On Advait Vedanta: It is beautiful to earn pain

Acharya Prashant
5 min readApr 4, 2022

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

ਜਤਨ ਬਹੁਤ ਸੁਖ ਕੇ ਕੀਏ ਦੁਖ ਕੋ ਕੀਓ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਨਿ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ਹਰਿ ਭਾਵੈ ਸੋ ਹੋਇ ॥੩੯॥

jatan bahut sukh kay kee-ay dukh ko kee-o na ko-ay
kaho naanak sun ray manaa har bhaavai so ho-ay

People make all sorts of efforts to find peace and pleasure, but no one tries to earn pain.
Says Nanak, listen, mind: whatever pleases God comes to pass.

~ Guru Granth Sahib 1428–11, Salok Mahala 9–39

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Questioner (Q): What does Guru Tegh Bahadur mean by earning pain?

Acharya Prashant (AP): The constitution of the body is such that it is pleasure-seeking. That’s the guiding principle behind bodily actions. Bodily actions include the impulses of the brain. So, that which you call as natural, in loose language, is nothing but pleasure-seeking behavior. When you say something is natural, effectively what you’re saying is that it is pleasure-seeking behavior.

So, that’s how your system is. It wants to have pleasure. What is the definition of pleasure? That which helps Prakriti (physical nature) further its agenda. Food pleases you because it gives energy to the body to continue. That’s what Prakriti wants. Flattery pleases you because it gives the subtle body the energy to continue; it will continue, it will stay motivated, and it will further its goals. Do you get the definition of pleasure? That which agrees with the agenda of your physical constitution is called pleasure.

Now, in getting that pleasure, you get pain as well, and that pain makes pleasure even more necessary. So, you earned two units of pleasure, and along with two units of pressure, you also got two units of pain. What is the inference that your system draws from this? Two units of pleasure is not sufficient, because two units of pleasure came along with two units of pain, and it got nullified, the net was zero. So, now your system wants three units of pleasure. But…

Acharya Prashant