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All change is towards reality; the reality itself cannot change || On Vivekachudamani (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
17 min
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Questioner (Q): All experiences unfold in consciousness and are fundamentally subjective in the sense that there is no objective world out there independent of consciousness. This brings me to the concept of illusion. If the world and our experiences of it are illusions, then the world is devoid of meaning; it does not matter what I do with my life or how I relate to the world because it’s just an illusionary dream. But don’t dreams have their rightful place? Don’t dreams tell us something about the dreamer? Doesn’t this illusion called the world have a meaning? Doesn’t the world tell something about the observer of the world, and is not the world illusion necessary and fundamental?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You have rightly said that it is all subjective. The world is subjective. It is with respect to you . It is in your own frame of reference. So, even when you say that the world is necessary—well, yes, it is necessary, but only to you. Just as the world exists only to you, so, if the world is necessary, the necessity is only to you. And ‘necessary’ is not a precise word; the precise word would be ‘unavoidable’. Sometimes ‘necessary’ and ‘unavoidable’ mean the same, but in this context a better word is ‘unavoidable’. You cannot do away with the world; it is indispensable. The world is indispensable, inevitable. And if you want to do away with the politeness, then the world is inexorable.

Given that you exist, and given the fact that you exist as you think you exist, your world—not the world, because there is no objective world— your world will continue to exist as it does, and the world will continue to exist as a help, unless you turn it into your own subjective nightmare or your own subjective roadblock. The way you look at the world can be both a help and a nemesis. How is it a help? It tells you about how you are. And it can be your nemesis when you start thinking that the way you are is the way you ought to be.

Therefore, the word ‘fundamental’ that you have used in your question is dangerous. You have said, “Is not the world illusion necessary and fundamental?” About ‘necessary’, I said it is going to exist as long as you do; as long as you are who you are, the world will remain what it is. So, you can’t do away with the world illusion.

Next you have said, “Is it not fundamental?” No, it is not fundamental. Why is it not fundamental? Because the fundamental is the one who sees the world as an illusion. To the ordinary seer, the world is just the world. And here are you saying that the world is an illusion; you are referring to the world as the world illusion. The eyes will only see the world—are the eyes ever telling you that the world is an illusion? The eyes are telling you that “Whatever we are seeing is the truth”; the mind is telling you that “Whatever I am thinking of, or concluding, or even imagining is the truth.” Who is it, then, who is able to see that all this is an illusion? That one is fundamental, not the world itself but the one who tells you that all this can’t be relied upon, it doesn’t last, it is untenable, it is temporal.

Now, come to the process of looking at the world. The eyes and the mind do not merely look at the world; they construct a world. Do you have anything in your life sans a meaning? The thing and the meaning go together, and without the meaning the thing collapses, the thing fades away, the thing cannot even exist in memory. Is there anything in your memory that has no meaning?

So, the world to us is a meaning. Therefore, I am saying, we don’t just look at the world; we construct a world, we manufacture a world. Fundamentally, you are the one who can honestly look at the world, not manufacture the world—more precisely, you are the one who can honestly look at the whole process of manufacturing. It is just that when you are honestly able to see how meanings are being accorded, how the inner factory operates, then the operations of the inner factory change, they get sublimated. That honesty is fundamental. The world is not fundamental. The proof is that the world cannot change that honesty, the world cannot touch that honesty, the world cannot affect that honesty, but that honesty can sublimate, change, destroy, purify your world. So, that honesty is fundamental compared to the world.

Does the world exist? Yes, it does. It would be false for the embodied speaker to say that the world does not exist. Obviously it exists. If the world does not exist, who is talking and to whom? The world surely exists. The moment I say the world exists, I come to see that I am taking myself as somebody in the world, somebody of the world, so it is very important that I keep acknowledging that the world exists; otherwise, it’s not only absurd but actively dishonest.

I have seen people, spiritualists and saints and religious people of all colors, say the world is merely a dream, the world is merely a bubble. It is foolish, it is absurd. Who are you to say that? With a dramatic sweep of their hand, they say, “All this does not exist!” But the sweep starts here and ends here (makes a sweeping gesture from left to right) and never comes to this (pointing at himself) ; they would never say this does not exist. “So, who am I? I am the one who is saying all this does not exist. All this does not exist, but my shirt exists, and the chair exists, and table exists, and the mic exists. This much exists so that using all this I can declare that nothing else exists.” Absurd.

Jagat mithyā (the world is illusory) must be uttered with as much care as is needed to utter Aham Brahmāsmi . Don’t ever say that the world is mithyā . The world is a mirror; it will show nothing only when you are nothing. If you are something, as you always are, how dare you say that the mirror is reflecting nothing? You are standing in front of the mirror and saying there is nothing in the mirror—you are cheating. Utter jagat mithyā only when you have disappeared. The funny thing is, once you have disappeared, who is there to utter, and to whom? Not only do you disappear, not only does the reflection disappear—even the mirror disappears.

And as long as you are there to say anything , do not say that all this doesn’t exist. This does exist because you are the one validating that it exists; you are the one that experiences hunger and thirst and heat and cold and all kinds of impulses. Are you free of them? Once you are free of them, then you have a right to say that the world does not exist. A stone comes and hits you, and you say that the experience of pain is real but the stone is unreal. Isn’t that absurd? If the stone is causing you an experience, either say that the experience is false and you have not at all been moved by the experience—but you are not the one who doesn’t get moved by the experience; you do get affected.

So, the first thing I am saying is, the world for you is real, and now I come to the second thing: the second thing is, do you want to stay real as you are? Understand why I ask this question. The real cannot change; the real by definition is immutable. Calling the world real, you call yourself real, and if you have called yourself real, then you have frozen yourself; you are not going to change. Are you contented as you are? Within you is the burning desire to change, is there not?

Now, it’s not a matter of truth, it’s a matter of choice. Do you want to call yourself real and, therefore, unchangeable? If you call yourself unchangeable, then statue! Kids play that game, right? Statue! And they take vicious pleasure in turning you into a statue when you are in the most uncomfortable of poses. Somebody is sitting in the toilet, and they will say, “Statue!” Now, the entire mankind is perpetually in the toilet, and if you call yourself real, then statue! You will have to freeze there. Do you want to call yourself real and freeze there?

I am asking you, please. It’s not a matter of truth, it’s a matter of choice. Choose whether you want to call yourself real. If you want to call yourself real, you may, but then you will have to stay where you are amid the stink, shit within us, shit dropping out of us, and shit close to us. Is that how you want to be immortalized? “Yes, I am immortal. Here, worship me!” What’s your take on this? I know in the West you have different kinds of commodes compared to India, but still, do you want to be frozen there? It’s a bit more comfortable, it feels like a chair, but still.

You call yourself real, and all possibility of change is gone. The real cannot change into another real, or can it? The false can dissolve—are you going to dissolve the real as well? The moment you say you are the truth, you are immobile now. Do you want to stay where you are? If not, then say, “I am unreal.” If you want to change, then you will have to say that you are unreal.

All change is towards reality; the reality itself cannot change. The unreal changes to discover the real, does it not? And if you want to change for the better, if you want to have rest instead of restlessness, if you want clarity instead of chaos, then you have to say that chaos and restlessness are unreal and therefore removable, only the unreal is removable.

Now, that is the reason why an Adi Shankarcharya calls the world unreal. It is related to the fundamental angst of man. The world and you are one. By calling the world unreal, he is calling you unreal, and you must be called unreal so that you can be better. Nobody came and whispered in the ears of the sages that the world is unreal. They are calling the world unreal for a very practical reason. If you take all your neurotic emotions, for example, as real, will you ever get rid of them? When is it easier to get rid of something, when you take it as authentic and truthful, or when you take it as fake? Don’t you want to get rid of all the psychosis and neurosis that surrounds you? Don’t you? So, don’t call it real.

That’s why the ego has been called an illusion, that’s why the world has been called mithyā : so that you can get rid of your suffering. And that’s the fundamental aim of spirituality—to rid man of his suffering. You see what is fundamental now? Not the illusion but your burning desire to come to peace; that’s fundamental. And if you want to be even more exact, then peace is more fundamental than even the desire to come to peace.

Q: So, the unreal proceeds towards the real, that is change, and the reality itself cannot change. But if you take the unreal to be real, then no change is possible. What is it when we take the unreal to be real?

AP: Māyā .

Q: I always give some kind of importance to whatever I am doing in my life. Does it mean that I am giving reality to something unreal and temporal? Why does this happen?

AP: Body. It is the body. It is the fundamental tendency of the body to try to continue as it is. So, the unreal wants to continue as it is. We are all embodied beings, and what is the tendency of the body? To continue as it is. You are born with five fingers, and they stay five; if they become six, then you have a problem; if they reduce to three, you have a bigger problem. That’s why man fears death so much: because he wants to continue.

The fundamental tendency of the body is to continue in time, and that is the reason why we hate aging. Anti-aging creams and anti-wrinkle creams have a spiritual basis. Everything that you see around has a spiritual basis. You must just see what is happening. It is the fundamental tendency of the body to continue; therefore, all fakeness has a tendency to continue as it is. At the same time, parallelly, the consciousness within you burns to burn away the fakeness. And man is the battleground where these two are in conflict: the tendency to continue as you are, and the desire to change into something more evolved, better, Godly. Sometimes this wins, sometimes that wins.

Q: How can I make my mind such that whenever there is appreciation I am able to look at it critically, and whenever there is criticism I do not get hurt?

AP: Company. Whatever you have absorbed, it is through company. Even the bodily birth is due to two people gaining each other’s company. Company is what you are as a body; therefore, use company as your only medicine, your only savior. Give yourself the best of company possible irrespective of what it costs you, and get rid of flimsy, shallow, fake company irrespective of what it costs you. Your old associations don’t matter; your likes and dislikes don’t matter. Be very particular about what right company is.

Q: In our times, this concept of company has to be expanded to a larger level, because this is the time when we have so much of social media, so much of television, so much of channels, newspapers, etc. This company should be extended to those things also. There are a lot of wrong things going on in Whatsapp and Facebook; if you open television, there are two hundred channels all filled with nonsense.

AP: Company by definition is everything that comes to the mind. It is a very juvenile definition of company to say that company refers to only the person you are sitting next to. Company means anything that the mind is coming in touch with, and often the worst company you give yourself is your own company. When you have nobody else to be with, then you are with your own thoughts, and that’s great kusaṃgati (wrong company). Who are you with? “Myself.” Oh my God. God save you!

Avoid yourself as much as possible. Before you avoid the internet, avoid yourself, because it’s you who chooses to go to the internet. You have been smart enough to say that television and internet have to be avoided but not wise enough to realize that first of all you have to avoid yourself. Whatsoever touches the mind is company—food is company, water is company—and it’s not a matter of these times. Our Guru said it centuries back: “ Jaisa bhojan kijiye, waisa hi man hoye; jaisa pani pijiye, waisi vani hoye (The food you eat becomes your mind; the water you drink becomes your voice).” So, it is an obvious thing.

Be extremely careful of whatever touches you. Don’t even look at stuff that is likely to take you away.

Q: How can I minimize the resistance when the unreal is attacked?

AP: You cannot minimize the resistance; you can only pray that you see that you have all the strength to overcome the resistance. The moment you say you want to minimize the resistance, you are validating your weakness; you are saying, “The resistance is great and my power is feeble.”

Let all the resistance be there. Let the ego act stubborn and resistant. You are powered by somebody else, and in front of Him all resistances are futile. Invoke Him rather than desiring for the resistance to be reduced. Resistance is difficult to reduce because resistance is a programmed thing. Try taking this finger in this direction *(bends his index finger backwards)*—what do you experience? Resistance.

Resistance will be there; it’s ingrained in you. Just pray for the courage that comes from faith. Never ever take these inner resistances seriously; don’t even cast a glance at them. You are moving in one direction, and somebody by your side is shouting and raising obstacles. Don’t even look at him. You already have a misfortune in the sense that this shouting fellow is tied to you and he will keep accompanying you for a long while. That is already misfortune enough. By looking at him, by paying attention to him, you are compounding your misfortune.

Don’t look at him. Let him shout. And he will keep shouting in your ears because he is tied to you, he sits within your body. He will keep shouting, he will keep resisting; you keep moving as if you are not even looking at him. Be totally oblivious to the existence of this resisting, shouting one. Ignore. He is shouting, you are ignoring. Done!

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