The pitfalls in the practice of mindfulness || Acharya Prashant (2019)

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Question: You are holding a rabbit in your hands, what else is there except sensory perception? Why must there be anything beyond sensory perception? Just look at the creature, look into his eyes. Let the perception be total, and you will realise what is beyond perception. But that comes as Grace.

I am not able to see the difference between this example, and the philosophy of being mindful towards activities like eating, walking etc. In one of your talks you have discouraged the practice of mindfulness, and mentioned that observation means – ‘Am I with the Beloved or not?’

It is observation of the inside. Please help me understand this better.

Acharya Prashant Ji: I have said repeatedly that you cannot be purposelessly mindful. Consciousness is anyway very-very burdened. Man’s mind is a storehouse of all kinds of stuff. Man’s mind is already full. You do not want to load it with more sensory objects.

So, when you do look at something, when you do admit something into your mind-space, there must be a strong and valid reason.

In other sense, mindfulness has to be very-very purposeful.

Nobody should be allowed to gain entry into your mind unless the entry serves a clear purpose.

That’s why I talked of the ‘rabbit’ here. I didn’t talk of anything in general. I said, “Look into the eyes of the rabbit.” Now, there is a purpose there, there is a gain there. I am not talking of admitting just anything into your consciousness. I am talking of admitting that which will you insight. Insight about what? Insight about your own situation.

When you will look at the rabbit you will know who you are. The eyes of the rabbit specifically will tell you of your own longing. When you will look at that animal, you will see something that will tell you who you are, and will not allow you as a bonus, to kill and consume the rabbit.

So if there is something that really benefits you with insight, then be mindful of it, then allow it entry into your consciousness.

Otherwise, just being conscious of every little, trivial thing and object that is in you, around you, will leave you nowhere.

There you actually have to be dismissive, regardless, oblivious.

Contemptuously oblivious!

Purposeful, purposeful. You must know why you are looking at something. And the question then is, if you have listened to those videos carefully –  “Am I with the Beloved or not?” That is the only question that must constantly occupy your mind-space.

So be mindful of stuff that helps bring back this question to you, and be totally dismissive of other stuff.

Just randomly and purposelessly counting the number of steps that you take from the kitchen to the washroom is no good. It’s a random and dull practice. It will further burden and dull down your mind.

And when the mind becomes dull, then there is temporary relief from suffering. Active and searing pain turns into dull ache. And many people prefer that. But the pain has not really gone anywhere. It has just become subsided, hidden, more palatable.

You are troubled by something as most people, most of the times are. You can occupy yourself with any random activity as a solution, and you will see that when you occupy yourself, then your troubles fade away for a moment.

But is that a solution?

You have to ask the important and central question. “Given who I am,” and who are ‘you’? The longing consciousness. “Given who I am, why am I doing anything including observation?” That’s the thing to be asked.

“I am somebody who is in need of healing. Given who I am, why am I counting the steps? Why am I watching and counting my breath?”

Nothing can be just a mindless practice.

Otherwise, it becomes the absurdity of mindless mindfulness.

So when you say, “Mindfulness is good,” I will say, “Fine. But be mindfully mindful. Don’t be randomly mindful. Because there is just too much filth that can fill up your mind. Why must you allow it?”

The art of living is – to not know a lot. There must be really a lot that you must not know at all. And when I say, “Know,” I mean knowing in a way that affects you. And we do get related to the knowledge we have. Don’t we? And then the knowledge becomes burden.

Before you count something, ask yourself, “Why am I counting it?” If the man who is counting currency notes all the time does not ask himself, “Why am I counting it?” then he is condemning himself to deep suffering. And if you do not know why you are counting, then there is not much difference between counting currency notes and counting the number of steps that you take as you walk from point A to B.

We are quick to point out the fault with the man who is busy counting notes all day, but we do not see that the man who is counting his steps all day is guilty of the same fault.

Saints have constantly pointed at this trap.

They have said, “Be cautious.” There are people who use the rosary, it’s beads as a method of meditation. There are people who keep counting the number of times they have recited a particular mantra.

And if you will go to Kabir Sahab, Nanak Sahab, or other Saints, they will all tell you, “What is the point in counting till hundred and eight? What is the point in counting the number of times the rosary has gone through your fingers?” Do you really know what is going on? It is all dead practice, and it is further turning your mind dead.

What is meant by – ‘Knowing why you are doing it’? ‘Knowing why you are doing it’ – is to answer the question, “Given that I am, a longing consciousness, is this activity taking me ‘there’?”

“If it is taking me there, I will count not till hundred and eight, but till hundred and eight thousands. No problems.”

“But if is not taking me ‘there’, why am I doing this silly thing?”


Watch the session video: The pitfalls in the practice of mindfulness || Acharya Prashant (2019) The transcription has been edited for clarity.


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