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Love, take me to the Heart! || Acharya Prashant, on Saint Kabir (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
26 min
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Beloved, take me to the land of immortality, where the streets are so narrow that one cannot walk straight.

With the strike of the Guru’s word, everything becomes clear.

The market is spread wide in the deathless land; I go there to do my business.

The saints live in that land of immortality; I want to go there to see them.

An entire society of saints dwells there; that is where our Purusha resides.

Says Kabir—listen O seekers, this ocean of worldly life can be crossed only by going there.

~ Kabir

Acharya Prashant (AP): Every single line here makes use of characters, objects, metaphors, and images. That is the only way language can proceed. That is the tool of language as well as the limitation of language. It will have to talk about something. Whenever you would use words, whenever you would use language, obviously you would be talking about something or somebody.

When a saint, when a Kabir wishes to communicate something to mortal ears, he will have to use the language of the mortals, the language that we have built up, the language that is coming from the human mind. So, there are a lot of symbols, objects, motives, a lot of wordplay, conjuring of fascinating images. Let us see.

Amarpuri le chalo ho sajna (Beloved, take me to the land of immortality).”

So, the verse opens, and the opening line suggests probably a young woman beseeching, requesting, asking her lover to take her to Amarpuri. A few simple words: “ Amarpuri le chalo ho sajna. Beloved, take me to the land of immortality. Beloved, take me to the land where death does not reach, the field of deathlessness.” And that is the almost deceptive magic of Kabir. In these simple and sparse words, he has brought together everything that has to do with love. What is this thing called love? Why is love such a great force in our life? Why does the mind experience that attraction? What is the ultimate purpose and end of love? Five simple words: “ Amarpuri le chalo ho sajna. Beloved, take me to the deathless land.”

Love, our earthly love, would always be with a mortal being—a man, a woman, a child. You could even say you love a thing—a house, a car, a mountain, a river—or an idea—liberty, egalitarianism, freedom. But whatever you claim to love would always belong to the land of death, the land of mortals. Kabir is saying that even though we appear to be loving a mortal, yet it is through the mortal that we want to reach immortality, and that is why we are attracted to the mortal. The mortal is not the end; the man or the woman is not the end that we seek. The man or the woman is the bridge, the bridge that would enable you to cross over to the land of immortality.

In this, Kabir is teaching us everything about love. Who deserves to be your lover? Only the one who can take you to Amarpuri, because that is your one, only, and continuous demand from your lover. It may appear that you want the lover’s affection, care, or the lover’s body, but the fact is that from your lover, from your mortal worldly lover, you want not trust or care or proximity or sexual pleasures, you want the ultimate spiritual goal, which is immortality, which is freedom from the fear of death, which is freedom from the clutches of time. So, only if there is somebody, only if there is a human being, a mortal, or any object, a book, a place, which satisfies this condition, then it deserves to be your lover. What is the condition? That it should act as a bridge between you and That, between you and the heavens.

You see, if a person attracts you to himself then that person cannot be called a lover, because that person is saying, “Come to me”; that person is claiming, “I am big enough to be your purpose”; that person is saying, “Make me your goal, your end.” Kabir is saying, a person deserves to be your lover only if the person is saying, “I am not going to become your goal; I am not going to become your objective. I will only become a fellow traveler, a means, a bridge. If you come to me, then I will take you beyond me. I will not make you stay with me. I will not possess you. I will not make you stop at me. Instead, I will guide you beyond me.” That is how the wise man decides on his lover, if at all it can be called a decision, because in such matters, what happens is so spontaneous that it cannot really be called a decision. But what Kabir is enunciating to us is the basis of spontaneity. That basis is the Beyond.

Please understand this carefully once again. If you come across something or somebody that attracts you to itself, then that thing is in fact dangerous for you because it will completely envelop you, encircle you, and in that way enslave you. It will say, “You can move no further, your journey ends here. Where? At me. You are my husband now, and go no further. You are my son, look no further.” The real lover will say, “Because I love you, I will help you go beyond. Maybe we will travel together to the Beyond.”

Amarpuri le chalo ho sajna —that is what you always want from your lover. Love is essentially a spiritual relationship. Even if you are attracted to somebody’s intellect or body, yet if you go deep enough into your mind, you will realize that it is not words or riches or looks that you ultimately want; you want that which is always the foremost, the ultimate, and the final goal of human life—liberation. Man searches for liberation in many ways. What you call as your earthly love is just one of those ways. However, that way goes corrupt when you do not realize that the goal is not a form, not a body, not a person. Then instead of the other person becoming a bridge to the Beyond, the other person becomes a hindrance.

Unfortunately, that is the case with most people. The one whom they choose as their lover, instead of facilitating their journey, becomes an active impediment, a roadblock. The lover does not say, “You are traveling at a particular speed; I will enable you to move faster.” The lover says, “No more movement. I have blocked the road now. Go not beyond. And if you go beyond me, then I will call it immoral; I will say that you have breached the code of loyalty, for that is what my definition of love is.” The deluded lover would say that “My definition of love is that you have to be devoted, dedicated, and loyal to me .” The real lover would say, “Forget me. Do not remember me. Because if you remember me, then you are not remembering the Truth. Forget me so that you may remember the Truth. It is not me who matters; something else matters.”

Kabir is opening up a secret for us. He is saying, if you must live with men, then you must know who is the right man, the right human being for you to choose. Do not choose somebody who is asking you to come to himself. That’s a thumb rule. Choose somebody who does not want to make himself important for you. Choose somebody who does not want to dominate your mind. Choose somebody who rather clears the way for you. If your love is of a nature where your lover, the lover in name or form, is always upon your mind—you are thinking of him or her, missing him—then it is certain that the relationship won’t do either of you, both of you, any good. This relationship is not at all a healthy relationship, let alone a divine one.

Please remember this. This is your only demand from whatever you have loved, be it a tree, a cat, a building, an idea, money, a work of art. Whenever you have been attracted to something, you have been attracted to the Ultimate. That something is auspicious for you only if that something takes you to the Ultimate. Choose wisely.

The request proceeds:

Amarpuri ki sakari galiyan, adbad hai chalna; thokar lagi guru gyan shabd ki, sudhar gayen jhabna (The streets of the deathless land are very narrow; one cannot walk straight there. With the strike of the Guru’s word, everything becomes clear).”

Kabir, in the opening line, opened up love for us, and then he proceeds to tell us of something equally significant: he now tells us of the Guru. And so beautifully, so simply, so lucidly, he reveals the whole matter to us. He says, “That place has been eluding me. Surely it is difficult to reach. That destination has somehow been very unavailable to mankind. Man after man, woman after woman, centuries after centuries, have been trying for that coveted place. But so few, if any at all, seem to reach there.” Amarpuri ki sakri galiyan, adbad hai chalna. Definitely it is a very convoluted, a very warped route, full of obstacles probably, not easy to reach. And how does one reach there? He says, “The impetus of the word of the Guru, and what appeared so difficult suddenly becomes so easy; what seemed so distinct shows up as extremely proximate; what looked infinitely difficult to reach reveals itself as the very ground you are standing on.”

And if we are careful, we would not fail to establish an obvious relationship between the opening line and the following lines. The opening line gave us the definition of the lover: the lover was the one whom you expected to take you to Amarpuri , right? Amarpuri le chalo ho sajna. The lover was the one you thought, you expected would take you to the land of ultimate desire, and ultimately you did reach that place, ultimately you did land there. How? “ Thokar lagi guru gyan shabd ki (With the strike of the Guru’s word).” Where you wanted to reach you indeed did reach. So, what you wanted through your lover came to you through the Guru. What did you want through the lover?

Questioner (Q): Immortality.

AP: Immortality. That. That which cannot be named. That which cannot be described. That ineffable relief. That’s what you wanted. You wanted it via the lover, and you get it through the Guru. So, the lover has to be the…?

Q: Guru.

AP: And the Guru has to be the…?

Q: Lover.

AP: Ah! Yes! We never look at our lovers that way. In fact, it would be so unromantic. If the lover looks like a Guru, acts like a Guru, even remotely resembles a Guru, that would be disqualification enough for you to reject him or her.

“You should look hot and sensual, baby! What is all this Guru business? Not in front of me, maybe in front of your audiences. Don’t try this act in our intimacy; it is just supposed to be a public show. All that preaching and Satsang, what is that? That is just a performance, right?—a public performance, for consumption of gullible fools who are prepared to be taken in. But here, our relationship, this is real, this is intimate, this is personal, between you and me, and here we have to talk of the sweet and nice things of life, not otherworldly and boring stuff like Truth and freedom! Let’s talk of perfumes, let’s talk of fairies, let’s talk of the various pleasures that our bodies can give us. What is this nonsense about divinity and immortality? What is this thing called the ultimate? Let me show you the ultimate, and I promise you all your desires will be extinguished!”

If your lover has nothing to do with the Truth, Kabir is promising us, your lover can have nothing to do with you either. If your lover could not be devoted to the One, to the Father, are you a fool to think that he or she can be devoted to you? Who are you? What is your worth? The One who has supreme worth, your so-called lover could not be loyal even to Him. How is this fellow going to be loyal to you? Kabir is warning us.

The word ‘Guru’ in its etymology itself is so instructive. ‘Guru’ means the one who takes you from darkness to realization, darkness to light. And that exactly is also the definition of the lover: the lover is the one who takes you from darkness to light. And if your lover has an interest in keeping you in dark, then run away, run away for your life, escape. The Guru is the lover, the lover is the Guru, and there can be no distinction between the two. This challenges our images. The lover is imagined to be active, attractive. The Guru is imagined to be staid, passive, wise, but hardly attractive in the physical sense. No, these two definitions must converge, and they can converge only if both of them dissolve.

Wohi re Amarpuri lagi bjariya, sauda hai karna (The market is spread wide in the deathless land; I go there to do my business).”

It is only in the land of Truth where truthful deals are cut. Sauda denotes a deal, a business transaction. Because we live in the land of falseness, so all our deals are false. All the trading that we do is just loss-making. Have you seen how we make our trades? On the basis of counting. You count what you get and you count what you give, and then you apply your mathematics—because mathematics, and only mathematics, can be applied to numbers—and then, if you get a positive number, you say, “Well, profitable deal. Let’s close it.”

Unfortunately, the good news is that whatever makes life beautiful is beyond counting, cannot be enumerated. But because you believe only in numbers and think that only numbers exist, so that which cannot be counted does not exist at all for you. You say, “If it cannot be counted, it does not exist. And if it does not exist, then I can trade it away very easily.” So, for money, you will be prepared to trade away love. And do you not see people trading away their freedom for the sake of a few more dollars? Or euros for that matter…

Q: Or rupees!

AP: Or rupees. Sure! “So easy to count what I am getting, and so difficult to see what I am sacrificing.” It’s another matter that what you are trying to sacrifice is so strong that it cannot be sacrificed. But it is not about that which you are trying to sacrifice, it is more about your own intention; you wanted to give it away. You say, “Alright, I mean, freedom—how does it matter? For a little bit of comfort and luxury, which can be quantified, if I am required to trade away my freedom, let me do that. Why not?”

These are the deals that we make in this world. Kabir is saying that a mark of that world is that you make fair deals. And what is a fair deal? A fair deal is one where you give away that which is anyway of no value and get that which is invaluable. In that land, Kabir tells us, you give up all your rubbish and gain the immense. And that is beautiful. You are giving that away which is so trivial, filth, and regaining that which is so large that numbers cannot capture it. You can look at it even in another way: you are giving that away which you anyway never had, and you are gaining that which is fundamentally yours. A beautiful deal.

Kabir is saying, that is the mark of Truth. Wherever you see such a deal happening, only that is the place you should be found at. Wherever you are gaining something which cannot be expressed in words, in numbers, in the dimension of mind, kindly be found at that place more and more. That is Amarpuri. And wherever you are being given a lot which you can think of, which you can express as a concept, which you can put in a balance sheet, kindly be cautious of that kind of a place.

Wohi re Amarpuri sant basat hai, darsan hain laina; sant samaj sabha jahan baithi, wahi purush apna (The saints live in the land of immortality; I want to go there to see them. An entire society of saints dwells there; that is where our Purusha resides).”

So, Amarpuri, Amarpuri, Amarpuri… One feels like asking, “How do I locate Amarpuri ?” Kabir comes to your help again. That seems to be his only job—to come to your help again and again, many forms, many words, many places, many times.

Kindly understand. It is not in Amarpuri that saints are found. Wherever saints are found, that is Amarpuri. And what are saints? Are saints persons? Are you saying that that fellow X is a saint, and I will locate his permanent residence, and that place will be called Amarpuri ? No, not that way.

People like Kabir, whenever they use these symbols—you remember how we opened this talk? We said a saint has to use your language, but you must understand that he is not talking about this world. It is his compassion and a limitation of language that he is talking in your words, but he is not giving something to you which is within the circle of your language; he is giving you something a little different.

When Kabir says saint, he means not a person but that within you which is saintly. Please understand. When Kabir says saint, he means not a person, not a name, but that within you which is saintly, and that is the location of Amarpuri. Kabir is saying, wherever saints are found, that is Amarpuri, and I am saying sainthood, saintliness, is found in your Heart. So, where is Amarpuri ?

Q: In the Heart.

AP: So, will you say to your lover, “I love you with all my heart”? No. If you have any wisdom, you will say, “Kindly take me to my Heart, for that is the reason I am attracted to you.” But we say, you know, “I am giving my heart to you.” That is quite a miracle! Your Heart is a place that you could never reach, and you are saying you are giving it away. But that is the nature of the deals that we make, right? You are giving away something that you do not even have—and which essentially cannot be given away.

“Sant samaj sabha jahan baithi, wahi purush apna.” And wherever the inner saint that expresses itself in many forms, wherever people sit together, sant samaj sabha jahan baithi, wherever people sit together and the subject is Truth, that place is Amarpuri. Sant samaj sabha jahan baithi. The saint is the one who is living by the Heart, is he not? And wherever two people will sit and rejoice in their mutual company and in the company of Truth, wherever people will sit together and sing of the Truth, that place is Amarpuri.

I thought a principal canon of spirituality was always that that which you are seeking is always beneath your feet. That’s the hint. That which each one of us is seeking is beneath our feet. Kabir is saying, wherever people will talk and sing of the Truth, that place is Amarpuri . Where are you right now? Where are we? Your friend misled you: he told you it was Shivapuri. It is Amarpuri.

“Sant samaj sabha jahan baithi.” Wherever people would rejoice in the word of Truth, that is Amarpuri. And as soon as those same people forget the Truth and occupy themselves with miscellaneous distractions, Amarpuri is gone—always there, yet gone for the one who does not remember.

Kahat Kabir suno bhai sadho, bhav sagar hai tarna (Says Kabir—listen O seekers, this ocean of worldly life can be crossed only by going there).”

Kabir says that “In case you are confused what all this singing and rejoicing and advising is about, let me just say one thing: you and I are nothing but desires, the desire to cross over this ocean of suffering and desiring, bhavasāgara .” It is the call to cross over that makes Kabir sing all this. “Listen sadho , you and I are one, and both are driven by the same impulse, both are called by the same source. Our pains are one and our goal is one. We have to cross over.”

Anything on this?

Q: When you are in the Truth, are you free of everything that happens to the body even when the body is there? Does it mean that there might be some disturbance or even pain, but it would not bother you at all?

AP: Even if it does bother you, the botheration does not bother you. The botheration remains till a point, but you have something which is beyond that botheration.

Kindly do not hold the desire to not be bothered. As far as the body goes, it operates with the need for security, care, preservation, and all of these are just botherations. So, botherations will be there, but you will not be bothered. Botherations will arise; if needed, you will take care of the botherations. But when you are taking care of those botherations, still there is something that is gently humming a song that has nothing to do with the botheration. It’s like you are busy sweeping the floor and there is only dirt and muck all around you, but you are singing a song that has nothing to do with dirt or muck.

It does not even have anything to do with your desire for freedom. It is a very distant song. You might be doing anything here—wiping floors, climbing hills, or flying planes—the song remains the same. The words may change, but the song fundamentally remains the same. Bothered, I sing; not bothered, I sing; happy, I sing; sad, I still sing. That does not mean that you would never be sad. You would still be sad, but you would be melodiously sad, you would be songfully sad. The food has been ruined, but it is such a delicious ruin. The whole thing is screwed up, and it is so much fun!

We are very uncomfortable with both pain and pleasure. Kindly observe. Spirituality is not about the elimination of pain or pleasure; it is about being comfortable with both of them. Not only are we uncomfortable with pain—if you will notice, you will find that you are highly uncomfortable with pleasure also. Have you seen how in moments of pleasure you almost get a heart attack? Hundreds, if not thousands of people die during sexual intercourse. Too much pleasure; the heart cannot take it! Gone! In fact, in certain diseases, it is advised to you to not be excited, not even to watch exciting movies, not to watch thrilling matches, world cups—do you know how many people die?

We are not comfortable even with pleasure. Have you seen how pitiable you look in your moments of pleasure? Almost like a beggar. “Darling, once more! Please!” Mankind has been chasing the elimination of suffering without realizing that it is not alright even with what it considers good and pleasurable. Spirituality is about learning to be okay with both pain and pleasure, with all sets of dualities. Day or night, I am alright; pain or pleasure, I am alright.

And pain and pleasure will inevitably be there. Kindly do not have this pipe dream. As long as the body is there, the mind is there, pain will be there, pleasures will be there. The sun is setting; one end of duality is about to make way for the other. You see how the temperature is dipping now? I was comfortable with the broad daylight, and now I am comfortable with the chill that runs down my back. That is to be spiritual. That is what it means to be spiritual. As alright in a party as when in solitude. As much at home while speaking to hundreds as while playing with a puppy. Always at home. It does not mean that you will not interact with the hundreds, you will, but you will go out into the world while being at home. Ah, that’s beautiful! Always at home, I roam hither and thither. That is spirituality.

So, do not ask for the ending of all botherations. You are here to be bothered. We all are here to be bothered. The botherations will continue. Be comfortable with them, that’s all.

Q: When there is pleasure, there is a fear that it will go away, so…

AP: So you want to consume it like a mad and greedy man. That is our approach to pleasure. We are never comfortable with it. Like a hungry and greedy and insecure man has been served food, and he wants to gobble the whole thing up. He does not know when it might be snatched away; he does not know when he would get the next meal, so he wants to make the most of this opportunity. That is our attitude towards pleasure. “Now that I have it, let me consume as much of it as possible.” And that is what the whole thing of consumerism is. “Let me have as much as possible. Life is short; tomorrow I will be no more. So, let me burn the whole thing up.”

Q: And in suffering there is a hope that it will go away.

AP: Yes, in suffering there is hope. So, in suffering, while suffering, you are not comfortable because you want the suffering to go away. So, obviously you are not comfortable. When in pleasure, you are afraid that the pleasure might go away. With pleasure, you are afraid that the pleasure might go away. With suffering, you are afraid that the suffering might not go away and hoping that the suffering may please go away. Either way, we are never comfortable. Spirituality is about having that home, that center of comfort.

Q: How does it happen?

AP: Just be comfortable. You may have him (jokingly referring to someone in the audience) sitting next to you; still you ought to be comfortable! That is what being spiritual is all about. That is the nature of spirituality. When you are not being perturbed by who is sitting next to you because your eyes are set somewhere else, then even if pain and pleasure are in your vicinity, right next to you, they don’t bother you; you are looking somewhere else.

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