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If you are in Love, then why are you asleep? || Acharya Prashant, on Guru Kabir (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Oh friend, I love you, think this over carefully! If you are in love, then why are you asleep?

If you have found Him, give yourself to Him, take Him. Why do you lose track of Him again and again?

If you are about to fall into heavy sleep anyway, why waste time smoothing the bed and arranging the pillows?

Kabir will tell you the truth: this is what love is like: suppose you had to cut your head off and give it to someone else, what difference would that make?

~ Kabir

Questioner: While reading this, I got the impression that Kabir is encouraging constant devotion. What does he mean by “smoothing the bed and arranging the pillows”? Does he refer to the life of a worldly person where falling in sleep every now and then is almost a given?

Acharya Prashant: In Studio Kabir they sing, “ Bin jaage na milenge sajan sakhi re (Union with the Beloved won’t be possible without waking up).” And that’s what Kabir Sahib is again saying here. “If you are in love, why are you asleep?” And about sleep he says, “If you are about to fall into heavy sleep anyway, why waste time smoothing the bed and arranging the pillows?” Sleep of any kind, sleep at any place, sleep at any time means distancing yourself from the Beloved. Sleep implies distance from the Beloved. Now, what kind of a lover are you that you are preparing bed and pillows so that you slip into even deeper sleep? What kind of lovelessness is this? Please understand this.

You know, in the old days, the students in India were required to keep a śikhā. You know what a śikhā is? What is śikhā ? The entire head would be shaved off and there would be a tail here (pointing to the back of the head). What do you call it? Choti? It is just called śikhā. There is no hair, but on the top of your head there is a thick bunch of long hair, and you have tied that bunch of hair together. It is a śikhā, choti.

So, the student was supposed to study his lessons, memorize them and all that. And one of the things that would prevent him from going deeply into the lessons was sleep; sleep would bother him. So, the student would sit with his back to the wall and tie his śikhā to a nail in the wall. As long as he is sitting straight and doing the lessons—reading, meditating, memorizing—things would be alright. But the moment sleep would take over and his head would swing downwards, the nail would pull the śikhā and so he would wake up.

Those who are in love with awakening create methods against sleep, don’t they? What does this student want? He wants awakening. So, he is creating a method whereby he would not fall asleep. It is such a simple method and an effective one: the head must stay still and then it would not hurt. But the moment your head swings, especially if it swings downwards, it would appear as if somebody has just pulled your hair. And how hard would the pull be? As hard is your downward swing. So, the more deeply you are asleep, the more unconscious you have become, the harder will be the pull, and so you will be compelled to stay awake. Do you get this?

Now, what kind of an idiot would want to do his lessons and also keep a soft and nice and scented bed with pillows ready nearby? You are making an arrangement to fall into sleep when you are professing that you love awakening. That’s what Kabir Sahib is saying: that if you know that you are in love and you know that you must stay awake to greet the beloved, then why are you deliberately creating conditions that would induce you to fall asleep? The one who wants to stay awake must create harsh conditions around him, shouldn’t he? Those who want to stay awake drink black coffee without sugar, right? Or do they drink strawberry shake? You are already so nebulant, and what would a little more sugar inside you do? It would simply make you collapse.

So, if you want to stay awake, you give yourself a cup of hard, steaming, black, sugarless coffee; that’s the arrangement you make. And that’s the arrangement the seeker of Truth must make in his worldly life: he must push away all those things that offer him comfort, ease, pleasures and sleep; that is sādhanā (spiritual practice). You have to stay awake—why are you purchasing that new bed? You are a lover of freedom—why are you creating more obligations upon yourself? What is it that you are doing? Look at these loan papers that you are signing, and you say that you are a lover of freedom. Are you?

There were those who wanted to get up without fail at the break of daylight. You know what they would do? They would sleep with their face to the east, and they would sleep by the window. The first rays of the sun should fall on their eyes; they have already ensured that because they love to be awake. And see what kind of sleeping arrangement you have created for yourself. ‘Sleep’ is a metaphor here, I hope you get it; of course you do. Look at all the luxuries you have entitled yourself to—would they help in your awakening? Look at all the stuff in your house, look at everything around you and ask yourself, “Why is it present in my life if it does not contribute to my awakening?”

If you are really in love, would you want to surround yourself with stuff that impedes your love? No, you would just throw it away, and you would angrily throw it away. If your beloved somehow hates to see you in a particular dress, would you still wear that dress? Would you even keep it in your cupboard? But forget about dresses—we have masks upon masks with which to conceal our face to the beloved. Why are you keeping those things in your cupboards, in your almirahs, in your lockers, in your life, in your house? Why don’t you throw all these things away?

When I talk of things, I am not only talking of material things; you understand that? I am talking of mental stuff as well. When you fall in love even with a mortal man or woman, you ensure that your mouth is not full of foul breath, right? You don’t want to smell foul. And if you have fallen in love with the Truth, why do you allow your mind to be full of foul thoughts? Do these things help you in going to Him?

Now, that gives you a very definite answer as to what is worth keeping with you. Keep that with you which helps you stay awake. Keep that with you which helps you go to the Beloved, and throw all the things away that keep you separate from the Beloved. You must very ruthlessly question, “Why is this thought present? Is it helping me? Why is this tendency present? Is it helping me? Why is that thing present? Why is that relationship present? Why are such actions present? Are they taking me there? And if they are not, why am I clinging to them? Not only am I clinging to them, I am actively paying for them”—and it is such stupidity to pay for one’s own destruction, to pay to stay loveless.

Saints say, “You anyway have to sleep for very long ultimately; you will get enough time to sleep for decades, centuries, right till the end of time, and nobody is going to come and disturb you. Right now is the time to stay awake. Sleep is anyway going to overpower you.”

Remember our friend on the buffalo? The buffalo man is gonna get you all! His is the oldest taxi service, and a very reliable one. The buffalo man never misses a pickup. He is far better than the Olas and the Ubers. He never cancels the ride; he will never disappoint you. And it’s always a solo ride, you know; it’s never a buffalo share. You die alone.

So, the saints say, “You will have enough time to keep sleeping. Now, wake up!“

Kabir Sahib has sung so much about awakening. There is a great relation between love and awakening.

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