“Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.”
Question: What is full embrace? How is it different from half embrace? If half embrace creates a movement of thoughts, won’t full embrace create even a greater restlessness?
Acharya Prashant: Man is caught in a very peculiar situation. Neither can he accept what he truly is. Nor can he ever run away from what he truly is. He swings. He oscillates. When he wants to come to his essence, then that which is sub-essential, or non-essential beckons him.
He feels that the juice of living is being lost. All the sensory pleasures, all the colors of the world, the music, the attractions, the emotions, the meetings and the goodbyes, all the games of time, he feels they are being lost. And when he tries to move totally into thoughts, into emotions, into the world of the senses, into that which is space-time and material, he soon starts feeling nauseatic.
Beyond a point, he cannot take the world in, anymore. He feels like throwing up. As if one has overeaten a favorite dish.
So, man remains swinging, vacillating. That is what Khalil Gibran is calling, a half embrace. One belongs neither here nor there. To put it straight, one simply does not belong. One is homeless. Actually, there is nothing called a half embrace. A half embrace means that you are embracing two at a time. You are divided into two halves. One half of you is embracing this, the other half of you is embracing that. And in trying to perform this antic, you have found that you have been split wide open.
Now, there is no firmness, no integrity, no oneness. It is as if your soul keeps changing. One has heard of forms changing, but man performs the impossible. His very soul keeps changing.
You know what is the mistake that one makes here? The mistake one makes here, is putting the essential and the inessential on the same platform. When you put two things on the same platform, then you have given them comparable status. Then you have said that one is exclusive of the other. There is this thing and where this thing ends the other starts. So, both are mutually exclusive.
And you cannot be blamed too much, for this is what you have seen in the world of men and material – one thing can start only when the other thing ends. That is the tyranny of space. Two things cannot coexist at the same point in space, can they? That has been our experience. So, we apply that experience even to the essential. We are applying that experience to something to which that experience is simply inapplicable.
We are thinking that if we move into the world, into the material, into the mind, into the apparent, then the essential would be lost. If we would get that thing, then this thing would be lost, because the two are…? Exclusive. And we suppose that if we move into this thing, then that thing would be lost.
We are mistaken. One need not choose. You move into this or you move into that, your free will, depending on your constitution, depending on your upbringing and conditioning, whatever suits you, move into that but for your own sake, belong. Move fully into whatever you move into. If you move fully into God, what do you think, the world will forsake you? If you move fully into the world, what do you think you can avoid God? You will find God right in the middle of the world.
And if you move into God, you would find that all worlds are contained there. If you are a lover of God you cannot be a world renouncer. It is impossible. And if you have moved into the world, you have moved into God. But only when there is a full embrace of this, that, whatever. Not when there is a half embrace.
A half embrace means you are homeless. A half embrace means, neither here, nor there. Trying to embrace both, you get none. And embracing one of them, you get both.
But, we are timid creatures. We are hesitant, shy, inhibited people. We simply don’t have the urge, the fire, the fearlessness, to give ourselves up to anything. We want to preserve a little. We want to save something back. Just as a middle-class family saves something for a rainy day. How can I put all the eggs in one basket? How can I belong fully to one side, I must hedge my bet. So you hedge. You avoid risks.
What if something goes bad on this side, then I must have a fallback option. The moment you say, “What is something goes bad on this side,” you ensure that not something, but everything will go bad on that side. “How can I belong fully to my business, to my work? Isn’t it a sin, to be consumed into the material? So, let me remember God.” So, every few hours you ensure out of some kind of unfathomable guilt that you must interrupt your business and get into prayers.
For you, business and prayers are exclusive. And the same thing happens when you are praying. You cannot be prayerful for too long. Even if by chance, you happen to get deep into meditation, you will find that your business is calling you. Before you can reach the depths, you will be pulled out. I will again say, we are not to be blamed for, that is the kind of world we have seen. Those are the examples that we have seen.
Whenever we have been told of Saints, we have been told of Saints and how forgetful they were of the world. We have been told of the Saints and we have been told how forgetful they were of the…? World. Now, that scares us, and that sets an example in front of us. If Sainthood germinates within you, you will…? Miss the world. And whenever role models of beautiful and successful living in the world have been presented to you, they have been shown as target chasers, as material worshippers. Their heart has never really been exposed, talked of.
Two different and totally disconnected worlds have been created. One is the world of the heart, the other is the world of the mind. And you have been given an impossible choice. You have been told if you belong here (pointing towards the heart), you cannot go here (pointing towards the head), if you belong here (heart), you cannot have this.(mind)
One of the reasons out of the innumerable, why I love Kabir, is because he was a worker. But nobody talks of that. Markets have always been competitive, have they not been? If your product is substandard, would it sell in the market? And Kabir was weaving throughout the day, and in the evening he would go to that competitive market and manage to sell his stuff and get money and run his livelihood. Why doesn’t anybody talk of that?
Isn’t it a matter of great worldly skill, to produce literature of the finest quality and parallelly cloth of the finest quality? At least, quality fine enough to sell. Why doesn’t anybody talk of that? And people won’t just buy from Kabir because he was Kabir that would not last for too long. That would be charity, donations. If Kabir were to survive on donations, why would he take the pains of…?
And do you know what it takes to weave? You must have a loom. And the loom demands maintenance, management. And before you weave, you must get the yarn. And yarn not of one kind. There are many colors, many thicknesses, many twists. Weaving is a specialized profession. It’s a technical thing and Kabir was at it, all the day and singing and composing, creativity of the highest order.
But we delight in stories that talk of Kabir’s poverty. We delight in stories that say that there was a day that Kabir couldn’t manage enough to feed his guests, so he had to go and firstly beg and then steal. Why is it not possible that Kabir was already making enough? And I tell you, Kabir was actually making enough because otherwise, he wouldn’t have had the peace of mind to compose and sing. And he was a prolific creator.
If you look at Kabir’s literature, it is almost endless. He was composing daily. If you are hard pressed for your daily survival then you cannot be such a natural, authentic, and free-flowing composer. Did Kabir embrace one or did Kabir embrace both? Do you see what he is singing of? “Chadariya jheeni re jheeni”, I am seeing that fine cloth in front of him, and he is looking at the chaadar, he is looking at the cloth and what is he seeing? What is he seeing?
He is seeing the human form, he is seeing the human mind, and he is singing of it. Kabir makes liberal prolific use of all that which is associated with his profession. Everything related to spinning, weaving, selling, wearing, became a symbol of God for Kabir. Such was his immersion into his profession. The profession is not important, the immersion is important. That immersion, Sagar (referring to the questioner), is the full embrace. Are you immersed?
You need a new kind of literature, you need new research. If Jesus was a shepherd, if he was tending to cattle, I would like to know what kind of shepherd he was! About Krishna, we know that he was a top-rated cowherd. Was he not? He was such a master of his trade that he only had to indicate and all the cows would come running to him. Now, is this only about spirituality? I also take it as excellence in one’s profession.
If your profession is one to take care of the cows, then see how deft is our Lord in taking care of the cows. Even, through music, he is able to attract the cows. And he was sent to the fields, and to the jungle, right in the morning with these cows. That take these cows, they will graze and what will you do? You will look after them. He need not look after them. Such is his expertise.
He sits under a tree and he is playing the flute and the cows are grazing wherever they are. And the entire day, he has such subtle mastery that he doesn’t even bother to look at the cows. And in the evening when the Sun is setting, he just calls the cows and all of them come. And never did it happen, that Krishna took that cows out and even the smallest calf was lost. The numbers would tally exactly every morning and every evening. This is six sigma performance. Never a mistake. Why is nobody talking of it?
And Nanak, Guru Nanak was a good trader as well. But nobody talks of his proficiency in the worldly matters. He used to undertake very long journeys, one direction at a time. One year, he would move to the South, one year he would move to the East, once to the West, once to the North. In those days it was not easy undertaking such long journeys. From Punjab to Arab, from Punjab to Assam, from Punjab to the deep South. And when he would return to his village, he would again take care of his fields, of the accounts, of the business, of the money, he would settle everything, rest for a while, Mardana too would want some rest and then he would again undertake a journey. Isn’t this worldly proficiency of the highest order? Is it or is it not?
And what to talk of Krishna? Even if we did not or had not obtained the Gita from him, still his mastery in statecraft is something to be cherished even emulated. A master politician, he knows the pulse of the world. He knows how to tackle Duryodhan, he knows how to tackle Bheeshm, he knows how to tackle even Shakuni. And, of course, he knows how to tackle all the women. Can there be a greater proof of one’s worldliness?
The man is handling hundreds and thousands of women at a time? You cannot handle even one. But all you talk of is the? Bhagwad Gita. And you talk of all the different worlds that Gita mentions. You do not see what a practical man Krishna really is. And how successful he is as a mere mortal, as a living man of flesh and blood, as a prince, as a politician, as a lover, as a king. There you don’t look at his deftness, his expertise, his command, and control. Do you see his excellent management and leadership skills?
You don’t want to look at that. You would rather believe that those who were paranormal traits invested in him because he was an incarnation of the holy God himself.
The Gita can come only from someone who understands the world. And if you understand the world you cannot keep failing in the world. If you are proven an idiot every evening and every morning, how will the Gita come from you? How will you even understand the Gita?
Look at your life, if you are a joker, a clown, an idiot, a loser, in this world, what business do you have touching the Gita?
Do you see what is half embrace? You prove to be insufficient everywhere. You are a loser everywhere. In your relationships, you are a loser. In the school you are a loser, in the college, you are a loser. At your workstation, you are a loser, on the sports field you are a loser, and you want to touch the Upanishads? The Upanishads that are coming from the winners of the highest order. Is there any oneness between you and the text that you are trying to touch? Do you have anything in common with Krishna? How then will you understand the Gita?
Krishna was the one who brought victory when defeat looked so probable. And you are the one who will snatch defeat when victory is all yours. When it is ascertained that you are now going to win, you will still manage to somehow be defeated. And then you say, “You know what, I am not very interested in the world, Krishna calls my heart.”
You are not interested in the world? You are marginalized in the world, you are the rubbish of the world. And if we listen to Darwin then you and your ilk, wouldn’t survive for long, because you are unfit.
Even physically, have you noticed how fit most of them are (pointing towards the pictures of the Saints) and most of us are groaning, complaining? Somebody has nose pain, somebody has a headache, somebody has heartache, somebody’s back has been stolen, somebody’s stomach is exploding with gas. And look at them (the Saints). That is full embrace. And half embrace is no embrace.
The man of God is a winner in the world as well. That is full embrace. If you are a loser in the world, you do not know God. God and the world are one. It’s not just The World, it’s God World. It’s God World.
Have you seen that every living being is excellent? The epitome in its particular field. Can you beat the song of a Cuckoo? Or, even a sparrow? Can you beat the flight of a vulture, an eagle? Do you see the agility with which fish swims? They are all experts in their respective fields. I am asking you, “What is your expertise?” Even the ant is an expert. When it carries a load then the load to body weight ratio is unmatched. Compared to its own body weight, the load that a little ant can carry is unmatched.
What is your expertise?
Is there anything that you are a master of?
I am asking you, is there any, anything that you are a master of?
How do you then manage to live?
Even the smallest insect, is a master in its own field. What are you proficient in?
The Atma, the Self, the Heart, the God within you is the climax of perfection. Is he not? Forget perfection, show me even excellence! Where is excellence? If God is perfection, you must have at least excellence. And if you have not even excellence, what is your proximity to God?
All these people (the Saints/Mystics) they were not bumbling idiots in the world. They knew their trade. Do you know your trade?
Sagar, that is non-duality. Embrace one, and you embraced all. For there is only one. To see two is the first mistake is the first mistake from which you can never really recover.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Khalil Gibran: The Man of God is a winner in the world
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