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Suffering and Liberation || Acharya Prashant (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
13 min
30 reads

Questioner (Q): The scriptures say that without the Guru’s grace, whatever you do on your own will not help you reach the ultimate Truth. So, how does the Guru help you to reach the ultimate Truth?

Acharya Prashant (AP): The ultimate Truth has been called by another name as Guru. Nothing but the ultimate Truth attracts you. It helps you by attracting you. Full stop. You are hungry and the food is attracting you. How is the food helping you? By attracting you.

Q: Does the Guru reside inside? How can I hear his voice?

AP: You are not able to hear even so many things that are going inside you; how will you hear the Guru? You are not able to hear even the physical sounds emanating from your physical structure; how will you hear something that is non-physical? Do you ever hear something that is not emanating from material?

Q: No.

AP: So, how will you hear the Guru, the Guru within?

Q: Then how can I identify him?

AP: He must also appear as material. Then you will identify him.

Q: Externally I would identify him this way, but…

AP: Only externally you will identify him.

Q: So, you cannot identify him internally?

AP: Internally it is very, very difficult. That’s why the Guru has to appear outside: so that you can identify.

Q: Is this why they say in the scriptures that one needs a Guru outside—because you can’t hear him within?

AP: “It can’t happen without a Guru” is said for another reason. The guru who is outside is daihika guru, a physical guru. Physical guru is needed because your eyes have got used to seeing the physical. And a guru is needed because a guru is needed; there is no other reason. The very name of desire is Guru. And what else is needed by all? What is desired—that itself is called the Guru.

Q: We are going through a process of learning here; some things we are trying to unlearn, and some things we are trying to learn. But Ashtavakra says that one should drop all knowledge and stop doing the meditation, just realize what you already are, etc. So, there is a contradiction, right? We are going through a process of learning here, but…

AP: What is the Ashtavakra Gita ?

Q: It is a scripture.

AP: Why is it so difficult to see the obvious? The Ashtavakra Gita is a series of instructions. It is a dialogue between Janaka and Ashtavakra. So, how is that which is happening here contradictory to Ashtavakra Gita ? Where exactly did you imagine the contradiction? Ashtavakra is talking to Janaka, and here also there are discussions and dialogues happening. Where is the contradiction?

Q: How to develop a sensor within that informs us immediately if we are moving towards the wrong direction?

AP: Suffering is the sensor. Suffering is the alarm. Love yourself more.

Q: Moment to moment suffering?

AP: Obviously, moment to moment.

Q: You mean mental suffering?

AP: Suffering is mental. The mind needs to be centered in the Truth. The more you go away from the Truth, the more you suffer.

Q: Should we figure out and identify the reasons for our suffering?

AP: Whatever is the reason behind your suffering, the reason behind all reasons is departure from the Truth. There would always be miscellaneous and local and immediate reasons, but those reasons are all secondary. The primary reason is always one: you have decided to wander away. That alone is the primary reason.

Q: When you say, “Love yourself more,” what exactly do you mean by that?

AP: Care for your welfare. Know that you are the suffering consciousness. Know that you are the incomplete ‘I’.

Q: So, for example, satisfying a craving is not helpful?

AP: If satisfying those cravings can bring completion to your ‘I’-ness, then cater to all your cravings. But does that happen?

Q: If I am not in the mood to do something I should do, I adhere to that feeling even if I know that it will cause me suffering later on. I am very aware of the fact that postponement will only prolong the situation, but…

AP: You are not really aware of what is happening because you are still using the word ‘later’. Time is a big buffer, a great defense; it helps you imaginatively, theoretically shield yourself against the fruit of action.

Q: But the damage is done then itself?

AP: The damage is done instantaneously. By saying that the suffering will occur later, you are authorizing yourself to commit mischief.

Q: I am able to stay in the moment only momentarily. After being immersed for a while, I usually get distracted and fall back into the normal patterns. Then it takes some time to get centered again, and then I fall back eventually. Why is this happening?

AP: Get something big and important to do. Then all these things will cease.

Q: It happens quite often…

AP: Because you don’t have anything big and important with you.

Q: That means I am jobless; that is why I am getting caught in it.

AP: You have to get the highest job possible, and then you will have no space for distractions. The highest job.

Q: Something I am completely into?

AP: The highest job.

Q: What is that highest job?

AP: Be a good applicant. You may get a call!

Q: They say that honesty sometimes looks foolish to others.

AP: Others? And you are too bothered about others? Is this honesty—a dishonest question about honesty?

Q: One might end up losing the job!

AP: We all end up losing our life as well. Why can’t you see the whole thing?

Q: In the Mahabharata , Krishna used a lot of tactics to bring about or establish Dharmā . Now, there have also been other instances in history where saints have done questionable things, even something foul, to establish righteousness. So, their behavior kind of determines the funda of the good and bad of the situation, right? So, how can we determine whether something is…

AP: Be Krishna first. Right now, your inquisitiveness must be directed at yourself. Are you Krishna?

Q: No, but that’s the thing. I can be honest with my job; but then, if I am, I might lose it. So, that will provoke me, just in order to save my job, to…

AP: What does he mean by honesty? Have we discussed over the last two days that honesty is with respect to others? Go back to what we have been constantly saying. What is the meaning of honesty?

Q: Honesty towards oneself.

AP: What does that mean, practically?

Q: To see the provoking?

AP: Who am I?

Q: Truth? The mind?

AP: I am the restless consciousness. You are not the Truth, sir. Please. In your daily life, what about you suggests to you that you are the Truth? Anything?

Q: I am constantly able to see the monkey mind.

AP: And how do you know that you are constantly able to see the monkey? You are able to see the seer as well? You are able to witness the witness? How do you know that you are able to see?

Q: I can see how I feel.

AP: How do you know that you are seeing your feelings?

Q: I can feel it in the sense that I can feel what is happening.

AP: If you can talk about the witness, what does that mean?

Q: That I can witness the witness.

AP: You can witness the witness. But you are not grasping this. So, whatever you are saying makes no sense at all. You are not the Truth. You are not even truthful about being the false one. If you can’t be the Truth, at least be truthful in admitting that you are the false.

So, who am I? I am the restless consciousness. I am not the Ātman or Brahman or Truth. Get that out of your mind. It’s a concept. I am the restless consciousness; that I know by my everyday behavior, my life, my experiences.

Now, tell me, what is honesty? If I am thirsty, what is honesty?

Q: To get myself water.

AP: Yes. So, that is honesty. Honesty does not that “I took rupees five and returned rupees five.” This is a very childish definition of honesty.

Q: Then what is it exactly?

AP: You are not hearing.

Q: I am not understanding because…

AP: Because I do not want to admit that I am the restless consciousness. And if I am the restless consciousness, if I am the thirsty one, what is honesty?

Q: Getting myself water.

AP: Get myself water. That is honesty.

Q: If we are playing cricket, then…

AP: You are not playing cricket. You are the restless consciousness. Whatever you do, you do in order to get some rest.

Q: Let’s bring this to the context of having a job. When it comes to the job, honesty would be to…

AP: You cannot have honesty in a job; you have honesty towards the one you are. You want to talk about the entire world, but you don’t want to talk about yourself. Who are you in that job?

Q: I am a person working there.

AP: Why are you working there?

Q: Because I want something more.

AP: Ha!

Q: So, we have to take a deep dive into ourselves every moment?

AP: Of course. You have to know who you are and proceed from there. Remember your condition. Never forget your condition.

Q: But I think that I am the one who needs the money from the work.

AP: You may think so. But does the practice of money fulfill you? Does it fulfill you?

Q: For the next month, yes.

AP: Does it fulfill you even this month? You have been getting salaries since twenty years. Are you living for salaries? Full stop.

Q: It is necessary for food.

AP: Are you living food? Buffaloes do that.

Q: My body is asking for it every day.

AP: Are you alive for food?

Q: It is a requirement.

AP: You can keep having food—does that fulfill you?

Q: It’s just a physical requirement.

AP: So, that is the importance of money: it can only keep you going; it will not fulfill you. You want to meet the lover, and you must know the value of petrol: petrol can keep you going, but petrol does not become the lover. Or can petrol become the lover?

Q: They say we will have to strive for liberation, otherwise we will have to take forty-two lakhs of rebirths.

AP: Eighty-four!

Q: You have to take…

AP: Rest assured, you already are living in the worst kind of hell possible. That’s what human life is about. We need not be terrified with descriptions of the 8,400,000 yonis . It is when you are threatened with rebirth in an inferior species, then the assumption is that right now you are superior. The fact is, this life is the worst hell that anybody can have. Are cockroaches as stressed out as we are? So, if we are reborn as a cockroach, how is that a bad deal? Man is living in the worst hell possible. Any kind of rebirth will be a better birth.

So, don’t worry about rebirth; worry about this birth. Anyway the personal mind will be destroyed with your body, and you identify only with the personal mind. So, you will have no rebirth, rest assured. You have no rebirth.

Q: Then why strive for liberation?

AP: Because you are living one more day, and to live one more day in such hellish conditions must be intolerable.

Liberation is not about getting liberated from rebirth. Liberation is about getting liberated from this life. The ancient ones did not say that liberation means liberation from punarjanma (rebirth). They said that the liberated one is jīvanmukta (liberated from life)—this jīvan , this life.

Q: But when they talk about rebirth and what happens after death…

AP: That is a lower concept. The highest words that have been said, the highest ideal that has been set is that of the jīvanmukta . And what does jīvanmukta mean? Liberated in this birth. Living and liberated—that is jīvanmukta .

People threatened Kabir like this. They said, “You are living in Varanasi; it is a holy place. And there is a place near Varanasi called Maghar. Nobody wants to die in Maghar. They say that if you die in Maghar, then you go to hell and later on you are reborn as some insect or something!”

So, Kabir said, “That’s interesting.” There is a reason why I love him. He said, “That’s very interesting.” Just when he felt that he was about to die, he said, “Let’s go to Maghar.” And he made sure that he died in Maghar. “Let’s see who will give us a rebirth!”

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