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Never think that the journey has come to an end || IIT Bombay (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
21 min
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Questioner (Q): I am reading J. Krishnamurti’s Freedom from the Known , where the author talks about freedom from authority as a means to be free of the ego. What does he mean by authority? What does freedom from authority mean? He also says that we should not accept even the authority of our past self. This is confusing to me. More often than not, we learn from our past experiences. But if the past is not to be taken as an authority, where do we learn from?

Acharya Prashant (AP): See, the definition of authority is anything that proclaims itself to be the Truth in itself. That is called authority. ‘Author’ means original. ‘Authority’ means originality.

Only the Truth is original—the point from where everything comes.

So, when Krishnamurti says there is no authority, he means no object can be taken as the Truth. Whether it is an inanimate object as a book or a living object as a guru, nobody is to be taken as the absolute Truth. Obviously, the Truth cannot come this way in a form; the Truth cannot be objectified. It cannot stand in front of you as a thing or a place or a person or a book or whatever.

So, don’t be too quick to accept your own assessments and judgements. When you fall for something, don’t you take it to be real? Only the Truth is real. When you are afraid of something, aren’t you taking the thing as real? If you knew something is unreal, could you be afraid of it?

So, nothing is to be taken as the Truth. Why? Because whatever you are seeing is being seen by you . To take a seen thing as the Truth is to believe just too much in the capacity of the seer. Who is the seer? You are the seer.

So, to take anything as the Truth is to be egoistic. “I am seeing this thing as the Truth, therefore it is the Truth.” And that is what the ego wants to believe in. The ego says, “This world is real. If I have fallen for a woman, my love is real. If my dreams call me, beckon me, my dreams are indeed real. I must invest in them.” Why all this? “Because they are mine. The love affair is mine, the dreams are mine, the opinions are mine. Therefore, I want to take them as truthful.”

Now do you see why he says don’t take your own likes, dislikes, experiences, and past as authority? Because they are yours. Whose experiences? Your experiences. Whose past? Your past. None of that is to be taken very seriously. Obviously all that exists, you cannot just dismiss it, but none of that is to be given the status of the Truth. When something is given the status of the Truth, it becomes unquestionable, enquiry gets stifled. Whatsoever is there in front of you is in front of you , and you are no absolute; therefore, whatsoever is there must be available to enquiry, investigation, and questioning.

When you are questioning something you are seeing, in fact you are not questioning that thing, you are questioning your own seeing, because whatsoever that thing appears like and means to you is your own perception; all those meanings and appearances are in your own frame of reference. So, when you question your own world, your own objects, you are in fact questioning yourself. That questioning cannot happen if you declare that you have already come to the Truth.

Never, never believe that the journey has ended. Never believe that the ego itself is the Truth.

Q: I am still not understanding this. You just said that we should not give authority or the status of the Truth to our experiences. But if I make a mistake and learn from it, then the past experience is authorizing me to change my behavior right now. And that is how we grow, right?

AP: No, authorizing is not the same as taking something as the authority. Equate authority with Truth. Would you remember this? Equate authority with Truth. That is why nothing is the authority. To authorize is to license or allow; that is a totally different thing.

See, please understand this. Even though the ego or the self we believe in is classically and absolutely unreal, to us that is the only reality. What do we do? We cannot hoodwink ourselves. We cannot say, “Oh, the ego is false, therefore I am not suffering—when actually I am.” Doesn’t matter how many times somebody like Jiddu Krishnamurti comes and teaches you the fallacy of the ego. Your suffering would still remain.

So, you have to work your way out of the ego, through the ego, in the middle of the ego. And you have to say, “Well, all this is not the Truth. But what do I do if everything in my body wants to take it as the Truth? I will start from where I am and investigate.” Enquiry is the way. Tell the ego, “Alright, alright, you are telling me you are real”—and what does real mean? Unchanging, uninfluenced, not composed of fragments, timeless. “You are telling me all these things about yourself. May I please enquire? I am not absolutely dismissing you; I am just asking, you know, just asking. May I just ask?”

So, don’t unilaterally dismiss the ego; engage it. She keeps saying so many things; talk to her. You are not to believe in her, and you are not to pretend that you don’t believe in her at all because you do believe in her. We all do. Even if you believe in someone, can’t you enquire? So, tell that to the ego. “Well, you are such a lovely lady, darling, but I just wanted to know a few things. Just asking. Why was your face so different yesterday? No, no, I am not alleging, I am just asking. If you are so eternal, how has your face changed in a matter of a day? You know, just asking. Just asking.”

Q: I have been into spirituality for a while now, and sometimes it feels like the whole game is rigged. When I started observing myself and the world more closely, it seemed like things were easier to figure out at first. I would remain attentive to everything, and whenever worldly pleasures or attractions tempted me, I would stop and enquire. The world could not deceive me because everything was open to enquiry.

As I kept doing this further and further, I noticed that I started to develop a habit of letting some things go unquestioned. For example, earlier I used to examine even the spiritual teachings very critically, but now I rarely question anything coming from a teacher or a scripture; I just accept what is being said and agree to it without experimentation. These tricks become difficult to catch. Any thoughts on this?

AP: Read non-spiritual literature. Get into things that you have declared to be false, just as you have declared, let’s say, Vedanta to be the truth. Remember that just as there is a chance that you are declaring Vedanta to be the Truth without having really known it to be the Truth, equally you might be declaring a lot of other things as false without having known them to be false. So, what do we do? You know, separation from those things keeps hiding the fact that you still don’t know those things to be false.

So, go close to those things. Do all those things that you might have rejected or barred yourself from since the last two or four years. Read commercial literature, read what consumerists do, see what their philosophy is, expose yourself to be converted by them, and see whether their attempts have any effect. Mind you, they will have some effect, and that will reveal to you why you are not still fully convinced of, let’s say, Vedanta.

So, get into all such things, read news, and see whether you can detect with precision what really is going on. I strictly dislike spiritual people abhorring the world or rejecting it or not being in knowledge of it. You don’t have to consume the world, but at least know how the world functions and what all is going on, and then see whether you are totally effect-proof. I am advising in advance that there would be some effect.

Visit a tempting shopping mall, some expensive place; see all the glittering stuff there, see what is doing it to your senses; see how people are operating. At some point you will find yourself moving towards one of the items—don’t resist. Enquire what is it that you find tempting. And mind you, we are not talking in the language of one thing being bad versus one thing being good; we want to find out. It is actually very much possible that when you visit that shopping center, you actually return with two or three items that you actually needed; not that it is your money gone waste.

So, read all these things, visit all these places, and engage the other kind of people. The more you keep them away behind the boundary of otherness, the more you will fail to realize that they still exist within you. To what extent they still exist within you, you will know only when you are with them. Be a part of one of the usual middle-class or upper-middle-class weddings. Check whether you too are being tempted to join the dance floor or be a part of one of the family pics, whether all the lights and the decorations and the glitz is having an effect on you. All that has to be seen. None of that has to be abhorred.

Now, I will tell you a little secret—it is a dangerous secret, but I think you have come far enough to know it: A point comes when you are in that wedding, and instead of falling prey to that wedding, you stand there thinking how to use all that towards the right purpose. It is like being surrounded by enemies with guns, and you look at your enemies, and instead of being afraid of something, you find yourself thinking how their guns can be utilized for the right purpose. You don’t want to destroy their guns; you want to carry their guns home because you need those guns. You know, it is a lousy warrior if he just kills the enemies and leaves their weapons behind. Those lights, that decoration, that glamor—all that affects the ego so much. Why can’t we put it to the right use?

But remember, this thing is dangerous because you never know when the thing you purport to use starts using you instead. So, this is not something you should start practicing in a hurry or too early. It is just that a point comes in the journey, a point comes…

Spirituality is about engaging with the world in the right way. It is not about rejecting this, abhorring that, not being here, not being there. Be everywhere. It is a war. All the territory is to be won. You must know your enemy. If you keep shying away, if you don’t want to even look at your enemy, how will you know what your enemy is like?

But, I repeat, these things are not for beginners. If beginners keep frequenting wedding parties, they will be carried away by the guns or, you could say, at gunpoint. Instead of bringing the guns home, you will find that nobody returned home.

Q: I really like reading scriptures, and I have been reading them for quite some time. I have observed that earlier there used to be a freshness and it would stay with me; there was a sense of excitement also. I see that missing now. That excitement which used to give a hope that there is some change happening seems to be missing. I am not able to really read this situation. Could you please help me out here?

AP: You see, the nature of the mind must not be forgotten. Because the mind is never happy with itself, therefore it is looking for continuous change. It will look for change even in scriptures. And you cannot resist that because the mind will keep acting unhappy and dissatisfied even as you are reading the scripture. And the scripture is meant to be fed to the mind, and the mind becomes an unwilling recipient. So, all that becomes inefficient. You are reading, spending time, and the mind is not quite partaking in the process. So, what do you do? You say, “Fine. You want change? I will give you change.”

You don’t need to read only one kind of scripture all the time. There is so much diversity even in spiritual literature. Even Vedanta has hundreds of texts, and then there are the Zen Koans, there is the Sufi literature, there are the stories from European mystics; you have the Chinese, the Japanese: you have Lao Tzu, Lieh Tzu, there is so much. Or you could go to the epics and see what they are trying to say. Or if the mind has become resistant to the written word itself, then why not watch videos? Go to, let’s say, Jiddu Krishnamurti; there is ample video content available.

And if the mind is saying that it has a problem with the word itself, whether written or spoken, then attempt action. Spirituality or spiritual practice is not just about reading; it is also about acting. Act to learn.

Q: What do you mean by that?

AP: The scripture is telling you that you have to challenge that within you which keeps you as you are. See how you can challenge it in action, whether at your workplace or at home, in the physical sense and in all senses that constitute your personality, even in the sense of the clothes you wear, the company you keep, the way you manage your house, the way you look, and the way you eat. How is the ego not finding a crystallized expression in our fixed diets? When we talk of the ego finding security in the past, one of the things that comes from there is our diet. Even challenging that might be a part of the spiritual process.

But don’t blame yourself. This is something that is bound to happen even with sincere seekers. The mind has a tendency to seek change even in Truth because that is what the mind is—this tendency itself. So, irrespective of how noble is the text you are reading, how great are the words, you will soon get kind of fed up and bored. Boredom—that is one of the central descriptions of the mind. It is always bored, but it cannot take audacious steps to get rid of its boredom.

Play games with the mind. Play games. Listen to music. There is so much of devotional music. Listen to Kabir Amritvani ; listen to a recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib or the Ramcharitmanas . There are several ways to give the mind what it wants and still keep taking it in the right direction.

Q: I was led into my spiritual journey through my personal relations. As I keep going, I am extremely curious and extremely attracted to what is there in store for me. But sometimes I suspect my motives: am I on the journey for the Highest, or is it the personal relations that are pushing me on? And sometimes the attraction is so great that I don’t care about this. I am really worried sometimes if there is a pitfall that I should be aware of in my situation.

AP: See, the ego is such that it will never move towards the right thing with the absolutely right intention. Even to go towards the temple, it needs to be tempted with prasad, you know, the sweets that the priest gives you. Otherwise, the kids won’t go to the temple at all.

So, you need not suspect that there is some problem or issue. Be convinced that there indeed is a problem. And the problem is that you are approaching spiritual literature or spirituality itself because of personal reasons. That is indeed the case, take that for granted. But then, there is no need to be disappointed because of this. That is the way we all are.

I repeat, even to move to the Highest we need to be given some lowly reason. And blessed be the lowly reason that takes you to the Highest and then excuses itself, or takes you to the Highest and then you find that there is no separation because at the Highest, this-that, separation, conflict, all that anyway disappears.

So, irrespective of what makes you move in the right direction, keep moving. And know fully well that there is nobody who ever got into spirituality because he wanted to disappear.

You cannot tell the ego, “I am taking you to a place to die.” You have to tell her, “Come, we will have fun.” You are not lying; the disappearance of the ego is good fun. But you have to counsel her in a language she understands. You have to offer her a bait she will accept. And then at some point you will say, “I am glad I have been cheated because there was no way to bring me to the right place without cheating me. That is how I am.” Had somebody straightaway told you, “I am holding your hand so that both of us merge into dissolution,” you would have never accepted to hold the hand.

So, a little bit of cheating is needed. Cheating in love, you know; not cheating of the kind for self-interest. Blessed is such a cheat. Later on you will thank him or her—but only later on. In the middle of the journey you will keep cursing, “The bugger has made my life hell and I curse the moment I got into a relationship!” and such things. But at some point, if you let the person stay alive till that moment, you will thank him.

Q: After working on oneself for some time, there comes a point where things seem to be alright, at least compared to the point one started from. The trap I find myself in is that when things seem alright enough, the drive to work on oneself seems to be absent. There is a subtle sense of not being there, but it does not motivate one to move against oneself fully with determination. So, how should one keep focus on the real thing even if one does not find very obvious reasons for working on oneself? Because it is obvious that as long as we are here, we have to work.

AP: You see, the real thing is freedom—freedom even from the compulsion to continuously remember freedom. When you are in bondage, then I advise you to constantly remember the fact of your bondage. And when you directly remember bondage, then you indirectly remember freedom, because freedom is nothing tangible; bondages are tangible. Only bondages can be directly and tangibly remembered. Freedom cannot be remembered in that sense.

As your bondages start dropping, there is progressively lesser need to remember them anymore. So, the appointed task is no more there. A spiritual advisor advises you to continuously remember bondage, and it is a good occupation to have. One says, “Fine, now I know what to continuously keep in mind: I need to keep in mind the fact of my bondage. I need to have an eye over my bondages.” And that gives the mind something to be occupied with. The mind is always in search of tasks, so it is a good task to have—a spiritual task.

But a task is a task. Ultimately, all tasks need to be completed; you need to be free of all tasks. Even if we do not talk of absolute freedom from tasks, relatively at least the compulsion, which is in other words a burden, to continuously remember the task has to reduce.

So, what is left then? What to do? How to decide? All you are left with is freedom. Just play. No compulsion, nothing to remember. But this is dangerous advice. This advice is only for those who have first of all graduated to that state or that stage in spirituality. If I tell a beginner to go play, he will say, “I am anyways always playing. You wanted me to be serious!”

So, initially I would require you to be serious. And once your seriousness has carried you to some distance, I will say, keep dropping the seriousness as well. Just as you are dropping so much that is needless from your life, similarly now keep dropping seriousness as well. A point comes when you do not need to remember, you do not need to be serious about any task. But initially you need great seriousness. That seriousness you could call as sincerity. That seriousness you could call as love or discipline.

Q: How to determine the point when the seriousness can be dropped?

AP: Continue to take everything seriously. If you are truly serious, if your seriousness has honesty, then seriousness itself will tell you when to drop seriousness as well. It is not a particular moment anyway; it is a process. As you progress, seriousness, correspondingly and gradually, reduces, and you gain a certain lightness, a levity, a playfulness. But that will happen on its own. I only replied because you enquired about what next. That ‘what next’ need not be known in advance. It will happen anyway on its own if you are sincerely running the course.

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