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In the middle of your wounds, celebrate! || Acharya Prashant, on Saint Kabir (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Questioner (Q): I read some couplets by Saint Kabir and they touched me deeply. He wants to become one with God or Truth so much, but he is pained that he is unable to do that. At times I feel like meeting Him is the only thing left for me to do, but at other times I just want to pause, just for an hour or so. How can I be so strongly devoted at one moment and not wanting it at all the next?

Acharya Prashant (AP): One lives in a house disorderly and filthy, and the lover is expected. The beloved is approaching, and he might knock on the gate at any time. One is busy cleaning up, but there is just too much to clean up. Just too much. At the same time, one recognizes that only a very clean house befits the beloved. If the house is filthy, it becomes useless and not worthy of entertaining the guest. So, one is trying with all her might to clean up as quickly as possible. All else is done, only the cleaning up remains, so one is hurrying up. But wherever one goes, one finds more to do: each room is stuffed with garbage.

Now, two opposing forces act on the mind. One: “Hurry up! Display more energy! The date is all set. What you have been wanting since ages is about to happen. He is coming! He is coming! You can almost hear the footsteps.” On the other hand, there is this trivial yet significant task remaining; it is such a trivial thing—the cleaning up—and yet it is such a great hindrance. One thinks, “What if the beloved comes and returns? What if he says that the house does not deserve his presence?”

So, one hurries up. And hurrying up in doing one’s best, in tirelessly striving to clean up, one gets tired, annoyed. Is the annoyance against the beloved or against one’s own filth?

Q: One’s own filth.

AP: If you have complaints, they are not against God, not against the Truth; they are against your own filth. One desperately wants God to enter his house, but the house—ah! The house, it is such a mess! And God can be called nowhere else. You cannot date Him in a restaurant; you have to call Him to your very house. He won’t accept foreign, alien, artificial places. He says, “Show me where you live, and if that place befits me, I will be seated there. And if it doesn’t, then you have lost me.”

You will have to keep hurrying. You will have to keep washing. He can knock any moment now. He must find you pristinely clean—not even one stain. You must look somewhat like Him for Him to embrace you. And if you are annoyed, if you are irritated and tired, please know that God is not responsible for your irritation or your tiredness; it’s the muck that has accumulated since centuries that is tiring you down.

It’s quite a challenge, this cleaning up. The house is large, and it has not been cleaned since eons. From unexpected places heaps of rubbish are emerging, such garbage that you didn’t even know existed. You are surprised: “I was living with this, and since so long? And I didn’t even know! And now that I have the mop in my hand and a scrubber, mountains of nonsense are showing up.”

It is alright to be irritated. Be more irritated, and be more quickly irritated. Be done with all this; be done with meditation, the annoyance, the mopping, the washing, the drying.

Q: You mean, use the annoyance to speed up instead of slowing down?

AP: Yes, yes. Use the annoyance to speed up. Who wants to remain annoyed? Get over it and go past it. And remember, the annoyance is good news. In some sense it is auspicious: it tells you that the dirt is being uncovered and that which was safely lying rotting beneath the carpets is now being shown the light of day. The air has become heavy, there is dust all over, but that means that the cleaning process is effective. It is good news. Look a little deeper; you will find reasons to rejoice.

In the middle of annoyance, celebrate, so that the moment of celebration comes early. If you will be cheerful while preparing your house for the beloved, chances are that the meeting will happen earlier than expected and will be more successful. What if He comes and finds you with the broom in your hand cursing and abusing all and sundry? Here you open the gate, covered in muck and filth, the broom in one hand, the mop in the other, and you are so annoyed you spit on His face. And the house too has not yet been prepared. He cleans the spit and looks at the house and says, “Lady, are we to meet here? Better luck and better house next time!”

Sing a little, dance a little in the middle of the cleaning up, like the proverbial washerwoman who is cleaning the clothes and humming a little sweet tune. What is she dealing with? Filth. And yet she is humming—oh, it’s a little, meaningless song, nothing having any great depth; yet the act of singing itself is a vindication.

When you are fighting for the Truth, then in the middle of the fight it’s important to keep singing. The fight is bloody; you will have cuts and wounds everywhere. It is very important to keep humming and singing, joking a little about your blood-stained condition. When you are in the middle of a very, very serious battle, then it’s the right time to not take your condition too seriously.

Q: When Virender Sehwag (Indian cricket player) used to play, he used to sing in the middle of the match.

AP: He is talking of a particular player. He used to hum a little while batting. Even when the situation in the game would be critical, he would still be cheerful. He is celebrated as quite an explosive batsman. People would love to watch him.

The thing has to be done anyway—why do it crying if it can be done singing? You know very well that you have come just too far to turn back, right? You are not going to take a U-turn now. You have left all that just too far behind, so you are in it for good and forever. Now, why be irritated? Why feel low or depressed? If one has to go through it, why not go through it cheerfully?

And this struggle, this great aspiration that you have, will give you enough reasons to feel dejected, depressed, defeated. In those moments, sing, hum, throw a joke at yourself, turn yourself into a joke. If there is nothing else to laugh about, then laugh at yourself. I assure you that if you are just a fighter and not a singer, you will not be able to fight for too long. A fighter who is not a singer won’t be able to sustain the fight. The fighter must be a singer as well. That is why all the great saints, or at least most of them, were also poets. It is not a coincidence that they talked in verse.

Why does a Kabir sing? Why does a Bulleh Shah sing? Why do the Upanishads sing? Why do the Gitas sing? Why does the Quran sing? They are all songs. The warrior is the one most qualified to sing. In fact, if you are not a warrior, then your song would be hollow. The greatest of songs have arisen from the depths of suffering. If you have not known suffering, there would be no beauty in your song.

A poet has said, “ Viyogi hoga pehla kavi, aah se upja hoga gaan; nikal ke aankhon se chup chaap, bahi hogi kavita anjaan. The first poet must have been someone estranged from his beloved, and the first song must have emerged from his sighs; and the first poem must have silently flowed down from his eyes.”

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