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This comes and that goes, but I am
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
15 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): The feeling, the foolhardy certainty that “I am the body” is the progenitor of all other bondages. I am calling it foolhardy because if you apply a little mind it is not difficult at all to see that you and the body really cannot be one, that the body as a machine and you as consciousness just cannot be identical. The very nature of the body, if studied, makes it clear that it is something a little alien to you. What remains a mystery, however, is the fact that you are apparently tied to the body. That is the mystery of mysteries. Given two such disparate alien entities, how did this unlikely union become possible? How did you end up in a knot with the body? Who caused this wedding? How have oil and water managed to mix together? That is the wonder of wonders. Getting it?

The body is a conditioned phenomenon, comes from two bodies much like itself, undergoes a predictable cycle of growth, development of all kinds, and then decay and death. That is all that the body knows; passing through its life cycle with very predictable characteristics associated with each phase of the life cycle. And that is how, you see, medicines can be, and are developed; all medicines are either fully generic or generic to an extent, right? There is hardly any medicine that applies only to just one individual. Have you seen how one medicine that will be effective on your body will be equally effective on someone belonging to another gender, race, continent, nation, age? So, all bodies are similar to each other to a great extent. There is nothing unique about bodies. Are you getting it?

Then you come to consciousness. Is there any medicine that is applicable to the body equally applicable to consciousness as well? Think of it. There is so much that can chemically affect the body. Does that same thing really affect your consciousness as well? Many of you will be prompted to say yes, but wait. Consciousness is affected by material or chemical substances only to the extent the consciousness is identified with the body. There are so many things that you can give to the body that will render it almost fully healthy. But can any of those things render health to the consciousness?

The needs of the body are predictable, known, similar, and universal. The needs of consciousness are not material, mystical, almost unknowable. Two entities, each having needs, existence in two very different dimensions, would you call them as one, identical? The body feels hunger, the consciousness too feels hunger, can the same thing satisfy both of them? Is there even a remote similarity in what satisfies the body and what satisfies the consciousness?

In fact, we know what satisfies the body. As for consciousness, we do not even know what satisfies it. Are you getting it? The body never says by itself “I exist.” All existence, all being, pertains to consciousness, consciousness says “I am.” When you are not conscious, is there anybody to say “I am”? The body is still there lying unconscious. Does the body say by itself “I am”? The consciousness says “I am”, right? Now, this consciousness that says “I am”, exists in one particular dimension, the body exists in a totally different dimension and yet it is quite wonderful that the consciousness somehow is saying “I am the body.”

It is this absurd combination that is at the root of all human misery. Two entities that just cannot have any convergence, any meeting ground, somehow come to meet in the form of a human being. A human being is in some sense an impossibility, we shouldn’t be existing. Getting it? Even animals, when I say human beings, I mean all sentient, all conscious beings. The body could have existed on its own or consciousness free of the body, pure and free, could have existed on its own. How come these two managed to meet and mate? Are you getting it?

One never knows how it happened but irrespective of how it happened, it has resulted in great suffering as well as a great possibility. Great suffering is because this unlikely union has happened; the great possibility is that this unlikely union can be very beautifully brought to an end, a completion. Are you getting it?

Consciousness identified with the body starts behaving in ways that are not natural to itself. The nature of consciousness is absolute freedom but when consciousness is tied to the body then it cannot behave freely. And how will consciousness then feel? What would be the quality of its experience?

The quality of the experience of consciousness when it cannot be natural is called bondage or suffering. That is what the Upanishad says. All suffering is the experience of consciousness when it cannot be its natural self.

In fact, pure consciousness, non-dual consciousness becomes an experiencing consciousness only after it has combined with the body. Otherwise, the consciousness will not experience anything, it is full, complete, and nondual in itself. Upon identifying with the body, pure and complete consciousness becomes incomplete and dualistic. It becomes an experiencer; it becomes an experiencer of other bodies, other things, the stuff in the universe. And therefore, all experience is of bondage or suffering.

We sometimes love to say, “Oh! I had a great experience; I am experiencing happiness or freedom or bliss.” But the fact is, as long as there is the experiencer, all experience will be directly or indirectly that of suffering. Therefore, there can be no experience of that which is real, only the unreal can be experienced. Truth or freedom, therefore, cannot be experiences. Getting it? To have an experience, first of all, an experiencer has to be there and the experiencer by definition is the partial impure, ignorant dualistic consciousness. If consciousness is still ignorant, impure, and incomplete, how will it experience anything complete? Given the state of the consciousness, all its experience will be of suffering of some kind. Unless we want to say that the experience of Truth too is an experience of some kind of suffering, we should readily agree that Truth cannot be experienced. Similarly, freedom cannot be experienced. Then how do Truth and freedom come to the human being, the human mind, the human consciousness? They come to us, if at all, in the form of the cessation of the experiencer, not as another experience to the experiencer but as the cessation of the experiencer. These are two very different things.

You are in the waking state of consciousnesses, let’s say, and you are having certain experiences, that is one thing. Your consciousness is having certain experiences, that is one thing. And you pass into deep sleep that is a totally different thing. Now there is a pleasure associated with the experiences in the waking state and there is a deep bliss associated with retreating into deep sleep. They are different, very different. In one, the first one, the experiencer is alive, kicking, eager, hungry to soak in more experiences and gratify itself. In the other one, the experiencer has simply withdrawn, gone away. Are you getting it? So that is how Truth comes to you, not as an experience to you but as an end to ‘you’. If you do not get the difference between these two things then you will remain another one of those enlightenment chasers, who believe that enlightenment too, is some kind of an event, albeit a special event or a special experience.

There are so many people who claim or report extraordinary experiences during meditation or such things. And they deeply believe that these experiences have some metaphysical significance. They believe that it is a call from the beyond or some mystical dimension is calling to them. None of that. Truth has come to you when you are left aghast. Truth has come to you or is coming to you when you are shocked out of your wits. When there is beauty so great that you are stunned or when there is a realization so immense that you are left thoughtless and if you are stunned, thoughtless or witless, then you do not call it an experience. It is some kind of a passing away; it is some kind of a coma. Getting it? It is almost like your consciousness has been stuck with an electric stunner. It has been rendered numb, it has been de-capacitated, it has been inactivated at least for a while. To use a more shocking analogy, it is some kind of a paralysis of your normal self. That is when you know that something special has happened, in fact, that you cannot even really know.

That is the thing with Truth, when it comes to you, it does not leave you capable of knowing in the usual sense. It is all over you. It has taken possession of you. You are not left even to report that you are not left. It is almost like an army post being run over by the adversary and each single one of the soldiers being put to death. Now, who is left to report back to the Headquarters that the adversary has won? Such is the complete domination of Truth when it comes. It totally runs you over. Not even one soldier remains to run back and deliver the news that you have been outnumbered, outgunned, outsmarted. Are you getting it?

It would indeed be a strange situation if an entire battalion shows up to report that the enemy has won. If the enemy has won, how come you chaps are still here? If the enemy has indeed so conclusively won, then each of you should have been put to death by now. If you are surviving, then it appears that it is not the enemy that has won, instead, some kind of charade is being played out. If the enemy is really an enemy, will he really spare (you all)? All of you are happily here and declaring, “You know, we are enlightened.”

"Truth came, we experienced the Truth, it was coming, it was coming and it was coming with heavy guns, armors, artillery, and air power. It came and it was infinite in its capacity as Truth is. It came and it totally vanquished us." So far so good. If you all are totally vanquished, how are you still here grinning and happily narrating your fairy tales? That is the trouble with all experiences of Truth. How is the experiencer surviving? The Truth is the great destroyer and remember Sri Kṛṣṇa , “And now I am death, the destroyer of the world.” When the immense form is displayed to Arjun, it is with these words “And now I am death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Truth is the great ending, a finality, a peak, a closure.

If you indeed have had an encounter with absolute Truth, you will not remain and if you still remain then what you experienced is some kind of an ordinary dream, an ordinary dream appearing extraordinary just as people with a weakness for cosmetics do. Any ordinary person can appear, can manage to appear extraordinary by virtue of cosmetic treatment. That cosmetic treatment, that dressed-up experience is what most of our Truth and enlightenment experiences are. A simple ordinary thing showing as something extraordinary. Getting it?

So why do we say that the Truth is the ending of consciousness? Consciousness as we know it, consciousness in the sense we are conscious, is consciousness adulterated with physicality. It is this consciousness that comes to an end, not consciousness per se. Consciousness by itself is eternal. But consciousness in the sense of us being conscious is born and therefore it can come to an end. Mind you, this unholy union does not really come to an end through physical death. Which union are we referring to? Consciousness and body.

So, if we believe that this union ends when the body ends. That does not quite happen. The body might end, but the universal tendency of consciousness to associate with bodily stuff remains. The personal consciousness does not remain. I am not talking of rebirth here. The tendency of consciousness itself, not personal consciousness, to attach to a body, that remains. So not much has been gained with the demise of the body.

What is liberation then? Liberation is when irrespective of the status of the body the tendency to affiliate with the body is overcome.

The body might be young, old, man’s body, woman’s body, healthy body, diseased body, does not matter. The body is there and consciousness has seen that it is not the body; there is no point in uniting with the body. Now it is the supreme way to be alive, right? The body is alive and you are not bodily. The body is alive, but the body is now not dictating terms to consciousness. What is the body for then? Consciousness says, “Well, you see, my purpose is freedom from the body, I have seen that I am not the body and it’s an absurd union that I am tied to the body. I am seeing that I need to bring this union to an end. How do I bring this union to an end? By using the body properly.” So, the body is a resource, the body is a resource to get rid of body identification. Human life then is a resource to gain liberation from bondages in life. Getting it?

Once you are no more dominated by the body, once you become the master of the body, once you start using the body as a good resource, you find that the body can be a very useful servant. Now life is not something random, now life is not a sequence of chance events, now life is really purposeful, getting it?

That should have helped you see something important. Randomness or being subjected to randomness is bondage, and life is all about random things happening to you, right? Who can predict what will happen in the next moment? If you are controlled by random events, if you are taken in by chance happenings, then you are living in bondage.

To test your degree of freedom, just see what unpredictability of life does to you. If chance vagaries of life upset your consciousness then you are not free. Right? However, much we may like to plan, things seldom go as per the plan. Your freedom is tested by your response when things do not go as per the plan, which means always (smiling), getting it?

Isn’t it a pathetic state to be in, buffeted by unknown forces from all directions, not knowing what is going to come next, and yet having to bear the consequences of whatever comes next? Most of us live that way, very-very vulnerable, very much at the mercy of situations, and therefore always afraid. To be free is to be free of the tyranny of randomness, come what may “I am.” You will come and because you will come, you will go, but “I am.” Will you remember this? You will come and because you will come, you will go, but “I am.” Right?

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