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What does man really want? Why does he not get it? || Acharya Prashant, on Guru Kabir (2019)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

13 min
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Lust and ire, two enemies dire, plunge one in the sea of vice. And when all the five and jealousy join, you lose all your zeal for Him. Says Kabir—O gentlefolk do ponder, can leaf once detached rejoin the tree?

~ Kabir

Questioner: Kindly help me understand the meaning of these lines. Guru Kabir seems to be talking about the things that make one lose one’s zeal for the Beloved. If these things can come in the way, does that mean that the yearning pre-exists in us all already?

Acharya Prashant: Obviously. In your movements throughout the day, in your gossip, in your work, your past times, your pleasures, your sadnesses, your goals, your targets, it doesn’t matter what you are thinking of, it doesn’t matter what you are wanting—you are wanting nothing but fulfillment, aren’t you? God is the name for the final fulfillment.

What do you want when you wear a new dress? What do you want when you watch a movie? What do you want when you try a new dish? Fulfillment, right? That’s God’s name—fulfillment. Nobody has ever wanted anything but That. It’s just that we are creatures of flesh and blood, so even as we want That, we want That in flesh and blood, in material, because we know of nothing else. Given our physical condition, given our mental limitations, we cannot want God, the absolute or the infinite or the formless, so we keep wanting a thousand miscellaneous things in thousands of forms. But actually, we are wanting just one.

I don’t know whether you have seen newborns, kids, the very small ones. Their language is very limited; all they know is crying. So, that’s our situation: we may want anything, but our expression is very, very limited. The little kid wants to be comforted—he will cry. The little kid wants his diaper to be changed—he will cry. He wants milk—he will cry. The temperature is too high—he will cry. The humidity is too high—he will cry. The expression is very, very limited. Such are we. Even when we want God, we shout. The little kid wants milk—it cries. The little kid wants the mother to be beside him—he cries. The kid wants the fan to be turned on—he cries. Same is with us. Our expression is limited to worldly exchanges, so we keep exchanging stuff in the world, assuming that one of those exchanges would give us what we are really looking for.

Unfortunately, that does not happen. Kabir Sahib has listed the reasons: “Lust and ire, two enemies dire”—basically, desire. Be it lust, be it ire, both are related to desire. You want something and you desire something else—how will you ever get what you really want? That’s the thing with desire: it never fetches you what you really want. Alright, I will make it more palatable. You need something and you desire something else—how will desire ever fetch you what you really need?

Desire is such a bad servant. It is always present at your disposal but it doesn’t give you what you need. It only gives you what it can give. It’s like having a servant who knows only the shopping mall. You ask the servant to get you some love, and quickly it gets on with the project and fetches you some tomato ketchup. You ask him to fetch some contentment, and the servant says, “Yes sir, thy bidding be done!” and in no time the servant comes to you with a pair of shoes.

This servant of yours knows only shops and materials. He appears very obedient; he never refuses your commands. But have you ever noticed that anything that he brings to you is never really of any use? What do you want to do with such a servant? One likes to keep such a servant. Having such a servant is a great egoboost. You can boast off; you can say, “You know, I have a servant who never says no. You know, I have a servant who always fetches me goodies. You know, I have a servant who has at his disposal all the material of the world.” That might be the case, but is your servant really giving you that one thing that you need? That’s the question to be asked.

“Lust and ire, two enemies dire, plunge one in the sea of vice. And when all the five and jealousy join, you lose all your zeal for Him.”

All the five relate to the world. Lust, ire, desire, the five—all point to the expanse of the sensual universe. This is where you are seeking solace. This is where you are not getting it. This is where you are insistent you would get it. This is where you are going wrong.

And do not forget that Kabir Sahib has mentioned jealousy separately. Jealousy must be something so important that it deserves a separate mention. Wow! Must be holding a prime position in the list of the reasons that take you away from Truth. Jealousy, yes… You know what jealousy does? It fills your mind up with someone you despise. How good is that? How pleasant is that? The mind that should have been the abode of Truth, the house of peace, is now being occupied by someone you hate, someone you despise. That’s jealousy.

In jealousy, you make the despised one your God. Who is God? The one who deserves to have the prime position in your mind, right? And what is the jealous mind always thinking of? The object of his jealousy. Look at the honor you have given to the one you were jealous of. You think you are bringing him down? No, you have turned him into your God; you have made him so important that you are constantly letting him occupy the topmost position, the centermost position in your consciousness.

So, Kabir Sahib says, “And when all the five and jealousy join, you lose all your zeal for Him.” He is gone!

And do not forget that even when you are being jealous, you are really, really looking for God. Just as we said that when you are desirous then what you really want is God, similarly, when you are jealous of someone, you want to be bigger, you want to be better than him, don’t you? That is because you actually won’t be contended till you are so big, so good, so great that you are beyond comparison. You compare because your need, your deep need is to go beyond all comparisons. But it is such a foolish way to get what you want. You want to go beyond comparison, and to achieve that end you are indulging in comparison. Would this method give you what you want?

That’s the thing with the mind. It’s not as if it does not want the right thing, it does, but it wants the right thing through self-appointed ways. It insists that it is clever enough to devise ways to reach the Truth, and that’s where it fails. It’s not as if it doesn’t want to reach the Truth, it does, but it has great confidence in its own ability. It says, “I am the one who will decide how to get there.” This is where calamity strikes.

It is very paradoxical, you see. On the one hand, you say, “The One I want to reach is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, extremely compassionate.” If He is really how you describe Him, then is He not fit enough to be left with all the responsibilities pertaining to your welfare? If He is really all-potent, if He is really unconditionally loving, then why don’t you leave the matter of your welfare to Him? Which means, why don’t you leave the matter of finding the right way to reach Him to Him? Let Him decide how you would reach Him.

This is such a central and common mistake. It is like trying to reach light using your darkness. How do you reach a lighthouse, using your darkness or using the light of the lighthouse? Please. But you say that you are in love with light, and in the same breath you say that you will reach light using your darkness. Your darkness implies your methods, your cleverness, your calculations. If you really want to reach the lighthouse, let the lighthouse dictate your path. Isn’t that commonsensical? But you keep looking at the lighthouse, and you keep consulting and referring to your own cleverness to devise a way to suggest a path. It is extremely foolish. He knows the way to reach Him, and only He can tell.

You reach an unknown city; your beloved resides there. How do you reach his house? You ask him the way to his house, don’t you? Because it is his city, only he knows how to reach his house. But, on one hand, you say that you love him; on the other hand, you distrust him so much that you do not want to follow the map that he provides you. It is so paradoxical, so paradoxical!

It’s like this. You love him, and you have just deboarded from a train. It’s 2 a.m., call it two in the night or two in the morning, whatever. Thick fog, a January night, and all the way you have been singing that your lover is all yours, truly yours; he is so very caring, sensitive, compassionate. He has been calling you since midnight to ask you when the train would be arriving, and you refuse to tell him. You say, “No, I will figure it out.” Now you have deboarded, the train is gone, and you are on the platform. His house is at a fair distance, and he again calls you up and says, “I will come to pick you up.” You say, “No, no, no, I’ll manage, I’ll figure things out!” He says, “Fine, if you want to do that, but let me at least tell you the way; I will tell you where to get the cab from, I will tell you the route.” And you say, “No! Who do you think I am? A fool? I will determine the path!” Now, are you in love with him, or are you suspicious of him? If we go by your conduct, it appears that you are really suspicious that he wants to misguide you.

And the fact is you cannot reach Him; it’s His city. It’s a special city. Without His support, how will you reach Him? But you are a very self-confident person, aren’t you? You like to boast that you are self-made. What’s more, you do not want to give the beloved a chance to ever tell you that He helped you, because that hurts your ego. Why does that hurt your ego? Even in that, is there an insight? You must pay attention. You have not come to the beloved taking Him as your Lord; you come to the beloved taking Him as your equal. Now, if you accept His help, then it will be proven that He is not your equal but your Lord, so you do not want to take His help. You are genuinely afraid that if you take His help, then the secret would be out.

The ego wants to get the Truth, but it does not want to merge into the Truth. It does not want to merge and dissolve and disappear into the Truth; it wants to get the Truth. You know the difference between getting and dissolving? The husband gets the wife, the wife gets the husband. They get each other because even after they had each other, they still retain their personal identities; they don’t disappear. Whereas, the seeker must disappear into the sought. The seeker doesn’t want to disappear into the sought; the seeker wants to retain himself. Therefore, the seeker looks at the sought as some kind of peer, as some kind of equal; and if your beloved is equal to you, why must you accept his guidance?

So, you continuously defy Him. You continue to defy Him even if you are lost in His city and He keeps calling you: “Allow me to guide you! Allow me to guide you!” And you will say, “No! Are you any superior to me that I should accept your guidance? You are not superior to me. We are both one!” Now, why must you insist that you and He are one?—one not in the sense of oneness, but in the sense of being equal. Why must you insist that? Because you are, again, afraid and insecure. What is the insecurity? The insecurity is, “If I take Him as my Lord rather than my equal, then I would be obliged to follow His instructions, because the devotee must follow the Lord.” And you are suspicious that if you take Him as the Lord, then one day He may instruct you to leave Him, and you do not want to let that situation come by because you love Him a lot.

So, because you love Him a lot, you ensure that you do not love Him. That’s the cycle—stupid cycle, but still a very poignant story because this cycle is the cycle of all humans suffering. On one hand, you do not trust anybody as much as you trust Him; on the other hand, you are deeply suspicious of Him, and whatever opinions you have with respect to Him have very little to do with Him. Those are all products of your own insecurities.

Now, you are lost in the city, and whom do you blame? Him!

“Says Kabir—O gentlefolk do ponder, can leaf once detached rejoin the tree?”

Do the tree and the leaf represent the individual and the source? No, no, no. Here Guru Kabir is talking of the limited lifetime that the person has. Once you are gone, you are gone. Life won’t return, so make the best use of your time.

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