Questioner (Q): I have heard you say that no two human beings are equal. But if that is the case, then how can the possibility of liberation exist on a larger scale? We have adapted and evolved in various fields throughout history, but can the same happen when it comes to consciousness? Is it going to be a zero-sum game where only a few will realize the heights of consciousness and the rest will not?
Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, liberation is an imperative. It is not really relevant how easy or difficult it is for a particular individual. It has to happen for one and all. You just cannot find any peace or relaxation or contentment without it.
So, yes, theoretically it might appear that certain children are born more predisposed towards the spiritual process, aiming at liberation, and certain children are a bit indifferent or even averse to this thing. But how does it matter? If you say you are averse to liberation, you are inviting suffering to your life, and suffering itself will push you towards liberation.
So, just as the time period of a simple pendulum does not quite depend on the weight of the pendulum, or the time that a particle takes to fall to the earth does not depend on the weight of the particle, similarly, though it is true that weights of different pendulums and particles differ, and the tendencies of different individuals differ and certain people definitely stand at a higher level of consciousness than others, it does not matter. As we said, the very fact that you are indifferent to liberation will push you more towards liberation.
So, your indifference will be nullified by itself; indifference will act as its own antidote. Why? Because liberation is an imperative. If you do not move towards it on your own, in the sense of being driven by your own sense of realization, then circumstances, situations will batter you so much that you will be forced to move towards it. So, either way you will find yourself inexorably going down the same path that is our destiny.
What is, however, true is that the path is not the same for all; the destination is, the destiny is. Certain people take a very simple, straight path, like the straight line connecting two points. Certain people, driven by their own innate, bodily, prakṛtik tendencies, like to have a more long-winded route. Touristy tendencies, you see. We want to explore this, that; we are doubtful; we want to be certain of a lot of things before we can accept what the sages have said, what the wise ones have advised.
Certain people move back and forth. They take two steps towards liberation, and then find that the price being demanded is a bit unacceptable to them. So, they retract, and after retreating a bit, they realize that the option to go back is hardly available anymore. So, they find themselves impelled to again move ahead, but moving ahead again they find they have to retreat, and so on and so forth.
Different people have different kinds of contours, but irrespective of who you are, what your age is, what your gender is, what your educational qualification is, or what your economic situation is, you will have to be liberated. Because, irrespective of all the diversities we find among human beings, we have one central identity in common, therefore our destination is common and shared. What is that central identity? We have a consciousness that demands wholeness, completion, fulfillment, and contentment. Doesn’t matter where you come from, doesn’t matter whether you are well-read or illiterate—if you are born as a human being, you share a lot with any human being existing or ever born: the thirst to realize, the thirst to be free of everything that enslaves you.
So, we have the freedom to delay the inevitable, we have the freedom to choose our personal paths according to our personal preferences, but we just do not have the freedom to indefinitely postpone the spiritual process. As we said, the more you postpone it, the more it will push you and demand you to take it more urgently and sincerely. It’s like extending a spring. The more you extend a spring, the more is its tendency to revert to its original position. So, certain people stretch it just a little bit, certain people may stretch it a lot, but irrespective of how much you stretch, it will come back. And the more you stretch it, the more vigorously, speedily and energetically it will want to come back.
Q: If I seek the shortest path to liberation by following the prescriptions of those who are on that path, am I not doing an injustice to myself? Even if I don’t take the path directly by following their advice, I am anyway going to face hardships and experiences that will liberate me in due time. Shouldn’t I just choose my own path?
AP: How do you know that the prescription will save you from the hardships? Maybe it’s just the opposite already: maybe you are trying to avoid hardships by choosing a path of your preference. And when you take a wise man’s advice, he will actually push you into hardships. Why do you think that taking advice makes it easier for you? Isn’t the fact just the opposite?
The fact is we are pleasure-seeking and work-avoiding people. Look at any human being or any creature of any species: we just do not want to work too hard. If you want to make a person work, you have to incentivise him. If you do not want to make him work, you don’t have to do anything.
Now, liberation is the highest of all achievements and the toughest of all destinations to reach. Therefore, our *prakṛtik*—which is biological—tendency is to avoid liberation as much as possible, or delay it at least. Why? Because we don’t want to work; we don’t want to pay the price; we don’t want to subject ourselves to the cleansing fire.
But when you refer to what the sages have said, they will tell you that you just cannot avoid the inevitable, that your comforts and conveniences cannot last long, that the security you assign yourself by remaining within your mental structures is not going to give you anything. External securities that come from money and prestige won’t help, and internal security that comes from operating within one’s zone of approval and disapproval, likes and dislikes, even that won’t help.
Now, this needs fundamental clarification. When you say you want to take a path of your choice, whose choice are you exactly referring to? Who is the one making that choice? When you say that you accept that the destination is liberation but at least the path can be of one’s own volition, what exactly do you mean? Who is the chooser here? There are two of you: one that must be liberated, and the second one that is ensuring that liberation is delayed as much as possible.
Otherwise, if there is a burning urge to be liberated, isn’t it commonsensical to ask why don’t all human beings on the planet stand liberated? If indeed there does exist a deep desire towards realization in every human being, then all human beings today, or ever born or would-be-born, would have been realized in no time. But does that happen? That doesn’t happen. What does that point towards? That tells us that there is a strong force present within us which is opposing and counter-balancing the desire towards liberation.
So, there is your consciousness that wants to be liberated, and you have your in-born physical tendencies that have nothing at all to do with liberation. We said that you are two. These are the two that constitute you: consciousness that seeks to know, understand, enquire, question, conclude, realize and be peaceful, that is what consciousness wants; and then there is the body, and this body shares a lot with other conscious beings. Fifty percent of our genetic material we share even with bananas. That is the stuff of this body—bananas. With chimpanzees and orangutans, I suppose, we share ninety-seven or ninety-eight percent of our genetic stuff. So, that is what we are physically. I don’t think you will find orangutans particularly interested in liberation. So, this body doesn’t want that. This body wants food, sex, bananas, comfort and procreation—all the easy stuff in life that monkeys want.
So, you are two, and these two are continuously at war with each other. At the same time, these two continuously coexist. You cannot make a decision without consulting the other one. The body cannot make a decision on its own, neither can the consciousness unilaterally decide for itself. So, it is a strange situation, you see. These two do not like each other, but these two are inseparable from each other. It is a strange kind of wedding.
Q: Sir, is there a possibility of bringing them in harmony with each other?
AP: Yes. Coming to that. Both of these carry a veto. If the body does something without consulting consciousness, consciousness can cancel it. Similarly, if the consciousness does something without consulting the body, the body won’t allow it. We are continuously in a situation of inner strife. That is who we are.
The equilibrium can lead towards the body or it can lean towards consciousness, depending on your choice. In fact, you decide whether you are the body, or how much you are the body or the mind. That decision is to be made by you . That is where you have freedom. That freedom has to be wisely used.
If you say, “I do not want to consult the wise ones,” then chances are that you are just leaning towards the body and pandering to its urges for comfort and such things. People who are great votaries of personal freedom just do not understand what the person is. And if the person himself is bound by conditioning of the body and conditioning coming from the society, then how can the person have any freedom in his choice? Even if you give him hundred percent freedom to choose, his choices will be very conditioned, controlled choices, though he would be feeling as if he has made a free choice. That would be the choice of a slave masquerading as a free choice.
You talked of harmony. These two cannot be in harmony with each other because these two are not at the same level. One of them has to be given importance over the other. Consciousness has to be accorded a higher value compared to the body. Therefore, the body has to follow consciousness. That is the only kind of harmony possible between the two. You cannot have a situation where collective decision-making happens on the basis of equal voting rights. These are two, and consciousness wants liberation. If you allow equal respect to both of them, then the body will keep vetoing liberation and the real thing will never happen at all.
Therefore, the body will have to surrender to consciousness. When I say body, I mean all the tendencies that come with the body and your strong urge to identify with the body. All that will have to yield, surrender, and kneel down. Only one thing must remain: “I know who I am and therefore I know what I must do, how I must live, how I must relate with others, what I must do for a livelihood, what I must do every second of my life.” That is the right relationship between consciousness and body. The body must follow consciousness and consciousness must follow Truth or liberation.
Q: Why is this counter force there? Why does it exist? Does it increase with time or when there are complexities in life?
AP: You mean the prakṛtik force, the force that keeps us in bondage?
Q: Yes, the force that opposes this urge to be liberated.
AP: Yes, that is the same force. It just exists. If it does not exist, you will not ask this question. That force is this entire universe. Otherwise, the nature of consciousness is freedom and freedom is non-dual: there would exist nothing at all. It is because Prakṛti exists that you and I are talking. It is because Prakṛti exists that there is the entire game of bondage and liberation. If that force that keeps you in bondage does not exist, then you will not take birth, this universe will not exist at all. That force is everything. Why does it exist? It exists because you and I do. It exists because you and I are speaking here. If you are liberated, it does not exist. It exists as long as there are beings who operate as if they are not liberated.
So, the right answer to this question would be: it exists because you think it exists. Why do bondages exist? Because you asked this question. Do not ask this question, and they do not exist. By that I do not mean that you suppress your question; by that I mean, because you experience bondages, therefore bondages exist. Because you are, because you exist, therefore bondages exist.
Q: Does this mean that the bondages sometimes motivate us to move towards liberation even more?
AP: You see, the bondages have a very special nature. They can motivate you to be liberated, or you can, at least temporarily, use the bondages to defend your bondages.
Suppose you are weak, weak in terms of not being strong in body and limbs. You can use this situation to say that you want to hit the gym and be strong. Somebody will ask you, “Why are you going to the gym?” and you will say, “Because I am not strong. Because I am not strong, I am going to the gym.” Equally, there could be someone who could say, “Oh, I am not strong; therefore, how will I lift the weights in the gym? Hence, I am not going to the gym.” So, the same situation of not being strong can be used either way. It can motivate someone to shed his weakness, equally it can demotivate someone and make him further weak. That is the game of Māyā .
This force that you are talking of is classically called as Māyā or Prakṛti . Its funny nature is that it presents disease veiled as medicine. If you are sick, Māyā will bring you some treatment and that treatment will exacerbate your sickness. That is what we all do, right? “I am not well, therefore I am doing something.” And don’t we see that this something that we do in our moment of sickness or weakness makes us further sick and weak? That’s Māyā . Nobody wants to be his or her own enemy. Māyā poses as a friend and harms you by being very close to you.