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Purify the doer and the deeds will be set right || On Mundaka Upanishad (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
47 min
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न चक्षुषा गृह्यते नापि वाचा नान्यैर्देवैस्तपसा कर्मण वा । ज्ञानप्रसादेन विशुद्धसत्त्वस्ततस्तु तं पश्यते निष्कलं ध्यायमानः ॥

na cakṣuṣā gṛhyate nāpi vācā nānyairdevaistapasā karmaṇa vā jñānaprasādena viśuddhasattvastatastu taṃ paśyate niṣkalaṃ dhyāyamānaḥ

Eye cannot seize, speech cannot grasp Him, nor these other godheads; not by austerity can he be held nor by works: only when the inner being is purified by a glad serenity of knowledge, then indeed, meditating, one beholds the Spirit indivisible.

~ Verse 3.1.8

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Acharya Prashant (AP): “Eye cannot seize, speech cannot grasp Him, nor these other godheads; not by austerity can he be held nor by works: only when the inner being is purified by a glad serenity of knowledge, then indeed, meditating, one beholds the Spirit indivisible.”

This is a very recurring theme across the various Upanishads. I am immediately reminded of the Kena Upanishad as I recite this particular verse.

The eyes go looking for Him, and fail. The speech tries to describe Him—fails. The ears try to hear of Him, and fail. And then, obviously, the mind tries to think of Him, grasp Him, and fails. That’s the Kena Upanishad . “He is the ear of the ears, He is the eye of the eyes, He is the mind of the mind.”

Much the same theme, in fact in much the same words, is being reiterated here. It is as if it is something so important that it cannot be over-emphasized. It is as if it is something so beautiful that the seers are never fed up of it. There is something eternal and of magnificent value in these utterances.

“Eye cannot seize, speech cannot grasp Him, nor these other godheads; not by austerity can he be held nor by works.”

So, the verse, as is typical of the Upanishads, begins with negation. The eyes fail, the ears fail, the mind fails, works fail, austerities fail; even the various godheads, the devatas , even they fail. What is common amongst all these entities that fail? They are material. And…?

You need to probably go back to Niralamba Upanishad we were discussing day before yesterday. The student had asked: What is karma , what is action? And how did the seer respond? Everything that is an activity of the senses is to be called as karma , action.

So, among all these entities that are described as trying and failing, what is common is action; they are doing something. The eyes are trying through their gift of vision. The godheads, they are said to have supernatural powers; they are symbolic in the Upanishadic context.

The Upanishads do not believe in anything supernatural. All is just Prakriti (physical nature)—what do you mean by ‘supernatural’? All that exists, all that is comprehensible through the senses, all that can be thought of, is just Prakriti . So, there is nothing supernatural in Vedanta.

So, what are the gods in Vedanta? Just higher mental faculties. They are representations of your own mental powers taken to an unusual degree, and given fancy names. That’s godheads in the Upanishadic context.

So, mind fails. When it is said that all the gods are failing, what is being said is that even the best faculties of the mind are failing; even the best reaches of the mind are insufficient. The mind acts—even the most refined, powerful, sublime action of the mind is insufficient. Austerities—we perform austerities; austerities, too, are actions. They fail.

All that the self does in its multifarious ways, capacities, facets, fails. It is not about efforts or actions of one type failing; action per se is failing. And that’s why various possible types of actions are here bracketed together: so that you see that it is not about any one, specific type of action that fails.

Had the sage said, “The eyes cannot seize him,” you would probably have taken refuge in the thought that maybe the ears can hear of him. That’s why the sage needs to discount both eyes and ears simultaneously. Had the sage said, “The eyes and the ears are incapable of reaching Him” and stopped there, you would have comfortably gone on to assume that maybe the ordinary powers of eyes and ears are insufficient, but the extraordinary powers of extraordinary heights of the mind—represented by the gods—will suffice.

So, in one majestic sweep of the holy arm, the sage repudiates, discounts, negates just everything. He says, “It is not about the eyes, it is not about the ears; it is not about the mind’s common intelligence or uncommon intelligence; it is not about unholy acts or the holiest of acts; it is not about dama (self-control), śama (quelling, soothing), tapas , austerities, sacrifices. Irrespective of the type of action, the action will fail.”

The Rishi is actually delivering a blunt blow to hope. He wants to redeem you of all kinds of hope in toto; otherwise, the mind is quite dextrous at keeping itself alive hoping that the next attempt in the next way is probably going to succeed. And ways there are so many, which means that you have the freedom to keep failing endlessly, because the ways are endless. You fail in ninety-nine ways—you can still be headstrong enough to console yourself saying that the hundredth attempt is going to be different and therefore successful.

Do you see why the motivation industry is so evergreen, always? Because we don’t want to give up hope; because we want to keep believing, we have a stubborn stake there that we have not failed. “A particular type of attempt has failed; if I try again in another way, with better skills, with more energy, with more knowledge, then I am going to succeed.” We said that’s a recipe for endless continuation of failures—because you will never have enough.

Irrespective of how many times you have been punched in the face by life, there would always be that one more possibility left somewhere in the corner: “Well, I have tried almost everything, right? I have tried almost everything.” But there still remains that faint glimmer of hope: “Now I will try that particular way. You know, in all my past attempts I did not know of these things; I did not have the luxury of this particular instrument.” Or, “I was not experienced enough; I did not have the right help. Now things are different. You just wait and watch: I am going to turn the tables this time around!” Sounds familiar, yeah?

Why have you not been able to complete your task since the last six months?

“Sir, it will be done tomorrow!”

Tomorrow. How exactly?

“No, I will pull some rabbit out of my hat; I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve. Some trick I will employ and the goal will be achieved!”

Four months later: Son, the task is pending, rather hanging on fire since ten months now.

“Tomorrow it will be done, sir! Acharya Ji, you just see. Tomorrow!”

The speaker is evil and does not want to realize that—mind you, I didn’t say does not realize that; I said, does not want to realize that. He couldn’t have said it will be done tomorrow—what are you going to change overnight? You are the same person—how will you be better tomorrow?

Your performance in some particular thing was pathetic today.

“Sir, tomorrow is a different day!”

You are the same man. The day might be different, the man is the same.

But such things are uttered precisely to defend the person that you are. Sometimes you say, “I will watch more keenly now—watch not in the sense of attention but in the sense of optical faculties. I will use these instruments with greater application now. I will give more time, I will do this, I will do that.”

So, the sages decide to put an end to this stupid saga. They say, “It does not matter what you do; no doing is going to succeed.” If that hurts, so be it.

You will fail because you are another name for failure. None of your actions matter. No improvement in your actions is going to matter.

A fellow can indeed improve himself greatly, I don’t deny that. But it is not going to be enough, never. And you can put in great sacrifice and discipline in improving yourself. I concede, self-improvement is not an easy thing, it takes a lot. And when you put in a lot of effort in self-improvement, it gives you that additional layer of ego: “I have worked so hard to attain my goals. Nobody gave it to me on a platter, I earned it!”

You know what all that hard work is really for? Ostensibly, superficially, you are putting in that hard work to attain your goal; actually, you are putting in that hard work just to remain who you are.

Therefore, not all hard work is praiseworthy. You find a fellow sweating himself out, thinning himself down, shedding not only sweat but actually blood in pursuit of some goal—don’t be too quick in endorsing that person. I understand, hard work, exertion, diligence, they all have beauty, they all appear respectable; but just wait a moment. Ask yourself: What is all this work for? What is all this for? Where is it coming from? What does it want to achieve? And most importantly, what is it trying to defend and secure?

Before you ask, “What is this man trying to change?” you must ask, “What is this man hellbent to not allow to change?” What you want to achieve is more visible, is it not? “I want to change the face of the planet; I want to raise new buildings; I will bring a new government; I will do this, I will do that; I will append the entire system.” And this fellow appears like a change-agent; he is here to bring about tectonic changes. Before you go gaga and rush at his feet, ask yourself: What is it that he is working so hard to defend from changing, to prevent from changing? What is it that he wants to keep very, very secure?

And often the thing that we want to keep very secure by its very nature is indefensible, very brittle, very unstable. Therefore, it takes a lot of hard work to keep it secured.

That, if you understand, will explain to you why so many people work so very hard: because they are trying to achieve the impossible—not externally but internally. There is something inside that by its nature is indefensible, insecure, unstable, ready to expire any moment; insecure as a spy in a hostile country whose cover is about to be blown up any moment. So, it requires a lot of energy and constant exertion to save this thing from collapsing.

You are walking with a living man—how much support do you have to provide to that person? No support. You are walking with a corpse—how would it be to walk even for two hundred meters? It will require a lot of hard work. Most of that which we call as hard work is this exactly: you are walking with a corpse not only next to you but actually within you. It takes a lot to prevent it from collapsing.

So, you are working hard, hard, hard, and patting yourself on the back: “You see, I have done the impossible.” And surely you are doing something that is tremendously difficult—but why? We don’t deny that what you are doing is not easy to do, but why must you do that?

And the more impossible the task is the more ingenious you have to be. Is that not obvious? So, very clever systems you will come up with; you will need innovations, you will need bleeding-edge technology. You see how the dots are connecting now? If you are walking with a living person, what kind of technology do you need to keep walking with him? Nothing. But if you are stubbornly committed to walking with a corpse, and that too for long distances, then you will need a lot of RND (research and development).

Unfortunately, a lot of RND is about walking with corpses. It is about doing stuff that should anyway not be done at all—and that’s why it is so difficult.

So, what is it that needs to be done, then? If no doing is going to succeed, what to do? If nothing that you do is going to suffice, you are still left with a question: what to do? Even if you can see the ill logic in the face—”Well, nothing that I am going to do is going to suffice”—you are still constrained by your constitution and your language to ask the question, “So, what to do?”

The sage acknowledges your predicament and comes up with this response:

“Only when the inner being is purified by a glad serenity of knowledge, then indeed, meditating, one beholds the Spirit indivisible.”

It does not matter what you do; what matters is the extent to which the doer has been purified. Purify the doer, and you won’t have to worry about the deeds anymore.

At the same time, I keep saying, “Watch your deeds, watch your deeds, watch your deeds.” Not because deeds are of primary importance, but because deeds are a method to reach the doer. Otherwise, how will you know the state of the doer? The doer is a subtle entity; deeds are visible, gross. You can sense them, map them, record them, talk of them.

So, you want to reach the doer through the deeds. Watching the deeds is therefore important. But once the doer is purified, you need not watch the deeds at all; there is no need. Anything that you do now will just be the right thing because you are alright now.

In fact, what is alright can now be ascertained looking at your deeds. You are now the sun; you will not move according to the clocks; the clocks will be set according to you. When you are overhead, that’s noon. Let no clock have the audacity to challenge your position; you are now sovereign, ultimate, independent. The clocks will follow you.

Similarly, when the inner self is purified, then you don’t need to work according to laws; the laws will follow you; what you do becomes the law. But that is only when the inner being is fully purified; before that you need to follow the laws. As long as you are not the sun, you need to move by the clock. When you are the sun, then the clocks will move by you.

In fact, that’s your punishment: as long as you are not aligned with the Ultimate, the Ultimate that is the ultimate law into Itself, you will remain condemned to follow the various small laws. Sri Krishna, at a point in the Bhagavad Gita , puts it beautifully; he says duties, responsibilities are all actually for the ignorant, And that’s the price you pay for your ignorance, that’s the punishment for ignorance: you will have to follow laws.

The day your ignorance is gone you become a law unto yourself.

How is the inner being purified? Not through any actions, mind you. The inner being is purified only through knowledge— only through knowledge. Not by doing this or that, not by going here or there, not by rituals, not by sacrifices, not by austerities, not by following any particular methods of worship or chanting or meditation—none of that.

The Upanishads are very clear: Knowledge alone liberates. Not that knowledge liberates; knowledge alone liberates.

And that’s why the Upanishads are the pinnacle of the Vedic literature: because the Vedic literature consists of a lot of parts that pay importance to actions, karmakāṇḍa . Upanishads transcend all that: “Your daily morning prayers, your nice manners, your disciplined life, the sacred thread, the sacred mark on the forehead, memorizing and chanting verses—none of that is going to help.”

The Upanishads are a special part of the Vedas that transcend the rest of the Vedic verses. So, on one hand, they are definitely a part of the Vedas; on the other hand, they are beyond everything else that the Vedas contain. That’s why they are often compiled as independent books, whereas the fact is that most of the Upanishads are not independent, they are contained in the Vedas. Some are independent, but they are not given much importance. So, even though they are within the Vedas, still they are often taken to be independent entities.

And rituals, mind you, are not just stuff that is steeped in religious hue. You report about your work two times a day, four times a day—that’s a ritual, is it not? The sage is admonishing: Rituals won’t help. The only thing that would help is the mind sanctified by knowledge. What is this special knowledge that sanctifies the mind? It is knowledge that cleans the mind of its garbage. Please understand.

It is knowledge that keeps us together. How do you exist as one seemingly composite unit? What is it that puts you together and keeps you together? It is knowledge, albeit false knowledge. Knowledge is the adhesive that keeps the millions of elements, disparate elements, of our constitution glued together.

Your very being is knowledge. Knowledge is not something you have heard of or learned of; your very existence is knowledge. This glance you throw at me is knowledge; the hair on your face is knowledge; the blood flowing through your veins is knowledge—and all that is knowledge of the kind that enslaves. Therefore, there has to be a special kind of knowledge that liberates.

It should be obvious that that special kind of knowledge will be the one that tears you apart. If false knowledge keeps you together, then real knowledge will be like dynamite blowing your existence apart into miniature particles. Those particles anyway are all incongruous, disparate; they have nothing really to keep them as one. Therefore, it takes a lot of effort for you to exist as you are.

We all are very difficult beings. Everything in existence is ready to tear us apart. The forces of physical nature are ready to attack this body, bring it down, and the facts of life are ready to attack your mental constitution and shred your beliefs. And that’s why we require so much of upkeep and maintenance.

Have you seen how much time a normal human being has to accord to his upkeep, recovery, and maintenance in the day? Eight hours a day you must sleep just recovering from the wear and tear of the day, and then you have to eat so much. Continuously you have to keep inhaling because your system cannot survive without external support; you have to avoid very high and very low temperatures; you have to wear clothes of the right kind; you have to keep cleaning your body in many ways, many times a day. And all that is on the physical dimension. In the mental dimension, you have to secure yourself against contrary opinions, against unfavorable beliefs, against loneliness, against displeasure, against hurt.

In fact, when I said that we must spend a lot of time every day just to maintain our existence, I was understating. Is it not possible that we spend twenty-four hours a day just trying to defend ourselves? Is it not possible that every single thing that we do is at its root just an attempt at self-continuation?

Doesn’t matter what we do. You might be a professor at an university and you are teaching, or you might be a burglar and you are running away with somebody’s goods; you might be painting or chiseling or writing or singing; you could be a brawler or a peacemaker. What is it that you are essentially doing continuously? You are just trying to defend yourself.

False knowledge is what helps you defend yourself.

False knowledge is what gives you the responsibility to defend yourself.

False knowledge is to know that you must defend yourself.

Self-defense, the very need for it, is itself false knowledge.

Therefore, the Upanishads go directly into that which is trying to defend itself. False knowledge is about knowing the ways to defend yourself—and self-defense, here, in the general sense I am using it, includes self-improvement. Self-improvement is actually nothing but an attempt at status quo.

When we say self-improvement, we probably feel we are talking of changing something. No, when you talk of self-improvement you are actually talking of not changing anything at all. Change will be there, but only superficial, and that superficial change will be there to prevent anything from changing at the core. That’s self-improvement.

So, false knowledge is about knowing how to be better. Real knowledge is about asking: Who is it who wants to be better? Who is wanting to be better? This is real knowledge.

The one who is trying to be better does not like to reveal its identity. It wants to do much without disclosing who it is. Hallmark of a thief, no?—wanting to do much without disclosing who you are. The bank has been cleaned up and no one knows who did it; that’s the self, the ego. “I will clean up the bank without letting anyone ever know who did it—and that’s something I won’t allow even myself to know.”

I know it would be uncomfortable, but maybe you should practice asking more of ‘who did it?’ rather than ‘what has been done?’. Don’t ask for details of actions; ask for the identity of the actors: “You just tell me who you are. If you are right, then I need not look at your actions. If you are wrong, then I need not look at your actions.”

But we keep asking, “So, tell me, how much have you done? What have you done?” And this is such a sorry question to ask, a doomed question to ask; the question is bound to fail. Don’t ask the fellow, “Why are you sleeping?” Ask him, “Who is falling asleep?” and then you will know what is going on because you will know who is going on and on and on. (Whispers loudly) Not the Truth!

The Truth is timeless but not continuous. There is something else that has continuity; its name does not begin with ‘T’. People call her Maya . She is continuous, as continuous as his (referring to one of the listeners) drowsiness—primordial, ancient, absolutely primitive. It’s a continuous flow since the advent of time. It’s just that it is representing itself here in this one specific chubby body.

Don’t take this drowsiness as the action of one particular individual. It is not an action; it is a tendency. Get the difference.

Had it been just an action, then maybe only he would have been displaying that action. But since it is a tendency, and a continuous tendency, therefore it is shared by many individuals. Therefore it is, for example, not only his but also his (referring to listeners in the audience) . The two might be very different persons in appearance, sitting apart, but within they are brothers of the same clan.

In fact, you know, when you say brothers, you still allow separation to remain. They are one; two instances of the same tendency. As they say these days, brothers from the same mother. And that’s quite interesting. In the morning they had had a brawl, punching and kicking each other in the face, and here you discover they are one—not only together but actually one.

Therefore, separation or diversity is an illusion. That brings us to why the word niṣkala has been used in this verse for the Truth. The sage says that when you cleanse the mind with right knowledge, you come upon the indivisible Truth because all divisions are just appearances. If you care to dig deep enough, you will discover not merely commonality but actually unity.

The whole thing boils down like this: So, there is a great deal of diversity and appearances, there are millions of diverse units, you could say an infinite number, and you probe them and you probe them and you probe them, and then you say, in the Vedantic way, that all of it comes from just the three guṇas (qualities, attributes) of Prakriti . So, the trillions boil down to just three, and then even these three are just Prakriti , so these three then boil down to just one. But this one is a mere mirage, an illusion, so not even this one remains. What you now have is nothing, and that nothing is indivisible.

Mind you, the one is very, very divisible; the proof is existence itself. The one, by the process of constant division and subsequent division, produces so many different looking, diverse units, does it not? So, the one is not to be called as indivisible; the one is very much vulnerable to division. Śunya , nothingness—that’s what is indivisible. What does that mean?

As long as you remain within the purview of Prakriti , you will remain caught in diversities, moving from one thing to the other without realizing that you are essentially moving from the same thing to the same thing; hence, nothing is going to be changed.

Moving into indivisibility is transcendence of Prakriti ; within Prakriti all you have is divisions. You move beyond the divisions, and then you enter the akhaṇḍa .

There’s a little problem here: the one who enters the akhaṇḍa is actually akhaṇḍa in Himself. What does khaṇḍa mean? A division, a part, a fragment. Now, this is an impossibility—a part uniting with the total. Therefore, what happens is not a meeting but a dissolution. That dissolution is a scary thing to the part because its own limited existence appears to be lost, and therefore it tries to avoid it as much and for as long as possible.

Remaining within the scope of *Prakriti*—which includes all your thoughts, mental worlds, physical affairs, everything—and knowing conceptually that you are a fragment and you need to go beyond is one thing, and actually deciding to give up on yourself is a totally different thing. This giving up on yourself just cannot happen without knowing who is the one so desperate to remain alive.

Now, we must not skip over a very important word here: ‘meditation’. The sage says that the one whose mind has been purified by serene knowledge beholds the Truth in meditation. If you read this as you usually do, then you will be tempted to think as if meditation is an activity and in that activity you behold the Truth. So, you will feel meditation is an activity, Truth is to be beholden, seen, and the Truth is an object to be seen. This is misinterpretation thrice over.

The sage here is just reiterating. When he says the mind has to be purified by knowledge and when he says meditation, he is just saying the same thing twice. Meditation is nothing but this—purification, constant purification of mind by right knowledge.

So, gaining right knowledge and meditation are not two different things at all. It is the style of the Upanishads to be repetitive, and it is that style which is being exhibited here. Kindly do not take right knowledge and meditation as two different things; they are not. Right knowledge is about a continuous reverberation inside: “Who is the doer?” Not an episodic question, not a periodic query, not something that you do on certain auspicious days, but a continuous reverberance: “What is happening? What is happening?”

And that exactly is meditation as well: “What’s going on? I want to know. What’s going on? How do I participate in the actions without knowing what is really going on? And I cannot know what is really going on till I know who is going on—and on and on.” That’s a basic thing in honesty, no?—to not participate without knowing. As a responsible person do you do that? Do you jump into something without knowing what the thing is about?

That is meditation: Before you jump into anything—and life is a flow, you are continuously embroiled in action. So, continuously you must ask: What is happening, and to whom? That’s meditation. That’s right knowledge.

Now, what does it, then, mean to say the Truth is seen that way? When you have the right knowledge then you behold the Truth—what does that mean? Such profound statements have been grossly misinterpreted continuously; it is so easy to pick this up and say that when you are in meditation, then you start seeing something majestic, something mystical, something paranormal, and then support your statement by quoting this verse.

What does it mean to behold the Truth? Obviously, it cannot have something to do with eyes because this same verse opens with saying the eyes cannot reach there. When the verse opens with a negation of the power of the eyes to behold the Truth, how can the same verse close with saying that the eyes behold the Truth? When the verse opens with saying that the mind cannot reach or seize the Truth, how can the same verse later on say that the Truth can be an object of mind’s imagination or conceptualization?

Therefore, it is not mentation at all, the matter of Truth. It is not something that happens to you. Beholding the Truth is not an event or an experience; it is a commitment, it is a way of life, it is a state of being. What does the commitment say? “I will not concur with the false. I will be skeptical and keep questioning—about what? (Points at himself) Because questioning this and that in the world might be a clever ploy to just avoid questioning yourself.

And that’s what most skeptics are anyway all about. You are so skeptical of everything under the sun except the one who is skeptical. “You know, I am a skeptic.” Why aren’t you skeptical about you being a skeptic? How are you so confident that you are a skeptic? You must be a skeptic-skeptic—“but that I am not, because that will shake my foundations!” Everything is to be doubted except the doubter: “No, no, no, I am not going to doubt myself; everything else is to be doubted.” Then you are not doubting; you are just superimposing your allegations.

Beholding the Truth is about not according the seen false the status of the Truth. Truth cannot be seen, but the false is seen. Seeing the Truth is about not calling anything seen as the Truth.

Why? Because the things are all illusory in themselves?

“No, sir, I do not know that. But what I know is that my eyes are not to be trusted; that’s why. When you come to me, I remain skeptical about you. It is not about disrespecting you, it is about doubting my eyes because you come to me via my eyes. When these instruments, when the mediators themselves are so untrustworthy, how do I trust the news they bring to me?”

Why are they untrustworthy? You have some genetic defect in the eyes?

“No, no, no. Sir, I am sorry I couldn’t explain it properly. It is not to do with these eyes of flesh; it is to do with the entity that the eyes feed: it has to do with the mind.”

At the center of the mind is the ego, and it is not concerned with the Truth at all; it is concerned with itself. Therefore, it will not see, it will project. Don’t you know that? When you are concerned with self-preservation rather than the Truth, will you acknowledge the facts, or will you weave stories? You will weave stories.

“Therefore, sir, I cannot trust you, because my mind is weaving stories continuously about everything, including you. Hence, I will neither accept nor reject you; I will enquire, I will enquire with the maximum honesty I can.”

And that’s, you know, the utmost that is maximum to a human being, beyond that we have no power—being as honest as we can, and then being a little more; being as ruthless with ourselves as we can, and then a little more.

Truth is not to be seen. There is already so much that you are continuously seeing—why add Truth to the seen, to the canvas, to the unholy charade? Is it not an insult to the Truth? All the time your mind is seeing money and power and ogling at women, and then you say the mind is seeing the Truth. What is the kind of list you have just added Truth to? A very mean list.

So, never say that Truth is something to be perceived or experienced, sensed. Truth will not come to you through mentation or intuition; you will go to the Truth through dissolution.

Questioner (Q): What does cleaning ourselves with right knowledge mean? Is it about listening and reading from the sages with attention, or is there any other way?

AP: We have elaborated upon that in the past and in today’s session, but I will re-state.

We said false knowledge is one’s very existence; we said it is the adhesive that keeps our various particles together We are false knowledge. When you walk, it is false knowledge that walks; when you speak, it is false knowledge that speaks; when you breathe, it is false knowledge that breathes. If you are a beginner, it might be sounding rather abstract, perhaps even outlandish, but bear it. It’s Vedanta.

So, we are false knowledge. What is it that is assembled over here (points at himself) ? False knowledge. It’s a false thing talking to other false things.

False knowledge is not something that you have . False knowledge is something that you are . I understand, the very enormity of what we are saying right now might be difficult to metabolize, but keep taking it.

Your hands, your arms, your legs, your calves, your thighs—what is it? It is false knowledge. So, knowledge is not something you read somewhere; knowledge is there in your very physical constitution, and it is your physical constitution that consists of the various tendencies that secure falseness.

What is jealousy for? We know jealousy and attachment exist even in newborns, right? What is all that for? Ask yourself. Why are we jealous? We are jealous to secure something that is false. Why do we get attached? To secure something that is false. Why are we afraid? Why are we violent? To secure something that is false.

Our very physicality is false knowledge, and therefore in the duration of its existence, through its lifespan, all that it keeps attracting to itself is more false knowledge, because that’s the very mandate, that’s the very mandate of the false self: cover yourself with things that suit you.

If you have a 36-inch waist, what is the size of the trousers you ask for? 44? 24? 36. That’s how we wear more and more knowledge. The body exists, and more knowledge is picked up from the shelf to suit its pre-existing nature—the pre-existing nature is 36 inches. So, what you will additionally wear upon it will be 36, not 44 or 24. That’s false knowledge collecting more false knowledge; 36 collecting more 36. A 36 inch trouser on a 36 inch waist—that’s false knowledge wearing, accumulating more false knowledge upon itself. Do you see this?

So, we are already false, even as we are born, and then we fill up this mind with more stuff of the 36-inch type. So, falseness layering upon falseness—that’s false knowledge. How do you get rid of it? The questioner has already suggested some means. Kindly read them out.

Q: Listening and reading from the sages with attention…

AP: * You know, you can’t go to sages unless you realize something is wrong with the way you live. Sages cannot be the first thing in the process of self-dissolution or self-discovery. In fact, if you are not sure something is wrong with you and you happen to chance upon a sage, you will neglect the sage. Of what use is a doctor to a person who does not think he is unhealthy? Even before a doctor tells you that you are sick, you must yourself have already felt that you are sick. Otherwise, you will not go to the doctor, and even if the doctor says something to you, you will doubt his intentions.

So, that feeling comes first. Now, where does that feeling come from? We do not know. But we can make attempts to arouse that feeling. This session, this course, all the wisdom literature under the sun, is an attempt to make you question whether you really are healthy. And it is not a pleasant thing to be asked, “Sir, are you really healthy?”

Therefore, real wisdom literature or a real teacher, unfortunately, by definition can never be pleasant. It is not as if teachers—the real ones I am talking of—choose to be unpleasant. They cannot be pleasant. It is a law, it is a thing of basic definition, because they are there to ask you a very discomforting question. You are unsettled—what do they ask you? “Sir, are you really alright?” They may try their best to sugarcoat the whole thing, make it nice and palatable for you, but the discomfiture will remain.

You know, you are being told you have cancer. You might be told this in the nicest way possible, but cancer is cancer. Now, somebody can come and dance in front of you and, with a song and some pole dance, very sensuously whisper to you, with as much melody as possible, “You have cancer…” Cancer will still remain cancer. And teachers have tried all of that, you know. Veritably they have turned themselves into pole dancers for the sake of the listeners.

It doesn’t help until you are in some way, to at least some extent prepared to take the bitter news called reality. That preparation must be in advance; the teacher, really, cannot bring about that preparation. It’s a very sovereign thing. The teacher cannot beat the ego into submission; the ego must come prepared for being beaten up.

If the ego has not come prepared in advance to be beaten up, the teacher is probably not even going to attempt beating it up. It’s a right that the ego has to give to the teacher. If the teacher does not have that right, he will not exercise it. That’s why getting beaten up is an absolute luxury, a damn privilege. It means that the teacher has accepted your gift—what is the gift? “I accord you the privilege or the right to beat me up.” The teacher will not accept this gift from everyone.

This is something you have to decide on your own; neither the teacher nor the scripture can help you till this point. I am saying this because the questioner has put the whole thing on the teacher and the scripture. No, before the teacher and the scripture comes your own willingness. Teachers and scriptures are not nice things or nice people, as many of you already know. Others will know in due time. (Looks around at the audience for a while and smiles)

Why do I see fear? There is no need!

Elsewhere, I have said these are the two wings on which the flight takes place: self-observation, and the company of saints and scriptures. These two wings are not flapped together; to begin with, they are flapped in tandem. The first wing to move is self-observation, and then the other one follows suit.

Looking at your own life, you must know something is totally amiss: “I don’t like the way I am living, the taste of life is sour. The very taste of life—it is not good.” This is something that you must have acknowledged on your own without the help of the teacher; only then the teacher comes into the scene.

And when the teacher is there, even then the other wing must keep flapping. The scriptures tell you something—how will you know it is true or useful? How will you know? Unless you apply it in your life, unless you see it in your life, you will never totally submit to it.

Therefore, these two things must keep happening concurrently. Be with the scriptures, and keep looking at life. These two things will keep reinforcing each other. Also, when these two things are together, then misinterpretation is effectively ruled out.

Let’s say you misinterpreted something from the scriptures. Now, if you are keen to see its application in life, then you will find that the thing that you just thought of or interpreted is not at all fitting with life, showing up there, applying there, and then you will know you have made a mistake. So, you will go back to the scripture, re-read with deeper attention, and try to know the real meaning.

Q: When you spoke about false knowledge, you said that it is adhesive in nature. The moment I heard it, I recalled that we usually use the word ‘integrity’ with a very positive connotation.

AP: No, integrity is not about taking four different things and putting them together; integrity is wholeness and indivisibility. Taking four divided entities and bundling them together is not called integrity. Integrity is about something that can anyway never be divided into four.

Integrity is not a result of several diverse entities coming together and forming a union. Integral—what does that mean? Indivisible. What is indivisible is surely not a result of accumulation of different things, right?

What is a prime number, for example? So, can a prime number be attained by multiplication of various integers? So, that which is a result of multiplication will always remain vulnerable to division. Do you get this? That which comes from multiplication will always be vulnerable to division. Integrity, in a very loose sense, is a prime number.

You know, primes are a bit of a mystery. Especially in security architecture, primes hold a very central place. And till date, we really do not have a foolproof way to determine primes beyond a point. Indivisibility, even in numbers, is a tricky thing. In life, it is an enigma.

Q: The answer to ‘Who is going on?’ or ‘Who am I?’ is always ego, but that answer never comes intrinsically; it is an answer coming from outside of me, from you, from scriptures. That answer is not really mine. So, what is missing here? What is to be done or undone?

AP: Sensitivity. Love. The belief that life is just crumbs and dredges thrown at you—that’s your undoing. You are content with too little. To avoid facing pain, you have become numb and insensitive towards yourself. Deeper sensitivity results in deeper pain, obviously; you understand that, right? To avoid facing pain we become insensitive, and when you are insensitive, then you will not know that something is wrong with you.

You need to be ready to take on pain. You need to be ready to not let pain become deep suffering. Otherwise, everything will appear alright because you are anesthetized. Your legs, both of them, might have just been freshly amputated, but you will feel everything is alright—why? There is no sensation.

That’s how we go through life—anesthetized. How does that sound?

And there is so much pain. I understand, there is pain, yes; but then, who told you that life is not about pain? I know who told you: your body told you, your parents told you, your teachers told you, the media told you. Every single thing that speaks to you told you that life is this, that, bliss, pleasure, happiness, ānanda , joy. That’s what.

Now, they have been saying all these things to you and your authentic experience is that life is suffering. So, what do you do? To conform to what you are being told and taught, you start suppressing your suffering, because there is so much difference between the glamor of the shopping mall and the darkness within. How do you reconcile the two? The lights there are so bright and the darkness within is so deep—how do you reconcile? The shopping mall is saying life is all hunky-dory; the music at the party is deafening. And even as there is that deafening high decibel music outside, within somebody wails a deep, melancholy song—how do you reconcile?

We find a way to reconcile: the way is suppression. We stop being sensitive to our inner world because being sensitive extracts a huge price: you will have to defy the shopping mall, you will have to stop the music—and the music is saying, “Please don’t stop the music!” There is a problem there, right? Now you can’t stop the music.

So, what do you do? You disconnect yourself from the inner situation. You have no control over the external loudspeakers, so what do you do? You pull the plug on the one weeping within. “I can’t stop that, so I will stop this.” Now, you can’t really stop this, but you can suppress this. You can act as if there is no darkness within.

And we start living lives of pretense. And then when somebody comes along saying, “Well, please be more sensitive,” we are bemused: “How to be more sensitive?” Sir, you do not even remember when you pulled the plug on your sensitivity. It is not a question of method; it is a question of presence and attention.

Everything about us is sad, simply. Just sad. And with these sad faces we sing songs of joy. If you could just pause for a while and acknowledge the sadness, that would be a fresh beginning. Instead of acknowledging the sadness we start calling the sadness as some kind of a joy. The fellow drinks because he is sad, so he starts calling his drinking hours as happy hours. What a sad conspiracy!

If we ever would become a little more honest, first thing: sad hours. Happy Singh would rename himself Sad Singh.

Q: Earlier you said that the inner being can be purified only through knowledge. This may give the impression that one does not have to do anything, that one could just read books or something and gain freedom that way.

AP: You see, this is not knowledge that comes to you gift-wrapped as a bundle. This is not static knowledge; this is a constant, dynamic flux of knowledge. Because it is constant and it is dynamic, you could call it as knowing. It is happening . When is it happening? It is happening when you are going through your various activities in life. You get the difference?

The traditional kind of knowledge, the false knowledge, is an activity in itself. You say, “I was swimming, then I was eating, then I was sleeping, and now I am reading. So, in the first three cases I was not gaining knowledge of the traditional kind, and now that I am with this book, I am gaining knowledge.” This is the usual kind of knowledge. It exists in a slot, in a module, in a packet; it is an event, it is static.

Real knowledge that the seers are talking of is very different. So, it is this way: “I am eating, I am watchful; I am running, I am watchful; I am swimming, I am watchful; I am reading, I am watchful. So, never am I allotting a specific slot to real knowledge. Real knowledge is not a specific activity; it is something that is happening in the background of all my other activities. I am running, I am knowing; I am talking, I am knowing; I am watching, I am knowing; I am listening, I am knowing; I am shopping, I am knowing.” Do you get this?

So, if somebody will look at your 24-hour schedule, he will say, “But you have not allotted any slot or time to real knowledge” because you would have written eating, sleeping, running, working, shopping, whatever, and that would fill up your 24 hours. Nowhere, at no time, in no slot would you write ‘knowing’. And the questioner would be puzzled. He will say, “But where is knowing in all this?” And you would smile. What would be your response? “Knowing is continuous. Irrespective of what I am doing in the foreground, knowing is happening in the background.” That is real knowledge.

However, that is not a license to keep doing just anything in the foreground. The ego is a very devious thing. The moment you say, “Irrespective of what is happening in the foreground, knowing is happening in the background,” you say, “Right. Now, what is happening in the foreground, that everybody can watch. What is happening in the background, only I can watch, so I can claim anything. So, I will say I am doing any kind of debauchery in the foreground, but really, in the background, I am knowing.” And nobody can counter that, nobody can verify that; only you know—or only you do not know.

So, avoid all that. There is no need to fool yourself.

Q: In the beginning you said that Prakriti is that which continues, and that self-improvement etc. is a way to secure the one who wants to continue. This thing about constant knowing contradicts this statement.

AP: No, the river is flowing continuously and you are watching the continuous flow. And the flow has several distinct kinds of ripples and waves, and there are stones and pebbles and fish and people in the river, reflections and streaks—so much is there. A river is an entire ecosystem and you are watching all of it.

The river will keep flowing; you can know what the river is all about. And in knowing the river you come to who you really are. One thing is certain: you are not what you take yourself to be. And there is no other method because there is no other thing available. All that you have is the river; all that you can see is the river.

So, the river is the trap, and the river is the way to freedom. You have a choice here. You can choose the river as bondage, or you can choose the river as your way to liberation.

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