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Question: Acharya Ji, why all this understanding has not brought about radical change in the way I operate? Why do I go back to my old patterns? Why being at a place of ‘not knowing’ is scary for the mind? Why does the mind fall back to it’s usual unconscious ways?
Why does spiritual understanding fail to bring a change in life?
Acharya Prashant Ji: Alok (the questioner), I was driving yesterday and stopped at a place for tea. When I restarted the car, I found that it was not smoothly accelerating. And then I looked at the dashboard, and the dashboard quickly told me what was going on.
The handbrake was still pulled up, so obviously there was trouble. So now I know that the handbrake stands applied. I also know the complete history of what is happening. In a flash I could remember that when I parked the car, I pulled the handbrake.
All that could be known by way of knowledge or information about the hand brake, is known. I also happened to be a student of engineering so I know the way the brakes operate. I know which cylinder gets activated when I pull the brakes or jam the brakes, and what kind of effect does my action have upon the tyres. In fact I am reasonably well-educated.
I also know that there is a critical speed and the critical co-efficient of friction, after which if I jam the breaks, the vehicle would start skidding. See I know so much, I am so knowledgeable. I also know that there is something called ‘anti-skid’ braking system, or ‘anti-lock’ braking system. And that prevents the vehicle from skidding away.
And to some extent I also know how the ABS operates. See I know so much. I know how the brakes operate in general, I know where the brake-lever is. I remember when I pulled the brake-lever. I also know how this particular brake, and the brakes in general operate. I know so much.
I have read the stuff from two, three, four, five books. And I have also just now observed for myself that what the books say is not just bookish stuff, it actually happens. See my car is just not accelerating. So my knowledge is not merely bookish, it is experiential. I am seeing the effect of braking system upon the vehicle and it’s accelaration. I am seeing everything.
You look at the completeness of my knowledge and experience. I know about the vehicle, I know about the brakes. I know that right now the brakes stand pulled up. I also know who pulled up the brakes. I also know how to bring the brake down. I also know how to release this lever and that one.
But Alok (the questioner) help me, my vehicle is still not accelerating. I know so much. I know so much. I have observed keenly and come to see what the trouble is all about. But the vehicle is still tardy, and is making noise. And I am afraid that after a while the tyres will start smoking. Why is my vehicle still not accelerating? Can somebody help me? After all I know everything.
Mine could be any good car and it could have JK tyres, but the car is still not accelerating. Why? All is known, but the vehicle is still going slow. Don’t I know everything? You doubt my knowledge? Test my knowledge if you want to. I have all the knowledge that you want. I can quote chapter and verse from all the engineering books.
I have great knowledge, but my dashboard is shouting at me, “Ting Tong Ting Tong.” Some danger light is flashing on my face. Why? But I know everything, why are you talking about the handbrake? Alok knows everything, I also know everything. Why is my car such a dud?
Alok, you are the one who is driving the car with the handbrake pulled up. I can at best tell you what’s going on.
You know what is the path of devotion?
The Guru comes to the driver’s window and tells him, “That lever by your side. Push the button at it’s mouth, and pull the damn thing down.” And you obey.
That is devotion.
You know what is the path of knowledge?
Somebody comes to know and teaches you the entire braking mechanics, and then tells you, “Now push the lever down.”
In either case, you are the one who has to push the thing down.
Where is that action? Are you acting? Where is the right action? And the proof of your action would be that your car would show some acceleration. Is your car accelerating? It’s the car of your life. You are the driver, and you are driving with the handbrake looking skywards.
You know the handbrake is like the ego. When it raises it’s head, then the car of life cannot move. It should keep looking earthwards, and then the car can accelerate. Only sometimes, very rarely do you need to pull the ego up. And there too the ego should be pulled up by someone who has some wisdom. Then the handbrake should have some utility. Otherwise it should just keep looking towards your feet.
Are you letting all the knowledge bring about central changes in your life? I highlight the word ‘central’, not peripheral or superficial changes.
I am not talking about moving from Pineapple juice to Guava Juice in the mornings. I am talking about central changes, changes that change your definition.
We all know there is stuff in life that defines us, right? We all know there is stuff in life that we think of as most important. Have those things changed? Have a few items got ticked-off? Have a few descriptions been struck-off? Have a few action points been added to your life? Where is the action? Or is all the action limited to typing, and writing, and debating?
Understanding is not complete without action.
Understanding and action go together.
The more you act, the more you deepen your understanding.
The more your understanding deepens, the more you are prompted towards the right action.
The more you act, the more you deepen your understanding.
It’s a virtuous cycle.
How do you climb up a stair? (Acharya Ji showing with actions) One step up, and then another one step up. Understand, act. Understand, act. Understand, act. Understand, act. Understand, act.
Now what you are saying is, “Understand, understand, understand, understand.” How will you run with one leg tied to the behind? How?
One requires two legs to even saunter. One definitely requires both legs to gallop. On one leg you can only hop at your own place. And that’s what most readers do, they keep hopping at their own place.
Hopping at one place they keep hoping for a take-off.
It won’t happen.
Where is the action? And the action has to be radical.
That’s the word you have used here. Read Alok. “So my question is that why my understanding has not brought about a radical change in the way I operate and live.” Where is the ‘radical action’ for the ‘radical change’?
Change means action. Sans action, how will change come? And ‘change’ means dropping something or adding something. Are you prepared to drop stuff that used to be very-very important to you, and is still important to you?
Look at what holds importance for you. Are you prepared to drop it? Look at what has never been a part, an active part of your life. Are you prepared to now include it in your life?
That is ‘radical change’.
In the absence of action, Understanding dries down, shrivels down.
You keep accelerating a car in neutral, it will get heated up, because there is no action. Run a car at 2500 rpm in neutral, and soon the engine will be gone. And run a car for 2000 miles at 2500 rpm in the fifth gear, and there would be no damage at all, because there is action.
In the absence of action, the energy from the engine just gets used to destroy the engine itself.
That’s what happens with so many people who have begin to realise, but are just too afraid to act.
Either too afraid, or too lazy, or too smug.
Or too smart.
Watch the session video: If spiritual understanding fails to change life? || Acharya Prashant (2018) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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