In early ancient mankind, Tao has been in existence in one’s true nature.
Men possess It without knowing.
Tao-Te-Ching by Lao Tzu
Speaker: In early ancient mankind, Tao has been in existence in one’s true nature. Men possess It without knowing.
What does Lao Tzu mean by ‘ancient’? When we commonly use the word ‘ancient’ what we mean is, going back in time. When a wise man uses the word ‘ancient’ in a spiritual connotation, what he means is, going not really back linearly into time, but going to the center of time. Going to the point where time is not there.
Time, when we say that we are going back in it; that really is a meaningless statement. Why? It is because as far as the mind is concerned, time has no beginning and no end. Time is an expanse with no beginning and no end, as far as the mind is concerned. Mind itself is time. Where time ends, mind too ends. Where time begins, mind too begins. So as far as the mind is concerned, there can be no beginning and no end of time.
If there is a beginning of time, mind would not be there to look at that beginning, because where time begins, mind is not at all before that. And if there is an end to time, mind will not at all be there to look at that end, because after the ending of time, there is no mind to say that time has ended. Mind is there only as long as time is there. So for the mind, time is an unending stretch; an infinite unending stretch. And in infinity using a word like ‘going back’ is senseless. In an infinite stretch if you say, “I am going back,” you are really not going anywhere. It’s infinite.
‘Going back’ and ‘coming forward’ are meaningful terms only when used in context of a limited stretch. In context of an unlimited stretch, it doesn’t make sense to use the words ‘back’ and ‘forward’, to say ‘ancient’. When Lao Tzu says, “In earliest ancient mankind,” he does not refer to a period in time. Kindly get rid of this notion.
In many of the translations, elaborations that you may get, even in the respectable commentaries, it is assumed that Lao Tzu is talking of a time X years back. When he says, “In early ancient mankind,” authors mistakenly assume that it is referring to the dawn of civilization; it is referring to a period in history when man started gathering senses. No, he is not referring to a period in history. People like Lao Tzu do not have to do much with time and history, they have much more to do with that which IS, here, right now.
“Tao has been in existence in one’s true nature.”
This true nature refers to that antiquity that Lao Tzu is referring to. This ‘true nature’ refers to that timelessness that Lao Tzu is talking of. It refers to that meditative point where time has not begun. It refers to that meditative point to which all time shrinks and disappears.
“Tao has been in existence in one’s true nature.” What is time? Time is that which indicates change. Between two intervals of time, between two points in time, something must change. And if nothing is changing, then it cannot be said that the time is moving. The very concept of time is there to explain and quantify change.
There is a point in the human mind that change does not touch. Lao Tzu is calling it as ‘one’s true nature’. It is that ancient point. And remember the word ‘ancient’ does not refer to one’s historical past. One’s centre is what Lao Tzu is calling ‘one’s true nature.’ And there, there is no movement, no change, a stillness around which all movement just keeps taking place.
“Men possess It without knowing,”
“Men possess It without knowing,” and that does not indicate ignorance. In fact, when one tries to know, one tries to be separate from it. In trying to know it, one creates space. There is no knowledge independent of space and time. When man tries to know even his own center, he moves away from his center. You can have it only when you do not know of it; know of it in the sense, consciously know of it. The moment you start claiming that you have knowledge about it, it is a sure shot proof that you have lost it.
How beautifully has Lao Tzu said in the same scripture, “Only when love is gone that you come to know of the word ‘Love’. Only when faith is gone that you start talking a lot about faith.” That which is real, never makes its presence explicitly felt, and that is why it is often mistaken for not being there. That is why the Truth is not seen anywhere, because it is everywhere.
That which really is, cannot make its presence grossly felt. A true lover’s heart can be understood only by the true lover. The one who takes attraction and body as love will say, “Well there is no love.” True wisdom can be appreciated only by the wise. Those who mistake knowledge for wisdom will say, “There is no wisdom.”
“Men possess It without knowing.” What we call as ‘knowing’ is just a mental exercise in duality. “I am there and something else is there, and I know it.” This is what we call as ‘knowledge’. It is always dualistic. And that ancient point that Lao Tzu is referring to is – the One Truth, Non-dual, not two.
One’s true nature is not many; it is one. It is not dualistic, and knowledge is always dualistic. You can live your true nature. It is there in you as your heartbeat. It is there as your deepest presence, but you cannot claim knowledge of it. And if you are claiming knowledge of it, then surely what you are referring to, is not your true nature. And when you are referring to it as your ‘true nature’ then you are not located in your true nature. Don’t we do that?
We refer to all kinds of accumulated habits as our ‘nature’. And if you are referring to some alien thing as your ‘nature’, then what is certain is, that at the time of this referring, you are dislocated from your nature. And that is suffering, that is ignorance, that is lovelessness; to be located away from one’s nature. That is all evil. Getting it?
Listener 1: Senses and mind are constantly collecting information and adding more and more illusion. What is the use of these? Can the mind collect information without adding to its conditioning?
Speaker: Can the mind collect information without adding to its conditioning? You will have to understand the relationship between ‘knowledge’ and ‘conditioning’. There is no relationship at all between ‘knowledge’ and ‘conditioning’. Now this would surprise you, because I have always said that you are conditioned by your knowledge. Now today I am saying that there is no relationship between conditioning and knowledge.
Knowledge conditions you only when you take knowledge as something beyond ‘knowledge’. If I know knowledge to be just ‘knowledge’, it cannot condition me. What does it mean to be ‘conditioned’? Let us go back to the basics. What is conditioning? Conditioning means – to be adjusted to the conditions, to change according to the circumstances, to be molded or influenced by conditions. That is called, ‘to be conditioned’. I am conditioned, so if I go out and my face gets a tan, then I am conditioned, right? Conditions affected my face, and it became darker. That is called ‘conditioning’. When conditions have their effect upon you that is called ‘conditioning‘. Now that would have opened up the game, has it?
Conditions will always be there. And because you have a sensory apparatus and mind with you, so you will know of conditions, that is called ‘knowledge’. I am realizing that it is forty-five degrees; this is knowledge, this is knowledge. Right? But is it necessary that this situation must have a deep influence on me? Yes my face will burn, and I will sweat. And yes probably I try to look for shelter and shade. But is it necessary that it must disquieten my mind? Is it necessary that it becomes so heavy for me that my essential peace is lost? Is it necessary?
So as you live as a body, conditions would always be there. But to retain your essential composure even in middle of all kinds of changing and challenging circumstances, that is the essence of spirituality. Conditions are there, and my physical apparatus and mind are sensing those conditions, and those conditions are affecting the mind as well, because what is mind; a processor, a store house of conditions. That is what the mind is. So when the conditions are changing, just as they are making my face a little darker, similarly they might be having a particular effect on my mind, yet there is something within that is not changing with conditions. And that is not deadness; that is life in all its glory.
What do you think, when you become a slave of conditions, you are really alive? No, you are just a machine, you are just a chemical. The chemical is a slave to its configuration. The machine is a slave to its design.
But with you, something special, something magical, can happen. Conditions might be dictating you to move in a certain way, and conditions operate through knowledge, I hope when I say ‘conditions’ you understand how it is linked to knowledge. To know conditions, is to have knowledge – that is the link. So conditions will be forcing you, pushing you, and you would be experiencing that force, not that you do not know, not that you have become dead, yet there would be something that would be untouched by the conditions; unaffected, not bothered at all, does not give a damn.
If you can live close to that point, then you have known what it means to live. I am not talking of equanimity, mind you. I am not talking of maintaining your poise in heat and cold, in pain and pleasure. No, I am not talking of that. Given the way our mind and body is, when pain comes, we will experience pain. And to not to experience pain is to become either a suppressor, or a hypocrite, or simply become numb.
I am not advocating any of these. I am saying that you do experience pain, experience it fully. You experience pleasure when it comes. Yes, you experience it fully. And you don’t have to do anything to experience it, right? If the breeze is nice, you experience it. You don’t really have to go out and do something special to experience pain and pleasure. If an insect bites you, you will experience pain which is alright. You experience all these. Now this is not a license to jump into sensual indulgence. I am not advocating experience. I am just talking about not suppressing experience. Experience anyway happens. I am just talking about not suppressing experience. Experience anyway happens. I am just talking about not suppressing them. Experience will happen, because you are creatures of flesh and bones.
Experience happens, yet you remain a non-experiencer. And this magic can happen.
Let me put it this way. Even as the worldly experience is going, even as the worldly knowledge and the worldly material conditions are coming to you, you are living in a super knowledge, like when you are involved and deeply involved in playing a video game. Now are you not giving everything to that video game? You give everything that you have to that video game, and you are affected by situations. Something jumps up in your screen, you immediately move your hand, right? You want to respond to what is happening there. So on one hand you are fully into it, and on the other hand there is a super knowledge – that this is not real.
There is a knowledge of all that is happening on the screen, and it’s not only the screen, there might be a gear, remote or something in your hand, right? You have very evolved games these days. So your entire body is involved in playing, not only your eyes, your legs too might be involved. There may be some kind of levers. Your entire body is involved in playing that game, and surely you mind too is engaged. So mind and body are fully engaged in playing that game, and all the knowledge is coming to you through the senses, and the mind is processing it, yet there is a super knowledge that there is a reality beyond this game.
When you are playing that video game, then the reality is the world. You say, Well, this is just on the screen.” And beyond the screen, there is the world, and that you can call as reality. When you are in the world, then the world itself is the video game, and the reality beyond is the Truth. So you are very serious about the world. You are not taking that video game lightly. Why take the video game lightly? Why? And if it is to be taken lightly, why play? Go and sleep. When one plays a game, one plays for playing. So you are playing. But you won’t curse the screen, or smash the screen, or pick up a gun and start firing. You won’t do that. There is the knowledge of the events happening on the screen, and the screen is the world.
There are so many characters in the game. “They are my parents, this is my wife, and I too am one of the characters.” You too are one of the characters on the screen. Don’t think that you are the player. You are very much there in the screen. So there are so many characters there, and you are busy dealing with them. Something is jumping from the tree, something is emerging from the well, and you have a gun with you. That’s how life is, right? You are always carrying a gun. So all this is there, but there is something beyond this, something beyond this, and that is alright. Now it is alright.
Spirituality is not about running away from the game. Spirituality is about knowing that the game is just a game, just a game. Knowing that it is just a game and playing. The problem arises when the game is not just a game, when you become too serious about it. The problem is when knowledge is not just knowledge, then you become too serious about it. This seriousness is called ‘conditioning’.
Listener 2: Sir in case of a video game, I know that there is something beyond and there are characters in the video game. But when we take it to the real world, where I am a character, the character doesn’t know that there is something beyond it. As a character, I don’t know that there is something beyond mind.
Speaker: You don’t need to know something, that there is something beyond. You only need to know that you are a character. How can there be something beyond the screen when you think that you are beyond the screen? When you are playing a game, do you ever think of yourself as a character on the screen? What do you think? You think you are beyond the screen. When you are beyond the screen, how can God or Truth be beyond the screen? You think you are the God.
You don’t need to know what is beyond the screen. Go to the fundamentals of ‘Neti-Neti’. You only need to know that you are within the screen; that is sufficient. Now what is beyond the screen will take care of itself. You don’t need to take care of it. You just need to cut yourself down to size. You need to just get rid of arrogance that – I am the player. You are not the player. The player is…let’s not talk about him. You only need to honestly surrender to the fact that you are one of the ducks in the screen. That hurts, or does it not? Some may say,”It relieves. It feels light.”
Just the other day, two-three days back, we were talking of Swami Ram. So I encouraged people to go through his readings. And it is such a beautiful way he writes. He would say, “You know, Ram went to the book stall today. And they did not treat Ram well.” He did not say, “I went to book stall,” what did he say?
Listener 2: Ram went to the book stall.
Speaker: Ram went to the book stall. You know what he is realizing? He is one of the characters in the screen. Why use that ugly ‘I’? The real ‘I’ is somewhere else; unknowable. Why open our petty mouths to talk about Him. Let’s just realize – I am a character, and things are happening.
~ Excerpts from a Shabd-Yog session. Edited for clarity.
Read more articles on this topic:
Article 3: Knowing is more crucial than knowledge
Watch the session at: The Truth is what you are inspite of your identification with the false