Whom to pray? What to say? || Acharya Prashant (2022)

Acharya Prashant
9 min readJun 25, 2024


Questioner (Q): My gratitude, Acharya ji.. I’ve been listening to you for more than a year. It was a great pleasure, it was an amazing bliss in Rishikesh. And I just bought a book in IISc the first day and I finished reading it in three days because I thought if I find something interesting, I will ask you a question, but I was not, I could, I was not able to do it.

So, in Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, I’m coming to that. You mentioned Puruṣa as Heart, as the One, as the Truth, maybe Infinite, and Prakṛti is the world or the body. And you also mentioned in the notes that this is not Yin & Yang.

So, coming from a background as a QiGong and Tai Chi practitioner, we believe in this Yin and the Yang. It is this continuous flow. And I just realized when she said that, “If I consider myself as a flux as a wave, then I am not here, so, the rest is also”; in other words hearing your talk, is Mithyā. If I’m a lie, then everything is also an illusion. Considering Puruṣa and Prakṛti, what is the Yin and the Yang?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Actually, the difference is in terminologies between Sāṅkhya and Vedānta. In Sāṅkhya, Puruṣa is a corruptible, vulnerable entity.

Q: The Heart?

AP: No, in Sāṅkhya, Puruṣa is the vulnerable consciousness, the mind. In Vedānta Puruṣa, refers to the pure self, Ātmā.

So, in Sāṅkhya, Puruṣa has to gain liberation from Prakṛti. In Vedānta, You become the Puruṣa when you have gained liberation. There’s a slight difference there. A lot of difference actually.

Puruṣa is a technical term in Sāṅkhya and there they say that “there is an infinitude of Puruṣaas.” So, there is this Puruṣa, this Puruṣa… anything that is sentient is Puruṣa and there is this great Prakṛti and Puruṣa is always vulnerable to Prakṛti. Puruṣa never realizes its true nature. It is always besotted with Prakṛti, corrupted by Prakṛti. It feels so attracted or so identified with Prakṛti that Puruṣa is never a pure thing in itself.

So, what does Puruṣa have to do then? Seek redemption from Prakṛti, that’s the Sāṅkhyan terminology. In Vedānta, man (mind) the corruptible entity is called Puruṣa when it has gained liberation. So, that’s the difference. man

Q: Can mind be consciousness?

AP: Mind is consciousness, yes, but consciousness again is two things. One, the ordinary consciousness which lives in Duality, which you can call as the impure state. And then there is the pure consciousness that you call as Ātmā, also sometimes referred to as Puruṣa.

Q: If I just follow up, Jesus said that “I and my Father is One”. Now, this Father is the… ?

AP: Man (mind) is saying, when ‘pure Me’ and My source are One, Ātmā is both the destination and the origin of mind. Father refers to Ātmā, son refers to Man mind.

Q: So, if I and my Father is One, that means whatever my father is, then I am?

AP: That is just the same as, Ahaṃ Brahmāsmi . It can be uttered only by those who have first left behind their personal self. Ahaṃ Brahmāsmi means, Ahaṃ is man (mind), the son, Brahm is father, Ātmā.

But who is qualified to utter Ahaṃ Brahmāsmi ? Not everybody. Just as only Jesus can say, “I and my Father are One”, can we say that? We cannot because we live in Duality.

If you say, ‘the person here is your father’, you cannot be One with that person because by definition that person is in the world. The world is a separate entity compared to your own self and you take both as real, right?

But Jesus is saying, I am not bodily, so, my Father too is not bodily, and that’s what the metaphor of Mary being a virgin actually means that Jesus is not a body. Had Jesus been a body Mary could not have been a virgin.

So, Jesus is not a body, and therefore, Jesus can be One with the Father. Who is Jesus then? Jesus is not body identified, Jesus is what Vedānta refers to as the pure Self, Ātmā. The self is impure when it is body-identified. Jesus is not identified with the body. That’s the reason he could, you know, surrender his body or sacrifice his body for the sake of the world.

What Jesus is, is called as Ātmā and Ātmā is One. Her Ātmā and my Ātmā and your Ātmā… nothing like that exists. Ātmā is just one entity. So, Jesus and Ātmā the Father, they are One because Jesus has left body-identification aside.

Q: So, the son he talks about, is the mind?

AP: It is the mind, and the gross form of the mind is the body. So, Mind and body are to be taken as one when it comes to spirituality. Subtle body is mind, gross mind is body. There are only two entities, the mind and the pure Self, which the Buddhists would also call is ‘no mind’.

So, you could also either call it as the ‘pure mind’, ‘complete mind’ or you could call it as the ‘no mind’. Only these two exist, the mind and the pure Self. Then little self and the big Self, only these two exist, nothing else does.

And out of these two, you’d be wondering how come two are existing now? We just said two cannot exist, how come two are…? Out of these two, one cannot find peace unless it merges in the other one. Which one cannot find peace? The small one. So, even out of these two, only one is real, but that one has no second to itself. Therefore, that one cannot be even called as one. It can only be then called as non-dual or Advaita .

So, from the multitude you converge to just two, out of these two you discover one is unreal, so, you are left with one. But one cannot exist by itself in absence of any background, so, that one cannot be called as one, that one is simply then called as non-dual, not two. Not-two and not even zero.

Q: So, when we are in prayer and when we surrender, is it we are surrendering to the Puruṣa in us or we are surrendering to the Puruṣa, like if I just heard from you, is it Avidyā (it should be Advait)? Am I praying to the Puruṣa that is coming from what I know that is Avidyā (it should be Advait) or I’m praying to my own self, I’m surrendering to my own self? So, how should I pray?

AP: There are three levels of prayers. Most of us are in the lowest level of prayer all the time. The lowest level of prayer is called desire. I want something desperately. ‘I just want something desperately’, that too is a prayer. I have surrendered to somebody in this prayer. Who is that one? I have surrendered to myself, the ego itself.

That’s the lowest state of praying. The ego praying to itself — “Come on do it”. I want something and I’m bucking myself up, motivating, “come on get it” — I’m praying to myself, that’s the lowest state, simply called desire.

Then I realize that I cannot get it based on my own powers and capabilities, so, what do I do? I imagine a bigger power beyond myself and I start praying to it. That’s the medium level of prayer. That again is ego praying to itself, but not directly, but indirectly.

I imagine a bigger force, give it a name, a form, a shape, a history, a myth, a story… something and I start praying to it. It appears now I am praying to somebody beyond myself, but still I am just praying only to myself. The ego hates accepting anything beyond itself or bigger than itself. So, even when it has to bow down, it will bow down in front of its own enlarged image, “I am worshiping myself”.

Then there is the purest form of prayer. In that, there is no object to pray to. You are not praying to anybody. You are not surrendering to anybody. You’re just surrendering. In one sense, it is just a rebellion in negativa. You have said, “I was already in surrender, but I was surrendering to the wrong master and I now refused to surrender to the wrong master”, that is true prayer. That does not mean that you have found the right master. Any new master that you find will again be a projection of that same old, false, deceptive ego. So, you do not find a new master for yourself. Just refuse to bow down to the pre-existing master. And that is a prayer in Rebellion.

So true prayer is always a silence. There is nobody to bow down to. And there is nothing to be said. There is just a determination against the old ways and old temptations. The old temptations ask you to find some master in the gross or subtle world.

In the gross world how do we find a master? Some influential person we start praying, in some way we surrender. In the subtle world, how do we surrender? Somebody gave us an ideology, and we surrender to that ideology, or we surrender to our imaginations of the future. They are our own imaginations but we surrender to them and we work for them, don’t we?

“We say we are working for the blueprint that we have in mind. I want to be at place X, today I’m at place Y, I want to be at place X five years from today. So, I’ve surrendered to my vision, to my imagination, I’m working towards it.” That too is nothing but surrendering to the ego. A subtle surrender, right? There is nobody beyond yourself, you are still talking of or surrendering to yourself, you’re still just looking at yourself.

In true prayer, you realize the futility of all the previous surrenders. You realize that it’s like the dog chasing its tail and hoping that it will gain Deliverance. First of all, you cannot get the tail in your mouth, secondly, even if you do manage to catch your tail it gets you nowhere. Most of our prayers go unanswered precisely for this reason, we are praying to the mirror, how can the mirror answer your prayers?

Q: So, that’s why I now get that why Jesus said, “Be Still and Know!”

AP: “Be Still and Know!” That Stillness is a synonym for Silence. That Stillness is also a synonym for Puruṣa, pure Puruṣa, tell me why? Because Prakṛti is always in motion.

‘Still’ means ‘Acala’ , that which is not moving and Prakṛti, the world is always Calāyamāna , in motion. So, being ‘Still’ means being out of the current of time because time is always moving. Time is this world, this is always moving.

So, ‘Still’ is not just a small five letter word. It basically means you have opted out of the temptations of the river of time. The river of time has so many temptations, no? The past was great, the future will be better… I’ve opted out of it and now I am “Still”.

Q: Thank you for your grace, Acharya ji.

AP: And again, “Be Still and Know”, ‘Stillness’ and ‘Knowing’ are the same thing. In movement, there is only illusion. So, it’s not as if ‘be still and know’ and there are five other ways to know, no.

There is only one way to know and that is the way of Stillness. The way of Stillness is the way of opting out. In India, that’s the reason why we have eulogized renunciation. Renunciation is the same as opting out that which is not useful to me. Why should I stick to it? That’s discretion, that’s also renunciation.

We do not intend to make it pedantic or whatever scholarly. We are here to have a small informal kind of warm discussion. So, I know I have a tendency to (gesturing as getting far away), that’s my ego. I kind of run away, so I request you to pull me back all the time, would you, please?

We have to deal with this world and this life, right? We said, we are sitting on this sofa and these chairs. So, we cannot talk of some other reality all the time. This is what we live, eat, breathe and sip. So, we have to concern ourselves with the affairs of this life.