The secret of the disciple and the master

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Acharya Prashant (AP): The master and the disciple, they exist at two levels that are related, yet different.

Let us understand them.

At the most fundamental level which you could call as the real level, there is only the disciple, just as in the world, there is only the mind. And this disciple, this mind is characterised by its restlessness. Its defining property is that it moves. It’s not still; it wants, desires, strives, achieves, desires again. That mind alone is the disciple. And that which the mind so desperately wants, yet consciously knows nothing of, is the destination. That which mind wants is the destination.  Continue reading

Self-Realisation is not the ending of the struggles, it is the ending of the struggler

Question: Is self-realisation for everyone? Many people would choose to live a life of illusion, take comfort in that. Do we really need to wake them up? And of course, the struggles of life don’t end even after self-realisation.

Speaker: It is something like that of a mountain bus driver – he has his challenges, of which passengers know nothing about.

Self-realisation is not the cessation of struggles. Self-realisation is the ending of the struggler. Self-realisation is not the cessation of troubles, it is the ending of the struggler.

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In remembering anything remember what you are forgetting

Question: Sir, when you say, “Remember the One,” I can make sense of it right now. But when I go home, the same statement becomes very dry. If I go home and remember – ‘Remember the One’, it doesn’t mean the same thing, as it means now. So, is there any point in really remembering this sentence, or writing it down?

Speaker: ‘Remembering’ or ‘forgetting’ are meaningful words only with respect to the Moon (the mind), not with respect to the Sun (the Source). The Moon must remember, and the moon forgets, right? We are talking of the mind. What is it that we are asking the mind to remember? We are asking that it must remember its essence. Now, what is it that is to be remembered?

We are saying, “Remember your foundation and your being.” That is what I said. “Remember your foundation and your being.” Now is there anything apart from this? You have talked about the foundation and you have also talked about the structure. You have talked about the soul and you have talked about the body; the foundation and the being.

We are saying, “Remember it.” But it is already there, it is not really to be remembered. It is already there, it is not really to be remembered. But then wise men have always talked of remembering, remembering, remembering – Surati. Why have they talked of it? And then what does ‘constant remembrance mean?

The mind, as it is, has the faculty of memory, memory and knowledge that it acquires through senses. And it has intellect, intellect that accords value and importance to the knowledge that has been acquired. And the mind looks outwards at objects. That is from where it gathers information, the appearance of objects and then it has an intellect that accords importance to those impressions and appearances.

It accords importance to those impressions, and remembers them according to the importance granted to them. We are talking of the mind. Your eyes look at something, the appearance comes to the mind, and then memory and intellect combine to give value and importance to that appearance. And if a high value is given, then you remember it. You say, “It is of critical importance.” You remember it.

RemembranceWhen you remember that to which the intellect gives importance, that is when you forget That to which existence gives importance. When you remember that to which you give importance, then you forget that which is really important. When man-made values become important, then existential values are forgotten.

It is not really a question of remembering the Truth; it is really a question of not remembering the false. You remember the false all the time. Your senses keep on gathering appearances, incessantly. Your senses are like wild creatures, you have no harmony with them. You have never made peace with them. They do not serve you at all; they punish you.

And your intellect too is unrefined. All the wild material that your wild senses bring to you, your wild intellect attaches importance to it. So all this becomes important. When all this becomes important, then how will you remember the really important?

You say that you go home and forget. What do you mean by ‘home’? It is a physical location. You mean a collection of objects, right? ‘Home’ is a collection of objects: some things, some people, some memories. Why should that become important to your mind? Why? “These are just appearances, how can I take them seriously?”

Take an example, we have been discussing, and the elderly gentleman had to move for some reason. And we have some veterans sitting here, and I could see how when the gentleman was moving across the room, your eyes were following him. Now, you are remembering, what? The object and its movement. Your eyes had become glued to the object.

See how your eyes move. See how even when this session is going on, your eyes are so wild. And when you are looking at this and that, then it becomes important. And you remember all that. When you remember what is not important that is called ‘forgetting the important’. Otherwise the important is not an object to be remembered, it is your life-breath. You do not need to remember it, it is the beating of your heart. You do not need to remember it. You do not need to remember it.

People talk of remembering God; that is actually stupid. What do you mean by ‘remembering God’? One can only remember something that is separate from him. There is no real need to remember God. God is your heartbeat; you don’t need to remember him.

What you need, is non-remembrance. What you need, is forgetfulness towards the world. What you need, is to ignore all this that happens around.  Ignore all this, not in the sense that it is not happening, but in the sense that it cannot be taken seriously, in the sense that it is not important. And remember, you just developed this habit, this ugly habit, of giving importance to this, that, all the petty and immaterial stuff. It is just a bad habit that you developed. It is just a conditioning.

Since childhood, you have been told that this is important and that is important. And you were born with a body that was already conditioned to consider a few things, a few material things as important. Added to the conditioning of the body, there was the conditioning given by the family and society. The result is this perverted habit of considering everything as important.

Look at how you read the newspaper; look at how you watch the television. Whatever is coming to you, you keep absorbing it. You keep looking at it, you just don’t get up and walk away. You allow the appearances to enter your mind. And not only do the appearances enter by themselves, the appearances enter with the message, with the code that – ‘we are important’.

Have you noticed this? Never does a news item just say that it is a news item. It also contains a justification as to why it is important. And you allow that item to enter you. You allow all the propaganda of this stupid world to enter you. And then that becomes important.

What is spirituality? It would not be wrong to say that – spirituality means a healthy indifference to the world. Remember, I am talking of a healthy indifference. To not to be touched, to remain uncorrupted – that is what is spirituality. That is what is ‘the essence of wisdom’.

You may go home or go anywhere. As a human body, you have to be somewhere, right? Located in time and space. There would be the dance of appearances and objects all around you. Are you wise enough to know how important it is? No, you do not know that. So you give it extreme importance.

You get excited by a four percent salary rise. You get excited if the Sensex takes a three hundred point jump. You get excited if your marks increase by two percent. All these things become matters of life and death to you. You get unnerved if you hear that your daughter is going around with somebody. You become nervous if you hear that the neighbour is buying a bigger car.

The servant brought grocery, and you are now suspicious that there may be a fudging of ten rupees, and you take it so seriously. Have you ever seen people negotiating in the vegetable markets? That is the world. If you want to understand the world, go to a vegetable market, and look at people negotiating. See how intensely and passionately they negotiate for two and a half rupees.

And these are well-to-do people, gentlemen and women coming from affluent families, reasonably well-to-do families. A car and a chauffeur might be waiting for them. And she wants to negotiate right up to the bone. “Can you reduce the price by three more rupees? Instead of thirty-three rupees, may I just pay thirty rupees?” Now, look at her face at that moment when she is intensely negotiating. Look at her face. What does she remember? She remembers only one thing – three rupees. Now when you remember these three rupees with such determination and passion, how will you remember the Truth? The three rupees is all that matters to you right now.

I have advised you earlier, and I am advising you again, take it as mantra – whenever something becomes important to you, ask yourself, “What am I forgetting?” Anything, that ‘something’ could be anything.

Whenever you find yourself being too deeply engaged with anything, ask yourself, “In being engaged with this, in remembering this, what am I forgetting?” And you will find that the object of remembrance will be diverse – sometimes you will be remembering money, sometimes reputation, sometimes future, sometimes security, sometimes attraction, attachment. You would be remembering a thousand things, but there would be only one, that you would be forgetting – the One.

You remember a thousand things, but whatever you remember, makes you forget just one thing – the One. The One. That is what you forget. You might be watching T.V. in a very engrossed way, what are you forgetting? The One. You may be quarreling very intensely, what are you forgetting? The One. You may be deeply engaged in pleasures of the body, what are you forgetting at this instant? The One. You may be deeply overtaken by sorrow and suffering, you might be crying. You remember your sorrow, but what are you forgetting at this moment? The One.

There are a thousand objects, but all objects serve just one purpose – they make you forget the One. The One.

Go home, or go anywhere else, objects will be there. Don’t you have the wisdom to see that they are merely objects? “There are walls, there are things, there are people and there are ideas – these are objects. How can I be serious about them? How can I be serious about them? Alright, as a body I have to live amidst them, so I will maintain a particular level of dealing. But deeply within, its only One that I will remember. Only One. On the surface, I might keep dealing with the world, but deep within, my heart beats in remembrance of just One, just One” –  that’s the way to live. That’s the only way to live.

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

Watch the session at:  Prashant Tripathi: In remembering anything remember what you are forgetting.

Read more articles on this topic:

Article 1: Free from the clutches of the world, you remember God.

Article 2: Remember by Heart, and let the memory forget.

Article 3: Just remember that you forget.

When life lacks the Essential then it tries to compensate with exotic experiences

Learning-004

Question: Sir, suppose I go through an incident and I take it into my stride, and I learn something from it. So then that learning becomes my experience. But, in one of your discourses you have said that the only thing that keeps us from forgetting our past is trying to forget the past. So, how does one do both the things simultaneously that is let go of the past and gain experience from it?

Acharya Prashant: We’ll have to address the issues of ‘experience’ and ‘learning,’ and see how and whether they are related to each other. Normally, what do you think learning is?

Listener: Sir, anything fruitful that we can extract from any occurrence.

AP: So what do you mean by extracting something from an occurrence?

L1: To be able to know the dos and don’ts in advance in case a similar situation happens to us in the future.

AP: So you mean committing it to memory?

L1: Yes, Sir.

AP: So you have related memorization to learning. Is that not so?

L1: Yes, Sir.

AP: Learning is the ability to respond afresh to something, to respond free of experience. Pay attention to this. Normally, the mind is clouded with all kinds of experiences, memories, thoughts, a sense of the self, all these together create a world, and the ego sits at the centre of that world. It is from this kind of a mind that we respond to the happenings around us.

Learning means the clearing away of this world. When you say that you are learning something, it must not mean that you are covering yourself with more layers of experience. Learning means that you are able to uncover your innate ability to know and respond. That is learning. Now this goes against what we usually call as learning, our usual sense of the word. When we say learning, we mean gaining something, some data, information, knowledge, a method of responding.

Contrast it again. Learning means, “I went through a particular experience and in the light of attention, by the grace of Truth, I was able to see the various kinds of falsenesses contained in the whole process of experiencing. I was able to see how what appears is just a game that the mind of the subject plays, and I was able to see how my own reactions are another game that the mind of the subject plays.”

So, experience cannot reveal to you anything new. The very idea that one gains from experience rests on the assumption that one is intrinsically poor and experience will supply to him that which he is deficient in. Experience cannot teach you anything.

If you are not careful, experience will form a layer over your psyche. And what else is psyche? Layer upon layer of experience. But if you are careful – in the sense of being attentive – then the same experience will just reveal to you its own hollowness – that is the proper place of experience and attention in living. You would be undergoing some experience all the time. So you are talking to me, this is an experience; you came here, and that is an experience; you might have spoken to a few people around here, that was another experience. These experiences are not meant to provide or supply anything fundamental to you. But if you are going through these experiences wakefully, watchfully, attentively, then you will be able to see how each experience has the power to cloud your intellect – that is learning.

You do not learn from experience, you learn about the experience.

And what do you learn about the experience? That it really means nothing: “It means nothing really, but it appears to mean a lot.” And therein lies its hollowness, and its deception. Being nothing, it promises so much. Being hollow, it appears so substantial. That is how the sharp eye looks at experience.

I am repeating: this whole assumption, the paradigm that experience makes one richer, is inherently false. Experience does not bring any richness to your life. Richness of life is given to you by something very innate to you. Something that is your life-blood, it is already there with you. But when you are taught that experience will make you a bigger, a better man, that it will bring fulfilment to your life, then what do you do? Then you do that which this entire world around us is doing.

If you see, what is the common man doing? What is the entire life story of the common man? You will see that he is running after experience. He wants one experience after the other, and behind this ‘want’ is the premise that one experience, or a set of experiences, will be able to close that yawning gap in his heart. Is that not so?

L1: Yes, Sir.

AP: What are we doing, moment after moment, day after day, year after year? Gathering experiences and running after them, right? “Let me see how it feels to travel in that foreign country. Let me see how it feels to have dinner in that exquisite restaurant. Let me experience what it means to be physically close to that man or woman. Let me touch, let me smell, let me eat, let me travel, let me reach.”

One job after the other, one relationship after the other, one house after the other. What is the common man doing all the time? He is just gathering experiences, assuming that ultimately some experience will be the final one. But the very foundation of this running around is false.  You can run all your life and gather as many experiences as you want and for as long as you want, yet, if the mind is resting upon a flawed foundation, it will never gain peace.

Are you getting it?

L1: Yes, Sir.

AP: So, am I saying that one should avoid experiences? Am I saying that one should enclose himself in some kind of a silo and insulate himself from the world? No, I am not saying that. Experiences are anyway happening all the time. A while back, we said that since you have come here, you are having experiences. This discussion is an experience. Having tea with our friend here would have been an experience. Reaching up to this place would have been an experience. Life, every moment, anyway is an experience. And there is the experiencer.

The wise man does not expect too much from experiences. The wise man does not make experience the source of his learning. He knows that learning rests within. Experience has no positive role in enhancing learning. If anything, experience can obfuscate learning.

Pay attention to this because it runs contrary to conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom says that experience can enhance learning. I am saying that experience cannot enhance learning, experience can only obfuscate learning. It can cover it.

The reality, the Truth of things, of Being, is very simple and direct, and within. One does not need an external agency to provide it to you. But what you call as ‘external’ surely has the power, in all its complexity, to not to give you something, but to take away that which is already with you.

Totally give up this notion that those who are more experienced have advanced in any way in terms of intelligence.

Look at the people who have known much, are knowledgeable, experienced, of advanced age. Do you really see innocence and simplicity shining on their faces? Or do you see them rather bogged down under the weight of experience?

You look at most people who have crossed a particular age – forty, or sixty, or eighty – you look at their faces. Have they become more open to life, have they made themselves more vulnerable to life? When they look at the simple things around, do their eyes lit up with a wondrous question, an excitement, like a child when he sees an ordinary insect, like a moth or a kite? Do you see that happening with experienced people? Do you see that on their faces, in their eyes? Or do you see a dullness, a heaviness? Now with that dullness and heaviness, where is learning? Where is learning? How can you learn about anything if your experience is too much upon you?

Are you getting it?

Do not bother about experience. I am repeating: live simply and allow experiences to come to you. They are anyway coming to you. You hold no obligation or responsibility to run after experiences. Just don’t block them and that is sufficient. And the experienced man, it is quiet amusing, blocks experiences. Because that is what experiences teach him: all kinds of morality, all kinds of precaution. Now he knows what to experience and what not to experience. It is quite paradoxical in that sense that the experienced man is the least open to experiences.

Life is eager to give you more experiences than you can ask for. You do not have to worry about running hither-thither and having experiences. You look at young people, they are worrying all the time.

“Will I get a job of that nature?”

“Will I get a social security of that kind?”

“What if I do not get a girlfriend and I die single?” Do you see, what is this anxiety?

“What will happen to me?”

“Will I get that particular experience or not?”

Now, why are you so anxious? Is there anything in the entire universe that has to worry about the next day? That has to worry about what existence will bring to it? Nothing worries, and everything gets what it ought to get. Man is the only one who is so worried about whether or not he would attain fulfilment. I am repeating: experience blocks experience; and life showers experience upon you.

Let life flow through you. It will naturally, without your asking, bring to you so many and such diversity of experiences, which you could have never even thought of. You do not need to plan and you do not need to worry. Become one with life, have the faith that whatever will happen, will not destroy you. Remain open, remain prepared to being wounded a little, and then see how you are left breathless with experience. And that experience, which we are talking of, will be fresh.

When people commonly say that they want an experience of a particular kind, do they ever want a fresh experience? You can demand something from life only if you have already heard about it. Have you not?

“My friend has been earning so much money, so I too want that much money.” Now is there anything fresh about your demand for this experience? No, not really. You are seeing this happening all around you, so you too want it. “My cousin has been smoking a particular exotic variety of weed, I too want it.” Now, what is new about your demand? Anything new? “I want to become the president of the world.” It’s a stale wish. “I want to receive the highest honors that man can give to man.” Millions of people have wanted the same. “I want the most beautiful woman on my bed.” Come on, demand something new.

But that’s the kind of ‘experience’ that one can demand, or can you demand any new experience? Can there be any newness in the experience that you demand? Ever? Think of it.

L1: No, Sir.

AP: No! Fortunately, life has no respect for your demands. What life can give to you, is brand new. What life can give to you, is really fresh – so fresh that it knocks you down. You don’t know what to do with what you have been given. At most, you can demand a kitten, or a pup; life can give you a baby serpent on your bed. Now what to do with it? You never wanted it. You wanted a cute kitten. What have you been given? You wake up and what do you find? A baby snake. That’s what life can give you. Now that’s experience – to the extent that one man can think of it, right? You can even have the egg of an extinct dinosaur on your bed – I mean, let imagination run.

But you will never ask for it really. Life can give it to you, without your asking. But life will not give it to you if you are hell-bent upon just pups and kittens. Pups and kittens are so boring. Your brother has them, your mother has them, everybody has them. Are you getting it?

You demand such boring and dull and ordinary things from life, and then you complain that life is not providing them to you. What you don’t realize is that life has something really special in store for you, which is not coming to you because you are not open to it.

Life is knocking on your door with its wondrous gifts and like a sissy baby you are crying and wimping and complaining, “Why am I not being given the same thing that Tina in the neighborhood has been given!” That is all that you know – your comparison with Tina. Life is little bigger than Tina and infinitely more wise. Are you getting it?

Stop this infatuation with experience. You see the advertisement of a new product in the market and you want it. Somebody wants to sell a resort to you and he will say, “Come over and we have some kind of an adventure store. You can have games and parties and pools.” And you become excited. Some new food? “There are so many countries in the world – two hundred odd. Have you tried all the exotic cuisines? With all their exotic names?” And you feel so small and jealous when you come to learn that somebody is having food from Rwanda or Chile. “I am so impoverished. See, all that I have ever had is food from my petty house. And that lucky fellow is having exotic meals from Azerbaijan.”

When life lacks the essential then it tries to compensate for it through exotic experience. When life is brimming with the essential, overflowing with the essential, then the craving for extraordinary experience is no more there. Because the essential itself is the destination of all experience. Why do you demand experience? So that you can ultimately reach that point of supreme peace and fulfilment. And if that supreme peace and fulfilment is anyway available, then what will you do with experience?

And this ordinary availability, this simple abundance of life, to know it, to live in it, is learning. Nothing else is learning. You make your brain a store house of information – that is not called learning. To learn is to learn about the hollowness of experience and the fullness of your self – that is learning. Are you getting it?

That is the only thing that one can ever learn. Nothing else is there to be learnt. You go to some alien location and you memorize all the people that you met and all the places that you went to and all the food that you ate, and all the other pieces of data that can be had and you come back with it. You have no right to say that you have learnt anything. Yes, you have gained in knowledge. But knowledge itself is so poor, it never gains completion. Have you ever seen anybody gaining complete knowledge? Knowledge itself is condemned to remain incomplete and what is condemned to remain incomplete, how can it give completion to you? You are demanding health from sickness? You are demanding fulfilment from knowledge, which itself never becomes fulfilled?

So be very clear about what learning really is. Learning does not mean the acquisition of anything external. Learning means to see that whatever is external is just so hollow, just so needless. One learns about the only Truth that there is, and that is the Self. That is the only thing worth learning. That is the only substance that can be learnt about. All else is false.

L2: Sir, correct me when I go wrong: by understanding what is learning, we get to know that experiences are basically hollow, that they will come and go, and that one does not have to go chasing after them.

AP: In the moment of experience, if you can remain untempted by experience, that is learning.

Remember you are not being hostile towards experience; you are not even being indifferent towards experience. It’s just that you are not placing an unreasonable demand upon experience. You see, what do we do? Understand this. We all want a certain contentment, call it peace, call it joy, or call it love. Because we have lost the understanding of where this real substance could actually be found, we try to find it in the wrong places.

We are trying to get from experience what experience can never give you. For example, immortality. Nobody wants to die. One’s nature is to be, and not be extinct. Be. Be present. But the nature of the world is to come and go. Since we do not know where really to find immortality, we try to find immortality in material. We somehow try to find immortality in the body, in relationships, in mental security, in concepts about rebirth. Are you getting it?

So experience is alright. I repeat that we are not trying to look down upon experience. We are just saying that we should not expect that from experience which experience can anyway not provide. With all the effort that you can put behind experience, experience will never give you wisdom. Similarly, we know that all experience is material, is sensual. Similarly, you can go through the process of physical intimacy a million times, yet it will not give you love.

Now to expect experience to give you that which is beyond experience, is foolishness. So go through experience but let experience stay in its place. You should know that the essential will not be provided by experience. And remaining in this understanding is learning, is wisdom.  So we are saying: let life bring all kinds of experiences to us and we will happily and willingly go through them. We will not obstruct them. We will welcome them, but we will not think that these experiences are in any way, a substitute, a complement or a proxy to the essential.

Experience in no way can touch the essential. Experience whatever life has to give you but stay with the essential. Do not confuse these two. Experience is experience and essential is essential.


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

Watch the session: Prashant Tripathi: When life lacks the Essential then it tries to compensate with exotic experiences

Read more articles on this topic:

Article 1: Does experience give intelligence?

Article 2: The only way to clean yourself is to immerse in the ocean of the Self.

Article 3: The false promise of fulfillment through experience.

To help others you must be free of others

Question: Whatever I understand, I know it will vanish.

Speaker: So your question rests on an assumption that you ‘do’ understand something. Should I take it any further?

Even in our humility lies only arrogance. “Whatever I understand, it will vanish, and before it vanishes I want to give it to others. But people around me are not interested in all this, so I am improving very slowly.”

Who are these people around you? What is their nature? What do you consider yourself to be? If you are given a thousand years, will you have a perfect world? What do you mean by ‘a perfect world’? The world has its ways of operating. The individual that you are – divided from the world – will never be at absolute peace with the world. Otherwise there is going to be no separation at all. Otherwise, the world will disappear and the individual too will disappear. For you to write that the world is not a pleasing place, there has to be a ‘you’. For you to write that the world is a pleasing place, there again has to be a ‘you’; a ‘you’ separate from the world. This separation is anyway going to be there.

Continue reading

Our education fills us up with external knowledge, leaving us ignorant of ourselves

Question: Sir, what made you to leave your corporate job, and start this whole different line of work?  

Speaker: There was a lot that was asking to be changed. Leaving the corporate was not really an objective. I wanted to do something, and if it could have been nicely done from within a corporate, I would rather have done that. In fact Advait is still a private limited company. So, it is not that I opted out of corporate, but as far as the mission is concerned…

You know there are things that people are doing; there are things that I could have done, but a lot of people could have done them as well as me. There were things that I could have done and somebody else could have done them in a better way but there was something that I saw, that I was seeing and that cause was really crying out, it needed to be taken up, but very few people were attending to it. So, (Smilingly) just opportunism. It is something important and somebody needs to take it up, so I said, “Why not me?”

Listener 1: Sir, would you like to elaborate on this topic a bit more?

Speaker: You see, all of you sitting over here, are quite knowledgeable people. Right? Even the reference made to us is, ‘Knowledge workers’. Right? That’s how we are referred to. ‘White-collar jobs’. So we know a lot, or at least a little.

Our knowledge is, in some areas, pretty detailed as well and it’s quite amazing, the extent to which human intelligence has gone and created this knowledge and other human beings have absorbed it and are putting it to use. Now, having known this much, is it not strange, what you read in newspapers? “Man quarreling with man, nation quarreling with nation, husband quarreling with wife, neighbor quarreling with neighbor, man quarreling with himself!”

When we find nobody else to engage, we are busy fighting ourselves. And we know so much.

Anu_KnowWe know so much. Yet basics of life – jealousy, possessiveness, insecurity, small happenings in our environment seem to shake us up. Does that happen or not? One piece of news regarding the market, or regarding the changing company policies, or regarding the changing environment within the organization and suddenly we feel as if the ground under our feet is slipping. Is that not so? And we have so much of knowledge! All of us! And there are people who have much more knowledge than us. The thing is, their situation too is just the same.

So, this interested me. I asked, “Why is knowledge, why is all our progress not helping us lead more secure and composed inner lives?” You know, you look at a illiterate man, then you look at somebody who could not go beyond class tenth, then you look at somebody who has done his B.Tech, and then at a post doctorate, and tell me, are they really, internally, any different?

It is equally probable that all of them might be suspicious of their wife, authoritarian towards their kids, aggressive towards their neighbor, jealous of their colleague; is it not equally likely? By doing a PhD, does the probability that you will be worried, does this probability decrease?

Chances are, it increases. So why is our knowledge not helping us be…. Ultimately we have to live with ourselves. Right? Why is our knowledge, not helping us, simply be more centered?

So this brought me to the question of – What kind of knowledge do we have?

The knowledge that we have all pertains to something external. We know about this, we know about that, we know about cooling technologies, all kind of electronics, optics, the world, Mars, other galaxies, we have collected so much knowledge about them but our education, in schools and colleges, and our training, as professionals in corporate, simply does not touch upon ourselves.

Anu_WithinYou know, we have been educated probably from some of the premier institutions and then our training has continued in the places that we have worked in, but somehow, nowhere have we being sensitized towards our own mind. Our education and training is such that, it never asks us to turn within with the result that even the most knowledgeable man, is actually so infantile, and immature. He may be forty years of age, he might be earning a lot, but in his psyche, he is still a baby; somebody who can have a nervous breakdown any time. Somebody who just can’t get along with his wife. Somebody who just can’t stop himself from competing, he competes with everybody. And he says that he is in a leadership position! He says, he is leading X number of people.

The fault does not lie with this man, the fault lies with the way we have been brought up, educated, and continuously trained.

So, full of knowledge about this and that, but largely ignorant of the self. Unfortunately, nobody lives with his knowledge. You live with that feeling in your mind. Don’t we?  We all know that. We know what I am talking about. Right? You know when you are not alright. And I know that nobody wants to feel not alright. Anybody here, who is interested in feeling not alright? Anybody here who likes that feeling when your legs are unnecessary shivering? And we all have experienced that, have we not? You have just appeared for an interview, and you are awaiting that call from HR, and that call comes, you recall that experience? Some of us might be having it pretty frequently. There are professional job hoppers.

You recall that experience? That call comes and how your fingers simply can’t stop their SHM (Simple Harmonic Motion). Now, what is the worth of your knowledge? What is its worth?

Yes, others might think that you are somebody. Given your knowledge, your experience, your professional advancement and probably your bank balance. But is all of that, of use to you, beyond a point? These were the questions that I was struggling with. And I thought these are important questions. And I could see that these are important things that not many people are really prepared to attend to. So I thought, well, let’s go into it.

I have been lucky that I have had many other people who have seen the importance of this over the years, who came to me, who joined me, assisted me in this journey and are still coming. And you would understand that this is not something which is a main-stream career option. So only those who really see the worth of this work, they come and join. Thankfully there are a few such people. You too are welcome. Devesh ji knows the address and the rest of it.

Look at this for an example. Had I been sitting here to talk about some technology, give me the name of a latest technology that people here might be interested in?

Listener 1: Cloud.

Speaker: So let’s say I am an expert in Cloud Computing, and I have come here to talk. A lot of us would have a lot of questions to ask, especially if we had only ten or fifteen minutes. Right? But when it comes to speaking about ourselves, we are simply lost. We don’t know what to say. And I understand our predicament, what I am saying might sound interesting to you, but what do we talk about? Yes, nice, right, alright, but what is in it to talk about?

There is a lot, incidentally, but this is such an unknown territory, our own mind is such an unknown territory to us. And in spite of seeing, getting a hint, at least, that there is something in it.

That’s the story with every walk of life, you know, I am sure many of us are friends here, with each other. Right? We talk about so many things, don’t we? But do we really talk about the Real? Not that we want to hide this. But there has been something in the way we have come up that we have become experts in remaining engrossed in the trivial. But when it comes to the Real, we become a little tongue tied. Don’t we?

It’s not something that is happening only in your relationship with me. Parents and kids, how authentic is their conversation? I need not talk about bosses and subordinates; that is not even supposed to be authentic. But what if, even a husband-wife conversation is rarely genuine? Rarely Real? Yes, we can talk about the furniture, we can talk about what is happening in the neighbor’s house, we can talk about the new restaurant down the road but do we really talk about that which matters? That, which matters. That which really keeps us off-center. Do we ever talk about it? We have been trained to slip it under the carpet. I thought why not bring the few skeleton out of the cupboard, just for fun.

Think of all the people you have been in touch with since years, and think of whether you have had a single genuine conversation with them. It is amusing, and at the same time, horrifying. Even the ability to look at each other directly in the eye! Have you seen people, who just really don’t want to have any eye contact? And it’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault. But somebody needs to do something about it. It’s a worthy cause, right? A few people must take it up. Should they not? What do you say?

I invite people. I say, “Let’s look at facts, let’s not talk dream stuff.” I say, “Look at all the mails that you have written in the past six months. Not the strictly professional ones. All the mails that you have written, to your friends, relatives, acquaintances,” I say, “Now, read them again. And read them very directly, very objectively, very honestly, and then tell me, how much of it is Real?”

Of course, I am not talking of mails relating to a sales pitch, or such stuff; they are not suppose to be Real. Are they? But what about the mails written to your friends, to cousins, even to parents? What is happening? We are intelligent people all of us, at least to the extent that intelligence is synonym of knowledge. We are quite intelligent. So, what’s going on?

I still don’t know, what’s going on. I am exploring, I mean, I no wise in that sense.

Ok, try this, a small experiment. A small experiment. Just walk up to somebody, not causally, walk up to somebody as if you really mean it; looking straight in his eyes, take his name or her name, and say, “I want to talk to you.” Not so melodramatically, but with sincerity, just with sincerity and you will only see scare in his eyes. “Oh my God! Is something Real going to come up?” As long as you are casual, and you just walk past people, tapping them on their shoulders, “Hi John, what’s up? How’s the hotdog?” The Yankee thing, as long as that is happening, we are friends.

But if you give the slightest hint to the other person, that you mean to open your heart up, instead of feeling gratified, he will feel terrified. Try this, its fun. Good fun. And after you see him trembling, tell him, “No I don’t mean anything, it’s casual”.

We are afraid of everything that is not really false. For the years, I have been surprised to see how much we are really afraid of intimacy, I am surprised because ostensibly we all says that we want intimacy, we want closeness with somebody. But when intimacy really beckons or knocks on our door, we retract. We don’t have the guts to embrace it. You must have seen such people, they are so insecure they can’t let anybody come close. Because somebody coming close is a threat to their entire mental structure. They’ll have to accommodate him, their structure will need to change. That structure, by the way, is also called as ego.

We are young people here, and I am not talking of physical intimacy. We understand that, right? So that’s what the whole game is about. Complex, challenging, but fun!

~Excerpts from a guest talk. Edited for clarity.

View the session at: Our education fills us up with external knowledge, leaving us ignorant of ourselves

Read more on this topic:

Article 1: How important is education of the self?

Article 2: Why is education not helping the world?

Article 3: Solve your mind, all your problems will be solved

Asking ‘Who am I’ is honesty in face of falseness

Question: Sir, Ramana Maharshi has talked about the ‘I’. He has always asked the seekers to observe this ‘I’, and this has always been the basis of his teachings. What exactly does Ramana Maharshi mean, when he asks us to constantly observe this ‘I’? How does one witness this ‘I’? In short, what is the basis of his teachings?

Speaker: See, appearances are deceptive; not only sometimes, but always. You look at these faces here (pointing towards a photo of Ramana Maharshi and other Saints hanging on the wall). Shubhankar, why not point the camera there for a while.

Ramana here would be the last one, with whom you would probably want to attach the word ‘rebel’. But, Ramana is – absolute rebellion. Absolute Rebellion. Do you know what ‘absolute’ means? ‘Absolute’ means pure. All his life, Ramana had only one answer, “What is pure, is One.”

Do you get this?

What is Pure, is One. ‘Purity’ means Oneness. All his life, Ramana had only one answer to anything that you would ask him. He might use many words, but if you look closely at the words, he had just one thing to say, “Find out who is asking the question.” He actually never had any other response to give. Never any other response.

There was a certain Oneness in his response to life. He didn’t have a bag of tricks. Krishna has eighteen chapters and talks of eighteen different kinds of yoga. With Ramana, there are no eighteen, or eighteen hundred types. There is just one – ‘Who is it’, that speaks? ‘Who is it’, that acts? ‘Who is it’, that is enquiring? ‘Who is it’, that is restless? ‘Who is it’, that is going to learn? ‘Who is it’, that forgets? Simple!

Even Kabir is sometimes, classified as a poet in the Bhakti (Devotion) tradition. There are others who say, “No, he can’t really be categorized,” and there are others who say that he belongs to the path of knowledge, Gyaana. So there can be a divergence, because Kabir talked of this and that, and everything. He often said things that are seemingly at odds with each other. They are actually not, but it appears.

Ramana was one-pointed, one track, and that is such a huge rebellion against the apparent diversity that enslaves the mind.

What is the mind, a slave to? The mind is a slave to appearances. And when you say, “Appearances,” you mean diversity. When you say, “Appearances”, you mean a thousand colors, a thousand sounds. You mean shapes and forms, and names. And all of them are different and diverse. For Ramana, there is no diversity. He refuses to acknowledge diversity. For him, the diversity is not real at all. Only the Aatma (Self) is real.

So, like him, his method of asking – ‘Who am I?’ – the Koham technique, is also greatly rebellious. It does not entertain the stupidity of mind at all. And it also does not entertain the stupidity of methods that rest on, a validation, a justification, an acknowledgement, of diversity.

For example, when we say that there are a thousand methods of ‘meditation’, what have we done? You see, meditation is about being there where are no numbers, no diversities. And you are saying, “Thousand methods of meditation!” In Ramana’s world, this statement is stupidity. So for him, there is no ‘method’ of meditation. Or at best, at most, one method.

Are you getting it?

He rebels against tradition. Though we call him, ‘Maharshi’ (A great seer), and we aptly call him ‘Maharshi’, he does not belong to any tradition. He simply does not acknowledge any ‘rules’ or ‘formulae’ that tradition and scriptures have handed over to us.

In fact, it often would happen that people would ask him, “This point that you are speaking, contradicts something that is mentioned in the scriptures.” Then he would say, “Scriptures are for those who are still learning, scriptures are hence only for those, who are deluded. Scriptures are not for those who have attained Gyaana (Truth).” That would be his reply.

So what do the scriptures say? The scriptures say, “Here is a particular method.” The Bhakti Maargis say, “Bhakti (Devotion) is the method.” The Karma Yogis would say, “Nishkam Karma (Desire-less action) is the method.” The Gyaana Maargi would say “Heightening of consciousness, is the method.” And they say, “This is the method!”

Ramana says, “Do you know who is asking the question? And if you do not know who is asking the question, how can I suggest a method? There can be no method, because there will have to be an infinite number of methods, because the mind is capable of taking infinite shapes. Hence, I have to first ask, ‘Who is asking the question?’ And the moment I see who is asking the question, the method emerges from there. In fact, the asking of the question itself, is the method.”

Are you getting it?

There is no rigidity in his approach. He will not say, “Devotion is the way.” Of course, he did not reject devotion, but neither did he say that devotion is the way, Bhakti is the way. He did not say that. He rejects nothing, and he stands for nothing.

Please understand this.

So, when you knock on his door, he asks, “Who is it?” That’s his method.

He says, “Who is it? Introduce yourself.”

Is that a not a sane thing to do? Is that not something that must always be done? So the moment you say, “I am troubled,” he would immediately ask you, “Who is troubled?” Bring him in front of me. Make him sit here.” And the moment you want to find out who is it, ‘the troubled one’, it often happens, that instead of trouble, you find only peace.

When somebody knocks on your door, do you just go and open the door? You first want to know. When somebody comes to your door, do you have the same response and reaction to everybody? Your response and reaction depends on, who is it that you are meeting. It depends on who you are meeting, or does it not?

So when you go to Ramana, he says, “Who are you?” That is the path of Self-enquiry. “Ask yourself – Who are you? Blindly, I will not give you any answer. You must first know ‘who you are’. And if you do not know ‘who you are’, go find out! Turn inwards and figure out ‘who’ is asking the question.”

So there is this great world, where the universe is taken as rigid, predictable and finite. Ramana knew better than that. He understood that a mere hundred techniques would not work, even a thousand would not work, and even ten thousand would not work.

You require a million techniques. You require a million-million techniques. You require an infinite number of techniques, because the mind has an infinite capacity, like a chameleon. Oh, the mind ashames the chameleon. We have Kabir here (indicating towards Kabir’s portrait on the wall) and he said,

“मन के बहुतक रंग हैं

छिन-छिन बदले सोए”

(The colours of the mind are infinite.

It changes moment to moment)

The word ‘bahutak’ means many, and it is a very gentle understatement. Kabir said, “Many,” when he meant – infinite, when he meant – beyond count.

In this realization, Ramana is Buddha-like. Ramana doesn’t take you to be a fixed entity. “How can I ask you to follow the path of Karma (Action) when ‘you’ do not exist?” If I say that Joydeep (pointing towards a listener) here, must follow Karmayoga (The discipline of desire-less action), then there must be somebody called ‘Joydeep’ to follow Karmayoga (The discipline of desire-less action).

Just as the Buddha realized that ‘Joydeep’ is nothing, nobody substantial – that ‘Joydeep’ is just a flow, a movement that is continuously happening, there is nothing permanent or stable in that movement.‘Joydeep’ is changing every moment – so how can he be suggested something permanent, stagnant?

When the patient is changing every moment, how can the disease be constant? And hence, how can the medicine be constant? So, at the moment when you say, “I am a patient,” the doctor needs to ask, “Who exactly are you? What exactly is your disease?” And that answer has to be then and there. It is not an answer that you can borrow from the past, or carry forward to the future.

Listener 1: So you don’t have time to ponder upon it?

Speaker: Actually you don’t have time to ponder. It’s something that works instantaneously. And hence the response of the doctor, to your disease, must constantly vary, because you are never the same.

Do you see how great a rebellion this is? When you go to a Saint, you expect a particular ‘saintly’ treatment from him. Ramana does not give you that. But at the same time you would say, “Sir, his responses, as far as we have read and heard, used to appear to be the same. He would be sitting comfortably, and whosoever would come to him, he would respond in a few words, and that’s all!”

Listener 2: And that’s why after reading him for some time, we feel a little bored?

Speaker: Yes, there are many people who do not see much diversity there. So their mind starts feeling bored.

Listener 1:  I personally find Ramana very interesting!

Speaker: Go find out! Go figure out. Go enquire. Go ask, “Koham (Who am I?).” All these questions only mean now face the Truth. And the moment you face the Truth, the shadows are gone.

That’s Ramana’s method.

Listener 3: Are the shadows really gone?

Speaker: (Smilingly) Yes, and no.

If a man is standing next to you and looking in the same direction as you, he will say, “Yes Sir, the shadows are really gone. Just as you do not see shadows, even I do not see shadows. So, I validate your observation, there are no shadows.”

But, if a man is standing next to you and he is facing in the opposite direction, he will say, “You have been fooled. There were shadows before, and there are shadows even now. No shadows have gone away, your life has not changed.” You will smile and say, “It has totally changed. I see no shadows.” He will say, “The shadows are still there,” and he’s right, but totally wrong.

He’s right, the shadows are still there. (Smilingly) Why are the shadows still there? Because he sees the shadows.

Listener 1: So, when it is said, “Face your gaze at the Truth,” – the Truth cannot be captured in mind, it is beyond mind – so saying, “Truth, Truth, Truth,” is also shadows? So ‘facing’ would be, being present to what is going on?

Speaker: Actually he’s saying, “Be honest.” When he says, “Go find out,” all that he is saying is, “Can you be honest towards yourself for a while?”

Listener 2:  Sir, the mind has a lot of concepts about fear, can we actually witness fear? Why do we just get lost in concepts?

Speaker: Because the mind has been told that certain things are ‘good’ and certain things are ‘bad’. When you say, “Fear,” it is not merely a sound. It is an entire world of images. An entire world! It carries so many connotations. Every world is a universe, every world is a total universe. Fear is not just another sound. When it falls on your ears, it changes your being. Or does is it not?

Listener 1: Yes.

Speaker: You are no more the same person. It is not something objective, outside of you. With the result that you can never really be with it, be with fear or be with anything. Why can’t you be with it? Because you have already been told what to make of it. So you have already been told that fear is something…?

Listener 2: Bad.

Speaker: Bad. When it falls on your ears, immediately an automatic system goes off. “Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.” To some extent it is genetic; to some extent it is social. You see something and immediately it sets off a chain of automatic reactions in your mind – good, bad, this and that. And the moment this automatic process begins, it becomes impossible to really come close to the happening. For example, how can I answer your question if automatically there is a rigid judgment here that his questions do not deserve to be answered, that he always asks ‘bad’ questions.

But that’s the whole danger with naming, with having names. You have the same name today that you had yesterday and day before yesterday. Name conserves the past. You have the same face today, almost the same face today, that you had two months back so the moment his face comes in front of me, entire past comes in front of me.

Do you understand this?

So how can I come close to you? The entire past and the experiences and the knowledge is standing between you and me now. I cannot come to you. That’s the thing with name and form. That is the thing with anything with boundaries. It is rigid. Boundaries mean rigidity, now I cannot approach you.

Similarly, fear has a name and form. In fact, you can try it out. You ask kids to draw fear and you will see how easily they are able to put fear in forms and there would quite predictable forms. The colours used would be mostly black and red. Hardly anybody would paint fear in pink or in blue. Nobody would paint fear in these colours. Fear would be painted in?

Listener 1: Black and Red.

Speaker: Black and Red.

Listener 1: So the sense of constancy keeps you away from actually seeing the happening.  The face is saying that this person is something constant. When I am in fear I feel that this situation is going cause permanent damage. It’s give a sense of constancy and in the world of mind nothing is constant.

Speaker: But we want that, we want that.

Listener 1: Continuity.

Speaker: Continuity, that permanence. We want that, just that we want it within the stretch of time, which by definition is about coming and going. (Smilingly) So within the field of coming and going, we want something that…?

Listener 2: Remains stable.

Speaker: Which does not come and go. And we want it here, in our world, on this earth, relative to this body, relative to thoughts and ideas, expressible in words. We are using all the means and methods that are applicable to the world in which things are changing and ephemeral.

Change and change and change totally scares the mind, “Nothing is stable here, give me something that remains firm, nothing remains firm.”

Listener 3: Sir, we are trying to actually get something from the mind which is against its nature.

Speaker: Against its habit.

Listener 3: Why did you say ‘habit’?

RestlessnessSpeaker: No, the nature of the mind, again, is not restlessness. This restlessness that the mind exhibits, is not really its nature. That’s why it suffers in this restlessness. Going against its nature, it suffers, it is an acquired habit, not nature.

Listener 3: Sir, one thing I would like to ask that when somebody comes in front of me, the whole past too comes. How exactly can this happen that I am talking to somebody, for example, I am talking to you and the past is not hindering in the now, because the past always comes in.

Speaker: Face the Truth all the time. The past will always be there, like that shadow. Let it be here only like that shadow. There, yet not there. Present, but not interfering. The shadow is there, but it is not interfering in my vision. Why? Why it is not interfering in my vision?

Listener 1: Because I am not looking at it.

Speaker: I am not looking at it. It’s there, but I am not looking at it. You have that power, you have that choice, exercise it. You have the choice to look either at the light or at shadows. Keep looking at the light, keep looking at the light. Behind your back there would always be shadows. They are always behind you, remain one step ahead of them. And even if you are one step ahead of them, yet they would be right under your step, right under your feet. But that’s the closest they can get to you.

Listener 3: Is it not also a habit?

Speaker: Facing this way rather than that way?

Listener 3: Yes.

Speaker: It’s an acquired habit.

Listener 1: Sir, this mental churning is nothing but a choice to just to be away from the Truth?

Speaker: Yes, you are fascinated with shadows as sometimes kids are. You cannot really do anything with the light, the light will not cater to your whims. Have you seen how kids play game with shadows?

Listener 1: Yes, yes.

Speaker: They would take their hands and draw something like this and this looks like a deer. There are so many things that you can do with shadows, but you can’t do anything with light.

Listener 3: It’s more like answer of Bhagwan Ramana, he would always be saying the same thing. “Go back to yourself.” So with falsities, you can play around, with the questions you can play around, but the answer remains the same.

Speaker: In front of light you can only surrender. You can just be over-awed and over-joyed. With shadows there are so many possibilities, so many diversities, now, come into the picture. They all are black diversities.

Listener 3: Sir, Maaya has been portrayed in two ways, one of which is that ‘something is there and it makes you see something else’ and the other is ‘something is not there, yet it is seen’. So we have talked of that ‘something is not there, yet it is seen’, but the other one?

Speaker: The other is also fairly simple. There are people who hypnotize themselves into thinking that the Sun is contained somewhere in the shadows. There are people who start thinking that they are looking at the Sun when all they are staring at, is the shadows.

Their life is full of darkness, yet if you approach them, they will put up a fake smile and say “No, no, no, my life is all resplendent with Truth. See how everything is bathed in light”. And you will look at their life and say, “No, I only see darkness, where do you see light?”  They will say, “No, no. no, this is not darkness, this is light”.

So this is about seeing something. That is the thing with shadows, nobody who is looking at shadows would say that he is looking at shadows. That’s the ultimate humiliation to shadows, you know, they can’t even declare themselves to be shadows! When you are looking at shadows, what is your self-defence?  – “They are not shadows, they are Sun, its light!” You cannot say, “These are shadows,” and yet keep looking at them! How will you then answer the question, “Why are you avoiding the Sun?”

So you will never say, “I am looking at shadows.” So, there are some people who are actually looking at the Sun and there are others who claim that they are looking at the Sun. There is nobody who can claim that he is looking at the shadows.

Ramana Maharshi would catch you in the moment of suffering and say, “Find out where the suffering is?” That is the moment when you will have to acknowledge, that you were looking at shadows. He would expose your lies.

And he would not do it through assertion; he would do it through suggestion. He would suggest that you find out. In a very modest way, he may seemingly in a very innocuous way, would totally dismantle your falseness. You won’t even be alerted, you won’t even know that your ego is under severe attack. You won’t even know. That man had such a gentle demeanour, he gave you no hint that he is going to strangulate your ego.

Listener 1: Very playfully.

Speaker: Very playfully. In a sense, very deceptively. Only later on could you go and complain to him, “Father you really killed me”.

Listener 1: Looking at the Truth, you know, there is no chance for shadows. Whatever the mind generates if not 100% then 99.99% are shadows. So fact is that I am conditioned to seek securities within the shadows and the shadows are the reason why there are insecurities in the first place. So, when I look at the Truth, it would need lots of Faith.

Speaker: Yes.

Listener 1: So, I don’t have to turn back, I don’t have to rely on myself for my protection.

Speaker: Old habits have a certain momentum.

Listener 1: Yes. So…

Speaker: So, it may take a while.

Listener 1: But the suffering is, it’s right now too.

Speaker: You will have to pass through it.

Listener 1: Sleeping. I don’t want to sleep, I want to listen but it is coming back.

Speaker: It is coming back because, you know, the Sun is a threat. It is coming back because the shadows are smarter than you are. They know that they are under attack so at this very moment they must seize you or they would lose you. You are being seized by your own deluded self. Grasping for breath, it is clutching at your neck.

Listener 1: And I can’t do anything about it?

Speaker: You are already doing something about it. You are sitting in front of me.

Watch the session at: Prashant Tripathi on Raman Maharshi: Asking ‘Who am I’ is honesty in face of falseness

Read more articles on this topic:

Article 1: Will I ever know who am I?

Article 2: The simple words of the Teacher are not understood by a complex mind

Article 3: The Truth is what you are in spite of your identification with the false