अत्यन्तवैराग्यवतः समाधिः समाहितस्यैव दृढप्रबोधः । प्रबुद्धतत्त्वस्य हि बन्धमुक्तिः मुक्तात्मनो नित्यसुखानुभूतिः ॥
atyantavairāgyavataḥ samādhiḥ samāhitasyaiva dṛḍhaprabodhaḥ prabuddhatattvasya hi bandhamuktiḥ muktātmano nityasukhānubhūtiḥ
For the extremely dispassionate man alone there is samādhi, and the man of samādhi alone gets steady realization, the man who has realized the Truth is alone free from bondage, and the free soul only experiences eternal bliss.
~ Verse 375
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Questioner (Q): This description appears like a ladder or series of steps towards bliss, starting from the bottom-most rung as the dispassionate man, then moving up to the man of samādhi , the realized man of Truth, the bondage-free soul, and then finally the eternal bliss. Please throw light on these steps.
Acharya Prashant (AP): These are not steps; these are just various ways of pointing at the beyond. Dispassion, samādhi , steady realization, freedom from bondage, free soul, eternal bliss—these are not a series of states. These are not dependent on each other, as in cause and effect. They do not originate from each other. They do not lead to each other. One is not inferior and the other is not superior. None of these states are consequent on the other. None of these states qualify the other. All that the simple knowers, compassionate helpers have been trying to do is point at the Beyond in several ways, in several words, using several means. Because you know passion, so to point at something beyond you, Adi Shankaracharya says ‘dispassion’.
Please understand the significance of dispassion. You exist in your personal universe, and your personal universe is a universe of passion, attachment, sorrow, clinging, attraction, hope, suffering. All that is passion. So, that’s your universe—full of passion. And you live in this universe taking this universe to be the Truth. The moment you take your universe as the Truth, you condemn yourself to needless suffering.
The Truth is that which ameliorates suffering. But look at your experiences, look at your life. You have taken your personal universe as true, have you not? Anybody who calls his personal universe as false? Anybody who calls her feeling as false, her experiences as false, her interpretations as false, her relationships as false, her very self as false? Anybody? We take our personal universe to be true. That is one fact universally seen, acknowledged. And the other fact is that man suffers. These go together. Because you take your personal universe to be true, so you suffer.
So, how does the man of compassion deliver you from suffering? By showing you that there is a reality beyond your little and personal universe, there is Truth outside of your little head. But that is too much for us to accept. We are stubborn beings, and scared too. Think of a stubborn and scared child. It would be very difficult to make him fall in line, to get him to understand, to bring him to a point of conviction. He is already too convinced. Stubborn and scared—that’s mankind for you. And that’s an apt description of what is called the ego—stubborn and scared, like a child.
So, in many ways, with equal stubbornness, the compassionate helper has to convince the child that his fears, his scares are false. So, the child says passion, and the helper will say dispassion. Now, that’s a technique. Why is that a technique? How did the child get trained in repeatedly saying passion? How did your personal universe get to be so full of passion? How did that happen?
AP: And how does conditioning proceed?
AP: Repetition, wonderful. So, your personal universe is a universe full of passion because that is what you have gone through again and again. We can say, that is what you have been made to go through again and again. Passion, passion… Wherever you look, there is the dance of passion. What do I mean by passion? Emotions, attachment, and all that which goes with it. You know all that, right? Clinging, tears, excitement—that’s passion for you. It appears like liveliness, but it scares like death.
Your personal universe is a product of repetition. You repeated nonsense again and again, and the nonsense just covered you up, the nonsense just got hold of you, the nonsense grew upon you. So, the master, the helper is using your tendency to be affected by repetition to help you. Who are you? The one who gets affected by repetition. And the proof is that your personal universe has come to be full of suffering, passion, this, that, none of which are innate. All of them are products of time, and time means repetition. It happened once, it happened again and again and again and again and again, and finally it got hold of you. Finally you got identified with it.
And there is actually never a finality to it. It keeps possessing more and more of you; it keeps enslaving you more and more. That’s what repetition does. And after a point, you don’t even look at it as repetition. Because it is getting repeated so often, you start calling it the uninterruptible Truth. After all, that’s the very mark of Truth—that it is not interruptible, that it has no discontinuity. And if the repetition is continuously happening, that too appears uninterruptible. And so you start conflating identification with the self, you start taking conditioning as your nature.
Isn’t that a very common argument? Because it is happening continuously and everywhere, so it must be the Truth. And one must sympathize with you. Because one sees falseness continuously and everywhere—and these two are also the characteristics of Truth: the Truth is all-pervasive spatially and continuous temporally. In terms of space, the Truth is all-pervasive, and in terms of time, the Truth is continuous. That’s how you describe Truth, don’t you? But look at the common man’s experience. He too finds something all-pervasive, and what is that? Falseness. And he too finds something continuous. What is that? Falseness. So, one must not be too harsh on the common mind when one sees that the common mind starts taking falseness itself as Truth, because falseness, too, is all-pervasive and continuous.
So, Adi Shankara looks at this mind and he says, “What to do?” And he sees that this mind is a product of time, a product of repetition. It soaks in repetition, and that which comes repeatedly to it, it starts taking as Truth. So, now he uses the same tendency of the mind to help the mind. He uses the tendency of the mind to get affected by repetition to help the mind get rid of all previous and false repetitions.
So, here, what you see in this śloka is a wonderful application of this technique. So, you say passion—and the woman’s face is full of passion and her eyes are teary. The face itself is a product of passion, or is it not? One man, one woman get passionate, and mankind is born. So, you need not display passion at a particular instant. Every cell is passionate, and every cell is continuously saying passion, passion, passion. And all that this body, this system knows, then, is passion.
And it’s a closed system; it won’t look outside of itself. Remember the stubborn and scared child. It has locked itself up in a room because it is scared, and it won’t open the room even if you keep calling from outside because it is stubborn. The ego is that child—stubborn and scared. It locks itself up. It’s a closed system. The child has to be lured out; the child has to be gently called out. You can’t coerce the child; coercion won’t work. You have to gently, gently, using the process of repetition, get the child to open the doors. That’s what Adi Shankara is doing here. You say passion; he says dispassion.
Now, dispassion by itself does not mean anything, because all that this closed universe knows is passion. So, why is Adi Shankara saying dispassion? Just to tell you that there is a reality outside of you. The little ego finds that very difficult to believe, because all that it knows is itself. What does one know? One knows himself and one knows his projections. So, you know yourself and you know your personal world, which are one and the same. And here is somebody calling from the beyond, and he is saying dispassion. You don’t know dispassion; but by saying dispassion, he is inducing a doubt in your mind, and the ego is very susceptible to doubt. The one who is scared is also the one who will very easily doubt.
The ego, now, is stubborn, scared and suspicious. The ego has been suspicious of the Truth. Adi Shankara is using the same tendency of the ego, the same proclivity of the ego to suspect everything to get the ego to suspect the personal universe as well. So, the ego says passion, and from there Adi Shankara says dispassion, and the ego says, “What is that?” The ego cannot trust anything. Because the ego cannot trust anything, the ego cannot trust even falseness. Obviously, the ego cannot trust the Truth. But because the ego knows no trust, so it can also not trust the falseness.
Adi Shankara is clever. He is getting the ego, the doubtful ego, to doubt itself, and that’s easy. Because if you can doubt the Truth, it would be very easy to get you to doubt the false. So, the ego is shouting, “Passion, passion, passion!” and from there, from afar, from a distance, from beyond, Adi Shankara says, “Dispassion!” The ego says, “Huh? Something wrong, something wrong! Something terrible is bound to happen!”
So, the ego checks the entire little room in which it has confined itself, and it finds no dispassion. And now the ego is all the more scared—something really terrible is going on. Then the ego says, “Fine, there seems something wrong in the passion department, so I’ll keep it aside for a while.”
Then ego says, “Disturbance, movement, distraction, restlessness!” Because that’s what the personal universe is full of, so the ego says all this. And Adi Shankara, we know he is clever. Sitting there (pointing upwards) , he says samādhi . And now the ego is utterly terrified, because within the ego’s own universe, samādhi does not exist. Just by uttering the word samādhi , Adi Shankara has brought about a storm in the tea cup. Sitting there, he has induced a storm in the little room; now the little room is shaking. And all that he is doing from there is saying samādhi .
And the ego says, “ Samādhi * —where is it?” It searches for * samādhi in the entire room and does not find it. So, the ego says, “Fine, even this seems like a doubtful word. I will not utter it. I will move on to my next favored word, my next favorite.” And the next favorite is ‘confusion’, because the ego’s own little universe is full of confusion. So the ego, then, sings and dances, “Confusion, confusion!”
And from there, Adi Shankara says, “Realization!” And the ego jumps up and says, “What is that? Never heard of that! Never experienced that! Realization?” The ego hires a detective from within its own universe. Within the universe of the ego, everything exists. All existence is within the personal universe; beyond that we anyway don’t know anything. So, a detective is hired: “Go, dig out realization. See where this thing called realization is hiding!” And the detective returns empty handed. No realization!
Now the ego is getting really jittery; something really obnoxious is cooking somewhere. “I am pretty sure that there is nothing outside my universe, but from somewhere certain words are coming that are not being found inside my universe.” The ego is stubborn that there is no universe except the personal, little universe, and from there Adi Shankara is saying, “Dispassion, samādhi , realization.” So, the ego is hellbent on finding all these things inside the little universe, and the ego is failing, and each failure is hitting the ego very hard. The ego is about to breakdown, cry. But it is stubborn, so it tries a little more.
So, the ego now starts uttering, reciting, “Bondage, bondage, bondage, bondage!” because the personal universe is a universe of bondage. And Adi Shankara hears that and, as usual, he is ready with his reply, his ammunition. He says, “Freedom!” And ego says, “My God! Where is freedom? What is this thing called freedom?” And freedom is, again, untraceable. “Where do I find it? No freedom in my universe. What is this thing called freedom?” That does not mean that the ego has realized freedom; the ego only knows bondage. But Adi Shankara is telling the ego that there does exist something beyond all your experience and knowledge.
The ego will not easily accept that, so it will search within the province of experience and knowledge but will not find anything there. And the ego is not honest enough to easily admit that freedom has not been found within its own province, so it may also play one dirty trick. It may say, “Yes, I have found freedom within my world.” It may say, “I have found samādhi within my world.” It may name any spurious thing as freedom or samādhi . Fake goods, fake medicines, just labels.
But that doesn’t last long. Because even when the ego says, “I have found freedom,” from afar Adi Shankara is still uttering, “Freedom!” And the freedom that Adi Shankara is talking of sounds fundamentally different from the freedom that the ego has. The ego tries to pretend for a while that it has found the same freedom that Adi Shankara is talking of, but it can’t deceive itself for too long because the helper is very patient. The helper won’t go away. The ego says freedom, from there he too says freedom. And very soon the ego realizes that the freedom that the helper is talking of is not the same freedom that the ego knows. It becomes clear, and when it becomes clear, it’s a very frustrating thing to face.
Then the ego says, “Suffering!” and from there comes the reply: “Bliss!” And Adi Shankara repeats this and repeats this, and the words coming from there are beautiful. They scare because they are new, unknown, but they also have a great beauty; they are an invitation, they are a temptation. The child gets tempted, almost seduced, and then the door gets opened, slowly, and the child peeps outside. Who does he see there? The Guru. The Guru is smiling and calling, “Come over!” The child had expected to see nobody, because he had always believed that there is nothing outside the room. Outside the room of your confinement is standing the Guru. When you first opened the door, it is scary to see that there does exist someone outside the room. So, you quickly again shut the door.
But now the proof is irresistible; now the admission is irrevocable. So, you get internally compelled to again open the door, and this time you open it a bit more, and instead of just peeping out with scared eyes, you actually walk out a little. And now you look at the teacher a little more closely. The fear subsides a little. He is not as scary as you had painted him to be. But still, when he comes closer, you again come back and close the door. Can’t do that for too long. Next time when you open the door, you find him standing right at the doorsteps, and this time he extends his hand, and you are helpless and you take the hand. A little bit of abusing and cursing is still going inside the mind, but that keeps dimming down as you walk out.
Don’t try to give the whole thing a structure. There is no ladder here. You are just being told that your personal stuff, your personal universe, the personality, the person herself, counts for little. You are being told that something outside of you, something beyond you is waiting for you.
Let’s see how long you will take to say yes. It’s simple, like love.