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This is how you must create your own space
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Acharya Prashant: Which aspect of the mind do you get rid of, or what kind of threat to the mind do you ward off by being in the forest?

Yes, everything that the presence of the other person gives you. So the forest does not have to be a literal one. By being in the forest, it is not literally meant that you have to be in the woods. Proceed by way of negation.

Being in the forest indicates psychologically not being with people. Psychologically not being with corrupting influences. I repeat this because when I say not being with people psychologically, that does not mean that you don’t have to be with anybody at all. Even in the jungle, the Sage is with the seekers, so there are people to be with, right? So being in the jungle does not completely exclude the possibility of being with people. Rather it completely excludes the possibility of being with the usual, normal, ordinary commoners. Theirs is the company you have to guard against. In fact, you cannot have the company of the Rishi, if you have the company of the commoners.

That’s why you have to go to the jungle to meet the Sage. The sage could easily have remained in the city or the village. Why did he have to escape to the jungle? Surely, life is not going to be at least physically easier there. No means of communication. Food may not be readily available. And there are the usual threats. Why do we see the Sages then, so often in the jungles? What do the jungles mean to them? Or have we seen them so frequently in the jungles that the question does not occur at all?

We must frequently ask that question. What does the jungle mean? The jungle simply means that you don’t want to be in surroundings that impede your ascension. You don’t want to be in a place that pollutes and corrupts you. You realize your situation, your frailty.

You see that if you stay with certain kinds of people, then a lot of your time and attention is wasted in dealing with trivia. Daily, you value your time, you value your life so you don’t want to waste your daily time. So you say, “No, if I stay here the result is a daily loss that keeps compounding. I can’t stay here. Because inner progress is dear to me. I am all that I have. And there is this one life, I have to take care of it. And I’m not being of use to anybody by subjecting myself to daily torture.” That’s the reason why you routinely find the Sages away from so-called civilization. They have to be away.

What you call as usual settlement of populations, are not at all conducive to a truthful lifestyle. So the Sages find their own place. You could say they create their physical niche. Physical and psychological. They say, "I’ll go and establish a bit of the township for myself." And they call it the Ashram (hermitage). It is actually another kind of civilization itself. It is not merely some hut or some Kutia (small hut), or some little place where the Sage lives and the students live, and probably the wife of the Sage is there and two cows are there. That’s the usual picture we have. It’s a different way of living. And that way of living is often not compatible with the way of the commons. Therefore, the Sage has to be away from the public eye, public scrutiny.

The Ashram could have been established in the city square itself. But the public wouldn’t have allowed it to continue. Because a truthful way of living becomes a threat to the falseness that surrounds it. In the middle of a city if a truthful Ashram is there, then either the city will swallow up the Ashram , or the Ashram will have to get co-opted. Whatever be the situation, there would be a constant conflict between the two kinds of civilizations.

The civilization that surrounds the Ashram is centered on self-preservation. Whereas, the civilization that runs the Ashram is centered on self-dissolution. Now how will these two go together? Their ways are totally different. So, their minds are different.

When the minds are different, then the cultures are different. When the cultures are different, then the way of living is different. Hence, the civilization is different.

These two won’t be compatible with each other. The thing within the Ashram walls and the thing beyond it. So it’s good that the Ashram is in the jungle. The city folks can sometimes, as tourists, visitors, go two days, four days stay there. Seek ritualistic blessings and come back. To that extent, there can be harmony. But if there is a continuous coexistence, then there will be conflict.

What is the lesson for us? You have to create your own place. Today obviously, it cannot be in the jungle. Please spare the animals. So don’t try the jungle way. But still within the city or at the margins of the city, you’ll have to create your own place. Firstly, find a suitable city. Even in the place that you have, find a suitable spot for yourself. You will not be able to make big inner progress by continuing externally in the same way as you’ve always done. Something has to change externally also. These two go hand in hand, don’t they?

Your inner situation and your outer location, don't they go hand in hand? In general when something changes within, then the internal change reflects externally also. At the same time, if you are desirous of more inner progress, then do not block the external change. An internal change will cause an external change, and if you block the external change, you have de facto blocked the internal change. So create a decent space for yourself. And when I’m saying 'space', I mean a physical material space.

If you want to be in a good psychological space, take care to create a good physical space, as well.

I understand the constraints posed by resources, money, and so many other things. Still, at least do the maximum you can. Exercise your intellect. There must be a way out. I understand the land is expensive, but then the land is the most expensive where there are the most people vying to stay. Why must you stay there? In fact, the land will be the most expensive at places that are the least suitable to inhabit, such is worldly foolishness. So why must you buy expensive land? Go to places where no one wants to buy any land. Their land will be quite economical because nobody wants to come there.

You go there and grab as much land as you can and squat. That’s your private forest. Even if it’s a desert, how does it matter? It's your forest. Or is it necessary to buy land in the heart of Bangalore city? And then say “But I don’t have enough money.” Who asked you to?

See, had it been possible to stay the usual way and yet grow internally, the Sages would’ve exercised that option. If the Sages could not make it, staying in your usual societies and apartments, how will you make it? Don’t you see that?

Or do you feel that you have more stamina than those old people? “You know, they were not smart enough, not cool enough, so they had to run away. I am not an escapist. I’ll stay here. I’ll do all the things that I have always done. And still, I’ll have inner progress.” That’s not going to happen. Fool's errand.

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