What is the difference between Immersion and Alertness? || Acharya Prashant (2019)

Acharya Prashant
9 min readJun 19, 2024


Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, pranam. Is there any difference between being immersed and being alert? What we see in nature is that the animals are very much alert of their surroundings from moment to moment. What does J Krishnamurti mean when he says that great alertness is needed to remain present? What does it actually mean in practice? Kindly clarify.

Acharya Prashant (AP): See, many ways are devised by your well-wishers, by your elders, by the Saints and the knowers to help you and guide you. There is the way of immersion and there is the way of alertness. They both are in different topographies. These two ways are not in the same terrain. These two ways are located in different geographies. It will become clear. When it is said, ‘be immersed,’ to whom is the advice being given, and with respect to whom? That should be the first question you must ask. Instead of asking, “Acharya Ji, what is meant by immersion?” you must ask, “Who would be immersed and in what?” That would clarify things to you.

The ego is advised to be immersed in the Truth. So, when it comes to immersion, the ego is advised to be immersed in the Truth. You get the whole imagery. The ego is a little thing, a little blob, little nugget of something, a little lump and it is being advised to be immersed in a great ocean. What would the great ocean do? It would clean the ego up. And if the ego stays determinant, stays immersed, it may even dissolve. That’s the advice.

The ego is being told, “You are not only small but actually you’re dirty, small and dirty.” Let that sink in. When they’re saying, ‘please be immersed,’ it all sounds so clean, but they are just being political, you know. Actually, what they are telling you is that you are small and dirty, so you need to clean yourself up, and go and get immersed. You’re not nearly being advised to take a bath; a bath is so superficial. You’re not even being told to take a dip, that too, is momentary. You are actually being told to get immersed. In fact, a word that is even better than immersion is ‘marination’. Because when you get marinated then the solvent, the ocean actually percolates right to your core. It fills you up. It swells you up. It occupies you from the within.

‘Go and seek the company of the ocean, you dirty little thing. Go and seek the company of that infinity which will not be dirtied by any number of you dirty little things. You little lump of soil, go and take a long dip in the ocean that would clean you up but would not harm the ocean at all. The ocean has seen many like you. You come and go, the ocean stays and that company of the ocean must be overwhelming.’

You cannot just go and touch and say, “Oh! I have had the ocean’s company.” It must occupy you 360-degrees. It must occupy you everywhere, not only from the outside but also from within. So, I use the word ‘marinate’. In immersion, it is possible that you get immersed in the ocean like a little ball of steel. The ball of steel is touched by water only on the outside, but you must be touched within as well. So, be marinated and if you are touched within, there is no doubt that you will get dissolved. What would get dissolved? ‘The dirty little thing.’ So, the dirt would be dissolved and the little-ness would be dissolved. That’s good news or is it scary? That’s good news. So, it is in this context that the student is advised to be immersed.

This is immersion — ego seeking a total company of something beyond itself, much, bigger than itself and absolutely purer than itself. The ego seeking the total company of the Total, that is immersion. You cannot say the ball has gone half into the sea. It has to go totally into the sea. So that the little lump, the little nugget has no contact with anything except the ocean. If you have contact with the air as well it is not called immersion, or is it? There is a difference between swimming and diving. What is the difference? The swimmer is in contact with something other than the ocean as well. And the diver, he is in contact with only the ocean.

In God, the one, you are not to swim, you are to dive deep and die. It’s a matter of company, you know. You cannot say you have God’s company. You have to say you have God’s company alone. You cannot say you are in touch with God. You have to equally say you are not in touch with anybody except God. That is immersion. Otherwise, it is very superficial. You are touching God and you are also touching air. That’s not immersion. It’s not sufficient to be in touch with holiness. You have to be in touch only with holiness which means you have to exclude away everything else. Otherwise, there is no question of immersion, let alone marination.

Superficial contact is when you have ‘two’ to give you company. Superficial contact is when you have at least two to give you company, the solvent, the ocean, the Truth and the air. Who is the air? Well, somebody other than the ocean. So, 50 per cent of my being is in touch with the ocean and the remaining 50 per cent is in touch with somebody else. That won’t work. What happens in immersion? 100 per cent of your being is in touch with the ocean. Still, it’s possible that your being remains resistant to dissolution and therefore, even better than immersion is to allow the Truth to penetrate you, go right within you, pierce deep into you, and that we called as marination.

The spiritual seekers often make a fundamental mistake. They swim. So, with a great sense of injustice and indignation, they say, “You know what we have been in touch with the teacher and the scriptures for so long and yet not much has happened.” The one question they refuse to answer is, ‘Are you in touch only with the teacher?’ No, you are in touch with a few others as well. Now, why are you horrified if you don’t get any gains? You would get no ice. You know, it’s sweltering in India at this point of the year. If you leave the door of the fridge ajar, not only must the water go in, but the door has to be firmly shut to not allow anything from outside to come in and anything from inside to go out.

It’s not sufficient to move into God. You also have to have the door firmly shut. Otherwise, there would be no ice. No ice. It’s hot. When we muster our courage, then valiantly we park ourselves into the freezer. But still, we keep the door a little open, you know, to allow our friends to occasionally visit us and we, too, can occasionally slip out. Now, there would be no ice. But who would be cursed? ‘Oh, the fridge. The fridge is no good. It is no good.’ To get ice, be immersed in the fridge.

Immersion means going in and closing the door; cutting out all possibilities of escape, else you can have some ‘Rooh-Afzah’ (a cool, concentrated beverage), but no ice candy, depends on the severity of your ‘want’. There are those who are alright with a little relief and then there are those who want to put out the flame completely. They not only want it cold, they want it zero Kelvin. Those are the really cool ones, you know. Now you know what coolness really means. What is it? To not accept anything but zero Kelvin. That’s when you can call yourself a ‘cool dude,’ otherwise not.

Then we come to alertness. Immersion is advised to the ego with respect to the Truth. ‘Be immersed in the Truth.’ Alertness is advised to the ego with respect to itself. That’s the difference. ‘Be cautious against yourself, you are your biggest enemy’ — that is alertness. So, you are asking what is the difference between immersion and alertness? I will ask you what is the commonality that you saw? There is no commonality between these two. Immersion is with respect to the Truth. Alertness is with respect to itself, the falseness.

Be alert against yourself. See what you are doing, you’re hurting yourself, you are defeating your own central objective. Be alert! Be alert! This alertness, if allowed to blossom, becomes what the Upanishads call as ‘neti-neti’. This immersion, if allowed to blossom, becomes what the Upanishads call as ‘Yoga’. The path of alertness is ‘Gyan marga’, the path of immersion is ‘Bhakti marga’. So, that’s how these two stand.

You’re saying, we see that animals are very much alert of their surroundings from moment to moment. No, that is not alertness. That is conditioned behaviour aiming at physical survival. In spirituality, that has no value. Have you seen the big ears of the rabbit stand up all too quickly at the slightest sound? That is not alertness. That is the conditioned response of a little being aimed at physical survival. It has no spiritual value at all.

Then you are saying, what does J Krishnamurti mean when he says that great alertness is needed to remain present? Yes, because there are so many things that are very attractive and appealing to you and they are prepared to take you away from what you really are. Obviously, those things are not to be faulted. Your own proclivity to be carried away by those things is to be checked. Therefore, you have to be alert against yourself. So, Krishnamurti is saying, that which you are or rather that which you have assumed yourself to be, that which you mistakenly are is very, very prone to nonsense. It is very prone to being carried away. Be cautious! You’re not an expert mountain climber. You’ll slip. The way your legs are designed, they have a tendency to slip. It’s contained in your body. It’s contained in the very physical design of the legs. You are given to slipping. You are designed to slip. So, be cautious against your own constitution and construction. That’s what J. Krishnamurti is saying, “You will be carried away.”

Getting carried away is the default mode of your living. That’s how you are designed to be. Not getting carried away is difficult. It requires alertness, practice, determination, devotion. Never complain, “Oh! I get carried away.” When you complain that you get carried away, I feel like asking, “What else do you expect? What else do you expect?” It’s like the eye complaining, “I blink, I blink.” What else would you do? You are designed to blink. You are designed to blink. It’s like the skin complaining, “Oh! I get dirty.” What else would you get? You are designed to catch dirt, aren’t you? Similarly, we are designed to fall. Fall, not from a Prakritik angle, but fall from a spiritual perspective. Only from a spiritual perspective can you say that getting carried away by distractions is a fall. From the point of view of Prakriti , if you get carried away, it is not at all a fall. She will say, “Oh! It is natural. Why are you calling it a fall? It is natural.” So, we are designed by Prakriti therefore, we are designed to fall in a spiritual perspective.

What’s my life in three words? ‘Born to die.’ That’s how we are designed — born to die. So, never feel ashamed of your follies. Never forget that you are a lump of clay designed to die. Had you been any good, why would you have disappeared? And everybody disappears. So, never be ashamed of any foul act that you commit. Never be ashamed. And by that I do not mean that you must continue with the folly. Don’t be ashamed, but be awakened! A foul act can either push you into shame or can wake you up. If you are pushed deeply into shame, chances are you will be pushed deeper into darkness. Let all your mistakes that cause you suffering not ashame you, but awaken you. There is a great difference. Shamelessly, wake up.

It’s all right, honey, you’re drunk in the night and there was an orgy and now you are found all stripped and naked in the morning. Now, why do you run around to cover yourself? Just wake up. Wake up and commit to yourself that this would be a new and different day.

But instead of that what are you doing? After yesterday’s blunder, you have already spent half the day today in just covering up things out of shame. Now you are trying to cover up things. Does that not happen? After a blunder what do we invest ourselves in? The cover-up. The blunder took one day, the cover-up takes a week. And our attempts to fudge and cover up and conceal and put on a decent face are all but expressions of the same darkness that caused the blunder in the first place. Shamelessly, just wake up!

Shame is your connection to the folly, is it not? After the folly, what is your connection to the folly? The shame. Snap that connection. Wake up!