Question: May I ask a question here? Once you feel that you are determined for this journey, is it necessary to go to the scriptures?
Acharya Prashant: It is not necessary but it’s wise. It is advisable.
Listener: When I started the journey, the first task that called me, was to throw away what I had read. Now, I feel empty and again the question arises that should I go to the scriptures or a living Guru, or should I listen to my inner voice that let the right time come?
AP: What if the call, brings you to the scriptures? Is it an either-or situation?
L: I didn’t understand that!
AP: You said, “Should I do this, or should I do that?” What if these two are one? What if the inner voice you are talking of takes a formal shape, in the form of…?
L: Form of urgency to read scriptures!
AP: Yes, the scriptures themselves. What if the inner voice you are talking of take a formal shape, a worldly shape, a material shape? The material shape could be that of a book, a Granth, or a person, a Guru. The inner voice that is there of the Truth or the Center or the Atman at all is not a voice at all, you see. You cannot hear it. The Atman does not know any language.
So, whenever that inner call is there, whenever the heart calls out, there would always be a parallel manifestation outside. When the Guru inside is calling you, he would show up as the Guru on the outside. It’s almost like your heart would personify and come to you in front of your eyes because your eyes cannot look within. And you can look only from the eyes. So, something must be available to your eyes, either a scripture or a person, or a happening, an event that can teach you.
L: I don’t know, whether I should wait till it becomes unavoidable to go to scriptures.
AP: Then wait till it becomes…
L: Very clear?
AP: Not very clear. Till it becomes unavoidable. Wait till it does not let you sleep.
There are two things that must be parallelly done. One, knowing it from those who have known, supposed to have known, if you are a skeptic then. Learning it from those who have known or are supposed to have known. Secondly, testing it out, for yourself.
So, first thing, the scriptures and parallelly observation of life. I stress equally upon the two. Please be very very observant, what’s happening. How am I spending my day? Why are those two countries fighting? You will learn a lot about the mind. A lot, a lot, a lot. It’s great to watch yourself. But if you can’t watch yourself or in addition to watching yourself, also watch the world. Watch, how people are going about on the streets? Watch how communities are behaving? Watch, what’s there in the newspapers? That too is useful.
But if you just let that in, there is a danger, it can just become accumulated knowledge. I know, I have general knowledge. You can become, worldly wise. So, parallelly there must be the blessings of scriptures. These are like you know, two wings of the bird. Together they make you, help you, fly.
Seek it from all the Gurus of the world, and also rely parallelly on the unique and the independent capacity of your mind. Be so confident of yourself that you are not hesitant in seeking help. You must have so much confidence that you can confidently seek help.
You know who is the one who refuses to take help? The one who thinks that he will be belittled by help. When you are very sure of yourself, then you can very confidently ask for help. You know that seeking help won’t reduce you. It won’t be a blemish on you so you can take help. Whatever they did (pointing towards the Saints and Mystics), whatever they gave you was in their compassion, right? Their teachings, their blessings, the juice of their lives is available. It’s unwise to deny that.
It’s not necessary to take that but why not take that? If the flower is there, why do you want to shut your eyes to it? And its beautiful aroma is floating in the air; why do you want to clamp your nose? It’s there, available. They did it for you.
Give me a reason why you want to deny yourself the gift. And it’s a gift in love. You have been gifted something in love. Kabir doesn’t want any payment from you or does he? Does Jesus get a royalty every time a copy of The Bible is sold? Physically he was gone long before the Bible was compiled. Whatever is there, it’s there as a gift, free gift. Take it, please. Don’t insult the other’s love.
And parallelly, don’t become dependent, don’t develop a tendency to be spoon fed. That I will read the scriptures and if they say this is this and this is that. Then I would say fine, it is that. Then you are just becoming superstitious. Observe the World, see whether these two are corresponding. If the Upanishads are saying that ‘Greed leads to suffering’ then observe whether it does! Test it out.
The world is a laboratory. Test it out. Is greed leading to suffering? Yes yes yes, see, there is a greedy fellow and he is suffering. So, right. That’s the way faith will deepen. And that’s the way you will also be able to avoid any unnecessary passages in the scriptures. There is a lot in scriptures that was relevant or applicable only to the times when they were written or compiled or whatever. That was time dependent. Today it has become useless, redundant.
Today if you take that seriously then you would run into trouble. So, if you are observant about life that would also enable you to see what is applicable, where the juice really lies. And you will be able to sift out, sift away, the portions that are not meaningful in today’s world. Even the best of scriptures have few intervals, where it’s largely irrelevant stuff. Irrelevant to? Our lives. So you can safely keep that aside.
L: Also, if one has to go to scriptures, one must learn Sanskrit. It also comes in my mind, to go scriptures, only when I have learned Sanskrit.
AP: But I really don’t practically see what you are saying. Be it the Patanjali Yoga Sutras or Bhakti Sutra or Upanishads, all of them are anyway in Sanskrit but we do routinely read them. Because great translations are now available. Access is no more a concern. Here is the mobile phone and you can access all of the world’s spiritual literature on your Mobile phone. Not only that, you can even compare translations.
L: Sorry, I meant learning them in Sanskrit and…
AP: Ah, No No. If you know Sanskrit, it’s good. If you know Sanskrit, it’s good. Even if you don’t know Sanskrit, still proceed with the scriptures. Buddha deliberately chose to not to speak in Sanskrit. Neither did Mahavir speak in Sanskrit. You know of Nanak, you know of Farid, you know of Kabir, you know of Meera, you know of Dadu. Did any of them speak in Sanskrit?
In fact, the Saints deliberately ensured that they were not speaking in Sanskrit. Because Sanskrit was a language only of the elite. The masses never knew Sanskrit. And they were very particular about reaching the masses, so they avoided Sanskrit. Even Buddha avoided Sanskrit. Buddha said, “If I speak Sanskrit, I will reach only the Brahmins. And the Brahmins won’t way listen to me.” The Brahmins won’t anyway listen to me.
So, fine, Sanskrit is not important, the message is important. But if you know Sanskrit, it’s a bonus, there is no doubt about it. It’s a language worth learning especially if you are on the spiritual path. But don’t wait to learn Sanskrit. Don’t say that I will take three years to learn Sanskrit and then till then I won’t pick up the Upanishads! Start off. And the process of translation started around 200 years back. Now it has reached maturity. At least in the case of Principal scriptures. You can depend on those translations. They are more or less trustworthy.
L: English ones also.
AP: English ones also, yes yes. I am talking of the English ones. English ones, Hindi ones, all the major languages. The translations are more or less reliable.
See, nothing can beat the original, please, but these translations come quite close to the original. So, you can depend on them.
Additionally, you have your own intelligence that can guide you that will help you through. Don’t pick up translations or commentaries that come from cults or sects. Because they will deliberately misinterpret. Especially, the Bhagavad Gita.
L: Distorted interpretations.
AP: Totally distorted interpretations you will get. So, avoid that. In fact, the Bhagavad Gita is one Granth that has been grossly and deliberately misinterpreted. Other scriptures have been more or less spared. The kind of religious sanction and the religious position that the Gita has, no other scripture has. It rides, it sits atop the popular imagination. So, whenever somebody has to push his own personal agenda or the agenda of his cult or sect, or whatever. He would try to appropriate the Gita.
L: Use it.
AP: Use the Gita. Because the Gita has the prior popular sanction. So, if you can somehow demonstrate that the Gita is saying what your cult says, then your cult gains an acceptance. And it’s such an ugly thing to do. Is it not?
Your ego is so large that instead of changing yourself you are changing the words of the scripture. Your ego is so huge, you are saying, “I won’t change myself I would rather change the scripture.” It’s pathetic.
L: To not to get fooled, one must be well read in Sanskrit?
AP: But, most of the scriptures are in very simple Sanskrit, very simple Sanskrit. So, if you know the basics, if you have invested yourself for let’s say six or eight months into the language, then you will start figuring out what the Sanskrit is saying.
L: Acharya Ji, is it possible to learn Sanskrit by self-learning?
AP: Yes. It is possible. There are online courses, use them. Once upon a time, I used them.
The whole learning process, has been very finely coded now. It’s very scientific, step by step, regimented and you know exactly and in how much time. If you have given yourself eight months; not eight months of full time study of Sanskrit, eight months of part time study of Sanskrit, its not as if you would start reading and speaking and writing Sanskrit, but you would be able to figure out what the text is saying.
Now the interpreters can’t fool you. You will say that this word does not look like present in the original shloka. From where is this word coming? So, by the eight months, you will start getting a flavor of the original.
Otherwise, there are great distortions. One sect that devotes itself to Krishna Bhakti, there are specific verses in which Krishna is advising Arjun to use Buddhi. The original says, “Buddhi,” and they have translated it as devotion, Bhakti. Because their whole ideology is about subverting Buddhi and remaining blindly devoted. So, that’s what they are doing.
The text is saying Buddhi and their translation is bhakti. What are you doing? Riding on top of Krishna? Had Krishna wanted to say bhakti, he would have said?
AP: Bhakti. He is saying Buddhi. Nasty, very nasty.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
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