Acharya Prashant: I see that I am in peace, but my neighbour or the other one is living in violence, then I just won’t say, “It’s none of my business.” I will interfere!
Love is not a peaceful coexistence with violence.
The question is why one must interfere?
If one is already at peace, then why must one interfere?
At the basis of your question lies the assumption of individual salvation. You are assuming that one can be at peace while still being divided. You said, “I am at peace.” What is this ‘I’? This ‘I’ is still divided from the neighbour because it does not want to help or interfere. Is peace or liberation possible to the individual, to the fragmented unit that ‘you’ and ‘I’ are? Is it possible that this room is burning, and everybody in this room is burning, and ‘I am at peace’?
But we feel so, not only do we feel so, even our religious scriptures say that. They say that “If you do the right things, you will land in heaven.” Do you see what they are communicating to us? What they are communicating to us is false. They are telling us that individual liberation is possible. They are saying that the fragment can be liberated.
Do you see what is happening?
They are saying, “If you have done the right things, then you would be liberated.”
How can this ‘I’ be liberated?
This ‘I’ itself is the bondage.
There can be no liberation for the ‘I’.
There can only be liberation from the ‘I’.
But we keep on saying, “I am at peace, it’s my neighbour, who is in violence.” I want to ask, how can you be at peace when your neighbour is in violence? How exactly? Don’t you see that you and your neighbour are one? Don’t you see that all life is one? If this hall is burning, and there is the stench of burning flesh all around, I wonder how am I ever going to be at peace!
Listener: Sir, according to my understanding, spirituality or the liberation has got two stages: one is definitely what you said, “If it’s burning all around, how can one be cool, you cannot ever feel cool.” But then we hear the metaphor of Bhakt Prahalad, he is sitting in fire and is not being burnt. It is obviously a message being conveyed by our scriptures as you said. And in the second part, we say, somewhere down the line, you have to think about yourself to get that ‘advait’ in your own self. So, drawing that line, and understanding that right balance is my question.
AP: There is no question of balance in it. Any line that you draw would be drawn by you — the divided entity. Any thought that you have would be ‘your thought’, the thinker’s thought and the thinker himself is the division. And it doesn’t matter how hard you think, you would never be able to convince yourself to sit on flames like Prahalad. What do you think?
What do you think Prahalad thought and then went to the fire? What thought can convince you? And if some thought can actually convince you, it would probably be the thought of a suicide bomber. He too thinks before committing himself to a violent death. We are not talking of that. We are not talking of doing it for ourselves, and then doing it for the world.
To realise is to see that you and the world are one, and the dividing line is called ego.
The line that separates you from the world itself is the ego.
Realisation is the dissolution of the ego.
Realisation means that now you and the world are no longer separate.
If you and the world are no longer separate, then how is salvation possible for you when the world is still in bondage?
Is that not obvious?
And is that not what each of us keeps trying that “let us have our own individual peace even if the world is going to the dogs”? Why say dogs, dogs are wonderful, so it’s a wrong proverb.
Listener 1 (L1): But here, when I just look at things, when we take any spiritual guru or any saint in the past, we have seen him meditating, having his own space and then preaching to the people who really want that peace. So these are two spheres. He has not gone out rightly as a social worker to just reform the society and the people around.
AP: No. You see, you are expecting a particular kind of action based on your image of social work. You are expecting that to reform the world, a Raman Maharishi must travel on foot and preach in every nook and corner of the world. It doesn’t happen that way. Sitting where he is, he is able to transform the world in a way that is difficult to think about. He is able to transform the world, precisely because he doesn’t see himself as different from the world.
When you don’t see yourself as different from the world, then whatever you do is useful for the world.
You don’t have to conform to images. You don’t have to say that “unless I go and preach and act like the typical reformer, I am not helping the society.”
How do you know that he (Raman Maharishi) was not helping the society while sitting in his temple hall? How do you know? There were others – a Raman Maharishi does not ever move – and then there were others who kept on moving. They all had their ways which were incidentally not their ways. One thing that is common to all of them is that none of them saw themselves as separate from anything.
Separation is never real. I am not advocating that you conform to a particular image of action. I am not asking you to act like a proverbial helper that saint of fairy tales who goes from door to door preaching the Truth. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that internally, you must not feel divided. And after that whatever you do is good for everybody. But if you feel that you can have your own little corner of peace while the world burns, then you are living in a utopia. It won’t materialise. It is not going to happen.
You see, this is what all of us want, “Let my own house be clean, even as the road, the park, all are in squalor.” Yes? That’s what we do, “Let my son flourish, even as the rest of the generation is down in the dumps.” Even if you give this attitude a spiritual name, it still remains the same self-centred selfish attitude.
If there is someone who says that “I am going to meditate so that I will get my individual peace,” then he is no better than the one who says, “I am going to earn, so that I can have my individual bank account bloated.”
Individual peace and individual money are no different at all, because in both of them there is the sense of the individual, and the individual is the ego.
The one who is not divided will not be contented with his personal relaxation.
And for the purposes of this particular discussion, we have equated the individual with the personal. I hope that creates no confusion. So, personal relaxation, your personal realisation — none of these mean anything because if realisation is personal, then it is no realisation at all. The person still remains. The divided individual still remains.
If realisation is personal, then it is no realisation at all.
The person still remains.
The divided individual still remains.
When you talk of anybody who went on to live a life that is miraculous, remember that he had gone beyond his personhood. You named ‘Prahalad’, Prahalad couldn’t have been thinking of the person because the person is the body. If you are still thinking of the body, how will you leap into the flames? Are you getting it?
Are you getting it?
L1: One question that I see here is that in every case, as we talked about a few names, the definition of the world was different. When I am assuming, it is according to my vision. When I see pain happening outside, I should not sit here, I should send out my hand for help…
AP: No, It is not a question of sending out one’s hand. Sometimes when you see pain outside, it is better not to do anything. It is not at all a question of a specific action. I am making this clear once again: we are not advocating action as per the humanitarian image or the charitable helper. We are not conforming to that image. We are talking about the internal assumption that “I and the other one are different”. If you extend your hand of help and still keep thinking that you are helping someone else, then your help is of no avail.
And there might be another one who does not extend his hand, realising fully well that he and the other are one, then he is actually helping. If I say, “I am helping you,” then what is it that I am still maintaining?
The separation between me and you.
Now, I cannot really help. This hand that has been stretched out to help will end up harming you. You will not realise how, but it would definitely harm. So, it is not a matter of an action, It is not a matter of whether the hand goes out to help or does not go out to help. It is a question of the centre from where you act. Is the centre a divided centre or is it the centre of oneness?
L2: If I do not see both as separate and I see another person as me…
AP: No, you do not need to see the other person as yourself. You don’t need to see the other person as anything. You don’t need to see the other person as the other person. Let me just elucidate this. Separation is a thought. Unity is not a thought.
If you will sit there and imagine that you and everybody sitting here are one, then you’ll go mad, because you cannot imagine that. How will I imagine that me and my friends are one? How? But that’s what we end up doing, right? We let thought and imagination go into places where they must not go. You can very well imagine that you are separate. That is the work of imagination. And we keep imagining that. You can very well keep thinking that you and the other one are different. That is imaginable.
But, if you want to imagine that we all are one, then that is nonsense. How will you imagine that? But that is what so many teachers keep preaching, “Feel as if all of us are one.” How will you feel that? If you are feeling that then you are still ‘you’. I may keep feeling that you and me are one, but who is feeling, ‘me’ and ‘you’ or me?
AP: Is ‘me’ and ‘you’ feeling? Who is feeling?
Listeners: I am feeling.
AP: So, separation is still there, equally there, but you can now live in an assumption, a dream that “Ah! I experienced a oneness with everybody.”
I meet so many of these people, “You know what, when I close my eyes and meditate, I feel that me and the whole world are one.” Excuse me! Me
Excuse me! Me and the whole world! “Yes.” Okay fine! Forget about meditation. You don’t even know semantics. You can’t even observe language.
Forget about meditation. You don’t even know semantics. You can’t even observe language.
You don’t even know semantics. You can’t even observe language.
It is not something to be imagined. So don’t try to imagine. Imagining the unity of existence is the same as imagining God. If God is beyond imagination, how can this unity be imagined? So it is enough if you just check the imagination that you are separate. Are you getting it?
You don’t need to imagine that you are ‘one’.
You only don’t need to power the imagination that you are separate.
Don’t power that, that’s all.
And that happens, when you are really at peace with yourself, then you lose the distinction between you and the rest of it. That which you call as yourself becomes less and less important. And that is an indication of oneness taking possession of you. While when you are disturbed, when you are desirous, then you become the actor — acting upon something, wanting something, reaching somewhere, and that is a clear indication of separation. ‘Me reaching somewhere’ so ‘me’ and the ‘goal’ are separate.
L1: Before coming here, I was reading about you. You were in IIT and IIM (India’s premier institutes of technical and management studies) and many nice reputed organisations. And you stepped forward for a path, for peace, for something that was important to you. Did you actually not then divide a line that “this is something that I have to go beyond”? Was that not Advait, was that not a dividing line?
AP: You see, the difference is not really there.
If you are thinking purely, purely about your self-interest, that is just the same as thinking about the entire universe, and that, mind you, is not a thought in the usual sense of the world.
Please understand this.
What we call as selfishness, usually, is a very half-baked, incomplete selfishness. We are not selfish at all. Had we been selfish, would we have acted as per the dictates of others? To be really selfish means to be Self-centered. The Self is everything. But in our case, so much besides the self is important. Is it not? That which we call as ‘I’ is a very incomplete ‘I’, Is it not? It relies on others. It is built up by others. It is afraid of others. It wants to achieve others, appease others. We are not really selfish.
If one can look at his self-interest in the real sense of the world, then he is serving all and everyone.
Are you getting it?
You cannot think about, sitting over here in this hall, how this discussion is going to help a leopard in the Amazon forests. You cannot imagine how this is going to help a penguin on the ice masses. Can you? I repeat, you’ll go mad if you start thinking, how you are going to help everything and everybody. So, what is the practical way out then?
The practical way out is to see what purely helps you. What purely helps you helps the entire universe. Please do see this. We do not really know what would help us. If we know what would help us, we have also known what would help the other. If you and the other are one, then the source from where you and the other would be helped would also be necessarily one.
Find you own help.
And once you have been helped, help flows through you in a thousand unthinkable ways to the entire universe.
You cannot think about those ways.
I repeat, how can you think that this discussion is going to help a leopard in South America? How will you think? What kind of cause-effect chain will you imagine? And even if you imagine, even if you cook up a story, how does that help? But it helps. Not only a leopard in the Amazons, it would also help the tiniest piece of life anywhere in the universe. It would also help that which you don’t even categorise as life — the rivers, the mountains. But those are not things to imagine and then act as per your imagination.
You must first find out what your own centre is. You must first know what your own hunger and thirst are. And if you’ve really found that out, then you cannot prevent yourself from being of help. I repeat, then you won’t have to actively help, then eating, sleeping, passively talking, you would be just helping. Your every breath would be an announcement of help. Are you getting it? You won’t even have to stretch your hand.
I am saying two things that may appear contradictory:
In the first half of this question, I said, “you and your neighbour are not separate, how can you live without helping?”
And in the second half I said, “You cannot imagine what it really means to help the other, because the other is a vast set.” So you better forget about the other and look only at your own betterment. Look only at that, and when you look only at that, the other is automatically helped. But what can never help is the thought that “if I am alright, why do I need to bother.”
So that’s why in the book I had to write that “If you are a man of love, and if you find your neighbour in violence, then you would interfere!” But this interference is not the typical interference that you know of. This is a passive interference. It’s a passivity that may be active, or may not be active. At times, you may need to barge into your neighbour’s house. At times, you may need to leave the neighbour to time.
That you cannot determine.
That you cannot predict.
That’s a function of intelligence.
That is not something to be prescribed.
Never can right action come from a divided feeling.
Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Love is intolerant, Love interferes