Acharya Prashant on Katha Upanishad: Why do the wise call the Aatman, ‘the enjoyer’?

Question: Acharya Ji, why do the wise call the Aatman, ‘the enjoyer?’

Acharya Prashant: Enjoyer, in the sense of the watcher. Just as in the cinema hall, you enjoy the show. How do you enjoy the show? By leaping into the screen? In Cinema Hall, how do you enjoy it? By relaxing, in your seat.

That’s what the Aatma does. It keeps relaxing, in its seat.

Listener: That means, enjoying our sufferings.

AP: Yes.

Don’t you enjoy even tragic scenes, on the screen? That’s what the Aatma does. For Aatman, there is no tragedy. We talked of it yesterday, right?

All suffering is false. So, where is the question of tragedy?

Reminds me of my college days. So, you know, young students, how they are? Brash, hard, mocking at everything sentimental. That’s the environment in hostels. Nobody likes sissies there. If you are a mama’s boy, if you display lot of emotions, then you become a butt of lot of jokes.

So, it was an inter-hostel dramatics competition. And one of the hostels was trying to enact a sentimental play, in which one of the characters was particularly sentimental. So, with due respect, the student crowd tolerated that play and that expressive actor for some one-minute twenty seconds. And then, we all as part of the audience came into our own! Now, this sentimental actor, playing an even sentimental character, is wailing, weeping, sobbing his heart out. And the more he is crying on the stage, the more is the audience laughing! Can you visualize? He is screaming with pain, and the public is going mad with laughter. People are rolling down the aisle. And hearing a lot of commotion in the audience, he is thinking he is being applauded. So, he is beating his chest, even more ferociously. And now, the public has started throwing their clothes and stuff. After around three or four minutes of such rioting, the actor finally realized that something is wrong.

That is how the Aatman probably watches us! That is why the Katha Upanishad is saying that the Aatman enjoys! We are such stupid actors. It becomes obvious that the suffering we are displaying on the stage is a false suffering. How can any intelligent watcher empathize with us? The more you cry, weep, shriek, the more the Aatman enjoys!

That is why all the Buddhas of the world, have a great time. That is why the first thing he said was, “the world is suffering.” What you missed seeing, is his faint smile, (chuckles) when he said that. Why else do you think is he smiling all the time? When the world is suffering, why else would he smile? Because even your suffering is so imperfect, fake, superficial. The actor on the screen is beating his chest, and the audience too is beating their chests. That is how the Aatman enjoys.

L: No compassion?

AP: No. There is only compassion, but no mercy, no sympathy. A lot of empathy, but no sympathy. Only compassion, no mercy.

L: Why this drama is set?

AP: Because you like it (chuckles). Those were the nights when parties were assured. Somebody’s girlfriend ditched him. Somebody got kicked in an interview. Now, it is certain, that somebody would be throwing a party! In which the dumped one, the kicked one, would be the chief guest. That is how the Aatman enjoys.

You could even say that the Aatman is a little self-centered. Or should I go to the extent of calling it sadist! (Laughs)

L: You break your leg and even then no mercy, no sympathy.

AP: Yes. you break your leg. You get that big white plaster. And that becomes a canvas for all kinds of erotic expression. The fellow is sleeping and two or three would gather, to vent out their heart, or other organs on it. And he can’t erase it. Plaster of Paris, on that, if you write something with your sketch pen, it is immortal now. And you carry that around.

L: If you take load, you will get more load.

AP: Well said. That’s what, Christ had said, “those who do not have shall find themselves robbed of even what they have, even the little that they have. And those who have, they shall be blessed with more.”

That’s how the Aatman operates. Now, do you think this is a sympathetic Aatman? It is not sympathetic, it is not socialist or communist. It does not believe in equal distribution. If you think that you don’t have grace, even the little grace that you think you have shall be snatched away. Whereas if you feel blessed, with grace, then you shall receive even more blessings.

Complain, and you lose even what you already have.

Be grateful, and you get more than what you are grateful for.

Very peculiar Aatman. Very peculiar. It has no soft corner for sissies. Complaints don’t work.

L: Those must be mama’s boy. Even in our college days, if somebody’s parents come to stay in our wings. One First day, we tolerate them. On Second day, we started creating trouble for them and on the third day, we start some vulgar activity all around.

AP: See, how happy he is!

(laughter)

This is Aatman. No regard for any kind of occasion. No regard, even for the camera. Yes, that’s what. Totally disregardful. Even contemptuous. Aatman, takes as dirt even that, which you think of as the holiest of holies. Aatman in that sense, desecrates, spoils. Aatman has no regard for your temples, churches, mosques. Aatman treats them as jokes.

When you are being the most serious, the Truth pokes fun at you.

In fact, your seriousness is the biggest joke.

Visualise it, you are sitting with all your seriousness and your graveyard like face. With two or three dead bobbies, popping out of somewhere. And against your graveyard like face, is sitting an old man and a child. And both are dying of laughter. That is the Aatman. Even your highest sadness, gets no response from the Aatman, somebody has died, you are wailing “Ram naam satya hai.” The Aatman is responding, “murda badaa mast hai.”

That is why Saints have laughed at death. That is why, in the Katha Upanishad, Nachiketa returns with deathlessness. That is why there is the story of three monks who would live together and laugh together. And when one of them died, he put all kinds of stuff under his clothes, crackers and such things. So that, when he was being burnt, everyone gets something to laugh at. That is the Aatman, even death is a joke. Even death is not significant enough to make you heavy, to make you feel mortal, limited, contained. When the Aatman is immortal, how can you be sad at death?

Time up folks!



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

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Khalil Gibran: How to know the right work for oneself?


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