L: Can we begin from Nowhere?
AP: Can we begin from Nowhere?
AP: Actually you always begin from somewhere. If you begin from nowhere, you also show no movement and you also do not go anywhere. Nowhere is not a point of beginning. All beginning implies a change in state. All beginning implies that there was no movement and then there is a movement. This movement you call as beginning. One is not moving, then one moves. And this change in state one call as the beginning – I have just begun.
In Nowhere, in that nothingness that you are terming as nowhere, there is no beginning and hence no end. And that’s a great relief. Remember, whatever begins is definitely going to end. And whatever is going to end always carries expectations and fear with it. Hence, a beginning is not really such a nice thing to have. We keep on saying, “Let’s begin. Let’s start. Let’s change. Let’s reform. Let’s improve.” All of which are names for just the same thing. The thing is Activity, “Let’s do something.”
Are we all not fascinated by the idea of changing, doing, improving, moving, reaching, attaining, achieving? All of these involve beginnings. All of these involve an apparent change in state. What is remarkable however is that, what we call as the mind, its nature is to keep changing? More correctly put its tendency its habit is to keep changing. When the very habit is to keep changing, what is new about another change?
And, since the habit itself is to be susceptible to change, whatever we call as change is not really change but the continuation of the habit, the continuation of the tendency. And can that continuation really then be anything different from what the mind has already and always been? That’s funny, because what the mind has been is exactly the reason, is exactly the cause and suffering that prompts one to seek change.
One seeks change because one is not satisfied. One is attracted by new beginnings, because one is not quite alright with the state one is in, with the place one finds himself in. So, one says, “I need change. I need something else.” And all of that involves movement and activity. But, movement and activity is exactly what the mind has been doing on and on since the inception of time. How is then that anything new?
We have a remarkable fascination towards doing, towards changing. In doing and changing, some of us do indeed appear quite flexible, almost surrendered. We say, “Tell us anything that needs to be done and we will diligently willfully do it. You’ll not find a lacking in enthusiasm. You just suggest to us what needs to be done and we will be up to the task.” Right?
And when we find someone taking up something arduous, with a lot of vigor, with a lot of ardor, we feel full of respect, admiration. We feel he is doing the impossible. He has taken up a challenge which is so difficult for most others. And indeed it does look quite difficult. But what we often fail to see is, that inspite of the difficulty involved in what he is doing, he is yet just doing.
Focus not so much on the challenges that he is overcoming. Look at that rather which he is unable to overcome. And that which he’s unable to overcome is his tendency to remain in motion. Tell me the most impossible thing under the Sun or beyond the Sun, to do to accomplish to try? And I will put in the required effort. But, if you say, enough, just too many beginnings, just too many ends. Just too many repetitions of the same old agonizing story, then I will not listen. Or, even if I do, I will deliberately allow the internal noise to distort the message. I will turn non-movement to another kind of movement.
You see, we gather here. It’s a nice Sunday morning. I want to ask, is there a fundamental difference between the way we gather here and the way workers, employees, colleagues gather in an office in a week day? Apparently yes, there is a difference. The difference is that we seem to be here for a spiritual purpose. We are not dressed in formals. We do not quite want here what we want there. So, there is a difference. But really, deeply, is it not so that even here we come to get something? Is this too not a movement of the mind?
You’re fed up of one type of clothing, you give it up and you wear something else. You are fed up of one kind of routine, on Sundays you try something else. Now, that something else may look radically different from whatever else you have been wearing or eating. But, is it not a part of the same pattern?
Wearing another type of garment is not the same thing as nakedness. It is just another beginning. Another beginning which contains the seeds of its cessation within itself.
That is interesting because whatever we begin, we begin in the hope of reaching a point that will never betray us, that will never cause us disappointment due to its ending. But whatever the mind will begin, will necessarily end. Whatever you see as starting is always going to stop. Not because something else is going to act upon it and stop it, but because every start carries from the very first step, the reasons for its own termination.
If it starts, it is going to stop. And, that stop does not happen because somebody has conspired, or because something is hostile. The end comes just because the beginning came.
And, if one can see the ending is contained in the beginning — so, whatever we begin is always going to fall short of our deepest expectation. The deepest expectation is that it will stay, it will provide security, it will provide relaxation — one will not need to worry about it. It won’t. All beginning is in time, and time is change. If there is no change there is no time.
L: So, the ultimate desire is to achieve that changelessness? Through change we are trying to achieve that?
AP: Through change we are not only trying to achieve that desire, we are trying to achieve that desire for ourselves. The ultimate desire is not only to be at the point of changelessness, but to ourselves be at that point. We do not merely want the ultimate. We want the ultimate for ourselves. And, these are two very different things.
So, when you want that changelessness, when you want that finality for yourself, then your desire is not merely one, then you have two parallel desires. One is to have that, the final the Ultimate, and the other is to have that remaining as you are, because you wanted for yourself. You say, “I’ll have that but I’ll ensure even as I have that, I remain as I am.” And who am I? I am a being of change. Hence this paradox that we want changelessness through change. We want changelessness because of course, that is what the mind cries out for and we want changelessness through change because change, the whole process, the whole involvement in change is necessary to protect the mind.
I said, these are parallel desires. These are parallel but contradictory. Both of them cannot be fulfilled at the same time. They are not merely opposites. They are dimensionally different things. To protect yourself is just a run of the mill activity of the mind; we are doing that all the time. All action all thought arising from our usual centre is an attempt to protect and secure ourselves that we are anyway doing. And the other desire that you talked of, the desire to reach changelessness, the desire to be one with the ultimate, that is something else. These two cannot be reconciled. They donot go together. Hence, man is torn. Hence we live excruciatingly difficult lives, divided lives.
L: What is the way out?
AP: Would that be another beginning to find a way out?
L: Then it can be that we are already there. What to achieve? If there is no way out, so the corollary would be we are aiming for something which we already are.
AP: The aim is aiming for itself, the aim will always fail. No arrow can ever shoot itself. No activity, no beginning, nothing new will help. It is obvious why we think that way. In the world whenever we look around, whenever we want something, it has to come to us through movement. So, we extend this example, this observation to the inner world also. We say there two something needs to be done. I need to take a step to reach somewhere.
What often helps us deceive ourselves is the fact that very very innovative steps are available. Steps, methods, ways, beginnings, that look very different from our normal life. So, we feel that this must be able to help us because it is obviously so different from what I am. What do I wear? I wear black, white, and gray. I live in formals. And what does that one wear? He wears white, he wears orange, he wears saffron, or green. Now, surely this looks like a new beginning, this looks like something different.
What do I work for? I work for profit motive. And what does the other one work for? He apparently works only for the world, for social service. He’s a Bodhisattva, he works for the enlightenment of all sapient beings. So, this must be really new, this must be really different, let me try this. What we fail to see is, that if you are being attracted towards that, then are you not the same who was attracted towards that, that, and that as well (pointing in different directions).
You are the one who is attracted to a particular kind of food. You are the one who is attracted to a particular woman, to a particular place, to a particular thought, idea. You are also the one who is attracted to a particular new beginning, to a particular method, to a particular teacher, to a particular book. Now, the book may look very different from food.
The teacher you are attracted to may look very different from the man, or woman that you are attracted to. The spiritual place that you are attracted to looks very different from the place of entertainment you are attracted to. There may seem no similarity at all. Rishikesh, and Gurgaon looks so different, don’t they? But yet there is something that deeply binds them. There is an invilable, an inexorable linkage. The linkage is that you are the one who is attracted to both these places.
The places, the objects, the ideas, may look very different, but they surely have something in common, otherwise how could the same entity be attracted to both of them? So, you remain. You remain. You remain as their common link. You remain as the thread that runs through the beads. And, if you remain at the center, how does it matter which point on the periphery we are talking of?
The circle remaining the same, the center remaining the same, one can go 180 degrees, can’t one? Has anything really changed?
To Prevent the center from dissolving, man will go to ridiculous extents. He can take a thousand turns of the circle. He can shrink the circle, he can enlarge the circle. What he can never do is to jump out of the circle. What is meant by jumping out of the circle? It means, stop. The circle really does not exist. The circle is created by movement. You stop and the circle is gone.
There is beautiful verse by Kabir,
“दौड़त दौड़त दौड़ीया, जेती मन की दौड़।
दौड़ दौड़ मन थकी गया, वस्तु ठौर की ठौर।।”
You keep moving. You keep running. The running itself defines your universe. The running, the movement, the change, the whole process in time, that is what defines ones limits, one’s whole worldview, one’s identities. You stop and the circle is gone. You have jumped out of, you have dropped out of the circle. Do not place your hopes on the next big thing. No big thing is going to happen next. Do not look with such expectation towards tomorrow. Tomorrow is contained in this. Tomorrow cannot bring to you what this does not have.
L: Sir, why no big thing is going to happen?
AP: Why must it happen? From where does the thought of the next big thing come? Most of us, I wonder all of us, are living in the hope of the next big thing, in whichever form, in whatever name. Why do we live in that hope? Because you take yourself to be a function of the previous one. You assure yourself that your identity is defined by your past. And you don’t wince doing that. You let your intelligence, your discretion, be suspended when you say that you are where you come from, that you are what you have been taught.
Without any self-inquiry, we claim that we are a product of our city, a product of our economic situations. And when we say that, are we not using that statement just to hide our fear, just to remain what we are? You let yourself to be defined by your past, by your experiences, by your gender, by your religion, by your money, by your knowledge. And you will have to look at the future, the next big thing.
You will have something unended continue in your mind. You will have scores to settle. You will have an unfinished task. The past has no intentions ever of remaining a past. In fact, calling it as past is a mistake. You know what past means? Past means left behind. You say you have gone past something. The past is never left behind, you never go past it. If there is one thing which can never never be left behind, it is the past. It will continue. In fact, it will jump ahead of you. Not only will it stay with you, it would be running ahead of you.
It would be running ahead of you like a guide. A very deceptive guide. Nevertheless something, someone, that claims to be a guide. Most of us think that the past is there behind the back. No, the past is there in front of the eyes. Not only it is in front of the eyes, it is actually guiding the eyes, guiding the mind, guiding the feet. The past decides what our future would be like.
The past first of all raise a future, then directs the mind to chase that future. Is there anything that you think of, anything that you feel happy about, anything that you feel disappointed about that is not coming from your past? Are all our disappointments not cultivated disappointments. Had you not been told by the movies, by the novels, by family, by all the mythological stories, that this is something that you need to feel bad about, would you still have felt bad about such things?
Yesterday dinnertime, there were my rabbits close to me. They are five of them and three of them stay particularly together. And a little bit of tension, some kind of disappointment was hanging heavy in the air. Something to do with relationships. And then two of the rabbits, they started chumming, playing, frolicking, mating. And all was so obvious. Nobody has taught them that such are the rules of conduct in a relationship. So, it doesn’t matter to them that they are playing in front of an audience. It doesn’t matter to them that they are getting intimate in front of watchful eyes.
Human beings sit with their heads heavy and loaded and aching. Because they have been taught that they must be expectant, and they must feel sad when those expectations are broken. Funny part is, what those expectations must be like too isn’t something original. We have been trained in expectations. We have been trained what to expect in a relationship.
I really want to ask, would you know what to expect from your son had it not been a whole legacy of expectations behind you? Would you really feel let down when your son doesn’t listen to you, had you not been told that sons must be obedient? Your background, your experience, your past tells you that your sons must be obedient. Your background also tells you that you have a right to be hopeful. And when those ideas are not honored by facts, by what is happening right now, then you feel as if something bad has happened to you.
Who told you what to expect from a relationship. Who trained you? Who told you that sons must be obedient and wives can be possessed? It’s just all the bad movies that you have been consuming. It’s all the stories and fiction that you have been reading even if in the name of spirituality and religious literature.
Look at your mythology. Are not your gods so covetous, often so mean and possessive? And now, you feel as if it is the voice of your heart.
We do not create a future. Never. All beginning is in the hope of creating a future. We never create a new future. That which is behind us firstly shapes us as us, and then stands in front of us as the future. How will you create a future when you are just the past? Tell me. What you will call as a beginning leading to the future will just be a beginning into yourself. The past is not ending. It is again beginning to continue as the past and now rename itself as the future.
You watch a movie, what do you think, the movies ends after two or three hours? It doesn’t. The movie becomes you and then continues as your life and you don’t even know that. Nothing ever ends. Now, what does one mean by a beginning then, when there is firstly nothing that is ending, obviously what we then call as a beginning is just a continuation.
That would have been good news had we been continuing in joy. But what are we continuing in? What are our lives all about? If there is continuation, it would just be a continuation of our agony, because that’s what we are living in. If there is continuation, it would just be a continuation of our strife and desperation, because that’s what we are living in. Whenever you talk of beginning, you only talk of continuing in the same harrowed state as one is, as the whole world is.
Be meditative. Instead of being exuberant, instead of being enthusiastic, why can’t we simply be meditative, little more reflective? Why can’t we look at what is already going on? You know we are like a computer system that is already weighed down by too many programs, too many softwares running in it. It does not have the capacity to handle so much, does not have the processing power. And when we see that the system is overloaded, what do we decide in all our wisdom?
We say, “Let’s open another window. Let’s start something more here. Let’s go for another beginning”. Now, who will begin? The same system that is already overloaded? What do you want, a beginning or termination? You want a beginning. What do you need, a beginning or termination?
AP: An overloaded system, can it even handle a program that would end all other programs? It can’t. It simply needs to stop. Continuing gives an impression of security. You feel as if you’re reaching somewhere. You feel as if you’re doing something. Stopping terrifies us. You feel as if you’ve given up, as if you’re lazy, as if there’s no hope left. So, just to console yourself, and this consolation is just self deception, just to console oneself one keeps on doing something.
Have you seen how horrible it is to not to do anything? Absolutely threatening. Especially if the situation appears bad. If the situation appears unfavorable and you are not doing anything about it, then in your own eyes you become the most despicable creature on earth. I am incompetent, impotent, lazy; I must stand up and show some vigor.
Even our questions are just a continuation. Somebody asks, “What will I get by stopping?” And what have you been getting by moving? You will not get anything by stopping. You will stop getting all that that you have been getting so far. God and Truth must not be conceptualized, but if they have to be conceptualized, if you cannot help conceptualizing, then you must conceptualize them as an absence.
Yesterday, Anu put up a video, which is titled “Thank God for what He has not given you”. God is not to be seen. But if you must see him, see him as an absence. See him as a non movement. Don’t say what will I get. God is in the cessation of what you have been getting. God is not about getting Joy or Peace or Bliss or Truth or Love. God is about not getting any of these. Because what we get in the name of these is just suffering.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
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