Listener: I was reading a book and I see you put very much attention to fear. I find it interesting because others put emphasis on following time.
Acharya Prashant: All the spiritual teachings, this entire domain has one single objective and that objective is not the attainment of God. That objective is freedom from fear.
God is not the goal of spirituality, not at all. Neither is truth nor is anything else. The goal of spirituality is very very ordinary, very close to the mind and that is freedom from fear. Fear is death. Death is what we also call as this life. And hence, fear, when taken to its logical conclusion also means liberation from life.
But why talk in complicated terms? Simply just say that fear is our nemesis and we want freedom from it.
L1: I also notice sometimes when I am observing myself, you know, feeling fear is not an emotion. It’s a deception. So we are afraid of fear. So we are just putting it under the carpet and denying the fear and giving fault to everyone, everything.
AP: We are afraid of everything, just as we are afraid of intimacy, sexuality, Truth, nature, we also afraid of fear. So we are fearful of fear itself. And when you are afraid of something, it hangs on, it lingers, it becomes sticky and persists. Fear has a rightful place in existence. You know?
L1: For protection?
AP: Yes. And then fear is just called as alarm.
L1: As all the negative emotion..?
AP: It is not negative then. It is just there. Then it is the body’s tendency for self protection. And as long as it is just physical, not psychological. One need not even call it fear. One can just call it a state of alertness or alarm. You know, a truck is coming to your way and the truck is wobbly, the driver is drunk, there is a sudden movement within and you jump out of the way, which is alright. Some deep tendency for self preservation for physical continuity immediately sprang up and made you act. But, if even after the truck is gone, you are standing there and shaking and trembling, then it is called fear.
L1: Then we are affected if we are clinging to death, what is said, is we are affiliating death, that is what is called as Karma. This inner tendency for the next time, for the next time…
The mark of the karma is that it always comes with a future.
So, even after the truck is gone, yet in the future you have a phobia of trucks. Everytime you look at a truck, you are reminded of the old incident. Now, it is Karma. If there is no carry over, carry forward to future, then there is no question of karma. Karma just needs conditioning. That’s all.
L2: Yes. And in that night, I heard once some teacher said that You are always afraid of the future and never of Death that is right now. And that is so true.
AP: But, this is true as well as misleading because what is right now is not this cup of tea, or this recorder or this book. What is right now and that which will never give you any fear is The Truth. Objects can always be a cause of fear. The very usage of the word “now” is always in context of past and future. There is no way you can use “now” without referring to the past. So, ‘now’ is not the same as ‘present’. Many teachers make this mistake of using “now” and “present” interchangeably. Now is a point in the stream of time. Present is the vast space in which all such streams keep flowing. The present is The Truth; ”now’ is not The Truth.
L1: But we are speaking more of the inner space..
AP: No, the moment you talk of these distinctions-inner and outer, again you have reached mental domain. Only in the mental domain, there are distinctions. So if a teacher is talking in terms of inner and outer, and “now” versus “the past and the future”, he is still talking mind and where there is mind there would be need to protect the mind and hence fear.
It is very strange how teachers themselves are responsible for so much of the fear that we have. You have people who have come up with the stuff like-“the Power of now.” Now this is a very dangerous thing to say. Truth has no power. Power means the ability to do something. Do something outside of yourselves. Truth has nothing outside of itself. How can Truth have power? But the ego likes power, the ego is power hungry. And if you say “Power of now”, then the ego feels good and your book sells because you want power.
The present is simple, absolute, naked. Where is the question of power in it? Who is thinking about the power? Who wants it?
L1: Always the mind and the ego.
AP: Always the mind and the ego. So, don’t be taken in by the sweetness of this word “now”. “Now” doesn’t mean that you are saying, “I am here and now”. ‘Here and now’ doesn’t mean that you are sitting here in a particular cafe at this particular time of the day. All this is jargon in the neo – spirituality, don’t you hear so much of ‘here and now’, these are all very misleading.
“Here” is not a place. “Now” is not a moment.
L1: It’s a state of being?
AP: It’s the present, it’s The Truth. It’s not even a state of being. The Truth had no states. Because state means change. One state would yield to another state. The Truth has no state. It is stateless. ‘Here and Now’ means the pure Truth itself which is outside the domain of experience and conceptualization.
I repeat, “here” does not mean that you are sitting on the top floor of this cafe besides this Ganga right now. And paying attention to the present doesn’t mean that you are paying attention to this cup, Attention is never object specific. But all of this is circulating and going around. And all of this is taken as spirituality. It is not. It will only lead to more confusion. Isn’t it said that pay attention to “what is now.” Now the mind translates that as-pay attention to this cup in your hand. That is concentration. That is ego.
Attention simply means that the mind is surrendered. And after surrender whatever the mind does, that is called attention.
L1: Isn’t all these ways of the others teachers are tools because it’s easier for a comman man to relate to the present moment and then to go a little more let’s say-obstruct. Because it’s not always easy to come to this state you are talking about.
AP: You see, had that been the result, I would have been absolutely alright with it. But in the matters of Truth, unfortunately the cleverness of man does not work. In matters of Truth, only pure, absolute, uncompromised, Truth works. If you try a method, if you try a shortcut, if you try a way, then it falls flat. It is unlikely to have any result.
You want to relive someone of the past, or the hope of the future, so you start talking about the “now” to him. What you do not understand is that the “now”contains all of the past. And that the “now” contains all seeds of the future. So by talking of the now, you have no way taken him away from the past or the future. It is in the “now” that you anyway think of the “past”. It is in the “now” that you anyway think of the “future”. So even if you are talking of the “now”, how have you escaped past or future?
You are still in the river. You are still identified with the flow. Let me ask you a simple question – There is a raft flowing, going down the river. You take a picture and what would the picture show? The picture would show the raft at a particular point in the stream. That point is “now”. Now does that mean that the raft has come out of the stream?
L1: It’s in it.
AP: It’s still in it. ‘Now’, ‘past’ and ‘future’ are all one. There is no special significance of the “now”. They are all part of the same stream. But whenever you will click a picture, it will always show the raft at one particular point. Only one point. And that point is called “the now”. That point is called the “now”. Don’t think-by clicking a pic, you have been able to drop out of the stream. You would anyway, always remain in the stream. That’s the function of the mind to operate in the time and space. Once that is realized, then there is something outside, that you get connected to. Now the flow is divine. Raft would still remain in the stream. But in some way, have a quality that is independent of the stream.
L1: May be, we are tending to see the stream as a problem?
AP: Yes, wonderful. When you see the stream as a problem, only then you devise ways to jump out of the stream. You do not realize that when you jump out of the stream, it is always into another stream that you jump out. Because, for the mind, there is stream and streams and more streams. So, if you jump out of one stream, you enter another stream. You could also say that the mind jumps from one current into another current in the same stream.
AP: So, there is no question of jumping out. Because jumping out itself is the creation of another stream. Anything that the mind does is the creation of one more cause – effect chain. This cause – effect chain is called the stream.
There is no way except to simply live like the trees, like the animal, like the river, in a state of total surrender. And hence, not taking anything as problem. The weathers are changing; the trees never cry out. And trees are found only where the weather is suitable for them. They will not go to Mars and try to accumutise themselves. Every tree is found where it must be and that ‘s all. The river flows only towards the sea and that’s all.
We too know our proper place and that’s all. Be there and be simply there. Don’t you find it amusing sir, the clouds know when to rain? Man does not know when to cry? Even the cats, the dogs, the rats, they all know when to eat and how much to eat; we need a dietitian
L1: Nobody needs the schedule.
AP: Yes, nobody needs the schedule. They all know. Nothing in the existence needs a guru. I haven’t seen mice attending satsang. And they are alright. They are not having nervous breakdown. Never seen a depressed mouse in my life. Once I did, he was living with a depressed man.
Live like the mice and you will be alright. When it’s time to eat, eat. When it’s time to sleep, sleep. When it’s time to have sex, have sex. Eat, roam, party, go to bed, and when your time comes, die. Have you seen other leaves cry when other leaf fall down? The leaves simply fall down. And even the falling down is so beautiful. Have you seen the circular motion? The way it loops around and you know, spirals and meets the earth. And you don’t build a Mosolium to honour the falling leaf. It’s gone.
So, when your time comes, simply die without fear. And that’s all. No books. No books at all. Yes, sometimes, just for the sake of fun. Because it is a little hot and there is nothing else to do and you are tired of dancing too much. Just pick up a book and read. It’s fun. But don’t take the book as something that can teach you something. Don’t go to the book for the sake of salvation. Go to the book for the sake of fun. Just open up any page and start reading. It’s such good fun. Don’t make it sacred, or make it only as sacred as your life is. The book is no more sacred than our little general life. Is it? Don’t be too respectful towards anything. Never.
L2: With friends, in the context of what I was speaking to you of last night, I can be a friend and help them with Truth. But sometimes we are around people who might be in a state that say that family is personal or something like that. We have compassion for their, putting a vulgar name, attachment. But just being there for them, without necessarily leading to verbalise Truth or complicate things? A someone who might be suffering, who is close to you and you understand their state of mind. Just with compassion…
AP: No. Compassion is not about…
L2: This is what I am parading on.
AP: What you are talking of is morality, not compassion.
L2: Compassion is not about trying to break the cause effect chain. If somebody is carrying a load from the past, he will have to pass through the suffering. You cannot interfere and break the cause effect cycle. Only The Truth can interfere.
L2: Not our place..
AP: No, it is not your place. The only way, Truth can interfere, not you.
AP: So much of effort that goes towards liberating others from suffering; so much of that efforts contributes to more suffering. There are only two ways that the Karmic inventory can be exhausted – Either pass through the suffering contained in the inventory, or die. Disidentify. Dying is – disidentify from the one who did all that. There is no third way.
We try out the third way. We say that the fellow is neither prepared to suffer silently in surrender nor is he prepared to give up the old memories, old identities, but I will act as a Messiah, I will act as a savior and somehow offer relief to him. You will not be able to do that. Instead of bringing relief to him, you will only create more suffering for yourself. Do not even attempt that. He has to pass through the results of his actions. Or, he has to simply drop his identity of the one who did those acts.
Liberation from Karmfal, from the fruit of action is possible, but only if you refuse to believe that you were the doer. If you were not the doer, then you will also not receive the fruits of the doing. Only two ways. Don’t try the third one.
Infact, all of this is great rubbish. Somebody is holding somebody’s hands and relieving him of his burden, energy transfer, darshan games; it’s not so cheap. You have to pay the ultimate price.
L3: Sir, if we say situation, with someone of whom we can see the totality of how they are trapped in a certain perspective and we seek an opportunity to ask the question to…
AP: No..Do nothing. Just remain centred.
L3: Sure. Sure.
AP: Come close to what you are saying. You are saying that somebody is suffering in front of you. When somebody is suffering in front of you, it’s an important situation. The mind takes it seriously. Right? Especially if the one who is suffering is related to you. Whenever the mind take something seriously, what is the effect on the mind? Influence.
L1: And the intelligence goes down, when the mind too much..
AP: Yes. Your wife is crying in front of you, sobbing. What is the immediate influence on you? Do you remain centred, wise, composed? What happens? Your mother, has broken down and she is pleading-“Don’t go to India, remain with me, this, that” and such things are happening; what is immediately the impact on the mind?
It goes off centre. Emotion breed emotions. Someone is angry, it arouses anger in you. Someone is crying, your eyes too start crying, weeping. Does that happen or not? Three of your friends are weeping. It’s quite likely that you too would feel the grief.
L: It pulls you in the..
AP: Suffering pulls you in. Any mental excitation pulls you in. So your only responsibility when you encounter a man who is suffering is to not to let yourself suffer. Suffering is contagious. Your first responsibility is-‘Alright,you are in grief. But I will not let that grief become my grief.’ Now if your grief is not my grief, then I am in a position to do something about your grief.
You meet a patient with an infectious disease. As a doctor, what is your first responsibility?
L: Protect yourself.
AP: Right? As a doctor, your first responsibility is to not let that virus come to you. Because if that virus comes to you, then you will be in no position to help anybody. So the other one might be angry, suspicious, lusty, remorseful, anything. Do not let that become your own condition. Be centred, remain firm and faithful.
Now that will be taken as indifference by many. People will say that you are a little cruel. But don’t be effected by all that.
L: So if say, someone is suffering. So we do not need be interfere but just present with them..
AP: That’s a beautiful way. But sometimes, this presence will demand intense action.
When you are present, that means, you are present to The Truth. Presence does not mean you are sitting close to that person. Presence means that the mind has presented itself, in obedience, in front of The Truth.
That is the real meaning of the presence.
The mind says-‛The Truth is like the headmaster’. He is calling out your name, “Joseph?” And the mind says, “present.”’ That’s the real meaning of the presence. That you are present to The Truth. You are present in front of the headmaster. You are facing towards the Truth, the class teacher. That’s the real meaning of presence – that your concern is the Truth, the class teacher. Like a truant kid, you are not peeping out of the window. Have you seen those kids?
The teacher is there and the kid is looking out of the window and there is a beautiful you know, grassland outside and somebody is playing and there are few cows outside and grazing and the kid is mesmerized.
To be present is to be staring The Truth in the eye and always be sitting in front of The Truth, in a loving way, in an obedient way. That is the meaning of presence.
So even if there is a person who is suffering and the suffering person is there besides you and yet you are present only to The Truth. The Truth is still your first priority. And when The Truth is your first priority, then you are capable of doing the right thing to help that person. Only then the right action will happen. And then the right action is called compassion.
Compassion is not about weeping when the other is weeping. Compassion is about not weeping when the other is weeping.
L1: There is another thing I want to know is that when I want to help someone sometimes, not only me, their mind, in general, then what is the motivation? Do I really want to help the person or do I want to help because I want to feel better in her company?
AP: You are very right.
L1: And because if the second one is the motivation, then your actions will not be of so help to that person. You just want to make it quick, “Ok! Stop crying.” Or something else. But the problem is not solved then.
AP: See sir, at this moment even as we are talking, in the last ten minutes, thousands of people would have been killed in this world. A million eyes would be crying. Are we concerned? But if you come to see that your kid is crying, you would say,”Oh! I want to relieve his suffering.” So, even when you say that ‛I want to be compassionate’, you are actually trying to act as per your identity. Some general beggar kid on the road is suffering, it doesn’t matter so much, or does it? But if our own child gets a small bruise on the forehead, then it’s a big thing. So are we really loving or are we just attached to our identities? As a father, as a …?
L: So it’s not true to take a special kid as our child…?
AP: I am not condemning it. I am just pointing at it. Just as you will take special care of your skin. Somebody else gets a cut, you don’t bleed. But I am pointing at it so that we don’t confuse it with compassion.
L: And as we grow this fear of whom we care about becomes wider and..And
AP: Yes, yes….. And then comes a point, and it indeed does come, when very little difference is left between your own kid and the neighbors kid.
Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: The goal of spirituality is freedom from fear
Books by Acharya Prashant :