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Religion is the way back to that which was never lost || On Advait Vedanta (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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One who is not perturbed by misfortune, who is beyond comfort, attachment and fear, who considers gold as dust; he neither speaks ill of others nor feels elated by praise, and shuns greed, attachments and arrogance. He is indifferent to ecstasy and tragedy, is not affected by honors or humiliations. He renounces expectations and greed. He is neither attached to worldliness nor lets senses and anger affect him. In such a person resides God.

~ Guru Tegh Bahadur

Questioner (Q): If this description appeared in a so-called self-development book, there would probably be steps given as to how to reach this ideal human state. In a spiritual context, however, based on what I have learned in camps and through videos so far, the self would not be even playing a part in this ideal human, nor is this ideal human being something to strive for. This state seems like some kind of a side effect of liberation. Am I getting it right? Please clarify.

Acharya Prashant (AP): The religious process is always one of remembrance, rejoining, a coming back. It is not about finding something new, becoming something else, reaching some new place; it is always a return. In fact, that is also contained in the etymology of the word ‘religion’. You just become one with yourself. You just come to see what you already have, rather are.

So, what is the method, then? The very narration, the very description is the method. How do I remind you of something? By telling it to you. That’s what the gurus are doing here. They are just telling these things to you that you already know of. They already exist within you, not in your consciousness but as the base of your consciousness. I’ll tell you what is the difference between having something in consciousness and having something as the base of consciousness.

In consciousness, there is just incomplete, limited stuff and desire for limited stuff. That is what man’s consciousness is all about. There are objects and your relationship with objects. There is never a thing in your consciousness without you having a relationship with it. What is consciousness made of? Stuff, things, objects, and they are not there just floating in a vacuum. Everything in consciousness is tied to your incomplete center called ‘I’. If it is there in the mind, the ‘I’ is related to it.

So, if there is a box in the consciousness, you have a relationship with that box. The box is not just merrily hanging around; the box is tied to you, and therefore it is present in the consciousness. You have a relationship with the box, probably you want that box, so it is there in the consciousness. So, you say, “I want the box.”

Now, do you see what is there in consciousness? The box is a limited thing. You know the box is limited, you can measure the dimensions; there is a limit. The box is a limited thing. So, there is limitation in the consciousness. Whatsoever is there in the consciousness is limited. And then there is the relationship with the box, and it is of desire: “I want the box.”

The way I have constructed the example, the desire part is straightforward: “I want the box.” The way relationship actually exists in our mind with various objects is more complex, but beneath that complexity there is always desire. You cannot be related to something without desire being at the base of the relationship. Kindly investigate this statement, and if you find this to be false, then let me know.

We have multiple shades of relationships, a thousand kinds of relationships with this, that, whatever. But one thing that is always present as a central ingredient in all our relationships is desire. So, I very simplistically gave it the statement “I want the box”.

So, there is limitation and there is want, desire. That is what consciousness is all about. The content of consciousness is limitation and desire. Do you see that? The box and want; limitation and desire. This is the content of consciousness.

Why in your consciousness you are always wanting something? Because you ultimately want completion. The ‘I’ is incomplete, the box incomplete, both are limited, and therefore the relationship. For the sake of what is the relationship? Completion; incomplete ‘I’ wanting the incomplete box, so that together the two of them can coaliscle and become complete. This completion, therefore, is the base of consciousness.

So, even with an incomplete consciousness, even with a consciousness that is always striving, always longing, always wanting, desiring, groping, doing this, that, there is surely completeness at the base. Otherwise, how would the incomplete ‘I’ long for completeness? How would you long for something that you have no idea, no memory, no base, no root, no recognition of? And our entire consciousness, which is our life, our world, is always longing; therefore there is the connection through desire with the world, with everything.

The fact that we are always longing for completion means that we know completion. Religion proceeds on this realization. You already know completion, and that is why you are always desirous for small things. Because you know what it means to be complete, therefore you are running after all things incomplete. It’s a paradox, but it’s a great realization, and all religion is founded on it.

Because you know of completeness—and this knowing religion calls as your nature or svabhāva . Because you know of completeness, therefore all your life you are found running after incompleteness as an incomplete being. Had incompleteness been your nature, incompleteness would not have been so unacceptable; you would’ve said, “I am incomplete and that’s okay, I don’t need anything.” You would’ve felt complete in incompleteness, rather you would’ve felt comfortable and alright with incompleteness.

But there is nobody who finds incompleteness acceptable. We find incompleteness a prick in the heart, a thorn in the side; it just keeps vexing us, troubling us, doesn’t it? Isn’t it a clear indicator, a clear proof of what? That completeness is the nature.

So, if completeness is the nature, then it is even more fundamental than incompleteness. Incompleteness is superficial; completeness is the base of consciousness, the nature, so it is even deeper. So, does completeness need to be brought to you, or is it sufficient to remind you? It is sufficient to remind you.

If anything, incompleteness is brought to you. Proof: it is superficial. That which is brought to the house would always be kept in some room of the house. Have you ever heard that the foundation of the house is being brought to the house in a truck? Have you heard of such a thing? Somebody saying, “You know, I am carrying the foundation of the house to the house. The house does not have a foundation, so I’ll bring the foundation, keep it in some room, and then I will put it under the house”—is such a thing possible?

So, the contents of consciousness are all foreign, alien, imported, but the base of consciousness cannot be foreign or alien or imported. The very fact that something exists in the rooms proves that first of all there is a foundation, and that foundation is completeness. Religions know that. Gurus surely know that.

So, they don’t try to bring God to you in a truck; they don’t say, “You know, God has been ordered. This house is without God; we will now introduce God in this house.” They very well know that if the house exists, the foundation itself is the completeness called God or Truth.

So, it exists. Now, what do you then need to do? Bring God to the house, or just look at the house and be reminded that God exists, otherwise how the house could? Just looking at the house, if you are intelligent enough, rather not stupid enough, you would obviously know that the foundation called God exists.

So, they just remind. They just say these things that start resonating with you. They don’t tell you a step-by-step thing to do. They will not hand over an algorithm. They will just remind, and that too in very witty ways, almost as if they are teasing you. They will say, “You know that, that which flies free?” And you are suddenly struck: “What did he just say?” And he didn’t say anything! He just had a bit of fun with you. He said, “You remember that?”

Right when you are busy with all your pleasure-giving stuff, the Guru will walk in and say, “You remember that, that which flies free?” And he has talked of nothing in particular, but something has hit you. And before you can collect your wits and ask him to clarify, he’s gone.

Sometimes you don’t even need somebody to walk up to you. You are busy with your entanglements and attachments and pleasures and whatnot, and you look at the bird, and the bird was perched upon a tree and then it suddenly took flight, and something strikes you like an arrow in the heart. Something happened; you don’t know what happened. You have been reminded of something. You have been reminded of something you already know of. The bird didn’t even try to; it’s purposeless, innocent flight just spontaneously reminded you of what your nature is.

Or you looked at the tree and the shadow. You didn’t have an intent, you didn’t want to learn something; you have never been a good student. It was not your intention to learn, and that’s why you could learn something. You looked at the shadow, and again the same arrow pierced the heart; something has just been revealed, and nobody taught you—it is because you already know of it.

Just that the deep, deep knowledge is now obfuscated, veiled. It is veiled but not gone, and that is your trouble. The stubborn thing is not going away. You want so much that you forget that you are complete, but completeness returns to you in a thousand ways to remind you again and again of your stupidity. Every time the fact of your innate completeness occurs to you, it is proven to you, in your own eyes, how stupid you are and how stupid is the kind of life you are leading. So, you want to avoid the fact totally.

But then the gurus come. If they don’t come, then the birds come, the trees come, the flowers come, the stars come—death comes. Ah, too bad. Or sometimes a drunken truck driver. Just about in any form, any name, any purpose, any occasion, stuff happens that tells you of your deep Truth and hence your totally superficial falseness. The thing is, both of these become known concurrently.

You cannot know the Truth without, in the same instance, knowing of your terrible falseness. You don’t have a choice. Both will occur to you in the same moment.

So, if you are a pleasure-lover and do not like to be slapped right on your face tightly, then you will avoid the Truth as well, because Truth cannot come to you without a tight slap on the face. How can the fact that the Truth is embedded deep in your heart come to you without the fact that up here in the mind you are all full of falseness? These two have to come together, and you don’t want them together. You say, “Okay, give me the Truth without telling me that I am false.” This cannot happen.

Whenever the Truth will come to you, it will always first of all show to you that you are false. Therefore, the ego cannot have the Truth. Now do you see that?

All that Guru Sahib is telling here is not the usual fair of the usual man. “One who is not perturbed by misfortune”—ha! Look at the way the common man shivers and shudders under the impact of fortune. “Who is beyond comfort, attachment and fear”—do you find people like these? Because the Guru wants to give us the Truth, he is constantly telling us that we are false. We are false because we are perturbed by misfortune, because we are not beyond comfort, attachment and fear; these things mean a lot to us.

That’s the way: to be reminded again and again. And what would you be reminded of? The Truth? The Truth and the false—you will be reminded of them together. And which of these two would personally mean more to you? The false. Why? Because it hurts. It hurts when you are told that you are false.

“He renounces expectations and greed. He is neither attached to worldliness nor lets senses and anger affect him. In such a person resides God.” In other words, Guru Sahib is saying, in you God does not reside. It hurts. It hurts our self-ascribed state of piousness, no? Here is someone who is clearly telling: you are Godless. Because who is the one full of God? The one who is not attached to worldliness, the one who has renounced expectations and greed. Surely, you are not the one being described.

So, you are Godless. It hurts. Unless you are prepared to take this hurt, unless you are prepared to take the blow on the chin, you will not get what Guru Sahib is offering.

Q: Could you please help me understand what is meant by vibrating on God?

AP: It’s a peculiar translation. Vibrating on God—what does it mean? It means, the mind is prone to movement; it acknowledges that the mind is prone to movement. But just as a vibrating particle has a particular center around which it vibrates, moves, similarly the mind that is prone to movement must move but with God as its center.

Also, there is a common characteristic of vibrating particles: the more they go away from the center, the more they experience the force that pulls them back to the center. Think of a pendulum. When it crosses the center, it has a great speed. But as it keeps going away from the center, its speed keeps reducing. A point comes when it can no further go away. It is as if the distance itself has arrested its motion. It is as if the pendulum is saying, “I have already come so far I cannot go any further away.” So it stops. And once it stops, it starts coming back towards the center. That is what is meant by vibrating on God.

You will move; that is a compulsion with you. You cannot perennially remain absorbed in the center. You are a jīva , you are a person. You live in time and change. Movement is your fate. But even if you have to move, maintain the center. Move with respect to the center. Move around the center. Move in a way to return to the center. That is what is meant by vibrating on God.

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