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Wisdom through songs || Acharya Prashant, on All India Radio (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
27 min
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AIR host (AIR): A very good morning to all our listeners tuned in! And a warm welcome to the brunch time show this Saturday morning with your friend Kiran! And this morning we have a very, very enlightened guest with us who is going to be sharing his views and thoughts. It will be a pleasure listening to him.

He is Acharya Prashant, who is an IIT and IIM alumnus and ICSE topper and an NTSE scholar, an ex-civil servant. He has served in prominent organisations like GE-Capital, ECS and Bennet Coleman and company before starting the PrashantAdvait Foundation.

Author of over 80 books on important subjects like joy, love, marriage to commentaries on the scriptures including his national bestseller, Karma. He shares his teachings via social media, online discourses and lectures and debates, monthly ‘Vedant Mahotsav’ and one-on-one counselling on various platforms worldwide. With over 10,000 videos and articles available in Hindi and English, his body of work is the largest repository of spiritual wisdom available on the internet. More than 5 Million minutes are watched daily with lifetime views of more than 1 Billion.

He is also a regular speaker at IITs, IIMs and other prestigious institutions and we are indeed honored to have him with us over the AIR waves this morning.

Welcome to our show, Acharya Ji!

Acharya Prashant(AP): Thank you for the introduction. I am glad to be here.

AIR: It’s really an honour and a pleasure to have you on AIR, and we are going to make the best of it by asking you that in this day and age when stress levels are building up, worldwide tension is building up, escalating on every platform, be it economical, be it financial, military, domestic, business, what is the importance of Vedanta and its teachings that can help us steer through such crisis?

AP: Vedanta is a very empowering philosophy. It focuses on the ‘self’ as both the projector, which you could say is the creator and the experiencer of the problem.

So, when it comes to stresses of all kinds and all the problems in the various domains that you listed, the first thing it talks of is ‘responsibility’, that those problems have not been sent to us just coincidentally or through some divine plan. Those problems are all self-made, man-made, that is the first thing—owning up the responsibility. When you own up responsibility then you also own up the power to come to a solution; so that is a second part. It empowers you as the experiencer of the problem to not let the problem be too much for you. Because the more a problem unsettles you, unnerves you, the more you lose your capacity to actually solve the problem.

AIR: That happens to all of us. We are weak humans.

AP: Definitely. So, first thing, you own up the responsibility. That the problem, if it is there, surely there is a certain contribution and consent from my side. Secondly, I am the experiencer of the problem. The problem is not just something objective, because I am experiencing it, therefore, if I can do something with the experiencer, who I am, then the experience of the problem and the stress it gives me, the suffering it gives me, that can change.

So, in today’s times, Vedanta is indeed a philosophy that comes with no baggage of beliefs or superstitions. It is a deep and honest enquiry into whatever is going on and how it can be tackled. Also, more than just the happenings outside of us, Vedanta looks at what is happening inside of us. It says, if outside of yourself you see a problem, it is fundamentally because within yourself there is a problem. You are the projector and creator of the problem.

So, don't focus just on the global problems and what is happening in your house and your neighbourhood and everywhere else. Focus on the mind. Because it is from the mind that all problems and their solutions also emerge.

AIR: Okay. But see problem management, crisis management is being taught at the highest level to executives in corporate and it is part of the curriculum in management institutes and you yourself have studied management from a very, very prestigious institute. Do you feel that if these teachings were not taught to you later, you would not have been such a great person at crisis management than you are now after having read the Vedanta?

AP: Vedanta definitely goes way beyond whatsoever is taught at management institutes or in leadership development courses.

It is not just about problem management. Vedanta diagnoses problems to their very root; where exactly is the problem coming from? Because with all due respect to problem management and such things, what happens is that we just end up firefighting and transforming one problem into another or suspending a problem to the future and that does not help.

In fact, that is the reason, that approach is the reason why we have come to a point in history where we are unfortunately very, very close to many kinds of ultimate disasters. Be it the nuclear stockpiles we are carrying, be it the threat of climate change, be it the horrible spectre of extension of species and biodiversity loss. These were not things that we saw at any other point in human history. Forget about human history, even long before humans came, no such thing was ever seen.

For example, the carbon concentration in the atmosphere today is higher than what it has been for the last two million years. And the results of that we are all experiencing. We know of the heatwaves, we know of the consequent suffering and these are things that are all coming because of incorrect diagnosis of the problem and total ignorance about the experiencer of the problem.

If we do not go into who we are, if we do not realise that all problems come fundamentally from the mind of the human being, then we will be barking up the wrong tree. We will be looking at problems as situated somewhere outside of us and we will be fighting shadows. We won’t know where the real thing is and so the real thing will keep lurking in the dark and will retain its strength and will only get stronger each passing day and will completely eat us up.

AIR: Brilliant! Actually, you remind me of the famous lines by Dale Carnegie that ‘The best way to end an argument is to say, ‘Alright, I was wrong and I am sorry.’, even if you weren’t wrong.’ You know it calls for a lot of moral courage to take it upon yourself.

AP: Yes. And it’s about actually seeing that ‘I am responsible’. And ‘I am responsible,’ let’s please see, is not just an admission of guilt. Guilt etc. does not have much of a place in Vedanta; it's a very bold philosophy. It's about empowerment. The moment I see, ‘I did it’, I could also say, ‘I can undo it’.

AIR: Yeah, Great! That's really empowering. Now at this point, I would like to play a song of your choice. Which one will it be?

AP: Definitely. It's a Hindi song, one of my favourites, ‘Raat Aur Din Diya Jale’ from the movie ‘Raat Aur Din’ and sung by ‘Mukesh Ji’ in his melodious voice.

(Song is played)

रात और दिन दिया जले मेरे मन में फिर भी अंधियारा है जाने कहाँ है वो साथी तू जो मिले जीवन उजियारा है रात और दिन...

पग पग मन मेरा ठोकर खाए चाँद सूरज भी राह न दिखाए ऐसा उजाला कोई मन में समाए जिसके पिया का दर्शन मिल जाए रात और दिन...

गहरा ये भेद कोई मुझको बताए किसने किया है मुझपर अन्याय जिसका ही दीप वो बुझ नहीं पाए ज्योति दिये की दूजे घर को सजाए रात और दिन...

खुद नहीं जानूँ ढूँढे किसको नज़र कौन दिशा है मन की डगर कितना अजब है ये दिल का सफ़र जियरा में आए जैसे कोई लहर रात और दिन...

AIR: Indeed, very profound lyrics. Sometimes we feel that there is so much darkness inside us and we put up a brave front.

But now, Acharya Ji, I would like to ask you a question, that very often we are asked ‘How many scriptures have you read’ and when it comes to the Hindu scriptures, we are quite frightened by the enormous size and the depth of it and also our lack of the knowledge of Sanskrit.

And then there are people from many different faiths who have taken the plunge and read these scriptures. Now, if somebody wants to read them, which is the simplest way to understand the basics of these beautiful scriptures and especially the Vedanta?

AP: The core of all Indian philosophy is actually Vedanta. Though we have the six darshans, yet, Vedanta is indisputably the crown jewel of Indian philosophy. So, it is Vedanta that one has to start with and in Vedanta, obviously, the Bhagavad Gita is quite popular and if you want to go to the Upanishads, then the Ishavasya Upanishad is there, Kath Upanishad, Ken Upanishad, Niralamba Upanishad is my favourite, Mundaka Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad, and these are not colossally voluminous documents. The Upanishads actually are very precise. So, one need not be frightened. AIR: But where can one access them? Where can they be easily accessed in the English language?

AP: They are very accessible. They are on the internet and there are so many commentaries available. And since you are talking to me, our foundation has published several of my works on Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, so you could access them or, even otherwise starting from Acharya Shankar till current times, there is no dearth of commentaries on Upanishads.

So, they are actually very accessible. It’s just that they need to be publicised because they are not publicised so it appears as if they are inaccessible; they are not. If you just do a google search you will find the relevant links.

AIR: Okay. Now when we talk about the relevancy and accuracy of Upanishads and Vedant in our times, do you think that these contain philosophy and teachings for people of all faiths? Are they pan-global? And can they reach out to everyone? Or are they confined to Hinduism?

AP: Definitely, they are very, very open, broad, inclusive and liberal in their message. They do not preclude any ideology, any faith, or any religious persuasion. They do not require that you believe in any kind of dogma to enter them. You could come from any side of the religious or ideological divide and yet the Upanishads are for you.

So, it sets a great thing for Hinduism that the Upanishads are very much a part of the Vedic literature. But in spite of being a part of Vedic literature, the Upanishads are not a belief system. They do not ask you to believe in Hindu sects or the Hindu fold or the Hindu gods and goddesses. You could approach them with a spirit of just pure enquiry. You want to go into them because you want to know yourself and that’s the reason why Swami Vivekananda called Vedanta as ‘The religion of the future, the global religion of the future.’

AIR: Can you cite instances where Upanishads and Vedanta have found readers abroad and they have found propagators abroad belonging to other faiths apart from Hinduism?

AP: Definitely. In fact, when it comes to the part of the Indian philosophy that is most popular abroad, it is definitely Vedanta.

You take thinkers and philosophers like, let's say, Schopenhauer, and they actually lived and died by the Upanishads. Schopenhauer went so far as to say that ‘The Upanishads have given me peace in my life and they will also be the solace of my death.’ And when you go to scientists, you think of Max Planck, you think even of somebody like Albert Einstein, and they all have very gladly stated that they were inspired by the Upanishads. When you go to poets and writers, you think of somebody like P.B.Shelly. You think of modern spiritual writing, let's say, Richard Bach. I am sure ‘*Jonathan Livingston Seagull*’ is a cult classic that our listeners would have enjoyed and it’s coming purely from Vedanta. Similarly, if you look at Hermann Karl Hesse and his works like ‘Narcissus and Goldmund or Siddharth and a movie, a Hindi movie was indeed made on Siddharth.

So, all these are inspired by Vedanta. That's the thing about Vedanta. Vedanta has benefited the entire world.

Even if you look at the streams of Indic religions that emanated from the Hindu mainstream, Jainism and Buddhism, before Christ, and Sikhism and several others more recently, they all drew their inspiration, in some way or the other, from Vedanta because Vedanta is the purest part in all Hindu literature and the entire world has been glad to draw from there.

And that’s the reason, I sometimes say it is indeed fortunate that the entire world knows the importance of Vedanta and rather it’s the Indians who have ignored it and are instead vulnerable to playing host to all kinds of superstitions and empty and dead rituals and life coaches, life gurus and hollow beliefs that are of no use in the contemporary world.

AIR: Great. Now I have a very interesting question lined up for you but that will be after I bring on a song of your choice. Which one will it be now?

AP: The song is ‘Akhiyon Ke Jharokon Se’ , sung by Hemlata Ji and actually the last song that was played and even this one, I will just take a few seconds to elaborate on it.

Because Vedant is all about the ‘self’, therefore, even these songs that I am playing are in some way a cry of the self. So, in this particular song, the female voice that we will have, Hemlata Ji’s voice, you could say is the voice of the self—the ego in love and the one being addressed is the Truth.

That Truth you could call as the Peace or the point the ego aspires to reach. So, it's not a female person singing to a male person. It is a female ego you could call her Prakriti , singing out to the male, *consciousness*—you could call it the Truth or the ‘pure purush ’. So, if you hear it in that line, it becomes a little more interesting

AIR: Okay, here it is. (Song is played)

अँखियों के झरोखों से, मैंने देखा जो सांवरे तुम दूर नज़र आए, तुम (बड़ी) दूर नज़र आए बंद करके झरोखों को, ज़रा बैठी जो सोचने मन में तुम्हीं मुस्काए, मन में तुम्हीं मुस्काए अँखियों के झरोखों से...

इक मन था मेरे पास वो, अब खोने लगा है पाकर तुझे, हाय मुझे, कुछ होने लगा है इक तेरे भरोसे पे, सब बैठी हूँ भूल के यूँ ही उम्र गुज़र जाए, तेरे साथ गुज़र जाए अँखियों के झरोखों से...

जीती हूँ तुम्हें देख के, मरती हूँ तुम्हीं पे तुम हो जहाँ, साजन, मेरी दुनिया है वहीं पे दिन रात दुआ माँगे, मेरा मन तेरे वास्ते कहीं अपनी उम्मीदों का, कोई फूल न मुरझाए अँखियों के झरोखों से...

मैं जब से तेरे प्यार के, रंगों में रंगी हूँ जगते हुए, सोई रही, नींदों में जगी हूँ मेरे प्यार भरे सपने, कहीं कोई न छीन ले दिल सोच के घबराए, यही सोच के घबराए अँखियों के झरोखों से...

कुछ बोल के खामोशियाँ, तड़पाने लगी हैं चुप रहने से मजबूरियाँ, याद आने लगी हैं तू भी मेरी तरह हँस ले, आँसू पलकों पे थाम के जितनी है ख़ुशी, ये भी, अश्कों में ना बह जाए अँखियों के झरोखों से...

कलियाँ ये सदा प्यार की, मुसकाती रहेंगी खामोशियाँ तुझसे मेरे, अफ़साने कहेंगी जी लूँगी नया जीवन, तेरी यादों में बैठ के खुश्बू जैसे फूलों में उड़ने पे भी रह जाए अँखियों के झरोखों से...

AIR: Now, Acharya Ji, I said that I had a very interesting question lined up for you and here it is. When I was a young girl, I was reading an article somewhere and it said that when Newton stated the Third Law of Motion, ‘To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’, little did he realise that he was stating the Law of Karma, because that is exactly what the Law of Karma as we call Karm, The Law of Karma states that ‘Jaisa karoge, waisa phal paoge’. Now, that made me believe from a very young age that the teachings in our scriptures are very, very scientific. How much of science is incorporated in our Vedas and Upanishads and Vedanta? Can you tell us about that?

AP: I will have to correct it a bit here. Newton’s third law is actually not the Law of Karma. What happens is, there are two things that we have as Indians, one, as you said, due to several reasons we have not gone very close to our most important scriptures. They are not a part of the standard curricula and also, they are not a part of mainstream culture. So, we can’t really be faulted for not having read them, that's the first thing.

Second thing is, we take a certain natural pride in the fact that we have certain scriptures and those scriptures might be finding resonance even in modern scientific discoveries. Now when you take these two together, what we get is a bit of an incorrect conclusion that modern scientific principles are already enunciated in the ancient scriptures. That is not so.

The subject matter of Vedanta is the ‘self’, not an enquiry into the external world. Vedanta is about the self, the ego. Its fundamental question is, ‘Who am I?’ Similarly, the Law of Karm, if we are talking of ‘Nishkam Karm Yog’ coming from the Bhagavad Gita, is about the fact that if you are working from a desirous centre, then what you will get will never exceed your desire. And that action has to be seen in context of where it is coming from and what it does to the actor, that really is the Law of Karm and in the popular culture there is a lot of confusion about it.

The way we talk of the Law of Karm and also the way we talk of the Law of Attraction, these are not laws at all. In fact, they really do not have any substantial basis. The Law of Karm is a wonderful thing, but it is not what it is usually thought to be.

AIR: But we keep on eluding to it day in and day out that watch out for your steps, your Karm will get back at you.

AP: Yes, we keep on doing that and that is useful in some measure because that gives us a certain sense of morality and a sense of fear as well that ‘If you do wrong things, you will have to face repercussions’ but that's not what the Vedantic Karm principle is about.

In fact, last year, Penguin Publishers released my book Karma, in which I have thought to dispel exactly this fallacy, what Law of Karm is all about, and Man being a working animal, Man being a creature of Karm, what should action be all about. And can you look at action without considering who the actor is? And is it not possible that we talk so much about action because we do not want to or we are rather incapable of looking into the actor?

If we can look into the actor, then we are enquiring in the way Vedanta wants us to, the question 'ko-aham' —Who am I? Who is the actor? The ego is the actor. Can the actor change? Because if the actor does not change, then its actions and all the experiences that it gets, they will not change. And that is our fundamental problem, is it not?

What we experience—the experience of sorrow, Vedanta sets out to relief us of sorrow; that is the only objective. And in that direction, being very conscious of the acting entity, the self, becomes very important.

AIR: Which means that we should be paying more importance to ourselves and we should do a lot of self-introspection to be able to stand up to the world and face the challenges.

AP: Definitely. And we should be very careful where, for example, my thoughts are coming from? These emotions that I call as my own, where are they coming from? These identities that I call as my own, where are they coming from? And therefore, these actions that I call as my own, where are they coming from? The moment you start this inquiry, it becomes so interesting.

It takes a while because it is not our natural tendency to be inwardly oriented but if you can practise that, it becomes so interesting to see that, let's say, the anger that we call as our own, the beliefs that we call as our own, they are not really our own.

Anger might be very biological, very hormonal. Beliefs are all coming from external influences—society, media, education and culture. And then you are left wondering ‘What really is my own’. And when you see that, then a new life begins. A new and authentic life, in which, what really is your own, that comes to the fore and it's very empowering, very beautiful, very relieving, very liberating.

AIR: Indeed. I am fascinated by all this talk. And now I would like to bring on yet another song of your choice. Which one will it be?

AP: Another Hindi song ‘Tumse Milkar Na Jaane Kyun’ from the movie ‘Pyaar Jhukta Nahi’ , sung by the legendary ‘Lata Mangeshkar Ji’ and ‘Shabir Kumar Ji’.

(Song is played)

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों और भी कुछ याद आता हैं याद आता हैं

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों और भी कुछ याद आता हैं याद आता हैं

आज का अपना प्यार नहीं हैं आज का अपना प्यार नहीं हैं जन्मो का यह नाता हैं.. यह नाता हैं

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों.. ओ प्यार के कातिल प्यार के दुश्मन लाख बनी यह दुनिया दीवानी हो हमने वफ़ा की राह ना छोड़ी हमने तो अपनी हार ना मानी उस मोड़ से भी हम गुजरे है जिस मोड़ पे सब लुट जाता है लुट जाता हैं

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों और भी कुछ याद आता हैं.. याद आता हैं

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों.. एक तेरे बिना इस दुनिया की हर चीज अधूरी लगती है तुम पास हो कितने पास मगर नजदीकी भी दुरी लगाती है प्यार जिन्हे हो जाए उन्हें कुछ और नज़र कब आता हैं कब आता हैं

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों और भी कुछ याद आता हैं याद आता हैं

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों.. मर के भी कभी जो ख़त्म ना हो यह प्यार का वह अफ़साना हैं तुम भी तो हमारे साथ चलो तो हमको वहा तक जाना हैं वह झूम के अपनी धरती से आकाश जहा मिल जाता हैं.. मिल जाता हैं

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों और भी कुछ याद आता हैं याद आता हैं

तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों तुमसे मिलकर ना जाने क्यों.

AIR: Welcome back to the show, Acharya Ji! And now I would like to ask you one question. We are going to be celebrating ‘the International Yog Divas’ on 21st June. We are just barely three weeks away from it and I want to ask you, does ‘Yog’ find mention and a place in our scriptures also?

AP: Definitely. Of course, we have Patanjali’s 'Yog Sutras' , there is an entire darshan. But even in Vedanta, Yog has a very important place and in Vedantic parlance, in the world of the Self, Yog means the union of mind with its beloved destiny. So, there is the mind that is always aspiring, always hungry, always thirsty, always desirous. Of course, it has to be desirous of something, that something that the mind so desperately yearns for continuously, when it is attained that is known as Yog or union, coming together of the two.

AIR: Okay. When we talk about Yog, in our present-day cosmopolitan life, when we get up early in the morning, it's rush hour, we have to get to work, we are late at work, we get home and there are so many other things to catch up with. I think sometimes people think and associate Yog with doing Yogasan or kriya and they feel that they do not have the time for that. Is that what the Yog is all about? Or is it about leading a certain kind of lifestyle? Can you tell us? What should be that lifestyle?

AP: That which is popularly considered as Yog these days is, unfortunately, a very, very preliminary thing. In some sense, even a peripheral thing. If you are thinking of Yog as merely bodily postures and breathing exercises, it’s not going to take you very far.

We are talking of hathyog here, even those who gave hathyog to us were very clear that it is just the very basic preparation for something far more important. If that other thing, the real thing is nowhere in our sight, if we do not even want it, then hathyog will remain just a bodily exercise for us. It will help us in some sense, it will reduce bodily stiffness, it will maybe take care of your excess weight and sometimes physical benefits might be there but beyond that, it won’t take you.

So, the real meaning of Yog has to be understood. When we talk of Vedanta, there is Bhagavad Gita and ‘the Gitakar’ , the author of the Gita is also known as Yogiraj. And Nishkam Karmyog is the real thing, the most fundamental Yog. Yog is something that has to lead to samadhi . That’s also the last step in Patanjali’s darshan.

So, if you are not focusing on the mind, because it is not the body that will attend samadhi . The mind will reach there. The body does not experience suffering, it is the mind that experiences suffering. The mind has to be taken there and if the mind has to be taken there, then one has to have self-enquiry. One has to ask oneself—'Who am I, acting this way? This life is there, I am living as a body, what am I spending this life as? What am I doing all the time? Day by day, it’s death that I approach and what is coming out of my life? Even if some tangible result is not to be obtained, then don’t I at least deserve a certain peace, a certain joy in my moment-to-moment experience?’ And when those questions arise, that's when you have an aspiration for Yog.

Most people do not even want Yog. Because you see, we said, Yog is union. Union of the mind with its beloved destiny. Now, in that union, the mind loses its individuality and most of us are very insecure about losing our individuality. We want to remain as we are. Because we are afraid, we shield and protect ourselves from all sides. Therefore, Yog is not something that we don’t want. It actually appears threatening. So, even if we go to Yog, all that we have is mudras and asanas and breathing.

AIR: You mean to say that there are more metaphysical aspects of Yog concerned beyond mudras and asana and kriya .

AP: It has to be metaphysical because the physical does not satisfy us. Physical, at best, can be a resource towards attaining that which the mind desperately wants. And the mind will never be satisfied with anything physical; not that Vedanta scoffs at physicality or materialism. The physical world is indeed the only thing that the body has. So, all that is there in the world has to be used.

AIR: Yes, absolutely. We could have gone on and on but the studio clock tells me the time that it's time to wind up the show. So, on behalf of all of us here at All India Radio and on behalf of my listeners, I would like to thank Acharya Ji for sharing his brilliant thoughts with us. Thank you so much.

AP: Thank you! Wonderful conversation!

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