Words of wisdom: 'Being spiritual is not being stupid', says Acharya Prashant

If asked to define spirituality in simple terms, what would your answer be?

‘Spirit’ means essence or reality. Who doesn’t want to live in reality? Who wants to live in lies, falseness and fake-ness? To be spiritual means to know the facts, to live in Truth. To not to know and live blindly is stupidity. So, being spiritual is simply about not being stupid. Spirituality is not at all organised religion. It is not about customs or rituals or beliefs. Spirituality is an awakened state of mind in which the mind really understands.

The mind — when connected to its essence — can never be stupid. The mind when conditioned and away from origin (essence) is bound to be stupid. No exception is possible. Only a spiritual man really lives, loves and enjoys. Others die without living.

Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant

Intelligent spirituality, what exactly is it? How does it work?

Actually, one of the words is redundant. You could just say, ‘Spirituality’ or you could equally just say, ‘Intelligence’. But they both have to be put together for an added effect because a lot being touted around as spirituality these days is just stupid. So, as a negation of that, the phrase intelligent spirituality is used, to highlight a contrast to the prevailing ‘unintelligent spirituality’. Only in the context of unintelligent spirituality — which cannot be spirituality itself in the first place — is this expression used. Otherwise, intelligence and spirituality are one. You can remove one of those two words and ideally, the same effect should be there. Real Intelligence is the ability to differentiate the accidental from the Essential. Spirituality is pure Intelligence manifested. The spiritual mind is sharp, incisive, and simply understands. Dumbness in worldly affairs, personal affairs, or anywhere else, is nothing but a lack of spirituality.

Today, many are taking the spiritual route to stay sane during the lockdown. Do you see a change in the way people view spirituality? Since many would earlier dismiss it?

There are a substantial number of people who now are expressing their need to have spiritual wisdom. They are approaching me and my organisation with sheer desperation. So, the change you are speaking of has certainly come. Not only has the dismissal turned into an active acceptance, but now even the most material and ungodly ones are coming to terms with the fact that nothing but spirituality can save them. Many have helplessly seen their dear ones die and many fear that they might have to. Whether they accept or not is a different matter, but the fact is that this little virus has exposed the hollow foundations of modern man and his life. See, they are choice-less now! In fear of death, consciousness either surrenders itself or escapes into unconsciousness; and since the lockdown has blocked off the sources of intoxication, of consumption, spirituality is the only choice left.

Words of wisdom: 'Being spiritual is not being stupid', says Acharya Prashant

What must people do to stay hopeful till normal life resumes?

There are voices — from right and left, from industrialists and politicians, and from the general public — for quick restoration of normal life. What exactly is this normal life? Were we so contended/pleased with ‘normal life’ that we are now dying to get it back? Where did this disaster come from? Did it not come from the same ‘normal life’ — founded on crude education, exploitation of others, rape of nature, cruelty towards self — and conditioned to believe consumption and pleasure is the goal of being? Life that contents none?

The loudest voices for resumption of ‘normal life’ are from the powerful ones having the deepest stakes in production, consumption, exploitation and profiteering. They are the biggest beneficiaries of our ‘normal life’. They are cringing the most under this natural assault.

Giving loud support to calls for ‘normal life’ are unconscious segments of population suffering from withdrawal symptoms, denied their daily drug of happy goodies. The drugged public itself will riot for the ‘good old days’ to return, and hand itself over to the exploiters.

Must we return to the same life? Or is the pandemic an ultimatum to deeply change our very foundation? When will we see that our ‘normal life’ is a story of inner agony till death? Not for animals, or nature, or posterity, let’s please deeply change our life for ourselves.

White House recently organised a chant session. And chanting of Om is rooted in our Indian system. How would you define the importance of chants?

When you are in attainment, then you sing. But just by singing, you will not reach anywhere. Otherwise, there are so many professional singers. In wisdom, whatever you do is beautiful, but just by copying the beautiful acts of somebody else, you will not become wise. Start from wisdom, which is the right point to start with. And you cannot reach that right point because you are already there. Just give up the belief that you are not there. Having known that you are there, now you sing. And your song will be so beautiful.

A CD player can keep chanting all its life, what will it get? A parrot can keep parroting all its life, what will it get? And those who have known, they have specifically cautioned against such things. They have said that it is foolishness. Yes, of course, once you are there, then all the time, whatever you are saying is the name of Truth, and that is called Japa.

And that is the right definition of Japa—the Wise man, though he might be using different words and saying diverse things, yet, in essence, he is always saying the Truth. This is the definition of Japa. Mantra means, ‘right thought’. Right thought is the one that immediately tells you that thought is inadequate. That is right Mantra.

Mantra is not something that you pick up from a special book. Anything can be a mantra for you. Whatever shows you the inadequacy of words; those words are the right Mantra. But those words, again, cannot be a pattern. Those words will keep changing. You cannot pick up just a limited set of words and keep circulating them.

Words of wisdom: 'Being spiritual is not being stupid', says Acharya Prashant

What, according to you, are the positive takeaways from the lockdown?

Try to look at the bigger picture and you might find beauty in the bigger picture. The positive takeaways from the lockdown are at two levels:

Benefits to the environment: The lockdown is doing wonders for the atmosphere. It is not surprising that the slowdown is registering a positive environmental impact; the air quality index has miraculously improved all over the world, all over this country. The air is far cleaner; the songs of the birds are now livelier and louder. Far more stars are now visible in the night sky. Our friends from the wild, like deers and gazelles, are found roaming on the streets. Nature is taking a breath when the rest of us are holding ours, and the result is glorious to see.

Personal Benefits/Spiritual Benefits:People are getting time for solitude and reflection. They can engage in self-observation. They have a great opportunity to let this isolation not be merely physical, and allow the mind to move into solitude. People are lucky that for a few months they will not be pestered with their colleagues, bosses, neighbors and relatives.

These weeks or months will not come again. This is surely a once in a lifetime opportunity. There have not been many generations who have had this opportunity where they have been forcibly given periods of isolation. This isolation is something that the fools will resent and reject, but this isolation is something that the wise men will all celebrate. They will take it as a blessing. So it’s not as if the existence is sending us all the vile things and signals. That which we are taking as a catastrophe has another face as well and that face might not be very ugly.

You have come up with few online programmes. What are they, who all can benefit from them?

Reading scriptures on a regular basis is most central to spiritual growth. Ancient spiritual texts like the Upanishads and Gita are more relevant today than they were ever before. To spend a lifetime without the words of the saints, is to lose a lifetime. Today, if mankind seems to be nearing a catastrophe it is because man’s mind has gone astray; and unless this mind is centred and put to rest, no form of violence can be stopped. Our online courses are designed with this objective only.

These courses help the participants develop deep clarity about their roles and responsibilities towards themselves, their family and society. They are a great inspiration to many helping them see the bigger picture in their lives at a macro level and prepare them to face any kind of challenges, be it in professional or their personal lives.

Courses such as ‘Jeevan Jigyasa’ and ‘Unleashing Greatness’ are designed and launched by the organisation with a focus to provide counselling on issues such as relationships, marriage, loneliness, lust, fear, depression, decision making, career-planning, and so on. Another course named ‘Shastra Kaumudi’ teaches ancient wisdom from the Upanishads and Gitas in very simple and relatable ways. As I said earlier, any initiative that we take has but one objective: provide rest to the restless mind.

What inspired you to give up a successful career and embark on the path of a spiritual teacher?

Every person, every individual does what he deems to be of importance; and I could begin to see with some clarity that though all the tasks that are commonly performed in the worldly economic domain have a certain importance yet as we stand as our condition is in the current state of the world, there is something far more important that needs to be taken up as work.

I found teaching and learning far more important than anything else that one can do as a person, or as a professional, or as an engineer, or as a manager. This is tremendously more important – not only for me, but for everybody, for the world. So it was a very natural decision, obvious, gradual, and irreversible.

You see, one takes higher education and we often say that the purpose of education is to liberate, is to set the individual free. So it is natural that if one is receiving education from institutes of repute, institutes of quality, then that education should enable the individual to chart an even freer path. Education cannot become something that limits, something that sends people only in predetermined directions.

So I had my calling, I had the guidance of the Heart and all that my formal education could give me was used in service of that which was calling, that which was important. That’s what happened.

What message would you like to give our readers that would help them during this lockdown period?

It’s now time to beg for the company of the greats. Unfortunately, they might not be physically available to you. Go to their words, read their books, watch their videos, the internet is there, the books are there. It’s time to make up for a lot of lost opportunity. Maybe you’re forty right now; it’s time to read stuff what should ideally have been read when you were sixteen. Never mind, it’s never too late. Go to the Upanishads, go to a Rumi, go to a Hafiz, go to Acharya Shankar, go to the Dhammapada, or go to Kabir Sahib; and volunteers at my organization are working round the clock during the lockdown to make these saints and scriptures available to one and all. It’s been a crime to have ignored them for so long. Now is the time to compensate.

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