Questioner (Q): Who are the various Gods?
Acharya Prashant (AP): Who is Indra? A power within me! I am asking myself, ‘’Please, bestow wellbeing on yourself.” What am I telling myself? “Kindly be good to yourself.” Too much to ask for, too much? We keep wanting others to be good to us, but very rarely do we want ourselves to be good to us. The Upanishads are filling in that small little gap. "Before you want others to help you, come on! Be responsible and help yourself!" Therefore ‘Brihaspati’ is neither a planet nor a faraway God. Who’s Brihaspati? Your own potential for wisdom is Brihaspati. Isn’t Brihaspati the God of learning? Now, who would learn for you? Is some deity going to come and learn on your behalf? Tell me, please?
So, when you really want to learn, when you are devoted to learn, you are Brihaspati. Or you can be one of the demons who fights Brihaspati. Brihaspati is a great teacher. The teacher does exist within you, no? Isn’t that what the scriptures repeatedly say? And we fail to comprehend what do they mean when they say, “The teacher exists within you!”
Can you be taught without your consent? Tell me! That’s Brihaspati within you. The faculty to say ‘yes’ to learning. The ability to exercise the option to learn. To learn from a book, from life, from a person, from yourself, your own life experiences, from anything and everything; that’s Brihaspati. Getting it?
And then there is Tarkshya , who is called ‘ Arishtanemi * ’, who doesn’t allow bad things to happen to you. Now, who can prevent bad things from happening to you when all the badness is inside? Obviously, * Tarkshya cannot prevent a truck from mowing you down. That can happen, if you are not careful or if the truck driver is special.
Here, the Gods are all being referred to in the internal and subtle sense. There are things and events and people outside who can harm you in an outer way. They do have the power to, for example, fetter you. They can chain your hands, can’t they? What’s being said here is that nobody can chain your spirit, your inner self without your consent. Nobody can bring inner harm to you without your consent, externally they can do a lot of things. And externally you do not require somebody to be vicious to you to bring harm to you.
Externally well, you know, even coincidences can harm you. You can take the road to Gangotri and meet a landslide. Nobody planned it for you. Nobody was conspiring to kill you, you just die. And even if there is no such landslide, time will kill you, right? You will get old and simply die.
So, your external self, which is the bodily thing is always at the mercy of the Universe, to a great extent. One new virus strain and we might all find ourselves helpless. We are at the mercy of situations, coincidences we do not know. Somebody may now decide to eat a horse, you know, one progresses. Yesterday they ate a bat, tomorrow they might eat something even fancier, how do we know? But internally you are your own lord. All the Gods reside within. Pray to them to awaken them. Getting it?
So, never fall to the kind of nonsense that says, “You know, ‘Indra’ or ‘Shani’ is not pleased with you and therefore bad things are happening!” So how do you please Shani? “On that particular day, you bring oil in an iron vessel and offer this kind of money, and then Shani will be pleased.” This is nothing but ‘money for Shani’ kind of fraud. Where are all the Gods?
AP: No Shani, no Shukr, no nonsense. Getting it?
You may as well say, “I pray to my own potential fearlessness!” and you can give that fearlessness a new name, a name of your choice. And that name becomes the God of your choice. That’s the kind of process that has gone into these verses, right? You take a God and let that God represent fearlessness for example. First of all, you decide that fearlessness is something worthy of worship. That value system has to be there. “I decide it is great to be fearless", and then I want to give fearlessness a face and I worship that face. I call that face the face of a deity, right? You see, how the Gods came up? Are you seeing the entire process?
Similarly, I find that strength is very important. My value system says ‘no’ to weakness and ‘yes’ to strength. So, what do I do? I give strength a face, as poets do, as artists do, don’t they? As painters do. If you go to a painter and say, “Paint depression for me.” Would he refuse? He will paint it. How has he managed to paint depression on a wall? Because that can be done. You can give a face to something very subtle, that’s the function of the artist.
So, these poets are at work here. In fact, you know, the Upanishads several times call the rishis as kavis , poets. Not without reason. They are bringing towards that which is very abstract and that’s what a poet does. They are giving a face to that which is very conceptual, that’s what a painter does. And then when you give it a face, obviously you also give it a name and that becomes the name of a God, right? So, those Gods really don’t exist. They are names of something virtuous within. Getting it?
Q: Namaskar Acharya Ji, what could I get from ‘*saman*’ and ‘ daman * ’? * Daman , what could I get, that may be the suppression of emotions or our unnecessary actions but what do you mean by Saman ?
AP: ‘*Dam*’ and ‘ Sham * ’, these are classic words. * Sham simply means that you are not encouraging the inner tendencies to take hold of you or consume you further once they have arisen. What do you call the firemen in Hindi?
Q: Agni shaman dal
AP: Yes. Now you know what they do? Do you see what is ‘*shaman*’ then? Once the thing has caught fire, you do not support the fire, you do not feed it fuel, that is ‘*shaman*’. You rather douse the fire. The fire could be of fear, lust, anger, jealousy, possessiveness, attachment, anything!
*‘Shaman*’ comes into the picture only if ‘*daman*’ has not succeeded. First of all, you don’t want it to be initiated at all. You don’t want the fire to happen. But if the inner thing does catch fire, then you want to put out the fire, that’s ‘*shaman*’.
But often the fire and the inner temperature becomes quite pleasurable, no? There is a heat within, and we like it. Don’t we, in today's metaphor, like things ‘hot’? Now if the fire is there and you have started liking its hotness, why will you put it out? First of all, you have to see that hot things will reduce you to ashes as well as turn into ash themselves. We don’t see that in moments of passion, do we? When that ‘hot’ thing is there in front of you, do you ever see ashes?
A few hundred meters from here you have the crematorium. Some of you might have already walked past it, by the Ganga. It’s spectacular at night! The lit pyres! You must be able to see your own body there, and you must be able to see all ‘hot’ things there. Why can’t you outsmart time? Time will show you those things, right? But time will take ten-twenty years. Why can’t you outrun time, outpace time? What time would anyways show you twenty years later, see it today. And you will be saved, no? Or do you want to keep fooling yourself for twenty years only to come to ashes then?
Before that external fire consumes us, most of us are already internally charred, destroyed by the inner fire. ‘*Shaman*’ is about putting out the inner fire. And the scriptures tell us that if you have put out the inner fire then you are immortal, irrespective of what happens to your body. Your body will indeed burn but you will be immortal. But you are already dead if there is a fire within. ‘*Shaman*’ is about dealing with that inner fire properly. It's adjacent to dispassion.
Q: Acharya Ji, what does the internal fire that’s a deterrent, mean? Is it the desires and human tendencies?
AP: What does the fire want? When you have fire, what is it crying for?
Q: To burn.
AP: Food! What does the fire want? You put something into it. And when you put something into it, what happens to the fire?
Q: It gets life.
AP: It wants even more. What’s the fire crying out for? Food. And when you put food into it, what happens to the fire? Does it get satisfied and call off its demands? Its demands only increase when you feed it food. The more you feed it, the hungrier it gets. It uses everything that you give it to further itself.
You know, one of the quotes and posters, they read: ‘What you collect for your security makes you all the more insecure’ It’s like this: What do you collect it for? To feel secure. But what does it make you? More insecure! That’s the nature of fire. You give something to it with the hope that it would be satisfied and placated. Instead of getting placated or appeased, its demands only magnify, like that of a blackmailer. The blackmailer, arm-twists you for something. The moment you concede his demands, does he go away happy and contented? What does he do? Next time he wants even more.
That’s the nature of the inner animal, the ego. Never try to come to a negotiated settlement with it. Never try to meet it halfway; it won’t work. This is a battle in absolute terms. This is a battle in binaries. You will either win or lose; there can be nothing midway.