A man and a nail had a conversation. The nail said, “I have often wondered during my years, sticking here in this panel what my fate is to be.” The man said, “Latent in your situation, maybe a tearing out with pliers, a burning of wood, the rotting of the plank, so many things." Said the nail, “I should have known better than to ask such foolish questions. Nobody can foresee the future, let alone a variety of them, all so unlikely.” So, the nail waited until someone else came along, someone who would talk intelligently and not threaten him. ~Sufi Story
Questioner (Q): While reading this story, I related myself with nail who is stuck in this situation. So, what this story means?
Acharya Prashant (AP): Self-deception, our refusal to accept the futility of our ways. As long as you are a nail, as long as you have made yourself into a nail, as long as you look at yourself as a nail, which is again to say that as long as you are a nail, what else is your future? What else is your future? The future is pre-scripted, the future is predetermined. A nail can have no future other than what the man told her off. The wood would rot and that’s your future, pliers would pull you out and that’s your future. That’s what you have lived as and therefore your future is already ascertained. It is a dead-end, you have shut down all possibilities for yourself.
The way you have been living, it is already assured what your future is going to be. But the nail does not want to swallow the bitter facts of her life, so she says, “Oh, this man is so foolish! He is talking of unlikely things. I would rather wait for somebody else who comes to me and talks of things less unpleasant.” If you have put yourself on a road that goes to Chennai and you are determined not to leave that road, if you are tied to that road, committed to that road, wedded to that road, is it not certain where you are going to reach? But when somebody tells you that in a few days’ time you would be in Chennai. You say, “No, no, no! My great fulfillment is in Kashmir. Why do you say that I would end up being in Chennai?” Because you are firmly on the road to?
AP: Every passing movement you are coming nearer to?
AP: You are not coming any nearer to Kashmir, but you do not want to hear that, like the nail. That’s the story of our lives. We know what we are doing, we know what we have made ourselves to be, yet, we want to deny the consequences. We keep waiting for a magic, we keep believing that something suddenly would alter the scene. Nothing is going to alter the scene. Even if magic is to happen, would you allow it to happen? Even if the road to Chennai is blocked for some reason, you will discover a detour; you will discover an alternate path because you are committed. And very innocently, very childishly, you will keep asking passersby, “When will I reach Kashmir? When exactly would the paradise be there?” And if one of them, like the man in the story, is brazen enough to tell you that, “Dear ma’am, you are heading in quite the opposite direction”, you retort like the nail, “Ah, such a foolish one!”
We all are going down very, very well set paths. Therefore, our destinies are going to be no different from the millions and billions who have already walked down those same paths. Are you getting it? But we want to feel that we are special. We want to feel that the same road that took billions to their ruin would take us to bliss. Is that going to happen?
If you look at the life story of your mother, it overlaps 70 to 80 percent with your life story till now.
Obviously, you will meet the same fate as your mother. But you don’t want to admit that. “No, no, no! I will have a glorious future.” Exactly how? Walking down the same lane, how will you come to a new destination?
Look at the life cycle of the normal human being. “Be born, get educated, get a job, get married, get a house, get a few luxuries, get a car, deal with your kids, deal with your wife or husband, probably get divorced, remarry, have a couple of more kids, get old, die.” The holy eight-step process to death.
If four of these steps, you have already taken, how will you avoid taking the next four? But you don’t want to believe that, you keep asserting, “No, no, no! Paradise, paradise is waiting for me.”
Q: So essentially, what you’re saying is if we settle down with a certain situation then we are not going to reach anywhere else, whatever we think.
AP: If you are doing exactly what biology and society command you to do, then you will get exactly what biology and society want you to get. There can be no aberration to the rule. What does biology want you to do and get? Biology just wants you to live as a body that secures itself, secures the species, and begets offsprings for the furtherance of the species. That’s all that biology wants from you. And if you have been living as a biological being, you will get no more than what biology determines for you. Mind you, biology has not determined liberation for you. Biology has determined only procreation for you.
Liberation is not biology’s objective, procreation is. In fact, if you actively procreate, you know what, you remain physically healthier. It is proven now that if you keep having vigorous sex, the body keeps feeling better. Women who do not have kids are more prone to certain ailments, biology punishes. Biology says, “You were supposed to have kids, why didn’t you have kids? So now you will have these diseases.” Biology does not want you to be liberated. It just wants you to have, a litter.
Living as biology, that’s what you would get, not Light, but litter. And you will probably live five years more, that’s true. We often say that the Yogi or the Dhyani keeps a good body. If you are getting bald, start having thumping sex. Biology would reward you. Many of your diseases would go away. That’s what biology wants you to do and get.
Equally, what does society wants you to do and get? Even society does not have the individual’s liberation as its objective. Society wants you to be a good social citizen, contribute to the social order, help in material welfare, maintain discipline, be honored, get a few civilian awards, be known as a respectable person throughout the country, contest elections, become the Prime Minister. Where is liberation in this?
So, if you have lived so far as a biological social being, you will get the biological social returns. If you want something higher than those returns, then you better leave the track, then you better become an off-roader. Leave the highway.
Q: Do we have to take a u-turn?
AP: Don’t take a u-turn, just get down the road. Even after taking a u-turn, you are still on the?
AP: Alok Ji is quite smart. Take a u-turn and stay put on the highway.
Q: Acharya Ji, if we are not meant to live this way, then what is this life for? Do we have to preserve it for something?
AP: For how long will you preserve it? It already has an expiry date. As if you can preserve it! What will you do by preserving it?
Candles are not meant to be preserved. Preserve anything for too long and it becomes useless. Does it not? The body is already perishable. What do you want to do, mummify it? Use it before it falls off.
You have limited time and limited opportunity. It’s fun, it’s a very, very thrilling adventure. What would come first, death or liberation? It’s actually a race against time, the whole spiritual process. It’s like competing with a train, racing with the train, running on the tracks with the train behind you— “Win the race or die!” But several of us are having a picnic on the railway track. We think life is there to—good food, good wine, celebration, keeping good company, doing a bit of yoga on the railway track. How do you visualize it? Yoga on the railway track, with the train trying to warn you with whistles and everything and it’s thumping towards you, and you are busy.
“Run, run baby run! Leave the Aasan!”
Cities on the railway track, apartments on the railway track, beds on the railway track.
Q: But still we don’t have such realization that time is limited.
AP: It’s not that we do not see the time is limited. If we have to catch a train or flight, you very well do see that time is limited. When others are dying in front of you, you do see that time is limited. It is only yourself that you consider immortal. “Everything else is perishable. The train would leave, the flight would take off, but I would not die.”
You are young but you have still probably lived, lived out one of the three days you got. If your life, entire life was three days, one day is already gone and that’s when you are still very young. How much do you feel left with, an infinity? One day gone, two days more. And that’s the utter maximum I am talking of. You never know.