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Knowing that you will lose, fight as if you have already won || On Advaita Vedanta (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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निद्राया लोकवार्तायाः शब्दादेरात्मविस्मृतेः । क्वचिन्नावसरं दत्त्वा चिन्तयात्मानमात्मनि ॥

nidrāyā lokavārtāyāḥ śabdāderātmavismṛteḥ kvacinnāvasaraṃ dattvā cintayātmānamātmani

Without granting for a moment even a toe-hold for sleep, gossip, verbal exchanges, etc., and self-forgetfulness, meditate on the Self in the self.

~ Adhyatma Upanishad, Verse 5

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Questioner: I am not sure if I understand what is meant by meditating on the Self in the self. The first Self has a capital ‘S’, and the second self has a small ‘s’. As I understand it, the little cannot know of anything beyond its littleness. Me being what I am, even the infinite remains an image. Every method or direction taken seems to be within the same little dimension. It’s almost as if the ‘I’ wants to be the enjoyer of even its own dissolution. What is being advised here in this verse, and how should it be applied?

Acharya Prashant: The verse says, “Meditate on the Self in the self.” For the sake of clarity, I will take the big Self as Truth; otherwise there is no way I can differentiate between the two in a spoken way. So, meditate on the Truth in the self. Now the self is the small self, the ego. Meditate on the Truth in the ego. And the contention is, the ego cannot know anything beyond its limited boundaries, so how will it meditate on the Truth or the great Self?

That is exactly the intention of this exercise: give the ego a task beyond its capacity. What will happen? The ego is a machine. It can only do what it is conditioned to do, designed to do. When you start pushing a machine to do something that it is not designed to do, what happens to the machine? It breaks down. That’s the purpose of all meditation. That’s the method of all spirituality: bring the ego to a point where it attempts something that it just cannot do, and the ego will dissolve. That can happen through love, that can happen through renunciation. That can happen in many ways.

How does it happen in love? Make the ego fall in love with something that it just cannot achieve. Make the ego fall in love with something that is impossible for it to achieve. Make the ego fall in love with the Truth. Now, the ego is a little, it cannot achieve the Truth. But the ego has helplessly fallen in love. What will happen now? The ego will die. If you really love and you cannot get what you really love, you will die. Love is a method.

Renunciation, too, is a method. The ego is extremely possessive of itself. The ego is extremely fond of itself. The ego cannot give itself up. The method of renunciation is to make the ego give itself up. Now you are asking the ego to do something that is impossible for it to do, and in doing the impossible, the ego will die.

When you are letting the ego love the Beyond, then it is something that the machine is not designed to do; the ego is attempting an impossible task. It will go, it will die. It will get exhausted in its effort to reach the Beloved. Gone! Or, make the ego renounce itself. The ego cannot do that. It is very, very painful for the ego to leave itself. But if somehow it can be convinced to leave itself, that would mean its destruction; the ego will go.

That is what is meant by meditating on the Truth in the self. Meditation essentially means having something as a target. The ego lives in targets; it wants this, it wants that. All desires have a target. Concentration is to reduce the number of targets to a few, possibly to a single one, and meditation is to target that which cannot be targeted. Concentration is to leave aside most of the targets and focus on a select few, and meditation is to target that which is beyond your reach.

So, meditate on the Self in the self. Let the ego target the Truth. That is meditation—an impossibility. The ego is targeting the Truth; it will fail, it will die, and that is liberation.

That’s the only way to live. To try doing something that you cannot do, that you know you cannot do. Take up a project that you know is doomed to fail. Pick up a battle far beyond your capacity. Know in advance that you are going to lose, and then fight as if you are destined to win. That’s the only way to live.

Pick up an impossible battle, and fight it as if it is won in advance. That’s what the Upanishad is saying.

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