the extreme position of saying, ‘I will listen but to all the fools', nor will I take the extreme position of saying, 'I will not listen to anybody except myself.' Both these positions are to be discarded."

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