Acharya Prashant: How to get rid of pain and suffering?

Question: Explain ‘bad.’

Acharya Prashant: OK. Let’s take something which you call as ‘bad.’ We will begin with that. Tell me anything which you call as ‘bad.’

Listener: Inadequate idea.

AP: Too abstract. I’ll then have to make it more abstract and Do you call a disease as bad?

L1: Yes.

AP: OK. A disease is bad only when you experience the pain and suffering associated with it. Only when a disease shows up in medical report. Let’s say there is a wound here. The wound has become infected and it is oozing puss. Now, you’ll say this is bad. Won’t you say that? Don’t be so guarded as if you want to block my next step.

L1: I just…one might say it’s bad, yes.

AP: What would you call as bad? Because I have to start from there. What do you see all around that you would call as unacceptable? Is there anything that you dislike?

L1: I’m just grateful.

AP: Then, then everything is alright. You are home.

L1: I’m celebrating.

L2: If I see somebody beating a child, I call it bad.

AP: Yes, yes. I like honest statements. He’s saying he’s grateful when somebody beats up a child.

L1: I’m not saying this, I never said that

AP: Then, why not say that when you find somebody raping somebody you don’t like it. Do you like it?

L1: I don’t like it.

AP: Yes, just say that. See, living in the fact means an honest acknowledgment of what life for you really is like. Do you really like it if you’re beaten up? Then why not simply say that. Why put it in abstractions?

So, you don’t like it when somebody beats a child right, Okay? Now, beating the child is a gross act. It is visible. Let’s say somebody is carrying a cane and spanking the child with it. It is visible. Stay with this…so, it is visible when the child is being beaten and these eyes can look at that visible, material act. Something goes up, something comes down, somebody cries. You can look at that, it’s a gross thing. It’s very difficult to miss it. Now, make it more subtle, bring it down a level. Suppose the violence is not so gross. It’s a more subtle violence. What happens in a more subtle violence? Come on, speak.

L3: Shaming.

AP: Shaming. So, now he’s not beating. He’s just accusing. He’s making the child feel ashamed using words. Now, words are also gross. A little less gross than action but the words are also gross because sensory mechanism can catch them. So you still call it violence. If you’re sensitive enough you still call it violence but somebody might say that no… no… no, beating was violence, this is just counseling. Right? You make it even more subtle. Now, the violent one is neither using a cane nor is he using words. He’s just using..?

L2: Ignoring.

AP: Ignoring. Wonderful. So using nothing or just using a glance. Now, it’s very subtle. Now, only the sensitive mind will say that it is violence. If you’re not sensitive, you’ll not even know that it is violence. But violence is continuing. Violence is continuing. It is just that now you are not calling it violence. Only 1% people are now calling it violence. What have you done? You’ve done nothing. You have just been apathetic to the child. Make it even more subtle.

L4: Thinking.

AP: Now, there is no possibility that anybody else can catch you. Now, there is no possibility that any law can punish you. Because you’ve just thought the violence. Are you getting it? And you can think in a way where what you’re thinking is not labeled as violence. For example, you may think of converting the child to another religion. You may think of imposing your belief on the child. And you’ll not call it violence. You are saying that this is just something else. But isn’t the same thing continuing?

From the grossest of acts to the subtlest of acts, the same thing is happening but we are unable to see. This is what I meant when I said that this entire living is just one. It is just that only sometimes you perceive the violence, the fear, the insecurity, the ugliness. At other times, it is so hidden, so subtle.

Do you see how deeply you can violate somebody by just smiling at him? Have you come across this? You don’t need to fire a gun at somebody. You can just smile at somebody and violate him very deeply. But you may miss it and you may say no, violence is not all pervasive. Violence is just restricted to a part of life. We will not acknowledge that it is all pervasive. What will we say? It is restricted only to those moments when somebody is being beaten or somebody is being fired at. We do not see that even the basic stuff of thought is violence. The name given to it notwithstanding, the very mind stuff is violence.

Who is a sage?

A sage is the one who is extremely sensitive, who is able to catch even that which we normally ignore.

He is able to go to the fact of that which we just dismiss as usual. We call it usual when we meet somebody and just smile. The sage stops. The sage says no… no… no… no… no. There was something in it. Was this smile real? Was this coming from a reason? Did it rise from the Heart? And he won’t just accept it as one of those casual things. That is the sage

L5: And mystic and sage- two things? Sage is a mystic or mystic is even a higher..?

AP: I mean the same. Why create unnecessary categories? We have so many categories already.

L5: But mystic is something that is beyond the beyond.

AP:  I mean the same. Beyond the beyond is just more mind so no beyond the beyond. My task is to simplify, not complicate further.

L5: But then life will become hell. Because we are sleeping to the reality. I don’t know if we’re living in bliss, I don’t know. But life is not just bliss, it’s also hell.


The saint is one who has realized that life is not also hell but just hell.

And when he realizes that this that we call as life is just hell, he says this cannot be life. Then he comes to real life and that is not hell. I won’t call it bliss, I’ll just say that is not hell.

If you’re suffering, you need not be told how beautiful and blissful health is. If you’re suffering, all that you need to be told is that freedom from disease is possible. No positive affirmative statement needs to be given. If you’re really crying out of pain, do you need to be given dreams of the pink of health? You only need to be assured that this pain is not your nature and that is all.

L5: So, do you think that you will tell it in some few days or you’ll tell it now?

AP: I will never tell it. Why must I tell something that you already know?

L6: That’s why you do for hours…because all you say…

AP: I keep non-telling (smiles). You already have been told so much. My job is to?

L6: Stop telling.

AP: (smiles) Is there anybody here who has not been told a lot of things? They need to be now untold. Do not ask for more telling.

L5: Then you’ll feel stuffed and bored because you cannot keep on sitting like…

AP: Don’t be too sure of that. Those who have been coming here know (laughs)… I can keep sitting like this.

L5: Because you’re keeping yourself involved. Because your situation is like that you’re attending…I don’t know but you’re like blinking and your body is restless…but usually it has to be relaxed and totally…(inaudible)

AP: Who? Who told you that the body must sit like this (sits in a straight posture) and it should not move? Even when the body is sitting like this and you have an instrument sensitive enough, it will detect movement. And I am letting my body move just like you know that leaf on that tree. Look at that leaf there. Look at that leaf. See how it is dancing. Why am I not entitled to dance?

(audience laughs)

L5: But OK. Then you will be different person if everybody becomes OK here. You’ll be different also?

AP: Do you want to be OK? Why talk of everybody and everybody OK and me different person and this and that? Will the patient talk about everybody else in the hospital?

(audience laughs)

L5: No. That’s true.

AP: Yes. So, off to your bed… (smiles) The surgeon shall…

L5: But…if you are the doctor and me as a patient…we would like more juicy and something more.

AP: Oh, it will be a very juicy medicine, don’t worry (audience laughs). Even the operation will be very juicy – juicy brain surgery.

L1: So, if I see a man who is beating a child on the street, is it wrong to think that maybe both of them are lucky, somewhat fortunate to have the experience of pain and suffering? Because the man beating the child is suffering and the child is suffering but both of them have something to grow from after that, right? One of them has the suffering of anger and the things that they have done wrong to grow from. So, they are in such a privileged position…

AP: Who gave you this model that people grow from doing all this rubbish? What is this thing about growing?

L1: Pain is an opportunity to be liberated… (someone from audience walks up to this listener and perhaps hits him playfully to make a point related to the listener’s question. Someone else asks him how he feels and if everything was OK?) There is a misunderstanding here. It’s not that I’m saying that it’s desirable because desire is a whole different thing…

AP: You’re thinking, right? You are uttering a statement that both are growing, this and that. Do you see that this statement is a model? Do you see that this is a preconceived notion? Whenever you are thinking about a situation, you’re missing that situation. Whenever you look at something and think “Oh! he’s beating him and it’s good for both of them and they’re growing,” you’ve missed it.

Because in thinking and concluding thus, you’ve missed the happening.

L1: And I’m not saying I wouldn’t intervene, though. If I saw someone beating a child, I would step in. I would stop the man, even if it…

L2: That means you think it’s not good. So how can you say at the same time that you think they’re blessed?

L1: I’m not saying I wouldn’t interfere. My body is, their bodies exist, my body exists. It is my duty to interfere because if I see something happening….

L2: Would you interfere if somebody is really happy? Like you said that they are blessed, yes? So, when you see people that are happy then let them be happy and blessed. So why do you do that if the child is beaten if you consider that this a blessing for him?

L1: So, my point is more that it is ultimately not bad or good. There’s this duality of bad and good. We say this is bad, this is good. Ideally, I would not have an emotional reaction but I can use logic to say, “Oh! this is the best thing to do”

AP: No. When you’re saying it is neither bad nor good then you must complete the statement. It is neither bad nor good and not even an absence of both of them. Surely, you are using a model given by somebody but it is an incomplete model. It is not A, not B and not even an absence of both A and B. So, which means that you can have no feelings or thoughts about that situation. Which means that you cannot even say that I’m grateful and blissful that it’ll lead to growth. Which means that you look at it and let the action happen through you.

Gratefulness is not the thought of gratefulness.

Joy is not the thought of joy.

Truth is not the thought of truth.

But several teachers teach this thing that whatever you look at, you take it as a great happening and some great growth as another step of the drama. All these are just thoughts and when you’re thinking about something you don’t even know that thing.

Living in the fact means a body is beating another body, to take the analogy you gave, because the body which is the mind is feeling that it is distinct and hence being violent and the rest of that. So, let this body (points to his body) also interfere. That body was violent towards that body. Now, this body feels the need and the dislike to interfere.

Gratefulness means not having any sense of like or dislike.

If I like something what I’m saying is that I dislike the absence of this thing. So, if you’re liking something you cannot be grateful. Liking something and gratefulness are very, very different. If you like something do you know what you’re saying? You can only like this much right? And if you like this much then you are disliking everything which is outside of this. So, when you see somebody beating a child you neither have to like nor dislike. You just have to let the right action overpower you. You just have to let the right energy overwhelm you, flow through you and then you do what must be done and forget everything about gratefulness. When you have forgotten everything about gratefulness, you’re truly grateful.

But what happens is that the great words of the seers become concepts in the hands of incompetent teachers. They turn Joy and gratefulness and God and Love into concepts. And they teach those concepts. That love is about saying “you know I’m related to you, you know I’m forgiving you”. And gratefulness is about saying “ah! even though it appears weird yet it is so beautiful, it’ll lead to growth.” None of that!

L6: Is that so, in that kind of case and I don’t want to point at you or anything, is that a kind of self-delusion that we go into that pattern to make things to be kind of presentable.

AP: You know, when a 6 feet 6 inch man with two guns on either side is beating up a child, it becomes quite necessary that you just say, “Oh this is just…I need not interfere, the child is growing” (audience laughs). You want to do that and the teacher gives you a nice tool to make you feel good while doing that. Otherwise, you would have felt guilty. Otherwise, you would’ve felt as if you absconded from your duty. Now, the teacher has given you a tool to escape, so now you’re escaping and it is a holy escape. It is a holy escape now.

The spiritual man is neck deep into action.

He is not an escapist.

L1: What if I’ve been beaten in my life a lot. I’ve been subject to violence and then I look at it as if I hadn’t undergone this, then maybe I wouldn’t be where I am right now.

AP: Who is thinking all of this? The product of violence is thinking all of this. Had you not been a product of violence would you still be thinking this way? Had you not been a product of all your past and experience would this thought still come to you? Does any thought come to us irrespective of what our past has been like? So, it is the whole flow, the whole output of all that child beating, of all that violence and everything else that now comes to this thought. Do not ever try to imagine how you would be had you not been what you are. Because you can imagine that only as you are. We often attempt that, don’t we? How would I be, were I not what I am? Now, you can never imagine that. Imagination will fail.

Because all your imagination proceeds from the centre of what you currently have made yourself to be, what you currently are.

‘Gratefulness’ is anyway our natural state. We don’t have to be grateful. We can only not be grateful when we decide to be anything, we are then not being grateful. Because in saying that I want to become that, that could be anything – good, great, wonderful or grateful, when I say I want to become grateful, what I’m saying is that I’m not alright with that which is. And if I’m not alright with that which is, am I grateful?

L: No.

AP: So, the very attempt to become grateful is an act of ungratefulness. If I’m really grateful, I will not try to be grateful or feel grateful. If I’m trying to be grateful, I’m so ungrateful. Am I not? (laughs)

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

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: How to get rid of pain and suffering?

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