Acharya Prashant: The word ‘loneliness’ or ‘lonely’ is actually a misnomer. The one who calls himself lonely is actually never ‘lonely’. If lonely means not being with anybody, not having anybody to accompany you, then the one who is lonely is actually never without company. He or she always has company. Yes?
And whose company does this person have? This person always has his own company. Okay?
This will make it easier for us to understand.
Traditionally, generally, it has been said that the lonely person is the one who is needing somebody else’s company, right?
You look at it a little differently. You go a little deeper into it. The lonely person is not just needing somebody’s company, in fact it is possible that at times, he may even think that he does not need anybody’s company. He may think that he is not in need of somebody’s company, because he already is in the company of his own thought.
The fellow is thinking that he does not need anyone. And why does he not need anyone? Because right now he has his thoughts to accompany him.
So, the lonely person is one who is always with himself. Do we understand this? The lonely person is one who can never leave himself. The lonely person is one who is always talking to himself, always looking at himself. Are you getting it?
He is always acutely binded to his consciousness. Now we will understand this that what does that mean. The feeling of ‘I’ and the feeling of ‘other’, both exist only in the consciousness. Right? The consciousness consists of two. Which are these two? ‘I’ and the ‘world’. Whenever you are thinking of the ‘I’, you have to, you compulsorily have to simultaneously factor in the world. There is no way you can think of yourself without thinking of the world. That is the way of consciousness. The ‘I’ and the world are always together.
So, the lonely person is always attached to his consciousness. And in his consciousness exists a figure of himself. This figure is a limited figure. This figure needs protection. This figure lives in fear. Fear of what? Fear of the world that he is parallelly thinking of. So, look at what is going on there. He is not lonely at all. There is much to give him company. There is his own figure, and then there is the image of the world. So much is there. That is the lonely person’s mind. There is a lot there.
That is why I began by saying that the word loneliness may mislead.
The lonely person is actually quite full. He has so much in him and going through him. Are you getting it? And at the center of this crowd that always occupies his mind, sits his own figure. Can you see the mind of the lonely person? It is not at all an empty mind. The entire world is there. The entire world is there, and at the center of that world who sits? He himself sits. So, he is sitting and the entire world is there. That is the mind of the lonely person.
Now, this world may sometimes appear friendly to him. ‘Appear’, so he thinks. This world may sometimes appear unfriendly to him. ‘Appears’, so he thinks. But whether the world appears friendly or not so friendly, the one at the center is always limited and hence afraid. When the world appears friendly, he cannot trust it. He knows he is not really deserving of the friendliness. He knows the world too cannot really be trusted. Things come and go. And when the world is unfriendly towards him, then obviously he has reason for despair. But to him, the crowd around him is the only reality. That is the lonely man. He sits at the center and around him is a crowd. Can you look at his eyes? Full with desperation, with hope, with hunger.
He’s looking at the world, “I may get this, I may get that. Who may hurt me, who can becalm me, who is going to be the next one to attack me, who will be the one to comfort me?” He is always looking at the world. Right?
The lonely person is always thinking. The lonely person is always busy with himself. The lonely person just cannot get rid of his own personal concerns. That is loneliness. It is far from an empty dinner table. It is a restaurant choked to capacity, and serving distasteful dishes. Let not the world make you visualize a barren desert. Loneliness is not at all a barren desert. Loneliness is a teeming crowd. People people people everywhere. The world the world the world everywhere. A world that is unknown. A world that really can never be fully known. Nevertheless, a world that is the only hope of the lonely person.
Are you getting it?
The lonely person is always walking with his own shadow. And he has so much attraction and attachment to his shadow that he is always looking only at the darkness which he calls his shadow, which he calls his friend, and to which he is physically attached, just as your shadow is physically attached to you. He’s so engrossed looking at the darkness that he will not turn back to look at the source of light. When you are busy looking at your shadow, surely you have turned your back to the Sun. Have you not?
That is the state of the lonely person. He is always with himself. And what is he doing with himself? Thinking of his own welfare, “What will happen to me? There is me, there is the world. What will the world make of me? What can I get from the world? And how do I save myself from the world?” It’s a strange relationship that one has with the world.
Like in a game of Kabaddi. There is me, there is the other. I have to necessarily engage with the other. If I go to the side of the other to engage with him, I may win some exploits, or I may get caught there and lose everything that I have. That is the relationship of the lonely person with the world. He is always thinking of himself. Afraid. Insecure. And always thinking of himself in relation to the world. He is very concerned about his self-interest.
So, do not be misled please. Just because you may be social, just because you may have people around you, with you, most of the time, do not call yourself not lonely.
To be lonely is to be surrounded. Surrounded not necessarily on the outside, but surely within.
Are you worried about yourself? Is your self-interest paramount to you? Do the thoughts of future keep chasing you? Do memories keep haunting you? You are lonely. You are very very lonely. Do you want to hold on to your relationships? Do you count your numbers? You are lonely.
Who then is alone? The fellow who is alone is the one who is not with himself, just as the lonely fellow is always with himself. The fellow who is alone is rarely with himself. Because he is not with himself, he becomes available. He becomes available. Available to be with that which is.
You can compare the lonely fellow to a man who is driving through a beautiful terrain, lovely terrain, in a car. But his windshield is a mirror. The windows of the cars are all mirrors. In front of him is the windshield which is a mirror. Behind him there is another glass which is again a mirror. And he is driving through a beautiful terrain. He is always with people. Who are those people? Himself. He is very occupied. With? Himself. And that is why he is never available to watch the beautiful…? He’s not available at all.
It’s like you are sitting at a coffee table with two chairs. There is a center table, there is a chair, and there is another one opposite to it. On one chair are you seated. And on the other chair, again you are seated. And you are busy conversating. To whom? To yourself. You are always talking to yourself. And there’s a huge world, a huge reality around you, but you cannot look at it because you are always talking to yourself. That is the state of the lonely person.
And I said that the one who is alone becomes available. Now you know what availability means? What is availability? What is availability? So, now you know what enjoyment means. Enjoyment does not mean entertainment. It only means availability. If you can be present to what is, that is enjoyment. That does not mean you will have a special feeling inside of you. It is a simple presence. Are you getting it?
The fellow who is alone is with everything and everybody except himself. And the fellow who is lonely is with nobody except himself.
Are you getting it?
The world that the lonely fellow lives in is very different from the world that the alone fellow lives in. The lonely fellow’s world is his own construction. It is a dualistic world. It is a world that exists centrally in his own consciousness. It is a world that is the dualistic opposite of his own self image. He does not really live in the world, he lives in his own mind. He lives here (pointing to head). Just as he has an image of himself that always needs protection, correspondingly he also has an image of the world. His self image and his image of the world coexist. Right? And both are his own fiction.
The world of the second fellow, the one who is not lonely, is different. In this world, there is the world without himself. Understand this please. You may look at a car, you do not look at a car just as a car, you look at the car in relation to yourself. How big is it compared to my car? When can I have that car? The driver of that car zoomed past me, did he mean insult to me? The color of this car is similar to the color of my first bike. That is how we look at cars. “I have to overtake this car.”
What is common between all these statements? There is the car with reference to ‘me’. Because I am always busy with myself hence I cannot look at everything except in relation to me. That is how the lonely person’s world exists. It is a dualistic world. He looks at the world in relation to himself. That is the world of the lonely person, because his is a self-centered world. He looks at a car with respect to ‘I’. He looks at anything with respect to ‘I’. Are you getting it?
The world of the fellow who is not lonely and who is depicted by the word ‘alone’ is fundamentally different. In that world there is just the car. The car as it is. Not the car with respect to the person. The car just as it is. Nothing added to it. Nothing subtracted from it. Just the ‘fact’. There is nobody within this person who needs to borrow his identity from the car. There is nobody here who is so hungry that he would look at a car and pounce upon it in some way or the other. He is alright. He does not need the support of the car. He is not afraid, so he does not need to reject or disparage the car. So he looks at ‘just’ the world. Hence, this is not dualistic perception.
Perception is dualistic only when the observer becomes a function of the things he observes. If you observe something and that which you are observing changes you, then your observation is dualistic.
You look at something exciting and you become excited, then your perception is dualistic and you are lonely. Because now you know that your self depends on the world. You look at something and that which you look at changes your state, then you are lonely. Are you getting it?
So, a strange thing happens in the case of this fellow who is called alone. The world keeps changing its shapes, forms, keeps getting modified, keeps flowing, but this fellow does not quite flow with the world. Because he does not flow with the world, so he is free to understand the world as it is. In understanding the world as it is, he becomes free of the fear of the world. And when he is free of the fear of the world, he becomes free to plunge into the world and flow with the world.
But that looks so illogical. We began with saying that he does not flow with the world, and we are ending by saying that he indeed does. You must get the difference between flowing and flowing. He is not carried away by the world. He is not spoiled by the world. Remaining himself, in his own utter inner security and permanence, he is free to give himself to the world, “I know it and it cannot harm me, so I flow.” Whereas the lonely person is compulsorily driven, and even as he is being driven, he is being changed all the time by the driver.
When the fellow who is alone is with the world, he is not being changed by the world he is with. He might be with any color, any part, any mood of the world, something inside him remains free of all moods, he therefore becomes available. To the lonely fellow, the world, as we said, is both a danger and an opportunity. Hence, he cannot become available. He is necessarily attracted to some part, and afraid of the remaining part.
Which part is he attracted? The part that he takes as an opportunity. From where does he escape? The part that he takes as a threat.
Is that not our story? There is this world sprawling outside of us. Somewhere in this world lies the opportunity to make good of myself. And at other places in this world lie mortal dangers, I better avoid them. So how can fellow be then available? He is not available to either part. Obviously he’s not of available to the part that threatens, but equally he is also not available to the part that attracts. His love is bogus.
He must say that I desperately want to go to this part of the world where my sweetheart lives. But he’s not going anywhere, because he is always with only one thing, his own shadow. Even his sweetheart is a part of his own projection, his own shadow. He does not love anyone because he is always only with himself. The one who is self-centered cannot love. He cannot love because to love there must be somebody to love. This fellow only has his own imaginations, that is the most he can love. Even the one he is attracted to, even the parts that he takes as an opportunity, are just his own imaginations.
Even when he is with so-called friends, he is talking not to the friends, but to his projections of who they are. Fighting enemies, he is fighting phantoms. And loving friends, he is loving dreams. All his love is dream stuff. And that is why his love so frequently gets hurt. His dreams are so vulnerable, they so easily get shattered. He is never available, neither to attraction nor to repulsion. Even while making love, he is merely ideating. His body is active, so is his mind. He thinks that he has enimities, and he thinks that he has friends and lovers. He actually has nobody. So poor is he that he does not even have enemies. And that is true.
You are really quarreling hard with someone in a room, and suddenly the room catches fire, it’s a sudden and big fire, you will forget all your enmity, you’ll cry out to the only available person in the room, your enemy, and say “Please save me.” The two of you will suddenly become cooperative. All the enmity will be gone. We do not even have solid enmity. Even our enmity is opportunistic, occasional.
The occasion changes, enemies quickly become friends. The occasion changes, friends quickly become enemies. Husband and wife are breaking each other’s head, and a third person comes in, and the two get united and turn upon this third person. Have you not seen that? “In between the two of us there can be quarrel, but when it comes to an outsider, we are a united front. Our hell is our domestic matter. Conversely, all our domestic matters are hell.” “Only I deserve to crack open the skull of my husband. No outsider will be allowed that privilege.” “Only I deserve to rape my wife. No outsider will be allowed that.” Enemies quickly become friends. Friends turn enemies. All our dream stuff passing, passing, passing. Nothing has permanence. Nothing has depth. Are you getting it?
There was this movie, the man was wailing over the dead body of his son, and he appeared inconsolable, and then a messenger from the government comes, quietly expresses his condolences, and whispers into the ears of the wailing man the exact compensation amount that the government has sent on the death of his son.
Just for a second, just for a brief passing second, the man changes his expression. The inconsolable father, in that brief passing second, upon hearing the news of the large figure that the government has offered as compensation for his son’s death, is made to think of something beyond this grief. The second is brief, it passes. The man again resumes his wails. But that one second is sufficient. Very sufficient. The son is gone.
The grief appears to be deep. But even that deep grief has been assuaged even if for a brief secondby the mighty figure that he is recieving as compensation for his son’s death.
What if the figure was ten times larger? How long would have been the old man’s pause? What if the figure was hundred times larger? What if the figure was a million times larger?
Nothing is deep enough. Nothing is so deep that something else cannot fill it. Your grief for your son might be deep, but it is not interminably deep. Yes, ordinary money will not fill that depth but a lot of money would. And the consequence of that is that if the grief of death can be forgotten, even if for a litle while by the dazzling presence of money then sufficient bedazzlement can cause to not only to not grief over his dead son but even cause to actively kill his living son.
And that is why you have, sons, killing fathers and fathers killing daughters.
Because nothing is deep enough. Because the lonely one is always living for himself. Because everything is within the purview of calculations. The son has gone. Yes, when we console the grieving family, we tell them that yours is an irreparable damage. Don’t we say that, it is an irreparable damage? But it is not actually irreparable. Nothing is deep enough.
All damages are with respect to oneself. One is at the center of his world, his lonely world. And because one is limited, hence all the damages to oneself are also limited. And because one is limited, hence all his pleasures and even his love are also limited. Hence everything can be purchased and sold off. Hence there is a price tag on everything. Every price tag is a number, and anything that is limited can be captured in a number. So, everything is on sale. It is just that you need to quote the right number. You can buy anything.
The man will sell anything. You only need to bid high enough. There is nothing absolute there, and hence there is nothing absolutely out-of-bounds there. There is nothing absolutely unthinkable there. Everything can be thought of. And hence everything can be put into action. That leads us to the world – absolute and unthinkable.
In the world of the man who is alone, there are absolutes. There is stuff that carries no price tag because it is not stuff at all. And there is stuff which is unthinkable, because only stuff can be thought of, and this stuff is special stuff that cannot be thought of. If you are somebody who thinks of everything, then kindly wake up because whatever you think of can always be put up for sale. Whatever you think of is not yours, it will be lost. Either you will actively sell it off, or time will forcibly take it away. Only that you cannot lose which you have anyway never thought of as yourself, or yours.
It is strange. That which you have never thought of as yours is the only thing that really belongs to you. And that which you think of as yours, is not even yours in your own intention. Or it is yours only till the time you decide that you want to now do away with it. Whatever you know of as yours is yours only as an item put up for sale in your shop. A shopkeeper has many things in his shop, and he rightfully calls all of those things as his own, and they are his own, are they not? But everything that belongs to a shopkeeper is also up for sale. So, it belongs to him, and it belongs to him therefore he wants to sell it off for something else. He is always looking for profits. He is never okay with himself. He wants more. He has stuff, but he does not love stuff.
Ever seen a shopkeeper who is really in love with his goods? If he were really in love with his goods, would he sell them off? We too have stuff in our lives. We have ideas, principles, friends, people, families, all of them are like items kept in our shops. The shops might be beautiful. The shopkeeper might be taking care of the items in his shop. There might appear a really friendly, neat, amiable relationship between the shopkeeper and his wares, but the fact is that nothing is absolutely unsalable, because there is no absolute. Everything is just relative. Everything comes to an end.
That is the world of the lonely person. Everything there is conditional. He will never say, “I will never do this. Such a thing can never happen”. He can do anything. It is just a matter of the depth of contingency. It is just a matter of the bid. Anybody can be betrayed. Anything can be deceived. Anything can be sold off. He really can never commit himself to anything or anybody. That is why he lacks devotion. So now, there are three things that are missing in the life of the lonely person, and are present with the fellow who is alone. The absolute, the unthinkable, and devotion.
The fellow who is lonely just cannot be devoted. He can admire, but he cannot be devoted. Because to be devoted is to give up the right to withdraw your devotion. If you still have preserved your right to withdraw your devotion, then your devotion is not complete, because you have not devoted the right.
Are you getting it?
Everything is revocable. Everything is conditional. The fellow trusts nothing but himself. And that is obvious because in his world there is nobody but himself. So, who else can he trust? He will listen to a Buddha, then analyze him, and then if his own analysis says believe he would believe. Whom does he trust, the Buddha or himself? Not only does he trust himself, he trusts himself over the Buddha. Ostensibly, he may go to read books, to listen to teachers. But even when he is reading books, he accepts those parts that his own self approves of. Even when he listens to teachers, he decides when to go, what to listen to, what to make of it, and whether to accept or not. Who is he listening to? Himself. Because in his world there is only him and his shadow. Nobody else. Are you getting it?
What does that leave you with? Yourself. Had there been an absolute, there would have been an absolute effect on everybody, right? But do you see that the effect of this session on you is relative to who you are. Had there been an absolute, then the effect would have been absolute, not relative, not differentiated, not different, but the effect is so different. Because you are not listening to me you are listening to yourself. And when you’re listening to yourself, you may find yourself so boring that you doze off. Yes? (Smiling) laughing at your own jokes.
The books in front of you are different books, your faces are different, the clothes are different, names are different, and personalities are different. And if I ask you “What have I said?” your versions will be different. Where is the absolute?
The lonely man takes pride in confidently saying “The absolute does not exist.” In fact, to him the absolute is merely dogma. To him the absolute is merely an ‘-ism’. Fundamentalism. He’ll say, “Everything is relative.” And yes, if you are living with your shadow, if you are living in the ego, then everything is absolutely relative. Relative to what? Relative to your own ego. There can be no absolute then. Your ego is the center, and relative to your ego exists the world. The world exists relative to your ego.
That is why this lonely man takes great pride in his opinions. Because if absolutes do not exist, then the only thing of value is your opinion. And if absolute does exist then your opinion is of no value. This lonely man would even call himself a liberal who celebrates diversities of opinions. Obviously, if you want your own opinion to be respected and accepted, then as a reciprocal measure you have to at least show that you are accepting and respecting the opinions of others. In giving space to the others ego, even if temporarily, you manage to secure a place for your own ego.
You say “You be with your opinion, and let me stay in the comforts of my own.” This fellow will not meditate, he will debate. Meditations do not clash with each other. Debaters clash with each other. This fellow has opinions, to prove your opinion over the other you have to debate. All debate is with respect to the other. And all meditation has no other in it. In meditation you do not need to prove anything. You just know. And what you know is not always something that can be proved. Are you getting it?
The topic of this series is “God and guilt”, have we kind of come upon God already? It is very necessary for me to not use the word ‘God’, or at least not use it frequently. It is a very heavily loaded word. It conjures up just too many images. But have we come upon the word God already? Have we? Yes? Which one?
Listener: The Absolute.
AP: The absolute. So, the lonely person is the one who has no God. The lonely person only has things relative. Relative to his own self. He has no absolute. God is absolute. God is the only absolute. The lonely one is the one who has no God. So, if you have no God in your life, you will be necessarily lonely. We’d be going through four sessions in this series. The first session is titled ‘incompleteness’. Now you know what is incompleteness? What is incompleteness? Have we come upon the word incompleteness? Which word is that?
AP: Loneliness. Now you see what is the relation between God and incompleteness? What is the relation? The only complete is God. The only complete is the absolute. Obviously. Absolute is a synonym for completeness. No God, no completeness, just a blind search from door to door. If you are someone who has been begging from man to man, from woman to woman, from relationship to relationship, check, there is no God in your life. Check and check again, there is no God in your life and that is why you are a beggar.
I may say “God makes you complete.” But even that would be a frivolous statement. God is the only complete. To live without God is to not live at all. And the fellow who is lonely is actually not living at all. We said that his being is a function of his observation, so he becomes what he sees. Now where is he then? For you to be something, there must be something unchangeable within you, and that unchangeable is called absolute. Now if you are changing as per the situations, conditions, observations, climate, then do you exist? You don’t exist because there is nothing absolutely unchangeable within. Only God exists, and if there is no God in your life do you exist? Do you exist?
And if you don’t exist, you are very very afraid. You do not exist, you are very very afraid. If you do not exist, then fear exists, and so it’s a strange situation. Fear exists and you do not exist then to whom is the fear? It’s a stupid contradiction. Your thoughts, your actions, your being, is proof that you do not exist. But still to somebody there is this thought. There is somebody who is in touch with immortality and do not want to keep vanishing second after second. And that is why he is befuddled. That is why he does not know what to make of life.
You are living against yourself. You are believing that you do not exist. You are thinking that you are dead. You are shouting that you cannot speak. You are reading a book, and the book is convincing you that you do not have eyes to read. It’s a strange paradox. Do not call it strange, because that is the paradox in which we anyway live our lives.
What is a paradox? Fundamentally, a contradiction. Don’t you see what kind of contradictory life we live? Look at your face right now. A small mirror is the best book one can carry in his pocket. Look at your face, just your face, look at your face as it is while sitting in front of me, and then look at your face as it is when you are at your workplace or at your home or with your friends or family. Look at your words and thoughts, how they keep changing from situation to situation. Look even at your intentions. Your honest intentions, not the intention that you profess. At one point you have one intention. Then you reach some other place and your intentions change. This is the contradiction of a lonely life, because there is no absolute there, hence everything is prone to change.
There is that moment in which you really feel that you belong to somebody, you are not lying, and you say ‘I love you and I will be with you for this whole life, and for seven more lives’, and in that moment, you are as honest as you can be. But just only as honest as you can be, because there is no absolute in your life so you cannot be absolutely honest. Two days later, or two months later, or two years later, or two decades later, you are cursing that moment when you offered your commitment. You are very honestly cursing that moment. You are just as honest in this moment as you were when you were committing yourself to the other person. You are not to be blamed. You are as honest as you can be. But your honesty cannot stand the test of time because it is not absolute.
No God, nothing permanent. No God, just time and change. No God, just the slavery of circumstances.
Today he appears handsome and she appears beautiful, tomorrow your honest assessment of each other changes.
Now, we have said two things. We have said that the fellow who is alone is the one who has the absolute God. We had also said that the fellow who is alone lives only with himself. Now you will know why the Upanishads had to say that “You are God”.
The fellow who is alone lives with God, and we also said that the fellow who is alone lives only with himself. Himself, not his image of himself. The fellow who is lonely lives with his shadow, his image of himself. Equally, we said that the fellow who is alone does not live with anybody. Now, what does that mean? Connect the three statements. That means that God is a nobody. The alone has the absolute, and the fellow who is alone has nobody. Hence, the absolute is a nobody.
Now you have the Buddha talking.
The absolute is a vast nothingness. When you are comfortable living in nothingness, then you are alone. When you are not comfortable living in nothingness, then you start living with mirrors. You start talking to your own shadows and images. Are you getting it? Even when there is nobody around you, have you noticed, you are busy, busy with yourself, that is called loneliness.
The fellow who is alone has nobody to talk to, conversely he has God to talk to. When you are talking to nobody, in that silence, there is you and God. And if the silence is absolute, then even the word ‘and’ just drops. You and God, and the ‘and’ is gone. Absolutely gone. So, you are God. Are you getting it?
Whenever you need something to survive, whenever you need somebody to depend on, you are taking your shadow too seriously. We’ll go back to the basics before we take up the questions.
The lonely fellow is the one who is always with somebody, and that somebody he is with, is always his own image. So, the lonely fellow is always surrounded, surrounded by himself. Even if he appears surrounded by others, those others are all in relation to himself. So, the lonely fellow will actually never appear lonely, he will always appear surrounded, he will always appear surrounded. In fact, he will not be bear, tolerate, to remain lonely. It is his inner obligation towards himself to remain surrounded.
You leave him not surrounded, and he will start feeling suffocated. He cannot do without his mobile phone. That is the sign of a lonely person. Always surrounded. And we repeat that the thing that surrounds him appears to be the world, but it is actually just image of himself.
And the fellow who is alone is the one who is just with the absolute. He needs no images. He is not with himself. ‘Himself’ can be the most sacred word and the most painful word at once.
The word ‘You’, the word ‘I’, the word ‘Himself’, the word ‘Self’, can point either to you as you really are, or to your shadow. When they point to you as you really are, they are called the ‘Truth’. You are then the Truth. I am then the Truth. When the word ‘I’ points to us as we really are, then ‘I’ is the Atma.
And when the word ‘I’ starts referring to my self-image, or to my shadow, or to my ego, then it is the dirtiest word. Then it is not Atma, then it is Ahanta. The word ‘I’ refers to both. The world ‘I’ can be used for both Atma and Ahanta. In the case of the lonely person ‘I’ refers to Ahanta. In the case of the fellow who lives alone ‘I’ refers to Atma.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
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