The teacher uses your bondages to take you to freedom


Suiwo, the disciple of Hakuin, was a good teacher. 

During one summer seclusion period, a pupil came to him from a southern island of Japan. 

Suiwo gave him the problem: ‘Hear the sound of one hand.’ 

The pupil remained three years but couldn’t pass this test. 

One night he came in tears to Suiwo,”I must return south in shame and embarrassment”, he said, “for I cannot solve my problem.” 

“Wait for one week more and meditate constantly”, advised Suiwo.

 Still no enlightenment came to the pupil. 

“Try for another week”, said Suiwo.

 The pupil obeyed, but in vain. ‘Still another week.’

Yet this was of no avail. 

In despair, the student begged to be released, but Suiwo requested another meditation of five day.

They were without result.

Then he said, “Meditate for three days longer,

then if you fail to attain enlightenment, you had better kill yourself.”

On the second day the pupil was enlightened.

Acharya Prashant: What do we see happening here? Enlightenment is sought, enlightenment eludes, enlightenment proves difficult to come about; the body is put at stake and here is enlightenment.

(Repeating his words)Enlightenment is sought, Enlightenment eludes, Enlightenment proves difficult to come about; the body is put at stake and here is enlightenment. All right!

What is enlightenment? Look at the mind that seeks enlightenment. Surely, if everything were all right, if the mind would have been at rest, then the mind would not have sought enlightenment. We are looking at the very basics. There is a mind that is seeking enlightenment, or whatever. There is a mind that is seeking, irrespective of the object. Enlightenment may or may not be the object of seeking. Here it is.

So, the mind is seeking enlightenment. For sure, the mind is not quiet at rest. The mind is not really at peace. Had everything been all right, the mind would have said, “Things are all ready, all right! I do not need to change the situations. Nothing more needs to be achieved.” Right? Here, something is needed to be achieved.So the mind is not quiet okay. What is this mind that is not feeling okay? This is the mind full of..

What is  mind full of?

Listeners: Thoughts.

AP: Thoughts, and?

L: Desires.

AP: Desires, and?

L: Fear.

AP: Fear, and?

L: Images and objects.

AP: Images and objects, and?

L: Concepts.

AP: Concepts, and?

L: Knowledge.

AP: Knowledge, and?

L: Suffering.

AP: Suffering, and?

L: Attachments.

AP: Attachments, and?

L: Wants.

AP: Wants, and?

L: Imagination.

AP: Imagination, and?

L: Awareness?

AP: (Smilingly) Awareness is full, it does not fill up. So what is the mind full of?

L: The world.

AP: Right? All these things. Well said! The world. So, images, objects, thoughts, people, places, events, happening, memories-The world. The world, and the world is all material. The body is a symbol, a metonym for all that is material. Whenever you encounter the word ‘Body’ in wisdom literature, in scriptures, in spiritual texts, do not take the body just as the human body. Body means material. Body means all that has taken a shape, a form, a name. That is the body. The Upanishads say, “The world is the body of The Truth. The world is the body of Brahm.” That is the meaning of body- material.

Now what is the mind full of?

L: Material

AP: So, the mind is full of?

L: Body.

AP: Body. Enlightenment is..? Mind trying to empty itself of its suffering, which is its own content.

Enlightenment is ‘mind trying to get rid of suffering.’ 

Something is not quiet proper, something is not at place, that is why you seeks enlightenment. So the mind wants to correct the situation. But what is the situation? It has to be understood.

First of all the mind is full of only objects. We are looking at the situation that needs to be corrected. First of all the mind is full of objects. Secondly, suffering is not something fragmented. On the surface, the moods and the seasons of mind keep changing. So it appears that pain goes and pleasure does come. It appears that sometimes we are not sad. It appears as if, we are able to enjoy the moments of relief, on the surface only. But, deep within there is no change. There is no change, because, on observation it seen that the mind operates within its limits and those limits have remained the same. Those limits have not at all changed. Space-time is the limit.

So first of all, the mind is not happy with itself. Secondly, that which the mind is not happy with is the content of the mind which is the body. Thirdly, we cannot say that the mind is-body plus something .Whatever is there in the mind, is body, and whatever is there in the mind, is suffering. In other words, to perceive the world as bodily, as material, is in itself the suffering of the mind.

You know what we are saying? We are saying that 

The suffering of the mind is that the ‘mind, is the mind’.

Rephrase it to read that

Just ‘being’ is the suffering of the mind. Just ‘existing’ is the suffering of the mind.

 You see, had you been except suffering, then you could have said that- ‘I can eliminate those portions of my being which are not suffering.’ But you are in totality, only body, only limitations. And you do not like limitations, you do not like boundaries, you do not like death. Where there is limitations, there is bound to be a cessation, there is bound to be death, Getting it?

Now, here is the mind. It is seeking relief. And, how it is seeking relief? By going to a master, by listening to his words, by following his instructions. Understand, that whatever the mind does, the process is always accumulative, it adds. So whereas the disease of the mind is its own being, yet, even when it goes to a master, even when it tries to relief, the method it prefers is an accumulative method. “I will remain what I am and I will also add the master’s teaching to my being. I will not get rid of what I am.”, which is material, which is body, which is thoughts and everything, which is all name and form,  collectively known as the body.

Even when I will go to the master, I will accumulate. I will take it upon myself. The master says-

‘Go and meditate.’ What will I turn meditation into? Another object, another process, another method, another something to be thought of; another concept. It keeps happening. The ego is happy, the ego is co-opting, the ego is taking everything. But, if the master is a real master, he will be a smart master -more clever than the mechanisms of the ego. He says, “All your non-sense is just to protect yourself. I am giving you the highest remedy possible but you are making it fail. You are conspiring to defeat it, just to protect yourself which is the,..?”

L: Body.

AP: Body. “Nothing else do you want. You just want the universe to continue. You just want to protect your world.” And what is your world?

L: Body.

AP: Call it body or call it ‘bodily’, the same thing. Is there anything non-bodily about world? Is there anything in your world which does not have a name? Is there anything in your world which does not have a form? And, body is all that. Name, form, size, dimension. So the master says,”All this, sham, this total fiasco is happening just for the obnoxious purpose of preserving the min, which is the body”. Then, if I tell you that if you continue with this, then the very purpose for which you are doing this will be defeated, then all your conspiracy comes to a halt. It is defeated.

See, whatever you are doing, you are doing just so that your world keeps running. You want nothing else. But if somehow, a master can reveal to you, that by doing what you are doing, you will not be able to save the world. If the master can somehow revealed to you that your world will anyway come to an end and is in fact, coming to a more horrible end through your actions to protect the world, then you have to stop all your actions intended to protect the world.

Why do you, do all the horrible and idiotic stuff that you do? You do it just to maintain the status quo. You do it just so that all that is old and settled and pattern based, all that you have become comfortable with, that does not passed away. Am I right? But what if somebody reveals to you that, that which you want to protect is severely being harmed by your efforts to protect it, then would you still continue with your efforts?

The master used this trick. He said, “You are not letting enlightenment come to you just to protect the body, but now I am telling you that if you will not let the enlightenment come to you, then you will lose the body.” Now, you will not block enlightenment. You were blocking enlightenment in order to..

L: Save the body.

AP: Save the body, which is the mind.

Enlightenment is the end of the mind.

So you block enlightenment because you want to protect the mind, which is the..

L: Body.

AP: Body. So you block enlightenment to secure the mind and if the master is wise enough, he will tell you that by blocking enlightenment, you are causing more torture to the mind. You think you are helping the mind? You think you are protecting the mind? You think you are a friend of the mind? No! In your stupid effort to block enlightenment you are only causing yourself more and more pain. And once that is seen then your own self interest demands that you do not block the real, the truth anymore. Then enlightenment dawns immediately.

This small story contains the whole narrative of whatever mankind has ever done. Man has always wanted peace. But, his efforts to get peace have themselves been the resistance against peace. You know, there is nobody who does not want enlightenment. You may want enlightenment in various names and forms. Somebody may want enlightenment in the form of a tall building. Somebody may want enlightenment in the form of space-travel. Somebody may want it in some other name, form, whatever, whatever, whatever. But, enlightenment is all that each one wants. And enlightenment is what each one seems to miss because you want enlightenment to improve yourself, to protect yourself.

You want to protect yourself and you say enlightenment should come and help in the process of protection. ‘If enlightenment comes, then I will become immortal’, Have you not heard this? So If enlightenment comes, what will become immortal? What will continue?

Listeners: The mind.

AP: The ego. So you need enlightenment for the sake of the?

L: Ego

AP: Now that’s wonderful! Enlightenment comes, knocks, everyday. But it says that, “If I enter, ego has to leave. If I enter, then your world – the mind, the body, they will have to be reduced to a secondary position. If I come, then I will become the first. If I come, I have to be acknowledged as the first. If I come, I will come only as the king, the ruler. Everything else, all your priorities, will have to be relegated to a lower position.”

So you say,”No, no, no. I wanted you, but I wanted you just as a servant to my other priorities. I want enlightenment as a servant who would be obeisant to my other priorities.” Enlightenment cannot come that way. It is not the nature of enlightenment to be second. It would always be first.

So, here is the trick. Tell yourself that, so far, you have not let it come only because you think that you wanted to be the well wisher of your world. You have blocked Truth. You have blocked wisdom. You have blocked peace, joy. You have blocked all efforts of all teachers, just so that you can protect your petty dreams. But in blocking them, you are only torturing that, bleeding that which you wish to protect.

Truth saves you, but not only you. Truth is a general, universal savior. The ones that you want to protect, you will not be able to protect, only truth will protect. Let Truth come. The Truth will take care of you and also the world that you want to protect. Only the Truth can protect that.

But, you are blocking the Truth thinking that you will protect the world. No, you will not protect the world. Let Truth come in. The Truth will protect both you and the world. Only the truth knows the real meaning of protection. Whenever you have tried to protect, you have only done harm to the world. Have you not? Getting it?

It’s a bit like this. The teacher says that

For the sake of your relationships with your husband, you are not answering my call, you are not opening the door. You think that, if I enter, then, your relationships with your husband, will be strained. But instead I am telling you that if I do not enter, then you will totally lose him. Only I, can turn that relationship healthy. So, don’t be foolish, open the door. You think, that by blocking me, you will be able to save your relationship? No. Wrong. By blocking me, you have blocked all that which could be healthy in your relationship. Because I represents health. If you have blocked me, you have blocked health. Let me come in. I will not destroy anything that is healthy. Yes, I will destroy. I will destroy, but only that which is rotten, and must be destroyed. So, let me come in. Truth reinforces Truth. If there is anything healthy in your relationship, then my arrival will only boost that health.

Are you getting it? That is the Truth.

Show the students that the loss happens is not when he follows the teacher, but when he does not follow the teacher. Display it. Prove it. And then the mind will fall in line. And as the Zen stories are characteristically fond of saying, “The mind gets immediately enlightened.”

It’s a very pretty expression, quaint and charming. Upon hearing these words, Kunal(referring to a listener) was immediately enlightened.

L: Sir, there is this story that by seeing the finger one got enlightened.

AP: Not by seeing the finger, but by first having his finger cut. Otherwise, you will keep seeing fingers, all kinds of fingers and yet, nothing happens to you. First of all your own finger should be cut.

 You see, the fellow(referring to the character of the story) has always been three years. Three years and a few weeks, already. Nothing can be done by positive effort now, which has not been done already in the three years. The fellow, by way of effort, by way of doing, by way of trying new tricks, new methods, all effort have already been investing himself since very long time. Very long time plus additional time, one week, another week, another week. So, whatever affirmative actions could have been taken has already been taken. These three days are not for taking any affirmative actions. They are rather for removing the blockage.

Now, the disciple cannot do anything new. Instead he has to stop doing whatever he has already been doing, always been doing.The master realizes that he has reached the end of all effort. Effort wouldn’t help. In fact, he is now investing his effort just in protecting himself. So he has to rather drop effort now. No more effort is needed.

You know something very similar to this is said by Kabir. Kabir in his one of his couplets wishes, prays, that nobody should become fearless. He says it is through fear that you gain liberation. It is through fear that you become transformed- Bhay paaras hai jeev ko, nirbhay hoye na koe’.

That is what is displayed here. The master shows him that while you are terrified of the master, of meditation, of enlightenment, thinking that you will loose something, then, if you are so worried and concerned about that object, which you do not want to lose, and what is that object? Mind-body, the world. Then if you are so concerned about that object, I will use your very concern as a tool, as a method.

Kabir says,”Bhay se bhakti sab karein.” He says, “There is no devotion without fear.” There is no devotion without fear, because that is the habit of the mind. It cannot move only either to get something or to prevent something from being lost; fear and greed. So, sometimes it happens that the same fear and greed have to be used to become the agents of your enlightenment. Bottom line-

That, which you are protecting, is being destroyed due to your protection. And, if you really want to protect, embrace your enlightenment, it is knocking, it wants to come; only enlightenment protects.

Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the Session:  The teacher uses your bondages to take you to freedom

Editor’s Note: 

Books by Acharya Prashant :







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