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On devotion, samādhi, and observation || On Vivekachudamani (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
16 min
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Questioner (Q): The yogi sings with a one-pointed mind, but I worship with a hidden desire and a hidden self-interest. Is my devotion wrong? What is one-pointed devotion?

Acharya Prashant (AP): It’s not about right or wrong; it’s about settling down with a little when a lot is available. When you go to God for fulfillment of your desire, then at most what you will get is the fulfillment of your desire. That’s the maximum—and let me tell you, that’s not much. The maximum that you can think of, desire of, conceive of is not much at all. Not only is it not much, it may actually also not be beneficial. If you were wise enough to know what to ask for, then why would you ever ask for anything?

So, when you ask for something, you are making either both or one of the two mistakes: either you will ask for little in the name of much, or you will ask for something that does not serve you and instead harms you. Why do you want to make these mistakes?

But the ego goes on making this mistake because it has a great and misplaced and stubborn belief in itself. So, it says, “I know what is good for me. Now God’s role is limited to fulfilling my self-appointed wish. I will not tell God, ‘You do what is best for me’; I will tell God, ‘I know what is best for me, and now I am dictating to you what is best for me, and your little role is to just do the bidding. Go, obey my desire!’” That’s what we tell God in the name of prayer. Isn’t that how we pray?

We decide our desire as great sovereigns, as autonomous persons; we decide what is good for us. And then we instruct God, in the name of prayer or pleading, “Please do this, please do this.” Is that devotion? I don’t know. What I know is, if your desires could be fulfilled in some other way, you wouldn’t have gone to God. I don’t know how that can be called as devotion. What I know is that had you not been suffering or feeling guilty or sad or sorrowful or jealous or fearful, you wouldn’t have gone to the temple. I don’t know whether that can be called as devotion. You have seen all these crowds and queues in front of places of worship. If people were not terrified or greedy, how many of them would still be found there? I don’t know whether all that can be called as devotion or surrender.

So, then, what really is devotion or surrender? It’s fundamentally about seeing what you are doing to yourself. It’s fundamentally about expressing the courage to face the bare facts. It’s about not being so afraid or arrogant. It’s about seeing how futile and foolish are one’s desires. And how will you see the foolishness and futility of your desires? By seeing what your desires have brought upon you. For that you will have to admit that your condition is really, really pathetic.

But that hurts, and hurts very badly, especially if the society calls you an achiever or something. That is the reason why devotion is so difficult for the so-called achievers: because to be devoted, first of all you will have to admit that all your achievement is nonsense, all your achievement is just an albatross around your neck, that you have gone badly wrong. But if you admit that, then it pinches. Everybody is saying you have done well. How do you now go out and say, “I am a failure”? Very difficult. Now even if internally you keep crying, you cannot admit or express that.

There is one man who decides to fast within his room, and there is one man who decides to fast publicly, and publicly he declares it too. Do you know whose fast is going to last? The one who has declared it publicly, because now he is being garlanded, and people are coming and touching his feet, and the newspapers are writing about him, and he is being heralded as a great achiever in some sense. Now, how does he admit that he is burning from inside? He will say, “No, it’s all so blissful!” And he will maintain an artificial and contended face. Whereas, his heart knows that he is living in a hell.

Devotion is easy when you see that you are stupid, and devotion is extremely difficult when you are a man of high self-esteem. Self-respect is such a burden.

Q: No thought of future, goal, action, or sacrifice helps me. I take pleasure in sympathy and victimization. Commitment and suffering will come a lot later, but I don’t have the thought process to connect the dots and understand my real problems. The mind is too gross to understand the minute details and connect the dots. I get irritated if I don’t get things for free. I always want variety and I don’t work for it. I keep losing what I already have. I don’t understand relations or what it means to give. I don’t find myself fit to either the previous generation or the coming one. My set of values and beliefs keep changing according to convenience and sensual content. I don’t have any value for time, and I just use people to suit my goals. Knowing all this, I am still arrogant. Kindly guide.

AP: The last time you spoke to me I sent you to Ashtavakra, and Ashtavakra has done what he does. You have come to a point where you can really see where you stand, and you can talk of it. Now you are seeing. Now you are realizing. Your last statement is brutally beautiful: you are saying, “Knowing all my nonsense, I am still arrogant.” That’s such an apt description of the false self.

So, the path of knowledge has shown its fruit. Now is your time to go to Kabir; now is your time to sing. Ashtavakra has done his bit, and it has been quick and fruitful for you. You have collected all the garbage at one place and are able to vividly describe it. Your question is just a description of all your garbage accumulated at one place—this, this, this, this, this, this, and then this. Good. Now is the time to get rid of the garbage. Kabir would help you.

You will have to sing now; you will have to transform now; the entire personality will have to melt. This arrogance is nothing but śuṣkatā , dryness. You are just too dry. You need a bit of lubrication, and then that which is still sticking to you will fall off. You need some greasing. Kabir will provide you with that. The solid mass will melt, tears will flow, and along with the tears all the rubbish, too, will flow away.

So, now that this month is beginning, you too must begin. Begin with Kabir. Sing. Send to us what you are singing; turn it into a routine, a way of life. Rise and help others rise, and it would be all wonderful. A point will come when the entire garbage will remain where it is; the garbage will remain, you will not. Right now you are asking that the garbage must disappear; it is a very arrogant demand. Why don’t you disappear? Let the garbage remain.

But you say, “No, I will remain where I am, please remove the garbage.” I am saying, let the garbage remain where it is, let Kabir remove you. Melt and flow away. Begone! Then from afar, you will look at the garbage and say, “Oh, some garbage!” Right now you look at garbage and say, “Oh, me garbage!”

So, you have been dispatched to Kabir. See you!

Q: What I am noticing is this: some thought pops out like a gas balloon, and the mind sometimes runs towards it and sometimes not. The intellect decides whether or not to run towards the thought. Meanwhile, somebody is just watching all this. Who? Hard to describe. I get a glimpse of that only sometimes. Please throw some light on this and what I am missing, and help me understand the practical usage of savikalpa samādhi and nirvikalpa samādhi in day-to-day life.

AP: One doesn’t use samādhi . See what you are asking for: the practical use of savikalpa and nirvikalpa samādhi in day-to-day life. Are we talking of shirts and trousers? Are we talking of tea and coffee? How will you use this samādhi and that samādhi ?

Samādhi is one. When you say savikalpa , nirvikalpa , and five other types of samādhi , you are only describing the mind that is entering samādhi . The temple is one, but it has five gates. There are not five varieties of samādhi ; all varieties exist only in the mind. In samādhi , there is a dissolution of the mind—how will variety exist? That is the first thing. There are no types of samādhis ; types exist only in the mind that is seeking samādhi . Is that clear?

Second thing is: savikalpa and nirvikalpa samādhi , how to use them? Who will use them, and what will you use samādhi for? Mind uses everything to reach samādhi , and you are asking, “I want to use samādhi .” Everything is used for the sake of samādhi * —what will you use * samādhi for? Samādhi is the end of everything, it is not a means. Everything is used to come to samādhi . Having come to samādhi , now where would you go?

I use this (picks up a glass) to come to samādhi . Or will I use samādhi to come to this? But if I am obsessed with this, then I will want to use samādhi to come to this. That will tell you where your priorities and values lie. And that’s what man, unfortunately, has been doing since long: he wants to use even God, he wants to use spirituality. The violent mind may want to use meditation to kill silently and peacefully. The greedy mind may want to use meditation to sell without guilt. There would be failure, no doubt, but the intention can surely arise. The intention will not succeed, but that is something hidden in time. So, one can console himself or assure himself that his intentions are going to fructify.

Nobody ever successfully used samādhi . Nobody ever successfully used Truth or meditation. They cannot be used; they are unusable. They are, in fact, useless. How will you use them? You cannot use samādhi ; samādhi uses you. And if you are talking of using samādhi , that only means you are very far from samādhi .

Similarly the whole description—this happens, that happens—it’s okay to describe. But see what you are saying. Somebody is watching the thought, the mind, the intellect, and then you say, “Sometimes I get a glimpse of the watcher,” and you say that with regret. And you say that the watcher is hard to describe; that too you say with regret. Your intention is to both describe and capture the watcher. You say, “I only get a fleeting glimpse, what I rather want is a total perception.” Of what? The witness, the Truth. You want total perception of the Truth. Is that ever going to happen? Is that possible?

When you watch all this, don’t you also watch why and how the intention to watch all this arises? You are not watching without intention or interest; you are watching with desire, and your desire is to put all this to a practical use. Why don’t you watch that desire, firstly? Why don’t you know why you want to make practical use of samādhi ?

What is practical? That which you intend to practice is practical. ‘Practicality’ is such a deceptive word. I may have ten crore rupees, but if I don’t want to invest five crore somewhere, I will say it is impractical to invest there. How is it impractical? Don’t you have ten crore? You have ten crore, but you are still saying that it is impractical to invest five crore somewhere. Why is it impractical? Because your own internal calculator does not prioritize that place, so you say it is impractical.

What is practical and what is not is decided by your intentions. Practicality has no absolute value; it is relative to what you have made yourselves to be. If you are sitting on your knees and insist that you will keep sitting on your knees, and I tell you, “Come, run towards me,” you will say, “It is impractical to run.” It is impractical to run, yes, but only because you have decided that you will keep sitting on your knees. Practicality is decided by what you are intending and what your identification is. If one is identified with being a rock, then one cannot talk. Talking becomes impractical. One says, “I am a rock and the rock doesn’t talk.” So, talking is impractical.

Never go by this thing called practicality blindly. Ask yourself, “Why am I unable to practice this? Who is the one deciding not to practice this? Who is the one who would be threatened by the practice?” Similarly, when you call something practical, see who is benefitting from the practice. Practical sometimes means easy: oh, this is practical, easy. For whom is it easy and to whom is it difficult? If something hurts you it is difficult, so you call it impractical.

I have said that many a times, let me say that again: The Truth cannot be thought of, the witness cannot be witnessed. How do you get even a fleeting glimpse of the witness? Let me just confess: I have never had a fleeting glimpse of the witness. I have never had even a fleeting glimpse of the witness. What have you been witnessing? How did you manage to see that which has no shape, no form, no coming, no going, no birth, no death, no here, no there, no past, no future? How did you manage to get even a fleeting glimpse of that?

You have described how thoughts pop up; that’s nice. You have described how the intellect and memory work upon the thoughts; that’s nice. Now stop there. Don’t try to exploit everything. But that’s the way of the modern man: if he has knowledge of something, he will exploit it. So, science and technology go together. The moment science gives you certain knowledge, you exploit it. Science turns into technology. So, spirituality also you want to exploit and use—use for whom? You want to turn God into your attendant, right? You want Truth to obey your wishes.

That’s the western mind. Knowledge is power. Know so that the known object can be used, used to satisfy the aims of the ego. Know what? To use God. Wow! It’s such a respite that God cannot be known. Know Africa, conquer Africa, exploit Africa, enslave Africa. Know Asia, know India, conquer them, use them, exploit them. And that’s why it appeals so much to you when even a religious teacher tells you that there can be an inner technology or inner engineering. You find that so very tempting because that’s what you want: to turn everything into technology. Everything is raw material that must be engineered and processed to serve your wishes.

Spirituality, you know that, at least theoretically you know that, is about seeing the genesis and the futility of your wishes. Spirituality is not about the fulfillment of your wishes. If you are observing your thoughts, that is wonderful; stop at that. And that observation, remember, is about mind watching the mind, and that’s okay. The more honest is the observation, both the fragments of the mind, the watcher and the watched, keep dissolving simultaneously. That’s okay. Stop at that. Don’t go beyond that. Don’t try to conclude.

And never, never try to use. The man of God allows himself to be used. Never does he think of using or conquering or possessing. Even your desire to know is a kind of exploitation or possession. Because as we know, the mind says, “Knowledge is power.” So, the mind tries to know only to conquer and then exploit, use. Don’t even try to know; that’s violence, and that’s disregard, irreverence, apostasy.

Stay humble, keep watching. That’s all.

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