Should I take care of myself, or help others first?

Acharya Prashant
5 min readJul 23, 2021

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

Questioner: Pranaam Acharya Ji. First of all tonnes of gratitude, Acharya Ji. I never thought that there would be such deep knowledge in the Upanishads. Thank you so much! When you were saying that sages went out and stayed in the forest for self-realization — Is it not selfish?

I also remember a quote of Ramana Maharshi where he says, “Your own self-realization is the biggest service to the world.” But I don’t understand this statement. How does this really help the world?

Sometimes, I do feel that by putting my Sadhana first, I am being selfish. So, I am not getting the clarity on that part, Acharya Ji.

Acharya Prashant: See, at the root of your confusion, is the belief that by staying where you are and by doing what you do, you are of some use, some service to other people. That’s your basic assumption. Do you get this?

What you are saying is, “Right now, the way I exist, where I exist, the people I live with, the way I live with those people, I am of some use, some good, some service to them.” This is your current position, this is your current thought.

Based on this thought you say, “Now currently I am of use to them therefore if I start doing something else or start living in some other way or at some other place, physical or psychological, the service I am currently providing to them will cease.” So now you face a conflict and that’s the conflict expressed in your question. Right?

“If I go away then what will happen to all the good things that I am doing currently to the people I am with?” Some people are already smiling. They are seeing where the catch lies. Where does it lie? Your assumption is flawed, sir.

You feel happy and proud thinking that right now you are of some use to the people around you. So you accordingly start feeling bad. “You know, right now I am some use to them. If I go away, what will happen to them?”

What if it turns out that right now your presence is the worst thing that is happening to them? Now tell me, what is the greatest service you can do to them? That’s what Ramana Maharshi wanted to say and I very crudely said…