Question: Sir, I was having an orientation class with students. And while taking that I had a strong feeling. We say that conditioning has a great role in what I am seeing on their faces. But that strong feeling was that it’s a conscious choice to remain in that state. And that feeling was very strong but I am not sure about it.
Acharya Prashant: Yes, that’s true! If you will observe the mechanism of consciousness, you will see this. You said ‘conscious’ choice. Yes, obviously.
What is consciousness?
Consciousness is the separation between me and you; between the self and the world, alright? For this entire game involving me and the world to continue, for consciousness itself to continue, it is necessary that consciousness believes in its own game.
I create this distinction, this dualistic thing – there is me, there is you, there is this and that. Now, simultaneously, will I come up and say that all this is false, and hence I am a nobody? Will I pronounce my own death? So, what we call as the normal functioning of man, what we call as the human being itself, is destined to start in illusion. The child is born and he is born in a world of duality. From his very beginning, the game is of duality. He opens his eyes, there is a world outside. His body ends somewhere, and he is not beyond that. Beyond that what is there? The world.
A world that he has no control over. A world that presents challenges and opportunities. A world that is driven by laws that are seemingly different from the laws that govern his self. So, obviously, not only a particular choice, but every action and decision and thought of this self will be in the direction of maintaining, furthering this illusion. We are not born to be enlightened. (Smiles) First of all, understand this. That is not the plan, that is the abrasion. You are born to just make these conscious choices, which are not ‘choices’ at all.
L1: But you suffer when you take these choices.
AP: You may! You may! And that only implies that you are born to suffer.
L1: But, nobody like to suffer.
AP: So, that implies that you are born to suffer against your liking. You are born to live in a way that you do not like. Is that not the story of this world that you see?
L1: Yes, exactly.
AP: Who likes limits? But we are all tolerating limits. Are we not? Are we not?
L1: Yes, Sir.
AP: In some way at the point of being born, you have been condemned to live against yourself. The world always stands as an adversary. You know, “I want more milk. My mother won’t give it to me.” Or at the moment when I don’t want any milk, she is hell bent on feeding me. The world is…
But it is an adversary you can’t do without. Because ultimately, the milk will come from the world, but never enough milk. Or sometimes, more than enough.
L1: But, if you are talking about a child, it has a very limited option. But when we talk of an adult, and I am assuming that he wants a cure. Assuming, because every day he goes in the same cycle, he comes out frustrated and then he goes back to the same cycle. We are talking about stake. Yes, so many stakes, but at some point he is ready to leave those stakes also.
AP: No, you see, ‘he’ wants a cure, therein lies the whole contradiction. ‘He’ wants the cure. Who is this ‘he’? The disease itself. The cure is his elimination. Will he take the cure? So, that’s human tragedy! What we want is our own elimination. The highest is available to us but at the cost of our being – this limited self. That’s human predicament. There is an invaluable good there. You can take it. The good is invaluable and the price is infinite. (Smiles)
Now, what to do? Neither can you leave the temptation of that invaluable good, so all your life you are desperate for contentment, so that you can get that invaluable good, nor can you afford to pay the infinite price. That price is your ‘self’(ego). What to do?
All the time the call of that invaluable will keep tempting you, frustrating you; and all the time the fear of your annihilation will keep making you incapable of paying the price. Caught in between these two opposite demands, man lives his life. That is the story of mankind. And the history and the future.
The only way to go beyond this, and there is a way, is to see that these are not two different demands. We take it as a game of getting the good versus paying the price. We take these two as separate happenings. These are not separate happenings. This is the same happening.
L1: So, paying the price is getting the good?
AP: Paying the price is getting the good.
L2: Or may be when you are getting it, you are already paying the price.
AP: See, what you say is, even if I get it, what is the point if I am not there to enjoy it, to consume it? That is the argument that the ego presents. The fact is, in getting it you will not be left with a vacuum. Yes, you might not be there, but ‘IT’ will be there. But what do you imagine? What is the imagination that the ego presents? “I will not be there, that implies nothing will be there.”
You will not be there, agreed. But That will be there.
Not with me on this?
L1: Not very clear.
AP: What is invaluable?
L1: That good…
AP: That! So if I have a choice between me, whose price is infinite only in my own eyes, is your price infinite even in the eyes of your neighbor? Nobody else thinks that you have an infinite price. Only… (pointing towards the head, denoting ego) Fact is, even you do not think that. Right? We have such low self-worth! But one thing we are sure of: That has an invaluable price. That has an invaluable price.
So, if that particular space that I call as ‘myself’ or ‘I’, in that particular space, this little thing is substituted by that invaluable, do I stand to gain or lose?
L1: But I am not there to experience that gain.
AP: Oh! You have become That. You’re not gone. You have expanded. You are not gone. The ego’s arrogance is, without me, there is no me. The fact is, without you, there is more of You. Without you, there is the Immense.
Now, we can look at your statement: “He wants a cure.”, in a different light. The cure is to be substituted by the cure. ‘He’ will be substituted by the ‘cure’. The cure is to let the cure in so much that it totally fills me up. It fills me up so much that my boundaries are shattered. I am expanded beyond recognition. My limit is my disease. So the cure has to challenge my limit, inflate me, expand me, break my limits. Now, if my limits are being expanded, am I more or am I less? I am more. And I am not going away anywhere. It’s just that my form is changing; just that my mental circuitry is changing. I am no more wired the same way. Or even if I am, I now have the privilege to act as per a different wiring. A totally different quality of wiring.
Consciously, you will only do things that take the game of consciousness ahead. So what can be the way out?
Go a little mad!
Sometimes it is important to reject consciousness, that doesn’t mean you will become unconscious. That means you will rise above the games of consciousness. Consciousness survives on problems; without problems, consciousness is handicapped.
All of you are sitting here comfortably, there is no great need to think of yourself. But if a problem arrives, you will start thinking of yourself. Are you getting it?
Consciousness means duality. And duality means problems. The other is always a challenge because the other is the opposite. The other is a threat to my existence, because he is my ‘opposite’. Now, do you see that this world will always remain a world of problems? Because we are?
AP: Conscious beings! Man takes pride in his consciousness without realizing that consciousness is both his definition and his bane. Yes, it’s alright that you say that you are a conscious being, conscious being in the sense that sitting here you know that you are separate from this wall. “I am conscious of my self and I am conscious of that wall.” Man takes pride in this. Man feels great that this glass of water is not conscious whereas I am. The same consciousness is also his disease. He will have to find a way to go beyond it. Are you getting it?
That way will not be provided by consciousness.
No amount of mental activity can ever tell you how to go beyond mind.
Mentation cannot take you into meditation.
From where will the way come? What’s the secret? Because our choices are always going to be the same, right? Choose Tim or choose Tom, says Mom!
It’s either Tim or Tom! From where can a different quality of choosing come? — which you even can call as not choosing or choice-less-ness. From where will that come? Why does that need to come?
L1: Challenging my limits, may be. Changing my habits.
L1: I don’t know. I mean, I am not sure where is it going to lead me.
AP: A fresh set of new, more pious habits?
L1: May be. May be. But not this, at least.
AP: So from Tim to Tom?
L1: With this limited mind, yes, Tim to Tom. But may be Tom to somewhere else.
AP: (Smilingly) Tom to Ram (Truth) doesn’t happen.
Ask for it. It comes.
You couldn’t have asked this question by yourself. You couldn’t have made that observation by yourself. So, just as the observation happened, just as the question was asked, things have a way of happening. Let them come on their own. Be receptive; don’t obstruct them. They don’t need your invitation. They come on their own. Just don’t stand against them. They don’t need your planning or your reception. All they need is your openness. Just as from nowhere you are asking this question, similarly, to nowhere will this question disappear. I will ask you where did the question go? You will say, “To nowhere.” Which is wonderful, because from nowhere had this question come.
~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
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Article 3: The real being stands behind the duality