Spirituality is not the renunciation of life; it is the art of living fully || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Question: I am not sure about what to do in life. Whether I should go for a spiritual path and leave all material desires or do what everyone is doing. Divergence is always there in my mind. I am practicing meditations regularly, but it won’t clear my path. Secondly, how can only knowledge bring a change in me? Surely no one changes just by listening to talks?

Acharya Prashant: Why is it so that what you call as the ‘spiritual path’ must be equated with leaving something? Do you find any renunciation in existence? Do you find anything in existence that is bent upon giving up something, or dropping something?

Listener: But one cannot have all the things at once.

AP: If life were meant for dropping, then that whom you call as ‘God’ should have first of all dropped the universe. When he is running the universe, not dropping it, in spite of the world being as silly, as pointless and as rotten as it is, then why must you think of leaving all the desires behind, and going to the spiritual life, leaving all material behind, and doing something else?

Is the flower ever on the path of renunciation? Are animals, mountains, planets and stars, giving up, renouncing, rejecting, negating? Each is there, fully there, located at its own center. You too find your center. It’s not about giving up, it’s about finding. Yes, in that finding you discover, that the useless does not appeal; and the useless never appeals, unless the useless appears useful.

We all often claim that we want to drop this and that: desires, tensions, sorrows, attachments. Drop! If you want to drop, drop! What stops you?

You don’t want to drop! You don’t want to drop because you see something important there; because you still perceive that they are of some use, some value. Your mind senses some attraction there.

The day you realize that there is nothing in them, they would automatically get dropped. But that realization is what is to be gained. Dropping happens after gaining. And that is one mistake that man has made through centuries and centuries of religious practice. We have emphasized so much on ‘giving up,’ without realizing that ‘giving up’ is not possible to a mind that has not yet achieved. Achieved what? Achieved the climax, achieved the real, achieved its center.

Yes infrequently, rarely, there have been people who have talked of achieving, who have said, “Gain it fully, and then there would be no need to drop.” Because dropping would then happen as a ripe fruit drops from the tree. It is a celebration; it is the climax of maturity – dropping.

Have you seen a ripe fruit? How it drops from a tree? Is there any violence and pain involved? No, it’s an auspicious event. A ripe, bright, yellow mango dropping from a tree. Would you say, “It is sannyasa. He is renouncing”? No. It’s a Mango! A ripe, full, delicious mango.

Compare that to the image that you have of sannyasa – emaciated, life-less man, with no juice in him. Compare his face to that of a ripe mango. Do you see any similarity? This is real dropping: “I was connected to my source.” The mango ripens only when it is connected to its roots. Of course, it is connected to the twig, and the twig is connected to the trunk. But ultimately the mango must be connected to the roots, the center, the origin. And the roots are obviously connected to the center of the earth, and the earth is connected to the center of the universe, and so on and so forth. This connectedness to the center has a particular lusciousness, a juiciness, a fullness in it.

Life is about having this lusciousness. That is why the Upanishads say, Rasovaisa (full of life). Dropping is not like unnecessarily clipping leaves, and fruits, and twigs, and raw shoots. When it happens, it happens on its own. It is the result, a climax of your life journey. You have found something so very beautiful, so complete and valuable, that everything else simply does not appeal; because there is no ‘else-ness’ left. Everything else is just an image of that central valuable.

Imagine you are standing in a room that has a thousand mirrors. Your beloved too is there in the room. All the mirrors are full with the image of your beloved. That’s all that they are radiating: the image of the beloved. There are thousand different mirrors. Obviously you can look at the differences. You can say that this is mirror number one, mirror two, mirror three, four . . . thousand. But in every mirror, what do you see? Your beloved! In every single mirror only the beloved appears. Now will you go and embrace the mirror? Though the mirror is reflecting just the beloved. But would you embrace the mirror?

L1: No.

AP: Whom would you embrace?

L1: The beloved.

AP: Are you getting this? This is renunciation. “The entire universe appears to me as the image of the beloved. Now why should I go and be attached to the images? The beloved is here. Why should I look at this and that?”

So you have to first attain. And in that attainment lies dropping. Remember: attain, not the world. Do not misinterpret. That too has been done: “Attainment means that you must have twenty thousand mirrors.:

We have had people who have said, “To go beyond sex, you should get more, and more, and more sex, and ultimately then you will go beyond sex.” What rubbish. It is bullshit. This never happens.

You can keep indulging in desires and satiation of all your complexes all your life, yet you will never go beyond them. So those who say, “Unless you lead the life of a householder, how can you enter the next phase?” They are talking rubbish. They do not know life. They are searching for an escape. By leading the life of a householder has anybody ever moved beyond the house? Look at all the old men in all your houses. They are more interested in gossips, in what is going on, in petty calculations, than the rest of the members of the house. Is that not so? Has age given them any ripeness? No! Ripeness does not come from the passage of time. It comes from being rooted, like the mango. Are you getting it?

So yes! The false must be rejected as false, but for that you must first surrender to the Truth. If you are told that the first step is to see the false as the false, then there is a problem. Because who will see the false as false? The false? How can the false see the false as false? First of all you have to surrender to the Truth. Surrender to the Truth, and that is so simple. Surrender to the Truth and then you will see the false as the false. It will become very simple. And remember that every mirror ultimately shows the image of the beloved. So there cannot be an attitude that the world is a place fit to be rejected, that the world is a disease, or that the world is not worth living in or considering. A large mirror is an image of the beloved, a small mirror too is an image of the beloved, a soiled mirror is still an image of the beloved.

So the world is not there so that you may abuse it. Don’t have a condescending attitude towards the world. Your so-called spiritual practitioners often have it. They abuse and curse the world. How can you abuse and curse the world?

Every grain of sand is ‘That.’ In vice is ‘That,’ in virtue is ‘That.’ In the holiest of men is ‘That,’ in the most fallen of men, is ‘That.’ Whom to reject? Whenever you reject something, you are rejecting the image of the beloved. So, how to reject? How to drop? How to renounce? The world is not there to be renounced; but at the same time you won’t go and embrace the mirrors. You will embrace only the ‘one beloved,’ not the mirrors.

Remember, you will not curse and abuse the mirrors, at the same time you will not embrace the mirrors. You have already embraced the beloved; that is why ‘He’ is the beloved. Otherwise who will call the beloved as the beloved? This is the art of living – neither of the world, nor something separate from it.

“I am not running away from the world. Neither denouncing it, nor renouncing it. How can I chop the tree down? What is the tree? That. And what is axe? That.” So there is no point in differentiating. There is no point in accepting something, and rejecting something. There is no point in any kind of discernment. It’s all that. But even though it is all that, yet only ‘That’ is ‘That.’

“I see my beloved everywhere, but my beloved sits really in my heart.” That is how the realized one lives. Do you understand this?

“I see ‘Him’ everywhere and everywhere, but he sits really in my heart. And that is also why I see Him everywhere.” Two mistakes can be made in this. One is, saying, “He sits in my heart and that is why he cannot be anywhere else.” And this mistake has often been made. This is why people need to run away from here and there. They say, “He sits in my heart, and he is not in the world.” Sorry that’s a mistake. Another mistake is, saying, “He is somewhere outside of me, and not within me. I have to reach somewhere to attain Him.”

The first is the attitude of the renouncer, the second is the attitude of the achiever. Please be very cautious of both these attitudes. What does the renouncer say? “He sits in my heart, and he sits nowhere else. So the world then is a despicable place.” What does the achiever say? “I have nothing within me! I am hollow, contemptible, incomplete, unworthy! He is somewhere outside and I must achieve Him.”

Of course what he wants to achieve can be given various names: success, joy, respect, whatever. But he wants to achieve something outside of him, the achiever. Both of these are only fallacies. Both of these only give you suffering. He sits within you, and he is all around you. There is nothing but ‘Him’.  Within and outside is ‘He.’ So, I don’t have to renounce, and I also don’t have to achieve. The renouncer is as mistaken as the achiever.

The second part of the question that you asked was, “How can only knowledge bring a change in me? Surely no one changes just by listening to talks.” Who are you? Who is asking this question? You are a bundle of knowledge. You are nothing except knowledge: belief, imagination, trust. What is that? You are anyway knowledge, and hence what has to change? Knowledge! That doesn’t mean that you are carrying bad knowledge, and someone should give you good knowledge. All knowledge is bad knowledge. It’s not that the world gives you bad knowledge, and satsang will give you good knowledge.

What is knowledge? Knowledge is that which sits on the mind; anything that fills up the mind, that is knowledge. And anything that fills up the mind will make the mind heavy, and that is your curse – a heavy mind. So then what is the place of knowledge in getting rid of suffering? Why must one listen to anybody, if at all? One does not come to a gathering like this to collect more knowledge. One comes so that one may see the futility of knowledge. And that is the only legitimate use of knowledge: that it brings you to its own futility.

Not more knowledge, but the dissolution of knowledge!

Remember, so far you have collected knowledge, and you have also collected a layer of knowledge which tells you that all your knowledge is important. Let us call these two types of knowledge as ‘K1’ and ‘K2’. K1 is knowledge about the world and K2 is the knowledge that K1 is important. You come here to get rid of K2. You were made to believe that knowledge is important. This was another knowledge. A knowledge that went in so deeply that you started believing in it. You were made to believe that the world lives out of ideas and images. So, how does K2 go away? Not by having a K3; not by having another knowledge which says, “K2 was bad. K1 is not important.” No. When you come here, when you sit here, behind the words, you enter a silence, which gives you that which is immensely valuable. You get a glimpse of that which is your real nature. Depending upon the depth of your attention, you come to that which is the destination of all your search. And immediately you come to know that K2 is false. Because what does K2 say? “K1 is important.”

You come to know: “What I just entered, that was important. Very, very important. I can vouch for it. It is my first-hand, original realization. You don’t need to tell me, I know.” So you know that the claim of K2 was misplaced; K1 is not important. How do you know that? Because you have come upon something far more important than K1.

So when you ask that one does not change just by listening to talks, you are both right and wrong. Yes, just by listening to talks, surely no one changes, but if that talk can take you to some other point, then you come upon that which never changes. But it depends on you. This is not a mechanical workshop where you can just enter and undergo some kind of a metamorphosis.


The Islamic tradition has a very nice story. It says that one day the Prophet met the Satan. The Prophet said to the Satan, “Do you know how powerless you are?” Satan said, “Yes, I know that I am very powerless. Because had I been powerful, I would have already made everybody forget Allah’s name.” The Satan then turned around and asked the Prophet, “Do you know how powerless you are?” To this the Prophet said, “I too know how powerless I am. Because had I had any power, I would have by this time brought everyone to Allah’s name.”

So whatever anyone may do, he is powerless. It all depends on you. Had this gathering had any power, then everybody would have been transformed by now. This gathering has very little power. Your freedom has all the power. So you are right, surely no one changes just by listening to talks. One changes because of his own determination; one changes because of the solid resolution, “Enough!”

And if you don’t have that resolution, you won’t even come here. Have you seen that even to come here, it requires some determination? Otherwise it is so easy to slip. There are a thousand things that are always pressing upon your mind. You can always give them more weightage.

So it’s your own inner decision that changes you, not the talk. But yes, when you have decided, then the talk becomes the vehicle. But even when the talk becomes the vehicle, I am re-emphasizing, the talk doesn’t change you by giving you more knowledge. The talk changes you by taking you to a point that is beyond knowledge, so that you realize the futility of knowledge.

“Knowledge is futile. I have just seen that. I am just returning from a country where there is no knowledge, and it is such a beautiful country. I felt so relaxed there. It was wonderful.” This is what changes you. Then you apply for a permanent citizenship of that country, and it takes time. They don’t allow people easily. They have only a very few residents there, and they are very choosy, and then there is a long time duration involved, and then you get the colorless card.

But again, it all depends on you.


Watch the session at:Spirituality is not the renunciation of life; it is the art of living fully The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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