Only a Buddha can really belong to the world

Listener 1: I read a version of the story of Buddha in which after he suffered a lot, the human Mara finally came before him and all Mara wanted was Buddha’s soul. So he finally said that, “Yes you want to take my soul, fine you will take it.” So what he did was, he surrendered his soul and then the demon disappeared.

So, when these people come to know all the fears are baseless and they don’t need to fear anything, so after they have realized that the universe that they fear is everything within themselves only. So why do they turn to world life? Why do they start turning towards people? Why do they help people? Why do people follow them? Why do they want to spread this message?

Acharya Prashant: Two questions, One what is the significance of Buddha allowing Mara, Mara you can take as some kind of close relative of Maya, what is the significance of Buddha allowing the Mara to take away his soul? And second, why does a Buddha come back again to the world?

The Buddha is saying, “Take away whatever can be taken away. Take away whatever can be dissociated from me. Take away all that which is not me. And after that I will be left with a certain ‘nothingness’ and that’s what ‘I am’ – a great, silent, pure and beautiful nothingness, so you take away everything. In fact, unless you take it away these things will  keep bothering me – my name, memories, my possessions, my knowledge; you must take all of these away.  This is what you are after, I welcome you to loot me.”

In fact

All those who want  to take away a part of you are always doing you a favour – they are unburdening you. But we resist them,  a Buddha welcomes them.

The Buddha says, “You have come to help me, so take this.” And there is the whole thing of ‘Anatta’, “When I am nothing, why should I bother about having something. Whatever I have will only keep me in fear, in botheration. I don’t want to live in botheration, so it is better that I donate everything; you take it. If I have it, I will have to preserve it. If I have it and it will exist till tomorrow, then I too will have an obligation to keep till tomorrow and defend it. Why should I have this load upon myself? If I want to exist till tomorrow let that happen spontaneously, why should it happen as per an obligation?” Are you getting it? That is what is meant by a Buddha totally giving away everything.

There is the question of ‘Why does a Buddha returned to the world?’ He is not returned to the world, he never actually went away. If a Buddha is at peace with the tree, if the Buddha is at peace with the squirrel or a parrot or a rabbit, why would he not be at peace with a human being? When he is in the jungle, is he still not with people? Are trees not people? Are rivers not people? Is the grass not people? Are the animals not people? Are his students not people? He is already living in a community, in a society. Is he not? And he is at peace with whosoever he is living with. Peace is his nature.

If he can be at peace with a stone, why would he not be at peace with the villagers living nearby? Nothing prevents him from going to the villagers. In fact only a Buddha can go and meet strangers with total ease. We think a lot, “Would those be the right kind of people? Would those be hostile?”

Related to the life of a Buddha is a story and this story is later mentioned with respect to other teachers also.

So there were two sets of disciples, one the Buddha could see as qualified, the others as not yet qualified. The Buddha told the first set, “You disperse, you wander, you go away, you do not need to be with me. you are qualified now.” The once who are not qualified the Buddha told them, “You stay together. you don’t disperse.” Only when you are qualified do you get the right to disperse and enter into strange places. Because now no place is hostile to you, no place is a stranger to you, no place can harm you, so you can go wherever you want to.

In fact the more you disperse, the more you wander, the more good you will bring to the people you go to.

The one who has come to peace, now does not need to confine himself. He can give himself away. He can literally throw himself away. He has no botheration, he need not protect himself. He need no say that “This is my boundary and beyond this boundary is not my space.” Only a Buddha can mingle freely.

 He will go from village to village, he will meet kings and he will meet poppers, he will meet the cults and he will meet sages, he will meet ignorant people and he will pandits. The Buddha is at ease everywhere. He  will visit capital cities and he would stay in the most dense of forests. The Buddha had a very active life. Almost the all of Northern India he covered on foot, there was hardly any major city that he didn’t travelled to. It is not as if he was a recluses hiding in the jungle.

Only a Buddha can get dissolved in mankind. Only a Buddha can get dissolved in the world. We cannot do that, we need the confines of our house, our family, our community, our cast, our religion, our society. We say, “We cannot go outside of it. Outside of it there is danger.” A Buddha can go anywhere.

Do you see this? Kindly get rid of this notion that a Buddha is someone who has quit the society. It is a false notion. A Buddha is now someone who is totally social. And I am repeating this ‘Only a Buddha can be totally social. Totally.‘ We are not social people. There these shanties outside, will you enter them? Are they not society? You come here so regularly, many of us, including me. Have you ever bothered to enter these shanties? Are they not society? A Buddha would comfortably come to this hall and he would also comfortably sit in one of those place and have a cup of tea; milk – less tea that is. Because even the cows are his society.

We don’t have societies, we have divided ghettos, we have cults, we have walled cities. We do not know what it really means to have a society. A Buddha knows that. You are young, the Buddha would meet you as young. You are old, the Buddha would meet you as old. When a woman would talk to Buddha she would feel the Buddha as a woman. He understands her. When a man would talk to Buddha the man would feel the Buddha is a man. He understands.

L2: Like a mirror.

AP: Like a mirror. The Buddha has no identity of his own. The Buddha is just a responsiveness. When horse would talk to Buddha the horse would feel he is talking to another horse. That is how social a Buddha is. That is why when two people would talk about the Buddha, they would often get confused. Because to the first person the Buddha is someone else, and to the second the Buddha is someone else. He has no fixed identity.

He is like empty space. (Pointing toward a cup) You contain empty space in this, the space is this shape. You contain empty space in this hall, the hall is this. The space has no form, no identity of its own. But we then get confused, we say “Oh! He is disloyal. You know what, I was talking to him yesterday about the virtues of silence and the Buddha readily agreed. He said “Yes, of course, silence is beautiful.” And you talk to him about the virtues of speech and he agreed with you also. He said “Yes, speech is wonderful.” So this fellow is actually very inconsistent.”

And that is what happens with every teacher, with every Buddha, he is badly misunderstood. And he is specially misunderstood when you gossip about him behind his back. Because he is not one, because he is unpredictable, because he shows only that face to you that you need to see, that which is helpful for you. He has no particular face, but you will talk about that particular face, and then it will not match and then you will say “This fellow is a cheat. He has no fixed ideology, he is self contradictory.”

That is Buddha, to have all contradiction within you and yet be above all contradiction.

You will not heard of that.

Anand was privileged to be a party as a listener to all of Buddha’s interactions. In a morning one day a fellow come to the Buddha and asks, “I strongly feel that God exists. What do you say?” Buddha said “No, God does not exist, not at all.” Man went away. Then another one came in the afternoon. He said “I strongly feel that no God exists. What do you say?” Buddha said “No, God obviously does exist. Only God exists.” The man went away. And Anand was listening from there (Back).

Then a third one came, he said “You know what, God neither exists, nor not exists.” This man was a learned scholar. Buddha said “How can you be in two minds about such a vital issue? How can you be undecided about something like truth? You go and makeup your mind.” So, he also went away. Then a fourth one came in the night and he said “I have nothing to say about God?” The Buddha said “But you have already said so much.” He also went away.

Now in the night Anand is turning sometimes to this side, sometimes to that side, going drinking water, looking at the moon, five times he visited the jungle. Then Buddha asked him “What’s the matter?” He said “What are you doing? Since the morning you have given four kinds of different response to four different people. Do you have anything of your own or not?” Buddha said “Why did you listen? None of those responses was for you. Why did you eves talk? Why do you have a tendency to ask and know what I am saying to other people? I have only given to them what they need to listen to.

The first man had a belief in God, he needed to get rid of that belief, I hammered upon his belief. The second man had a belief upon no God, even that belief needed to be dissolved, I dissolved that belief. The third man was obsessed with his indecision, he needed to get rid of his indecision, I helped him. But why would you listening to all this? You ask me what  your question is?”

That’s the treatment we give to a Buddha. It was Anand so all he could say was that “You know what, you are inconsistent and you are making me uncomfortable.” Had it been someone else, he would have been gone to the town and announced, “This Buddha is no Buddha.” Are you getting it?

The Buddha is equally available to all four. He did not belong to any cult. If you are a cult of God, the Buddha is for you. If you belong to a Godless cult, the Buddha is still useful for you. That is why the Buddha belongs to the mankind as a whole – he is totally social. That is why a Buddha will always return to the society in some way or the other, in some way or the other.


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

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Only a Buddha can really belong to the world

 Read more articles on this topic:

Article 1: Love is not just an external action. When Truth shines within, Love is its radiation.

Article 2: Only by seeing the falseness of otherness, you are able to help the other

Article 3: Being close to yourself is closeness to others


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