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Why is so much of current spirituality at odds with the Bhagavad Gita? || Acharya Prashant (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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अमानित्वमदम्भित्वमहिंसा क्षान्तिरार्जवम् ।

आचार्योपासनं शौचं स्थैर्यमात्मविनिग्रह: ।। 13.8 ।।

इन्द्रियार्थेषु वैराग्यमनहङ्कार एव च ।

जन्ममृत्युजराव्याधिदु:खदोषानुदर्शनम् ।। 13.9 ।।

असक्तिरनभिष्वङ्ग: पुत्रदारगृहादिषु ।

नित्यं च समचित्तत्वमिष्टानिष्टोपपत्तिषु ।। 13.10 ।।

मयि चानन्ययोगेन भक्तिरव्यभिचारिणी ।

विविक्तदेशसेवित्वमरतिर्जनसंसदि ।। 13.11 ।।

अध्यात्मज्ञाननित्यत्वं तत्वज्ञानार्थदर्शनम् ।

एतज्ज्ञानमिति प्रोक्तमज्ञानं यदतोऽन्यथा ।। 13.12 ।।

amānitvam adambhitvam ahinsā kṣhāntir ārjavam

āchāryopāsanaṁ śhauchaṁ sthairyam ātma-vinigrahaḥ

indriyārtheṣhu vairāgyam anahankāra eva cha


asaktir anabhiṣhvaṅgaḥ putra-dāra-gṛihādiṣhu

nityaṁ cha sama-chittatvam iṣhṭāniṣhṭopapattiṣhu

mayi chānanya-yogena bhaktir avyabhichāriṇī

vivikta-deśha-sevitvam aratir jana-sansadi

adhyātma-jñāna-nityatvaṁ tattva-jñānārtha-darśhanam

etaj jñānam iti proktam ajñānaṁ yad ato ’nyathā

The renunciation of sense-objects, and also the absence of egoism; reflection on the evils of birth death, old age, sickness, and pain;

Non-attachment, non-identification of self with son, wife, home, and the rest, and constant even-mindedness in the occurrence of the desirable and the undesirable;

Unswerving devotion to Me by the Yoga of non-separation, resort to sequestered places, distaste for the society of men;

Constant application to spiritual knowledge understanding of the end of true knowledge - this is declared to be knowledge, and what is opposed to it is ignorance.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verses 8-12

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Questioner (Q): Shri Krishna clearly states what he has declared to be knowledge. Then why is modern day spirituality filled with so many superficial methods to attain knowledge? How can this be corrected?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Modern day spirituality is only giving you what you deserve—and this is not something that is happening only in the modern era. This was happening even in the times of Shri Krishna. This knowledge that Shri Krishna is addressing to Arjuna, is something that only Arjuna is respecting and receiving.

You are asking, “Why is modern day spirituality filled with so many superficial methods to attain knowledge?” Even at that time there were a thousand fake ways and means to attain knowledge. It depended on the seeker, the recipient.

If you want fake knowledge, you will get fake knowledge. If you want superficiality, you will get superficial spirituality. If you want true spirituality, you will get a Krishna.

What do you think, Duryodhana had no knowledge? Had Duryodhana been totally free of knowledge, he would have been like an innocent kid. But Duryodhana was so full of knowledge. In fact, Duryodhana was much more certain of his knowledge than Arjuna was. You find Arjuna full of self-doubts. Is Duryodhana having any self-doubt? Even through the run of the battle Duryodhana had far more reasons to be suspicious of himself, but he never doubted himself.

Who was losing more warriors in the battle every day, the Kauravas or the Pandavas? The Kauravas. The Pandavas did not really lose their principal warriors in the battle. In fact, the five Pandava brothers were the principal warriors, and none of them lost their lives. Yes, they did lose Ghatotkacha and Abhimanyu, but they could hardly be called central figures.

On the other hand, look at the Kaurava side: Bhishma is gone—Duryodhana is still confident, Duryodhana is still not ruffled up. Drona is gone, Kripacharya is gone, Dushasana is gone, Jayadratha is gone, finally Karna is also gone, but Duryodhana still thinks he knows what is best for him.

Duryodhana has a lot of knowledge. And all knowledge in some sense is about the Truth, right? When you say ‘spirituality’, what is the domain of spirituality? The Truth, what is. What is! Correct? What is. Duryodhana’s knowledge was also about what is.

So, all knowledge in that sense is the province of spirituality. Duryodhana's own knowledge was in his own eyes as spiritual as the knowledge of the really spiritual person. Would Duryodhana ever say that his knowledge is just worldly and superficial? Duryodhana would say, “No, I know! I know what things are like. I know what this battle is about. I know what is at stake.”

Duryodhana is knowledgeable. It’s just that Duryodhana is Duryodhana; his central urge is not the Truth but the throne. Therefore, he gets a guru like Shakuni. Who is advising Duryodhana all the time? Shakuni. Why? Because Shakuni is what Duryodhana wanted. If you want the throne, then you will get an advisor or guru like Shakuni, and Shakunis have always existed; not merely in the modern era, even in the times of Krishna. Right in front of Krishna is Shakuni. And mind you, Shakuni often in fact appeared to be prevailing against Krishna. Arjuna is Krishna’s protégé; yet he has to spend so many years in the jungle, right? And look at the disciples of Shakuni; they kept making merry, they kept enjoying power.

It depends on you. If you want the Truth, you will certainly get Krishna. If you want all the other things, then you will get some spiritual teacher as per your taste and demand.

You see, Krishna says very clearly, “I come to you in the form that you value and respect.” So if you respect pompousness, if you respect power and pelf, then you will get a grand guru who shines upon a podium. Why did you get that guru? Because what is it that you respected: pompousness. You wanted jazz, you got jazz. You wanted bling and glitz, you got bling and glitz. But we do not realise that.

We do not realise that the person we respect, actually reflects our own inner values.

If you respect real knowledge, then you will evaluate your guru on the basis of his knowledge. But if you are some kind of a personality worshipper, then you will start following some show man and his antics.

And later on, you start blaming him, and you say, “Oh, he cheated me!” No, he didn't cheat you. It's your own values that took you to his shop. I could even extend this to say that it was because your values demanded a pompous guru; that's the reason the pompous one set up his shop in the first place. Had he known that the society around him would not appreciate his showmanship, and fakeness, and artificiality and superficiality, then he would have not dared to set up his shop. But we do not realise that.

All kinds of teachers are available. Do not say that modern spirituality is full of superficiality. Modern spirituality has both superficiality and centrality, and spirituality even in the times of Krishna equally had superficiality and centrality. It depends on you.

If you are an Arjuna, you will get Krishna. If you are a Duryodhana, then you will get a Shakuni. In that sense, you see, teachers are pretty passive entities; they are like shops. Shops really can’t come after you, and grab your hand, or pick your pocket. Shops can at most exist and allure you passively. The active decision to walk into a shop has to be yours. It always is.

So, these shops exist. You must ask yourself, “Why do you step into them?” Let those shops be there. If you know so well that there are so many superficial methods these days to attain knowledge, then why do you allow yourself to be taken in by that superficiality? Superficiality offers pleasures; superficiality offers cheap salvation. Therefore, it is easy to be attracted to superficiality. On the other hand, true spirituality challenges you to pay a heavy price.

See what Arjuna is going through. Krishna is saying, “You will have to fight kith and kin.” And Arjuna is passing through a tremendous inner turmoil. That's what inner and true spirituality demands. Duryodhana does not have to pass through that pain. Arjuna is paying a heavy price. Duryodhana is all very happy. When Arjuna is so shattered inwardly and he is shivering and trembling, and has kept his weapon down, and he is in a very bad state, at that moment you can almost visualise Duryodhana at other end, popping some popcorn into his mouth in a very gay manner, coolly, happily saying, “Dude, what’s going on?” Duryodhana is facing no inner turbulence. He is paying no price. And when you don't want to pay any price, then you get teachers like Shakuni.

Krishna is beautiful, but he is tremendously beautiful. You understand the word ‘tremendous’? You know the word ‘tremor’? What does tremor mean? What does tremendous mean then? That which makes you shake and shiver. Krishna is tremendous. We can very easily tolerate someone who is just beautiful. The problem with being with Krishna is that he would be tremendously beautiful. You go near him and you receive a 440 volt shock. Now, he is beautiful, so he’ll charm you and pull you in. Next time, again you go near to him, and again a shock. The tremor strikes you.

You need to have the guts and the stamina to continue remaining with Him. He will continue to do what he does. His tremendousness will stay unabated. You have to check whether your stamina can last that long. It will be a match between his tremendousness and your preparedness to take the kick—because the kicks won't stop. Till you exist, the kicks would keep raining.

Somebody who has the ego of Duryodhana will not be prepared to take kicks. In fact, Duryodhana wanted to hold Krishna captive and he tried many other such antics. How will he take kicks?

Arjuna has a lot of resilience. Krishna keeps destroying him bit by bit. Krishna keeps chipping away at his ego, and Arjuna stays put, doesn't run away. Would have been very easy for him to give in to himself and just quit, right?

So, you see, all this knowledge has existed since antiquity; yet there are people who do not want to read the Gita. They want to try all kinds of fancy things. Somebody has come up with this method; somebody has come up with some fancy kriya; somebody is talking of a new kind of spirituality. They just don't want to go to the very bright, clear and illuminating document that the Bhagavad Gita is. They don't want to do this. They want to try all kinds of cheap and shortcut ways.

That's what they want, that's what they get—something cheap.

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