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Our two deepest tendencies || Acharya Prashant, on Vedanta (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
21 मिनट
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Acharya Prashant (AP): Two favorite tendencies of the ego are being called out, discounted, exposed as false. What are those two tendencies or inclinations?

The first one is ‘sambhūti’ – and remember that while the ego is being addressed, the aim is the Immeasurable as we said – so the ego is being told that if you want to get rid of the suffering that comes with all the finiteness and the limits that you have, then you have to proceed towards that which is something totally different from you, beyond you and unless it is totally different from you, obviously there can be no freedom from suffering because in your current state even in an expanse of your current state, even in each and every state that is related to your current state, there is bound to be finiteness and measurability.

All the states that you can think of or experience are in your own domain and expressible therefore in words. Which means that every state that you can talk of or experience will involve suffering for you because it will be in your own domain and in your own domain lies your suffering. Therefore the beyond has to be expressed as ‘That’ or ‘It’. No name has been given. No name has been given simply – “It is different, they say, from becoming, it is different, they say, from non-becoming.”

You have to understand why the Upanishads so respectfully desist from pulling that infinite Truth within the little maze of their verbal expanse; very respectfully they keep away. They say: we may not know the Infinite but for sure we know that it is beyond us. And we know how little we are; of that we have become quite certain. Knowing our littleness we do not feel entitled at all to even call You by a name; let alone touch You.

Do you see the degree of reverence? I respect You so much that I do not have the authority or the right to even call You by the most decorated or venerated name and that's the minimum respect, I can offer you. The moment I start calling You even in the most respectful of ways, it is just self-aggrandization on my part. So I very meekly, very subtly just point towards You and no more. What is that then I can confidently talk about?

Not You, not You; You are just too big for me and too sacred. My eyes, my expression, my language, they start shivering, they start going powerless when it comes to You. So it's not You that I am going to talk of. I am rather going to talk of that which can be talked of, which is little small, knowable and that is me. So the world says, ‘no, no, if you think, you can reach that by affirmation – ‘sambhūti’ – that won't happen. Who is being addressed here? The little self.

Little self – if you think you can reach there by negation or demolition even that won't happen and these are the two favorite tendencies of the little self that we referred to a while back. We like to say, this is not true, that is not true and we revel in that. The ego feels gratified. What does the ego say? “I have come to know what is false and I am powerful; I am knowledgeable. I have the faculty to locate falseness. Call it out; I can demolish; I have the sword.”

The sage is telling the ego, “ This alone won't help". Why won't this help? Because of two reasons: first is, who is calling stuff as false? – You. Are you so sure of your own trueness that you will be able to absolutely call out the false as false; to some extent you may succeed but then how can you shoot accurately at the target, if the lens of your gun is distorted? Or can you? In the case of a gun the lens is a little outside of you. When it comes to one's own life in this world, the lens is very much within oneself. And if the lens is unclean or distorted, then you will not even know what you are shooting at, what is it that you want to pull down – that is one reason.

And the second reason is even if you somehow manage to call out the false as false, how will you survive? Because in your own eyes, you are still the ego; you are the little ‘I' dealing with the world, so the world does appear to you. It's not that you have dissolved; you do exist. You are existing but you are calling your entire ecosystem as false; now how will you survive? And survival is your nature because you are basically immortal. To be immortal is to survive indefinitely. Right? But how will you survive? You are still the small ego and you have called out your life as false, relationship as false, the world as false, thoughts and ideas as false, day and night as false, in and out as false – all this is false – if all this is gone, what will happen to you?

And that question is relevant because you are still small and what is the proof that you are still small? The proof is that you are still interested in calling the false as false. The Truth has no interest left in anything. Because for the Truth, nothing exists at all. For you, stuff exists even if it exists only to the extent of being called out but still it does exist. And having pulled down everything, having cut everything apart what will you do now?

I'll tell you what the ego does usually in such situations. It goes back to its old world. Having seen that there is just too much pain in leaving the false behind, the ego becomes such a sufferer, that it accepts the false back into its life. Loneliness haunts and hurts. One starts saying, “Well, even if all that were false, it at least gave me company. Even company of false is preferable to having no company at all. How greatly I suffer in my loneliness.” And that is the fate of all the seekers who are very quick to demolish but shy away from affirmation. Are you getting it?

So these are the ones who will fail because we said – there are two reasons. The first reason is they will not be able to demolish properly; their lens itself will be unclean. And the second reason is even if they are able to demolish a lot, they will start feeling so lonely, that they will slip back into their old world.

And what happens to those who believe only in sambhūti – which is affirmation. They affirm greatly – this is the second tendency of the ego – they affirm greatly but what are they affirming? They take something as existent; they put a lot of trust and belief in it. For example: they may repeatedly say, “Yes! I will live by the Truth. Yes! I am surrendered to my god” – but what is it that they have not done? They haven't gone through the testing and fiery process of asambhūti – which is demolition. So without going through demolition, they are very keen to affirm as most devoted believers are.

Look at the psyche of the usual devoted, religious person. There is not much of negation or avol [incomprehensible word (16:08)] that he has done. He continues with the usual life; he does not discard it. And continuing with his usual life which is patently false, he also goes to the temple or church and says, “God, I trust you so much" – now this is sambhūti without asambhūti. So indeed you are a trusting mind but what is it that you are trusting? If you haven't yet negated the false then all your trust will be in the false. Even your god will just be a means to secure your false world and isn't that what we usually use our gods for? – “Oh my god, kindly keep my false world secured.” – Have you ever seen somebody praying in a temple: “God, I want a total annihilation of my entire world.” – is that what we say to our gods? No. So what are our gods for then? They are there to secure our falseness. Obviously this route – the sage is telling the disciple – is not going to lead to the Truth. Neither sambhūti nor asambhūti – what is sambhūti – affirmation – what is asambhūti – denial or demolition or repudiation or negation. None of this two is going to work in isolation.

Should we recap? Why is asambhūti not going to work on its own? Because for all your good intentions, you are still the small ego – who are you. Your intention is to call out the false as false – great intention, respectable – but look at yourself, how will you do it? You want to stay away from everything - let's say, that is impure – but how will you know, what is pure and what is not?

You want to stay away from everything that is time bound but how will you know what is time bound and what is not – to some extent you may know. But who is the agency that knows? Look at the knowing agency, the knowing agency is itself a product of all that it wants to declare as false.

Where do you come from? I want to call all this as [false] and where do I come from? From all this. Since I come from all this, therefore internally I too carry a lot of [falseness] . So even if consciously I have the intention to break free of falseness, still within me sits a lot of falseness.

And it is through that falseness that I am trying to get rid of falseness. My eyes, my mind, my entire inner equipment is carrying falseness, at least partially. And it is through the use of this equipment that I am intending to shoot down all the falseness outside. First of all, it will be very difficult; secondly, even if it happens, the falseness within me will start yelling and crying.

You know, there was this warden; I know of him. Not quite a story though I will spice it up. So, there were reports that the students keep wandering outside the hostel and there were some incidents. A few of them would keep loitering till wee hours of the night, almost till sunrise and missed the classes the next day and some were found smoking things at 2 am and such things were happening. In general there was a lot of wastage of time. So the warden, first of all, warned the students, “Don't do this. Why are you wasting your time.”

Students didn’t listen. So the warden got enraged one night. He found that practically half the hostel was wandering outside even at 1 am. So he put up a notice and what did the notice say, that tomorrow onwards at midnight the hostel gates would be locked – this actually happened – And he said, “we are going to follow this practice for the next two weeks and exceptions can be allowed but you will have to first come and ask me. Then I will allow you and then you can go out.”

So fine! The students started queuing up outside his door and those days there were no mobile phones. So technology really could not be used for this purpose and the students had a lot of reasons and excuses, really genuine excuses as to why they had to be out at that moment(smile). And they would come with their little applications and the hostel had 400 students; more than 100 applicants turned up the very first night and remember it is midnight and the warden is a married man and the students are all there and students are just following the notice. The notice says, “ If you want to go out, then you have to take my permission.” And it is now 2:30 am and the warden is still disposing the applications and the next morning, there was another notice, “ I mean, I have read your applications, it seems the hostel is quite a mature lot and the previous notice stands withdrawn.”

Do you see what happens, you may have the best of intentions to curb the false but who is going to curb the false? You. You are the equipment. Is the equipment perfect? No. The equipment too has it’s own needs and desires and intentions. The warden started feeling sleepy and he said, “ If I want to curb this menace then I will have to bear this kind of routine everyday. Because these fellows will line up. And how do I say that nobody is going to be allowed to go because there can be important reasons.

Somebody might say that he has some assignment to finish and for that he must meet the fellow in the next hostel. And he has to be allowed to go, otherwise he cannot submit the assignment. Somebody might say that he has to go to the computer center or somebody might just say that he needs to go out to get some pills, some medicines.” So waivers have to be allowed and if you have to allow waivers then you have to stay awake. And the warden says, “ I am not going to bear all this.” So the very same old system returns – this is how our life operates.

Even if we want to do something great, even if we want to push out the false from our life, the cost of pushing it out is often so unbearable that after a while, after a first successful attempt, we give in. We say, fine! So far and no more. So much and no more. And it is not as if I didn't try; I did. The warden has earned a bit of self-righteousness. He will say, “ Look at the other hostels; their wardens aren't doing even this much. I at least put up a valiant attempt. I at least tried to restrict these folks from wandering here and there. But then if I have to really restrict them, then I will have to be awake till 3 am every day. No, that's not possible.” Are you getting it? That's how our attempts fail.

This is the fate of those who go only by asambhūti – the sword of demolition – I'll demolish everything. You are demolishing everything but the real little evil is lurking within and smiling. He is saying, ‘do whatever you want to do. The real problem lies within.’ Yes, it is great if one can sanitize his environment; it's great if one can take care of the problems outside but that won't help beyond a point and also that won't continue beyond a point because you are to do it. You won't afford it beyond a point. Getting it?

As far as the ones who believe in sambhūti – what is sambhūti? Affirmation – what is affirmation? God ‘is’ or Truth ‘is’ and I am moving towards that God, that Truth – sambhūti. As far as sambhūti is concerned, this is an even more harmful way; the way of sambhūti alone. And the Upanishad says it very clearly, he says, “ Those who live by asambhūti alone, enter darkness and those who live by sambhūti alone, enter darkness yet deeper.” Do you get this? Those who live by demolition are at least able to bring some kind of cleanliness into their lives. Right?

They are demolishing stuff; it's another matter that their demolition can never be complete or perfect and their demolition comes with a lot of loneliness because you are turning everything away. So how do you feel now? Oh, there is nobody to give me company. But worse than these sufferers of loneliness are the believers. The believers are worse than the non-believers. Why are the believers worse off? Because they believe in their personal god. And what is their personal god? An agent of wish-fulfillment. Yes! god is and they think that by constantly devoting themselves to their god, they'll be able to reach the Truth or liberation. They do not see what is it, they are devoting themselves to. What are they devoting themselves to? Their own images, their own fancies as we said people do in all places of worship.

So neither of these methods is going to work and then the Upanishads says, “Whoever knows becoming and destruction – both of them, together – by destruction crosses over death and by becoming reaches immortality.” – these two have to be known together – negation and affirmation; or you could say, discretion and faith, vivek and shradhā . You need vivek to turn away the false; you need shradhā to be devoted to the real thing. Unless you have both of these in your life, you will meet the fate that the Upanishad wants off – you will fall into a deep dark place. You need both of these. You need to have the sharpness to cut through falseness and you need to have the utter simplicity to be devoted to the Truth. Are you getting it? And these two come together at some point. Are you getting it?

See, when you start off as a seeker, what's your state? You are a contaminated mass seeking purity or Truth – that's your state; now you are starting off. In this state when you are demolishing, how sharp is a demolition? Not very sharp because the agency itself is contaminated. Equally in this state when you are declaring faith in something, how pure is that thing? Not very pure because the one declaring faith is himself quite impure – so this is the situation as you start off.

What you are putting away is not really all that, that needs to be put away and that which you are devoting yourself to is not precisely that which is worthy of being devoted to – that is your state. Now there is improvement, gradual improvement if you continue with both these things parallely as the Upanishad is recommending. If you continue with these together, what happens now – so now these are coming together in the sense that now your rejection has a certain sharpness about it. You know precisely what to reject and what not to and because you know more precisely what to reject and what not to, therefore your devotion also has a sharpness now. You know what to be devoted to. And then it comes to a meeting point – these two things – the processes of sambhūti and asambhūti.

And what is the meeting point? In the meeting point the one who was demolishing has become so clean and clear that even the impurity inside him has been demolished. The process of demolition has reached completion by becoming an inward process. When he started off, what is it that he was declaring as false all the time – this and that. And as he has progressed through his journey or his seeking or his sadhana, it has come to a point when he is not so much interested in declaring the world as false but has gained an inner penetration that has cleansed him from within that has cleansed out all the falseness within himself - that's his state. And consequently how has his devotion changed – now because he is inwardly no one, therefore now the object of his devotion is nobody.

When you start with the process of faith, then you require a gross object to put your faith in. Because who are you? – gross from within, therefore you require a gross object to put your faith in. Now the process of asambhūti, which is demolition, is continuing, so what is happening to you from inside – you are becoming lighter and cleaner. Therefore what is happening to the object of your faith? The object of your faith too is becoming lighter and cleaner more subtle, more subtle. So at this point where the processes of sambhūti and asambhūti merge, the faithful one also merges with the object of his faith.

This one who was having faith in something outside of himself by coming towards this meeting point of sambhūti and asambhūti has found that the object of the faith has now converged with the subject of faith – object and subject have become one. Equally on this side, the one who was demolishing everything outside of himself has now used that same sword of demolition to end his own existence. So here too the object being demolished and the subject being demolished have become one. How? The sword that was cutting through everything has ended his own life. In other words the sword has cut through itself – the subject and the object have become one.

When the process started, the sword was attacking this and that; when the process comes to a completion, the sword is attacking itself. On this side there has been this kind of a convergence and on this side, here the object of your faith was outside of you and now the object and subject have merged. So there is a four way convergence. Are you getting it? Asambhūti, sambhūti have merged and the objects of sambhūti and the objects of asambhūti too have merged into that one common point – that you can call as Yog.

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