Is the world real, unreal, both, or neither? || Acharya Prashant, on Zen Koan (2019)

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Is the world real, unreal, both, or neither


Shuzan held out his short staff and said,

“If you call this short staff, you oppose its reality.”

“If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact.”

“Now what do you wish to call this?”

Question: Acharya Ji, Pranaam! Please help understand this Zen Koan.

Acharya Prashant Ji: You have to call it both. You see, you are living as the bodied one. That identification does exist for you. Just as your material body is a fact, you cannot ignore the fact of the short staff – a short staff that a monk carries.

So you cannot say, “No, this is not a short staff.” It is.

You have to respect the fact. But you cannot stop at the fact. It is a short staff, only with respect to your body. How do you that it is short? Would a little ant call it ‘short’? Would a little insect call it ‘short’? If you were not the body, would the staff even exist for you? It exists only in the same dimension as the brain.

It is the brain that comprehends the material reality of the object.

Will any software work without it’s compiler? Here is the compiler. The compiler and the software, go together. The staff does not exist at all, if the brain were not configured in the way it is.

So even as you accept the fact that it is a staff, you also know that it is a staff, only with respect to ‘me’. If I keep saying, “It is a staff, it is a staff, it is a staff,” what does that amount to? It amounts to constantly saying, “I am the body, I am the body, I am the body,” because it is a staff, only with respect to your body.

Therefore, those who get stuck at the level of the fact, are actually getting stuck at the level of the body.

That’s the problem with science.

(Pointing at the handkerchief in the hand)

It keeps saying, “This exists, this exists, this exists.” And surely it does exist.

But this exists only with respect to my hand, my senses, my comprehension, my brain. Right? So if I keep saying, “This exists, this exists, this exists,” I am continuously saying, “I am the body, I am the body, I am the body.”

Therefore, whereas one has to respect the fact that this exists, be it a short staff, or a white handkerchief, one has to also remember that their existence is not absolute, not final. It is relative to ‘you’.

If you insist too much upon it’s existence, you are insisting too much upon your bodily self. And then you will never get freedom. So this is like your current reality, just as the body is your current reality. Right? We are currently body-identified.

Just as we are currently body-identified, so currently yes, this (the handkerchief) exists. But the story cannot stop at the fact, the story has to go beyond the fact. Beyond the fact is the Truth. You have to know both – where you are currently standing, and where you wish to be.

Currently I am standing at the level of body, and at the level of this (the white handkerchief). These two are one. This exists for the body, this is my current standing. But this is not my destination.

A point must come where it exists only with respect to the body, not with respect to ‘me’. When nobody must remain, to definitely and conclusively say, “This is a white handkerchief.” Let this be the white handkerchief for the body, ‘you’ have gone. ‘You’ are somewhere else.

That’s the way to live.

Knowing the fact, but also knowing that you do not belong to the fact.

The fact cannot be ignored.

If you ignore the fact, then you are entering the realm of superstition.

You have to live scientifically, you have to be logical.

So you must respect the fact.

The pillar does exist, the wall does exist, the body does exist. If you say, “The body does not exist,” you are being a hypocrite. Because that’s how you behave day-in and day-out, as a body. Right? Behaving as a body, and then not admitting the body, is hypocrisy.

So you do admit that the handkerchief exists, the short staff exists, the body exists, but you do not stop at that. That’s how the spiritual one lives – knowing the world, seeing the world, acknowledging the world, but not belonging to the world. Knowing fully well that his destination is somewhere else.

And that does not mean that he is dismissive of, or disrespectful towards the world.

I am repeatedly saying,”One has to respect the world,” otherwise it would be hypocritical.

Being present here, in time and space, but continuously, parallely, present elsewhere also. Or, to put it differently, being present here in time and space, but also parallely absent to whatever is going on here in time and space.

Present to the world, and also absent to the world.

Superficially present to it, deeply absent to it.

Superficially here, but deeply somewhere else.

Where? Nowhere.

But on the surface, you have to be here. If you are not here even at the surface, then that is not spirituality. Then you are a lunatic. The spiritual man is present to the world. He knows the difference between ‘red’ and ‘blue’. He knows how to drive a car. He knows which road to take.

He is present to the world, but deeply he is absent.

Deep within him, is a point that does not know the world at all.

Deep within him is a point that has no value for the world, that does not transact with the world at all.

Getting it?


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

Watch the session: Is the world real, unreal, both, or neither? || Acharya Prashant, on Zen Koan (2019)

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God, Love and Gratitude

God Love and Gratitude

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Question: Acharya ji, how are Gratitude and Love connected with each other?

Acharya Prashant Ji:

Love is the urge to move towards That.

Gratitude is the lightness you keep experiencing, as you move towards That. 

Love is what brings Sudama to Krishna.

Gratitude is what Sudama feels, as he keeps coming closer to Krishna, and as he returns, after meeting Krishna. 

Out of these, obviously, love will come first. You love Him, you move close to Him, He showers his bounties on you, Gratitude arises. But obviously love cannot be in expectation of bounties. 

And that also explains Gratitude. Gratitude says, “I did not even want it, or dream of it, and I am still receiving it. How fascinating! I don’t even deserve it, and yet I am being blessed with it.

Question: Acharya Ji, how to show Gratitude?

Acharya Ji: You distribute it.

Gratitude is the realisation, that you have something beyond your capacity, beyond your eligibility.

Once you are grateful, you stop measuring others, on the eligibility scale. Just as you received something, irrespective of your eligibility, similarly, you start distributing it to others, irrespective of their eligibility.

Question: Acharya ji, why are there so many forms of God as Krishna, Ram, or Shiva?

Acharya Ji: Because you are so many. Even here I have to speak in two languages. You are so many, that different words, different names are needed. And if there are eight hundred crore of you, currently alive, then how many names and how many definitions and forms will be needed?

God is one, but you are many, therefore gods are many.

Listener: So, there is no difference between…

Acharya ji: For you, there is a lot of difference.

Listener: Yes, they were different for me. Now, should I try to understand the commonality and singularity that all of them represent?

Acharya Ji: The singularity is there, whether you understand it or not. I wanted some normal Dal, and my hotel waiter tells me that a normal dal, with a bit of spinach in it, is ‘palakura pappu’.


And I have been so fascinated by this word, ‘palakura pappu’, while driving the car, I was singing of it, – “Palakura pappu..” It is just dal. Dal-palak. Just little bit of distance, and ‘dal-palak’ becomes ‘palakura pappu’.

And God is so very distant from the common egoistic human being. Obviously, there would be a great diversity in names.

Question: Acharya Ji, are there any simpler and direct ways of Remembering?

Acharya Ji: The Zen way is there, but it is very direct. It is as direct, as a stick- straight and forward.

Zen teachers had very great respect for time. They would not even waste time in explaining. So many of them, would simply beat up.

That is the way of instant remembrance, for the forgetful mind.

Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session:  God, Love and Gratitude || Acharya Prashant (2019)

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You are a man of patterns

You are a man of mind. You are a man of reactions. You are a man of patterns. Who wants to talk to such a man?

An ordinary man in the name of learning from failures, Just tries to react differently. The second time a similar situation arises. And this he labels as learning from failure.

Zen is your essential core that reacts not, that it’s his own master. Has it’s own way of living.

Two or three years are needed so that all the pre-existing answers get clear. Not that the new answer is needed but the old answer need to go.

Read the complete article: Acharya Prashant on Zen: Have you any God?


Acharya Prashant on Zen: Have you any God?

Acharya Prashant: Joshu went to Hermit and asked, “What’s up? What’s up?” The Hermit lifted up his fist and Joshu said, “Water is too shallow to enter here and went away”. Joshu visited the Hermit once again, a few days later and said, “What’s up? What’s up?” The Hermit raised his fist again then Joshu said, “Well given, well taken, well killed, well saved” and he bowed to the Hermit.

A few things Right-living, Wisdom, Spirituality, Zen are all about a non-reactionary way of living. A non-reactionary way of living. So, Joshu asks the hermit, “What’s up?” He isn’t parlance as indicated. It means, “Have you any Zen?” Now, Zen is not an object. Zen is not a part of ‘duality.’ The answer to the question that asks, Have you any Zen, can neither be ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ as such. When Hermit raises his fist. It is inferior to remain in silent. It comes across as a reaction to Joshu’s question.

The situation become such that Joshu’s question becomes actually a provocations, a stimulus to which the Hermit reacts this is not really the way of Zen. The question demanded no answer. The question demanded rather the stillness of Zen or the silence of Zen. The question, “Have you any Zen?” is aching to the questions — “Are you God? Is the universe same as or different from it’s source? Are you in God or God is in you? Have you any Zen? Have you any God? Have you the Truth? Have you Love?” All these are questions in the same dimensions. To such questions ordinary answers don’t suffice.

So, upon seeing the response of the Hermit, upon seeing the raised fist of Hermit. Joshu says, “The water is to shallow to enter here.” Zen is still an intellectual thing for you, ‘shallow.’ It is not yet reached your depth. Zen has not yet reached your depth. It has still not yet penetrated your heart. No point talking to you.

You are a man of mind.

You are a man of reactions.

You are a man of patterns.

Who wants to talk to such a man?

Joshu walks away. Who wants to talk to a monk? For whom, Zen is a matter of questions and answers. Then comes another day, Joshu goes to the same Hermit and asks the same questions.

Now, see what happens. The first time the Hermit has had an experience. The experience say that when somebody asks you about Zen and you respond by raising your fist, you get an insulting answer and the questioner walks away. That is what the experience of Hermit has been, right?

In one situation, the Hermit has given one particular answer and that answer has ostensibly not sufficed. The questioner has walked away dissatisfied. Not only has he walks away dissatisfied. He has blatantly on the face of the Hermit said, “The water is to shallow here.” Now, what would an ordinary man do then when faced with the similar situation again?

Read more

Do you have the Buddha nature?

Do you have the Buddha nature? Moo. Neither “Yes” nor “No”. If you say, “Yes”, then you mean that you, as you are, you as you think you are, have a Buddha nature. No, no way! The way we have built ourselves up, the way we have conceptualized ourselves, there is no possibility of Buddha nature. There is only the force of habit, conditioning, biology and evolution. All of them are ‘something’, none of them is ‘nothing’. All of them are space-time, none of them are beyond the mind.

So, saying “Yes”, would not be proper. When asked, “Do you have Buddha nature?” Saying, “Yes” would not be proper. This question is the same as you say, “Are you Brahm? Are you Atman?” Saying “Yes” would not be proper! Asking, “Do you have Buddha nature?” is the same as asking, “Are you the Atman?” Saying, “Yes”, would not be proper. Saying, “No” would also not be proper. If you don’t have Buddha nature, if you are not the Atman then you must be something other than the Atman? Which means something other than the Atman exist? Which means there is multiplicity of Truths?

Because, the Atman, the Buddha nature is the sole Truth. By saying that you exist and are yet not the Atman, you are saying, something besides the Atman exists. And thereby you are raising parallel rods! Parallel Truths. And if truths are parallel, they are just false.

The Truth, by definition, is the one that has no end, no substitute, no parallel. So, neither can you say, “Yes, nor can you say, “No”, all you can say is, “Moo”. This moo is such a beautiful word, language does not normally have it. But spirituality stretches language. It forces language to do things which language normally cannot do. That’s what saints do, that’s what seers do, that’s what Zen does – Moo is a classical example.

Read the complete article: The only right answer to all real questions

The only right answer to all real questions


A monk asked Joshu, “Has the dog Buddha nature?”

Joshu replied, “Moo”

Acharya Prashant: Moo stands for nothing. Everything about the dog and the Buddha is different. As long as you compare a thing about the dog and the Buddha, you’ll only find differences. As long as the dog is something or anything, as long as the Buddha is seen as something or anything, all you will see is differences. The dog and the Buddha are alike only in their nothingness. Has dog the Buddha nature? Yes, of course! The dog is Buddha when the dog is nothing. Read more

The false will drop


Whenever anyone asked him about Zen,

the great master Gutei would quietly raise one finger into the air.

A boy in the village began to imitate this behaviour.

Whenever he heard people talking about Gutei’s teachings,

he would interrupt the discussion and raise his finger.

Gutei heard about boy’s mischief.

When he saw him in the street, he seized him and cut off his finger.

The boy cried and began to run off,

but Gutei called out to him.

When the boy turned to look,

Gutei raised his finger into the air.

At that moment the boy became enlightened.

Acharya Prashant: Very fond of saying cute things when asked questions about Zen. Raising his finger and stuff. What does the master do? He cuts off the raised finger. And he screams and runs away, the master calls him back and when he comes back, what does the master do?

Listeners (in unison): Raise his finger in air.

AP: And in that instant, the boy is immediately…?

Listeners (in unison): Enlightened.

AP: What’s this about?

A couple of things first: Gurus, monks, teachers, have been conventionally known to be very compassionate people. So it shocks us a little that a teacher cuts off a boy’s finger. Right? The anecdote just illustrates that for the teacher, it is not your body that counts. The teacher would not be shaken even a little if you tell him that you are tired or that there is pain in your stomach. The teacher will say, “So what? Your body doesn’t matter, come over! Its about something far bigger than the body.”

Even if you have to compromise on your health, still come over. The teacher will not allow you to escape! For the teacher, cutting off the boy’s finger was a very obvious thing, if cutting off the finger would lead to the boy gaining some wisdom. The teacher says, “Its such a beautiful deed. It is not at all bad for the boy if he can give a finger, sacrifice a finger and be wise in return. It’s okay.” And it’s not only about a finger, even giving your right hand, is no big deal. Even laying down your life, is no big deal because what you are getting is much-much bigger than life, it is immortality. Your finger is just a token payment, it’s not even a full payment.

“Alright, give me your finger.”


That is one thing about the Koan. The second thing, what does the master mean by raising ‘his’ finger? What does the master mean by raising his own finger?

Listeners (in unison): That there is only one reality.

AP: And that One is personified in the form of the Guru, the teacher. If the student tries to emulate that One, he is trying to create an alternate, a duplicate Truth. And that is sacrilege. That cannot be tolerated. After he comes back to Guru, he says, “Listen, if the finger were to be raised, if the finger were to indicate One, that finger has to be a single finger belonging to the Teacher. By cutting off your finger, I am only cutting off the false finger. I am only cutting off that which was trying to compete with the Truth. By raising this finger, I am telling you that only the Truth prevails. That which is false, gets cut off.”

And surely, the student is a deserving student. He immediately gets, in an instant, without thinking, without interpreting, he immediately gets the import of what the teacher is saying. And that’s what is meant by saying that he gets immediately enlightened. Hmm?

The raised finger of the Guru is the one Truth, the one Truth that bears no comparison, no second, no alternative.Yes?

 -Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Zen: The false will drop

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If you are the one who is doing the Karma, you would always be the one who would worry about the results of Karma.

Anyone who says that Krishna has said that, act and don’t think of the results, don’t worry about the results, does not understand Krishna. He is saying, “Let action happen, Karm hone do tum karta mat bano. Let action happen, you don’t become the doer, let the doing take place.”

Not pushing things, not blocking things. Letting existence flow. Neither am I trying to make things happen, nor am I trying to stop things from happening. There is a particular symphony, a particular arrangement, a universal order, it will take its own course.
Gita is talking of effortless action. Action is happening, there is no one who is making a mental effort. That’s the message of Krishna.
If you are the one who is doing the Karma, you would always be the one who would worry about the results of Karma. Freedom from the results of Karma is possible only when you do not become the Karta(doer), only when you know that this is happening through me, not by me.
Krishna is saying, “Let the game play you, you don’t play the game. Let the game play you, the game very well knows how to play you.” There is a universal order, the game knows how to play you. If the game could give birth to you, if the game could give sunlight and fresh air to you, if the game could make you breathe and digest and grow, then the game surely knows how to play you, you don’t need to worry and be tensed, you don’t need to think about the future.
Be absorbed within, stay centered and let the happening happen.
The simpler word is let it. Let it, don’t block it, don’t push it, you get out of your way, that’s​ how Zen puts it. Get out of your own way, you will flow, life will flow, you are the one who is blocking the flow. Get out of your own way and that is what Krishna is also saying the same thing that Zen says.

Read the complete article: Let action happen, you don’t become the actor

Let action happen, you don’t become the actor



Question: Sir, it is written in Bhagwad Gita and is often quoted by wise “Karam kro, fal ki chinta mat karo” (Act and don’t think about the result.), so my question is that in this contemporary world, is it really possible for any one of us to do our jobs without expecting any result?

Acharya Prashant: So, first of all what you have quoted is not at all correct. Anyone who says that Krishna, what’s your name?

Listener: Mayank.

AP: Mayank, sit. Anyone who says that Krishna has said that, act and don’t think of the results, don’t worry about the results, does not understand Krishna. Krishna is not saying Karm karo (Do the action). He is not at all saying, ‘act’. He is saying, “let action happen”. He is saying, “Let action happen, Karm hone do tum karta mat bano. Let action happen you don’t become the doer, let the doing take place.” Read more

Liberation is nothing but your ‘yes’ to Liberation




A monk asked Seijo, “Daitsu Chisho Buddha did zazen (meditated)

for ten kalpas in a Meditation Hall, could not realize the highest truth,

and so could not become fully emancipated. Why was this?”

Seijo said, “Your question is a very appropriate one!”

The monk asked again, “Why did he not attain Buddhahood by

doing zazen in the Meditation Hall?”

Seijo replied, “Because he did not.”


AP: Not believing that you are a Buddha has causes and reasons. Being Buddha, has no cause, neither has it any reason. The reasons and causes that make you feel that you are what you are and not a Buddha are obviously false causes. Just as false as the belief we know about ourselves. About ourselves and about Buddha! So when somebody is asked, “Why did he not attain to Buddhahood?” The first thing is, does one need to attain to Buddhahood? For so many kalpas, he was practicing meditation in a hall doing zazen and yet he was very… Read more

What is Zen? A clean plate


A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered this monastery. I beg you to teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”

The monk replied, “I have.”

“Then,” said Joshu, “Go and wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

AP: Nothing except this is needed. Go and clean your plate, go and wash your utensils. Go and clean the dishes, that’s all is needed. What else is Zen? A clean slate. What else is Zen? A clean plate. You must be totally done with it. If you are done with eating, why is your plate still carrying food? Even if it is traces of food. You must be totally done with it. That complete closure is Zen.

We live lives of continuity where the past keeps carrying itself forward. Zen, is a total dissociation, every moment. Every moment is complete in itself, leaves no residue behind. I have no obsession with the past because the past is, complete and closed. I have nothing to give to the future because right now, I have no fear. I am not living in incompleteness. There is nothing that would get rolled over to the future.

A dirty plate is a dirty mind. It is carrying traces. It is carrying stuff from somewhere else. Go clean the plate. And since this happens to be the one and only thing, hence it is more surprise that the monk gets instantly enlightened. After all, what remains after this? If your plate is clean, if your mind is clean, what is left to be done? What is left to be done?

But this is one thing that is so straight-forward and yet does not happen. Filling up the plate is so easy, emptying the plate is so difficult. Fifteen readings, wonderful! I’ll have a good time. My already overloaded mind would get further overloaded! So I feel attracted, enthused, fifteen readings, nice! But the moment, the teacher strikes, and content in your mind starts getting off-loaded, you shiver and try to run away. Gathering knowledge is so pleasant, right? It makes the ego feel bloated, inflated and bigger. But cleaning the mind, making it lighter, unburdening it, unloading it comes like a threat. “Oh something in me is getting reduced. I am under attack! My notions are getting shaken up!” That’s what Zen is all about, a total shake up! Such a shakeup that clears away all the rubbish. Have you had your dinner?

Listener 1: Yes.

AP: (Smilingly) are the plates clean?

Listener 2: How to complete the stuff?

AP: How does stuff remain incomplete? We said there are these three ways in which stuff remains incomplete. What are these three ways? Planning, effort, expectations.

Listener 2: Basically fear?

AP: (Nods in consent)

Listener 2: And satisfaction also deals with this?

AP: (Nods in consent) Contentment is the word.

Listener 2: If these three words are there…

AP: Even now you are saying that if these three are there then contentment is there. That’s not the way. When contentment is there then these three are not there! When contentment is there, what is the point in expecting? When contentment is there, what is the point in planning? Contentment comes first. Contentment is Buddha nature, contentment is Atman.

Listener 2: Like you said just now. So what should be the quality of this moment? When we go to bed then memories of this moment doesn’t flash or the images of this must not be there…?

AP: No great quality is needed here. All that is needed is that you do not come here carrying a dirty plate. Do not bring the remnants of your dinner to this room. If you’ve had your dinner then everything about the dinner should be left clean and outside. But what do we do? The dinner carries forward to this room. And then you feel sleepy! Do you get it? No special quality is needed. All that is needed that you come here clean, come clean!

Listener 3: Sir, one thing that is coming in mind is that in these eleven-twelve stories, each one of them, people were like they got enlightened from such a short story. But I am reading so many stories and practically that part is not coming in me. So what is it that is being left in me?

AP: First of all these are not history. These are not historical stories. When it is said that someone got instantly enlightened, at just a small gesture of the Guru. What is meant is that potentially every word of the monk, the teacher, the Guru, is potent enough to tell you everything, provided you are ready to listen. If you are ready to listen then any single word is enough to give you everything. That is what is meant by saying that in this small way, he got enlightened! In this ordinary symbol, he got?

Listeners: (In unison) Enlightened.

AP: In saying this, what is being said is, do not expect great things. Pay attention to the small things that are happening right now. To every small indication of the teacher. To every ordinary word that is coming to you. And if you can give yourself totally to it, then you are home. No great words, no greater words are going to ever come to you. What is coming to you is the final thing. Nothing higher than this can be said or has ever been said. Still, if it doesn’t bring you there, the reason is just that you keep on expecting something even grander, even more miraculous.

Zen is not about giving you grandeur on miracles. In Zen, things like these happen. Somebody asks, “What is the Buddha nature?” Somebody says, “Oh! Look at that tree.” And the fellow gets enlightened. No great answers! Somebody asks, “Which of these is the best piece in your shop?” and the shopkeeper replies, “All the pieces in my shop are best pieces.” And the fellow gets enlightened. So in the ordinary events of life, and in the ordinary replies of the teacher, lies the potential to give you the highest that you have ever demanded, provided you do not keep on dreaming that something bigger than this can still happen. Nothing bigger than this will ever happen! This is That! The ultimate! What more can be said? And if this does not suffice, nothing else would ever do. If this does not bring you there then nothing else ever would.

Kyogen said, “Zen is like a monk

Hanging by his teeth in a tree over a precipice.

His hands grasp no branch, his feet rest on no limb,

And under the tree another man asks him,

“Why did Bodhidharma come to China from India?”

If the man in the tree does not answer, he misses the question

And if he answers, he falls and loses his life,

Now what shall he do?”

AP: For us, there is either an action or the opposite of that action, right? For us, whenever we are faced with choices, it is always about either doing this or doing that. Either yes or no, either right or left. A pair of opposites. But whether we do this or whether we do that, one thing is certain that we, do! That we remain the doer. Kyogen says, “Please understand Zen. Zen is not about doing ‘this’ and Zen is neither about doing the opposite of ‘this’.” Because whether you do this or whether you do that, whether you say yes or whether you say no, in either case, you miss, you lose.

Zen is about forsaking both, yes and no, together. And that is forsaken when you are not the doer at all. Zen is about letting the happening happen. Zen is about not bringing your own personal self in between. Action that is not preceded by planning, not involved with effort, and not followed by expectations. That is Zen.

In our case, all three are present. Before the action, there is plan. During the action there is effort. And after the action there is expectation. Zen is about not having any of these. No planning before action, no effort during action and no expectation after action. Which essentially means that there is no role left for the actor.  What would he do? These are the three things that the actor could have done, and if all three are struck out, what would he do? So, Zen gives us beautiful, energetic action, sans the actor.

-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Zen: What is Zen? A clean plate


Connect to Acharya Prashant:

1. Advait Learning Camps (ALC): Advait Learning Camps are monthly 4-day retreats under the guidance of Acharya prashant in the Himalayas. To participate in the camps, ContactSh. Anshu Sharma: +91-8376055661 or Sh. Kundan Singh: +91-9999102998 

2. Course in Realization (CIR): Course in Realization is a seven-day scriptures based learning program led by Acharya Prashant. To join, either physically or online, contact:  Sh. Apaar: +91-9818591240

3. Month of AwakeninG (MAG): Attend Satsangs from Home! MAG is an online series of discourses on handpicked topics by Acharya Prashant on practical and relevant topics like Love, Fear, Achievement etc. To join the online discourses, contact: Smt. Anoushka Jain: +91-9818585917

4. Meet the Master (MTM): Meet the Master is an opportunity to meet and seek detailed guidance from Acharya Prashant, either in person or online. Contact: Smt. Anoushka Jain: +91-9818585917

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The Source is one with the material and the movement


The source and the manifestation-the progeny

and the material, the body

and the actions of the body-the kala,

are all one.

Shiv Sutra(1.3)

Acharya Prashant: The source and the manifestation-the progeny and the material, the body and the actions of the body-the kala, are all one.

The ‘source’ refers to the origin of it all. ‘Kala’ refers to activity or movement. ‘Sharir’ obviously refers to the body or the material. The source, the material and the movement all are one. They can be one only if you stop expecting that the source lies elsewhere. Please understand what is being said. If the source is one with the rock as well as the movement of the rock, then do you need to transform the rock into a temple? If the source is one with all this, then the source is just one with the fact of all this. Then you don’t need to have a creator God. Read more

Acharya Prashant on Zen: To love somebody, love like a nobody


If you love, love openly

Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practising meditation with a certain Zen master.

Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her.

One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.

Eshun did not reply. 

The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose, addressing the one who had written to her, she said. “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”

AP: We all got the text, right?

We all have heard it. It’s just about acknowledging, is it not? The whole life, the whole game of suffering, the whole thirst for spiritual attainment, is that not all about acknowledging?

You see, there can be only two things:

Either you say that you don’t have it and you go after it and that is the way of attainment—You don’t have it, you are going after it so you ought to attain.

The other is, you have it and all you can do is acknowledge. If you already have it then there is no question of attainment. So now what is left to do? Still, there is something left to do. What is that? You don’t have to maintain it. It can’t be lost. It’s there, still, there is something that the mind is must yet do. What is that?

You have a diamond. One situation is that you feel that the diamond is lost, you dropped it out somewhere and you go out to attain it, that is the way of attainment. The other is that the diamond is still there in the house, it’s right in front of your eyes, now what is left to do? You don’t have to attain it.

Listeners: Gratitude

AP: Yes, that is just acknowledgement, open acknowledgement. That is saying “Yes, I do have it.” Otherwise, in spite of having it you don’t have it, mind you. Acknowledge that you do have it. This whole koan is about the immense importance of acknowledgement. We don’t have to find, we don’t have to realize, we don’t have to attain, we just have to say Yes I have it. This internal agreement, this internal declaration, this loud declaration — Yes I have it, is the only thing that matters.

L1: Sir, what comes to my mind immediately is that I have realized that I am not allowed to say ‘Yes I have it’ because then I am named to be an egomaniac. I mean, I do not find myself enough daring to say that— Yes I have it.  

AP: The spiritual one is the most arrogant one. He not only says that- I have it, he goes to the extent of saying that – I am it. You remember the cataclysmic declaration of the Upanishads? I AM THAT Aham Brahmasmi. I am that and I am no short of God.

L1: Sir but I find it very difficult to acknowledge it to myself that I am THAT or I have it. There is a punisher inside me to say: Hey Raka, who are you to say this?

AP: You know what, we say we want Joy but we can’t even acknowledge our happiness! We say we want total freedom, but we cannot acknowledge even limited freedom. We say we want metaphysical love, the final union but we can’t even acknowledge even love to a mortal body!

That’s what this koan specifically said:  You have it obviously. We don’t have any doubt about you having it but whatever you have will remain dormant, will remain not useful to you till you come out with it. You have to speak out loudly. And whenever you speak out loudly, it will have to be a declaration to the world because you yourself, the one who is hearing through the ears too is just the world, a product of the world, which means you have to acknowledge.

If you don’t find anybody else to acknowledge then acknowledge it at least to yourself. You cannot carry out clandestine affairs. If you think that you can keep it buried, if you can pretend, masqurade or lead a double life then it is not possible. You have to live one life, one life in which you’ve made it known that where your heart is. You have to know, the entire world has to know where your heart lies. That’s what the lady in koan is saying.

She is not saying that she doubts whether he loves her because being a monk herself she very well knows that there is nobody who does not love. Love is our nature. Love is the essential thirst of the mind. So, if a male monk comes to her and says: I love you, then there is nothing surprising about it. Obviously, he would love her because we are full of love. But she says that love finds no expression, love provides no relief instead love becomes a medium of suffering just because love remains unexpressed. That also takes us to the very way and the purpose of living.

The purpose of living cannot be attainment; then it has to be just expression. We do not live to attain the Self instead we live to express the Self. And love is something that is intimately related to the Self. If you can’t express your love — and expression of love is obviously not merely verbal. It has to show up in everything that you do. It has to be talking through your breath — and if it is not expressing itself then in spite of it being there, it would be useless for you.

Kabir has a beautiful one on this, he says-

‘hargat mera saiyaan, suni sej na koye
‘Balhari wa ghat ki, jis ghat parghat hoye’

Hargat mera saiyaan, suni sej na koye:

The lord is there in everybody, conscious-unconscious, small-big, irrespective of the properties of that body the god is there in everybody.

Balhari wa ghat ki, jis ghat parghat hoye:

But I bow down to that particular body in which He finds expression.

Obviously, the lord is everywhere but that One is special in which he finds expression. Otherwise, he keeps sleeping here. He is very much there in everything, entire universe is nothing but the lord but Kabir says that he has a special reverence for one in which the lord finds expression. Now again that’s not an exactly precise thing to say because the lord has never denied himself the permission to express. It’s you who must decide to express the lord. The lord is not blocking himself, you are the one blocking the lord. You have to decide that you will unblock him, that you will express, acknowledge, open the gate and declare.

L2: Sir, I have seen that the child is being conditioned from the very beginning.

AP: Yes, but at the same time I would say that when I say acknowledgement to declaration that does not mean bragging the tongue, that does not mean announcing anything or getting it published in the newspapers. It’s about living it. Expression means living it. Every thought is an expression, every action is an expression. So when we say we must express the Self or we must come out with our love, that means we have to live that way. Otherwise, if it’s just about enunciating it through words, it’s then very cheap. Anybody can go to the market and just get drunk and then stand on a rooftop and declare that- I love you or I love god or I am God.

L3: It is always this sureness that is missing, somewhere I know I have it but when it comes to declaring then I feel that no, may be  it is not 100 percent.

AP: That declaration itself will be the sureness. There can be no sureness sans there is a declaration. You are shying of the declaration, waiting for sureness but the sureness won’t come till you declare it.

L3: Similarly, exactly what’s when embracing someone, like my loved one is standing in front of me and if there is nobody around then I am okay with an embrace but when there are others present then it is difficult for me to have the same embrace as it would be without the presence of the others. So you are saying the same for this also.

AP: Obviously. Don’t you see that you are not embracing and giving power to that within you which is doubting that you must embrace?

Just go and embrace.

And if you repeatedly find that you can’t embrace then at least don’t claim that you have it.

Love, realization, these are things that roar aloud. They are extremely intimate yet their expression is out there to the world, in the world. On one hand, they are things of the core, of the heart yet if it is there, then there is no way you can hide them.

Kabir has also said- ‘Even if you hide it with all your might yet your eyes would reveal it because they would cry’.

How will you stop your tears? He says these are not things that you can ever prevent from getting expressed. So don’t even try.

L3: There’s this very strong tendency that when you know you love but you don’t want to share it with people and you don’t want to let others know that you love.

AP: Will they be able to harm or is it just so that you are afraid of other people? Is there something that they can do to reduce what you have, if not, then why you must be shy of expressing it? And I am not saying that you must express in order to tell others; I am saying that you just express. You do not prevent the expression. The acknowledgement is natural, don’t block it.

I am not saying that you must go to the market wearing a shirt that says- I love God or that you must began each conversation by declaring that I am Brahm or that if you are in love with a woman then you must put a sign on your rooftop or have a tattoo somewhere on your body, I am not saying that. But when it does speak through your eyes, through your actions, through everything you do, through your very being then why must you be afraid and block it? It does speak, does it not? Your very glance changes, the way you walk changes, your choices change, your decisions change. It really speaks out through you. It’s there for the entire world to see.

Then why must you be afraid?

L3: We have been always taught that it’s a private thing.

AP: It is a private thing. I do not deny that. It’s a thing of the heart. But the heart has a fondness for expressing itself. Why must you block that expression?

Pay attention to this, it is a important thing:

By blocking the expression you are blocking the thing itself.

You are not only blocking the expression of the heart;
you are blocking the heart itself.

You don’t allow it to be express and it’s gone.

What do you think the seed wants to be expressed. If you block the expression of the seed, would the seed survive for long? The seed is in the soil and craving to be expressed and every time it’s about to express itself, you block it. What would happen to the seed? The seed would die. Fortunately, for us, the seed inside our heart never really dies but you can push it deeper into dormancy. It cannot die but you can still push it deeper down the earth.

And that’s not really good for you.

See, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you must go out and necessarily kiss in the public or make out in the public. I am not talking about juvenile declarations of that kind. You know what I am saying, right? I am saying – Be true. When it is there then why must you live a double life. That is hypocrisy. Don’t do that.

Kabir has another one on this. He compares the crow and the flamingo (white bird that stands in the water on one leg). It appears almost meditating and suddenly, the beak goes in and out comes the fish. Kabir says, look at that bird, the skin (appearence) is white and the mind is all black. He appears to be meditating but in reality, he is just aiming to kill.

He says-

“Ta sau to kauwa bhala, tan-man ek hi rang”

He says that the crow is far better because it has same appearance and mind, because it looks black and always looking to aim and kill, at least, there is honesty to that extent that it is just displaying that what it is like within. It’s a way of saying. He is actually laying emphasis on being one from inside and outside. What you feel, what you really think, what your deepest conviction is you must be expressing that. Even if that means that you appear all black, and black here signifies let’s say vices nothing else.

Really, we don’t miss anything else. What is lacking is just the acknowledgement. We don’t want to admit to ourselves that we have it. This admission, this final admission that there is no need to run around, we have it – I am that, it is here, because you know if you admit this then the ego suffers, then the ego is left with no job. Nothing to do and the ego hates it. The ego says that how can I remain unemployed.

Give me work and the moment you acknowledge that it is here then what would you be left with? Nothing, just enjoyment, just fun.

L1: Acknowledgement kills the ego.

AP: Yes, acknowledgement kills the ego. But on the contrary, acknowledgement looks so much like ego. The fact is that we label it as ego. That’s the hindrance.

Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: To love somebody, love like a nobody

What is meant by human nature?

Acharya Prashant: Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?” “Because”, the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”

The story uses the word ‘Nature’ two times and the two usages, the two expressions, the two incidences where the word “nature” comes, tell us something about the word.

The first time when the monk says that to sting is the scorpion’s nature, he is using the word “nature”, as representative of its physical conditioning, as representative of its biology. You cannot have a scorpion that does not sting. To be a scorpion is to sting.The second time the word “nature” comes, it does not refer to the acquired genetic tendency. The monk says, “to save it is my nature.” You surely can be a monk who does not save a scorpion but you can never be a scorpion that does not sting. Understand the difference. Read more

The teacher uses your bondages to take you to freedom


Suiwo, the disciple of Hakuin, was a good teacher. 

During one summer seclusion period, a pupil came to him from a southern island of Japan. 

Suiwo gave him the problem: ‘Hear the sound of one hand.’ 

The pupil remained three years but couldn’t pass this test. 

One night he came in tears to Suiwo,”I must return south in shame and embarrassment”, he said, “for I cannot solve my problem.” 

“Wait for one week more and meditate constantly”, advised Suiwo.

 Still no enlightenment came to the pupil. 

“Try for another week”, said Suiwo.

 The pupil obeyed, but in vain. ‘Still another week.’

Yet this was of no avail. 

In despair, the student begged to be released, but Suiwo requested another meditation of five day.

They were without result.

Then he said, “Meditate for three days longer,

then if you fail to attain enlightenment, you had better kill yourself.”

On the second day the pupil was enlightened.

Acharya Prashant: What do we see happening here? Enlightenment is sought, enlightenment eludes, enlightenment proves difficult to come about; the body is put at stake and here is enlightenment.

(Repeating his words)Enlightenment is sought, Enlightenment eludes, Enlightenment proves difficult to come about; the body is put at stake and here is enlightenment. All right!

What is enlightenment? Look at the mind that seeks enlightenment. Surely, if everything were all right, if the mind would have been at rest, then the mind would not have sought enlightenment. We are looking at the very basics. There is a mind that is seeking enlightenment, or whatever. There is a mind that is seeking, irrespective of the object. Enlightenment may or may not be the object of seeking. Here it is. Read more

One thing at a time

A Zen monk has said, “When I eat, I eat; when I walk, I walk; when I sleep, I sleep.”

We live in a different way.

When we walk then we are talking in our heads.
When we are eating then we are planning ‘when am I going to study’.

And there is a great deal of parallel actions going on, obviously which is imaginary.

In reality, actions can never be parallel.

Existence does not allow multi-tasking. It says, “One thing at a time.”

Zen is the final flowering of all religious ascension


Listener: Spiritual way tends to be more direct and I feel Zen-Buddhism actually misleads from the direct path.

Acharya Prashant: Zen never imposes any rule. Or does it? Is that your question that Zen imposes rule?

L: Yes

AP: What kind of rules?

L: Rules of the way of living, thinking.

AP: Zen is the simplest, purest and most direct way of living. Almost living like a plant, living like winds, and stones and animals. So, that could be said about many other traditional practices but not at all about Zen. Read more

Thank God for what He has not given you


The emperor asked Master Gudo, “What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?”

“How should I know?” replied Gudo. 

“Because you are a Master”, answered the emperor.

“Yes Sir,” said Gudo, “But not a dead one.”

~ Zen Koan ~ Read more

The sound of one hand clapping


Question: Sir, ‘The sound of one hand clapping’. Please explain the Koan.

Acharya Prashant: All our life, only that has happened to us, which has a cause and an effect. All our life, only that has happened to us, which is dualistic. When the Zen Master is saying that, “Go and listen to the sound of one hand clapping”, he is challenging you. He is saying that “Now, for once, can anything happen in your life which is un-caused, which is non-dual?” Read more

Pure Self reveals itself to the fragments only as fragments

Dear Sir,
I have been following Nisargadatta Maharaj. I have read all his dialogues, books, and watched most of his videos. But I feel I have been just sticking his words as knowledge in my mind. What you bring to me is something alive, I ‘see’ and I ‘feel’ whatever you speak, you speak from your inner being, or whatever you call it.  And I am very grateful for that. A bow to you. Or in Indian tradition – Pranaam.

Read more