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The knot of a mismarriage that is to be severed || On Mundaka Upanishad (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
20 min
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भिद्यते हृदयग्रन्थिश्छिद्यन्ते सर्वसंशयाः । क्षीयन्ते चास्य कर्माणि तस्मिन्दृष्टे परावरे ॥

bhidyate hṛdayagranthiśchidyante sarvasaṃśayāḥ kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi tasmindṛṣṭe parāvare

The knot of the heartstrings is rent, cut away are all doubts, and a man’s works are spent and perish, when is seen That which is at once the being below and the Supreme.

~ Verse 2.2.9

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Acharya Prashant (AP): “The knot of the heartstrings is rent,” hṛdayagranthi , “cut away are all doubts, and a man’s works are spent and perish, when is seen That which is at once the being below and the Supreme.”

So, there is a condition that’s been talked of, and the result or the signs of that condition. What is the condition? “…when is seen That which is at once the lowest and the highest.” When you see that which is the lowest and the highest at once—not alternately, not consecutively, but at once, concurrently—when you see that, then what happens? The heartstrings are rent open, the doubts are all cut away.

What is this heartstrings stuff? The way it is put is: there is a knot within. What is this knot about? It connects the unconscious with the conscious; it makes you feel deeply connected to the body. That’s the knot. That knot has to be opened for you to be liberated. Else, it is a very unsettling question. How is it possible that immaterial consciousness becomes so identified with the material? How is it possible? So, to just simplistically explain the matter, the sages have said there is a knot within, granthi , and that knot is the cause of a lot of your trouble.

Two beings, two entities of very different natures have been put together for some unknown reason, and this union is hardly of use to the conscious one. This is a kind of wedding. Puruṣa has been wedded to Prakriti , and in between them there is this knot. Both suffer. To liberate the Puruṣa and to restore the dignity of Prakriti , it is important that this knot is undone. Sometimes, this is the way in which the highest goal of all spiritual practice is expressed. They say this is the highest goal.

A mismatch has taken place, and you are the result of this mismatch, you are that mismatch. Oil and water have been put together in one container, the container of the body, and now there is a lot of shaking and jerking in the hope that they will mix with each other. But they will not mix with each other, they are immiscible; their natures are extremely different. The body has one thing to do, and the consciousness is totally free of all things to do. But when these two are knotted together, then there is a great problem and lot of mischief, and both the parties suffer, the husband and the wife both.

Do you see that happening in the world all around you? Consciousness is distraught, and Prakriti , the wife, is raped. The husband, consciousness, is totally distraught, suffocated, not able to really be intelligent, not able to really be conscious, not able to fly in the skies that are his real home. Imagine the sky being knotted to the earth.

And what does that do to Prakriti ? Because the Puruṣa is distraught and frustrated and angry, he vandalizes Prakriti , he rapes and violates her again and again, as we are seeing in the world around us. That is because the right, respectful distance between these two is not being maintained. Prakriti should be allowed to indulge in her activities, dance, whatever you call it, routine movements, and the role of Puruṣa is to not interfere, not pounce upon her, not touch her, not embrace her, but to just watch and witness. That witnessing does not happen because of the knot.

So, that knot has to be undone, the two have to be separated. Which two? The two that are anyway dimensionally apart.

“The knot of the heartstrings is rent, cut away are all doubts, and a man’s works,” karma , “are spent and perish.”

The load that the consciousness carries of all past deeds, and the obligations that it carries to indulge in future deeds, are both gone, because all deeds come from the body. The body has a past, the body has a future; the body exists in time. The body is Prakriti . Consciousness, pure consciousness, has no past, no future, comes from nowhere, is making no journey, but is unfortunately made to bear the load of physical activities because it has identified with physicality.

The wife has gone berserk because of the bad wedding; the wedding should never have happened. The wife really finds no joy in the marriage, so what has she started doing? She has started spending prolifically. Who is doing all the spending? The wife. But who has to often bear the karmaphala , who has to pay the bills? The husband.

And not only that: as a result of this silly union, now some little silly beings are there, and their future has to be taken care of. Nobody is happy. The husband is not happy, the wife is not happy, and two little silly ones have just sprung up from nowhere to remain unhappy. Now, past is there, future is there; all kinds of things are there.

The union is the ‘I’-feeling, “I did it.” Now, why do you think, “I did it”? Because the one who did it is carrying your surname. Now, Mrs. Jindal did it, so the bill comes to the Jindals. This is doership. Even though you didn’t do it, yet you pay the bills. So why not undo the knot and avoid the bills?

The funny thing is: once the knot is undone, all the silly shopping stops too, because the shopping was actually a reaction, a reaction to a husband who can never love you, never satisfy you. So, you go out and spend 50,000, in anger, in frustration. Now those actions don’t happen.

Do you see the analogy here? Please, we are not talking of a couple here; we are talking of one person here. The wife is the body, the husband is the consciousness. I hope we have not missed the symbols.

The body and the mind keep doing silly things, and then you have to suffer. The mind keeps having stupid thoughts and feelings, and the body indulges in this and that, and then you suffer. And this is doership, because you think that you have done all those things. You have not done all those things; it is the silly union that has done all those things. Leave the body alone; it will not indulge in overeating. Go to the jungle, you will not find any obese animal. The same animals in captivity, they become obese. Pets are often so very obese.

Where did the problem come from? In Prakriti , there are so many things that happen right just on their own. But when you start identifying with the body and the mind, then they go berserk, because now there are stupid expectations. In fact, it is those expectations that made you tie the knot in the first place. The deluded consciousness thinks that the body can provide some great pleasure to it and so it proposes—I do not know if it proposes or kidnaps or what, but here is a union, and it’s a union that benefits neither side. So, the knot has to be untied.

Should there be no relationship between the two? No, the sages have talked of a great relationship; that great relationship is one of witnessing.

Watch from a distance. Don’t indulge. Know, see, realize, but don’t interfere.

When does all this happen? “When is seen That which is at once the being below and the Supreme.” That’s when you realize that there is no need to tie the knot. Because from the lowest one till the highest one only the Supreme exists, so what is the need to do anything special to get the Supreme?

You tie the knot with one body, with a special body, don’t you? You say, “This is my body, so this is special, obviously.” But there comes a realization when you see that from the bottom till the top, from east till west, there is actually nothing special. Then what is the need to take yourself as special?

You take one body as special, be it your own body or the wife’s body, when you feel that the others are not special. When you realize that bodies are bodies—and you don’t need to be particular about bodies because really, you are not a body. Why do you need to think so much about bodies? Let bodies carry on in their own domain. Be it your body or the neighbors body or the body of this table, let them play their own game. Your game is different. Then there is no need to treat anything, any person, any body as special, and then the knot is undone.

Alternately, you could say that now you have tied the knot with all bodies, because no body is special. When you have tied the knot with all bodies, then you are attentive towards everything. Now you do not say, “I will pay attention to only this thing because it concerns me in my own way”; now your attention is universal. Now your attention does not depend on the object, just as the sun’s light does not depend on the object it illuminates. It doesn’t matter who is in front of you, who is left to you, what time of the day it is, what context it is; you are always in, you are always in the zone, you are always on.

See, this is a mistake we all make, and surely this is a mistake that disciples even at that time were making; else there was no need for the Rishi to emphasize so much. What’s the mistake? Something is special. Either this body is special or the duration when I am listening to the sage is special, but something has to be taken as special and more worthy of consideration. This shirt is special, that food is special, that woman is special, that man is special; when I am in the temple, that time is special; when I am reading the Upanishad, that moment is special.

Whatsoever you consider as special you tie the knot with, and then there is a problem.

That's the thing with human beings, you know. The moment you consider something as special, you destroy it; it becomes useless for you. A tranquil place in the Himalayas—man-less, idyllic, absolutely beautiful. The moment somebody spots that place as special, what happens to it? It is destroyed. Sometimes you destroy it in the name of developing it, sometimes you destroy it in the name of beautifying it.

The Upanishads can mean so much to you, but if you consider them special, then you distance them from life. Because what does the word ‘special’ connote? Something that is different from daily and ordinary life, right? If Upanishads are special, then you will keep them separated from your daily life—and He is hiding in your daily life. If you could bring Upanishads to your daily life, maybe you would have seen, but you kept them away.

Be your best at all times, with all people, at all places. And that does not mean putting on your best manners; that means being at the highest point you can be internally. Be your best at all times, with all people, at all places. Don’t switch off the sun, ever.

Questioner (Q): You said that if you don’t take anything as special, then you connect to everything. I don’t understand how I can connect to everything simultaneously.

AP: When I said “connect to everything”, that does not mean connecting in the same way as you connect to one thing special. Connecting to everything is analogous to connecting to nothing. It’s a different center of connection.

The way we normally connect to one thing is: connect to this thing and don’t connect to anything else. Now, staying at the same place, you are probably imagining that I have said that, staying at the same places, connect to this, this, this, this, this (pointing at different points in the horizontal plane) . No, I am saying come here (raises his hand implying vertical ascension) . From here you connect to everything without really connecting to anything.

Q: But since I am on a lower level right now, the first argument that my mind gives is that if I don’t take the Upanishads as special, then I might not give them their due respect.

AP: There is a definition of special that comes from a very ordinary place. So, from that ordinary place you define the Upanishads as special, so that speciality will be very ordinary. From a special place, look at the Upanishads as something commonplace. And what do I mean by ‘commonplace’? Something that applies to all points and places in life. Commonplace, common, everywhere to be found, everywhere applicable.

We exist at very, very ordinary points, and since we exist at those ordinary points, we find this thing special and that thing ordinary. Both these classifications are very ordinary because they are coming from an ordinary point. So, from that ordinary point you can say, “Oh my God, you know, Upanishads are special!” Of what value is the speciality you are according to them?

A man is living a rotten life, and then he says, “Shiva is great! Shiva is the best!” Of what value is this adulation? Even the definition of bestness that this man is carrying is a very shallow definition. So, if a shallow man says Shiva is the best, that in no way is a tribute to Shiva.

So, first of all, raise yourself, raise yourself, raise yourself, and that elevation will come when you will untie your knot. What knot? Not the knot with Upanishads, but the knot that keeps you wedded to the ordinary thing, ordinary place. The first thing that you consider special, is it the Upanishads, or your body?

Q: Body.

AP: Your body, your entire self, being, this existence that you carry, right? Coming from this center, you say the Upanishads are special. So, even if you are calling the Upanishads as special, you are calling them less special than yourself. “The first truth is me and the second truth is contained in the Upanishads, because I am calling the Upanishads as true.” Isn’t that the statement?

So, I am not asking you to sever your relationships with the Upanishads, because that is anyway your secondary relationship; your first relationship is with yourself. So, first of all, you undo that relationship, because continuing that relationship, of what worth is the relationship with the Upanishads? If you continue to remain who you are and still say that you respect the Upanishads and you know them, it won’t help you much, or would it?

Q: Where I stand right now, where any ordinary human being stands, obviously it is an ordinary place. Even to untie the knot, we will need to go to the Upanishads.

AP: You go to the Upanishads and you call them special, and you licence yourself to continue as you are. You will sit here and call the Upanishads special, and then you will go to your room and fall like a log and sleep, because the special occasion is no more. “Now I can go to my room and fall asleep, and then somebody will come and shake me up, ‘Hello sir, where is the work?’” That is very likely to happen after this session. Why? Because what was special? The Upanishads were special, and now the Upanishads are no more. The session is over, so ordinary life has begun—“and ordinary life is not special, so I don’t have to respect it. Now I can crash like a log and sleep.”

Q: So, the method of thinking that a person can gradually elevate his consciousness through special methods or reading is false?

AP: There has to be that love or honesty to let them permeate your life right now. If you have read them right now and there is love, how can you walk out of this room ten minutes later and revert to your stupidity?

What enables you to go back to your usual ways is the confidence that the special hour is done; now what is there is very ordinary. “If it is ordinary, why do I need to pay attention? Why do I need to be alert? With this I will be alert (pointing at the verses kept on the table) , with this I will pay attention. After this…” That division is the problem, and that division has to be obliterated.

Q: Is everyone in this world inherently a good person, and it is only our own blockages that are preventing us from knowing them as such even if they are doing bad things to us? Should we not stay away from people who are stopping us from growing?

AP: Before you talk of everyone in the world, you have to talk of yourself, obviously, because your prime concern is you, not the entire world. Even if the world is your concern, it concerns you because of you; it concerns you because it affects you. Bottomline is: it is you that you must firstly care about.

Now, are you a good person always? You will say no. Then how can other people be good always? You are asking me a question; that means you don’t have clarity right now. Then how can other people have continuous clarity? And if they do not have continuous clarity, how do you call them good people? Can there be goodness without clarity?

So, one has to be clear; out of that clarity come good relationships. Then you spontaneously know how to relate, with whom to relate, what to do, what not to do. Otherwise, from a point of confusion, you firstly decide who is good and who is bad; you are inwardly confused, and from that place you are making distinctions; you are saying, you know, he is this, he is that. How trustworthy are your conclusions? You are inwardly confused, are you not? Why do you want to trust your conclusions, then?

So, don’t ask questions about other people, because it won’t be helpful. Ask, how do I see what blocks me from really understanding? Equally you could ask, how do I see what pushes me towards this or that? There might be an absolutely obnoxious person; alright, fine. But what made you relate to him? Let’s say there is a horrible person; why is he there in your life in the first place? Did he bulldoze his way into your mind? What happened?

There is one thing that can never be forcible: that is you relating to someone. If you really do not relate to someone, memory is designed to forget that person, or at least forget the relationship; that person will then exist just as a data point.

If you continue to relate to a horrible person, should you ask me stuff about that supposedly horrible person, or stuff about yourself? When you are asking me, “How do I know whether that person is really good? What is it that blocks me?” first thing, what made you go towards him? Because that which made you go towards that person might exactly be what is still powering the relationship. And if you do not know what is still powering the relationship, how will you call off the relationship?

I keep on consuming sugar and I keep taking medicines; will my diabetes ever be controlled? First of all, I have to discover what powers the relationship, no? And if I can come to the root cause, my fondness for sugar, then maybe other things won’t be needed that much, because the root cause has now been removed.

It was your fondness for sugar that initiated the disease, and it is your fondness for sugar that sustains the disease. It initiated it and it sustains it. Now, instead of asking about your friend who cooks custard and cakes and jellies, and asking, “Is he really a good person?” ask yourself: why do you have such a sweet tooth?

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