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Only the Truth wins || On Mundaka Upanishad (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
46 min
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सत्यमेव जयते नानृतं सत्येन पन्था विततो देवयानः । येनाक्रमन्त्यृषयो ह्याप्तकामा यत्र तत् सत्यस्य परमं निधानम् ॥

satyameva jayate nānṛtaṃ satyena panthā vitato devayānaḥ yenākramantyṛṣayo hyāptakāmā yatra tat satyasya paramaṃ nidhānam

It is Truth alone that conquers and not falsehood; by Truth was stretched out the path of the journey of the gods, by which the sages winning their desire ascend there where Truth has its supreme abode.

~ Verse 3.1.6, Mundaka Upanishad

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Acharya Prashant (AP): “It is Truth alone that wins and not falsehood; by Truth was stretched out the path of the journey of the gods, by which the sages winning their desire ascend there where Truth has its supreme abode.”

Probably the most famous of the Upanishadic verses in the contemporary world. Satymaeva jayate * —Truth alone wins. And it goes on to re-emphasize by saying: * Satyameva jayate nānṛtaṃ satyena , Truth alone wins and not falsehood, not asatya . So, there is double emphasis. We will have to go very carefully and very attentively into this.

Is it your experience in your life, in the daily world, that Truth alone wins? Do you see that happening? How is it that the sages are emphatically—there is double emphasis—announcing here that nothing but the Truth is going to win and not falsehood? Let’s see.

Begin from the fundamentals. To whom are these things being said? To the mind, to the student, to the ego. The ego is the recipient of these words: Truth alone wins.

Now, the Truth is a chooser, a decision-maker at every point in its existence. Truth is one of the choices in front of the ego. The ego always has two choices, in a general way. Even if there are forty choices, they can be distilled down to two: thirty-nine choices can be bundled into one, false choices, and then there is the fortieth one. So, essentially it all boils down to just two choices.

So, the ego always has just two choices: the Truth and the false. Now, why does the ego choose the false as it does? Most of the times, the ego decides in favor of the false. Why? Look into your lives. Most of the choices that we make are false choices. Go exactly to the moment when that choice was made—why did you make that choice? Because it appears right, it appears true.

So, the ego, even when it is choosing the false, what is it that it is choosing in its own esteem? The Truth. The false pretending to be true—that’s what the ego is choosing.

So, it is a contest: the Truth versus the non-Truth. But it is a no-contest. Why? Because as far as the ego is concerned, even the false is masquerading as the Truth. So, if the Truth wins, the Truth has won, and even if the false wins, the Truth has won because the false cannot win on its own accord. If the false declares itself to be false, it won’t win.

To win, even the false has to falsely declare itself as the Truth. Even in the victory of falseness lies the victory of Truth.

In fact, in the victory of falseness is a greater victory of Truth, because now falseness has surrendered so deeply in front of the Truth that it is saying, “I admit I have no value, no currency on my own. So, sir, I will wear your face, I will borrow your name, I will steal your identity. And then I will go to the ego and say, ‘Hey there, I am the real deal! I am Truth—and I am truer than that Truth!’”

Remember, the false is not saying to the ego, “I am false”; the false is saying, “Not only am I the Truth, but I am truer than the other Truth.” And the real one just stands and smiles watching its great victory. Satyameva jayate . It says, “You are so feeble, you are so much defeated in advance that you cannot enter the contest displaying your right credentials. If you display who you are, you won’t even be allowed to enter the fray.”

In front of the ego, the choices are Truth 1 and Truth 2. The ego does not see anything as false. If something is seen as false, it would be rejected. Why? Because, mind you, the ego is a great lover of the Truth. In fact, the Truth has just one lover, and the name is ego; the ego desperately loves the Truth. We keep on vilifying it; we have only had vile things to say about the ego mostly. But the fact is that if there is one entity that loves the Truth to the core, it is the ego. Nobody else loves the Truth because there is nobody else except the Truth.

The ego is a great lover, but a foolish lover. The problem is not that the ego does not love; the problem is that it is delusional. In its great love, it keeps running hither and thither. It loves the Truth so much that it wants to survive to experience meeting the Truth. Does that not happen?

You are on your deathbed, let’s say. That’s going to happen, right? So, no point crossing fingers or anything; that’s anyway going to happen one day. You are on your deathbed, and the Beloved is about to come. What do you say then? “I want to hold on till He arrives.” That’s the ego. “I want to survive to see Him coming close to me. I don’t want to be dead before I meet Him.”

So, the ego wants to continue; the ego wants to be alive to meet the Truth. The only problem is that as long as the ego is alive, it cannot meet the Truth. And that’s why the ego frequently fails in meeting the Truth.

Look at her desire. It’s quite pretty, sweet, no? “I don’t want to die! Because if I die, who will be left to witness that moment, to enjoy that moment, to experience? I want to see the Truth right in front of my eyes. If I am dead, what will I see? The beloved will be here, I will no more be there. Such a waste!”

That’s the reason the ego does not choose the direct and simple path to the Truth: because the direct and simple path is that of annihilation of the ego. The ego says, “What is the point in attaining the Truth if I won’t even know that I have attained the Truth? The victory would have been attained, but I won’t be around to savor the victory. And I love victory so much that I just want to have one glimpse, you know. After that you can take me away. Is that too much to ask? Am I being too ambitious? All I want is to survive till that moment.” Seems like a pretty innocuous demand, no? Cute!

Maya is cute, cute is Maya ; not evil but cute. That’s the reason you fall for her. Had she been really evil, like a wretched witch or something, everybody would have simply avoided her. Who would take home a wretched witch? She is not evil, she is cute; that’s why we take her home. And that’s why she deserves redemption rather than demolition. She is not evil; why do you want to destroy her? Redeem her. She is misguided, misled, delusional. Help her. Don’t be so harsh on her.

Once I said, Maya is your pet monkey. Now, when you brought the thing home, the monkey, as your pet, didn’t you know that he is but a monkey? Now, when he goes around smashing your cookware and doing things with your things, you just blow up. Why? Instead, you develop the art of training the monkey. Doesn’t sound too nice—killing the monkey, or does it? “I killed my ego!” Why not have a surrendered monkey, rather? You and the monkey have a nice relationship, and now the monkey follows you. The monkey is no more a troublemaker. Won’t that be better?

So, the Truth has to win because there is nothing but the Truth. When you are seeing two roads in front of you, they are not really two. The false is not really false. Had it been really false and existent, then the Truth would have been negated because nothing exists except the Truth. If the false too exists, then the false is another kind of Truth. Now you have a rival to Truth.

So, the false does not really exist; it just appears as existent. And even when it appears to be existing, it does not say, “I am false”; it says, “You know, I too am the Truth. I am the original one. I am not a counterfeit thing; I am the real thing.” Like you have spurious medicines—what does it say on the label? All the same things that the original one does. That’s falseness.

Falseness, therefore, really does not exist. Its existence is false; its existence is non-existence.

Truth wins even when you choose the false because you have chosen the false in the hope of Truth, you have chosen the false because it looked like Truth. Truth wins in either condition. You choose the Truth? Truth has won. You do not choose the Truth? Truth has again won. Therefore, Satymaeva jayate .

So much for the Truth—but your story is different. This was the story from the side of the Truth. The Truth has comfortably won, whatever be the situations, whatever be your choice. Now, let’s look at what is happening at your end.

You cannot say, “Truth is anyway going to win, so let me keep making false choices,” because if you make false choices, then you will suffer. Truth will win, you will suffer. It will be a strange situation.

Truth is going to win without exception; the victory of Truth is predetermined, inevitable, but your redemption is not. You have to make the right choice.

So, you cannot take the liberty of choosing the false. You have to understand the situation. Even if you choose the false, Truth loses nothing—the Truth has still won, *Satymaeva jayate*—but you have lost out on much. Truth hasn’t lost anything, not a bit; but you are a big loser if you do not choose the straight, simple, direct route.

That’s the reason we see so much mischief and suffering in the world today. Even when all the dark forces are winning, even when there is so much violence, injustice and corruption of all kinds, Truth is losing nothing because there is injustice in the name of justice, because there is violence in the name of love and peace. Truth still reigns supreme, Truth has lost nothing. But you have lost much if you indulge in violence or injustice.

Therefore, just saying that Truth alone wins will not help you. As far as you are concerned, you have to ensure that you are continuously choosing the Truth. Keep choosing the Truth till you surrender the right to choose at all. There comes a point when you become so convinced and so experienced and so dextrous in choosing the Truth that your ability, your faculty to choose the false reduces to almost zero. You have to come to that point, that point of total choicelessness.

“I used to see two roads and I kept on choosing the right one. And now, after long, my condition is that I do not see two roads at all. Therefore, I have to choose nothing; my mind is choiceless. I see just one road.”

Look at the elation, the joy, and the relaxation: you are relieved from the burden of making any choice; you just simply live. There is just one road. There is no other road. The other options have all dissolved, like dreams in the light of sun.

That’s the purpose of life: to keep making the right choice again and again, to keep practicing in favor of the Truth till you come to a point when nothing but the Truth comes to you as an option. You are optionless now; there is no alternative. You are free.

This is a great freedom, freedom from choices. If there is no freedom from choice, then there can be no spontaneity in life. Because if there are choices, then you will require time to ponder over the choices, and if you require time, then life will elude you. Life will ask a question; you will have no spontaneous answer. You will say, “I need to think, I need to consider”—and the moment is gone, the question is gone. Now you have the next question, and again you are stuck. You say, “I always have four or five alternatives, and among these four or five alternatives, I need to have time to figure out the right one.”

The moment you ask for time, you miss out on the timeless.

This is the problem with seekers of security. They always want to have alternatives, choices. That’s what we call as security, right? “If plan A fails, I will have B, I will have C. I always have backups. This, this, this, this, this… If this does not work out, then I will go that way.”

The more you care for your security, the more you lose out on spontaneity because there can be no security without alternatives. And if you have alternatives, then you cannot live freely, you cannot be relaxed.

People think that by having alternatives they will feel more relaxed and secure and comfortable. The reality is totally different: deep relaxation and total security is possible only in a total lack of alternatives. In other words, you can be secure only when you have embraced total insecurity, when you say, “I don’t want to be secure. I have nothing within me that needs to be secured. I will give it up, I don’t need to secure it. The next moment comes, I am free to flow into it. I don’t have a baggage to take into the next moment; I have nothing to preserve, save or secure. I just flow.”

When you look at the Truth, Truth alone wins. When you look at your life, you have to very arduously, with great effort, concentration, and diligence, come to a point where Truth alone wins. Otherwise, this statement is not very useful to the regular state of the ego. The ego will keep on suffering, and the fact will be that the Truth has won. But how has that benefited the ego? The Truth has won irrespective of what the ego has chosen. The ego keeps on making all bad choices, and still the Truth has won—but the ego is suffering.

So, more important to you is making the right choice, ensuring moment by moment that the Truth does win. When it comes to the Truth, it is obvious that Truth alone wins, Satyameva jayate . When it comes to the ego, then you have to say, “Truth alone must win.” You get the subtle difference? Because, when it comes to the ego, from the ego’s side it is possible to make wrong choices. So, you have to say, “Truth alone must win.”

From your side, you can make a false choice in favor of the false; that’s what you want to cut out. So, you don’t say, “Truth alone wins”; you say, “Truth alone must win.” By saying that, you have obliged yourself to not make false choices. Or you could say, “I resolve to never let the false win, from my frame of reference, from my personal center. Though the false would never actually win in the absolute sense, I take it upon myself, for my own well-being, that I will never allow the false to become so lucrative to me that I ignore the Truth.” That’s what your position should be.

Is this clear? From the perspective of the absolute, the Truth anyway wins; but from your perspective, you can make an unfortunate wrong choice using your freedom of choice in favor of the false. So, more important to you is that you never choose the false, though the Truth would lose nothing even if you choose the false. The Truth is absolute, it is affected by nothing. You keep on making a thousand wrong choices—the Truth stands at its place. The entire world chooses the false—the Truth still shines at its own place. The Truth loses nothing. But the world will lose much if it chooses the false.

Satyameva jayate . From that side, it is always Satyameva jayate . But you will lose a lot.


Questioner (Q): So, there are always two choices: the Truth and the false masquerading as the Truth. How to know which of them is the right one?

AP: If there are two in front of you and both are claiming to be true, what do you do? You very well know that two Truths cannot coexist, right? If you really care, if you really love the Truth, then what do you do? Do you just randomly, casually make a choice? You defend your choice by saying, “But both sides were claiming to be the Truth, so I just randomly put my finger on one”—is that what you will say if you really care? Please, tell me. What will you do?

You have to buy a medicine for a loved one. You go to the shop and the pharmacist says, “The medicine that you want is available in these two brands; both are genuine.” And the doctor had cautioned you in advance: there exists only one genuine brand. Just as two Truths cannot exist, similarly this medicine comes in only one genuine brand. Now, what will you do? That pharmacist is telling you, “Both of these are original; you take either of these.” Will you randomly choose one? What will you do? You will enquire, you will investigate. You will do all that you can to figure out which one is the right one.

But you will be tempted—how? One of the brands is much cheaper than the other—much cheaper. And the pharmacist, too, is vouching for the cheaper one; probably he is getting a good cut. You are being tempted. The packaging is more luminous, brilliant, tempting on the cheaper brand. Not only that, the quantity that you want is available only in the cheaper brand; the other brand is available only in a small quantity. And the pharmacist is saying, “If you want the complete quantity, then you will have to wait, you will have to display patience.”

So, you are being given reason after reason to make a choice only in one particular direction, and you can fall for these reasons. Everything seems right with the cheaper brand—somebody is vouching for it, the packing seems right, it seems to be attested and certified and all those things. But remember, it is a matter of life and death. If you pick the wrong medicine, the result can be fatal. What will you do?

Q: Investigate.

AP: Then why don’t you do that?

When it comes to such crucial decisions in your life, why do you fall for the packaging? Why do you go for cheap stuff? Why do you start believing the sellers, the vendors, the hustlers, the pharmacists? Why? Have you not done that at so many points in your life? You needed to choose something that would be very critical and central to your life, right? And how did you choose it? By considering the packaging. “Wow, what a nice package!”

Now you know why Vedanta keeps reminding you that rūpa (form), āraṅga (acquisition, attainment) , nāma (name), ākāra (appearance, shape), are Maya . Do you see that now?

Enquire. There is no other way. Enquire, keep probing. The matter is so critical; don’t quickly come to a conclusion. Be open and be impartial; don’t be biased. Have control over your senses. The senses are saying, “But this appears so glittery, and it is cheap! Plus, the pharmacist is saying, ‘I will give you ten percent off!’” Your eyes and your ears and your mind are all ready to fall for the thing. That’s when your consciousness and your discretion should stay firm.

More often than not, the choice that appears right in the first go would not be right. So wait, reconsider, think.

See, where there is doubt, there you have hope of being saved. We are killed at places where we don’t doubt the enemy to be present. Doubt is a great thing. All your great troubles of today—check and validate what I am saying—would surely be coming from places you never dreamt could cause you trouble. They appeared very foolproof, safe, friendly, lovely, and lovable places; there was no chance, it never occurred to you, that your worst nightmares would rise from those positions, those things, those people, those actions. Is that not so? So, we are caught totally off guard, as they say, with our pants down.

Never be complacent. Belief is your enemy. Certainty is your exploiter. Never be too certain; there is nothing to be certain of. Only the Truth is certain—and Truth is not a thing you can be certain of. So, as far as the world is concerned, always have uncertainty: “Yes, probably, no.” Remember that day when we talked of Syādvāda in Jainism? That kind of openness.

When life slaps questions on your face, then anybody would know that great and daunting questions exist; now you can no more deny because those questions have been slapped right on your face. The intelligent thing is to question even when there seems to be nothing questionable. Everything appears hunky-dory, nice, well-settled, comfortable—that’s the moment you should question.

Q: What if I am arguing with someone who is obviously wrong and taking the side of the false? Wouldn’t uncertainty from my side be incorrect in that situation?

AP: No, your acceptance of uncertainty is the greatest respect you can show to the Truth. When you are confident of your position, then what you present to the other is not the reality but your confidence. You don’t even bother to talk properly; you don’t even bother to present your arguments in a detailed and nuanced way. All that you present to the others is a bold face, a confident facade: “I know, I know!” Now, there is fear hiding here.

There is much more courage when somebody questions your fundamentals and you say, “Fine, I am not being speculative, I am assuming nothing; let’s start from scratch, let’s thrash it out. Let’s see what you are saying; I am open about it. I am not saying I know in advance that you are a fool; I am not declaring my victory too soon. It is not victory that I love; I love the Truth.” When you say that you love victory so much, then you are definitely antagonizing the other person, because your victory is the other one’s defeat.

But mind you, your Truth is not the other person’s falseness; your Truth is everybody’s Truth. Truth is one.

Don’t seek victory. Seek Truth.

In discussions with people, in arguments with people, if you will seek victory, then you will only alienate everybody. When you discuss, seek Truth. Be co-questioners; be fellow travelers; be co-passengers. “Alright, you are saying something about something. I will not say that you have no right to question these things; I will not invoke some blasphemy law to shut you up. ‘How could you say something like this? You just questioned my great book! You just cast aspersions on my great teacher! This is not allowed! If you speak like this, if you will be disrespectful to my core beliefs, then I will slap you and leave the house!’” Doesn’t work.

Remember the distinction: Seek Truth, not victory. *Satyameva jayate*—the Truth is to win, not your personal self. And it requires courage to move towards the Truth. Not much courage is required in a loud and bloated declaration of your beliefs; much more courage is required in traveling with the other person in the middle of uncertainty.

“I am talking to you and I do not know what this discussion would lead to; I am prepared to take that uncertainty. But I have great faith in the Truth. If the Truth is one and this discussion is honest, this discussion too will lead to the same one Truth. Therefore, I am open to discussion. Till now, I reached the Truth through my path, but I know there can be an infinite number of paths. So, now I am prepared to accompany you on your path to the Truth. We just need to be honest. Even on your path, we will reach the same destination if there is honesty. But if you are biased against the Truth, then we will not reach anywhere. I don’t want to be biased in favor of my position; equally, I don’t want you to be biased in favor of your position. Let’s both drop our positions.” It requires courage, it requires guts.

So, drop your position. Talk like someone who doesn’t know. Question the fundamentals. Ask the most basic things, and answer the most basic things, because questions will flow from either side. Why must you be defensive when it comes to the right thing? If the thing is actually right, then stand bold without any armors.

You have theorems in mathematics, and we very well know that they can be proved in five different ways—and maybe five is an understatement; you can have fifty ways to prove a theorem. Till now, you have been proving it using your own way, and the proof has been definitely correct, we are not denying that. But why not reach the same theorem using somebody else’s way? If the theorem is indeed factual, then whichever way you pick, you will come to the same thing. Be confident.

Q: Is it right to say that the false option masquerading as the Truth is Maya ?

AP: No, no, no. Maya is the very apparition of choices. There exist no choices really because there are no two Truths. But the apparition of choices, the feeling that you indeed have a choice, that you have a free will to choose—that is Maya . Now, it is of two types: If you exercise the right choice, it takes you to Rama; if you exercise the wrong one, it takes you to naraka , hell.

Maya is not the wrong choice; choice itself is Maya . Because, if you say wrong choice is Maya and the right choice is not Maya , there is a problem. If the right is still a choice for you, then that which is being chosen today can be unchosen tomorrow. Even if you are making the right choice, there is still a great danger because the right has come to you via your choice. There is a problem here.

When the right comes to you via your choice, then your choice is bigger than the right thing: you decided in favor of the right thing, so the right thing came to you. Tomorrow, you can decide against the right thing. And because your choice, your decision is the biggest thing according to you, therefore you would be losing out on the Truth anytime by deciding against it.

Freedom from Maya is only when there is freedom from choice itself. “I don’t have to think. I am not saying that yeah, I will do what you say. Not that I will do what you say; I do what you say.” The will part is deleted. “Will itself is just an apparition, a phenomenon, a phantom. So, what do I do? I strike out will. There is no will. Will indicates choice. So, I won’t say, ‘I will follow what you say’; I am saying, ‘I follow what you say, like a law of nature.’” It happens this way; there are no exceptions. You say, “I follow.” No exceptions.

But that’s the last thing. No choice, no thought—last thing. Before that, you are doomed to have choices. Since you are doomed to have choices, you better exercise the right one.

Q: How can we really discern that the choice we are making is the right one?

AP: No, you can never be hundred percent sure; you can only do your best. How do you do your best? By challenging your confidence and complacency again and again. Obviously, you cannot keep challenging yourself for an infinite time, because there has to come a point when consideration has to make way for action. But the thing is to reconsider as much as possible, to never be too sure, to never put a lid of finality on the inner churning. And then after that, you can just pray that you have made the right decision.

Irrespective of how hard you try and how careful you are, there would definitely be instances when you would be fooled, when you would go in favor of the false taking it to be the true. Such things would happen, and then you have to take them in your stride; you can’t avoid, you can only minimize the possibility. Questioning is very important. Being alert to facts is very important. Never say that decisions are final.

Let’s say you take the wrong road by mistake. Keep your eyes and ears open. There would be telltale signs, indicators, symptoms. Why do you want to go to sleep? Why do you want to hand over the car to the autopilot or some driver and then snore away? You have just made a decision, and you know fully well that you are not hundred percent certain of the decision. So, keep looking around. “Have I made the right decision? What is it along the road? If I am going to the right destination, then why are all these wrong places coming in between? If I am moving towards the pinnacle of Truth, how come the road is passing through such wretched and dirty places?” You are just asking. Maybe the route is right, the choice is correct; maybe it is not. Being alert, being curious will help.

The thing is to be always skeptical of yourself. We are programmed to make the wrong choices; therefore, if you are making choices, there is a high probability that it is not the right choice. Our basic programming is in favor of the false, so it is foolish to be confident of your choices.

The wrong choice will come to you by default. The right choice will come to you only when you have worked hard, been honest, and displayed patience. So, you will have to display a lot of great qualities before the right choice comes to you; the wrong choice comes automatically. Now, tell me, in general, which of these two choices is more probable? Obviously the wrong one. Therefore, it is foolish to be confident of your choices. Always be a bit skeptical—more than a bit skeptical.

Maya has a way to fool everybody. Don’t underestimate her.

Q: Even though I have been questioning and carefully making my choices in my journey, I still end up making wrong choices; I just move farther and farther away from the Truth. Does one wrong choice lead to the next wrong choice?

AP: Yes. That’s why one has to be very careful at all points: because having made a bad decision, making the next decision otherwise, in the right way, will be even more difficult.

So, for your own sake, avoid making a series of bad decisions. The farther you go down the wrong road, the more difficult you will find to take a U-turn. So, first of all, avoid going too far down the wrong road. At the same time, I always say, at any point in your journey, it is possible to take a U-turn. You cannot change your past, but this moment you have the power to exercise a better choice, take a U-turn, right turn, left turn, whatever.

You know how bad choices sustain themselves? By telling you that if you do not make one more bad choice, then you will lose out on all the bad things you had chosen in the past. So, in the past you have chosen one bad thing after the other, made one bad choice after the other—it’s a succession of bad choices, it has filled your life up with clumsy and worthless things—and then comes the occasion to make the next choice; and you are about to reverse the trend, break the pattern and make a different choice this time, the right one, and now you feel threatened. Now you are threatened: If you do not make a similar choice this time once more, then you will lose out on everything that you had accumulated so far. So, keep paying.

It is a bit like having bought a rubbish insurance policy and you have paid the premium for twenty years, and now you have discovered that the policy is junk. In the twenty-first year you are about to discontinue the policy, and what does the insurance agent tell you? “If you discontinue it now, then all the premium that you had paid for the last twenty years will go waste.” And you say, “What an argument! Yes, that’s right. Why didn’t I think about it? I have already paid for twenty years; now, if I don’t pay this year, what will happen to all that money?” So, you pay for the twenty-first year.

Then comes the twenty-second year; you are again internally reminded that the policy is junk. Again the agent shows up and says, “You know, sir, you have paid up for twenty-one years now. If you don’t pay up for the twenty-secondth year the twenty-secondth time, then your money, blood, and sweat of twenty-one years goes waste.” And you say, “Yes, of course.”

Bad choices have a certain momentum; they want to extend themselves into the future.

So, when that shrewd agent makes such arguments, don’t buy them easily. Instead say, “Sir, those twenty installments or premiums are anyway dead money. They do not exist; they are not real. They exist only in my memory. The fact is, that money is no more with me; that money has already gone to a junkyard, to a wastebin. What has that money gone into? Something very wasteful. So, is that money even alive today? If that money is not alive today, what am I defending?” In management jargon it is called sunk cost: it’s gone, you cannot retrieve it, you cannot bring it back to life. But, in its memory, in its perusal, you can lose even more money.

That’s how we make one bad choice after the other. Like you have in the horror flicks, no? So, there is this old creepy villa in some godforsaken jungle, and there is thick fog, and there are these friends, three men and three women—I don’t know how they are camping in that old bungalow or villa—and some two-thousand-year-old guard of that villa comes and warns them: “After 8 p.m., nobody is to step out!” And these are, supposedly, young people; they don’t give any consideration to his warning.

So, one of the chaps says, “Oh, I am going till the jeep park outside, I have to fetch something.” And he goes out and he is, obviously, carried away by the creepy thing. And then the next one comes out to look for the first one. You would have seen this story repeated in a thousand and one horror flicks, right? And then this one comes out and he says, “Hey, where are you? Where are you?” and then one dead hand from the grave rises and pulls this one in.

And then these two are now gone for a long time; their girlfriends are wondering. So, two of the girls decide to venture out and bring back their boyfriends, it is getting late in the night—and then you know what happens to these two—and the remaining one couple is making merry. After several rounds of making merry, they suddenly remember that everybody else is gone, so they too come out to make merry while searching for everybody else, and then they too are gone.

It’s an old pattern—in haunted movies and haunted lives. That’s the reason why we love scary movies: because we live scary lives. The same things that we see there are anyway always happening in our lives: mistake on top of the previous mistake, one mistake leading to the other mistake, a new mistake backed by the previous mistake, a new mistake defended by the previous mistake. So, then somebody asks you, “But why are you making this fresh mistake?” Because the old ones have to be defended. That kind of stupidity.

Never defend your dead investments. Just drop them; they were anyway never yours. That money does not exist. Forget it. You never had that money. If you do not forget it, then pursuing the dead you will lose even that which is alive. It’s a very familiar argument, no? “But why are you so weak?” “Because I used to be weak!” (Chuckles)

Never allow your past to become an apology for your wretched present. The past really does not exist.

Q: So, you gave this example of twenty years of monetary investment, of having a faulty insurance which you just keep paying year after year. The same example would work also for relationships, right? You might be with someone and just keep hanging around, waiting for something to change, while nothing in reality is ever going to change.

AP: I see what you are saying. It is difficult, but you have to acknowledge the truth. There used to be a relationship once. It really was founded on very false principles, but at least it had some warmth in the initial years. It was false, but still warm. Today it continues to be as false as it always was; additionally, it has lost the warmth as well. Now what’s there?

What great intelligence is there in trying to secure a corpse? There used to be a plant; it didn’t have very deep roots, it died. And what are you doing? Fencing the dead thing even more astutely. What is it that you are trying to protect with that fence? There is nothing there. Why not make space for a new sapling, a new seed?

One has to come to that moment of reckoning, that moment in which it becomes impossible to deny the truth. Otherwise, we are masters at self-deception. That moment is needed, that moment in which you are defenseless, and the truth is so loud and so much in your face that you can no longer argue against it. You see what the reality is, and you can’t pretend. Till the time you do not come to that moment, you will keep yourself busy with some stupid effort or the other. There is hurt in coming to that moment, but mind you, there is no hurt in that moment.

So, if you have to come to that moment, come soon and come fast. All the hurt lies in postponing that moment. You are postponing the inevitable and just prolonging your own misery. Better come to it ASAP, no? How long do you want to keep a dead body home? That’s why you have rituals. Maybe the person was a deeply loved one, but now all that remains is a mortal remains. How long are you allowed to even keep it home? A few hours, a day at most, and then you consign it to the flames.

And when I say relationships—in fact you said relationships—I want to broaden the context: this should include your relationship with yourself also. You kept thinking of yourself in a certain way till now. There has to come a moment when you realize that your self-image is totally false. There has to come a moment of utter helplessness; now you cannot carry yourself anymore any longer. You will have to drop yourself. You will have to surrender to your destiny.

And the more you delay it, the more it will hurt. Don’t delay it. Difficult? Bear it! I am not saying it is not difficult; it is difficult. Learn to bear it. Be a man, not a sissy.

Q: Is there a practical way of determining whether a particular choice is correct or not?

AP: You have to be constantly vigilant regarding the fruits of your choice. It is like this: You do not know whether you have taken the right road, so what do you do? You don’t just accelerate to 120 and go off to sleep. Do you do that? No, you keep your speed slow and you keep asking various people; you keep looking for negations and confirmations; you keep taking several opinions. That’s what the seeker of Truth does. He does not lul himself into complacency; he remains vigilantly a seeker.

Q: One of the examples you use a lot is of a faulty GPS which is not giving you the right directions, but still you somehow keep believing that the GPS is working correctly, and you do not bother to ask the people around whether you are on the right road or not. And we have seen this happening again and again in real life; the GPS sometimes does give us a wrong direction.

AP: Correct. It is important to take yourself as precious. You are not to be wasted away. Your effort, your time have a certain meaning. You cannot allow the GPS thing to lead you astray and take away an hour from your life. So, when you have this self-love, then you care for your time, then you care deeply for your choices; you don’t just plunge into anything random. You exercise caution and discretion, patience, forbearance.

Q: Just as we have wrong choices form a vicious circle, can we have virtuous choices form a virtuous circle?

AP: Yes. Well said. That’s true. If you can make it some kind of a habit to keep choosing the right, then making each successive right choice keeps becoming easier and easier. That’s what ultimately leads to choicelessness. You keep making right choices more and more easily as you move through the series, the sequence of choices. That’s true.

Therefore, do not wait, do not delay it. The more you delay making the right one, the more difficult the right one would become for you. Start early, and early is right now. You can’t go into the past to start early, right? So what does “start early” mean? Right now.

So, the verse goes on to say, “By Truth was stretched out the path of the journey of the gods, by which the sages winning their desire ascend there where Truth has its supreme abode.”

“By Truth was laid out the victorious path of the gods”—what does that mean? Choosing the Truth is what turns you into a god, ‘god’ indicating deva or devata here, ‘god’ with a small ‘g’. Godliness is nothing but the willingness to keep choosing the Truth a thousand times in succession, without a gap, without getting bored of the Truth, without seeking a distraction or entertainment, without asking for a getaway or a break. Thousand successive right choices—that’s what godliness means.

“By Truth was laid out the victorious path of the gods.” The gods chose the Truth and that’s what laid out the path for them. And as long as they keep choosing the Truth, the path remains intact and beautiful. But even the gods falter sometimes, and then they have to rush to higher gods and seek help, and you know of the stories.

“…by which the sages winning their desire ascend there where Truth has its supreme abode.”

It is through this path that the sages travel to their final destination, to their supreme abode. What is the path? The path consists of an infinite number of points on which right choices have been made. It’s a continuous curve with no disruption, no discontinuity in between; continuous, continuous, continuous, continuous. This is the path of the gods. This is the path of the sages. This is the path that leads man to his highest potential, the final destination.

“I will choose the Right without exception. I will deny myself the freedom to un-choose the Right. I surrender my right to choose anything but the Right. That which I used to call as my personal free will stands surrendered to the only one who is truly free.”

Free will is not free will at all if instead of freedom it leads to bondages, right? So, free will is free only if it leads to the one who is free—the One, the only free one, also known as the Truth.

“I will not empower any deviating thoughts; I will not be sympathetic towards any feeling of self-pity”—because the path of Truth involves sacrifice. And then you can invoke self-pity to at least occasionally choose the false: “You know, I have sacrificed so much; now don’t I have the license to enjoy myself, make merry for a while, at least once or twice?”

“I will not allow myself the privilege of this dastardly argument. I will be one-pointed, committed, and extremely repetitive”—repetitive like the Truth, you know. The Truth repeats itself because there are no exceptions—in one sense, you know. In another sense, the Truth is never repetitive.

So, it is a marathon. You have to keep running, and you have to keep running endlessly. You have to keep running endlessly till you end.

Q: In yesterday’s session, you said that the intention is the most important thing and that shows up in your questions regarding liberation. On the other hand, at another time you have said that intentions do not matter, but intelligence does. So, what comes first, intelligence or intention?

AP: Intention comes. But that intention, if it is truly honest, would use all resources at its disposal, no? If I say that I have a deep intention to, let’s say, reach a particular city, but I am unable to do anything because my car is unavailable today, is my intention honest? If I truly intend to reach that city, I will use all my might, all my resources; I will do anything that I can do.

One of the greatest resources that you have is your intelligence, the ability to understand and deeply understand. Intention is a blind pull. The ‘I’-tendency itself is another name for just an intention, the intention to meet the Truth, the intention to be dissolved. But if this intention is not using intelligence, if this intention remains separable from intelligence, then this intention is just false.

You see, what is the difference between ego that sublimates and ego that remains rotting? We said the ego always loves the Truth; there is no greater lover of Truth than the ego, no? But then, one kind of ego manages to ascend high, to great heights; another kind of ego just keeps wallowing in its own dirt and filth. What’s the difference? The difference lies in the proclivity, the readiness to use intelligence.

Without intelligence, you can just keep saying, “I love the Truth, I love the Truth,” and parallelly keep choosing the false. “I love the Truth, and here I choose the false. Why? Because I am not intelligent enough.” But intelligence is something that you have to invoke. Intelligence is something that you have to summon and practice. Without intelligence, intention means nothing. At the same time, intention is the first thing because the ‘I’-tendency itself is the first thing.

So, when I say, “Do you even have the intention?” what I mean is: “Do you even have the right intention?” The intention is always there, but sometimes the intention is more worried about preserving itself than attaining the Truth. You ask anybody, irrespective of who they are, where they come from, etc., and they will say, “Yes, we love freedom. Yes, we love the Truth.” So, the intention is there in everybody.

Then why do some people reach and others don’t? Because some people love themselves more than the Truth, and when you love yourself more than the Truth, then all that you get is yourself. Those who love the Truth more than themselves say, “The Truth is supreme, and in pursuing the Truth, in pursuing freedom, I will do everything that is needed to be done. I will apply thought, I will apply memory, I will apply intelligence.”

Devotion without understanding is totally blind, and understanding without devotion is totally dry. Neither of them is going to succeed. Devotion here is a synonym for intention. So, the right intention will necessarily involve intelligence.

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