“By oneself indeed is evil done and by oneself is one defiled;
by oneself is evil not done and by oneself is one purified.
Purity and impurity depend entirely on oneself;
no one can purify another.”
“Your work is to find out what your work should be and not to neglect it for another’s. Clearly discover your work and attend to it with all your heart.”
~ Buddha, Dhammapada
Question: I feel that I am going on the right track in my life. But sometimes when I look at my family, I get distracted – my steps cease. What to do?
Acharya Prashant: Be it family, or anything else that you consider important, there would be goodness and harmony only when your priorities are in order.
What do I mean by that?
If the family becomes your first priority, you can be assured that the family would come to ruin. If a person becomes your first priority, rest assured that you would destroy both – your relationship with that person and the person as well.
If you go and mention to somebody that you keep remembering that person all the time, then it is guaranteed that you have a very unhealthy relationship with that person.
Those who make the family their first priority, would end up destroying the family. Those who make their work and career their first priority, would end up destroying their work and career. Those who make academics, and knowledge, and scholarship their first priority, would end up using that knowledge for destructive purposes.
The Truth has to be your first priority!
When the Truth is your first priority, the Truth will set all your other priorities.
‘You’ cannot set your other priorities; you have no discretion to do that. Whenever you will try to accord importance to priorities, that importance will come from your conditioning, from your patterns, and that would be deeply destructive. So I said, “The Truth has to be your first priority,” and now I am adding to it: “The Truth has to be your first and only priority.”
You take care of the Truth, and the Truth will take care of all else. You remain steadfast in your first and only priority, and your first and only priority will take care of all your other priorities.
It is a strange thing . . . those who say that, “Because of family, or work, or career I am rejecting the Truth,” only find destruction and devastation in both family and career. It seems counter-intuitive. After all, these people wanted to give the highest priority to family and work, how can their family and work be destroyed? They are giving it the highest importance, how can it be destroyed? It will be destroyed, precisely because you gave it the highest importance. It will be destroyed, precisely because you gave it a position beyond its worth.
When the monkey is made to sit on the King’s throne, the empire is destroyed, or is it not? When the family is made to sit on the throne reserved for the Truth, then the family is destroyed. When work and career are made to sit on the throne reserved for the Truth, then work and career are destroyed.
I am repeating: ‘you take care of the One’. And when I say, “You take care of the One,” it doesn’t mean that you have to ‘take care’ of the One. It means, you take care of ‘your devotion’ to the One, and then the rest will be taken care of.
Are you getting it?
You see, today is a Sunday. And a while back, some of the students present here were having their examinations. Many did not turn up saying, “We have examinations, so we cannot come”; some still came. I want you to honestly reply, by not coming here did you actually do better in your examinations? And to those who came here, I am asking, by coming here, did you do any worse in your examinations?
The fact is, that if you are not coming here because of exam pressure, it has already been ascertained that, that exam is not going to go well.
There are people who repeatedly miss the camps (referring to Advait Learning Camps), citing the importance of family and career. Is it not true that their family and career are already in shambles? The family is burning, and the career is destroyed, already. Is it not true?
And yes! When you go to an Advait Learning Camp, the family does object a few times. They will say, “There are these responsibilities to take care of. You will not be here for a week.” But ask yourself honestly, are you not more loving towards all when you return from the camp? In the real sense, don’t you serve your family better after the camp? Well, the impression may be different. It may not be so open. The family may say, “You are not quite the same person that you were before you went to the camp.” So initially it may be a matter of dislike; but in the real sense, are you not more useful to your family after the camp?
When the first priority is rightly taken care of, then the other priorities, by themselves fall in place.
Take care of the ‘first,’ and the ‘first’ will take care of the rest . . . and ignore the ‘first,’ and the rest would be turned to ashes.
That is the sad story of man today. He wants to take care of everything, except the ‘first’ . . . except the ‘first’.
My advice is: whenever there is a conflict, or a choice between the ‘first’ and anything else, blindly, without thinking, without taking a second, go for the ‘first’. Don’t even think, don’t let calculations come into the picture.
There must be something in your life, where thought must not be allowed! There must be something in your life, which must be totally unconditional. You must be able to say, “The Truth has called, and I can’t allow myself to think now. The call has come, how can I think now? How can I ask, “Sir, how many days? Sir, how long? Where to? When? With whom?” How can I even ask this petulant, disrespectful question? The call has come . . . the call has come, and I have to respond – I can’t allow myself to think and decide.”
To think and decide in matters of the ‘first’ is blasphemy – this is the definition, the real definition of blasphemy. When you allow yourself to be bigger than the Truth, this is blasphemous: “My mind is bigger than the Truth. I will decide what to do with the call of the Truth. I will decide. I will not let the Truth decide, I will decide.” That is heresy.
Now this will make you feel a little scared, because you want security in thought. You feel secure when thought assures you that everything is in place. It’s a bad habit, that’s all. But that habit has become deep with you. You want to think, you want to project, pre-meditate. You want to be assured of the results of your actions. You want to ask, “What will come out of it?” You want to ask, “What if?” You want to project scenarios, you want a guarantee of results and returns.
So this leap will make you a little nervous: “In matters of Truth, am I being told not to think? But how can I act without thinking?”
Think, and you have spoiled it! When it comes to all the other priorities, you have all the luxury to think, think, and think . . . plan, plan, and plan. Let your mind display all its ammunition; let your intellect put all its wares to use; but only in the miscellaneous matters of life, not in the ‘first’ matter, not in matters of Heart, not in matters of Truth, not in matters of Love. There, thoughts have no place.
In other matters, most welcome. Use memory, use comparison, use analytics, use whatever you want to use. Then no harm will be done even if you are using thought and comparison and conclusion; because now thought would be acting as a servant to the Self – thought now would just be a servant of the Truth.
Now thought cannot harm you; it would be a useful servant. Now memory cannot harm you; it would be a useful servant.
If you love your family, then never give it the first priority. Give first priority to Love. Are you getting it? Understand this very clearly. If you love your lover, never give lover the first priority. Give the first priority to Love. Whatever is important to ‘you,’ must never get the first priority – never.
Don’t let the monkey occupy the throne.
Listener: Sir, what does it mean to have Truth as the first priority?
AP: It means that all the other priorities will be under the umbrella of Truth. It means that all the other priorities will be such that they send me more and more towards the Truth. That is what is meant by – ‘the Truth being the first priority’. Consider it this way. Take the Truth as a destination, far beyond. And take the call of the Truth as your very heartbeat. So Truth is both: far beyond, and deep within.
From ‘deep within,’ it calls you to reach the ‘far beyond’.
Now tell me. You have to reach a place, which is very, very distant. That is your first priority, and the only priority. Now, in the journey, you meet a lot of people. With whom do you want to keep company? Who will help you reach that place? There are a lot of choices, a lot of vehicles are standing. To which vehicle would you give priority?
L1: To the one that takes me towards the Truth.
AP: That is what is meant by – ‘the Truth deciding all your other priorities’.
Two cars are standing; to which one can I give priority? To that car which will take me towards my first priority; right? All my other priorities have to be under the umbrella of the Truth; all my other priorities have to be subservient, and surrendered, to my first priority.
What kind of friends will I make? Those who keep me reminded of the ‘first’. If he reminds me of the ‘first,’ he deserves to be my friend; but if he reminds me of something else, then he is not a friend.
A friend is not a friend if he reminds you of himself. Then, the friend is an enemy. A friend is a friend if he says, “Forget me; remember the Truth.” A wife is not a wife, if she draws attention towards herself. Neither is a husband a husband, if he draws attention towards himself. A wife is a wife, and a husband is a husband, if they take you towards the Truth, and not towards themselves. The wife who says, “Come to me,” is your enemy. If she is really a loving wife, she will say, “Go to the Truth, and I will come along. And in the movement towards Truth, let us be together.” If the husband says, “Come to me, to my body,” the husband is an enemy.
All your other priorities have to be attuned to the ‘first one’. All your other priorities have to be like small streams – all flowing towards the Ganga, which, in turn, flowing towards the ocean.
Are you getting it? Is this clear?
So obviously in your daily living, moment after moment, you will have miscellaneous priorities. You will have to decide which mail to reply to. You will have to decide what food to eat. You will have to decide whom to talk to. You will have to decide what work to do, what food to eat.
What food should have priority? That food which takes you towards Truth, by keeping the mind calm. Food that agitates the mind, is poison. When the Truth is your first priority, then you choose your food wisely. Then you say, “I will choose that food which helps keep the mind and body calm.”
Do you understand this?
When you know that the Truth is first priority, then which job do you take, what work do you do? Such work that does not agitate or disturb you; such work that is not violent or divisive.
“If Truth is my first priority, then I’ll take up work which constantly takes me towards the Truth. All other works are not to be touched by me. I cannot do anything else, because if I do anything else, then it reminds me of so many other things. My mind gets filled up with miscellaneous stuff. How can I take up other work then? I can take up only one work, the work that takes me towards Truth.”
“If Truth is my first priority, how do I choose my garments? Then I will say, ‘I will choose those garments which do not disturb my body, which do not fit the body very tightly, which do not unnecessarily call others’ attention.’” Now the first priority is deciding what you will wear.
The first priority is deciding where you would work, the first priority is deciding what you would wear, and the first priority is deciding what you would eat, whom you would be with. The first priority is deciding everything; and every moment you are making a decision. The criteria of that decision is – ‘the first’; and that is the only criteria.
“There is no other criterion that I have. You want me to give you company? I have only one question to ask you: will you remind me of the Truth or will you remind me of yourself and your body? If your presence reminds me of your body, then you are dangerous, I should stay away.”
Let the first decide everything right up to the last. Getting it?
You see . . . referring to the family . . . in the camp you were reading The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, and one of you had posted that excerpt from Ramakrishna’s talks. In that, one of the visitors asked him, “My wife threatens to commit suicide if I move on the religious path. She says, ‘If you go to the temple, if you pursue this path of Bhakti, then I will commit suicide.’” Ramakrishna says: “Let her commit suicide. A wife who prevents the husband from moving on the spiritual path, is a very ungodly and evil wife”.
She wants to commit suicide, let her commit suicide; but you cannot allow her to usurp the ‘first priority’.
Ramakrishna says, “God has to be your first priority. No wife can be allowed to change that. Whatever be the price, pay that.”
Now does that mean that Ramakrishna is being cruel? No, he is not being cruel. This man will be able to cleanse his mind, his wife’s mind, only if, first of all, his own mind is in the proper place.
You see, this man is in a difficult situation. Destiny has given him a wife, who is very ungodly. But it is upon him, to help her now. How can he help her, if he himself is not firmly seated in the Truth? Ramakrishna is helping not only this man, but also his wife.
By giving the right advice to this man, Ramakrishna is helping this man’s wife as well.
Ramakrishna is telling this man, “You remain with the Truth; and if you remain with the Truth, then through you, the Truth will reach your wife as well, even if she resists or opposes, cries, or even tries to commit suicide.”
Now she may commit suicide, there may be a one percent chance, but then people die of several reasons. Life is anyway uncertain. You remain with the Truth. Through you, it has a way of reaching others. Even if your family opposes the first priority, you remain with the first priority. You will find that your family too is being helped. In fact, that is the only way you can help your family – by firmly and sincerely remaining with the Truth.
L2: Sir, regarding work you said that first priority should be given to that kind of work which takes us to the Truth. Can you give some examples of that kind of work?
AP: What is the point in asking for examples of healthy food when your mind, like a fly, is obsessed only with sugar and jaggery!
“First of all, I must be clear about what is not the kind of work to be done in life. I very well know that in my current occupation, the world becomes heavy on my mind.”
Now the honest question in such a situation would be, “Do I really need to continue with what I am doing?” But no! I do not want to ask that question; because that question demands action. What do I ask? I ask, “Sir, can you give examples of works that take one towards the Truth?”
Sitting securely in the untruthful work that you are doing, you want to know about the Truth?
“If I really am serious, if my intentions are pure, then the first thing I will say is, ‘This is not right. I have to give this up. And after that, whatever happens, we will see.’”
If you are drinking poison and somebody tells you that this is poison, would you ask him, “Can you then give me examples of non-poisons? Can you give me examples where nectar is found?”
It is enough to know that what is in your hands (and life) right now is poison. Give it up! And once you give it up, a space is created, a clean space is created, in which godly work descends on its own.
When you have cleansed yourself of the impure, then a pure space is created on its own.
Give up the rubbish that you have filled your life with! Do not ask, “What would happen after that?” Do not ask, “What would the rubbish be substituted with?” It’s an improper and insecure question to ask. It shows faithlessness. You are asking for a guarantee. You are asking for an assurance that you would be preserved. The demand for this assurance itself arises from the habits that you have filled yourself with. Truth is not for those who want to be secure. Purely on the basis of faith, you have to take a step into the unknown. You have to leave yourself to the ‘will of existence,’ where there is no security and no guarantee.
Do not ask about the future; do not ask about the others. Just look at yourself and enquire, “Am I in the right kind of job? Is this work taking me towards Truth? Or, does it fill my mind with all kinds of rubbish?”
That is the right question to ask!
~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Read more articles on this topic:
Article 1: To help others you must be free of others.
Article 3: What matters more in work – skill or love?