Acharya Prashant is an emerging champion of socio-spiritual awakening in the world today. An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, and a former Civil Services officer, Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed Speaker, Vedanta Teacher, and author of over 50 books. Apart from that, he wears various hats: a veganism promoter, an environmental activist, a science activist, a campaigner against superstition, and a champion of essential human freedom.
Q. You are an alumnus of both IIT and IIM as well as an ex-civil servant. What made you not choose the pre-ordained regular career paths?
AP: An IIT – IIM education must widen your choices, not limit them. If the purpose of education is to liberate, then why should you feel that after your educational degrees you must follow a particular kind of script? Why must you move in only pre-determined regular paths?
In fact, I should be the one who should turn around and ask the premier students in the premier campuses, in the country and the world, “How is it possible that after all your education, you constrain yourself to a narrow pattern of working and living? How is it not possible that you branch out in all directions? How is it so that an already chained life becomes all the more chained after going to an IIT, or an IIM?
Q. Your image is of an iconoclast, non-traditional spiritual teacher who is demolishing prevalent myths about everyday living. Still, are there any basic principles that you espouse?
AP: Principles are the mind’s substitute against intelligence. ‘Why bother to pay attention and understand what is going on, just apply some old principles!’ Principles are like formulae. If a problem in mathematics is in front of you and you don’t really understand it, you pick a formula from somewhere, plug-in the value and hope to get an answer. That is what principles do.
But, if one really understands the fundamentals, then one doesn’t need principles.
Q. A lot of people, especially youth, complain about overthinking and anxiety. What remedy do you suggest to deal with them?
AP: There is a part of anxiety that is related to facts, and there is a component of anxiety that rests upon imagination. What is purely imaginary will lose its sting the moment you see it is as merely imaginary. Overthinking is a kind of imagination. Imagination takes you away from the fact of your life.
If I really understand what is going on, and what is going is just in the present, then from that understanding action will result; clear, direct, forceful, energetic action.
And when I am in the middle of the action, there is no anxiety, no disappointment; there is only the beautiful and smooth flow of action. There is no time for anxiety in the right action.
Immerse yourself in the right action. Immerse yourself in the right work. Then where is the time to get worried?
Q. You do not suggest any meditation techniques as most spiritual teachers do. What according to you is real meditation?
AP: Mostly the kind of meditation that we practice is ornamental. It does not really address the core problem. Whenever you see someone meditating with their eyes closed, rest assured that they are fooling themselves. If you cannot meditate with your eyes open, how will you live in this world? Whenever a life situation confronts you, what will you do? Will you close your eyes?
Real meditation is the courage to let life change. If you keep meditating without allowing life to change, that meditation is merely self-deception.
And when I say life must change, I’m not talking about something imaginary. I’m talking of something very tangible. I’m talking of your relationships, your job, your house, your surroundings, your attitudes, your ideology. That’s what your life is, right?
Meditation, therefore, has to be much more than a practice. It has to be life itself, 24×7. Continuous, quiet, method-less attentiveness.