Acharya Prashant: The topic today is ‘Destiny and Freewill’. The mind has always been interested in knowing about these. The individual that we sometimes call as man, sometimes refer to as ego, sometimes as the self – the fragmented self – is always curious about this particular topic, because it is related to his freedom.
He wants to know whether he really does have any freewill, any choice, and any real power to determine things by himself, or is it a totally deterministic world. That’s what makes everybody very curious in this topic.
The ego wants to know, to what extent things are destined, and to what extent does its own discretion, its own will and volition apply and matter. And when we look at it, at least superficially, it appears that these two or a combination of these two are the only options that are available to us. It seems that man is either destined or he enjoys a freewill, or his predicament, his position lies somewhere in between, but on the same plane.
And the first glance also suggests as if these two are opposites of each other. As if those who talk about destiny are taking a position counter to those who talk about freewill. At least that is how psychologists look at it. So a Skinner (referring to the 20th century psychologist B. F. Skinner), for example, would say that we are purely mechanical, and had all of our past been known, our future could be predicted with absolute certainty – it is just that we do not have all the data of the past. So he says that everything is destiny, there is nothing called freewill. And then there are other intellectuals who take a counter position and say that man’s consciousness has an important role to play, not everything is predestined.
That brings us to an important word – intellect. When we are talking of intellectuals . . . intellect. I ask you, are both of these: destiny and freewill, not concepts of the intellect? And in that sense are they really opposite to each other or are they the same thing? Concepts of intellect.
That might surprise us.
How can these two be same? Or even similar? Because these two are supposed to be the two ends of the debate. ‘Destiny versus Freewill,’ that is what we always say. How can these two have something in common between them? I want to assert that just like the two poles of duality, these two are not different at all. They are one and the same thing. They both are mental creations, mental concepts and imaginations. And like everything else that is mental, the ego wants to think about them because it seeks security and because it wants knowledge as a tool for contentment and fulfilment.
Let’s see, when we say ‘destiny,’ what is the mental model that we have? We mean that there are two entities: one, the self, the ‘me,’ the ego, and the other is the universe with its whole history of evolution. And the other determines the ‘me’. The universe with its entire vast systems, with its whole time and space, with its cause and effect chains is determining what I am and what I would be.
So what am I doing in creating this mental model? Please see what I am doing. In talking of destiny, I am creating a ‘me,’ a ‘me,’ which is separate from the universe, even if it is controlled by the universe. I have played a very smart trick upon myself. I have said that even if I am at the mercy of circumstances, even if I am at the mercy of all players outside of me, even if I am just an evolutionary product, yet I am – separate, individualized.
And this I am-ness is not the same as what the Maharishi would call as the atman. This I am is the ‘I am’ of the ego. The ego that wants to retain its individuality. So in talking of destiny the mind has done what the mind always does: it has preserved itself. “The world is acting upon me, so I am.”
We are so insecure that we somehow want to convince ourselves that we are. With death looming large around us, with everything being so ephemeral, there is always the threat of us not being at all. So, through a thousand means, the mind wants to convince itself that it is, that it really is. The anitya (the ephemeral) trembles in fear and somehow wants to touch the nitya (the eternal).
At the other end are those who talk of freewill. Let us see what the mind is doing when it is talking of freewill. Again a mental model is being constructed in which the ego is there, and the ego has the power to determine, to act. And if the ego has the power to determine and act, certainly there has to be a substance upon which it will act. That substance then is the universe. Again the same division is being created. Again I am saying, “I am there, and outside of me something else is there, and I act upon it.”
The mind really is a trickster. Superficially the debate is about determinism. But actually it is the same old strife, the ego somehow trying to assert itself and using intellect as a tool, using argumentation as a tool. To a silent mind, I ask you all, where is destiny? And to a silent mind where is freewill? In your deepest moments of joy, are you thinking of destiny? Immersed in freedom, are you conceptualizing about freewill? Submerged in love, would you get into this debate – destiny versus freewill?
These questions arise only to the troubled mind and these questions give no peace at all; because there can be no peace in a dualistic debate. There can be peace only in silence, beyond this debate.
Whether we take this position or that position, be at either end of duality, we are only fragmenting. We are only creating a self and the world outside of the self. We are only trying to violate the basic principle of duality that the two ends though seem opposite of each other, but are actually one. The contradiction between them is just superficial. They are not different at all. But the mind won’t be satisfied by this much only. It still wants to know what is destiny, what is freewill. Just telling it that this debate is useless does not help it.
We are basically restless beings. Man is nothing but restlessness personified. And if you tell restlessness that it is uselessly restless then it doesn’t assuage it, that doesn’t help it. So we’ll have to come to the questions: What really then is destiny? What really then is freedom? What really then is this thing called ‘will’?
If you look at the etymology of the word destiny, destiny means something that is established, that is there. In that sense the word destiny is very, very close to the word Truth, Sat – That which is. That which really exists is destiny. Usually we place destiny somewhere in the future, usually we act as if destiny lies in time and time brings us to it. That is not the real meaning of destiny. Time doesn’t bring us to destiny. Destiny is that which we really are right now, timelessly, spacelessly. Destiny is not what we will become, destiny is what we are – the Self, the atman – and time is a very inefficient way to come to it.
Most of us want to use time to come to the timeless. It’s a very circuitous route, very longwinded, unnecessarily tortuous. And it fails. After all that it takes and promises, it fails.
Even after hundreds of years and hundreds of births, time alone never brings anybody to timelessness. They are different dimensions. One can keep roaming on this floor for centuries, but that would not make him fly; the sky is a different dimension. You will never come to your destiny. When you drop all thoughts of coming and going and becoming, then you are what you are, and you have reached your destiny. “Your destiny has been revealed to you” – that is a better way of saying it.
What is our destiny? The non-dual silence is our destiny. That is what we really are.
Nothing more can be said about it. In fact saying even this much is a transgression. But as we said, the mind is like a restless monkey, it needs some fruits to entertain itself. So we have to give it some words, some concepts. But even when we are treating the mind with concepts, we must ensure that concepts are kept to a minimum. You see, concepts must be like ‘Om,’ which is a word but the most minimal of words, a sound, but a sound that is quickly dissolving into silence. Only such minimal quantity of concepts must be given to the mind, and the mind must be of a nature that is able to sustain itself on only this much. That is the meaning of austerity. That is the real meaning of austerity. Austerity is not about eating less or consuming less. It is about having a mind that thinks less, and even without thinking, it is at peace with itself.
You know, that’s what we do. We try to use our peacelessness to come to peace. We try very complex ways to come to simplicity. Because that’s the only tool available to the mind. The mind doesn’t know simplicity; it knows complexity. So, mind will use violence to come to love.
“Why are we fighting?”
“Because we love each other so much.”
“Why do you have such a large army?”
“Because it is a peacekeeping force.”
And don’t we give those names? After all, what is happening at the macro level is just a reflection of the micro. What nations are doing is just an aggregation of what the individual mind is.
(A long pause.)
Now, freedom and will:
I want to ask, can there be freedom when one system is acting upon the other? Can there be freedom when there is the ‘me’ and there is the universe and the universe is not me? There is ‘me’ and then there is this ‘not me’. By definition the universe is outside the control of my volition. That is the definition! Can there be freedom in this framework? If by definition I have created a model in which there is something outside me, where is the question of freedom? That which is outside me has a life of its own; that’s how I have defined it. Now, where is the question of Freedom? The other will always limit you and your freedom. Sartre said, “The other is hell.” He might not have said this in a deeply spiritual sense but I find it apt to quote him because the other will always limit your freedom.
Let me put it this way: otherness limits your freedom. The moment there is something that is conceived as outside of you, where is the question of freedom? Would this wall correspond to my will? It is outside of me. But mind you, there is this wall outside of me only as long as I am this body.
And the moment you talk of freewill, you are definitely thinking of yourself limited in space as a body. Now, this is quite amusing, on one hand you are defining yourself as a limited being whose contours are decided by the extent of his skin bag, whose flesh and blood decide his very expanse, and on the other hand, you are talking of freedom!
What freedom? You do not even exist outside of your body. Where is the question of freedom? Your first slavery is that you are limited by the dimensions of your body. Where is freedom?
So, the first step for those who talk so much about freedom is that they really inquire into their body identification; they really inquire into their identification with anything. This is a world of opposites, this is the world of duality; the moment you identify with something, you have left out its opposite and companion. You have reduced yourself to a half. Where then is freedom?
Unfortunately, today the only definition of freedom that we know is either the freedom to do something – gross or subtle – or freedom from something. We never ask the question: freedom for whom? And we have intellectuals who are constantly talking about freedom, but they never ask in the first place, freedom from what and for whom? Who is it who wants to be free? Who is it who is so particular about maintaining his freedom? They say there is something that they do not want to do, so freedom simply means freedom from that activity or freedom from that obligation.
I don’t want to take a bath in the morning, so freedom from taking a bath. And I am crazy about pizza, so freedom to eat a pizza. That is the definition of freedom that we have! Is this freedom? Freedom from something or freedom to do something without even asking whose freedom are we talking about? Can the ego ever have freedom? But the ego is the one that rants the most about freedom. The saint has hardly any problems even when slavery comes to him. For him even bondage is sacred and holy; but the egoistic man is deeply concerned about his freedom. He will say, “No, this is a touchy subject, don’t talk about it.” And you see that there are so many codes and constitutions that are placing the highest value upon their idea of freedom. That is how the most profound words are misused.
See how words like Love, Freedom, Truth and Joy are misused. See how we have equated joy with entertainment and pleasure. See how we have brought down the Truth to the level of facts. See how attachments masquerade as love. And these words have gained great currency. We all use them so casually, don’t we? They have entered our everyday parlance:
“I love the way you look!”
“Smoking is sheer joy!”
“Tell me the truth!”
And we keep on saying these things. Is it any wonder then that the destiny versus freewill debate becomes meaningful and so attractive? A mind that is attracted to such notions about Truth, Joy, Love, and Silence, would also be attracted to knowing the extent to which it is controlled by a power outside of itself.
Only the ‘Total’ can have freedom and will. And that will is a non-dualistic will because it does not operate upon anything. The non-dual by definition has nothing outside of itself. So there is nobody else to act upon. It laughs within itself; it dances within itself; it is its own joy; it loves itself. And sometimes in a jolly mood, it divides itself into an infinite variety. And sometimes in the mood of Pralaya (Dissolution), it obfuscates all divisions again, and then there is nothing but the singular silence, all pervasive.
From Prabhav (Creation) to Pralaya, one thing is common that there is no other, just the ‘One’.
In general, my submission is that debates must be left to intellectuals; they can do no better than debating. And they are proud that they can talk a lot. Let them talk. Spirituality is not the province of words. We all know how Maharishi loved mauna (Silence).
Whenever two things appear to be different, let us please remember that both of them are false because difference itself is the guarantee of falseness. If it appears as different to anything else, it cannot be. Only names and forms appear different, only limitations and boundaries can be used to say that ‘This is this,’ and only then a thing can be compared to something else and said that, it is, and it is different.
We have this wall here. And we would like to assert that this wall is different from this floor. Why and how can the mind even come to that assertion? It is because this wall has a boundary, it is because this wall is limited in space. Had this wall had no boundary, there was no way to claim that it is different or similar to anything else. Boundaries are false. What is the criteria of falseness? The criteria of falseness is that it exists only in time. It has come as a result of time and very soon time will obliterate it.
There is neither destiny nor freewill. Such notions are projected by the ego just to sustain and entertain itself. There is only the great, wonderful, beautifully expressive silence of the Truth. You can call that silence as destiny, and only in that silence is freedom, and only there is will. Everything else is just conceptualization.
I would like to proceed further by having your questions.
Listener: Sir, how should we live, because there are so many events happening in our lives. Some are positive and some are negative. So how should we live? Should we just live with the attitude that ‘whatever happens, happens’?
AP: You see, when do you call something as positive? When do you call something as negative? When something pleases the ego, the ego calls it positive, when something goes against the grain of our conditioning, the ego calls it negative. Events are just events. They are happening. To label them as positive or negative is to create a false center from where you are looking at events.
And this phrase has gained circulation these days: positivity, positive thinking, positive energy, positive action, positive attitude, and I keep wondering what this positive thing is all about? We all know positive and negative are with respect to something. You have to place the center somewhere, and on one side of the zero you will have positive and the opposite side will be called as negative.
Who is determining where to place the zero? We don’t enquire, we don’t enquire the fundamental question, “Who Am I?” Koham (Who am I?) is missing from our lives. ‘Positive’ with respect to what? That is the reason why what is positive for one is highly negative for the other. Don’t you see that? Two people are quarrelling. What is positive for one is negative for the other. There is a seller and a buyer. What is positive for the buyer is negative for the seller. What appears as positive thought one moment would become severely negative the next moment. But we want to talk so much about positivity. It is because we are living in an age of faithlessness where the only center that remains is the center of the ego. We are not devoted or surrendered to the real center.
The Real one is missing, that is why there is so much talk of positivity. When the real comes, the positives and negatives all dissolve into zeroness.
Kindly be cautious of stuff like ‘positive attitude’ and this and that. The scriptures never talk of positivity, never; neither have they talked of negativity.
They talk of the Truth and the illusion, and nothing else matters.
How to live life?
You see even as we are talking, is life not being lived? Is the question ‘how to’ relevant at this moment? How many of us are thinking as to how to listen to me? Where is this ‘how to’ relevant at all? As you are listening to me, are you deciding how to listen to me? Or are you just listening? Are you just present or do you have a method to listen? Is there a particular way in which you are approaching my words? You are here and things are happening; they are just happening without the intervention or support of thoughts. But thought wants to ask, ‘How to live life?’ What if we do not think? Will life stop? If yes, then Samadhi (total relaxation) must be death, because there nobody is really thinking, all is resolved, there is no ‘how to’ left.
Just being is sufficient. In great faith leave everything else, because there is nothing else. Just this. Everything else that you think of is just that – a mere thought. You want to think of the future, you want to think of a method. Where is the future? And strangely enough, even as we are here, engaged with each other in a friendly way, in a loving way, the future is already taking care of itself. Have we not spent some fifteen to thirty minutes already? Have we not? Has the future not been taken care of even without the thought? Have we really planned how to listen? I did not come here with a plan about how I am going to discuss and what I am going to say; neither are you sitting here with a plan; yet the future is taking care of itself, and taking care of itself so nicely, so smoothly, so beautifully; nothing is amiss in this moment. In fact if we are really connected with each other, we are not even thinking of time. Aren’t we? Are we thinking of time right now?
Existence has a way of taking care of things. Let’s have a little faith.
L2: You said, ‘If two things appear to be different, both are false’. A living body becomes a dead one someday. How do we understand this difference, this change?
AP: Life that can turn into death is surely false. You know here in India we have a beautiful world Dvij. It means ‘born for a second time’. I take it as being ‘really born.’ When birth is equated with the coming of the body, then it is not really birth because it is just the coming up of thoughts. It is not the body that is born, thoughts are born, time is born and just as time is born, time will also lapse, go away.
Real birth is that which transcends death.
We have said that you are really born only when you are no more in the risk of dying. If you are constantly inching towards death moment by moment, then you are not living at all. What you are calling as life is just the fear of death, and is that not so? If we look at our daily actions, is not every single action motivated by the fear of death, and hence, the need for security, and hence the need for self-preservation? Those who have known have said that this cannot be called life at all. You just call it death – you are already dead! Don’t say that you are alive; if you are living in the fear and shadow of death, then you are not alive at all.
Death will not come, death has already come upon you.
To attain real life means to come in contact with something that cannot die, that is beyond time, that time has not given you and time will not take away.
How to live then?
We need to go into ourselves and enquire whether there is anything with us that time has not given. Time has given the body, thoughts, and the ideologies, the religion, the nationality, the possessions; and what time has given, time will take away. Yet, it is possible to have something which time doesn’t give, which others do not give, and what others do not give, time cannot take away. That is when we call human life as realized – sarthak. That you can also call as enlightenment. That you can also called as Sahaj Yoga: to come upon that which you cannot get from anywhere. You cannot get it from anywhere because it is what you are. You cannot get yourself from outside.
Life, and the purpose of life, is to come to that aloneness, that untouched pure aloneness where there are no others. Where there is no movement or change, where there is complete security and fearlessness. Obviously, there is no death there, because death is just another name for change. And if we have not come to that point, then as we have just said, life is nothing but a trembling shadow of death.
You look at our daily actions for example: how we run after insurance, how we run after having a chain of successors, how we are particular about leaving a legacy behind us. We are in South Delhi right now and we have so many monuments here, what is all that? That is nothing but a failed attempt at defeating death: “Can I have something that outlasts time? I know the body will be gone, so, let me have a mausoleum.”
Even that structure is of brick and mortar, time will bring it down, you will be defeated. Come up to something which the world has not given you, which society or tradition or knowledge has not given you.
L2: Is time a reality?
AP: It depends on who is asking the question, for whom is time a reality? The one who thinks himself to be a product of time, for him time is surely a reality, in fact the only reality. If I ask this question as a man who is fifty years old, then for me time is surely a reality because my basic self-definition is, “I am fifty years old.” If I am so deeply identified with time, then for me time is of course a reality. Often somebody would introduce himself as “I am the father of an eight year old.” Now obviously for this person time is a reality because that is his identity: ‘I am the father of an eight year old’.
“Let’s celebrate our marriage anniversary.” Now for this fellow time is a reality. If time is not a reality, from where does the ‘anniversary’ come? “Let’s celebrate our birthday.” By celebrating your birthday what are you establishing? You are establishing the dominance of time, nothing else. In a thousand ways we hypnotize ourselves and we convince ourselves that time is real. And when we have so thoroughly convinced ourselves obviously time becomes a reality for us. That is the thing about Maya, it is even though it is not.
Yaa Maa Saa Maya: That which is, even without being, is called Maya.
L2: So which was born first, thought or time?
AP: Is this a thought?
AP: Is this a thought? Or is this a realization in timelessness? There can be no thought that does not consume time. Only realization is instantaneous. Thought and time go together. Thinking always requires an object; no one can think objectlessly. Whenever you are thinking, you are thinking about something, that something is an object. And all objects are in time and space, so thinking and time are two names for the same activity, for the same movement.
L3: For a jnani (Knower) there is no destiny and there is no freewill. For an ajnani (Illusioned one), thoughts about destiny and freewill are always there. You are saying that these are all illusory, then how to get rid of this illusion and move into the Truth?
AP: From where is this question coming?
You see, if I am a total ajnani, will I ever ask how to get rid of my ajnana?
Go sharply into this very moment, go very close to it! The question is: How does one move from the illusion to the Truth? I am asking: Is this very question not an action of the Truth? Had you been nothing but a bundle of illusions, would you have ever asked how to go beyond illusions? It is the memory of Truth that makes you search for the Truth; it is the Grace of Truth that makes you seek the Truth. So, when you declare that you are an ajnani and you want jnana, jnana is already at work. Without the work of jnana, this question could not have arisen in you.
Remember, left to itself, the ego will never want to seek the Truth. The ego would want to seek concepts about Truth, but not the Truth, because the Truth is the death of the ego. Left to itself, the ego never wants the Truth. So, just as you asked this question, you are no more an ajnani.
In the moment of asking this question, you have transcended ajnana. Let more of us ask this question again and again. But again, that cannot be freewill, grace has to do that.
L3: A fish swimming in water does not understand what water is because it is limited by its capacity, and because it is floating on that medium. Similarly, we human beings are limited by our understanding of the cosmos because we are not built or equipped by the creator to understand the creation. So, should not we stop analysing and just be? Because I have seen at many places, even scientists and so many people are obsessed with the existential questions. A fish is at peace just swimming in water, and doesn’t ask ‘Who Am I?’, or ‘In which medium am I flowing?’ Similarly, we human beings are limited in our capacity to understand the entire cosmos. There are things which humans cannot know. So, why not just enjoy being and just live? Why are we obsessed with analysing?
AP: Why must we enquire at all? Why must this question be asked at all? Why Koham must be asked at all? That’s your question.
AP: You see, a fish never asks ‘Who Am I?’; but a fish never even tries to say that I am ‘X’. If you can be totally like the fish, wonderful! But the thing is you are no more like the fish. Does a fish ever say that I belong to a particular religion, or cult, or path? Does a fish ever say that it has a name? Because the fish never says ‘I am X,’ so it also does not have the need to ask ‘Who Am I?’ But you keep on insisting that ‘I am somebody,’ ‘I am X,’ so you definitely need to deeply enquire into the validity of your own assertion. It is because you keep saying that you are something, hence you must enquire into whether what you are saying is truthful at all. If you are already like a fish then it is alright. But a human being has to drop a lot to gain ‘fishness’. Otherwise our fishness is just a concept, and hence, very ‘fishy’!
L3: And it is this society with its various institutions like family, religion, school, etc. that has told us to label ourselves in this way or the other.
AP: Yes, Well captured!
You know, when you have been covered with so many identities, when you have been covered with so many statements saying ‘I am this,’ ‘I am that,’ ‘I am this,’ ‘I am that,’ then obviously you will have to ask that whether any of these ‘I am’ has any substance to it. And you have captured it very nicely that the education system has a great role to play. Layers upon layers of identifications are imposed on us.
So, you will have to ask ‘Koham,’ you will have to ask this, to come to your prakriti: a state involving just the biological conditioning, and no social conditioning. Coming to prakriti from the current state of vikrati, that is, layers of social conditioning imposed upon basic biological conditioning, is a great advancement.
Often when we want to address somebody in a derogatory way, we say “Don’t behave like a dog.” The fact is, the dog is far more advanced than a human being because it has only one layer of conditioning: the prakratik (natural) layer. Man has two layers: prakratik and the samajik (social). So, to come to the state of the fish, you really have to be somebody special. In fact, the scriptures categorically say that the jnani appears so much like an animal and a madman.
What is common between the jnani and the madman? Both do not live by the dictates of the society. The jnani appears so much like an animal and a madman. The most classical example is the Avadhuta.
L4: Sir, there are a few images: first one is that of the battle of Kurukshetra, where Krishna as a guide is commanding Arjuna to resist and fight; another one is that of a man who is just sitting on a boat and allowing himself to flow.
Who amongst these should we think we are? Do we have to strive or do we just let our boat flow?
AP: There is no difference actually. There is no difference at all. You see, the situation on the field of Kurukshetra is often grossly misinterpreted. In fact, all interpretations are misinterpretations. We think that it is Arjuna who is not wanting to act and Krishna compels him and convinces him to act. The fact is otherwise.
Arjuna is greatly acting in his apparent nonaction. What is the definition of acting? When you take upon yourself the role of the actor, then you are acting. So, one may just sit on this chair not budging an inch, but if he thinks that he is sitting, then he is greatly acting. The whole message of Krishna is, ‘Why do you think of yourself as an actor? Act without being the actor’. In that case the second instance that you quoted is just what Krishna is teaching Arjuna, “Sit on the boat and let the boat move with the river.” The movement of the boat is analogous to the movements of the bows and arrows. So, he is saying “Arjuna, let your hands operate. Pull out the arrows and use your Gaandeev (Arjuna’s bow). You are not the actor, I am the actor.”
Krishna is taking away the onus of doership from Arjuna. “Arjuna, you are not the doer, I am the doer; I am the mover of the universe, why do you think that you are the doer at all? You just flow in the river. You are in a battlefield, and what happens in a battlefield? Fighting. So fight. Just as water flows from a high level to a low level, you must also shower your arrows. You are not doing anything, you are just flowing, Arjuna.”
These two situations are just the same; do not be deceived by appearances. A man may appear to be not doing anything and yet he may have a great deal of doership in him. And a man may appear to be doing a lot and yet he may be completely inactive from within. Don’t go by gross appearances! When Arjuna is not fighting, in chapter one, Vishadyoga, then he is doing a lot. And when Arjuna has surrendered to Krishna and he is actually fighting, then he is not doing anything, because whatever is being done is by Krishna. Arjuna is not doing anything. Only in chapter one of the Gita is Arjuna actually doing anything. As the chapters advance, Arjuna becomes more and more of a non-doer, his karta-bhaav (doership) sublimates.
L4: Sir, when one is in this spiritual zone, one doesn’t feel like thinking about the future. Then others do not understand him and call him careless. Sometimes they even want to remind you that you are going astray.
AP: Even though they taunt you and tease you, yet they are fascinated by you. It’s a very loving satire that they throw at you. Take it that way. Even though they may say that you are careless, yet their heart craves for the same carelessness which is actually just being carefree, not careless. They may say that you are irresponsible, but deep within they are longing for the same freedom from obligations. So let them mock you, let them jeer at you; you are actually serving as an inspiration for them. They may not admit it.
Even when Jesus is being crucified, Christianity is being born. Don’t go by appearances. It appears that Jesus is being killed, but what is actually happening? He is converting people even in his death. Even though they are not only mocking him but actively killing him, yet the ‘rockstar’ is gaining fan following that very moment.
Let this not terrify you. One requires to be a Jesus to be crucified, not everybody is crucified.
L5: You worked very hard to get into I.I.T. and I.I.M. So do you think there was no doership then? Or it just happened?
AP: You see a lot of people work really, really hard. Had it been about hard work, then I could not have been there because I am so sure a lot of my friends worked way harder than me.
Somebody clears, let’s say, the Civil Services exam. You read his interview, and the fellow has said that he worked really hard, twelve hours a day. And you feel it is hard work that has taken him to success. What you do not see is that there were lakhs of other aspirants who worked for an equal number of hours. Why then did they not succeed? Had it been about hard work, then they too should have succeeded. This is the faulty attribution process that the mind often engages in. It does not want to acknowledge something which is beyond its own doership. We like to claim, “It was me who succeeded because of my personal hard work!” We like to claim that.
It is something more and a little beyond hard work, it is a little different. Though a lot of hard work does appear to be happening, I do not deny that.
L5: So if it is our destiny, we should accept it?
AP: Whether or not we accept, we are it. We do not have a choice in accepting it. You see, we again want to assert as if we have a role. Look at the ego! Even when you say that you will accept destiny, you are implying as if you have a choice to not accept it. Do you really have a choice?
While acting, should the mind not be used?
AP: Let the mind be used by another agency like a slave.
Action will happen through mind because action happens in this universe of space and time. So, there the mind and the intellect will all be used but like an intermediary, like a slave.
When I say ‘slave,’ I do not mean bonded labour. Rather, a willing servant. A surrendered lover.
L5: The destiny versus freewill, and chance versus choice debate, are they ultimately about atmgyan (Self-knowledge)?
AP: When we say atmgyan, we mean some kind of theory about the atman. A theory is just that, a theory. You can have a theory about this water bottle, you can have a theory about this electronic instrument, about this camera, about the bones in the body, but you cannot have a theory about the atman.
Atmbodh (Self-realisation) is different.
Atmbodh means nothing. Atmbodh really means nothingness.
L5: So how will we perceive? It varies from person to person. Half of us are taking this perception, and the other half, that.
AP: As long as there is perception there is no realization. So, don’t perceive.
L5: So, there is no requirement of meaningful observation?
AP: Observation is not perception.
The Buddhists have a beautiful word for ‘it’: apperception. They do not even call it as perception. As long as you are perceiving, you will not observe, because your eyes will be covered with your own prejudices. Observation is when you are not there, that is real objectivity.
L5: So, when the object disappears the subject too disappears?
AP: Obviously, obviously.
L5: I want to quote an example that a friend told to me: ‘Observe just like this camera.’ It just observes, purely. But in human beings, eyes observe, and brain processes the observation with its prejudices.
So, should we become a camera lens?
Friend, we have a camera here and it does have a lens. Is anything happening to this camera? Many of you would have entered a certain peace in the last one hour, but is this camera experiencing any peace? Do not become a camera lens. Observation does not mean becoming mechanical. This camera is sitting so close to me, yet is it really listening? It is recording everything, but is it really listening? It has memory of everything, but does it have any understanding? Do not become a camera lens.
Observation is understanding without thoughts.
Please understand this: merely saying that you are thoughtless does not mean that you are observing. Understanding is without thinking. And you need to have faith that you can understand without thinking. That you can listen without analysing.
L5: To understand what you are saying, won’t I need to analyse and conclude?
AP: We all like to conclude, because conclusion means end. Conclusion means a full stop. So the mind says, “Come to an end, why be constantly alert? Conclude and close the matter.”
But conclusion does not mean understanding. Conclusion only means that you have come to a particular statement that you are now taking as the Truth.
Never conclude! Because conclusion, I repeat, means an ending. Truth never ends.
L6: You said that the mind and the intellect can be used like slaves. Won’t that require a lot of training and effort? Sweat, blood, and tears?
AP: No, I did not say that the mind and intellect could be used like slaves, because the moment you say that they can be used like slaves, you have also created a user, who is using them. This user is just another fragment of the mind.
One fragment ruling the other has no spiritual value. The total mind must surrender. Then it does not even know that it is being used by the ‘One’ to whom it has surrendered. That is the real meaning of surrendering; otherwise it is surrendering with calculations. If you know to whom you are surrendering, then it is no more a surrender, it is a bargain, it is a trade.
You are bowing down without even knowing to whom you are bowing – that is real surrender.
I am not saying use the mind as the slave! If you are using mind as slave, then it is one part of the mind using other parts of the mind. That is just self-hypnosis. As for blood, sweat, and tears, obviously they are a part of what we call as bodily existence. So that happens in either case, whether one is surrendered or not.
Kabir calls these as deh dhare ka dand (The punishment of being a body).
Because you have a body, you have to experience blood, sweat and tears. And further he says that everybody has to go through this suffering that comes along with the body. It is just that, he says, “Jnani bhugte jnana se, moorakh bhugte roy.” (The wise man bears the suffering in his wisdom, the ignorant one goes through the suffering resisting and complaining.)
Both of them have to go through it, both of them have to experience it. The ignorant one resists, suffers, and weeps, but the realized one knows what it is. So, he just smoothly passes through it.
L6: Why does all this illusion exist if it is so useless?
AP: It is not useless. It enables us to talk to each other, see. (Laughter)
L7: When you use the word ‘Grace,’ do you mean Prarabdha? Do you mean that some other power, some superpower is there?
AP: We are creatures of flesh and blood. If our body is taken and dissected, there is nothing in this body that suggests that one can come to peace. There is nothing in this body that suggests that Buddhahood is possible. There is nothing in the brain that suggests that there is something called non-duality. Everything about the brain is dualistic. Yet, it does happen that a bridge comes from somewhere that moves one from duality to non-duality. It does happen that the restlessness that is man, comes to a final relaxation. It cannot be explained by arguments; it is called grace.
Nothing can be said about it, there is no way to explain how it happened: A man who is just a bundle of conditioning, and hence, prone to temptations, pleasures, evasive actions, how did this man suddenly come to know that which was never taught to him! This is grace.
And even to say that this is grace is to put a blemish upon grace. It should be left untouched, not much should be said about it. Like Om, as we said in the beginning. Not much should be said about it.
L7: When I was coming here, my wife wanted me to take her shopping, but I told her, “I am free to go anywhere.”
‘I am free to go anywhere, and free in many other ways.’ What do I actually mean by that?
AP: You mean that you think that you are free. When you say that you are free to go anywhere, then it is obvious that you won’t go anywhere. It is obvious that you will not go even to the next room. It is obvious that you will not go even to the terrace or to the parking lot. But conceptually you want to tell yourself that you have a lot of power and you are free to go anywhere.
Are you really free? Is this freedom not just nominal? Is this freedom ever exercised except in imaginations?
You might be in a job and technically you are always free to leave the job. Technically you are free any moment to resign. Does that happen? We have soul-sapping, blood-sucking jobs, and we keep regaling ourselves by saying, “You know, I am free to resign.” Are you really free? Had you been really free, would you be found there in the first place? It is not the question of resignation alone. Had you been free, what would you have been doing there in the first place?
Your very presence there is out of slavery, not due to freedom.
~Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session held at Raman Kendra. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session at: Destiny is not what you will be, Destiny is what you really are.
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