How to ask the right question?

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Listener: My question is: what to ask and how to ask? What is the question? My only quest is: what to seek?

Acharya Prashant: It is a beautiful situation. If one sees and admits forthrightly that there is a seeking but no clear image of the object to be sought—it a very honest point to begin with. Mostly, people begin with a pre-conceptualized image of what they want. When you are already so adamant about what you want, then you cannot get anything other than you want. What you want is just your own projections.

So, one stands at a particular place–let’s say this domain, this table is the expanse of the mind. The very question of question arises because one doesn’t like the boundaries, neither does one like much of what is within this expanse. But all that the mind knows is this (indicating the tabular surface). This is the mind—this dimension, this surface. All that the mind knows is this. So it would be arrogant rather preposterous for the mind to talk of anything beyond it.

But the so-called spiritual mind is fond of pointing to something that transcends it; pointing towards the beyond. That is not very wise, that is just a trick of the ego to claim that it knows something beyond the boundary. The fact is – all you know is the surface and the boundary. Beyond the boundary neither this expanse is there nor are you there. You and the expanse are one.

So, one is at the surface and it offers very little tranquillity, very little peace. That separation, that distance from what one really wants – that is the only enquiry; there can be no other enquiry. Where is that which I really want? Apart from that, all enquiries are just enquiries within the surface. Within this, you have very well seen that you are not finding that which can give you peace.

So whenever one talks of enquiry in the spiritual sense, all enquiry is just one question—Peace. No other enquiry is meaningful. One could also say all spiritual enquiries can be reduced to this basic question. Asking, “What is the difference between the two principle types of yoga? What is the difference between karmsanyas and Karmyog?Is Tantra any good? Does the Koham method work?” you could be lost in a maze of curiosities. All of that will just add to your knowledge. And all knowledge belongs to this—the surface. None of that will take you beyond this and you have known, you have seen, known it for a very very long time that within this, whatever is there, that contributes only to an inner chaos.

So what is the right question?

The right question is “I am here and I do not know where That is, so I do not even know what to ask?” And that is one’s honest position that is a predicament of all of the mankind. ‘I am here and I do not even know where to go, which means I can’t even ask the question.’ Suppose you are on the road to Chandigarh. You at least know from Dharamshala you want to go to Chandigarh. If you are lost, you can catch hold of someone and you can ask.

Here you don’t even know where you want to go. So what would you ask? And that is the most innocent question—Where is That? Where to go? Where would I find That? All I know is that I am not getting it here. Where would I get That? If I assume it then I am just being arrogant and stupid for myself because I would not be helping myself by claiming in advance that I know that I must go to Chandigarh.

Where is That? What is That? Who is that?

Is That?

The really inquisitive one would actually ask very little.

He very well knows that all his questions emanate from himself and hence, cannot take him beyond himself.

No answer can be beyond the question that you ask. So, the answer never satisfies the question. The answer only creates the ground for the next question. So the really inquisitive one doesn’t come to seek answers; he comes for solutions. So he doesn’t ask much. Sometimes he may not ask anything not because he is hiding something but because he knows the pointlessness of asking a limited question.

A limited question would only elicit a limited answer.

And a limited answer can never be a solution to the question.

To allow the teacher to offer a solution one has to let go of any limitation. If one has decided in advance that one wants to asks and wants to know only this much (indicating the limited capacity of the palm) then how will life or the teacher will be able to give him beyond this much. The question says this much is my curiosity, the solution to the question is always immense. It’s only in the vast ocean that all question dissolve. But if one says this is what I want to know, then how will one receive anything beyond this much?

Now by that, I, of course, do not mean that one must not talk or not ask. But one must also know that it is not through his questions that his solutions will come. The questions only demand only an answer; never a solution. So then one doesn’t take his questions very seriously. One just puts his situation forward on the table and leaves it there. One just says, ‘This is where I am’ and then the whole thing proceeds from there.

It is actually the same thing from both sides.

A real interaction is not like a press conference or a classroom in which politics or economics or science is being taught. In a real communication, neither the student is very interested in asking questions – though, he would ask a few questions, of course, there would be a few exchange of words – nor is the teacher is greatly interested in giving answers. So if an outsider happens to listen to what is going on, he may find all that very absurd because what the Teacher is saying has very little to do with what the student has asked.

It is never a direct answer.

The question is this much (showing the capacity of the palm), the direct answer will also be this much. What is the point? Has one come here to maintain his limit as this much? So, it’s a strange thing going on—Silence talking to Silence, openness talking to openness? Somebody has just said something and then the other one too says something. What is being said may sound quite incoherent and yet something magical has taken place. Magical only for those who are immersed in it, not for those who may look at the recording later on or read about it or hear about it or are watching from a distance.

It is somewhat like this – Have you seen a mother and a son? Have you seen them talk to each other? The kid, the son, the daughter, the infant maybe 6 months old or one-year-old with a very little introduction to the language and yet they are talking. What are they saying to each other? “Motherese” have you heard this term. It’s a great language, it’s the most ancient language. A very lively conversation is going on and both the parties are very sincere about it but you will watch from a distance and say, “What language exactly is being used? What is this grammar?”

The same happens with lovers—the lips are talking, the eyes are talking and they are uttering all kinds of nonsense and yet very deep communication is there in which they are utterly close. To an outsider, it is all nonsense. Even to those lovers, it would be nonsense later on, if they recall; if they use memory, they will find it nonsensical. But it is the most relevant scripture for them at that moment–those words–the only scripture that matters. So, be it between the mother and the child or between lovers or between teacher and student—it’s the same thing. The teacher is the mother, the Teacher is also the lover.

One just talks, one doesn’t think what to say. And same with the mother – she just talks, she doesn’t think what to say. It is from point of thoughtlessness that the worlds emerge. And it is from the point of thoughtlessness that the questions emerge. Now, it doesn’t matter what the question is and it doesn’t matter what the answer is. What has been established is that there is a point of thoughtlessness and that’s all that matters.

Somebody believes that he can’t walk and something magical happens and he starts running, running absurdly, chaotically, randomly running and stumbling, running and reaching nowhere, running around in circles sometimes. So, if you will try to find out ‘where he has reached’, you will find that he has reached nowhere. If you will try to find out how much distance he has covered; if you will try to find out a reason and an objective, a pattern in his running, you will say that his running it useless.

It is not useless.

This running has established that he can run.

His fundamental assumption was that he can’t walk.

Are you getting it?

That is the nature of this conversation. We live in thought, we live in planning, we live in the organization, we live in questions and answers, we live in protocols, orders. The very fact that you could say something which you could not otherwise say establishes that it is possible to speak, live and act from the heart. And the very fact that the teacher could reply without an apparent order, without an apparent structure establishes that it is possible to live lovingly, meaningfully without using the order established by the mind and that’s all that there was to establish. Done. Proven.

Proven to oneself; the obvious has been proven once again. That is man’s comic tragedy—he has to prove the obvious again and again to himself; he has to prove the obvious again and again to himself that he is. That’s what we do.

People talk of seeing beyond the obvious.

Man’s situation is that he can’t see even the obvious.

These sessions are just about seeing just the obvious.

The beyond can wait.

Don’t you see that right now you are not what you usually are? If your friends, relatives, acquaintance look at you this moment, they won’t be able to identify you. That’s what we are here for— to see that it is possible to be more authentic, more real. That it is possible to spend time in this way and hence, it is possible to live an entire life this way. If you can be what you are right now why can’t you be the same the entire life?

The entire personality changes, the whole countenance changes – the expression on the face, the look in the eyes. I have seen people when they are here sitting with me and then their faces in other in other situations, they are not the same. This establishes and proves to ourselves that we are this, we can be this, this is more authentic than what we usually are. These moments are a great reminder they bring us back to ourselves.


~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: How to ask the right question?

Editor’s Note: 

Books by Acharya Prashant

Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/Acharya-Prashant
Flipkart:  https://goo.gl/fS0zHf

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One thought on “How to ask the right question?

  1. What’s the best answer to any question?
    Dear Friend! What a question to be answered. Was just reading through a book by Acharya Prashant where I felt lies your answer. An excerpt: “No answer can be beyond the question that you ask. So, the answer never satisfies the question. The answer onl…

    Like

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