Is the world just an illusion? || Acharya Prashant (2018)

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Question: Acharya Ji, Pranaam! I came to know you through your videos on YouTube. I am very grateful that I came to know about the Ribhu Gita from your session organised on Mahashivratri day.

Since then I have read the full document more than five times, and it is difficult to accept that everything is just illusion. I read about Sadhana (Spiritual discipline) affirming that – ‘I am Brahma’. Is this the only Sadhana to come to the Realisation of the Self?

Acharya Prashant Ji: Kartik (the questioner), please appreciate what is meant by saying, “Everything is illusory.”

When you look at a tree in the night and confuse it to be a man, that’s an illusion. Right? Does that mean that the tree does not exist? When it is said, “The world is an illusion,” it means you are so heavily conditioned that you are looking at things as they are not. It does not mean that the world does not exist.

I will insist that the world exists. And I will insist on it because I know that I am speaking to persons, that I know I am speaking to bodily ears. I know that I am responding to voices that are emanating from human throats.

As long as the material body is there, the material universe too exists.

It is quiet preposterous to claim as a body that the embodied universe is merely an illusion.

You know then what you are saying? Look at the absurdity.

Then you are saying that the sofa-set does not exist, but me sitting on the sofa exists. If the sofa does not exist, then what are you sitting on? Or you will have to say that you do not exist.

But that you will not accept. Because if you do not exist, then who is talking? So you can just stop talking, and that you cannot do. Once you have stopped talking, then let’s talk. But you still haven’t stopped talking, you are talking a lot. And if you are talking, then remember that the talk is happening through the body, and also the talk is proceeding from a lot of your bodily tendencies.

The Buddha too talked through the body. But at least his words were free of the tendencies embedded in the body. You are not only talking through the mouth, your words are arising from so many the glands, and hormones, and stuff contained in the body. 

So the body is a very definite thing for you. And if the body is a definite thing, the sofa too has to be a definite thing.

The world is not an illusion. What is then meant by the assertion that – ‘the world is an illusion’? Why does the Seers have to say that, “Jagat is mithya (the world is an illusion)”?  

It is because there are a lot of people who do not take a sofa as merely ‘a sofa’.

The sofa is ten thousand things to you, and those ten thousand things keep changing depending upon your mood, your conditioning, your upbringing. They don’t stay, they deceive. You think of something as one thing, it  is not that ‘thing’. And then there is sorrow, because no one likes to be betrayed.

You look at a man, and you are not merely looking at a ‘man’. Has it ever happened that you looked merely at a ‘man’? Even to call a man, ‘a man’, is to begin a lot of obfuscation and unnecessary extrapolation.

The whole game of language is to generalise. You cannot use language and be very precise. These days people are annoyed when stereotypes are used, but if you look at it sharply, you will find that it is impossible to use language and still not stereotype. No stereotyping, no words.

The very word ‘man’, refers to a stereotype. The very word ‘tree’, refers to a stereotype. Where there are concepts, there is stereotyping. Ask yourself: “Is it possible to conceptualise and yet not generalise?” And if you generalise, aren’t you preparing the ground for deception?

Yes generalisation helps in the sense that it makes things convenient for us and practical for us. But practicality is not the same as purity. Or is it?

Like the previous question, you too are asking: “Is the constant affirmation of ‘I am Brahm’ the only way to be in the Truth?”

Yes of course.

There can be hundred kinds of Sadhanas (spiritual discipline), but all of them are just negations. No Sadhana is really affirmative. Even when you are constantly affirming to yourself – ‘I am Brahm’- all that you are doing is that you are negating that you are something other than Brahm.

‘Brahm’ is that ‘nothing’ that dissolves everything.

‘Brahm’ is that deal, where for the sake of nothing you give up everything.

The Scriptures are constantly encouraging you to take that deal.

So whether you say, “I am Brahm,” or you say, “The world is an illusion,” or you say, “I am nobody,” or you say, “I am Sat-chit-Anand(Truth-Consciousness-Bliss),” you are essentially saying the same thing. No difference.

Our world is full of knowledge that harms us.

And when I say, “Our world,” I do not mean the Earth.

I mean – our personal world, our mind.

The aim of Spirituality is to rid mind of false knowledge.

This is the only True Knowledge – that all knowledge is false, in the sense that it may be practical, but it does not endure.

It does not bring you to the last point.

You must understand the thing with ‘knowledge’.

Knowledge is surely needed. Why is knowledge needed? Knowledge is needed because you are already knowledgeable. Had you been like the naked Adam and Eve, with no knowledge at all, then God would have never wanted you to have knowledge in the first place.

That was the instruction, right?

“Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge.”

“Just don’t begin the cycle.”

But we are past that stage. We are in the cycle now.

You have a lot of knowledge. It is not merely knowledge that you acquire after birth, you are born with knowledge. The infant, one-day old, is full of knowledge. If you want to measure in bits and bytes how much knowledge an infant has, you will be surprised at the kind of memory space his knowledge would consume.

Hence you require more knowledge.

You require more knowledge, in order to get rid of the limitations and falsities of the existing knowledge.

So knowledge brings you to a point of relative betterment, and then leaves you stranded. Betterment is surely there with the help of knowledge, but that betterment is just relative to your previous state. You can say that you are less thirsty now, but you are still thirsty. And even the consolation that you are less thirsty exists only when you compare yourself to your previous state. On an Absolute state, you are just thirsty, not less thirsty.

This is something delicate. Let’s understand.

Knowledge can make you less thirsty, and you can get that consolation only when you compare yourself to your previous state. But if someone comes and asks you, “Are you free of thirst now?” you won’t be able to say, “Yes.” And in that sense your  suffering is unending – not only unending, it is unmitigated also.

Even though it appears that with every step in knowledge, with every progress that mankind is making, that mankind’s suffering is reducing. But that is not really happening. Is the man of today any less in sorrow than the man three thousand years back? I am talking of ‘sorrow’, not physical hardships, not material accumulations, none of them.

Sorrow is unmitigated.

Man is still cunning, jealous, insecure, very-very afraid. And that is why knowledge doesn’t help beyond it’s own plane.

The aim of the Scriptures is to give you knowledge that will bring you out of the cycle of knowledge.

And why must the Scriptures give you more knowledge when you are already loaded with knowledge? Because your constitution is such that you can have nothing except knowledge. You are not somebody who can receive Awareness, if Awareness is something to be received at all.

Your constitution is such that you will receive only knowledge, though a True Teacher can give you something disguised behind knowledge.

When the True Teacher speaks then you keep thinking that you are receiving merely words.

But something else has also been silently, surreptitiously been communicated to you without your consent, without your consciousness.

Question 2: Acharya Ji, is manolaya (dissolution of the mind) limited only to old patterns, or is it about planting the new ideas from the Scriptures?

Acharya Prashant Ji: Obviously, manolaya does not refer to having more of mind.

You know the word ‘laya‘? What does the word ‘laya‘ mean? Dissolve. Obviously when something dissolves, that does not mean that it will leave residue behind or beyond the dissolution.

So manolaya (dissolution of the mind) means that all that was there in granular form, in stubborn form, in a condensed and very apparent form has now just vanished into thin air.

It has dissolved.

For the sake of language and to ensure that we don’t get unnecessarily bemused, we say that the mind has dissolved into the Truth, we say that the mind has dissolved into the Source. But the fact really is that the mind has just dissolves.

If the mind just dissolves, where does it go?

It goes to the same place it came from.

Figure out where the mind came from.

And if you can figure that out, you will know where the mind goes to.

Came from nowhere, goes to nowhere.

If you want to call that ‘nowhere-ness’ as the ‘Truth’, you are not wrong.

Right?


Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: Is the world just an illusion? || Acharya Prashant (2018)


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