Acharya Prashant is dedicated to building a brighter future for you
Vast, unthinkable, subtler than the subtle, farther than farness itself || On Mundaka Upanishad (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
43 min
60 reads

बृहच्च तद्दिव्यमचिन्त्यरूपं सूक्ष्माच्च तत्सूक्ष्मतरं विभाति । दूरात्सुदूरे तदिहान्तिके च पश्यन्त्विहैव निहितं गुहायाम् ॥

bṛhacca taddivyamacintyarūpaṃ sūkṣmācca tatsūkṣmataraṃ vibhāti dūrātsudūre tadihāntike ca paśyantvihaiva nihitaṃ guhāyām

Vast is That, divine, its form unthinkable; it shines out subtler than the subtle: very far and farther than farness, it is here close to us, for those who have vision it is even here in this world; it is here, hidden in the secret heart.

~ Verse 3.1.7

✥ ✥ ✥

Acharya Prashant (AP): “Vast is That, divine, its form unthinkable; it shines out subtler than the subtle: very far and farther than farness, it is here close to us, for those who have vision it is even here in this world; it is here, hidden in the secret heart.”

Basics. To whom are these words addressed? They are addressed to the questioning mind that is restless, answerless, and peaceless for some reason. And the questioning mind has a nature of its own.

Now, see what these words mean in the context of the nature of the mind. The sage tells the mind, the ego, the seeker, the student: “Vast is That.” Now, what does vastness imply here?

In the limited sense of the mind, in the usual context of conversation, vastness means a great degree of space, right? That’s how the mind is habituated to comprehending vastness. But here, the entire conversation is taking place on some other plane. This is not the vastness that the mind is accustomed to; the Rishi is not referring to the vastness within the mind.

You see, when you say there is a vastness within the mind, first of all what is it you are positing about the mind? If I say there is a vast space in my palm, what have I implicitly said about my palm? My palm is huge. So, if we say vast, and the mind takes it as something within itself, what is the mind arrogating to itself?

Questioner (Q): Vastness.

AP: Yeah, and that is sheer presumptuousness. The mind thinks itself to be vast; therefore, it can entitle itself to think that it can contain a certain vastness.

The student sitting in front of a sage has first of all come to realize that the mind is not vast at all. Had the mind been vast at all, all the answers that the student is seeking would have been present inside the vastness of the mind; the student wouldn’t have needed to sit before the sage. Do you get this?

Who is the student? He who has first of all realized the limits of the mind, that the mind is not vast at all. Understand this: Had the mind been vast, then it would have contained peace and solutions, joy, stillness, depth. But the student is honest enough to say that the mind contains hardly anything of value: “The things that I miss so much are not at all there in the mind. The things that I value as vast are not there in the mind; the mind is probably too small for them. Now, tell me, can the mind be vast?”

So, the student has first of all realized that the mind is not vast at all, the mind is a small thing. The mind is a small thing containing myriad other small things, so the mind is not vast. So, the moment the sage says vast or bṛhada , the student immediately realizes something that a commoner won’t. What is it? “That something beyond me is being pointed to. I am not vast.”

Now, if the same words are heard by a common man, he would think that something big is being talked of. The sun is vast, the space is vast, and the moon is big, the stars are big; there are so many things that are just colossal in size, and the mind can think of them. So, he will conclude that probably Truth or Brahman , that which is referred to here in the verse, is another big thing in the purview of space, like the stars and the suns, because that’s what vastness is within the limits of the mind.

Or, in a subtler sense, the commoner will start thinking that, you know, “My feelings are vast, my thoughts are vast, my imagination is vast, so probably the Truth is something in the domain of feelings and imagination and thoughts and speculation, because all that too is vast.” And that is what has happened over the various centuries.

Those who have very subtle minds have gone on to think that God is something huge in shape, size, and form, and is sitting on some colossal star. Don’t you come across stuff like that in various religious streams? God is there, and God is sitting on the seventh sky, and God holds the entire universe together, and then God has angels, and the angels are holding the four edges of the sky, there are four angels, right? And sometimes God appears, and when God appears, you know, he obfuscates the entire sky and his brilliance is so much that you are blinded by it, and such things are there.

Now, this is a very unsubtle way of thinking, unsubtle way of taking vastness in the sense of something within the mind. So, the sages proclaimed, “Truth is vast, God is vast, Brahman is vast.” And the unsubtle mind said, “Okay, we are talking of something big here, like the mountains.” So, great huge statues of God would be built because God is supposed to be vast. But that is not at all the vastness the sages are referring to here.

Or, if you are a bit subtle of mind, then what do you do? Then you say, “Okay, Truth or Brahman must be referring to the vast expanse of my imagination.” So, they will start thinking about God, and they come up with theories and concepts—concepts are subtler than material forms—and they will come up with this, that, and gargantuan books on the Truth. Again they are making the same mistake as the unsubtle mind makes: they are taking vastness as something within the mind, and this is a very arrogant act. When you take vastness as something within the mind, first of all the ego is according itself the privilege of being called as big. “I am so big that I can hold even the Truth within myself.”

Only the genuine student, seeker, immediately realizes that “If the Truth is indeed vast, it has to be something beyond myself, because the first thing I want to admit is that I am petty, limited, and I am a student precisely because first of all I have seen that, admitted that.

“I am not big. Had I been big, I would have been at peace. Had I been big, I would have found within myself that which I am desperate for. Nowhere in my mind, nowhere in my genuine inquiry, in my thoughts or imaginations or experiences, have I come across something that can be even remotely called as the Truth. How can I be vast?”

So, first of all, put an end to your imaginations. When the sage says the Truth is vast, stop your imagining mind. It immediately wants to rush to the stars, right? Vast space, vast ground. No, ‘vast’ here simply means beyond thought, beyond you.

You are not vast. That is vast, so you cannot contain Him. Therefore, all that you contain is not Him. Do you get this?

The student is being taught a lesson in humility, the mind is being shown its due place. “Come on, don’t flatter yourself,” the sage is saying, “esteem yourself rightly.”

And that is why we say that self-realization is God-realization or Truth-realization. When you realize your limits, that’s when you become available to knowing the limitless; not that limits can know the limitless, but at least limits can know themselves, and then the barrier to limitlessness drops. What is the barrier to limitlessness? Your presumption that you are limitless.

Humility is not a moral virtue. Humility is reality. If you are 5 feet 10 inches and you say you are 5’10”, are you being humble? You are just being real. So, when the ego says, “I am small,” it is actually not humility, it is just honesty, reality, because the ego indeed is just small. But if you say you are 7 feet 6 inches, then that’s a problem; that’s not lack of humility, that’s lack of sanity.

The next word used in the context of the divine is ‘ divya * ’, ‘divine’. * Divya comes from ‘ dev * ’. What does * dev refer to? That which is desirable. If you go into the etymology of the word ‘ dev * ’, you will have to come to desire, that which is desirable, or that which fulfills your desire, * divya , divine.

As far as the mind is concerned, are its desires ever fulfilled? No. So, within the mind is nothing that would fulfill its desires. Now, what is there within the mind? Tell me, what is it that your mind carries?

Q: Thoughts.

AP: Thoughts. So, your thoughts won’t fulfill your desires. Alright, what else is there in the mind?

Q: Feelings.

AP: Feelings, they won’t fulfill your desires.

Q: Tendencies.

AP: Tendencies, they won’t fulfill you. And?

Q: Expectations.

AP: Expectations. And?

Q: Objects.

AP: Objects. The entire universe is there in the mind, right? So, houses are there in the mind, cars are there in the mind, money is there in the mind, men and women are there in the mind, fame and prestige are there in the mind. Whatsoever you can talk of or have experienced is there in the mind. If it is not there in the mind, you can’t talk of it, right? If you can name it, it is there in the mind. If you can even sense it, it is there in the mind. If it exists for you, it is there in the mind.

There is nothing in the mind that can fulfill you, and the entire universe is there in the mind. What does that mean?

Even the entire universe would fail to fulfill you, it won’t suffice—the entire universe. The mind has to go beyond itself. Irrespective of what is there in the mind, it would be insufficient in fulfilling you, granting you your desires.

That brings us to an interesting conclusion, an insight: maybe the only desire of the mind is to go beyond itself, but it keeps searching for its desires within itself. A million desires within itself, when the only genuine desire is to go beyond itself. That’s what we all are constantly looking for, that moment, that method, that event when you will jump out of yourself.

But how to be able to do that? Jump out of oneself—how to make that possible? That’s what you want. The thing is, you want to jump out of yourself carrying yourself. Now, visualize the fellow hopping, he is hopping from here and there, and you ask him, “What are you trying to do?” He says, “I am trying to jump out of myself.”

That’s the mind’s predicament: carrying itself it wants to hop out of itself, and it is using a thousand ways to accomplish that. Like somebody running very, very fast to leave his legs behind. You say, “What do you want to do?” “I want to leave my legs behind, so I have to outpace them! My legs are very fast runners; therefore, I must run faster than my legs to beat my legs.” That’s what the mind is constantly trying to do.

The mind tries to diminish itself by fattening itself. It tries to reach silence by making more and more noise. It tries to reach not being by constantly extending its being. Won’t help.

Whenever you are listening to words in the spiritual domain, remember that they are just pointers. It’s just that people do not understand silence, so some words have been used in that compulsion. Had it been up to the sage, he would have said, “My silence is enough.”

Words are a compromise, so words have to be looked at in their contexts. When you are talking of the Upanishadic words, the context is the highest; therefore, the highest possible meaning of words has to be selected, not the usual, banal meanings. Every single word in the Upanishad has to be given the utterly highest meaning possible to man’s mind, and even then it has to be acknowledged that the meaning given to the word is still insufficient.

So, be it ‘vastness’, or ‘divinity’, or anything else that comes this point onwards, be extremely careful.

You go to a pub and tell someone, “Come, sit here near me”; that’s one thing. And the sage tells a seeker, “Come, sit here near me”; that’s an entirely different thing. The words are just the same, the meaning is totally different. When the sage says, “Sit here near me,” he means upaniṣad , and when you are calling somebody to sit next to you to share your drink, it is a very common thing, a usual, lowly thing.

So, don’t let words befool you. When you quote a sage, be extremely careful. Along with the quotation marks, also remember to add: “Please read these words in the highest way possible.” When you are quoting someone, you add quotation marks to his words, no? You should also add this note of caution or a disclaimer: “The words are ordinary, the meaning is not.”

Similarly, when you refer to the actions of the sage, again, don’t forget to add the decoder—call it the decoder or disclaimer, whatever—“To be understood in the highest sense possible.” A commoner extends his hand to a person, that’s one thing. The sage extends his hand to a person, it’s an entirely different thing. The anatomical movements involved are just the same, the biomechanics of the event are just the same, no? Some muscle would have contracted, and therefore the arm extended itself. At that level, you could say both the events are similar. They are not. Great difference.

There is a hand that goes to the other in a confounded state, there is a hand that goes to the other to exploit; and there is a hand that reaches out to the other in compassion. There is a great difference.

Yeah, I am not just telling you what the Upanishads contain; I am telling you how to read the Upanishads. If you know how to read the Upanishads, then you will be on your own, you will know how to read life itself. Otherwise, the words here are very simple, and you can read them and convince yourself: “Well, simple statements. I have comprehended them.”

Centuries after centuries, generation after generation, mankind has been able to convince itself that it knows. It does not. People casually utter words like Ātman (Self), aham (I am), Brahman , or Satya (Truth); one could have loudly laughed at such utterances had the whole thing not been actually so scary. If you can keep the horror of it all aside, then all of it actually discovers a huge laugh.

We talk of love, we talk of understanding, we talk of life, we talk of birth, death, God, Truth, innocence, simplicity, justice, peace, equality—we keep talking of these things. It is as much of a joke as it is a scandal—a very amusing scandal, a comedy of a scandal.

The whole thing is there to arrest your mind, to stop its usual machinations. Let these not become fodder to the mind. The mind is an ever-moving machine; it can consume just about anything as its fuel. The mind is the real omnivore; it can eat anything and turn it into its fuel. These words are carefully designed to not become fodder to the mind. Yet, no design is a foolproof guarantee against Maya . So, you will have to be continuously conscious. Maya will co-opt these words.

“Vast is That, divine, its form unthinkable.”

Now, if there does exist a worldly form, it would be thinkable. There is no form you cannot think of. So, when we say that the form of Truth is unthinkable, what does that mean? You could say the Truth is formless, or equally you could say the Truth is a million forms together, continuously changing. Now the mind cannot comprehend the form.

For the mind to comprehend something, that thing needs to be static at least for half a moment; that thing needs to have a certain lifespan, even if that lifespan is a nanosecond. If a thing has zero lifespan, the mind cannot comprehend it. Do you see this? If a thing has zero lifespan, for the mind it does not exist at all. So, if something is actually continuously changing, then in the world of the mind that thing does not exist, because none of the forms that that thing has is stable even for a nanosecond. So, the mind will say, “This thing does not exist.”

So, you could either say that the Truth has no form, or you could say that the Truth is assuming a million forms every moment, and raise million to the power million; and when I say ‘every moment’, reduce that by a million degrees. The time taken in assuming a million forms has to be reduced to a millionth of a second, and the number of forms being taken in that millionth of a second has to be million raised to the power million—you know, just to assist mathematical comprehension.

Now the mind will fail, and that’s exactly the objective: to bring your mind to a point of failure. That’s the objective of these verses. The mind has to be brought to a point where it just cannot withstand what it faces, and then it stops. The moment it stops, you are relieved—not permanently because it can restart, but at least now you know by way of a gap that there exists a possibility. If it can happen once, it can happen a million times.

The mind has been continuously lying to you. What has it been telling? It has been telling you that there exists no reality outside of itself, that it is not possible to be without being the mind. That’s what the mind has been telling you in its own selfish interest. “If I am not there, you are not there.” The mind tells you, “If I am not there, you will not exist.”

When the mind is brought to a standstill, something has been proven, rather something has been disproven. What is it? The lie that the mind has been pedaling since centuries has been called out. The mind has said, “If I am not there, you cannot be there at all.” But here the mind was stopped for a while, and in that moment you did not merely exist: you existed more authentically than ever.

Now, you cannot resume your usual relationship with the mind. Now, you will be able to look at the mind with distrust; you will be skeptical of everything that the mind says. Because if one thing, one central thing that the mind has said can be false, then it is possible that everything that the mind has been telling you is probably false.

The central thing that the mind has been saying is: “You are me, I am you; the two of us are inalienable. If you drop me, you drop dead.” The sages, when they sit in front of you, are able to cast a spell in which, at least for a while, in a flash, you just realize; and that one instance is enough.

The mind reads out a law to you. Now, a thousand occurrences that confirm the law are not sufficient to conclusively establish the law—and that’s the thing with any law ever read out—but a single instance in which that law stands violated is enough to disprove that law. That’s what the sages are doing: they are disproving to you what the mind has been telling you, and they are disproving it in an empirical way, not in a vicarious way. In your own experience, you see it very clearly that something extraordinary has happened. What is something extraordinary? Your usual ways just stopped. In front of the sage, you found that your cunningness has disappeared, even if for a while. How is that possible?

The mind had been constantly tutoring you that if you are not cunning, not shrewd, then you will be finished off, right? But there, in front of the sage, you are not cunning at all, you are not shrewd at all, and the result was not devastation but joy.

The mind had always been telling you that if you want to understand words, then you will have to keep thinking on them; but there in front of the sage, you found that you understood far better without thinking. One lie after the other has been called out.

The mind has constantly been telling you that if you bow down, if you prostrate, if you sit as a student in front of someone, then you will lose out and you will be exploited and you will be shown down; that’s the usual teaching of the mind. “No, no, never ever bow your head, never ever take someone as an authority. You will be exploited!” But here in front of the sage you do all these things, and instead of exploitation, what you get is redemption.

The mind has been shown to be a big liar—the mind does not like that. Two hoots to the mind! In front of the sage, it was not present even to dislike that. Even to dislike something, first of all the mind has to be present. So, it can dislike to its deep contentment when the sage is gone.

When the sage is gone, you can reminisce and recall and dislike and hate as much as you want to. When the sage is there, you are not present even to hate the sage. Later on you can, if you want to, if you choose to, go back to your usual thing, and even if you go back to your usual thing, you will find yourself weaker in defending your usual self; you will find that your conviction has cracked a little bit.

With every instance of sitting in front of the sage, it keeps on becoming progressively more and more difficult for you to go back to being what you have always been. A day comes when you say, “I don’t want to go back at all. What’s the point? Even if I go back, I find myself painfully incapable of reverting back to my old life, my old self; I don’t belong to the outsides anymore. Now, I have come, and I have come; I have not come to go back.”

But that takes time; that takes a lot of grace and a lot of resolution from the student’s side. Unfortunately, it is a rare happening. And because it spans over a long period of time, therefore the number of dropouts is large; the possibility of falling by the wayside is significant. It does not happen just like this, you can’t snap your fingers and say, “I belong.”

This house of the ego has to be brought down brick by brick; dynamiting it down is just a fantasy, it won’t happen. It is a cheap fantasy, no? “Come on, let’s do it in one go; why go through the painful process of bearing the way day after day, month after month?”

You have to be your own mother; you will have to carry yourself in the womb for a long time, and then you will have to bear your own birth. No one is born in a moment.

Q: When I say I am small, even in that the ‘I’ is there, and ‘small’, too, is a label. So, how can I truthfully say that I am small?

AP: Much better than saying, “I am big.” You see, this is a very smart trap, right? “Even if I say that I bow down to the teacher, I remain. Therefore, I will not say I bow down to the teacher.”

Sir, as a human being, as a mind, as consciousness, you will have to do something, you will have to say something, you will have to accord yourself some identity. You cannot just jump to non-being. You cannot say “I am no more I” or “I do not exist anymore”. You cannot say “I am choiceless” all of a sudden. You cannot lose ‘I’ all at once. Therefore, what do you do? You do the best that is possible to this ‘I’. And what is this ‘I’? It is an entity that chooses. Therefore, the best that you can do is: make the right choice. And that is discretion, that is viveka .

Do not fall into this trap: “Even if I make a bad choice, or even if I make a good choice, it is the ‘I’ that has made a choice; therefore, the ‘I’ remains.” That’s the last thing you should say. Having made a hundred successive good choices, then you can say that “Now I do not even need the chooser; even the chooser has to go.” And then the chooser need not be dropped: By virtue of the hundred successive good choices, the chooser drops on its own.

So, do not say that “If I eat good food, I remain; if I eat bad food, I still remain. So what is the point in distinguishing between good food and bad food, good words or bad words, good books or bad books, good company or bad company? Even if I have the greatest company, it is still I who has the company, so ‘I’ remains.” It is a bad argument, because the only way you can get rid of ‘I’ is by doing the best that is possible to this ‘I’.

If you say that irrespective of what the ‘I’ does the ‘I’ remains, then you are misrepresenting the reality. There are actions that fatten the ‘I’, and there are actions that diminish the ‘I’, though at the center of both these actions stands the ‘I’. Still, these two types of actions are not comparable, not the same at all.

“It shines out subtler than the subtle: very far and farther than farness.”

Subtler than the subtle, farther than the farthest. Not even farther than the farthest—farther than farness itself, subtler than subtleness itself.

The sage is doing all that he can, using all kinds of ways, methods, tropes, to deliver the point home. The subtle is within the mind; the near is within the mind; the far, too, is within the mind. Therefore, do not think that if you have gone to the extremes of the mind, you have come upon the Truth. No, irrespective of how special the content of your mind is, it still is not That. So, do not stop.

Irrespective of how extraordinary your experiences are, no experience contains the Truth, no experience is of the Truth. The Truth is not an object to be experienced. So, do not stop.

Constantly the mind is being told of its limits and the possibile traps it falls in. And remember, the one sitting in front is the sincere student. The sincere student won’t fall for ordinary traps anyway, so he is being cautioned against subtler traps, special traps, camouflaged traps.

Irrespective of how deep your feelings are, the Truth is not there. Your feelings are not true, nor do they contain the Truth.

Irrespective of how deep your experience of peace is, your peace is not the Truth. It is not going to last; it is just an experience, a fleeting one at that.

Remain humble, do not get excited. All that is happening to you is just a happening; it is not the Truth. Why jump around so much?

Great things are happening on the screen—great happinesses, great sorrows, great elephants, rhinoceroses, and aliens from great far away galaxies. Great things are happening on the screen. Don’t get so excited, it is just a screen. Irrespective of what happens on the screen, it is not real. That’s how you have to look at things.

Great silence on the screen—is it silence? No, it is a silence of the screen.

Great blasts on the screen, sounds that pierce the ears—they will be gone, they belong to the screen. Don’t get so excited.

Your own self is the screen to be enjoyed, not indulged in. If big bad boys appear on the screen plotting to kill the cute good boy, don’t try to jump into the screen—but that’s what we do, no? “The baddies need to be punished, the cute diva needs to be salvaged. I am the redeemer!” If somebody does that in a cinema hall, you will say, “What a fool!” Each of us keep doing that every single moment.

The world is just a great cinema hall. Millions of screens, as many screens as there are people, as many screens as there are moments in time; millions of millions of millions of screens. Then some nice chap is running his solitary show in some corner somewhere; it is a qualitatively different movie he is showing, one special movie that tells you that all that you are seeing is movies.

The common thing between the messages that these millions of movies are giving you is: “We are real.” All the movies have different plots, different characters, different scripts, everything varies, but one thing stands common: all these movies tell you, “We are real, we are real, we are real. That which you are seeing is really happening, and come on, join the happening!” Irrespective of the storyline, this is what each of the stories are telling you: “Come on, come on, jump into us!”

We said there is one solitary, special movie that is running, obviously to an empty hall. Some one or two are there, and they are watching the show. Well, they can have the best seat in the hall; that’s the privilege of going to that particular movie. What is that movie telling you? All that you are seeing in each of the halls is just a movie; it is not real. It is a special movie that tells you that.

Buy the right ticket, choose the right show, grab the seat—and don’t forget the popcorn. If your hands and mouth are full of popcorn, then the danger of rushing to the screen and trying to do something extraordinary there is a little lower, no? You don’t want to have the popcorn all over the place. Now you know why movies and popcorn go so well together.

Somebody is shrieking on the screen, you are popping popcorn. One baddie just killed four good guys on the screen, you are having popcorn. Your popcorn is your passport to equanimity. Irrespective of what is happening there, all that is happening here is popcorn. The popcorn turns you into a real witness: “You do whatever you want to, I only pop corn. My condition does not change.” And when your condition does not change, then you are the pure, true Self.

It is a good trick to survive this ordeal: never forget your popcorn.

Somebody takes birth on the screen? (Makes popcorn eating gestures) Good!

Forty thousand people have died on the screen? (Makes popcorn eating gestures) Good!

Sex on the screen? (Makes more popcorn eating gestures) Doesn’t matter!

Q: The myth that is probably broken here is that the most ideal state is that of someone who is glued to his chair at the cinema hall, someone who is totally unresponsive to what is happening on the screen.

AP: See, that’s the thing. On one hand, you don’t have to be like a chair in the cinema hall. In front of the chair so much happens on the screen, but the chair comprehends nothing. So, you don’t have to be like the chair; a chair is unconscious. On the other hand, if you act like the ordinary consciousness, then the screen will consume you.

You want to be in a special position where you comprehend nothing, are available to everything, are even sensitive to everything, and yet are captivated by nothing. To witness is surely not to turn into a chair, you know, a chair with five little corns on the seat; no, that's not the crux of witnessing. It’s a delicate balance.

Know everything; be taken away by nothing.

In the path of devotion they say, be like the bride. This entire entourage is there and the wedding function is there, but you cannot allow yourself to be taken away by all these guests and the photographer and the electrician and the butler. The entire baraat is there and each of them is eager to take away the bride. No, don’t be taken away by anybody; you belong only to the special groom.

So, there is that entire baraat on the screen. Know them, watch them, but don’t be captivated by them, because you already belong and you cannot belong twice. The great saint Kabir Sahib said: In that sheath you cannot have two swords. Eka myaan duri shamshir . Not possible.

Belong once, and belong to the right one. The world is the crowd—why belong to this? At the same time, it is an amusing crowd, fine. After all, the wedding belongs only to the bride and the groom. But if four thousand other people are there, then they lend the air a bit of gaiety, a bit of festivity, like you have in the Hindi movies. The leading pair is busy having an intimate dance, and in the background you have forty others dancing as well.

I used to wonder, “But why? What the hell are these people doing on the screen?” The man and the woman are trying to get cozy with each other—and it’s a pretty private thing I suppose—and sometimes behind them you have some two thousand other people dancing. And wonder of wonders: our dudes don’t even seem to mind!

That’s what you have to practice: do not mind all the fellow dancers.

But, at the same time, it would be an interesting sight. You know, the bride and the groom are dancing on the screen, and there are sixty, seventy, forty people behind, and the bride suddenly develops an interest in one of those dancers in the background and makes her way furtively to one of them. No, you won’t like that, right? Then why do you do that? Don’t do that!

Let the thousands others dance in the background; they lend opulence to the sight, it becomes a chorus when so many sing together, that’s all. But that does not mean that you will forget the one to whom you really belong; you don’t even want to throw one glance at the millions dancing around you. They are there, fine; they are good, but they are not primary. Remember the primary one.

Inside of yourself, in some sense, you should have a very, very intimate and sacred life. Each of us must have a very secret love affair nobody should know of. Not even your worldly lover should know of your secret love affair—very, very secret. It is best if even you do not know of your secret love affair. But you must have it.

The entire day you can be with the world, mingle with people, involve yourself in your trade or occupation; and people will think that you are as worldly as they are. But in your heart there must be a parallel world, a world you don’t want to and cannot expose to everybody; a world that nobody knows of, but a world that empowers you to know everybody.

Q: I have always thought that the correct technical understanding of liberation is that when it happens, you do not exist anymore. So, this thing that we are talking about, this secret love affair, will let you see…

AP: …up to your liberation, up to the moment your moment of liberation, up to the journey of your liberation. Otherwise, you may just lose the journey, you may stop traveling. This will help you survive the entire journey up till the destination. Fine, in the moment you hit the destination you may no more be there, but you have to be there at least to cover the distance, right? So, this affair, I am saying, will enable you to cover the distance.

Q: Is this secret love affair some kind of a doing from our side?

AP: It is a doing because you will need to ward off, fight off a lot within you that wants to strangulate this affair. This affair is a very delicate thing; it can very easily be strangled to death.

So, yes, a lot of doing is involved. Non-doing is a thing at the climax, at the conclusion. Life is all about doing. It’s just that you have to be cautious to do the right thing. Non-doership is a far cry. And a lot of problems arise when doers start avoiding the right doing citing non-doership.

“Arjuna, pick up the bow and fight!”

“But how do I fight Madhusudan? I am the not-doer, which means I am the non-doer. I do not fight!”

Now, this is a big problem; you will require eighteen detailed sermons now.

Q: But how do you then still call it a secret?

AP: Secret in the sense that you do not make it a thing of the world. You do not put it in the marketplace, you do not throw it to the crowds; you do not make a tattoo of it on your forehead, nor do you want to turn it into your bumper sticker.

Nobody ever said that there is some point in the world where the Truth lives. Alright, there do exist a lot of so-called sacred points on the earth, right? This center, that river, that mountain, that stone, that point of holiness, that city of pilgrimage—all of that is there, but nobody ever said that the Truth resides there. But whosoever has known life has always said that the Truth resides within you; that’s the love affair I am referring to.

You won’t find it in the world; nothing in the world can match the sacredness that can potentially sit only within yourself. The world can have a lot of great places, don’t deny that, but the greatest of them all has to be in your heart. And if you don’t protect that place in your heart, if you don’t actively nurture it, then you will be just left chasing the world—and the world indeed does have a lot of nice, beautiful, charming places. Bereft of that special thing within yourself, you will be left trailing the world.

Q: What exactly do you mean by popcorn?

AP: I don’t mean anything by popcorn; there is nothing like popcorn. Why don’t you ask me, “Acharya Ji, what do you mean by the screen?” Could you understand what I meant by the screen, you would have understood what I meant by popcorn.

But that’s how the mind and the tongue are—not interested in knowing the screen, too interested in knowing the popcorn. The popcorn is something that prevents you from… I don’t know. I thought I was using the popcorn to explain something; I would have not imagined that I will have to explain popcorn itself. That’s the problem with words, you know. Every word is a pointer, and then I tried using a pointer to a pointer. How do I give a pointer to a pointer to a pointer?

The popcorn is something that allows you to stay relaxed even as you watch the show. And when you are relaxed, then you enjoy the show even better.

Q: We talk of the sacred love. What happens when one has an image of that love? How do I know that I am understanding what love is correctly?

AP: That’s why I said that you should have a love affair that even you do not know of: because all you lay your hands on by way of knowledge, you put it in the dimension of imagination.

So, it has to be an untold love affair. It is best you are unaware of it; that will help you save it from yourself. Obviously, it can’t be something you are too conscious of; it has to be something that happens so much within you that it is almost happening behind your back. You do it consciously, and you bring all your dirt to it. Leave it. Nothing to worry about.

Q: But how can we nurture something we don’t even know of?

AP: Just actively fight the obstacles. How do you nurture a little sapling? Obviously, you don’t take it in your hands and pull it hard to extend it, right? The growth happens on its own; you just remove the obstacles to the growth.

Too much weightage to the world is the principal obstacle to that inner affair. If you have told yourself that all the great things are to be found in the world, then why will you allow yourself to know that something very great is silently striking roots within yourself, away from the world? And if you are too afraid of the world, then you will be terrified into killing the little plant; you will say, “How dare I do something secretly? My worldly masters will not like it!” That’s what the world wants: to control not only your exterior but even your interior.

The exterior many a times you may have little control over, but the interior—the interior of our interiors at least—must be yours; nobody must be allowed to trespass, let alone conquer. That inner freedom is everything.

“It is here close to us, for those who have vision it is even here in this world; it is here, hidden in the secret heart.”

Once you have that vision, once you allow that vision, then the thing that was so elusive is readily available; it is so readily available, it is seen everywhere in the world. It is seen everywhere in the world because it exists in the seer; that’s what we were saying.

Allow that process to begin within yourself; that will transform the world for you.

Ego is nothing but the meanings and significances you attach to the world. You attach all that to the world because of a flawed notion of yourself. You look at stuff, and that stuff starts having value or meaning principally because you think you lack that value or meaning within yourself.

Once your interiors are so full that they lack nothing, then you do not look at the world to demand something, to crave something. That itself is the Truth.

Truth is not an attainment; it is just freedom from a false sense of incompleteness.

Complete within, you do not repeatedly turn to the world begging for companionship.

Complete within, you do not even have anything against the world.

Complete within, you are free to engage in energetic action, vigorous doing, without having a particular fruit in mind.

Now you can love, now you can fight, now you can live, and now you can die.

When you are not complete within yourself, then love is just exploitation, fight is just limited resistance, a petty kind of brawl. Life is just a waiting room for death, and death is something that never completely arrives.

Only completeness can give you a complete life and complete death, the heart to love, and the abandon to fight. A fighter has to be a very detached person, else he will be defeated using the object of his attachment. But the thing is, mostly people fight only because they are attached, hence their fights are doomed to defeat right at the beginning.

Fight not because you want something; fight because you want to fight; not something from the fight, the fight itself. Now, you are a winner within and you are a winner in the world. You are a winner within because there is nothing to be won, and a winner in the world because now you cannot be defeated. Your victory is in the battle itself—how to defeat you? Your enemies will have a problem: they will find they are fighting a rigged battle in which only one side can be defeated; the other side just goes on and on and on. Physically it can vanish; mentally it can never be vanquished.

“For those who have it within, it is there even in the world.”

Those who search for it in the world do not find it anywhere, neither in the world nor within.

Be twice victorious, be doubly blessed. Be a winner inside and outside by just being a winner inside. Letting that silent affair survive—that’s the inner victory we are talking of.

Have you benefited from Acharya Prashant's teachings?
Only through your contribution will this mission move forward.
Donate to spread the light
View All Articles