Questioner: Acharya Ji, is observation a function of self-knowledge?
Acharya Prashant (AP): Observation is not a function of anything. Observation happens when grace strikes you. You cannot bring about observation. You are forced to observe, you are shelled-shocked into observation. You have to observe, something’s at stake you must observe. Self-knowledge and such things don’t help there. Just the immensity of the thing that is at stake, at function helps there.
Take a very mundane example, a very mundane example. Forget about the subtle observation of life and thought. Look at the gross observation of a ball, you are playing tennis, don’t you observe the ball? Don’t you? We aren’t even talking of watching thoughts in a subtle way, we are talking of watching a material object outside of your body. Why do you observe the ball? And you need to be spiritual for that? Are all the tennis players or football players or squash players or golf players spiritual? Why do they observe the ball? Something is at stake. You’ll be forced to watch.
You know, in squash when you serve, the opponent is often behind your line of sight. You serve from the box and with one foot in the box, you try to come close to the wall so that the serve has the maximum impact, and the opponent is standing in his half, behind the box, a little behind the box at least. So, he’s behind your line of sight, you can’t see. The ball has quickly gone to the opponent, but you are forced to watch the ball. Why are you forced to watch the ball? Because if you don’t watch the ball, you won’t know what your opponent is doing, you will be punished.
From behind you, your opponent can play any shot. This half, that half, drive, drop, anything. So, what do you do after serving? You turn back and you watch what your opponent is doing because something is at stake, not God is at stake but something that you consider important is at stake. Observation happens, it does not need this much of a theory. You need not be watching the ego, you need not say, “It is a process of self-purification and hence I must observe.” Hell! You want to win the game. Watch the ball, don’t watch the ball you’ll keep looking at the wall, Sanjay (volunteer) will play a deceptive boast, you are gone.