Category Archives: English Writings

KUMBH: Nothing, but immortality || Acharya Prashant (2019)

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So, the demigods and the demons, vigorous and adventerous as they were, thought of adding to their bounties. And got together, uncharacteristically, for a joint exploration mission. Together they churned the great sea using the great mountain as the churner and the great python as the rope.

One of the first things to show up was the great fuming poison. Shiv protected the three worlds by consuming the poison. And then emerged the nectar of immortality. The exploration had reached its zenith. The mission had succeeded. The ambrosia had been churned out from the utter depths of the great ocean, and was now available to be gulped down some ambitious throats. Both parties looked lustfully at their biggest exploit: the pot – kumbh – of nectar that would put an end to death, and make them invincible. But death is so overwhelming a threat that the prospect of deathlessness can make anyone do strange things. One individual, probably a devta, probably a danav, particularly inspired to make it big in life, simply ran away with the pot. Obviously the others gave him a hot pursuit. He was chased just as one chases immortality. With both the gods and demonds hot on his heels, he had it horrid. On the run, he had to pause at four places on planet Earth to catch his breath. Trembling as his hands were, thinking of his infuriated and powerful brethren, a bit of the nectar fell at these four places. The Kumbh is celebrated at the four places as a mark of immortality reaching mankind. Since millennia, devotees have been taking bath in Ganga, Shipra, Godavari – the Kumbh rivers – hoping to gain freedom from the clutch of death. The Kumbh is acknowledged as not only the biggest pilgrimage event on the planet, but also the biggest congregation of mankind for any purpose.

The story, the myth, is elaborate, multi-layered, and replete with symbolism. There appear to be many themes and ideas. However, in the middle of the rich clutter that the Kumbh saga is, there is one word that firmly dictates the narrative: Immortality. The whole celebration revolves around man’s fear of death, and his desire to taste the nectar of deathlessness.

What is death? Why does man fear death so much? In spite of all their powers and glory, why do even gods run after ambrosia of immortality? Death is the thought of loss. Death is the fear of not existing any longer. Man is in a strange situation. On one hand, everything he identifies with is perishable. His body, his thoughts, his feelings, his world, his relationships, his identities are all ephemeral. The world means change, and time is always threatening to ruthlessly change and destroy everything he bases his life on. Change and disappearance appear to be man’s inevitable lot when he looks at the world. On the other hand, this same destructible man, a puppet of time, has an inexorable love for deathlessness, changelessness, timelessness. His heart yearns for something that is so reliable, so true, so firm that time cannot touch it. All his life man randomly wanders groping around in search of something infallible, something final.

What does one make of this dissonance?

If one looks at his life truly, what does one see? A series of movements. Actions after actions. Acts, hopes, desires that are failing to find a climax, and are therefore continuing ad infinitum. Man’s eyes are endlessly searching for something. He is trying to find that through action, knowledge, possessions, relationships, pleasures, experiences, feelings, through everything at his disposal. That’s what the human condition is. To live on, man keeps bearing this condition, even glorifying it. He is compelled to call his frustration and poignant helplessness as motivation and achievement. He puts on a brave face. He calls his blind, stumbling, totter through life a challenging or heroic journey. He dons regular festivities even as he mourns within. At no point is he ever able to say: I am done. My ultimate desire has gained fulfillment. I am complete now, forever. And hence I now have unfettered freedom.

What does man really want? What did the gods and demons want despite owning the grandeur of life? Let’s rather see what all ways man tries to satiate his want. We have already done a lot. Have our ways succeeded? If not, then an altogether new kind of exploration is needed in an altogether new dimension. What is that dimension? The Kumbh legend gives us a clue. The mythical ocean is the mind, the Bhavsagar. Its churning is needed. That’s simple to say, but what one initially gets upon churning is accumulated poison: old tendencies, suppressed desires, the haunting residues of the past that one has been carrying forward in evolution. Poison is stuff that is basically worthless and harmful, but is still preserved within due to ignorance and attachment. This churning of the mind is essentially self-observation through an honest and dispassionate seeing of one’s life, thoughts, fears, desires, actions. But most people do not proceed with self-observation for long. As soon as they counter the poison, they back off. To go beyond the poison, dedication and love towards Truth – Shiva – is needed. One has to trust Shiva to surrender one’s poison to Him. This is faith. And then, upon such cleansing, what is left is deathlessness. Deathlessness thus demands both: a burning determination to get rid of the indignations of cyclic hopes and despairs, and a great love for unknowable, indescribable freedom. And deathlessness is not about living a million years. Deathlessness is not a huge stretch in time. Deathlessness is timelessness. Immorality is to live deep, not necessarily long. A moment spent deeply is a moment in eternity. What is depth? To go to one’s deepest desire and fulfill and extinguish it forever.

Another Kumbh beckons us. Can we go beyond the ritualistic dip, and honestly observe life as it is, within and around us? If we could see how desperately we want the One beyond time and death, and equally if we could see how that which we call life is one with death, would we still continue to live the same way we do? Realizing that our thoughts and plans are not adequate to fulfill our innermost desire, won’t we instantly shrug off our drowsy dreamy demeanor? Won’t we rebel against our self-sanctioned sleepwalk through life?

We have been thirsty since long. The time given to a human body is short. Man’s energy too is limited. And the task is onerous. Nothing short of total immortality, total security and total rest would satisfy man. What we want is available, and we have as much claim over the nectar as the gods and demons. The magical thing is: the great pot of divine nectar is so much our own that we don’t even have to steal it away from others.

Let’s heed the real message of Kumbh.


Excerpts from the above article were also published in DNA, India: Kumbh: Churning of mind to escape cyclic hopes and despairs:

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Acharya Prashant, with students: Who is collecting your sacrifice? ||(2013)

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Question: Why do we sacrifice in the name of Life?

Acharya Prashant: Who says that? What is your name?

Listener: Ankush.

AP: Ankush, who told you that Life is a big ‘sacrifice’? And whenever there is a ‘sacrifice’, there is somebody collecting the sacrifice. Who is collecting the sacrifice? You are giving your Life who is taking that Life? Have you ever seen this?

Life is not a sacrifice. 

It was surely a very defeated, a very sad man who has said that Life is the ‘sacrifice’. Life is there to live. It is your one precious Life and you are ‘young’. It is meant to be lived. It is not even meant to be given away. But a divine part is this that

When you live your Life fully, you actually give a lot to others as well.

Like a candle. A candle shining brightly is able to light a hundred other candles as well. And that takes nothing away from its own Light. It does not have to sacrifice its own Light.

Ensure that you are up and aflame like that candle then others will also get something from you. But that will be just incidental. You don’t have to sacrifice. Sacrifice what and why?

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How to prevent myself from emotional self-harm? || (Acharya Prashant, 2018)

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Questioner: An episode in my life haunts me. It’s me who keeps on revising that ugly memory when there is a similar situation? How do I prevent myself from such an emotional self harm?

Acharya Prashant: The mind is such a bottomless abyss. An abyss tired of its own bareness, vacancy. An abyss trying to fill itself in all possible ways. A scared loneliness groping, clutching at everything, even if those things are obviously useless, or even harmful.

The past is therefore clung to. If life is insubstantial, mind tries to find substance in the past.

The question, hence, is not so much about why the past keeps haunting the mind. Mind has to stick to something. The mind cannot live alone. If, among all the objects available for engagement, the past, or an event of the past, appears the most attractive, then the mind will obviously stick to that event, and keep revisiting it by way of memory.

Hence, can we, today, give the mind something very beautiful? Something so beautiful that it enamours the mind, and something so vast it fills up the abyss? If we can bring the mind to beauty and truth, the mind would be both enthralled and illuminated. Then it will find no need, no reason, to repeatedly rush to the past.

How to find beauty and vastness today? Maybe one can begin by going to those who devoted their lives to peace and clarity. There have been those who have sung all their life of beauty and Truth. Maybe, in their company, the mind will learn what to seek and where to seek.

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Acharya Prashant: What is the best thing you can get for free?

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If you can understand the answer to this question, then you already have the best free thing. The best free thing is ‘understanding’ itself. Well, just that understanding is not a thing, and the best things in life are, as they say, not things.

Think of it. Many machines, many computers can read this answer that I am writing here. But only a human being can ‘understand’ this answer. A machine can mechanically analyze, or interpret this answer. A machine can even translate this answer to a hundred different languages. But no machine can ever ‘understand’ what I am saying. For that matter, no machine can ever ‘understand’ a verse from the Gita, or a common statement as ‘I love you’.

We get that gift free, right? Understanding. But since it comes free, many of us don’t value it and don’t live by it.

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Acharya Prashant: Difference between believing and realizing?

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It is a strange thing, and paradoxical. Must be understood with care.

Is there a need to tell the free one that he is already free? It would be absurd and useless to do do.

When I say, “You are already free”, to whom do I say that? To the free one? No!

To the free one, I say nothing. He needs no advice. He can, though, give advise to many.

I say “You are already free” to the one who staunchly believes that he is NOT free. Why do I say that? The answer must be obvious.

In spirituality, no statement is a statement of Truth. Truth cannot be contained in a statement. So, statements by Teachers are not Truth, but just useful devices.

Useful devices? For what? Useful devices to cut down that which is untrue or false, and therefore damaging.

Since “I am unfree” is a highly damaging belief, so to counter it, I say “You are free”.

The purpose is not to give the listener another belief: “I am free”. So, if someone comes to me with a strong belief that he is free, I tell him, “You are not free”.

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Acharya Prashant: What is the ultimate purpose of life? || (2017)

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Question: As the years go by many of us remain confused about the ‘Goals of Life.’ I would like to be guided about the ‘Ultimate purpose of Life.’

~ Colonel S. D. Joshi

Acharya Prashant: But we have had purposes throughout our Life. Is there ever a purposeless moment in one’s Life. One is always driven by purpose.

You are going to the market to buy a vegetable, you have a purpose. You are going to your office, you have a purpose. Even if you embracing a stranger, you still have a purpose. Even if you are smiling at a kid, you still have a purpose.

Rare is the one who can even kiss purposelessly. 

We are very purposed human beings. 

You know what purpose is, benefit. What will I get from this? Do you ever do anything without a purpose? So Life has always been ‘purpose driven.’ You are asking, what is the ‘Ultimate purpose of Life?’ That question can be asked only if firstly the futility of all other purposes is seen.

Life has been a series of purposes. Parallel purposes, contradictory purposes, conflicting purposes, but purposes nevertheless. One doesn’t take a step purposelessly, that is the curse of our Life. The question ‘why?’ is always present.

If You tell someone, you are going to someplace what is the first thing that you are asked? Why? And what does ‘why?’ mean?

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Acharya Prashant: On Perfection and Imperfections (2014)

 

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You are not under any obligation to be perfect. Alright!

Your incompetencies, your deficiencies are all welcome. They are the part of the game. Just be alive and alert.

And then even out of your own botched up action, something auspicious will happen. Like Shabri, she doesn’t know how to welcome a King. So, all she can do is taste the fruit and give it to him. That’s a very botched up action. Yet something auspicious is happening out of it.

You are imperfect, alright. But then even in your imperfection, there is a lot of perfection. And be sure of that the demand for perfection is a great arrogance of the ‘ego.’

To demand this out of yourself that I must be perfect is a great arrogance of the ‘ego.’ How can ‘I’ be content to anything left than perfection. ‘I’ deserve the ultimate. No, you don’t deserve the Ultimate. You are alright as you are. And that there is perfection.

Getting it?

Do whatever you must and dedicate it to perfection.

Dedicate all your imperfection to the perfect. I could do only this much. The body is limited and thought is limited and the body could move only this much. The words could express only this much. Now, the rest is upon you. Take care! I am imperfect and I know that fully well. For me only, there are twenty-four hours in a day. I have only two hands. I have a mind that can have only this much of information. And I use words that are so limited in their communication. So, I can do only this much. Now, The remaining is upon you. You take care! And this is perfection.

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