Acharya Prashant on Upanishads: The limited, the limitless, and the dance

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Acharya Prashant: Hema, is saying, “Good, bad, evil, are all reflections of our inner-selves. How do we understand the limitless, with our limited mind?”

As long as you keep calling yourselves limited. You will continue to have a fascination towards comprehending the limitless.

You must ask, “Why does the infinite, the immense, appeal to you so much?” It appeals to you only because you have fundamentally defined yourself as limited.

What is bondage? Except the word ‘bondage’. The moment you say that there is a word called ‘bondage’, you have brought something fictitious to Life. The moment you call something as a bondage; you have called yourself a limited entity, vulnerable to bondage. Is the limitless susceptible to bondage? Just by talking of a few things, or even by seeking solutions to a few problems, you needlessly substantiate those things and problems.

You are saying, “How does one understand the limitless, with the limited mind?”

It’s exactly the other way round, Hema. You are asking, “How does one understand the limitless, with the limited mind?”

You know how it works?

You understand the limited because you are limitless.

Obviously the limited cannot comprehend the limitless.

But the limitations can be comprehended.

By whom?

By the limited one? Obviously not!

The limitations can be comprehended, because ‘you are unlimited’.

The unlimited one is not to be comprehended. The unlimited one is the one shining behind all comprehension!

How are you able ‘to know anything’? All things are limited. But if the knowing of the thing is also limited, would you ever ‘know’ really?

The ‘thing’ is limited. The ‘knowing’ of the thing, the ‘understanding’, is never limited.

And you do understand, right? Yes, your understanding is episodic, rare, infrequent, dependent on several conditions. But, don’t you ever understand? You do. At least, sometimes. And if you do understand, then you are already ‘in the limitless’.

I will repeat- Don’t identify yourself with the limited. If you will identify yourself with the limited, then you will become blind towards the limited. And your desire will now be, to target the? Unlimited. See, what foolishness this is. The moment you identify yourself with the limited, you become blind towards the limited. You do not even know what the ‘limited stuff’ really is. And identified with the limited, now you are targeting the? Unlimited. And then you start asking questions like these. You ask, being a limited mind, how do I know, comprehend, understand the? Unlimited.

Don’t you see, what you are doing?

The beginning itself is false. How will you reach the Truth? That’s the inevitable rule. Mind it!

That which you are identified with is so difficult to be looked at. And being identified with something, you will want to look at thousands of other things. In the hope that they are ‘other’ things.

Your frustration will be, that they will not be ‘other’ at all. If you are identified with the ‘limited’, then the ‘other’ will just be the ‘mirror image’ of the limited. If you are identified ‘with’ something, then you will try to look at a lot of ‘other’ things, but those other things will all just be ‘mirror images’ of the limited that you are identified with.

That’s why the unlimited that you talk of, is not really unlimited. It is just the mirror image of your limitations.

See, you are defeated doubly. First of all, you have identified yourself wrongly. And now, having badly identified yourself, that which you now want to target, is a false target. What is it that you now want to target? The unlimited. And that unlimited, is a false target, because it is? Just a mirror image of the limited. Why give in to this trap?

Stay, in the unlimited. You don’t have to worry about the unlimited. You can only worry about the little things. If you start worrying about the infinite, you will collapse. It’s good to stay in the infinite. It’s too humongous an affair to be anxious about. Your anxiety, fails in front of? The immense. What all will you be anxious about? ‘The immense’ means? ‘The immense!’ You can only be anxious about? Something little!

When you are with the limitless. Then the limitless, you do not worry about. And now, the limitless empowers you to know the limited very clearly, very very clearly. That is called Self-knowledge.

In Self-knowledge, you look ‘at the mind’, but not ‘as the mind.’

If mind is watching the mind, then there is no watching happening.

These words – limits, bondages, smallness, bigness – they do not apply to you at all. They apply to ‘stuff’. And ‘stuff’ you are not. To say that ‘you are free’, is as much of a misstatement, as to say that ‘you are in bondage.’ You don’t ‘have’ any name. Your very name is beyondness. You are beyond all names, all descriptions, all things, forms.

‘You are that which you are searching for!’ What unlimited are you talking of?

When you are talking of the unlimited, the unlimited is talking.

And smiling at your mischief.

Say, that you are a limited mind. And you have invited, needless limitations upon yourself. And these needless limitations that you invite upon yourself, are ‘known’ when you are – neither thinking nor talking, of limitations. When you are ‘just observing,’ then the limitations and their fallacies, become apparent. So, that’s the only ‘job’ of the limitless. It observes!

It’s a two-way thing. Don’t take yourself, to be limited. And then you will see, that you have taken yourself to be limited. Ha! too much, probably!

Don’t take yourself as limited, and then, you will see, how badly you have taken yourself as limited. When you don’t take yourself as the limited one, then who are you? At least not the limited one. For the sake of language, we say, the unlimited one. And if you are the unlimited one, then you can see, how terribly, needlessly, you have called yourself, limited.

Getting it?

So, the teacher will always say these two contradictory things. On one hand, he will tell you, you are not limited. And on the other hand, he will keep telling you, you are nothing but limited. And these are not contradictions. Only when you are not limited, will you see, that you have brought yourself down to limitations needlessly. The ego, you are, is known to you only when you are not the ego. As long as you are the ego, you keep calling yourself the ‘great self.’ It’s a very strange thing.

When you are not the ego, then you know that you have pitiably turned yourself into? The Ego. And when you are indeed the ego, then you refuse to acknowledge the ego. Then you say, No, I am not the ego. I am the Supreme Brahma.

Getting it?

This results in a very melodious spiritual contradiction. Those who are not, they keep saying ‘I am.’ And those who are, they keep saying, ‘Well who am I?’

Begin rightly, and see that all your beginnings have been false. Begin rightly, so that you may terminate all your beginnings.

Begin rightly, so that you see, that you never ever began!

And you cannot begin rightly, by calling yourself a limited mind.

It is not merely wordplay. ‘It is’ merely word-play! It is as much of a word-play, as is your life and your existence. If you could take your Life, your ways, your thoughts, with a pinch of salt. Then you can say, that all this is merely a wordplay. But if you are seriously stuck, in the web of name, forms, thoughts, desires, then don’t call it ‘merely’ wordplay. Because this same wordplay is giving you a lot of sleepless nights.

Be very careful about the words you choose. They don’t come from nowhere! The moment something is verdict, it becomes a part of this world. And whatsoever is a part of this world, starts having an impact on you. It becomes as real for you, as your own existence is. Because you too are, after all, just a ‘part of this world.’

You are a part of this world, and that which you have now verdict, is also a part of this word, a relation is now inevitable.

 And every relationship would do something to you.

You are not immune.

Are you limited? Obviously. Are you unlimited? Otherwise, how would I say, obviously? You know, where does the word ‘obvious’ come from? ‘The one who can view’, ‘the one can vision,’ ‘the one who can see and observe’. Unless I am unlimited, ‘who’ is talking of the limitations? And if I am not limited, then what is there to be talked of?

‘I am the limited one.’ So that there may be great stupidities. And ‘I am the unlimited one,’ so that the great stupidities may be known as small. Who am I? You decide. I am the little one so that there might be some dance. I am the unlimited one so that there is a stage to dance, a sky to dance in, and somebody to lovingly, but dispassionately watch the dance. ‘The little’ dances, ‘the immense,’ is the podium. ‘The little’ dances, ‘the immense is the sky and the horizon. ‘The little’ dances, ‘the immense’ watches and smiles. Who are you? And can you choose? Do you need to choose?

Make the choice rightly. Between the two of them, when you choose the right one, then you are both.

Between the two of them, when you choose wrongly, then you are neither. You will either have both or nothing.

Choose wisely.

It is impossible to choose!

Who are you?

The unlimited one does not allow for a barren stage. He does not become the stage so that there is no dancer on it.

Where the unlimited one is, there would be the stage and the little dancer.

And wherever the little dancer is, there would be the One, facilitating the dance.

And I don’t who know is dancing – the little one or the unlimited one. This much is certain, that the little one is dancing upon, and in, and surrounded by, and under, and right to, and left to, the unlimited one. This much is very very certain. And probably it is also certain that the little one couldn’t have danced, without the unlimited one, being within her. So, the great one, is to her left, to her right, beneath her feet, above her head, in front of her eyes, and also inside her. Now, I don’t know who is dancing. You know better, you are the unlimited one.

A solitary lotus in a great pond. A pond as wide as the seas.

A pond, so wide, that even if a million lotuses are there, they all appear solitary.



Excerpts from a Shabda-Yoga Session. Edited for Clarity.

Watch Full Discourse: Acharya Prashant on Upanishads: The limited, the limitless, and the dance

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