आचार्य प्रशांत आपके बेहतर भविष्य की लड़ाई लड़ रहे हैं
The reality of mystical experiences and reincarnation || NIT Trichy (2021)

Questioner (Q): Scientists have been trying to prove the existence of the soul for a long time now. They are doing research about near-death experiences, out-of-the-body experiences, and reincarnation. Eleven to fourteen percent of the average American population who are mentally and physically healthy have had an out-of-the-body experience at some point in their lives, as per the statement in the medical journal.

Dr. Ian Stevensen, a famous psychiatrist, did research on reincarnation and NDEs (near-death experiences). One of the research subjects, a lady who was a patient with a severe disease, stated that she was able to see herself and her body, like from an external camera. Dr. Ian Stevensen also says that phobias are related to the mode of death of the persons in their previous lives. For example, if somebody died in one of the previous lives by drowning, the person would be afraid of water, and there are other statements from the doctor supporting the claim on similar lines. Many Hindu scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita also say that the soul leaves one body and then gets a new body.

My question is, does reincarnation really happen, and what is the soul?

Acharya Prashant (AP): The soul is a myth. Even God is a myth. Spirituality has nothing to do with soul or gods; these are mental concepts. The mind itself is a myth. So, I think I have answered everything you have said.

Q: But what about those mentally healthy people who have had these kinds of experiences?

AP: Now you can see how healthy our definition of health is. Now you can see what is usually done in the name of research. The experiencer himself is bodily—how can there be an out-of-body experience? The experiencer and the body are one—how can there be an out-of-body experience?

Q: That is what I was thinking, but then I came across research on the subject that seemed convincing.

AP: This is just spiritual storytelling. This is what goes on in the name of spirituality, and that is why the world is in such a bad shape.

Q: But these are things supported by educationists who are at the top of their respective fields. Many people do believe in these kinds of things.

AP: Most of the people used to believe in a flat Earth just till yesterday, right? So, people can believe in anything. And if people believe in something, there is a market for that thing; it sells. And if it sells, there will be corresponding research, marketable research, and you will have ample researchers coming up who will talk of out-of-body experiences and soul and this and that.

I can only tell you, forget about the soul. In spirituality, in reality, even something like God does not exist. The reality is that you experience your own existence, and that is called the ego, and the ego is an accumulation of influences, impressions. When those influences and impressions are cleared away, what you have is the freedom of the ego, which is the dissolution of the ego, and that is called the Truth. As simple as that. Everything else is just fairytales.

Do not go by what sells in the market. Rubbish always sells the most. If you ask me, “Were all those people lying?” I will say obviously yes, but not necessarily consciously. We are so very unconscious people that we cannot even be accused of lying. We don’t always deliberately lie; it’s just that our truths are just the same as our lies, because they are ours. Coming from a false center, even the most avowed truth will be another falseness.

So, it is not necessary that those people were deliberately trying to cheat you. It is not about deliberation, it is about delusion. People are deluded, that’s all. You read about these things so much that you start feeling that these things are happening with you as well. And because these things happen only to a few people, so you feel that you are distinct and distinguished: you are one of the few rare and privileged ones who have had an out-of-body experience. So, finally you got to be in the top one percentile of something.

All your life you were desperate to be in the one percentile of anything, and you could never manage it. Now, you couldn’t manage it—this is your one easy and dirty opportunity to distinguish yourself. “Who am I? The one who is remembering his previous birth! So, see, I am different. Can you remember your previous birth? No, you cannot. But I remember my previous birth, so I am special.” That is another dirty attempt of the ego to feel distinguished, special, unique.

Care for this life, that is all that you have. Be good to yourself. Forget all about the previous and the next births. I don’t know how much one can trust the other in these times, but I will still impress upon you that all this is just nonsense. No reincarnation, nothing. I have written an entire book, Karma , just to clarify the concepts of karma and the associated concept of reincarnation. You cannot have reincarnation without karma, right? And that entire book is to that effect.

Q: I have gone through that, but the problem is I couldn’t find time to read it because of the college schedule.

AP: How did you find time to listen to that researcher?

Q: I don’t know, sir.

AP: You must know. That is, in fact, your answer: “I don’t know.” Things happen to you and you don’t know how they happen to you. Similarly, all these out-of-body experiences happen to people, and they don’t know what has happened.

Q: In some of your videos you said that reincarnation happens in this life only.

AP: See, reincarnation is happening continuously in Prakriti (physical nature). Every moment it is happening. It is happening in this life, and it will be happening long after you are gone. But this personal self that you have is never going to be reincarnated. Reincarnation obviously is happening, and it is happening at a far greater frequency than you can imagine. You think that one reincarnates after death; no, one is reincarnating continuously. But this particular existence that you have as you is your last one.

The reincarnating entity is not you; the reincarnating entity is the ego-tendency itself that keeps taking various shapes and forms. As far as this particular shape called Nitish (the questioner) is concerned, this shape is not ever going to be repeated; this shape will be dissolved completely on your death. However, the principle that gave rise to this shape will continue to be in action. You will be gone, the manufacturing machine will always remain. So, the next article that will be produced after you are gone, before you are gone, even when you are alive, that production is continuously happening from the same machine. So, that is reincarnation.

But reincarnation of the person is a great myth, and it has given rise to a lot of distortions and also a lot of injustices. People justify the caste system in the name of karma and reincarnation. People say that if somebody is suffering, it is because of his or her own misdeeds in the previous birth, so that person doesn’t deserve help or compassion. People feel that what they are doing today will bear them good results only after their death, so they are not very keen on goodness right now. After all, how keen can you be of something that is going to happen two thousand years later? And that gives you a way to avoid right life and right action.

Reincarnation is a great principle. However, it has been badly misunderstood. Suffice to say that Nitish or Prashant are not going to return. However, the great ocean of existence is continuously going to wave. It is going to produce one wave after the other, and all waves are alike in a very fundamental sense. So, you can say that waves reincarnate, persons don’t. A tendency, a principle reincarnates; persons don’t reincarnate.

Q: When my grandmother was lying on her deathbed, my father was near her and she told him, “Someone is coming and taking me to the beyond.” So, my father said, “It must be Yamaraja (god of death).” After that incident, I had a conversation with my father and I told him that Yamaraja doesn’t exist at all, and he disagreed. I tried to tell him that Yamaraja is fictitious, and he got offended. So, how can we educate others in these matters?

AP: So, don’t teach him. Do your professors go and start teaching every commoner on the street? They teach only the ones who have first of all qualified to be taught by them, right? You cannot forcibly teach someone, nor can you teach the unqualified one.

So, two conditions are to be met: Firstly, you should have cleared an entrance exam, a certain aptitude, a certain qualification, a certain knack has to be there; secondly, you must also be willing to go through the course. There are so many who clear the entrance exam but don’t take the admission. So, you must be both qualified and eager. If either of these two is missing, then the process of teaching cannot happen.

But you are a son, so you must have certain compassion. So, what will you do? You try to gently arouse eagerness in your near ones, be it your parents, friends, or others. Gently try to keep them warm, so that when the situation is right, at least then they present themselves to the teaching.

It is not such an easy thing to become a student. Being a student, rather a disciple is a demanding thing.

Q: I have a friend who said that he got some special experiences while meditating in a meditation chamber at some meditation camp. I think he might have been under the influence of some psychedelics or something. There are a lot of gurus who advocate these kinds of practices, meditation chambers and psychedelics and such things, and we see these things in movies also. So, is there any truth in these things?

AP: See, all my life I never went to a meditation camp. It sounds a bit like a concentration camp, so I thought better to avoid! I do not know what is going on in these camps, but what you suspect might be the reality; it is quite possible that intoxicants or psychedelics might be finding their way to these places. In fact, it has been pretty prevalent; it has been, in fact, a bit of a norm, and several very popular teachers have openly advocated the use of psychedelics to achieve so-called higher states of consciousness.

I need not clarify that all this is a sham. It is an absolutely disgusting thing to say that you can achieve higher consciousness by actually lowering your consciousness. Spirituality is all about being able to see life clearly, being able to understand your own mind better. It is not about bringing in intoxication even where there is none.

We anyway already lead very intoxicated lives. Don’t we live like drunkards? Look at the way we function; look at the way we desire something; look at the way we move about, stumble, fall, and then blame others. All that is anyway symptomatic of drunkenness, right? Now, we are already drunken, and then somebody says that you drink a little more liquor and you will regain your sobriety. That is obviously not going to happen, irrespective of what logic somebody tries to push into it.

You talked of movies. On one hand, yes, movies do reflect what is going on; on the other hand, also please understand that the movie industry, especially in India, thrives on titillating your senses, creating excitement and sensation to draw you in, to attract and captivate you. That is the way of the box office, no? So, it is in their financial interest to feast on controversy.

So, when you look at something being shown in movies, in web series, on YouTube or somewhere, be skeptical. It is not religious teachers versus moviemakers; the Truth probably lies on neither side. Both sides want to fleece the common lamb that is you. The religious teachers want to suck you in so that they can exploit you, make money, and gain followership, and the moviemakers are denigrating the religious teachers and the ashrams so that they can snatch you away from the fold of religion and bring you into the fold of excitement and consumption-driven capitalism. Both sides are ultimately catering to just their own financial and material interests.

So, be very, very careful. You know, the highest that is possible, the goal of spirituality, the pure Truth, is not something that someone can come and serve you on a platter. It is something that you have to awaken within yourself through ruthless negation of your inner falseness. I will highlight—through ruthless negation of your inner falseness.

So, never underestimate yourself. Be realistic. On one hand, you must know what you do not know, you must know that you have a propensity to be deluded and all such things; but you must also know that beyond a point nobody outside of you can help you. You have to pay the price for your own upliftment. You can understand, you can know, and that is all. Bodho'haṃ : the highest Truth is just understanding. Prajñānam Brahm : your nature is understanding. It is just that we are living in false, duplicate natures. That is called conditioning.

So, don’t fall prey to any side of the propaganda. The Truth lies at neither extreme; it does not lie in the middle; it lies inside of you. And you will have to very diligently uncover it. That is the very purpose of life: to bring yourself to a position where you have such deep insight that you see and detect falseness wherever it is. For that you must, first of all, cultivate a love for Truth. Though obviously love is not something to be cultivated, but you have to at least exercise that choice, you have to encourage that love. It has to become a bit of a habit, if I may use that word. “I want to really know. I don’t want to let anything pass or gain my sanction without me having known what the thing is.”

Don’t be one for casual gossip. If there is something in front of you, go into it. Even if that makes you a bit of an outcast, let them ostracize you. You have the company of Truth.

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