Question: Do you think that with this modernization of INDIA, this global modernization or to say Post Industrial…so called Post Industrial! is, in a way, destroying Indian culture? At least our Spirituality…or its health?
Acharya Prashant: You see , no culture is spiritual. Indian, Western, Martian…no culture is spiritual. Spirituality has nothing to do with culture. All culture is just a social phenomenon. Spirituality doesn’t have much to do with that. India is said to have had so called spiritual culture since centuries. As you have gone about… Is it your first visit to India?
AP: As you have gone about travelling here, do you really feel this is a spiritual land?
L1: No. I mean I have met a few. Not land but some people. Some people, not the complete.
AP: And those people are probable to be found anywhere. If you have met a few good people here, you would surely meet a few good people even in Russia or Germany or you know in your home country or you know even on some God for-saken satellite. So, that is just by chance.
There is nothing called Spiritual culture and whenever spirituality is conflated to the culture, then what you get are places like Rishikesh. It has a greatly spiritual culture. So you have a lot of saffron going around.
AP: And that saffron is just dirty color. So you get cheap T-shirts with “OM” and “SHIVA” printed on them. And that is what is typically meant by Spiritual culture. You had a “Shivam Halwa”. It was an over-priced dish.
L1: But, I still think that India had or may be still has some more deeper approach. Like, for example, in India it is still possible to meet people whom spirituality has touched and they can just go around without money and…
AP: It was never possible. Whenever somebody has done that, he has gone against the odds to do that. What you talking of is just a fantastic image. It was never really possible. If you talking of the Buddhas way of going and begging and thereby preaching?
AP: It was a wonderful method. It had nothing to do with a benign spirit of the villagers. Nothing to do with that. If you talking of me being here, I face a tremendous scale of resistance. None of the people you see here, have come here without crossing over an entire sea of resistance – ‘internal’ and ‘external’.
So, it’s not as if India is giving any special leverage to this effort. In fact, I would find it easier to work may be somewhere else. There is nothing called a spiritual land. If you are talking about India, then yes, India of the Upanishads is beautiful. But that India exists even now. Even when the Upanishads were being spoken, the masses were doing what the masses were doing and Upanishad is not a social product.
You know, historians, in their own arrogance, like to say that everything is a product of social conditions. So, they would say that ‘Social conditions were so wonderful and there was a great deal of spiritual culture, so, the Upanishads came about.’
The coming of an Upanishad is an act of grace. It does not depend on any condition what so ever. The coming of Saint Kabir, is an act of grace otherwise how can a child in such adverse conditions, do what Kabir did. It is just grace and it has nothing to do with society.
L1: But still, even it was the possibility that he survived, you know in some other culture, in Persia even it would not be possible at that time.
AP: You see sir, you take a coin, you toss it four times and all four times you get heads. Would you conclude that the coin is biased in favor of heads? Would you?
It is just that you haven’t tossed it frequently enough. You toss it ten more times, heads and tails will be balanced! Because we human beings operate in limited conditions of time, so we look at the last three-four-five thousand years. We see that India has produced a lot of so called Saints, Avatars, Reformers, Gnanis… So, we think that probably India is special.
We do not see that the coin has been tossed only four times till now. Toss it four more times, then you don’t know what might happen. Who knows, Europe is the next India? Who knows, Slovenia is the next India? So, you know, things happen randomly. Something happened in India that doesn’t mean that India is a special land. Any land where spirituality blossoms is India. That is my definition of India. So, India cannot be a fixed land.
L1: (laughs) OK.
AP: Who knows what will happen in the next five thousand years? Yes? And five thousand years is such a small period of time. But because we live only for hundred years, so we say, five thousand years! and India has been producing everything, so there must be something special about India. For us, five thousand years is long. But existentially, is five thousand years really long? Existentially, what is the worth of five thousand years? Nothing!
L1: For example, the Aborigines lived in Australia for forty thousand years, but we don’t get such information about spirituality from there .
AP: Who are we to say that the Aboriginals were not drinking from that sea of wisdom? It is just that their works are not available. They did not write and they did not express it in a way that the post-modern mind can comprehend.
L2: I think this entire sensation that India is something unique about it, culturally. It goes out to the time when Europeans were coming here and the entire process of orientalizing and studying orientalism. No doubt India is exotic. I mean that it is way different from what Europe was at that time.
AP: Exotic in the eye of the European, not in the eye of, you know ,the victim of caste discrimination, for example. Is India exotic in the eyes of the fellow who just committed suicide? The European says, “Well I have been only seeing shades of black and white and gray and here it is so damn colorful.” The colors that you see here, you don’t see in Europe. So, exotic – not for us!
L3: You see sir, I don’t know where in China, they live constantly for thousand years even under Communists. There are some stories of saints and some were really blessed…I don’t know how many thousand kilometers they traveled by walking, nearly starving. China at that time had this cultural revolution. One of the chiefs of Local Communist party would feed them and would show them the way and where they will get food.
I imagine this in Europe, the saint would be put in the nearest hospital; I see a difference between the cultures.
AP: There has been a difference. Sure there has been a difference. But still, if you look at the mind, for example, who is particular and ruthlessly particular about facts, they look at the mind that develops let’s say the Steam Engine. At least he is bothered with the facts. He is taking up data, experimenting. What would you call a mind that lives in all kind of spiritual imaginations? Yes?
There is a Brahmin priest, who looks like belonging to a spiritual culture because he is wearing the vermilion, the janeyu – the sacred thread, and chanting all kind of holy mantras and you look at him and you will say he is a spiritual man. And what kind of a man is he? He is a man who really does not know what he is talking. He is exploitative. And he is an Idiot! And there is another man who is working in his laboratory trying to figure out what steam really is and how much power can it deliver and how can steam and iron combine, to give you energy? Energy that can be channelized. Which of these two would you call closer to spirituality?
L1: Second one.
AP: So, are we right in saying that?
L1: Second scientist. Not all scientists, some good scientists. Some of them are weird.
AP: And by the way, the second one doesn’t even know one Sanskrit Shloka. He may not have heard of Krishna. So, we can say this one thing then, You cannot have a special land that enables the coming of the spiritual mind. You cannot have a spiritual culture, where it is easier to be spiritual. But for sure, you can have a mind that is attentive to its own falseness. That you can have! Not something definitive or particular, like a culture. Not something positive and affirmative. But, rather something reductive and destructive. Getting it?
You know, nothing can lead me to God, let me just find out what keeps me away from God. That kind of an approach.
Instead, we have cultures that claim to lead you to God. And that’s what all God-men do, right? They say, “I’ll take you to God.” The approach must be! You cannot be taken to Truth or God. You only need to find out what keeps you away. What makes you think that you are away. That kind of a thing can be there. That rigor, that…you can even equate it to the intellectual rigor, so it is not really intellectual. That rigor, even if it is found, even if it has been found in India, has been found only intermittently and that too very privileged and very tiny pockets.
You know, the people from whom, this…from whom the holiest…why even call them holy? Let’s call them “Intelligent Scriptures”. From whom these books came, they were in extremely tiny minority and most of them were not socially absorbed. We cannot even call them a part of society or a part of India. The fellow is living on the top of the hill. He has nothing to do with the country, nothing to do with the society. Would you call them belonging to a certain nation? He doesn’t even know whether nation exists, or has been conquered, or an earthquake has wiped out the entire population. He is so absorbed in his own meditation. So, he hardly has a nationality.
And those numbers, they were extremely small, very-very small. The common masses were doing what they were doing. They had nothing to do with all this. In fact, even in India today, you see, all kinds of spiritual myths are popular. But if you go to somebody and you ask him to name even one Upanishad, one out of hundred people can do it. There are more than 200 Upanishads but when you do the general survey on the streets of India, and ask them to tell the name of even one of the Upanishads. I might be over-estimating in saying one by hundred.
L3: Anybody would say Ayurveda is a Veda.
AP: Ayurveda is a Veda. Why not? But yes! Everybody would know the story of Hanuman. Now, Hanuman is hardly spirituality. It is a very nice and entertaining story but, have you seen any temple dedicated to Ashtavakra, or Yagyavalka?
AP: There isn’t any. Is there an Ashtavakra temple? I have not seen. And even if it is, even if there are one or two, to compare them to the number of temples that are dedicated to the numerous Gods and Goddesses. They dot the streets, the corners, the roadsides, the wells, the fields, the houses, the offices. The whole thing has to be totally reworked. If it were possible to somehow wipe out mankind’s collective memory. Things would be so easy. Entire structure of religion and spirituality, unless that goes away, it’s very difficult.In factthat is the only purpose of religion, to make religion go away.
L4: Sir, it is contradictory to usual belief that people are having big revolutions to establish a religion.
AP: See, whenever religion is established…what should I say. See, nobody wants to establish practices. You are establishing the Truth. Truth needs to be established again and again, again and again. Because what you have established, in the process of establishing the Truth… what you have established, itself becomes the enemy of Truth. The Church becomes an enemy of Jesus. So, the whole thing must happen again and again and again and again, as frequently as possible. What do you have? You have one Jesus in two thousand years. Now, that is too infrequent. The fellow has to come a little more regularly.
L4: In fact, all these preaching of all the prophets, started with first condemning what was prevalent.
AP: They all condemned. Yes.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
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