Acharya Prashant (AP): The master and the disciple, they exist at two levels that are related, yet different.
Let us understand them.
At the most fundamental level which you could call as the real level, there is only the disciple, just as in the world, there is only the mind. And this disciple, this mind is characterised by its restlessness. Its defining property is that it moves. It’s not still; it wants, desires, strives, achieves, desires again. That mind alone is the disciple. And that which the mind so desperately wants, yet consciously knows nothing of, is the destination. That which mind wants is the destination.
It’s a strange thing: the destination. On one hand, the mind is crazy after it; it won’t settle down before achieving that final destination. On the other hand, the mind knows nothing about it. All that the mind knows of is not the destination. But given that the mind can chase only that which it knows of, the mind ends up chasing everything that is not really what it actually wants. So, in its desperate attempts to reach the destination, it keeps moving in directions that don’t take it to the destination. That’s the mind, the mind and its mystical destination, the mind and its unnameable destination.
The relation between the mind and its destination has to be understood. It is a very strange relationship. We’ve already said that the mind is crazy for what it wants; we’ve already said that the mind does not actually know what it wants. So much about the mind, what about the destination? It is the destination that guides the mind. The proof of that is that had there been something within the mind that was guiding the mind, then the mind would have easily achieved what it wanted to. Because whatever is within the mind —thinkable, predictable, achievable, will in some way or the other be achieved.
So, we can for sure say that that which guides the mind, you may use other words, you may say allures, temps, or pulls, the word may vary but the fact that the guiding force that drives the mind is not the mind itself cannot vary. I’ll repeat what we just said. Had it been something within the mind that guided the mind, then the destination that the mind would have been targeting too would have been within the mind. And had it been within the mind, it would have been achievable.
It’s not achievable.
So, what is certain is that something that is not really of the mind drives the mind. It drives the mind, lures the mind, invites the mind, signals to it, without ever telling clearly, clearly in a language of mind, what it really is. Now, that does not mean that the destination wants to conceal itself. It is just that it is not in the same domain as the world of the mind.
The world of the mind is divided, contrasted, dualistic, limited. Surely the destination is not limited, contrasted, diversified, or dualistic. The proof is, had it been a thing of duality or diversity, then it would have been a thing of the world, and had it been a thing of the world, the mind would have achieved it long back. The fact that mind never finds contentment in anything of the world proves that that which the mind wants is not in the domain of diversity and duality.
Do you get this?
You see, we have been unable to say too much about the destination. Words fail, concepts stutter, language resigns, yet being what we are, we try. We try to say at least something about the destination. Probably that is needed. Otherwise, our minds might become just too restless. But for sure, nothing affirmative, nothing definitive can be said about that which the mind wants. However, a lot can be said about the mind. About the destination, it is easier to talk in negative terms. What does negative term mean?
Listener 1 (L1): What it is not.
AP: What it is not. And even that must be talked of just so as to deny mind, the space to form concepts. You keep denying what? That which the mind is trying to conceptualise. That is what is meant by talking in negativa. Talking in negation does not mean you are creating a new image, it only means that probably there is somebody who has the propensity to draw images, and so you must talk in negative to cross those images, to delete those images. Right?
So, even when you are saying that the destination is not, you are actually only referring to the mind, because you are not saying anything about the destination. You are only talking about the images that the mind conjures and you are refuting those images.
L1: So ‘It’ is what it is not?
AP: No, ‘It’ is just not what the mind thinks it to be. What ‘It’ is, about that, nothing can be said. Yet, we are saying something, because the mind is habituated to saying something. And when the mind says something, it is important to say, it is not what you are saying. This is what is meant by talking in the negativa.
So, we can say a lot about the mind, and we can say a few things about the destination. Even those few things that we can say about the destination are all in negativa which means even when you are talking about the destination, all you are doing is negating the mind. So, when you are talking, you are essentially always talking about the mind only. So, all that exists is the mind.
This mind is the disciple; only the disciple can be talked about.
The destination is the Teacher.
The Teacher cannot be the subject of any discussion.
And if you feel too curious and want to talk about the teacher, you must only talk in negativa. You must take care to keep denying whatever the mind is trying to affirm. The mind will try to say, “This is what the teacher is like, this is what the teacher must be like…” The role of the real disciple is to keep saying, “No!”
Not only must it say, “No” when the mind is coming up with so-called negative images, it must also say, “No” when the mind is coming up with bountiful praise for the Teacher because even in praising the teacher the mind has stealthily measured the teacher.
The mind has said, “I know who you are, I have measured you and said that you are great.” In calling somebody great, you have at least taken this much credit for yourself that you know he is great and that he confirms to your definitions of greatness.
Nothing actually can be said about the teacher.
The teacher is nothing, nobody.
Had the teacher been somebody, then the teacher would have been conceivable.
Had the teacher been somebody, then the mind could have thought of the teacher, gone to the teacher, planned how to get a teacher.
In that case, the mind would have become its own teacher. And there can be nothing more arrogant and egoistic than that.
This is the relation between the master and the disciple at the subtle level.
At the subtle level, the mind is the disciple and the destination of the mind is the master; the teacher.
That destination of the mind is variously called as the Core, the Self, the Atman, the Brahman, the Peace, the Truth, Completeness, or Emptiness. You can have many names for that. Remember that no name captures the destination fully. The only proper way of attempting to say something about the destination is to say in negatives. And if you want to be even more accurate, then just remain silent.
That is the only accurate way of describing the destination — Silence.
However, in the gross world of people and materials, in the world of visible, sensible objects, the relationship between the master and the disciple assumes a different form. What is that form? Here the form of the mind is personalised. At the subtle level, there is only the mind. At the gross level, there is the personal mind which is a divided mind. A mind that identifies itself with the shape of a person, with the body of a person. You say, “my mind, my thoughts, my opinions, my person.” So, at this level, because it is a gross level, the teacher is also an object, a thing, material, person, body, something or somebody that can be seen, touched, approached, talked to, read, heard, seen.
Are you getting this?
But even at this level, the learnings of the subtle level apply because this level is nothing but a manifestation of the subtle level. That which the mind so desperately wants is also the one guiding the mind to want it desperately. How do you guide a person? You cannot guide a person through subtly coded signals.
Persons, being persons, like to be guided by persons. So, the destination assumes the shape of a person and presents itself. The destination assumes the shape of a book, a situation, an experience and presents itself. The destination takes a thousand shapes, forms and presents itself. At the gross level, the destination presents itself in a gross form but we must not take the gross at face value, otherwise, we will miss. Even when you are talking of the second level, the gross level, do remember, that it is just a manifestation. The real game is being played at another level.
Right now as we sit here, it might be apparent that bodies are listening to another body, that persons are listening to another person, but don’t be taken in by this. It is not persons listening to a person. It’s the mind listening to its own center. That is the only way the mind teaches itself.
But because it operates in forms, so, even to listen to itself it needs a particular form. When you go to a teacher, teaching as a person, you are not going to listen to something new. You go to the teacher because the teacher says something that you so keenly want to hear. And you resonate with the teacher because what he sings is something that you always knew to be the Truth. It’s just that due to circumstances, situations and conditioning you are unable to express it, put it forward, acknowledge it, boldly declare it to be true; and the teacher does acknowledge it and boldly declare it. That’s why you resonate with him, that’s why you listen to him because he is speaking on your behalf.
He is only saying that which you always wanted to say. He is only expressing that which is waiting within you to be expressed. That within you which is waiting to be expressed is waiting because you have taken upon you a lot of things that block the essence. You have worn a lot of covers and named them mistakenly as representations of your essence. So, the essence keeps within waiting patiently, to gain manifestation. If it does not gain manifestation, you do not gain rest. The teacher, in that sense, represents That which you already are.
The Teacher is you minus your conditioning.
That is why you love Him.
He is what you essentially are.
He is what you are missing out on.
He is what you would love to be.
He is That which you are destined to be.
The teacher is not a supplier of new knowledge. Had he been saying something new, you could not have agreed so deeply with him. If something is coming to you as foreign or alien, then you would want to test it, you cannot immediately, instinctively agree with it. With the teacher, you do not feel the need to test anything because whatever is being said, is anyway, eternally, established as the Truth, and established not by others, established in your own Heart. So that is why with the teacher, you don’t feel the need to think over what is happening, or what is being said. You just know that it is right. You also know that you could have been in the teacher’s seat saying just the same things. You also know that you are unnecessarily resisting yourself.
Remember, if the teacher brings new knowledge to you, he is not a teacher at all. Then he is only bringing to you what you already have — lots of layers of acquired knowledge. Don’t you already have a lot of that? The teacher has no intention and no stake. Just as the mind can describe him only in the negativa, similarly, his influence on the mind is only in negativa term — He does not bring anything to the mind; he only relieves the mind of whatever the mind is made of.
Now, this should tell us how not to approach a teacher, how not to think of a teacher, how to desist from all this.
L2: How does the mind of the master works?
AP: When the disciple knows, how his own mind works, he also knows, how the mind of the master does not work.
The key to knowing the mind of the Master is to know the mind of the disciple.
The disciple avoids looking at his mind by trying to dream about the mind of the master.
When you’ll know yourself, you’ll also know the teacher.
Without knowing yourself, if you are curious about the teacher, you are just avoiding self-enquiry.
Let your questions be pointed towards ‘you’.
And when your questions are pointed towards yourself, strangely, you also come to know the teacher.
Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: The secret of the disciple and the Master