The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
Questioner: Pranam Acharya Ji! I am working with the home ministry, the government of India. My question is, there are hundreds of self-help books published every year telling us how to live in a better way. What makes Vedantic teachings distinct from those self-help books?
Acharya Prashant: Self-help books in general, want to help the self without investigating what the self really is. So, in the name of self-help, what is usually advised is a gratification of the self. The self is taken as a fundamental and unchangeable entity not to be questioned. And the entire purpose of the book then is to remove the obstacles in the path of gratification of that self that has been turned into a sacred entity.
So, the self has certain desires, and the book will tell you how to fulfill all your desires and dreams. And you’ll say — “Yes, this is what I want and the book is telling me how to get that thing.” The book will never or rarely ask you — “What is it that you want? Where are your wants coming from? Are your desires even yours?” Now, these are tough questions; these are unsettling questions. People don’t want to go into them because if you go into these questions, then your basic identity is challenged. Your very sense of existence is then interrogated. And we don’t like that because it disturbs.
You see, our disposition is such that we would rather have false security than a true exploration of the Truth. Even if we know that we are living in false concepts, we would choose that falseness, because there is comfort in that. We are used to living in a false way for a long time. That central falseness itself is called the ‘self’. Are you getting it? What else is ‘self’? In self-help, ‘self’ obviously cannot pertain to the Truth because the Truth does not require any help; ‘self’ surely pertains to the ‘Ego’. It is the ego that is always quite helpless and seeking support and help and stuff of all kinds.
So, this entity that you are seeking to help is actually not requiring help; it is in need of dissolution. Or you could say that the only way to help it is by calling out its falseness. Even if you want to help the Ego, you cannot help the Ego by furthering its desires or giving…