IIT Kanpur: How did some sages attain wisdom at a very young age?

Acharya Prashant
4 min readJun 14, 2022

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Questioner (Q): How did sages like Ashtavakra and Adi Shankara attain wisdom at such an early age of fourteen or eight? You have said in many of your videos that unbearable pain coming from falseness is the starting point of the journey towards the Truth. How can someone have this kind of unbearable pain at such a young age?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Eight years and fourteen years is a very old age. The child finds living unbearable the moment it is conceived. You know, there are scriptures that talk in detail about the agony of the fetus in the womb and how the yet-to-be-born child repents in the womb. None of that has to be taken as a fact, as an objective fact, but it is an important pointer towards something related to human consciousness.

Existence itself is suffering. The moment consciousness gains existence, it is sorrow and suffering that has taken a life. To be embodied is itself a tension, a limitation, bondage. Don’t you see? On one hand, you say that your nature is expansive and infinite; on the other hand, your bodily existence is limited to six feet of your height and one-and-a-half feet of your width — full stop. Isn’t that a great bondage? I mean, again, don’t take what I am saying as an objective fact, but see what I am trying to point at.

Being embodied is itself the beginning of your central problem. The central problem is existence itself. Because what we call as existence, what we call as our existence, is a very limited and false kind of existence that brings sorrow in its wake. Everything about you is limited, and therefore you are perpetually dissatisfied. Is that not so? You cannot look beyond a certain point; you cannot hear beyond a certain frequency; you cannot think beyond a certain point. Nothing that you are or have is infinite. Everything about you is quantifiable. And that which is quantifiable is always limited, it stops somewhere. And wherever it stops, there is sorrow.

Even if you are living a life full of so-called happiness and you are perfectly alright with your happiness, this life will stop somewhere. Even if you claim that your happiness is unbounded and infinite, the life enjoying that…