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The only thing worth keeping is the one that is unknown to you || On Mundaka Upanishad (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
53 min
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आविः संनिहितं गुहाचरन्नाम महत्पदमत्रैतत्समर्पितम् । एजत्प्राणन्निमिषच्च यदेतज्जानथ सदसद्वरेण्यं परं विज्ञानाद्यद्वरिष्ठं प्रजानाम् ॥

āviḥ saṃnihitaṃ guhācarannāma mahatpadamatraitatsamarpitam ejatprāṇannimiṣacca yadetajjānatha sadasadvareṇyaṃ paraṃ vijñānādyadvariṣṭhaṃ prajānām

Manifested, it is here set close within, moving in the secret heart. This is the mighty foundation and into it is consigned all that moves and breathes and sees. This that is that great foundation here, know it as the Is and Is not, the supremely desirable, greatest and the Most High, beyond the knowledge of creatures.

~ Verse 2.2.1

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Acharya Prashant (AP): This is a particularly rich verse. We will proceed through it part by part and with great attention.

“Manifested”—manifested on its own—“it is here set close within, moving in the secret heart.” Manifested—visible, apparent, perceptible. It is out there, and yet it is here set close within, moving in the secret heart.

The Rishi says, saṃnihitaṃ guhācarannāma ; it resides, moves in the cave of the heart, guhācarannāma , and that is when it is manifested all around, everywhere, up and down, right and left. All you see is the manifestation. Everything around is open to be experienced. If it is all so open, all so perceptible and visible, why is it being called as the secret dwelling in the inner heart?

The Rishi is attempting to do the impossible. He is talking of the Truth, Brahman . It is manifested all around, and yet it dwells as a secret in the heart, guhācarannāma . That brings us to this intriguing word: ‘secret’.

You see, there are two kinds of secrets. One is that which you know of and want to hide from others; that is the common, popular type of secret. And when you do that, you feel very clever in your own regard, don’t you? “I know something. I know something and I have successfully hidden it from others. I am keeping a secret.” You keep a flat face to the world and inwardly you laugh. You are so smart when you keep a secret; you are smart and you have made a fool of others. That is a secret.

The Rishi, here, is bringing some humility to the student by introducing him to another kind of secret. The second kind of secret is that which you yourself know nothing of; it lives in your heart and yet you don’t know of it. And that is the real secret.

And now, tell me, who has been made a fool of?

All the little and trivial and worthless things we keep with ourselves and gloat in the pleasure of concealing them from others, don’t we? Just look back upon this very day itself, from morning till this hour, and think of the numerous things you hid from others, didn’t you? That is what the ego revels in; that is the stuff of the ego. “First of all, I know; secondly, I am smart. I know and I am smart enough to determine what to do with my knowledge. So, sometimes I will display my knowledge to others and sometimes I will hide information from others, obviously both with the objective to further my self-interest.”

Here the sage is telling the ego, “You know, the real secret is that you do not know what is there right at your own core, guhācarannāma . Something, somebody sits and smiles right at your very center, and you know nothing of Him. And all the time you know so much about so many other things; about the real thing you know nothing of. Your truth is a secret well kept. Your truth is a secret never disclosed to you.”

That is the reason why the hṛdayaguhā , the cave of the heart, is such an apt metaphor: within you, yet you are in dark about it. Not that the cave is dark; you are in dark about the cave. Obviously, when you say that a cave is a dark place, it is a dark place to you. It might not really be a dark place to, let’s say, the other beings that love to reside in that cave; they are able to see or perceive very well in that same darkness. Now, is that darkness even darkness to them?

So, you have something within you that you know nothing of. The Rishi is saying, “Stop being smart towards the world, stop fooling others, stop hiding things from others. You do not know, in the first place, what is hidden from you. What do you have to hide?” Do you get this? What do you have to hide? To hide you must have something important. That which is important you cannot hide because it is, in the first place, hidden from you. So, what are you acting so smart about?

That’s the thing with secrets. Not that you are ethically on the wrong side when you are keeping a secret or not telling or disclosing; it is just that you are making a fool of yourself by hiding something.

Understand this. When you hide something, you tell yourself that it is worthy of being hidden; otherwise you wouldn’t have hidden it, right? Think of all the things that you hide day in, day out. What is the first thing that you tell yourself before you hide something? “It is special, therefore I will hide it.”

That is the foolishness contained in our usual secrets. There is nothing there worth hiding. The value that you are ascribing to the thing or substance or event or person being hidden is false. That thing is not at all worthy of being hidden, it is a valueless thing, and that which is worthy is so continuously hidden—and you do nothing about it! You do nothing about it because you are just too occupied hiding stuff from others and lying and cheating. You are lying and cheating when that big lady is robbing you away.

Can you imagine? There is a big robbery in your house, a heist of sorts, and what are you occupied with? Telling little lies about some piece of trivia, little thing in your house, to your little brother. Even as that gang of mighty robbers is busy wiping up everything, you are occupied feeling smart, hiding some little trash from your little brother. And how you gloat! “See? I am so smart!”

There was this toy that your kid brother was demanding, and what did you do? You kept it a secret. You said, “No, I will not tell you where it is,” and, you know, “I do not know where it is…” And you are very successful in this project. It’s just that you do not know that when you are busy being successful in this foolish project, something vastly important is being lost right in front of your eyes, and you don’t see it.

Knowledge is what keeps us all puffed up. The problem is, we have no knowledge.

There would be nobody who could afford to feel confident sans knowledge, right? “I know I have something; I know I am somebody; I know that thing is kept there; I know how stuff works”—this is what makes you feel important and worthy, right? Knowledge is at the root of your confidence. The only little trouble is that we have no knowledge. But we have a lot of confidence, fake albeit.

So, the Rishi is pointing it out, rather shouting it out in the clearest way he can. He is saying that something extremely important, something very very worthy of being known, is unknown to you. And what makes it very tragic, very horrific—and also very amusing—is that the thing you need to know of is right there in the cave of your heart and still unknown. While you are busy doing this and that, you know nothing of the most important thing that ought to be known.

“Manifested, it is here set close within, moving in the secret heart.”

Caram , it moves. Cara is everything that moves, acara is that which does not move. About that, the sage intriguingly uses guhācarannāma , it moves within. What does that mean? It stirs something within, it makes its presence felt. When something moves, it becomes detectable, no? It is making its presence felt, yet we are so opaque to it; we don’t receive it, we don’t get the signals.

Then, “This is the mighty foundation and into it is consigned all that which moves and breathes and sees.”

“All that which moves and breathes and sees”—that refers to the sentient-insentient world that you experience all around; all that which is, all that which moves, all that which sees; all that which appears conscious, all that which appears unconscious; all that which is jaḍa , all that which is chetana . All that is consigned to this mighty foundation, all that stands surrendered to this mighty foundation.

Even as we are lost looking at what is outside—the sensory perceptions charm, attract, scare, bewitch, capture, you are attracted, you are repulsed—the foundation of all that sits and moves quietly within, and we pay no attention to it. The result is an unhealthy relationship with all that we pay our misplaced attention to. That is the consequence and the punishment.

When you do not pay adequate attention to that which really deserves your attention, then your relationship with that which unduly usurps your attention is unhealthy. When you do not give the right importance, the right attention to the thing that must have it, then the undeserving thing that gets your attention and importance becomes your nemesis. Not that the thing has some particular harm intrinsic to it, ingrained in it; it’s just that you have attributed to it a value it is not deserving of.

When you attribute value to something that does not deserve that value, then you totally distort your relationship with that thing—and when I say thing, I mean a worldly object; worldly object could be thing, thought, person, place, whatsoever is open to be experienced. Why? Because the inner one, as the seer says, is the foundation. What is the meaning of the foundation? It teaches how you must relate with all the other things. And that is why the inner one is also called the Ādi-guru , the first guru, the only guru.

When you have the right relationship with the first one, only then you will learn how to relate with all the others. In other words, only when you know your own truth will you know how to relate with and live in the world. If you do not know yourself, then you will have a very botched up relationship with the world, and you will suffer.

So, if you are suffering in the world, what does that mean? You are giving misplaced importance to the world. And what is meant by the world? Not merely the things that you see out there, but also what you call as being in here. The world includes not only the ones you call as others, but also the one you call as yourself. You hear somebody’s words; those words are the world. And thoughts arise within you; those thoughts, too, are the world. You will not know how to relate with the utterances of others, and you will not know how to relate with your own thoughts. You will not know what to do with anything.

How do you feel like being someone who is in a place where there are a lot of things, but that person does not know a bit about any of those things? What will that person look and behave like? Imagine. Like a monkey in an electronics shop—that is how we live in this world. Like a monkey in a shop full of electronics goods and computer items. The monkey would still be better off because the monkey would at least know what to do with its own body. But here we are. We do not even know how to relate to our body, how to manage it, how much weightage to assign to it, because when it comes to the existential analogy, then one of the goods in the electronics shop is our body itself.

You are not even the monkey; you are just a deluded piece of consciousness in a huge shop having an infinite number of goods, and those goods include everything you call as your own. So, your clothes are there, your body is there, your knowledge is there, your experience, your past is there; everything is there and you do not know what to do with it. Why don’t you know what to do with it? Because the teacher didn’t teach you. Why didn’t the teacher teach you? Because you didn’t go to the teacher. Why didn’t you go to the teacher? Because the teacher is within and you are the monkey who loves to hop out.

Here is an advice: Whenever you get hurt or disappointment from anything in this world, do not focus so much on that thing, because the thing did nothing really to hurt you. Look at yourself. Why did you go to that thing? Why did you have to be such a fool? Why are you so unversed, so uneducated? Where is your schooling? Which kind of schooling am I talking of? Here (taps his chest) , the inner school.

So, the Rishi calls the inner one as the foundation, as the foundation of everything outside. Suffices to understand that if you do not have a good foundation, then you cannot build a good structure of relationships in the world. Now, is spirituality about escaping from the world? No. Spirituality is about being educated in dealing with the world.

Spirituality has to be the foundation of all your experiences in the world.

Let’s go back to our monkey. What does he do in the shop? He just sits there with humility, pensively, brooding that he knows nothing at all? Is that what the monkey does? No. What does the monkey do? The monkey never realizes that he knows nothing at all. So, in his own inner confidence, he does a lot of things. What does he do? He probably tries to chew the webcam. He looks at the desktop screen and uses it as some kind of a mirror: “Yeah, nice thing. I can see my face in it. Surely it is a mirror, similar to the surface of the pool water.”

The monkey will never feel clueless, or does it? That is how confident we are. We are a monkey in an electronics shop and we never feel clueless. We keep relating to things, picking up things, using things, committing to things, discarding things—as if we know a lot about things. We know nothing. We know nothing because the source of all knowledge is not a thing.

If you want to know about things, then you have to go to something that is not a thing. Otherwise, in your attempt to know about things, you will just get lost in things. These are two very different things.

What we call as knowledge is not really knowledge; it is just the definition that the thing has imposed upon us. We do not have any innate definition with which to look at the thing. Our way of looking at the thing comes from the thing itself. Our way of looking at material is very materialistic; therefore, we know nothing about the material.

You can never really know a thing by being in the same plane or same dimension as the thing. Not possible at all.

Think of a shape in the xy-plane, visualize. Now, think of a point in the xy-plane at some distance from that shape. Now, can that point in the xy-plane ever know that shape in the xy-plane? If it really wants to know, it will have to gain some z-altitude, and then it can know everything, no?

Seen how you are able to know so much about cities when you look at the city from the window of an airplane? You can see the entire structure. But when you try to look at that structure from the same plane as that which contains the structure, then the structure itself becomes an obstacle in seeing. What will you look at? Let’s say the structure is right in front of you. What will you look at? You will look at the wall that is perpendicular to the line of your vision, right? And once you have seen that wall, that wall will not allow you to see anything else.

So, that which you see is exactly the thing that is not allowing you to see.

You have a house in front of you. How much of the house will you see if you are in the same plane as the house? You will see only that particular façade, only that particular wall that is perpendicular to your line of sight. So, that much you can see. But that which you are seeing is itself the thing that is not allowing you to see any further. You see the wall and then you can see nothing else, right?

That is the thing, that is the reason why we know so little about the world. The world itself will not allow you to know about the world. To know about the world you will have to rise above the world, and then you can know.

The world will present one face to you, and that face is not something that is being revealed to you; that face is something that is concealing a lot. What are walls meant for, revelation or concealment? But you see the walls, don’t you? And you feel happy: “I just saw a wall,” whereas the fact is the wall does not exist to help you see. But you say, “I saw a wall.” The wall is a device meant to prevent you from seeing. Do you see this?

That is how the world operates. Anything that you look at is visible only because it is not allowing you to look any further. Go into this statement: Anything you look at is visible only if it does not allow you to see any further. If there is a completely transparent piece of glass in front of you allowing you to see beyond itself, will you be able to see that piece of glass?

A thing, therefore, is visible only when it obstructs your vision. In the language of optics, a thing is visible only when it reflects back some rays to you. And what does this ‘reflecting back’ imply? That it is not allowing the ray to cross over to the other side; therefore it is obstructing your vision.

So, all that you see in this world is obstructions. Therefore, the more you see, the more obstructed you really are. You are not seeing; you are just being obstructed.

That is the thing with both optical vision and mental vision. The stuff that is there in your mind is not there in your mind, it is crowding your mind; it is not allowing the mind to go beyond itself. Just as the wall is not allowing you to see what is there inside the house, similarly the stuff that you see in your mind is not allowing you to see beyond itself. But you will be able to see everything if you ascend your eyes.

Therefore, the Truth is the foundation of all knowledge. You cannot have knowledge without the Truth. Without the Truth, all you will see is walls. If you want to know the reality, then rise. This ascension is the movement beyond yourself, movement beyond the ego; this is the movement towards the sky. This is what is called love of the Truth. The more you love the Truth, the more you know the world.

The world does not exist to teach you; the world exists to keep you in darkness. Or, to be more accurate, if you are unversed, uneducated in a spiritual way, then your world exists to keep you in darkness because you are anyway in darkness. This is a far better way of putting it because if we do not put it this way, then you get the luxury to assume as if the world is a conscious entity conspiring on its own to keep things concealed, which it is not.

Is that clear? That will be clear only when you ascend; otherwise nothing can be clear. If you keep sitting at the same level where you usually do, nothing will be clear.

Don’t you know, even when you want to peep into a house, what do you do? You climb up the wall. If you stay at the same level, all you see is the wall. If you want to know more, what do you do? You use the wall to climb up the wall. That is the art. Use the wall to climb up the wall. Use the water to swim through the water.

How do you swim through the water? By using some scientifically made artificial engine tied to your back? Why don’t you drown in the water? You hit the water and the reaction keeps you afloat. When you hit the water, what does the water do? The water hits you back and that reaction keeps you afloat. So, you are using the water to cut through the water. You are using the wall to outsmart the wall. The wall was trying to keep things hidden, and you said, “Fine, I will use the wall to deny the wall what it intended to do.”

That is how you have to live, but you cannot do that if you have no love for heights. Why will you swim through the water if you have no love for the other side? It is the love for that shore, that other side, that makes you hit the water again and again, again and again, and stay afloat and move ahead. It is the love for the height that makes you struggle against your own weight and gravity to climb up the wall.

Do you see the common thing involved here? Effort. Be it climbing up the wall or be it cutting through the water, both require effort and application from your side. Without that effort and application, you get nothing, you see nothing, you know nothing. We are not designed to just know or learn as we are. Remaining as we are, we will know nothing, get nothing, reach nowhere. And we will have a lot in our hands, a lot of rubbish that we are born with. It is that rubbish you have to cut through.

You are born with inertia; it is your inertia that you have to struggle and fight against. You are born with genetic tendencies; it is your genetic stuff that you have to challenge. It is your genetic stuff that is pulling you down. Thousands, probably millions of generations of fathers and mothers are sitting on your head; you have to dislodge each single one of them. Can you imagine how many of them are there? Millions of them, and they are all in you here (points to the head) and in every cell of your body. You have to shove them out. Involves effort.

And that is the definition of the hero, and that is the only definition of the hero: the one who dares to fight against himself. You have to take every bit of yourself as your adversary—your thought, your instinct, that which you think of as your realization. Even as I speak, you see, you are feeling you are understanding. This understanding is your enemy; throw it away. This understanding is your poison. You know nothing, and stay in that innocence. That is the only way of remaining guilt free; otherwise you are guilty of misappropriation.

What does it mean to fight against yourself? You don’t have another version of you or another copy of you to punch in the face. How will you fight yourself? You have a dummy to knock out? Do you have one? How will you fight yourself?

You are your consciousness. You have to fight your consciousness. Your emotions, your feelings, your thoughts, none of them is you; each of them pretends to be you. You have to disallow them.

Your intuition, anything that rises within, anything that says something to you, anything in the field of your consciousness, has to be disowned. “No, no, it is not me. It is those millions of mothers and fathers and mothers and fathers, they are the ones who are talking; I don’t want to listen, please. It is not me.”

Think of the most wretched old face you can. It is that wretched old face doing the nonsense in your head. Why do you want to fall to it? Seen one of those old fogies who have lived a wasted life and then grow totally insane in their 80s and 90s? There are millions of them sitting in your head and blabbering endlessly. You want to accord them that privilege?

Only if you can totally disown the stream you have been unconsciously flowing in—it is a huge stream, you are just a drop, and the drop consists of elements from the entire stream. Only if you can disown that stream will you come into your own. You want to come into your own? Then disown. It is not you.

The way you look at me, the way you are listening, the way you are doing anything, it is not you. It is an imposition, it is an encroachment, it is a residue. It is a violation! Why do you allow yourself to be violated? Are you getting it?

It is not you who is getting it. If you don’t get it, it is not you who does not get it. If you get it, it is not you who gets it. In either case, you are made the fool.

It is at this point that you realize that that which you call as your conscious self is actually not conscious at all. It is at this point that the dualistic difference between the sentient and the insentient evaporates. It is at this point that either everything becomes divine, the insentient becomes sentient, or everything reduces to zero, the sentient becomes insentient. These are the only two ways in which you step into non-duality.

Duality is about thinking that you who is just a chemical, a prakritik product of your past, is a sentient entity looking at a largely insentient world of things. That is the dualistic illusion we usually live in. It is false, obviously. As we are, there is nothing in it in ourselves that is not material. That which we call as our consciousness is just a function of the brain, and the brain is just material. Therefore, there is really no difference between the material and the conscious. Therefore, there is no point calling ourselves as living or alive or conscious or sentient.

We are processes, not consciousnesses. We are mechanistic, not sentient. The moment you see that, now the ego cannot live.

The ego lives on an imagined division. The ego says, “You see, even as I arise from the material, yet I have something of the paramaterial within me.” No sir, you are just molecules. You are just molecules.

The moment you see the molecular as just molecular, a great laughter arises in the skies. Now everything is molecular and you are free of the molecules. It is only now that you are really conscious.

So, how do you become conscious? By giving up false consciousness.

The consciousness that we have, I repeat, is purely biological, chemical, mechanical; insentience masquerading as sentience; hormones acting as feelings; influences acting as thoughts; robotic inferences acting as wisdom. When you see all of that as just dead, then you come alive. And then you don’t come alive as a body; then you come alive in an immortal way. No point coming alive as the body, the body is going to be dead.

Then, I said, there is a laughter in the skies. Now you have immortally come alive; now there is going to be no end to life—but that is not the life you know of.

The first step to come alive is to first of all call the living as dead. If you will not call the dead as dead, if you will keep calling the dead as the living, your punishment will be that you will never come alive. Life will just elude you.

See how dead you are. See that only ghosts operate within. You are not alive at all; you are just a bunch of ghosts living in a sack of skin. How lively does that sound? There is your skin sack, and inside there is an entire bunch of ghosts—millions of them, we said—they are all sitting within, and you call yourself alive? You are not. You are completely dead and just potentially alive. How does that potential matter? That potential is the only thing that matters! (Laughs)

Be entirely disrespectful towards yourself. The only thing that deserves respect is consciousness, and you are not conscious at all. Who minds kicking a stone away, or do you? A stone is a stone. Or if you respect yourself so much, then you must respect the stone as well. Don’t be a hypocrite—because you are a stone. Either respect the next piece of shit you come across or totally disrespect yourself, because the two of you are one.

That is duality: to see differences where there are none. When you see yourself as dead and completely dead, then you have gone beyond duality.

Questioner (Q): You were talking about climbing up the wall to see through the wall. How is it different from going close?

AP: What do you see when you go close to a wall?

Q: But you have said that we must go close to a thing to know its reality.

AP: You can go close to a thing only when you have firstly gone up and over the thing.

You see, I climb up, I rise above, and then I see that beyond the wall there is something valuable; I might now need to demolish the wall. Beyond the wall lies something valuable. How do I demolish the wall? For that probably I might need to know the substance of the wall, then you can go close, investigate, do this, do that.

But going close without going above would only produce attachment in you. That is the difference between love and attachment. In love, even if you go close, it is from a point of highness: you go close not to get attached but to understand. There is a basic difference in the intention itself. Otherwise, this closeness is such a tempting and devastating thing, no?

You are already close to a thousand things, are you not? You are close to those thousand things without knowing a thing about those things. Why? Because you never went above those things. In front of the thing you remained another thing because the two of you remained in the same plane, and then the thing and the thing amount to nothing. The relationship between them is like the relationship between two chemicals.

Chemicals react. What do they know about each other? Tell me, please. This ravaging virus, what does it know about you? And yet it devastates your system. It gets right into your cells and eats you out from within. What does it know about you? Does it know anything? And yet it does so much.

That is the relationship between us and the stuff we get close to, the virus and the host. The virus is so close to the host, but the virus knows nothing about the host. Tell me, what does the virus know about you? And yet it comes into such an intimate relationship with your body—knowing nothing about you.

So, closeness means anything only when it is from a vantage point of some altitude. Otherwise, closeness is very destructive, destructive to your possibility of ascension or liberation.

We have to be very mathematical in all this. So, when we say destructive, we must either specify or know in advance what is there to be prevented from destruction. Because destruction per se is not a bad word in spirituality; only when there is something worth preserving ‘destruction’ becomes a bad word. Otherwise, destruction is good, is it not? So, always be very clear what you are talking of.

Q: I as a thing on this plane get attracted to another thing. I am moving towards it…

AP: So, there is no ‘I’, first of all. There is no ‘I’. There is the ‘thing’.

Q: A thing which I call as ‘I’ is getting attracted to another thing on the same plane. It is moving towards it because it sees that there is some benefit…

AP: No, it sees nothing, it just gets attracted. The benefit is an afterthought. The benefit is pseudologic. The attraction is innate, the benefit is fiction. The benefit is a story you concoct to satisfy your hormones.

Q: Attraction promises pleasure so that pleasure…

AP: No, it promises nothing. It is not as if there is logic involved in the attraction; sir, you fall at the first sight. There is not even the promise of pleasure, there is just the attraction. It is extremely chemical. Later on you invent a logic, I said an afterthought it is. Later on you say, “Alright, I got attracted for such and such reason.” The reason comes later.

Q: If it is purely chemical and there is no particular promise associated with a thing…

AP: The promise is there as fiction.

Q: Then why does one thing not get attracted to everything?

AP: Just because copper does not get attracted to a magnet. But copper will get attracted to many other things: put sulfuric acid on copper and you will get copper sulfate. It is your composition that makes you vulnerable to certain things and impervious or inert to certain other things.

Q: So, this rush, attraction towards things, is driven by some force, whatever it is. Why all of a sudden would one want to pause and go up and have a look?

AP: Because things don’t suffer. Even if you dissolve iron in acid, it still does not suffer—or if it does, it does not come to tell us. But you come to tell me, so I speak to you.

When I put iron in acid, it is finished off. But it doesn’t complain to me, it doesn’t cry out, or does it? No, it doesn’t. Or maybe it does, I don’t know its language. But when you suffer, you weep and you cry and you do so much, so the sage offers help. Otherwise, frankly speaking, there is really no difference.

Q: Is crying also chemical?

AP: Yes, it is just chemicals.

Q: If crying is also chemical, then why is the sage helping?

AP: Because the crying has begun. And if the crying has begun, the crying can come to an end. In iron, the crying has not even begun; therefore there is no possibility of any closure. The iron will continue now, aspheric sulfate or ferrous sulfate, whatever. In you, there is something that suffers; therefore there is something that can come to an end. In iron, that possibility has still not arisen.

A point will come when the iron will cry out—you know when? When the iron will enter you as hemoglobin, then the iron will cry out. If you are totally chemical and you are crying out, what is it that is crying out? It is the iron that is crying out, and the magnesium and the zinc and the calcium, all of that is crying out. But all of that cries out when it takes the form of this kind of a body. That doesn’t cry out when it remains as, you know, ferric oxide; then it doesn’t cry out.

Q: So, we are saying that the whole world is just chemicals, everything is just that. So, the one who comes to know this, that everything related to the world is dead or just chemicals…

AP: Don’t speculate. Don’t try to be so smart. Look at yourself, not at the condition of the one who has realized everything. You are trying to enter his mind. Don’t try that.

Q: Climbing up the wall, so to speak, involves a lot of effort, and might initially seem like a lot of suffering in itself. It is only later that one sees that relaxation comes only through this arduous process. How to motivate oneself to go through this process when it seems to offer only more and more suffering?

AP: Then suffering has to be an acceptable word. You have to train yourself to accept suffering as your default state.

The problem is the illusion of pleasure. Somewhere you see the possibility of false freedom from suffering. Freedom from suffering is one thing; pleasure is false freedom from suffering. You have to discount that possibility. There is going to be no pleasure, full stop. There is suffering and there would be suffering. The only thing I have a handle on is the kind of suffering, the type of suffering. Do I want to suffer in a way that continues the suffering endlessly, or do I want to suffer in a way that dissolves the suffering progressively? That is the only thing I can choose, but there is no third option.

Pleasure is a mirage; it does not exist. Discount it. Train yourself to suffer, suffer, and suffer. And when you can suffer without admitting the possibility of pleasure, then suffering is not insufferable, it is okay. Suffering appears unacceptable only because of the promise of pleasure. Once you convince yourself there is no pleasure, then suffering is no more a problem; then suffering is the fact of your human condition.

Suffering is your very fact; it is the condition you are born into. There is no need to take it as something alien, as something unwanted. It is not a problem; it is our very situation. It is the core of our situation. If you will call the core of your situation a problem, then you will force yourself to search for illusions.

Don’t be an illusion hunter. Know the reality of your existence and make peace with it. And the reality of your existence is suffering. Don’t frown at suffering, don’t crib; just suffer with dignity and wisdom and courage and, if possible, a smile. A little one? That much we can afford?

That is why the most detestable sight is the face of a happy person. If consciousness is to be valued, then happiness is the antithesis of consciousness. The more you can distance yourself from that illusion, the better it would be for you. And then you can choose the right kind of suffering.

When the choice is between the wrong kind of suffering and the right kind of suffering, it will be easy for you to choose the right kind of suffering. But when there sneaks in a third option, then your choices get distorted. If there are only two choices, wrong suffering and right suffering, then you will go for right suffering. But when the choice is wrong suffering, right suffering, and happiness, now the choice is distorted, now you go for happiness, and that kills it all.

So, remove that third option altogether. Either wrong suffering or right suffering, no happiness.

Q: How does one develop the appetite to suffer?

AP: No, you don’t have to develop an appetite to suffer. Suffering is like oxygen, suffering is like the blood flowing in our veins. I said it is the grain of our reality. You don’t have to have an appetite for it, it is there.

You need to have an appetite only for stuff that is alien to you, right? You need to have an appetite for brinjal or cucumber because there you have a choice: a choice between brinjal and cucumber. Suffering is your very essence, suffering is your oxygen, suffering is your blood, suffering is your heartbeat. What do you mean by having an appetite for your heartbeat? It is there.

You don’t need to have an appetite towards suffering; you need to have loss of appetite towards happiness. That is your problem. You are not placing the problem rightly.

Suffering, I repeat, is not the problem; suffering is the situation. The problem is the false hope of an imagined state called happiness.

Q: If one lacks the ability to endure suffering, or, as you said, bear it or pass through it with dignity, courage, and a smile, does it indicate that one has a lot of appetite for pleasure?

AP: A lot of greed towards happiness. There is some corner somewhere in one’s life or mind that is calling, enchanting with the promise of happiness, and therefore in comparison, in a foolish comparison, suffering becomes unpalatable. Otherwise, suffering would be very much acceptable. We said it is our core reality; why would it be unacceptable? But it becomes unacceptable when that chimera comes calling.

Remove that illusion, remove that fancy hope, and then you will find that suffering is a purifier. Suffering is an energizer. Suffering is an elevator. Suffering is love. Suffering is depth. Suffering is creativity. Suffering is great songs, verses, ślokas .

But suffering will reveal its splendor, its beauty to you only when you first do away with happiness. As long as happiness remains an option in your mind, suffering will remain a problem, and if suffering remains a problem, then suffering will never disclose to you the bountiful beauties it contains in itself.

Q: How to strike out that option totally?

AP: You have to see that it is false, it does not exist. It is not as if happiness does exist and you are discarding it. That option does not exist, so you don’t have to strike it out—it anyway does not exist!

You are taking happiness as real; it is too much for you to totally discount it. You are believing too much in those who stand for happiness in your life, you are believing just too much in them. You are not able to strike them out.

I repeat, as long as happiness remains a hope, suffering will remain a problem.

Q: You said that we must go against our thoughts and emotions. But how is living possible, then? Because thought is always there. Even while working, thought comes; even while eating, thought comes; even if while going to sleep, thought comes. And you are saying that those millions of old people, they are…

AP: It is possible to act without believing in thought. Don’t ask me how. Don’t identify with your thought, and still you will be able to act rightly, and also vigorously when needed. It’s just that you have mostly seen only one kind of action, the thought-driven one. Therefore, it becomes unthinkable to you how there could be action unaided by thought.

Thought will come; it has its place. Let it arise, see where it is coming from, give it its proper place, and you will do the right thing.

The problem with thought is it has no capacity to know its own source or to disclose to you its source. When a thought comes to you, does it ever carry any kind of ISBN or something? Do you know where it is coming from, ever? That is a problem. If you can know where it is coming from, then two things happen: one, you become free of it; second, you become free to use it. Otherwise, the thought uses you.

When you do not know where your thoughts are coming from, then your thoughts use you. When you know where your thoughts are coming from, then you become free of your thoughts and then you can use the content of the thought.

Thought just comes. It never says, “I am arising from such and such place.” And because it does not say that “I am arising from such and such place,” it comes to you not as thought but as truth. It says, “I am the truth.” Have you not heard people so unconsciously say things like “I really think”? “I really think that the political dispensation in Britain…” or something? Now, they really think!

Mostly, all this is in total ignorance of the source of thought. And the source of thought is not some grand truth; the source of thought is usually your grandmother. That is where your thought is coming from. You will never know it is your grandmother talking; you say it is a grand truth.

In fact, you look down upon your grandmother, don’t you? “That uneducated old hog, good for nothing!” And when you look at her picture, you almost turn abusive. But when she sits within you and talks from there, then she becomes the truth. That is the problem.

Q: So, crying is just chemicals, but sometimes we cry for no reason at all because we don’t understand things or because tears just come. So, is that also a chemical thing?

AP: You see, my right eye has been shedding tears since a month now. There is no reason. There is no reason that I know of, but the doctor knows. In your limited capacity, you think you are crying for no reason; you say, “You know, I am crying reasonlessly.” There is a reason; it is just that you do not know that reason. It is a subconscious reason.

You see, purposelessness, reasonlessness, these are not things that are very cheaply attained. Poets and all kinds of lowly spiritual gurus have marketed these terms so much that we start feeling as if those things are within our easy reach. Without knowing why you are doing something you do something, and then you say, “You know, my actions are purposeless.” No, your actions are not purposeless; you are just unconscious about the purpose. “My love towards you is totally selfless!” No sir, it is just that you do not know about your selfishness, or maybe you do, but you are not honest enough to admit that.

So, selflessness, purposelessness, these are not playthings. They are not playthings.

You are given a dopamine shot and you will start feeling delighted. So, that must be reasonless joy? Call that as reasonless joy, please! No, that is not reasonless joy. It is just that when you were asleep, somebody came and jabbed your behind, and you didn’t even know that there is now excess dopamine in your system. And you wake up and you start saying, “See, I am experiencing purposeless joy, joy without any reason! I am spiritually delivered now!” No, it is not purposeless.

‘This, that great foundation, is both sat and asat . It is the supremely desirable one, greatest and highest, beyond the knowledge of creatures.”

We will take up two things here about that foundation, the Truth. One, it is both sat and asat ; second, it is supremely desirable, yet beyond our knowledge.

So, what is sat ? What is asat ? That which remains continuously changing in time is called asat . That which remains unchanging in time is called sat .

So, what is sat ? Give me an example of sat or a name for sat .

Q: Truth.

AP: Truth. So, Truth is sat , right? Truth is sat because sat is defined as that which remains unchanging in time. No sir, Truth is not sat . There is a great difference between Satya and sat , and that has to be understood.

Mūlaprakriti (the primordial nature, fundamental nature) is sat . You will not find this mentioned or written at most places, so it is all the more important that you get this. Sat is Mūlaprakriti . If you want to be even more exact, then you should say sat is mūla aham-vṛtti , the fundamental ego tendency. That is sat ; that does not change.

And what is asat ? All the forms that the aham-vṛtti takes keep changing. So, houses, trees, persons, places, planets—all these are asat because over the passage of time we can see them changing. What is it that we cannot see changing over the passage of time? The Mūlaprakriti itself. So, that is sat . That doesn’t change.

Brahman or Satya is neither sat nor asat. Brahman or Truth is neither sat nor asat . Why? It remains neither unchanging in time, nor does it change over time, because it is not there in time at all.

Satya is beyond sat and asat both. Both sat and asat pertain to existence. Within existence, there is the changeable; within existence, there is the unchangeable. Truth is the central point of existence; it is not within existence. It is the origin of existence, but not contained in existence.

So, even to say that the Truth is permanent is a fallacy. The Truth is not even permanent. Obviously, the Truth is not temporary or changing, temporal; at the same time, the Truth is not even permanent. The Truth is simply timeless. Do you get the difference between permanence and timelessness? Permanence acknowledges time; timelessness discards time. Permanence is not able to transcend time; timelessness transcends, goes beyond time.

The Truth is transcendental. Truth is not permanent; Truth is transcendental.

So, that great foundation is the entire existence consisting of its myriad, mutable forms, as well as its unchanging core. What is the unchanging core of existence? Its tendency to exist. What does existence unfailingly do? It exists. It may exist in whatever way possible, but it exists.

So, that is what remains unchanging, that is sat ; it exists. It exists, and therefore you cannot even say the Truth exists. I have been having trouble explaining it to people always, but if you can get it.

Truth does not even exist. Or if you want to say Truth exists, then you will have to say Truth alone exists; then you will have to say you don’t exist. But you say you exist, right? You say this desk exists, this chair exists, this wall exists. Then you must say that Truth does not exist, because the word ‘existence’ we are using for everything within time: this mic exists, the surface exists. Then you must say Truth does not exist.

Or if you want to say Truth exists, then you must say Truth alone exists; then you must say none of this exists. But if none of this exists, then who are you to say all that? Since you are there to say something about existence, therefore you are implying confidence in at least your own existence. “I am the one who is talking so much about existence, so at least I do exist.” And if you do exist, then Truth does not.

You and the Truth cannot concurrently exist. “ Prem gali ati sankari, tamain do na samahin (The lane of love is narrow; there is room for only one)”—remember that? The two cannot exist at the same time. If you are there, then you are there. Be happy with your own existence. Don’t drag the Truth into your universe. Your universe is just too small, it can’t accommodate the Truth. Or if you want to talk of Truth, then first of all have the honesty to talk as nobody. You must say, “I do not exist, only the Truth does.” That is too much to ask for, no? So, you would rather say, “Truth does not exist.”

So, that great foundation, Truth, is at the root of all existence, both sat and asat , both elementary and manifested. Why do we say that Truth is at the root of all existence? Because existence cannot exist on its own.

Existence cannot exist on its own. What you call as existence is just an infinite number of dualistic pairs. All the pairs derive their sustenance from their dualistic counterparts, all the elements in the pair. So, you cannot be there without the world, the world cannot be there without you. You remain incomplete, the world remains incomplete. You are on a journey, the world is on a journey. You cannot be here on your own, the world cannot be here on its own.

This difference is the suffering of mankind. Truth is that which bridges this distance, this useless division. Both of you are really one and both of you arise from a single source. That source is there when the two of you are one.

Therefore, the Truth is expressed as the common source of both the perceiver and the perceived. Truth is the destiny and the origin of both the perceiver and the perceived. Why? We just said destiny, and we come across the word ‘supremely desirable’. That is why it is the destiny, the destination: because it is supremely desirable, you want to reach there. You want to reach there, it is the greatest and the highest, but it is beyond your knowledge. You cannot reach there using your knowledge.

That’s the thing with the foundation. With knowledge, you will only keep backing your knowledgeable center. There is a knowledgeable center, there are things to be known around it, and the center of knowledge keeps feeding on all the things that are available to be known. The knowledgeable center has no capacity to know where it comes from and what it is really looking for; therefore it remains in dark about its own desire. Therefore, the sage says that the Truth is the most desirable one and, at the same time, we remain in darkness about it.

We do not even know what we want. We are extremely unsorted people; we act against our own deepest desires. You desire it deeply, you love it deeply, and then you act in a way that violates, obstructs, and insults your own love. Why? Because you operate from the knowledgeable center. You ascribe consciousness to the knowledgeable center, whereas the center of knowledge is really not conscious at all.

You see, what is information? At the most basic level, information is memory. Whenever two elements, physical elements, interact with each other, that results in memory. And that is how our consciousness operates; it is very material. When you say you know something, can you know without memory? When you say you know something, essentially are you not talking of memory? Of course, you can argue that it is not only memory, it is something beyond memory—in terms of intellect, your analytical ability, and so much and so much. But all of that builds upon memory, right?

Consciousness is a very materialistic play. There is no need to even call it as conscious. Consciousness, as we talk of it, as we experience it, is hardly conscious. Once you see that, once you stop giving undue respect to your consciousness, you come to the foundation. That is where your deepest desire is met.

When your deepest desire is to go beyond the material, how will it be fulfilled in the material?

When your deepest desire is to go into a unity, how will it be fulfilled through a process of division?

Attention involves knowing your desire. The more you know your desire, the more you see there is very little of you in the desire. It is not your desire at all; it is just an inner uprising. Something swells up, like the flow of a stream, like a high tide.

When you have seen where your desires come from, you are very close to fulfilling your real desire. Your real desire is not attainment. Your real desire is liberation.

That desire to be liberated, unfortunately, expresses itself as a desire for a thousand things. It is catastrophic. The fundamental desire is for liberation from things, whereas the expression is in the form of attraction or aversion towards things. If you go close to it, investigate, it becomes clear: it is not the thing that you want. It is just that the thing has falsely promised you liberation from all things, including itself.

Is that thing really honest in its promise? Is that thing even capable of carrying out its promise? If not, then it is unworthy of your desire.

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