Acharya Prashant: Lal Ded is the most remarkable name not only in Kashmir, not only in India. She defies being confined to a particular area, or time, or category. Physically, she was born in thirteenth century Kashmir. An ordinary girl, as ordinary as all of us are. Medieval India, she got married at an early age – twelve or thirteen. We do not have any definitive written accounts of her life. In fact, the first words about Lalla were written three hundred years after her physical death. So, most of us that we know, is by way of folklore.
So, she got married at an early age and had quite an unhappy marriage. Kashmiris are usually fond of flesh-eating. It is a cultural thing. Meat is a kind of staple diet. Lal Ded has a certain orientation of compassion. She was still Lalleshwari. Lal Ded comes a little later. When it comes then we will understand what it means. So, she is still Lalleshwari; a thirteen-year-old bride. The husband, the in-laws are asking her to get colored in their own lifestyle.
She refuses. She had a mystical orientation. More than normal pleasures of family life, more than procreating and starting a family of her own, there was something else that called to her.
One of the contemptuous issues that we come to know of was meat eating. She said, “I will not take meat whatever be the conditions.” Her mother in law said that if no meat, then you have to take stones because there is nothing else there. Folklore has it that Lal Ded actually preferred to eat stones than eat meat. Obviously, this is all symbolic but that tells us something about the way she looked at all life forms, this entire universe.
Twenty-two, still quite young, she decided to break away from the marriage. And when she broke away, she did not enter into another relationship of the same kind. Her disenchantment with the world was total. And I often say that in this lies the difference between a Lalleshwari and the rest of us. We also experience pain. Life keeps teaching lessons to all of us. The sufferings, the anxieties, the jolts that we face are all life’s lessons.
But we keep repeating our mistakes and no new mistakes, the same ones. We keep falling into the same traps again and again, over and over again.
Lalded said, “No. One experience is enough. It is not as if it is about one man, the husband, and one family. What I have learnt is about the totality of worldly relationships. No more of it.” So, instead of returning to her father, or entering into another relationship with the man, Lal Ded, Lalleshwari still, goes to a Guru.
It was not very popular those days for women to be accepted or initiated as disciples. The spiritual domain has traditionally been dominated by the male gender. And Lalded was a young, uninitiated, attractive woman. Somehow she convinced the teacher to admit her. She started proving herself as the worthiest of disciples. One day she asked her Guru that there are so many scriptures, there are so many teachings, there is so many that is said. Can you just tell me in brief what it is all about? The Guru remained silent. He meant to convey that The Truth cannot be thus expressed.
Lalded kept insisting. The Guru said just one statement –
‘Live as you are.’
He said, “Live as you are. Be on the outer as you are in the inner.” I am just stating that one sentence of the Guru in various forms. He said, “Let your inner and outer be one. That’s all.” Lalded took the words of the Guru to the depths of her heart. She said, “All right, inside there is just an emptiness, a clean nothingness. Not stained, not touched by anything.” So, she said, “Outside also I will be the same.”
That was the day she dropped all clothes. She said, “I will not allow this world to touch me. I am taking in air, I am taking the sunlight, and water, and food. That is already enough. I do not need to now take my mind from the world. I do now need to take customs and costumes from the world.” She dropped all clothing.
In the history of human civilization, there have been many male saints who have lived naked. But Lalleshwari is the only female saint who lived totally naked all her life that day onwards. There are many other instructive stories attributed to her. We will keep coming to them when we will look at her verses.
The wonderful part about her is that she defies our imagination. She is worshipped alike by Hindus and Muslims. Lal Ded means Lal, Lalla, the Grandmother, Dadi (In Hindi). She was at once a saint in pure Kashmiri Shaivism, which is hardcore Advait, and at the same time, her poems have the fragrance of great bhakti and love.
Conventionally, she is counted as one of the saints in the non-duality tradition. But really she belongs to no tradition. She is unique. We must not try to put her in any bracket. She danced, and she danced naked under the full moon, and whenever people came to her, it is said that her very presence was transformational. The same body that our social morality is so afraid of, the same body that we treat as a source of mischief, the same body to which we keep saying, “I am not the body, I am not the body,” that same body in the case of Lalleshwari became an instrument of teaching.
So, we will be with Lalleshwari this evening, as respectable as lovable, as close to our hearts as infinitely far from us. Let us go into these verses-
(Listener says the verse)
“I searched for my Self until I grew weary,
But no one, I know now reaches the hidden knowledge by means of effort.
Then absorbed in “Thou art This,” I found in the place of wine.
There all the jars are filled, but no one is left to drink.”
AP: Yes! But you know to reach an understanding of Lal Ded in the end, you must also begin like Lal Ded. So, you must also begin lyrically. Lalded would sing, not prose verse. If you don’t begin like Lalded, how will we ever come close to her?
(Listener sings lyrically few lines from the verse)
Try, try! Just four lines.
(Listener complete the verse singing lyrically)
Drink this! That’s that abode of Truth like, where all the jars are filled but no one is left to drink. You have become the drink itself. The final duality of the drinker and the drink has disappeared. Even if a lot of drink is available, yet there would remain some distance between the drink and your lips. An infinity might be available still you will have to fetch it up to your lips.
The total disappearance is when there is everything available and the drinker has become the drink. The two are one. Now, there is no separation. Now, even the most minimal of distances is not there. That is the nature of divine experience, it is a non-experience. The experiencer himself goes away. And that is the difference between a desire for an object and the longing for the Truth. In having the desire for the object, you remain to enjoy the object, you remain to be fattened by the object. In divine longing, the longing consumes you.
It is like this candle, the candle sees light as its nature and as its end. The candle does sublime into the light, but the more light it moves into, the more material, the more material…? It loses. The candle will not survive to be illuminated by the light. The light is the climax and the end of the candle.
So, do not want something for yourself when you are talking of the spiritual journey, of spiritual attainment. In fact, spiritual attainment is such a misnomer, and that is why it so infrequently happens because we actually want to attain something. It is a non-attainment.
Lalla doesn’t get dressed up further. She loses all her ornaments and her dress. If we want to use Truth, or God or love or freedom or simplicity; as our ornaments, as our trophies, as our playthings, as our certificates to display and show off, then it won’t happen. Spirituality is a return journey. You say, “I have already had much. Now it is the time to lose.”
One goes to a common teacher to gain something. But, a Guru comes to your life not so that you may gain something but so that you may be unburdened. You already have so much. The role of the Guru is to take it away, take it away. And, what is it he taking away? Nothing, that is of any value to you. He is only taking away all the rubbish that is there in life.
He is like the sweeper, the man who collects your daily garbage. It is just that, in the case of Guru, the garbage is decorated as your mind stuff-decorated, and celebrated and protected as ‘you’, as your identity.
What is She saying?
“I searched for my Self until I grew weary”
Now you will answer this. Why did she grow weary? Lalla searched for her Self till she grew weary and it happens. It happens with all who have searched for the Self. Why does one grow weary of the search?
L: Because nothing really happens nothing really changed.
AP: Nothing really happens.
L: Searching itself is inattention.
AP: Searching itself is inattention.
L: The body is also external and it starts wearing away by the search.
AP: Yes! It starts wearing away yet the end is not achieved. Why?
L: The searcher himself is attention.
AP: Yes! The searcher is searching for the absence of the searcher.
(Repeating the above sentence)
The searcher is searching for the absence of the searcher. Now, what does he want? The absence of the searcher, but the searcher would continue to be as long as the…search is there. So, as long as the search is there, the searcher would be there and thereby all the suffering by the searcher would be there.
You remember today evening somebody said that one has to be very meticulous in the choice of words. That was one of the last questions perhaps. One has to be very careful when one says, “Spiritual search.” It is not merely word. It indicates the very mindset. If you are saying, “Spiritual search,” you would actually search. You would protect yourself, in fact, you would nourish yourself, so that you may search even further, even harder. It is not a spiritual search, ever.
And if somebody uses these words, and uses them seriously, then you should counsel him as a well-wisher. And, be very careful if the teacher uses these words. Then the fellow must not yet be a teacher. There can be nothing called the “Spiritual search.” There can be nothing called the “spiritual journey.” There can be nothing called the “spiritual attainment.”
Spirituality is an unburdening, it is an unloading, it is a kind of jettisoning. It is a giving up. Giving up what? All that which caused you grief. It is a giving up of grief itself. I repeat what I had said a few hours back, “One does not read a scripture, or come to a Guru to take more words.” Sitting with you, my job is to help you forget that which you already know.
And you already know so much. What do I mean by saying that my job is to help you forget? I mean that you have a lot of belief in your existing knowledge. My job is to dissolve that belief. You take your mind stuff as something real and important. My responsibility is to show the contradictions inherent in our mental positions. Are you getting it? So, we will not take away anything from here. We will instead leave back a lot behind us. This should be more like a gym. You drop some weight here and not like a restaurant, where you gain weight.
We have come here to lose weight and that involves sweating, exercising. All that you have, whether flesh or knowledge, you have a tendency to cling to it. Have you seen how difficult it is to drop weight? Once a food material becomes a part of the body, the ‘I’ sticks to it. The body does not drop weight readily. Similarly, the mind drops its weight readily. There has to be toil and sweat involved. That is what is called Sadhana and Tapasya. It is not work to gain something. It is the hardships faced in losing.
Now, several of us were saying just a while back that we are apprehensive of the consequences of right action. If you are afraid of the consequences of the right action, you are saying that you are afraid of spiritual Sadhana. For that is Sadhana.
Do what is right and let the consequences come.
The spiritual mind says-
“I will not decide the result. I will only know the right action. And I will say that right action naturally has right consequences. So, having entered the right action, whatever consequences I faced, they are the right consequences. I will not have a preset image of right consequences and determine my action to suit the consequences.”
You know that is how mind usually works. The mind says, “I want to go there. So, the destination comes first. And then the mind says in order to go there, I will choose a path.” So, what usually comes first to the mind? That. The ahead, the future, the outside, the exterior, the distant.
The spiritual mind works differently. He says, “I will take the right step and the right destination is that which comes by traveling rightly. So, I do not know what destination is. I only know what the right step is.”
You must fully understand the difference between the approach of the mislead mind and the spiritual mind. The mislead mind has a predetermined model of the Truth ready in advance. He claims to know where he must reach. He wants to be in control of his life. So, what does he say? He says, “After one year, that is the position I want to occupy. After five years, that is the way I see myself. Now that is fixed. That point is now frozen. Now let me take steps that take me there.”
The spiritual mind works in a totally different way. What does it say? “I do not know where I must reach, neither do I care to know. I will only take the right step.”
And what is his definition of the right destination? You will have to tell me.
L: Right consequences, after taking the right step.
“So, I have taken the right step; and after taking the right step, whatever happens, is the right destination. Wherever my right steps take me that is the right place where I should have been. If that place appears new and strange, so be it. I do not bother.”
Are you getting this? Now, the right step will always take you to an unknown place. It will always take you to a place of solitude. You will not find many people there. You will not find it to be a certified place. You will not find it to be a place you have visited earlier or know anything of. It would be totally new. What does ‘ne’w mean to you? Fear, or Joy? I am praying that you take the side of…
L: Sometimes, I have experienced a mix of fear and…
AP: That, that, that, will make all the difference in your life, Shiva, all your life.
What does new mean to you? If new means fear, then you will be trapped in the old. If new means Joy, then life opens up for you. You must take this question to heart, “What does new mean to me?” Because, the true, because the essential because God is forever new. If you are afraid of the new, then you are afraid of God. And that’s so silly. Is that not? To be afraid of God, to be afraid of your own source-that is to be afraid of yourself, that is to reject yourself.
Want to reject yourself? Anybody who wants to despise himself? Anybody who relishes self-hatred? Nobody. None at all. Then we must have a mind that cheers up the moment it senses and scents the new, not a mind that shrinks, and convulses and retreats when it senses the new. What is the quality of our mind? Does it shrink back when the new calls, or does it open up when the new approaches? Or is it that kind of fifty-fifty mind?
“All right! I am opening up…cautiously.”
“Yes, the gates are open but don’t worry. There is a gun here. Let Him enter. If He proves to be too much, then…”
Not that way. He doesn’t come in if you are hiding a gun here. He comes only to an open heart.
L: In that experience, in that moment of between, when the mind is somehow stranded, but then I have experienced also – going for the new and it’s wonderful.
AP: So, He won. Celebrate your defeat!
L: Who won?
AP: The One.
AP: Left to yourself, you would close all gates and turn the walls into ramparts, hide yourself in some protected fort. So, it is not surely you, who won. You always wants to run away. He dragged you close. You wouldn’t open the heart. The heart opens itself.
L: But it seems like a willing step because I had to taste the excitement of the new.
AP: So, he succeeded, in cheating you.
It is like that only. In some sense, the mid has to be counseled, comforted and even cheated. It’s not very unethical. Don’t be so bounded by your morality.
L: It is like the thrill of the unknown.
AP: The thrill of the unknown. Well said!
To some, the thrill is overwhelming. To others…
L: Does it mean that being fearful is wrong action? Like, if I see a tiger and since I am afraid to not go close to it. So, it right action to be fearful sometimes?
AP: You have all the license to be afraid of the world. In the world, your discretion is required and all right! You need not hang by a live electric wire to seal the thrills.
It would be thrilling, but you know… for the spectators I mean. We are not talking of a material tiger that scares you. Do you know what we are talking of? We are talking of the grand emptiness which the total mind is scared of. When you look at a tiger, you also know your fallback support. You also know that there is a place you can run away to.
When He confronts you, then there is no place where you can hide because He cannot hide anywhere. He is so large. Where would you hide from Him?
In the world, apply all your discretion but when it comes to the Truth, do not apply anything related to your mind. In the world, let your intellect function. The intellect knows very well what to do with what? When it will get very hot, the intellect knows to move to shade. When confronted with tiger, the intellect knows and the legs know, run. But, God is not a tiger. God is not even tigress. There do not think. In fact, do not even think of welcoming God. Your welcome too would be a kind of resistance.
Surrender means that I cannot even welcome. When, in matters of Truth, which means all matters, be totally defenseless. You look at your faces, these are not faces, these are armors. Have you seen a military tank? It has this thick armor and then it has that turret, that gun, that oversized ugly gun that fires. That’s how we look. Our total face is covered with an armor. We are so afraid we keep protecting ourselves. And when we speak, it is like firing. We do not speak to express. We speak to violate. We act only in self-defense and when we act in self-defense, we are just being violent.
If you are afraid, what else would you do? You would only cause violence. Won’t you?
L: So, we need to put everything on auto-pilot and sit back and relax.
AP: So bad! You must be given a load, a burden to carry. Right? This is the worst that can happen to you. No! Seriously. You would take it much more kindly, you would welcome it much more if you are given a lot to do. Even if you are given something which is beyond your capacity to do, yet you would feel satisfied that you have given something to do and this you take as incredible-not only incredible, unwelcome news that there is no real need for you to be doing.
Can we see why this must be so?
L: How do we recognize the Truth?
AP: Truth comes to you only as much as you are prepared to take. So, as far as our daily activities are concerned, living by the Truth simply means not resisting what you have known to be right. Is that simple enough? In an absolute sense, Truth is formless, inexpressible and means nothing at all. But, to us as persons, Truth does have a meaning and the meaning is this – once you know what is right, don’t shy away from it whatever be the cost. Simple enough, or too demanding?
Obviously too demanding! It is Truth. It doesn’t come cheap.
L: Yes, because we never know what is good for us.
AP: Do you never know what is right? How do you know that you must ask this question?
L: I don’t know.
AP: Yes, but you are still asking this question, right?
L: It is something which is coming.
AP: Yes, don’t stop that. That is all that Truth means to you, practically. When it comes, don’t stop it even if you are not very sure of it.
L: What happens if what is right is also wrong?
AP: Then do it and don’t do it.
L: How can this be in between?
AP: How can there something like this be in between? If there can be such a contradictory thing, then correspondingly there can be a contradictory life also. There is nothing like that where it is right or wrong. It is just that what you know to be right, you also know to be wrong in somebody else’s eyes.
What you know to be right in one framework, you know to be wrong in some other framework. Then you must know which framework is closer to your heart. And there are ample ways to inquire into that. Let me suggest a few of them:
If what you are about to choose involves a fear of the future, then it is not from the heart.
If that, which you are about to choose involves a tedious calculation, then it is not from the heart.
If that, which you are about to choose involves a continuation of the past, then it is not from the heart.
If that, which you are about to choose is quite profitable, then it is not from the heart. Now you know what is from the heart. Go with it. With all your strength, go with it.
Another general indicator: If that, which you are about to choose is liked and sanctioned by many other people, it is not from the heart.
Truth is a peak. It is a height, it is an aloneness. You do not go there with a crowd. So, if you find yourself going with the crowd, then check, it is not from the heart then, it is from the crowd.
Are these signs not simple and telling enough?
L: If my parents beat me for good. Is it from the heart?
AP: If it is coming repeatedly from your thought, then it is not from the heart. Thought always has a reason. The reason is only one. What is the reason? Profit, self-preservation, continuation of the ego. So, if you think that you must beat someone up, then beat back the thought. Getting it?
Thought is not what would take you to the heart. Thought is always calculative. Thought is always profit minded. In small matters of life, by all means, think. But, when it comes to the immense, the absolute, the really important, there put thought aside. Are you getting it?
You must think about reaching here in time. That is a small thing. You must think about the right road to take to reach here. But, having come here, don’t think any further. Now the important beholds.
I have no issues with beating up somebody. You said, “Your parents suppose beats you up because they think it is right for you.” Did you notice I do not utter a word about the beating part? I said everything about the thinking part. Now, the action is not important at all. You may beat, you may even kill, but don’t kill by thinking. When you kill as a result of thought then it is organized violence. When killing is needed, killing will happen. In the flow of nature, Prakriti, currents are always getting eliminated.
The spiritual mind does not fear elimination. It treats no current as special. It knows that currents just merge into each other. Nothing about killing. That would just be a thing of morality. So, beat up, spontaneously. It’s okay. (Laughs)
Don’t plan a lot. Don’t plan a lot. If you plan a lot, then it is psychological violence. Then it is injustice. Sometimes, it is really needed that somebody be bashed up. It’s an act of love. We need more people to be bashed up. The world is such a bad place because, in the name of liberty and personal rights and rule of law, we are not bashing up enough people. We require more Krishnas who can advise more Arjuns to pick up their weapons and kill those who must be killed.
The spiritual man has nothing to do with choosing an action. He does not choose an action, he chooses God. And then God chooses the action.
Do you understand this? You do not choose what to do. You choose the right center and then the right-center decides what to do. That is the spiritual mind.
So, if somebody advises you on the level of actions, if the entire discussion is about what to do and what not to do, then you must know that it is not a spiritual discussion. Then it is an ethical and moral discussion. In a spiritual discussion, ‘this action’ or ‘that action’ hardly matters. Action is action. What matters is whether the action is coming from you or from That.
If it is coming from ‘you’, even the seemingly, noblest of actions would be a debauched action and if it is coming from ‘That’, even the seemingly unethical of action, would be the right action. So, don’t be afraid. Don’t look at yourself through social eyes. Don’t hold back your steps. Don’t arrest your flow. Yes?
Spirituality is total freedom. It is not a holding back. The spiritual man is like a wild animal. He is not only a Buddha. He is a Buddha and a bull. Morality tells you that you must look at the Buddha as a benign fatherly saint. The fact of the Buddha is that He is as much of a destructive bull as He is a creative saint. In His destruction lies great creativity. So, do not be afraid of destruction.
Spirituality is not about acting sweet, acting nicely, and smiling to strangers which many of us actually trying to be practicing here. I move on the roads, and I find…(mimicking people’s smile)…bliss. Bliss is overflowing even in the drains of Rishikesh. So much Bliss. Every face is resplendent, glowing with the light of Self. Spirituality has nothing to do with that.
L: The mind is a great trickster. So, there is a spiritual mind and a normal mind. So, is there any way that it (mind’s tricks) can be recognized? You know if you tricked two-three times, then you start questioning your own mind.
AP: It is important to see that you are not tricked two-three times. You are being tricked constantly. You are being tricked only because you think you are being tricked only two-three times. If you are being fooled constantly, but you detect it only two times, what does it prove? That you are actually being fooled a lot. If the mind is actually a trickster, is the trickster selectively at work, or always at work? Always at work. It is always fooling you and hence it is important to catch its tricks in small matters.
You catch the mind only when you find the consequences as alarming, only when you find the harm beyond the limit. But, the mind is fooling you even right now. Catch it. See, what it is defending and hiding. See, what its intentions are. When you are alert with the small, then you are seated in the big.
You could even say that spirituality is the art of living in the small. It is not about chasing some great heavenly God. It is about doing your daily small matters, the linen, and the dishes, the garage, and the garbage, the small, the routine, the daily, the trivial. It is about doing these things rightly. It is not about knowing the perfect prayer. Hence, it is not something specific, or relevant to a place of worship, or special time, or occasion. To wake up in the morning, it’s a spiritual time. You are driving to your office, it’s a spiritual time. It’s a spiritual car. You are at your workstation, it is the time for prayers. You are buying grocery, you are offering salutation. That is spirituality.
It is not about wearing a special mark on your forehead or getting yourself tattooed. It is about letting the Truth pierce your heart, not letting the shopkeeper pierce your nose or navel.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
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