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You need freedom from the cage, not lessons in flying || Acharya Prashant, on Vedanta (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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हिरण्मये परे कोशे विरजं ब्रह्म निष्कलम् । तच्छुभ्रं ज्योतिषं ज्योतिस्तद्यदात्मविदो विदुः ।।2.2.10।।

hiraṇmaye pare kośe virajaṃ brahma niṣkalam tacchubhraṃ jyotiṣaṃ jyotistadyadātmavido viduḥ

In a supreme golden sheath the Brahman lies, stainless, without parts. A Splendor is That, It is the Light of Lights, It is That which the self-knowers know.

~ Mundaka Upanishad, Verse 2.2.10

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Acharya Prashant: “A Splendor is That, It is the Light of Lights, It is That which the self-knowers know.”

To see you need two lights: one is the external light that must fall on the object you want to see, and then there is an internal light that must be there to perceive the external object, the external light, and even the internal subject. Without that internal light you will be blind in spite of the external light. You might be in a room flooded with light, but if your eyes have no light, you will see nothing.

That’s the analogy being used here. Brahm is the light of lights. Light connects the subject with the object. If there is no external light, there is no object. So, light is what forms the relationship between the seer subject and the seen object. In other words, light is at the base of the world itself, the seen world.

So, Brahm is the light behind the light; Brahm is the Truth behind the world. Brahm is the base, the foundation of all your experiences. Something special needs to be there for the subject to experience any object; that something special is Brahm. Think of an unconscious man or a dead man. Objectively, as you see, there is still the entire world around him. Does he experience anything?

Brahm is at the foundation of all your experiences. Otherwise, the sensual objects can be there, the sensing mechanism can be there, and yet there would be no sensation. For the sensation to happen a miracle is needed: that miracle is called consciousness. Had it not been a miracle, science would have been able to duplicate consciousness. Had consciousness just been a property of material, then science would be able to manipulate material and therefore produce consciousness in some way on some day. Had consciousness been something related just to material, then consciousness would have been squarely in the domain of science. Scientists would then strive to find a way to produce AC, just as you have AI today. What is AC? Artificial consciousness. But you cannot have artificial consciousness.

So, that something special that gives birth to consciousness, that enables consciousness, that sustains consciousness, that is called Brahm , the light of lights.

"It is That which the self-knowers know.”

Brahm is that which the self-knowers know. Now, this is a bit tricky, so be cautious.

The self-knower comes to know the non-existence of the self, so the self-knower does not remain existent anymore. The self-knower in fact loses his confidence in all that he knew about the self till now. If you are not a knower of the self, then you have a lot of beliefs about the self: “This is the way I am, this is where I come from, this is what my life is for, this is what my future must be like; I am this, I am that, I enjoy this, I hate that.” This is the state of someone who does not know the self.

The more you know the self, the more you start dissociating with everything you associated yourself with. The false self falls. The false self falls along with all the knowledge—which is false knowledge—that it had about itself. So, the self-knower actually becomes free of knowledge; that knowledge was anyway worthy of retention. The self-knower drops that knowledge.

Knowing the self is not like an accretion in your knowledge base; knowing the self is an exercise in acknowledging the hollowness, the deficiency of your existing notions and beliefs. I would want to reiterate this a hundred times, because Ātmajñāna , self-knowledge, has been very, very dangerously taken as knowledge of the Truth, and this false notion is very pervasive, very ubiquitous.

Ātmajñāna is not knowledge of the Truth or Ātman. It is a fundamental thing in the Upanishads that the Truth or Ātman are beyond all knowledge. The Upanishads tell us again and again, Truth is ajñeya , beyond knowledge; then how can one have knowledge of the Truth or Ātman ?

Therefore, Ātmajñāna is actually the realization of the falseness of that which you used to take as Ātman, that which was actually ahaṅkāra or the false self, but was erroneously taken by you as the true Self. So, in self-realization you actually un-realize; it is a process of losing your false realizations.

So, Brahm is that which the self-knowers know. Brahm, therefore, is just liberation, liberation from false knowledge.

What is Brahm Nothing in particular. Just freedom. If freedom is something in particular, then freedom is not free of that thing in particular. What kind of freedom is that? Therefore, freedom or liberation are just nothing in particular. Don’t define them, don’t tie them to an object, don’t circumscribe them by a definition. That is Brahm.

What to do, then? Just erase the boundaries, just unlock the doors. You don’t have to create anything; you have to get rid of a lot, and after that creation happens on its own. You don’t have to worry about creation then. You have to let the bird out of the cage, and then the flight happens on its own; you don’t have to teach her to fly.

But we are pretty special characters. Instead of opening the door of the cage, we try to teach the bird to fly within the cage, and this we call as spiritual effort or sādhanā. Most of that which goes by the name of sādhanā is exactly this: people are trying to learn flying within their cages, and nobody is even talking of unlocking. You unlock, and flight is natural. Whom are you deceiving by participating in all those ridiculous flying lessons?

You are a bird, your nature is to fly. You don’t need to be taught your nature; you need to be freed from the cage.

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