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“All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent. Once this has been understood, there is no need for endless reading.”
“In order to quieten the mind, one has only to inquire within oneself, what one’s Self is. How could this search be done in books?”
“One should know one’s self with one’s own eye of wisdom. The self is within the five sheaths, but the books are outside them. Since the self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it is futile to search for it in the books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.”
~ Sri Raman Maharshi
Question: On being asked: “Is it any use reading books for those who long for release?”, Sri Raman Maharshi says, “All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent…………..there will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.”
Then there is similar verse from Kabir Sahib:
पोथी पढ़ि पढ़ि जग मुआ, पंडित भया न कोय,
ढाई आखर प्रेम का, पढ़े सो पंडित हो
pothi padhi padhi jag mua, pandit bhaya na koye,
dhaee aakhar prem ka padhe so pandit hoye
(The entire world has been passing into death reading book after book, but nobody has gained any illumination.
One who could just read a little bit of love comes to know everything).
Even though we know that to know the Self, the mind has to become quiet, but in our day-to-day lives we tend to forget and attach our mind with mundane stuff. This is where reading scriptures regularly helps – it reminds us of the main work.
But when the Gurus say such a thing about reading books, what are they trying to actually say?
Acharya Prashant Ji: The question is not what they are trying to actually say, the question is….common help me… The question is not that Raman Maharishi is saying that a point comes when all books have to be dropped.
The real question is …
Remember we are talking about Raman Maharshi. And with Raman Maharishi there is one question that is always important…
Listeners: Who am I?
Acharya Prashant Ji: So it is not what Raman Maharishi is saying, it is – to whom is he saying this.
And Raman Maharishi is not saying something very out of the way. What he is saying has been said since ancient times by Upanishads, by all the Vedantic Scriptures, they all say that – when the work has been done, drop the medium, the instrument, the means. When the river has been crossed, leave the boat, hop out.
Common Sense, isn’t it?
When the destination has been reached, drop the map, and the vehicle.
So who is being talked to? Is Raman Maharishi talking to someone who is just beginning his journey? If the discussion is about dropping books, surely the fellow in front of the Maharishi is someone who is nearing his destination. Isn’t it obvious?
You see, in this particular excerpt you have just mentioned the name of the speaker. And the speaker is Raman Maharishi. What is it that you have omitted from mentioning? The name of the listener. And if you just look at what the Maharishi is saying, it is obvious that the listener is an advanced seeker. He is someone who is now nearing completion.
And therefore, the Maharishi is saying, “Now come on. Don’t be so obsessed with the books. There is a time for picking up the book, and then there comes a time to drop the book.”
But such a thing can only be said to a very-very accomplished seeker. It is not going to benefit everybody.
Ninety nine percent people need to pick up the Scriptures, and stay with them.
It is only the one rare One, who can be advised to now let go of the Scriptures.
So kindly don’t take this advice as general.
It is very particular, very specific to someone.
In one of the Upanishads it is mentioned that the Scriptures, particularly the Upanishads, are like the logs of wood in the funeral pyre. They burn away all that is dead within you, they burn down all that which is dead within you, and as they burn out all that is dead within you, in the process they too get burned away, exhausted, finished, reduced to ashes.
Do the logs survive the dead?
Once the dead body is gone, do you find the logs intact?
That’s how the Upanishads describe themselves – “We have come to you for a purpose. Once the purpose is served, you will not find us anywhere. We have come to you for a purpose. Once the purpose is served, we would be gone.”
In fact, the Upanishads talk of themselves as somewhat of a joke. They don’t take themselves very seriously. They say, “Once you are liberated, treat us like kaakavishta.” You know ‘kaakavishta’? What is ‘kaakavishta’? Crow-shit. ‘Kaakavishta’ – that’s how the Upanishads talk of themselves.
They say, “Once you are liberated, treat us like kaakavishta (crow-shit). Then there is no need to put us on a pedestal and worship us. We came to you to help you. Once you have been helped, don’t keep sticking to us.”
That’s how honest, and humble, and daring these books are.
Do you understand what it means to refer to oneself as ‘crow-shit’? We are talking of the highest Scriptures this world has known. They refer to themselves as ‘woods in the funeral pyre’, they refer to themselves as ‘kaakavishta’. It requires deep and utter honesty for the Rishi (Sage) to compose such a verse, such a shloka.
That’s the kind of sublime sentiment that the Maharishi too is echoing, it is a legacy. It is flowing right from the point where the Upanishads were composed. It’s flowing from there, and most recently it is finding expression in the Maharishi’s words. So don’t be taken by surprise. There is nothing new as such in it.
Questioner: Shouldn’t we respect them at least?
Acharya Prashant Ji: That’s not what they want. No, that’s not what they want. In fact, it is disrespect to respect them against their wishes. They are saying, “Don’t respect us,” and you forcibly respect them, then aren’t you offending them? In the guise of respect, you are actually disrespecting them if you keep sticking to them.
But remember, again, as we get into the thick of this discussion – all this that we are talking of, is relevant only to one in ten thousand people who have actually reached a point where they can give up the Scriptures. (Addressing the questioner) Why are you talking of it?…”Shouldn’t we respect them?” Obviously you should! And you should keep respecting them for the next two thousand years.
You are talking as if the Maharishi is talking to you.
If you were sitting in front of Maharishi, would he ever advise you to let go of the books? To you he would say, “Keep reading the books.” But see how quickly you took upon yourself, the role of someone who is nearing completion.
Are you nearing completion?
Acharya Prashant Ji: Then why are you so quick and agile in posing a question, as if the Maharishi is talking to you?
This is a very-very rare seeker who can be advised this way – drop the books.
A very-very rare seeker.
Nobody else is going to be advised this way.
You keep reading books.
And you read them, you stick to them, you keep them close to your chest.
They are your only saviour perhaps.
Don’t even think of relinquishing them.
Don’t let it turn into some kind of a daft fashion – “Oh we don’t read books, especially you know, religious books and wisdom literature. We don’t read that, we are self-sufficient. I am my own authority. I learn from life, I learn from my own experiences.”
“I learn from Andre the magician, I learn from my chunni chachi (the next door aunt). But I will not learn from the wisdom books…”
Don’t be one of such fools.
Watch the session video: Only the rare one deserves to give up the scriptures || Acharya Prashant, on Raman Maharishi (2019) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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