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Why help others be liberated? || Acharya Prashant (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Questioner (Q): You have said that individual liberation is not possible: that either we go together, or nobody can go. So, we have to help others to cross-over. But I can’t help even the people close to me; they are caught up in routine work or indulge in entertainment; no time for enquiry or devotion is left for them. And there are others who say that they are not interested in spirituality. I feel helpless.

Now, there are billions of people on the Earth. Even if they all get miraculously liberated, in due course these monkeys and chimpanzees may evolve into human beings also, and it is going to be just a never-ending process until the final destruction. How can even a single individual get liberated if this is the situation? It seems we all are going to be stuck here forever. I know I am asking something childish, but this is how I am thinking. Please give clarity on this. Thank you.

Acharya Prashant (AP): So, tonight’s query is that if all are to be liberated for the liberation of one single individual, then what about the chimpanzees? By the theory of evolution, it seems one day they too will evolve into human beings, and so work will remain pending; total liberation is still not there. What to do?

Liberation of everybody is not like a vaccination of the entire population where you have to have a head-count. As they used to say in the anti-polio campaign, 'No child left,' now we are saying, 'No chimpanzee left. All liberated!' There is no such equivalence.

Now, how do I explain?—because you have quoted me fully correctly. These words are actually mine, but the meaning you are drawing from them is not mine. I will credit you with quoting without a flaw, but this is not what I intended to say.

Let’s start from the basics. What does liberation mean? What does one liberate herself from?

Q: Bondage.

AP: What is bondage? If you are talking of liberation, it is always in the context of bondage. What is bondage, first of all? What is human bondage?

Q: Suffering.

AP: Suffering. Expand on that. What is suffering related to?

Q: Sorrow, pain, fear.

AP: Sorrow, fear. Proceed, give me more words.

Q: Shame, desire, excitement, death.

AP: Death, which is fear, again.

Q: Grief.

AP: Grief, which is sorrow, again.

Q: Jealousy.

AP: Jealousy, which is comparison and limitation.

Q: Resentments.

AP: Resentment, which is insecurity and resistance.

Q: Obsessions.

AP: Talk of time. Let me drop a hint: when we say the mind has to be liberated, the mind has to be liberated from time. Expand on that. What in time?

Q: The past and the future.

AP : The past and the future. With respect to the past, the mind has…?

Q: Sorrows.

AP: Not merely sorrows, one could have had pleasurable experiences as well. So, the mind has to be liberated from memories. And with respect to the future, the mind has imaginations and hope.

So, when we are saying that we must be liberated, we are saying we must be liberated from hope. If you are to be liberated from hope, can you hope for liberation? And if you are not to hope for liberation, why are you becoming hopeless?

What is liberation, then? Liberation lies in not wanting even liberation—not wanting even liberation—and that is the desireless action of Krishna; and that is the love of the saints. You work not so that you would be somehow benefited by the work; you work because you love the other. Even to work for the other with the expectation that by working for the other your own liberation would be facilitated, you are just playing in the hands of hope.

So, though you have quoted me right, you got me wrong. I did say that unless all are liberated, the individual cannot be liberated, but I did not say that this should be the reason why you must work for the other’s liberation. The reason has to be selfless-love, desireless action. Do you get the difference between the two? If you work for the liberation of the other hoping that the liberation of the other would help in your liberation, then you would work for the other only as long as you are convinced that the liberation of the other would in some sense help you. If somebody comes and convinces you that the liberation of the other has no bearing upon your liberation, then you would just drop the other very cruelly—because why were you helping the other in the first place? So that you could be benefited in turn in your liberation. So, if you know that helping the other is of no consequence to you, then your help would freeze.

But it is very different in love. In love you continue to help the other irrespective of the consequence it would have upon you. Do you see the difference in these two approaches? Yes, it is true that your and the other’s liberation are one, but that does not mean that you help the other with the intention of gaining your liberation, because if you are helping the other with the intention of gaining personal liberation, it means you still see a difference between yourself and the other. The intent is still personal, is it not? If the intent is still personal, then are you really one with the other? Then this is very selfish help, very self-centered help. And self-centered help would only reinforce the self, not liberate the self, wouldn’t it?

So, do help the other, but without any desire for result or success. We do not really know how the other would be helped; we can at most do our best. You do your best, and that is enough for someone up there to smile and do some magic. That magic does not occur because you did wonders; that magic occurs because someone has smiled at your childlike labor. You know, like the little squirrel that was trying to help Sri Rama build the bridge to Lanka—could she have ever succeeded? Could she have? No. But the Lord smiled at her.

Do your best; that’s all that He wants from you. You cannot cause the liberation of the other; it is the ego that believes in causing things. Liberated egolessness lies in just doing in love, often knowing fully well that what you are doing is materially inconsequential—materially inconsequential, not actually. In material terms, it can cause no difference at all, like the few particles of sand carried by the squirrel. What material difference can they cause to the building of the bridge? Nothing. But actually, much difference is caused.

Similarly, being the little, limited self, the little person that you and I are, obviously our help cannot reach too many people. But still, let’s do our best. That’s liberation—to be liberated of hope; to be liberated of the desire of a response of the other; to be liberated of the demand for a positive result. Just do your best.

And also, one more clarification. When I said all will be liberated together, I included chimpanzees. The Bodhisattva ideal is: 'Till the last blade of grass remains in bondage, I will not cross the river.'

So, forget about the chimpanzees, it’s worse: you have to take into consideration every single little blade of grass as well. And you are liberated if this piece of news does not disappoint you. You just say, 'My task is to help; the rest is upon the Lord. What more can this little woman do? She has to help, help and help to the best of her capacity. And if her capacity is limited, how is she to be blamed? But what is certain is that she will be Truthful. Till her last breath, she will stay put; she will not desert the battle. Till even the last bit of energy is left in her, she will keep dedicating it relentlessly, religiously to the sacred mission of liberation, and nothing else.' That’s what is to be done.

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