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Seek the one who is Truthful || On Mundaka Upanishad (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
48 min
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यदा पश्यः पश्यते रुक्मवर्णं कर्तारमीशं पुरुषं ब्रह्मयोनिम् । तदा विद्वान्पुण्यपापे विधूय निरञ्जनः परमं साम्यमुपैति ॥

yadā paśyaḥ paśyate rukmavarṇaṃ kartāramīśaṃ puruṣaṃ brahmayonim tadā vidvānpuṇyapāpe vidhūya nirañjanaḥ paramaṃ sāmyamupaiti

When the seer sees the golden-hued, the maker, the Lord, the Spirit who is one with Brahman, then he becomes the knower and shakes from his wings sin and virtue; pure of all stain he reaches the supreme identity.

~ Verse 3.1.3, Mundaka Upanishad

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Acharya Prashant (AP): So, the previous two verses have talked of the two birds perched on the same branch of the same tree—very similar, very alike, brothers of the same breed. One of the birds is busy enjoying the fruit of the tree, and the other bird just dispassionately watches. The sage very poetically clarifies that the bird that engages in consumption is the ‘I’ we typically identify with and call as aham or ego, and the bird that just watches is the ‘I’ that remains our calling, our coveted yet unreached destination: the Self, the Truth, Ātman .

So, these two selves have been talked of, the false and the real, the passionate and dispassionate, the engaged and the witness. The difference between the two has been very eloquently stated, and this verse at hand now touches upon the union of these two birds. How the two are different, what their respective characteristics are—that has been the subject matter of previous two verses. Now we come to how the two birds get to be one with each other. What does the sage say?

“When the seer”—which is the bird engaged in consumption—“sees the golden-hued, the maker, the Lord, the Spirit who is one with Brahman , then he becomes the knower and shakes off from his wings sin and virtue; pure of all stain he reaches the supreme identity.”

This is beautiful and very, very instructive. What is being said?

To be one with the Truth, you merely have to look at the Truth.

Last session we elaborated so much upon how it is not proper to seek the Truth to look at us, because the Truth is anyway the all-seer. It is the person, the little self, the common ‘I’ that is too involved in looking elsewhere.

As individuals, as body-identified and world-identified persons, we look at everything as a thing. We chase everything except the Truth. We seek our favorite falsenesses. We do reject some falsenesses because they are not our favorites, they are probably unpleasant. So, even when falseness is rejected by us, it is not rejected as falseness; it is rejected as unpleasantness. Do you get the difference? The same kind of falseness, when it will present itself as more agreeable to us, in a more acceptable form, then we will go for it.

Our priority is determined by our likes and dislikes, not by Truth and falseness. We do not care for what is true and what is false; we care for what the conditioned self likes and dislikes. Occasionally, it does dislike some elements of falsenesses, but that does not mean that we have become disenchanted with the falseness. Another form of falseness, and we will fall for it.

What is it that we do not want to look at, ever? It is the Truth. One form of falseness is unpleasant, another form of falseness is likeable, but one thing is certain: Truth never comes to us even in an unlikable way. So unlucky are we. So unlucky have we forcibly become. Forget about the Truth being pleasant—the kind of lives we lead, even the unpleasant Truth is blocked from reaching us. If unpleasantness does reach us, it is some form of falseness.

So, what do we get? We get pleasant falseness, and occasionally we get unpleasant falseness. We reject the unpleasant part.

Truth, neither unpleasant nor pleasant, ever reaches us. Such is our aversion. Such is our indifference. In fact, indifference is worse than aversion. Aversion means you are at least alive and present to notice something, to be aversive to it. Indifference means you exist in a dimension totally removed from the Truth. Such is the indifference. In your dimension, Truth is not present even to be disliked.

You see, even to dislike what I say, you will have to subscribe or at least come to my channel, right? Most people do not even come, cannot even come. The kind of lives they lead will not allow them to come to my channel.

And very humbly I am saying that I am a servant to the Truth to the extent I can serve. I am not talking of myself here as some kind of a notable person who must be listened to or subscribed to. But to the extent I am talking of Vedanta, to the extent I am trying to bring the Upanishads to your life, this channel, this work, these books do deserve to be approached.

But people do not approach them even to dislike them. You come and dislike, I’m game—but you will not come. Not because you think these are unworthy places, but because the dimension of your thought does not include the Upanishads or Acharya Prashant. The kind of life you lead, I repeat, the kind of center you operate from, the kind of thoughts you remain shrouded in, they will not allow you to come this way. I am alright if you come this way and then dislike, but that’s not happening.

That’s the import of this verse. You just have to look at the Truth to become like the Truth. The worst conspiracy is: we do not even look at the Truth.

Sage is saying, when the worldly bird so much as just starts looking at the witnessing bird, the two become one. It’s that easy. Watch the Truth and you will become the Truth. Falseness will just dissolve into Truth; the lover will just be unified with the Beloved. But we don’t allow that to happen.

Now, what does that practically mean? What does it mean to ‘look at the Truth’? Here you have two birds, and it is alright to say that one bird has to glance at the other bird; the metaphor simplifies it. But what about human beings in real life? How do they look at the Truth? We aren’t a pair of birds. There is no other bird really, and if the other bird is there, it is within. How do we look at it?

The way is to look at something or somebody in the world who is close to Truth and who is attempting to bring you closer to the Truth. That’s what is meant by looking at the Truth. Because the Truth in its nameless, formless purity is not available to be looked at with these mortal eyes. How will you look at the Truth? All your eyes can look at is walls, pillars, curtains, equipment, books and people. Now, in the midst of all this you need to have viveka (discretion) and discrimination; you need to know what to look at.

See what is said here: “When he sees the golden-hued”—who is the golden-hued? The golden colored bird. “When he sees the golden-hued, the spirit identical with Brahman * ”—identical with * Brahman , brahmayoni .

You have to look for the bird identical with Brahman . The bird in the verses is very fortunate to have a brother sitting next to her, and this brother is identical with the Truth. So, our worldly bird does not really have to face the trouble of asking, “But Brahman is nirguṇa (attributeless, without qualities), nirākāra (formless), nameless, formless, shapeless. Where do I seek Brahman so that I can look at Him?” The presence of the witnessing bird has simplified it for her.

Ah, I will keep flipping genders. Sometimes I will say they are brothers; sometimes I will say they are sisters; sometimes I will say one is a female, the other is a male. That’s alright. People with discrimination do not pay much attention to these things. You be careful about the juice, the core of what is being said.

So, for the bird in the metaphor things stand very simplified. How do we simplify our lives? How do we make it practically easy for us as human beings?

You will have to get your own bird. You will have to look for your own bird.

Otherwise, the one without the attributes loves to be illusive. His name is nirguṇa . What does nirguṇa mean? You will not find Him in Prakriti , in the entire universe. What does guṇa (attribute, quality) denote? The elements of Prakriti . And the entire universe is just Prakriti , so the entire universe is just guṇa ; and if Brahman is nirguṇa , you cannot find Him in Prakriti , in the entire universe. You go looking for Brahman , and all you will get is desperation and frustration.

Instead, you go looking for the witnessing bird, and here your chances are better. Go find a bird that is no more interested in personal consumption. Go find a bird who sits on the same tree as you do, but is still not enamored by the fruit and its juice. Isn’t it easy? You don’t have to go afar. The witnessing bird would be found on the same tree; you have to look at her—ah, again I flipped genders. You just have to look at her, and you don’t have to travel afar. You look at her, and you become like her.

Elsewhere, my Upanishads say, Brahma veda Brahmaiva bhavati (He who knows that highest Brahman becomes Brahman himself).

Elsewhere, my Upanishads say, Tatpaśyat Tadāsīt . Watch It and you become It. Watch That and you become That.

And such a simple thing is most difficult for us because we exist in our minds, and this mind will not allow us to look at the Truth even if the Truth is sitting just adjacent to us. Think of the birds. The savior bird is sitting just next to the worldly bird, but the worldly bird is so busy with the fruit that she will not look at the savior bird. Even if she looks at the savior bird, she will look at her from her own center.

To look at something means to look at the truth of what you are looking at. To look at something does not mean superimposing your prejudices on the subject being looked at. Have you ever looked, or have you always looked to avoid?

And here is a piece of disturbing news: every bird has a savior bird right next to her. She never looks. The savior bird is never too far from any bird. Your savior is never too far from you; he is always within approach, always available. We avoid.

And there are a thousand ways to avoid. One way is to not look; one way is to look and pretend as if you are looking at something else. The worse way is to look and accuse the witnessing bird of partaking in consumption. You look at the other bird and say, “See, I sit on this branch to eat the fruit; obviously the other bird too is sitting here to eat the fruit. Why else would anybody sit here? Look at me, I came to this branch to eat the fruit, and this other one looks just like me, right?” What is the word that the verses use? Dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṃ vṛkṣaṃ pariṣasvajāte . Similar in all aspects.

“So, if we are similar in all aspects, then our aspirations too must be similar. My aspiration is to eat the fruit; this other one too is here just to eat the fruit. Why do I need to look at her? Is the other one not so much like me? Both of us are birds of the same color and the same feather.”

You will have to look for a book that looks so much like any other book but is actually entirely different in content and spirit.

You will have to look for a person who looks so much like any other person but is entirely different in content and spirit. That’s the only way.

You will have to live in a world that looks so much like the usual world but is entirely different in content and spirit.

You will have to lead a life that might look like any other usual, ordinary life but is entirely different in content and spirit.

The good news is, the savior bird is available. The bad news is, the savior bird is too available; she is so very available that she becomes unavailable.

We want to go for the stuff that is difficult to get in the external sense. You want to go for stuff for which you’ll have to earn money, travel long distances and such things. That’s what we call as a difficult attainment, that we had a lot of difficulty achieving such a thing. Why? Because it required effort and money and time and such things. The company of the savior bird does not really require too much expenditure of money or time or resources; it just requires an internal relocation. Do you get the difference?

Therefore, Truth has been said to be very easy and very difficult. Very easy, because you don’t have to do all the things that you do for the sake of worldly attainment. When you search for Truth, you don’t really have to travel continents, you don’t really have to spend crores. So, in that sense Truth is easy to get. Equally, Truth is very difficult to get. Why? Because Truth asks for just one thing, which is the center of all our things: the ego, the little self. This is what I am referring to as the internal relocation. Your center of identity has to change. If you can change that easily, Truth is very easy to get. If you cannot change that easily, Truth is impossible to get.

Really watch the Truth, really watch it. Tatpaśyat Tadbhavet . Who watches It, becomes It. When you come upon something beautiful, try to understand it. That’s what is meant by watching. The worldly bird, the engaged bird, would have surely glanced at her neighbor many a times; that’s not really called looking. To look is to understand. Do you really understand, or do you just keep looking? We said that if you are looking and not understanding, then something in you is just looking to avoid.

And it’s very possible, be warned, that you might keep just looking at something or someone for years, for decades, and yet be a total stranger to the reality of that person. Just as several people keep reading holy books all their life and yet really understand nothing—because nothing shows up in their life—similarly you could be looking at the person of the savior bird for months, years, and decades, and yet gain not an inch of real closeness, because you just kept looking and never understood anything. You never approached the secret; you never had any love for the bird’s core. You kept looking at all the external actions, the words, and all the fluff. There is no bird without a fluff. You kept looking at all the fluff. “Ah, golden-hued! Ah, big, small!” You kept noticing the twitter. You never knew the center.

And I am repeating the warning: It is not merely possible, it is very, very probable that you will be very, very close, and unimaginably far, further than you can ever imagine, as most people in the world are. You stand in front of a statue of Krishna—how close are you to the essence of Krishna?

Something in us does not want to acknowledge the Truth because the Truth is so poignant; falseness will melt, if not in heat then in tears. When you really look at the Truth, there is not merely illumination; there is a deep pathos. One is humiliated, almost ashamed; there is a recognition of suffering.

Why did the savior bird even have to sit on the same branch as the worldly bird? After all, she has nothing to do with fruit. What is she doing on that branch? Tell me, please. Why does she have to enjoy the company of a foolish flock? The worldly bird, we can understand, she has a purpose. What is the purpose? The fruit is the purpose. But why is the other one sitting adjacent to her? Think.

And that’s where the pathos lies. One is there to consume, the other one is there just to oversee with no purpose of her own; that is witnessing. The fruit is right next to her, all around her; she doesn’t consume—in the psychological sense, please. Obviously, if the bird exists as a mortal bird, she would be taking in some nutrition, some food; but in the psychological sense she is not consuming anything. Yet she is present. Why?

When you really look at the Truth, that’s when you have an explosion of appreciation, an explosion of recognition. Something very, very important has been happening very, very close to you, and you have been totally blind, insensitive, indifferent. And that’s what breaks you down into pieces, that internal explosion of recognition. The ego needs a certain pride to survive; that pride is gone.

And the ego has been humiliated here not by the display of power but by a recognition of love: “I sit here to eat. He sits here for me . I am here for the fruit. She is here for me .” I am calling it an explosion of recognition. And it is bound to happen if you look a bit carefully, so you will avoid looking.

Long back, it was almost a decade back, I wrote: Witnessing is love, and the so-called paths of knowledge and devotion are not at all separate from each other.

It requires tremendous love to witness. Parabrahman is not even a witness. Parabrahman , Nirguṇa Brahman is turīyātīta , even beyond witnessing. The one who is here to witness has taken upon herself a lot of suffering. You may not have anything to do with what you know of in witnessing, but why would you ever want to know of something you have nothing to do with? Isn’t it a kind of punishment to keep knowing of random stuff, useless garbage that you are anyway not at all concerned with? That’s the suffering the witness knowingly inflicts upon herself for the sake of her sister bird.

“Why the hell must you be perched on a tree you have nothing to do with? Why must you keep sitting next to a foolish bird tied to her greed?”

Love. Compassion. The essence of witnessing.

Questioner (Q): What do you mean by looking more carefully?

AP: Do not allow your logic to run amok. What does the logic of the first bird say? She looks at the other bird, and she does not need to enquire carefully because the second bird looks so much like herself. So, she very quickly comes to a conclusion: “She looks like me, so she behaves like me. She looks like me, so she desires like me.”

Do not allow your mind to come to quick and cheap conclusions. Do not think that the place you operate from is the place the other one also operates from; otherwise, you will not only miss but come to horrendous conclusions. “You see, I am the worldly bird, I am here to eat. And this one, obviously she is so much like me—same color, same breed—she too is here to eat. But she is such a loser, she cannot even get to eat.”

So, forget adulation—what you will raise within is humiliation for the savior bird. “She is here to eat, that’s her intention, but she is failing to eat. She is such a loser.” Will you now have adulation or humiliation for her? What is the fundamental flaw? You looked at her and you said, “Because she is like me in appearance, in mortal form, therefore she is internally too like me.”

Do not allow yourself to extrapolate a lot; do not posit, assume, imagine. Ask. Seek to know. That’s called looking. Your assumptions are no good, and you have a lot of assumptions. And that’s why a conversation between the knower and the seeker is often quite difficult. The seeker has assumptions not only about himself but also about the knower, and then the knower finds it very difficult to reach the seeker.

You don’t have to assume that the knower is a knower; you just have to not assume that you know the knower. I am not asking you to start worshiping any bird that appears like a witness; I am asking you to check your tendency to assume that you know about even those birds who behave differently compared to you.

But you will keep positing. Why? Because the ego does not love uncertainty. The ego is so fragile it wants to come to quick and cheap conclusions. “I know what that bird is here for, don’t I? I know what you are doing.” You know nothing. You know nothing about that bird, nothing at all. It is horrible.

And therefore, when this massive ignorance ends, there is an explosion of appreciation. In that explosion you are reduced to pieces, and that’s the reason why you will not allow yourself to know the reality of the witnessing bird. It will not allow you to remain intact. You would rather cocoon yourself in cozy stories: “Oh, this bird is my cousin, just one month elder to me, I know the name of her father. I know!”

You know nothing . Had you really known anything, you wouldn’t have been yourself till now.

Get into the shoes of our shopaholic bird, the worldly one. What is she thinking? “The weather is nice, the fruit is ripe.” And what is this one doing here? Tell me, what is the other bird doing here? “Oh, maybe she is melancholy, missing her mate. She just doesn’t know how to live.”

I can very well imagine her telling the witness, “Mate, go get a life! I know you are not into eating because depression reduces one’s appetite. I know that’s why you are not eating; you are just depressed!” And in between you can also visualize her sermonizing, “Dude, one life is all we have. Come on, why are you wasting it? Fruit is ripe, juicy, succulent. Don’t miss this one grand festival called life!” She is trying to motivate the witness.

Coming from a wrong center, our relationship with the Truth too is very wrong. Not that the Truth isn’t available; our relationship with it is very flawed. Look at what we have done with the lives and stories of our saints, sages, avatars, prophets. See what we have done. We haven’t tried to look at their truth; instead, we have narrated them as some kinds of decorated shadows of our own lives. You take your own picture and then you dress it up, and you start calling it the avatar. That’s how we have related to the Truth.

And we ask for their intentions, their motivations: “But why did Rama do this? Why did Krishna do that?” We don’t even ask actually; we assume that we already know. “I know why Rama went after the deer, I know. I know why Krishna wanted Arjuna to kill Duryodhana, I know. Who else will know? After all, Krishna was so much like me. Because there is no Truth except my ego, so even the Truth has to be like my ego.”

When there is no Truth for you except for your ego, then even the Truth has to be like your ego. That is our operating principle, so we miss.

Q: You said that one doesn’t remain intact in that explosion of appreciation, and the ego wants to remain intact. What is meant by being intact? What exactly is this intactness?

AP: The entire concrete structure of your being in which everything is fastened to the other thing. We are an entire structure, and we stand well-knit, tightly bound, don’t we? So, the explosion brings this structure apart. Why? Because the principle that stands at the very center of this structure is falsified.

At the center of your being is a principle—you know what is that principle? “I am valid.” You are invalid. What does validity mean? “I have a right. I am justified. I am reasonable.” That is the principle at the center of your structure. That is the current running through the maze of your circuit. “I am valid.”

You are not valid, you are invalid. You are not justified. You are not merely wrong, you are false.

Now, falseness is extreme humiliation. If you are wrong, you can be corrected. If you are false, then nobody exists to be corrected. That’s the extent of your invalidity. You are not past your expiry date; you were never manufactured at all. There is something, some edible or some medicine, you don’t take in because it has passed its expiry, and then there is something that you don’t take in because it was never manufactured, it doesn’t exist.

We are false, and yet we keep believing ourselves as not merely existent but as truthfully existent. We cannot be, therefore, corrected; we can only be demolished, and hence the danger is grave. So, we avoid the company of Truth, we avoid recognising the Truth. When you recognise the Truth, you don’t stand corrected; you stand dynamited. So, Truth is not dangerous—it is fatal. KCN (chemical formula of potassium cyanide).

The saints wanted to be a bit compassionate in their storytelling, so they just said gunge keri sarkara , that you can have it but cannot describe it. Let me be more forthright: When you have it, you are not left to describe it. It is not sucrose, it is potassium cyanide, to put things straight.

Our friend came here looking for some sarkara , sucrose. Now he is saying, “The formula is a bit different; sucrose, I think, has many more carbon molecules. Here all you have is one—where is all the hydrogen? KCN has no H in it!” So, he remains a bit fidgety. He is not sure he has come to the right place because he doesn’t find any sugar here. He is struggling hard to balance the equations, but it is very difficult to balance, you know. How do you balance KCN with, I don’t know, C6H6 something? One is an organic compound, the other is an inorganic compound.

Give up, that’s the way. Give up your futile attempts. It won’t be balanced the way you want it to be balanced. You won’t be able to reconcile the false with the true. You won’t be able to coexist with the Truth. That’s where your suffering lies: you are trying to somehow coexist with the Truth. You can’t coexist. You will have to give up.

You are trying to somewhere, somehow keep raising, like a secret pet, your beloved egoistic existence. Like a kid hiding his favorite puppy in a box; papa should not see. The puppy is just too big for you to hide it successfully, and when papa is about to discover, you hide the puppy besides yourself in your quilt. It whimpers, then it bites, and you do not get to choose the place it bites at. It is not going to be nice.

The ego bites you at very uncomfortable places, doesn’t it? The more uncomfortable a place is in your existence, the more vulnerable it is to an ego bite.

How can you balance weakness with strength? How can you balance vulnerability with fortitude? And I am not talking of vulnerability in the sense of receptiveness; I am talking of the vulnerability that a criminal feels when convicted. He knows he is a criminal, and now he stands convicted. I am talking of that kind of vulnerability. No point nurturing it, just give up. You know your crimes. How far can you carry their weight? For how long? Why not just shake off the damn thing and travel light?

Q: What is the right way for the consuming bird to relate to the witness bird? You have the fruit that you want to eat, and then you have this unusual bird which keeps ruining your pleasure trips one after the other. What is the right way to relate?

AP: There is pleasure in the fruit, and there is pleasure in recognising the existence of the witness. There is pleasure in being a consumer, and there is pleasure in recognising what it means to be a witness. Spirituality is not negation of pleasure; it is a movement into higher realms of pleasure.

We all want to maximize our gains, which is alright. The consumer is a sucker for happiness; she has to discreetly decide what brings her more happiness: the juice of the fruit, or the state of the witness. And both of them do offer something. Spirituality is about making the right judgment. Which of the two offers me more? Which of the two do I go for?

It is not consumption versus sacrifice; it is lower happiness versus higher happiness. Lower happiness by its very name stands invalidated. If you indeed want happiness, why do you want lower happiness? Or you just say you do not want happiness, then you give up even lower happiness. But, on one hand, you say you want happiness, and then you go for a very shallow kind of happiness. Isn’t this logic self-defeating? You say you want food, and then you go for the worst kind of food possible. What kind of logic is this? You say you want happiness, then you go for the most shallow and rotten kind of happiness. What kind of logic is this?

Nobody is asking you to starve and not have food. Why not go for great food? Spirituality is to go for the greatest kind of food. It is a party, it is a mighty feast. You would rather live scrapping on used utensils, as mice do? 2 a.m., just venture into the kitchen, you have the dredges and the leftovers, and the mice are happy. Are you a damn rat to be satisfied with leftovers? Why not have a grand feast? You want that and you are entitled too.

When you are rushing after mean and cheap happiness, remember the mouse—the mouse in the sink, the mouse in the basin, the mouse scrapping from utensils and the stove and the slab. Most people live like that mouse, surviving on some little crumbs, leftover vestiges of happiness. “Can we please, please be happy one hour in the week? I am waiting for the weekend, just as the mouse waits for 2 a.m.: ‘Let them have their dinner, and we are praying that they leave something behind. And I am praying that they go to bed early, and I am praying that they don’t leave behind a mouse trap.’”

First of all, we feed on scraps, and even though scraps act like a mousetrap to us… The entire world traps you using your little happinesses. Double whammy. First of all, your happinesses are so little, so unworthy, so puke-worthy, and secondly, the entire world has trapped you just using these happinesses, like the mouse is trapped in the kitchen.

You can’t be a lion? At least be a chimpanzee. Don’t be a mouse. Don’t wait for leftovers. “When the lords will allow, then I will have a piece or two, a bit or two, a morsel or two. When the mighty social gods will sanction, then I will get one bite at the bread.” If you can’t hunt, at least gather; but don’t be a scrapper.

If there is one thing mankind is perpetually starved of, it is genuine happiness. Nobody is happy, we all are trying to be happy. We deserve to be happy, nobody is happy. Vitamin H.

Spirituality offers you happiness. Because it brings you to the Truth, therefore it offers you true happiness.

Q: So, there are these two birds and both of them are a part of me. Do I have to take the side of me which does not indulge in the world?

AP: No, not at all. The Truth is not a side of you; the Truth is not a part of you. The Truth is the absence of this fictitious thing called ‘you’. That is how the false survives: by calling a part of itself as the Truth.

“Yes, of course I am false, but here, this part of me, my big toe, that’s the Truth.”

Next time when the big toe is proven to be false, then?

“This little finger of mine, this is the Truth.”

Then when even this little finger is proven to be false?

“Oh well, my molars in here, they are the Truth.”

Even that is proven to be false. Then?

“My left ear!”

And you have so many things. You can keep doing left, right, left, right; left eye is right, right eye is right; left nostril, right nostril. And you can keep going lower down the body, “Left, right, left, right. This is Truth, that is Truth.” Truth doesn’t keep hanging like that, sir.

Learn to deny anything that arises from within you. And if you can’t deny it, at least scrutinize it very, very honestly. The moment you start granting it quick entry, some kind of a wild card, uninterrogated, unquestioned, there is a big problem.

Look how confident people are when they say, “I am telling you the truth, it is coming right from here, my heart!” See how confident they are that the Truth is within them. And this fellow is saying, “ (Pointing at the left side of his chest) Here, here, from here do my words come! I am very, very Truthful. You are my goddess!” What happens to that Truth exactly five and a half weeks later? The goddess has changed. Maybe that’s why we have so many gods and goddesses in India: because we are so quick to call anybody a goddess. Next door Sheila Kumari becomes a goddess for you, and she is convinced because you said, “What I am telling you is coming from that side of me, that part of me which is the Truth.”

No part of you is the Truth. This thing called ‘you’, ‘me’, ‘I’, ‘myself’, is an entire, absolute lie. Do not patronize any bit of it.

See, the false is actually very, very vulnerable; it is in a very uncomfortable position. Because it is false, therefore the facts keep exposing it and humiliating it. So, how does falseness still manage to survive? Falseness says, “Oh yes, obviously I have been exposed today, today I have been totally exposed—but tomorrow I will be better.” Some part of itself it has saved as being Truthful; it has accepted that its present is rotten but says, “No, my future will be good, you see. Tomorrow I will be a different man!”

The thing is, it is your present and your future; present changes to future. Have you changed? You haven’t changed, so your present and your future actually belong to the same domain called ‘you’.

Even when you are denying and disowning your present, you are still managing to own your future, and when you own your future, you have de facto still preserved yourself. “I will happily disown my past and my present. Yeah, I was a very bad man and I did very badly today as well—but tomorrow I will be a better person, I promise.” That’s how falseness keeps saving itself.

You see, you take a balloon, and let the balloon be cylindrical, of length ‘l’ and radius ‘r’. The radius is small. There is air in the balloon; obviously, what else? Now, you want to push the air out of the balloon, so what do you do? You squeeze the balloon from one end, and it has been totally squeezed, it is gone. Has the air gone? Where is the air now? The air hides in some other corner.

That’s how the ego manages to survive. You squeeze one part of it, it agrees: “You have squeezed me, of course.” The poor ego has shriveled, gone, squeezed. But what has happened to the bloat within, to the air within? Has it really gone out? No, it has just been relocated to some other part of the self. Therefore, I am saying no part of the self is the Truth.

So, now there is the bloat there; what do you do? You attack that part and you say, “I am squeezing it here.” What does the ego do? It comes to some other part. You press here, it goes there; push it from here, it hides there. You will have to puncture the whole thing. Any part of it that you keep safe—that’s the problem. There are some parts of it that we want to keep safe. We say, “But, you know, this is my secret, personal domain. Obviously the other things I can disown, but this thing I cannot disown.”

Even a little that you are attached to, pulsive about, and want to keep holding to, becomes a safe sanctuary for the ego. Imagine some part of the balloon you have labeled as very sensitive or sacred and won’t ever touch or squeeze—what will that part act as? The safe sanctuary for the air within. All else will be squeezed; that part will keep harboring the air. What’s more? At some point you will let go of the squeeze, and then the air will occupy the entire cylinder again; nothing would have changed.

Puncture the whole thing, drop the whole thing. It’s either all or nothing. There is nothing in the domain of the ego you need to preserve. Happily abandon. Save one thing, and you have saved the totality of your useless structure.

That’s the reason why spiritual seekers keep wondering, “But I have been on the path of sādhana since twenty years. Why do I still feel frightened? Why do I still feel anxious and greedy and all that?” Because you were too afraid or attached to let go of one part of yourself. The part that you called as Truth was not the Truth; it was the worst falseness possible. Why am I calling it the worst falseness? Because that is the part that saved the entirety of your falseness by calling itself as the Truth.

The ego is like a net. If you remain entangled in one part of the net, is it one part of the net you are entangled in, or the whole net? That’s what. Either you will be totally free of the net, or you will be caught in the net. You cannot say, “I am partially free of the net.” What happens to a fish that is partially free of the net? It is caught and cut.

You are on the railway track and the engine is approaching, and you say, “You know, I was actually partially out of the reach of the engine.” What happens to those who are partially out of the reach of the engine? Do they die partially? You are either out or dead.

This is a gross, gross misconception that the Truth and the falseness are both within me. It inflates the ego like anything. But it is very popular, very very popular. The false is in you and the Truth too is in you, and they are partying side by side. How are the two coexisting within you, sir? We knew, we had been told and taught that the Truth has no neighbor, that the Truth does not coexist with anything because it is infinite. How is it so that within you the true and the false are coexisting? What kind of small Truth is this?

But all of us love to say that. “Ask yourself and you will get the right answer. The Truth is within you!” And you feel so inflated and empowered: “This fellow is talking sense! ‘Ask yourself, the Truth is within you, and you will get the right answer.’” You ask yourself a question, and from within you will get A, B, C, D, four options, and it is the type of MCQ in which all four are wrong, and there is no fifth option that says all four are wrong. The fifth one is out of syllabus; therefore it is called atīta , beyond; it is beyond your inner syllabus.

You ask yourself an inner question, “Which job do I pick up? Which business do I start with? What do I do in such a situation?” and immediately from within four answers pop up: A, B, C, D. Rest assured, all four deserve to be discarded. The right answer, I said, is beyond the scope of the syllabus and the question paper, that is beyond the scope of both the questioner and the answerer.

Now you are befuddled: “But then what do I do? If neither A nor B nor C nor D, if nothing is valid, then what do I do in life?” You need to have the courage to live with that uncertainty, and the right one will then be available to you. The right one keeps waiting for you to reject all four.

Searching for the Truth within you is a bit like searching for a vegan burger in KFC; by definition everything there has not only milk but flesh. What the hell are you looking there for? But the seller is so dexterous and so cunning; he will give you four options. You asked for a vegan burger, you will still get four options. Irrespective of the one you would tick, what you will get will have blood.

That’s the ego: it offers you what it does not have.

It is so deceptive. You want peace; the ego says, “I have peace.” Just as you say, “I want a vegan,” and KFC says, “I have vegan!” The ego is the KFC within. You say, “I want peace,” and the ego says—the ego by its definition has no peace, but not only does it say, “I do have peace,” it even gives you four options to get peace: ‘Peace A’, ‘Peace B’, ‘Peace C’, ‘Peace D’. Irrespective of the option you choose, there will be blood. Don’t choose anything, just walk out.

A little secret: vegan burgers exist. But you first need to walk out of the KFCs of the world.

“No, but, you know, how do I believe that only you are the truthful one? This innocent-looking manager just came to me and told me that they have four vegan options!”

Later on you ask him, “But how are these options vegan?”

“Well, the chicken never drank any milk. Vegan chicken.”

That’s ego for you: manipulative, foolish, unreliable. Don’t trust your inner voice—A, B, C, or D.

Q: Going back to the example with the balloon now. We said that when we squeeze it, the air just relocates itself to some other part of the balloon; the air is still there, but we are under the impression that we have succeeded in emptying it. How to locate the place where the air hides itself at?

AP: See where the air is. Your last refuge is your last defeat. See where you ultimately go to hide when your world has been brought down, see where you take shelter; that’s the center of your ego. When everything about you has crumbled, think of the place you rush to; that’s where your ego finds sanctuary.

See what you think of to motivate yourself when your world has gone down. See what you promise yourself when you have been abjectly defeated; that’s where your ego resides. That’s the place you do not want to touch. That’s your last and mighty falseness that supports all your falsenesses; that’s the foundation of your falsenesses. You know the building can fall down—and your building does often crumble, it is such a bad building. See what still remains; that’s the foundation of your ego.

See the one thing about yourself you never lose; that’s the foundation of your ego. Look at the last thing you are totally, totally sure of about yourself; that’s where you ultimately go and hide.

If I ask you the question, “If you lose everything, what will you be left with?” the answer to this question will tell you the center of your ego. That which you will be left with after you have lost everything is the center of your ego, because that’s the thing that collects everything around itself. It loses, it gains, it loses, it gains, but it remains.

It requires keen observation of your own behavior. When life totally trounces you and walks over you and tramples you, tell me, how do you console yourself? How do you pick yourself up and motivate yourself? You tell yourself something, right? Ah, that’s your final frontier, that’s your last falseness, and that falseness supports the rest of your false existence.

Even when you have been shown to be totally, totally wrong and delusional, what is it that you tell yourself to keep surviving as you are? That’s the center of your ego. Sometimes life chastises you, sometimes a person can slap you in the face and demonstrate to you very, very irrefutably that you have been an idiot, and in spite of that you manage to continue being what you have been. What do you tell yourself? What do you tell yourself to afford this? That’s the center of your ego.

You have been unambiguously demonstrated to be false—life could have done that, your experiences could have done that, a person could have done that. In your face ample proof has been thrown indicting you absolutely, but you still manage to not change; what do you tell yourself? That which you tell yourself even in that moment to continue surviving as you are, that’s your final frontier; that’s what you have been holding as scared. It is absolutely profane, and you are holding on to it as if it is the most sacred thing. Your inner urinal you have been terming as a sanctum sanctorum.

These are very important questions you need to answer. If you face these questions, if you will talk to these questions, you will come alive. Else, there is just the squeeze and the bloat, the treachery and drudgery.

Q: Can you please clarify what you mean by this final frontier?

AP: It will not be clear to you. Even the effort to clarify is a way to obfuscate.

When you are shown to be playing the wrong way, don’t say, “I will improve”; say, “I will do as you tell, I will no more do anything. I will be a puppet now. I will just do as you tell.” If you say you will improve, then who is talking? The one who could never improve. How will he now improve? Obviously, he is making a false promise. The thing is to then say not that “I will be better”; the thing is to then say, “I will be no more. I will be a puppet, I will be no more. If you are wise enough to tell me where my final frontier is, then kindly be considerate enough to also tell me what to do next.”

I know it sounds abhorrent to a liberal mind, the talk of one being a puppet of the other. But then, you know, there is a difference in being a liberal and being liberated. We are not talking human rights here; we are talking mature spirituality. And the sage is not out to seek votes, his job is to tell the Truth. You like it, you dislike it, you praise it, you pan it… (shrugs)

Do you get the difference between trying to be better and deciding to be no more? Even when you are trying to be better, you are coming from the same place that has never succeeded in being better because its very structure, its very origin does not allow it to be better. You bring me aluminum; I say, “Nothing doing, unacceptable.” Will you say, “I will try to make it better”? The very inner design of aluminum will not allow it to shine like gold. You can try to be clever and plate it and coat it and all that, but that doesn’t work for long.

If you really want something to shine like gold, you better get gold. Why get gold plated aluminum? Remaining aluminum, how will you shine like gold?

And aluminum is saying, “I will try to do better.” Every day aluminum is saying, “Tomorrow I will try to do better.” But you are aluminum, you cannot do better. Your very identity has to change; you have to be rejected. And you know what, when you reject aluminum, what you discover is that you need not cover aluminum with gold; instead, gold was covered with aluminum. Gold is already there, you have covered it with aluminum, and now you are trying to polish aluminum and plate it with gold. Do you require to plate aluminum with gold, or do you require to remove aluminum so that the gold within shines?

That’s the problem. You do not want to get rid of aluminum thinking that aluminum is all that you have. You have gold, just let go of the aluminum.

But the temptation to gold plating is very high, and that’s at the center of all the effort to improve oneself. “I will improve myself.” Who will be improved? “Myself, which means I will not be removed but improved.” When you say, “I will be improved,” what you are saying is, “I will not be removed.” That’s a big problem.

The way you are, you can never improve. Why don’t you realize that? Tomorrow you will repeat what happened today in some way or the other. How long can the gold plating retain its sheen? It will wear off. For two, three days you will say, “See, I have changed, I have improved,” but it is all just a thin coat. You scratch it, it is gone.

And if you have nobody to ask, then just pause. If you have nobody as a puppeteer, just pause, and then something impersonal will become your puppeteer. But in either case, don’t be your own master. If you can get a puppeteer in person reliable enough to trust, fine. If you cannot get such a person, still, just stop being your own master, and in that vacuum within, in that silence within, when you are not commanding yourself, not desiring yourself to do this or that, the real master emerges. And the real master, mind you, is not a part of yourself. The real master is an absence of the one you have been so far.

Not clear? Forget all this talk about the real master and the puppeteer. Remember just one thing: self-help and self-improvement do not work, cannot work. The entire thought is flawed at its base.

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