What is the right time to turn spiritual? || Acharya Prashant (2015)

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Question: At some places it is said that the ego must exist, the ego must be sharpened. At other places it is said that the ego is false, the ego simply does not exist. What is this paradox?

Speaker: At several points, by several teachers, it has been said that the ego must be sharpened, that the ego must crystallize, that the ego must reach a climax, and only then the ego can dissolve.

Whatever is ever said, is always said, to a well-meaning mind. Whatever is ever said, is always said, to a mind that is not hell-bent upon its own furtherance, its own reinforcement. Otherwise, anything can be co-opted; anything. Even the most sacred, holiest of words will be co-opted by the ego; consciously, sub-consciously, unconsciously, in all ways possible.

Sometimes you may not even know that you are making a mess of the meaning in your interpretation, in your personal interpretation. You may not have intended, but it is your deepest tendencies at work. You are not deliberately misinterpreting; you are only hearing what your faculties are allowing you to hear.

One has to be very cautious and very alert, that we do misinterpret. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly, but in the deepest sense, all misinterpretation is deliberate, because all misinterpretation is done by that single agency, whose sole objective is its own protection. So even if you are doing it unknowingly; in the deepest sense it is deliberate. You may not know it by way of thought, but the foundation of your mind knows what it is doing. And if you care enough to probe deep into the foundation of your mind, you will see that all mischief is deliberate. None of it – just happens. None of it is – just random or accidental. It is very-very deliberate.

When a teacher says, “The ego must reach a climax,” what does he mean? Please pay attention. The ego is the sense of ‘I am’. ‘I am … something’. The more you see, the more you feel this ‘I-am-ness’, the more is the ego. This ‘I-am-ness’, remember, is not a truth. It is just a thing of feeling, it is just a thing of experience, it is just a thing of perception. It is just that much – perception and perception alone -nothing more than that.

So the more is the perception of ‘I am’, the more is this feeling that ‘I am this. I am X,’ and the more is the ego. There is anyway no truth to it. It is just a thought; it is just a tendency, an imagination. So what is the ego? An imagination that is there, only to the extent, you imagine it to be there. There is nothing concrete about the ego. It exists only in the mind. Whatever you think yourself to be, you are anyway not that. The ego may go on building dream castles:  I am this, I am that. I am respectable, honorable, learned, wise, knowledgeable, father, son, mother. You are anyway not any of that.

So the ego is just about how much you are seeing yourself to be something, somebody. ‘I am… somebody’. The more you see yourself as ‘somebody’, the more is the ego.  Now, our entire being, our entire life, our entire moment to moment existence, is about saying, “I am somebody.” Go into your life, this twenty-four hour daily cycle. Is there any moment when you are not ‘somebody’? Is there any moment when you are just a particular presence?

You are always operating from the center of some identity. Correct? You are always somebody, always somebody. At some moment you are somebody’s mother, at some moment you are a neighbor, at some moment you are an Indian, at some moment you are a patient. There is not a single moment when you are identity-free. You are always ‘somebody’. Now if you are always ‘somebody’, the ‘I -am-ness’ is always there. The ‘I-am-ness’ in the deepest sense is always there, because you are always ‘somebody’. But we are not conscious of it.

When we like something, for example, we are not conscious that we are not liking it, it is that ‘I am’ which is liking it. Change the ‘I am’, the liking will drop. When we are jealous of somebody, we do not realize that ‘I am’ not jealous, it is some particular identity that I am wearing, is jealous. Drop the identity, your jealousy will drop along with it.

What the ‘I-am-ness’ is doing, we take it upon ourselves, as if we are doing it. So the ego is always at work, twenty-four hours, every single second, but we are not conscious that this is the functioning, the game, the movement of the ego. What do we say? “This is my movement. This is what I am.”

Now we will come back to the original part. Teachers have said, “Let the ego ripen.” We are saying, “Ego is the perception that ‘I am…this’.” We are always somebody, without consciously perceiving that we are acting as ‘somebody’. So what is it that the masters are then telling us? They are saying, “Realize that you are always operating as an identity. See this. The more you see this, the more you become conscious of the ego. The more you know the ego; the more you see that ‘I am…this’. And this is called the ripening of the ego; to realize that ‘I am…this, I am…this’.

“Oh, who am I at this moment? A brother.” The ego is ratcheted, up a level.

“Who am I at this moment? A student.” The ego goes up another level.

The ego is reaching a higher level, constantly. This is called ‘the ego moving towards the top, the hill-top’.

Deepening of the ego, climaxing of the ego, does not mean that you have to wear more and more identities. On the contrary, it means that you are anyway wearing identities all the time; you just become conscious of them.

Twenty-four hours you are wearing identities, but you are not even conscious. If I ask you something, you will say, “This is my particular opinion.” And all of us are so full of opinions, right? Anything that is going on in the world, we have an opinion about it, right? And the moment you have to speak about it, you will be very attached to your opinion, and you will present it with great verve. You will say, “It is my opinion.”  You will not even realize that it is the opinion of an identity that you are carrying, and hence it is just the work of ego.

‘To take the ego up’ means, to become conscious that it is just an identity speaking. “It’s not me.” In fact, even saying, “It is not me,” is not very important. It is sufficient that you say, “It is an identity speaking,” and stop at that. Even that would do. That is what is meant by, ‘the ego reaching its climax’. The ego reaching its climax does not mean that you have to behave more stupidly.

Actually that is impossible, because we are already at the climax of stupidity. To go beyond that, is impossible. But I have seen people come and say, “Sir, you know, you have said, and we have read from various other sources as well, that the ego, like a fruit, must first ripen before it falls. So we are ripening our ego.” How? By acting in all kinds of stupid, arrogant, deceptive, and nonsensical ways. You don’t need to act any more stupid. You are already at the pinnacle of stupidity. What do you mean by ‘ripening of the ego’? You are not only ripe, you have gone beyond ripening.

You know what happens once the thing ripens? It rots. Just take the example of the fruit, which you are so fond of. You say, “The fruit must ripen before it falls.” You have ripened, you are always fallen, and you are rotten as well. Why make a deliberate attempt to accentuate the ego? There is no need. It cannot be done.

On similar lines is the statement, “Before you can drop the world, you must really experience the world. You must go through it before you can come out of it.” There have been teachers who have, “Yog (Union) is impossible without Bhog (Consumption).” So I have seen people come and say, “You know Sir, it is impossible to be liberated without experiencing all the colors of life.” So what are you doing? “Sir we are experiencing it these days. The more we experience it, the more we will be liberated.” And what does ‘experience’ mean to them? More sex and more money.

You really think this experience will lead to ‘a ripening of the ego’? You really think that doing something five hundred times will liberate you from it? Ask those who have gone through it five thousand times. Have they been liberated? Then why are you just fooling yourself that ‘I am ripening’?

“You know Sir, you say that do not do this, do not do that, but unless we do it, it will be impossible for us to be free of it.” You are already doing so much, you want to do more? Seriously? And if you want to do more, then do really more. Go beyond. You don’t really want to do more. The fact is – you want to itch at the same place again and again. That is your definition of doing more. And that is not more. Itching at the same place again and again cannot be called as ‘a widening of experience’. Or can it be? So, let’s not create any more traps for ourselves.

The ego is already at a peak. It is never at any point lower than the highest peak possible for it. You need not take it to another peak. Just realize that it has already peaked. It was Kabir who beautifully said, “Wherever you are standing, the door is just there.” The peak has already arrived. You are standing right in front of the door. You need not travel any further. You need not take even one more step. You are already in front of the door; just enter.  Don’t engage yourself in stupid games. Don’t waste any more time. Don’t say, “You know, my time has not come. I have to experience the world.”

I have seen parents come over and say, “You know, our scriptures say that only after seventy-five years of age, can one move into liberation. My daughter has not even experienced anything. Why are you imparting all this wisdom to her?” Now, are you saying that wisdom needs to wait till man is practically dead? Of what use is wisdom then? So, live all your life in stupidity, and just when you are about to pass away, gain all the wisdom. That’s very wise, extremely wise.

And what do these mothers mean when they tell me, “My daughter has not yet experienced anything”? Actually half of them don’t even know that their daughter has already experienced everything. But what do they mean by, “My daughter has not experienced anything”? What is that great experience that they are craving about? Nothing.

You think it is some great, wide expanse of experience. It is nothing. All that they mean is – sex and pregnancy. Simple. It is as crude as that. That you call as ‘experience’? Do you think that this will lead to any kind of growth and liberation? And how is that barred by wisdom? Why do you think that wisdom is opposed to motherhood? Yes, it is opposed to stupid motherhood. Why do you think that reading wisdom literature, your daughter will no more enter into relationships? She will not enter into stupid relationships. But you are right in your place. Because all that you want is, that she enters into stupid relationships. That is your entire motivation. You have lived your life stupidly, and you want your daughter to do the same thing.

So, you feel threatened. You say, “The ego must reach a pinnacle before it dissolves.” And that pinnacle is reached not before you are ninety-eight years of age, and sometimes hundred and two years. So only after you are hundred and two years of age, should you think of reading something. It doesn’t matter that you don’t even have the eyes to read anymore.

Wisdom timeThis is the right moment. And this is the right point. Wherever you are, is the gate. There can be no bad time to do that only thing that deserves to be done. For all your worldly affairs, there are right times and wrong times, opportune moments and inopportune moments. For wisdom, how can there be any inopportune moment?

Don’t come up with all these excuses that “My ego is still very small; it needs to have a few more identities to garnish it up. It needs to swell.” It doesn’t need to swell anymore. Enough! Is this very clear? What is meant by ‘the ego reaching its climax’? What is meant is that – realize that the ego is already at its climax. In what sense?  “Whatever I am doing, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, is coming from the ego.” Realize that – “I am hundred percent filled with ego.” That is called ‘the ego having reached its climax’. “I am already hundred percent ego,” and beyond the hundred percent, is nothing. That is the climax. You don’t have to push the ego to reach a climax. It is already at the climax. Clear?

Don’t come up with all this that – “I will do this later, I will do this then.” There are students who say, “Sir, after exams.” Somebody says, “Next month.” I am repeating this: For every other thing, there is a right time and a wrong time, and those are your normal, routine, humdrum affairs. They must be done at the right time, not this, because for this, every moment is the right time. The wrong time is, when you are not into this. That is the only wrong time.

Do not make it a part of your planner. Do not make it a part of your calendar. “No, no, not this week. I will go there the week after next.” Don’t deceive yourself anymore. Just as breathing can’t wait, this too must not wait. Just as that needs to be continuous, this too needs to be continuous. And if it is not continuous, the results are worse than when breathing stops. The worldly man tries to make the beyond too, a part of his world. He says, “There are forty things, objects, relationships, affairs that I am engaged in. The beyond is the forty-first.” And that is the worst offence one can do towards himself.

We create a schedule. “This is my time for wisdom readings. This is my time for meditation.” These are the games we have played with ourselves. “This is my time for prayer and worship.” Without even realizing that you allocate these time-slots so that you can let yourself loose in the other times, just so that you don’t feel any obligation to be attentive in the other moments.

Very shrewdly you have divided life into four quarters, and very shrewdly you have said, “Only in the last quarter will I think of dropping the rubbish. Only in the last quarter will I think of sanyaas.” Can you be any more cunning than that? That is the first and the most continuous thing, that must be there. That is what I mean when I repeatedly say, “Let the first be first.” Take care of THAT, and then do whatever you want to do.

Nobody is disqualifying you from earning money. Earn money, healthily, with a healthy mind. Nobody is abolishing relationships with the opposite gender, or sex, or giving birth; but please have healthy relationships, not the kinds that you have. And don’t you see what happens? “You see my age has not yet come.” So what do you do? You say, “First of all, let me ‘enjoy’ myself. Let me see the world, and then I will decide about wisdom and the rest of it.”

So with all your stupidity, you go, and again ‘choose’ a girl or a boy. And your choice is just a reflection of the quality of your mind. And you choose the worst kind of individual that you can choose, and now you are stuck. Now even if you want to go towards wisdom, it becomes more difficult for you. The karamfal (result of action), of the choices made in the past, will not allow you to move towards wisdom. The husband or wife that you have chosen, he or she will become the biggest impediment. Now even if you want, you can’t.

With all your stupidity, you ‘choose’ a career. With all your stupidity, you make all the lasting decisions of life. And then you say, “I am stuck.” Now why don’t you go and ask those who advised you that, “You know, first of all, you must enjoy the world. First of all, you must pass through all the colors and experiences, only then.” Now you have passed through colors and experiences, and you have two babies; one in your arms, and one is four years old. This is what those colors and experiences have given you. Now go ahead, liberate yourself.

Maya is smiling. Maya is smiling!

Many a great rebels have been cooled-off using this tactic. It always works. It always works. “Do whatever you want to do, but you know, after getting settled. So get a good job, and get a good husband or a wife, and then do whatever you want to do.” And you don’t even realize that now that job or that spouse, itself will become the impediment. How will you do what you want to do? And it is worst for women.

There is not one particular week, when I do not get one or two cases of this kind. “Sir, what to do now? This baby is there.” Why? What were you doing when this baby came? Sleeping? “Actually Sir, that’s what. This came out of sleeping one night, too many. Sir, now what to do Sir? I can’t do anything, unless this thing grows up.” Now how soon will it grow up? “Sir, just twenty more years.” Wait twenty more years.

And I have people who come over and say, “No Sir, I realize that I am in a very wasteful job, and it is eating up my heart. But I have bought a house, and there is a fifty thousand E.M.I. to pay per month.” Quit that house? “No Sir, my cute baby, and my queen wife live in that house. How can I quit now?” How long will it take to repay that housing loan? What is the duration of that loan? “Sir, just twenty years.”

This is what happens when you make all your decisions without wisdom. You sell away your freedom, not only for the moment, but also for many-many years of the future. This is what comes out of stupid notions like these that – the ego must reach a climax- and the associated rubbish around it. That, “You know you must first pass through these experiences, and then you must think of realization and renunciation.”

Don’t you see that realization does not drop from the heavens? Realization is: two plus two equals five, in which you first have to reach ‘four’ on your own. Only then the ‘fifth’ drops as grace. ‘Five’ comes as a grace, right? But ‘four’ you have to reach on your own. Are you giving yourself the right conditions to reach ‘four’? Grace doesn’t come to the undeserving. Sorry, it doesn’t. It doesn’t come to the deserving either; that is another matter, that just because you deserve it, you won’t get it; that is another matter. But for sure you will not get it, if you don’t deserve it. That is guaranteed.

You trap yourself in a lifestyle of ignorance; it is guaranteed that no grace can shine upon you. You have trapped yourself, you have closed the doors. Don’t close the doors. And you close the doors principally through this argument that “My time has not yet come. Right now it is my time to do something else.” That is one reason why I chose to, and it was also a beautiful accident, that I got to engage with young people, because only with them is there some possibility. With those – who have already committed themselves away –  there is no possibility.

With old people also there is some possibility, because their commitments are…They have seen the futility of their commitments. The ones who are completely useless, are people in this ‘thirty to thirty- five’ age bracket – the new mothers, those who have recently purchased a house, and all those people – I just don’t want to talk to them. Their priorities are different. The next baby is on its way. Somebody is searching for a new job. Somebody is happy that “Now that I have a new job, why do I need to come to Advait?” There is no possibility with these people.

It is only with the young people – in their teens or in the early twenties – that there is some hope. Others are ‘ripening their ego’. Probably they will make some pickles out of them. Must sell nice, ‘Ego pickles’.

Don’t fall into this propaganda that, “This is not yet your age. You must leave these things for a later time.” That, “Why are you talking like sixty year olds?” No, you are not talking like sixty year olds. Most sixty year olds just talk senile. Age does not give intelligence.

This is the first step. Without it, do not take even half a step. Just as you don’t run without breathing, just as you don’t eat without breathing, just as you don’t live without breathing – breathing is the first and continuous thing- similarly wisdom and the entire family of words associated with it, are the first and foremost thing. Never compromise with them. Never postpone them or defer them. And then keep doing whatever you want to do.

Awareness-divineIn your wisdom, whatever you will do, will be beautiful. In awareness, whatever you will choose, will be a divine choice.

When you will know what is ‘creation’, what is ‘creativity’, then you will also know what it means to be a ‘mother’ or a ‘father’. Only then do you deserve to be a ‘mother’ or a ‘father’. Otherwise, it is a crime to give birth.

Give birth in your wisdom. Give birth as He gives birth to this world. That’s how a mother should give birth; beautifully, most wisely. Not like a bitch on the road, that the time has come, and my partner was in heat, and there was so much social pressure, my mother-in-law was so eager, so the baby has arrived.

If you must be a mother, be like ‘the divine mother’.

If you must work, work playfully.

Watch the session at: Prashant Tripathi: What is the right time to turn spiritual? The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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