What is the highest?

Acharya Prashant
14 min readMay 7, 2021

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

Questioner (Q): What is the highest?

Acharya Prashant (AP): The question is — What is the highest? What is the utmost highest? And the answer, as usual, begins in negativa. They (referring to the Rishis of Upanishads) said the highest is not prāṇa; the highest is not the sense organs; the highest is not mind, thoughts, feelings or actions either; these are negated. What is meant by this kind of negation? Senses are not the highest, thereby, anything that is perceptible or experienceable through the senses just cannot be the highest. Keep all sensory perceptions and experiences in their place; they don’t deserve to be taken to head; they don’t deserve to be given an importance they don’t really merit. Thought is not the ultimate which means anything that can be thought of cannot be the ultimate. Whatsoever it is that thought can reach and touch, cannot be the ultimate. Therefore, have some humility; therefore, do not be too dependent on thinking or too identified with thought.

Prāṇa, which is the internal mechanism we call as life cannot be the highest. So, even the value of this thing we called as ‘life’ is not the highest. There is something more valuable than life itself. There is something so valuable that even life can be forsaken for its attainment. There is something that deserves even the ultimate sacrifice of life itself. Do not think that remaining alive and having a long life is the utmost goal. No, if need be, one can choose physical death for the sake of something higher, what that something is, would come next.

“Action”, it is said here, is not the highest. So, anything that you can obtain through action will remain of relatively secondary value. Therefore, do not be too conceited about your actions or deeds. Your actions and your attainments can take you only so far. There is a limit to what your doership can bring to you. Now, this suffices in itself. Actually, there is very little need now to specify what is the highest. What is not the highest has been assertively spoken of. An affirmation, a positive affirmation is now really not needed. Yet something is additionally told to the disciple, not because it is really needed but because the mind is such that it keeps asking for some positive thing or idea to hold…

Acharya Prashant