Self-help versus spirituality


Acharya Prashant

Spirituality lies in the knowledge that there can be no self-help. The greatest arrogance of the ego lies in claiming that it can be of help to itself. The great Self which you really are needs no help. And that self which you assume yourself to be is always in need of help; unfortunately it also becomes a helper to itself.
The wise one, the settled one, the relaxed one feels no need for help. So there is no question of self-help in his case. The one who feels the need to be helped, unfortunately, also decides to become his own helper. And that is the whole absurdity and the tragedy of this matter.

There is nobody who suffers and does not decide to be his own messiah. You go to anybody who is suffering and ask him, “What’s wrong?” He will be able to describe it. You also ask him, “What would relieve your suffering?” That too he will be able to describe. Now, the question is: if you know so much about your suffering and also the solution to your suffering, why are you still suffering?
But that’s what the suffering is – you think you know. Have you ever met someone who is suffering and says honestly, innocently, “I do not know why I am suffering?” Had you not known, really not known, you would not have been able to suffer either. Suffering is knowledge.

Everybody who suffers thinks that he knows why he is suffering; this knowledge itself is suffering. And if you know why you are suffering, you also know how to get out of the suffering.

Self-help is the worst crime one can commit upon himself. Spirituality begins the moment you realise that self-help is not possible. The One who will help you is beyond you. You can never be your own helper. Till the time you try and decide and make efforts to be your own doctor, you will remain a patient. In fact, this effort itself is the disease. This conviction that you are powerful, smart and intelligent enough to take care of yourself is itself your burden.

Spirituality is to give up all efforts and pretence of self-help. You bow down and you say, “Enough of myself! I am done with myself! No more cleverness. No more trying to guess the ways of the beyond. No more trying to measure up the Truth.” But we are clever, we are so clever. Just as we choose our physician, we also choose our teacher. And just as we compare physicians, we also compare teachers. Just as we size up physicians, we also size up teachers. All this is self-help. “Let me do what is best for me.” Do you even know what is best for you?

The more you will try to help yourself, the more you will convince yourself that you can continue in your old ways. Pay attention to this helper- he is the mischief. Who is this helper? Does he really want to get rid of the disease, the disease that he himself is? What is his objective? What does he want? In helping yourself, don’t you just want the fulfillment of your own goals and desires?

A lot of self-help is directed toward tackling this question—“Why do I hesitate?” Now, is the one who is asking this question also saying that “I want to change the very center from which my action arises?” No, he is not saying that. He is saying, “I want to act in the same way as I used to but I want to act without hesitation.” So, the helper wants to remain the same. The objective is to do just what you want to do in a more efficient way, in a more polished way.

Real help is not about doing what you want to do in a better way. Real help is about letting the want itself change. Real help is about letting the actor itself disappear or change. It’s not about being able to be more confident with people. Real help is about being free of the need to have confidence.
(The author is a Vedanta teacher, writer and the founder of Prashant Advait Foundation. Views expressed are personal)

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