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When India disappoints a Western seeker || Acharya Prashant, on Upanishads (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
18 min
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Questioner (Q): Pranam, I have a question on gyaan (knowledge) . As you said earlier, knowledge has to precede action, and this knowledge is the knowledge of the factual state of oneself as the ego, unfulfilled ego.

Acharya Prashant (AP): The knowledge before action has to be of the actor itself.

Q: Yes, but it’s a constantly moving thing, right?

AP: Otherwise, you cannot have knowledge. This is very dynamic knowledge that you can attain only in the flux of life. It’s like measuring the speed of the water flow, if you want to measure the speed of flow, you have to measure it during the flow, in the flow, no?

You cannot stop the water or freeze the water, and then try to measure the speed. Similarly, life is a constant movement, so life can be known only in the movement.

Q: I guess that has been confusing me a little because when I came back to Finland, at first, it felt a little depressing because I had the notion that coming to India, would like, you know, something would happen like my motivation or something would get a spike up, but then I realized that I had a notion that, that kind of motivation could come from somewhere outside of me. It just took me back to the same fundamental thing that nothing outside of me can inspire me to really work.

This is going a little off track, but I still want to say this, and now it’s just funny because I am in the same situation as when I was before coming to India. Now, it seems that I still have work to do in this situation. I guess then it’s been just fine because…

AP: See, how can soil and roads and brick and mortar give you fresh insight?

What do you mean by India? India is just a notion. When you come to a notion, you will miss the ocean, no? So, what do you mean that you expected that when you come to India, you will return with your inner gates flung open? What exactly is India for you? What do you mean? You probably came to me, right? And that nearness is not something just physical or geographical. If anything was to be thrown open, that could have happened only if there was a willingness and a realization that it is not the country that counts, but the consciousness.

So, that’s the thing that happens with a lot of people from the west. They come to India, thinking that the land itself will do something magical to them. The land will do nothing. In many senses, the country you are in is a better place than India. In many material senses at least, no? You know that very well. Pollution, overpopulation, and so many other things. You are already in a better place there than in India.

What makes India special then, at least for some people? The right company, the right environment, the right process of self-enquiry. Now you have to then ask yourself, how much of self-enquiry did really happen? How much vulnerability did you really espouse and it’s a choice always to open up to come close and say, ‘I want to speak out, I want to confess, I want to talk about myself, not about the experiences I am having in India.’ What is the point in coming to India, and you know, eloquent about a particular wedding ceremony one sees, or a particular thing one sees on the road, or a particular thing one experiences in the apartment, is that what one comes to India for? No. One comes to India to probe himself, to know himself. Ask yourself how much of that did you really choose to happen? It cannot happen on its own. It just cannot happen on its own.

There is a process, and the process is Upanishadic . The process is of deep discussion and deliberation, the process involves opening up. The process involves coming to the teacher and talking nothing about this and that. Talking only about oneself, ‘Who am I? What my life challenges are? What do I do the entire day? How does my mind function? What my fears, my insecurities are? What do I want?’ If you talk of this then, of course, India can bless you with something very magical. But India’s blessings cannot be foisted upon someone, one has to, first of all, be prepared for those blessings, one has to, first of all, be deeply in love with and desperate for those blessings. So, the more you exhibit your desperation, the more madly you are in love with realization, and the more you find India is working for you. Otherwise, India is just an overcrowded place. Not very different from any other place in the world.

Q: But, I mean, I kind of thought about this on my own, but it did require coming there. I had to see that, as I said that, there was just too much confusion on my side. I sometimes felt that I didn’t know what I was doing there, it was just like…

AP: It was your virgin attempt. Try again. You’ll have to make yourself land in another India. India is not one thing, India is million different things, and they are hierarchical. They can be the greatest India you meet, and there can be a very mediocre India you land at. It depends on your choice about what do you want to take away from here.

Body identification, Julius, body identification. When one is identified with the body, which is our fundamental nemesis, then one is identified with everything that is physical. The body is a basic physicality, no? And when there is body identification, then there is identification with soil, because the body is soil. So, one thing is, that by landing in a particular geography something important will happen, which is akin to thinking that body is important. If the body is important, then the land is important. If the body is who you are, then the land is the Guru , and then you will miss the Guru . By the way, I was seeing it happen all the time.

Q: I know.

AP: I was seeing it, day by day, how you were missing it.

Q: I know.

AP: I know, you are already all-knowing. You know so much. (laughing)

Q: Yes, too much. (laughing) Yes, but it had to go that way, I guess.

AP: Obviously, you see, it’s necessary. It’s necessary that one realizes the immensity of the possibility and one realizes how easy it is to miss it, how one can be very, very close and yet far from being intimate.

Q: Yes, I mean I felt that, I just felt like I was wasting your time there all the time. It was kind of…

AP: My time is wasted when I do not get to solve real problems. If I am solving real problems, that’s the best utilization of my time. So, had you come up with something real, I would have loved it.

Q: But, if I am not coming up with anything real, does that mean that’s my lifestyle?

AP: What else is it that matters to you, Julius? What else matters to anybody? Climate change? (laughing) What else is it that matters to anybody? Why do we want to talk about anything else under the sun? It’s your life that’s the fundamental unit of your challenge. Everything arises from there. Even the global problems, comes from our own misled minds, no?

So, one has to talk of one’s mind, that’s all that is there to talk off. Think now of all the days you spent here and think of what you spent them doing and then you will be surprised big time. ‘How could I miss it so completely? So near, yet so far.’

Q: Taddoore Tadvantike , yes?

AP: You know, the Upanishads put this way, it’s a beautiful quote.

Taddoore Tadvantike. —Near and far. That’s near, that’s very far. Very, very near, yet very, very far. I have people who are with me since years, and they are very, very far. One day, when they will be even physically far, that’s when probably they will wonder, much like you, ‘How did we miss it so completely? How did we waste all our years?’

Q: Yes, but it was actually funny talking of the distance now because, when I got sick, during the latter part of the trip, I got the most out of the session I was watching from afar. I don’t know why, but in the session, it was really hard for me.

AP: Exactly, that’s what. Nearness is such a deception; it makes you miss even that which you were receiving when afar. There in Europe, you are probably receiving more than what you did sitting right in front of me.

Q: Yes, definitely.

AP: Because you thought that you were near. That’s what the senses make us feel, ‘I am already near, why do I need to be attentive? If I am already near, then I am eligible to expect a miracle, and the miracle is not happening, so I am frustrated.’ But you are not near, at all, except in the physical sense.

Right at this moment, there is greater intimacy, than there was over a period of that month, because you see it is not the body that matters, it is mental closeness and availability that matters. That’s why I asked you about what constitutes India for you. The airport, the city, the roads, the apartment? What do you mean by India? Did you come to have a taste of the soil? Did you want to have an experience of the newly built airport, that’s why you landed here?

That’s what we forget, just as we don’t remember why we took birth in the first place, we also forget why we have come to a place at all. You look at the people around you. Do you think they realize why they stand born? No, we don’t know. We don’t know the purpose of life, just as we do not know the purpose of life, we also do not know, or we rather forget the purpose of our visit or our journey and we just get lost. And then we wonder, ‘Why such disappointment? Why am I returning empty-handed?’ Just as we die empty-handed, we also take off empty-handed.

Q: But do you think it’s then alright if I just continue the current thing and try to just see what comes out of it, or is that wrong?

AP: You will have to proceed on the pilgrimage once again. So, at the time when you feel right, rather at the time you feel desperate, and this time with far greater care, so that you don’t miss it again. With more care and fewer expectations and with your defences down.

It’s important to be disappointed initially at least. You will probably not get the context, but there is a pop song that comes to my mind. It’s in Hindi. So, it’s a usual song written in the context of the two genders and the common type of love, but the lines become meaningful even in other dimensions.

“Mohabbat bhi jaroori thi, bichadna bhi jaroori tha” Love was necessary, and so was the parting.

Otherwise, you will not realize that the Mohabbat was fake and that will now enable you enter ‘True Mohabbat’ . Mohabbat means love.

So, Love was necessary, so was estrangement; parting of ways. If you do not get deceived in love, how will you realize that your love was fake till now? So, meeting disappointment is very, very important and that is not the end, that is now the beginning of Real Love. Enter it, so that you can be duped by it, so that you end up disappointed and frustrated, and that ending is then a new beginning.

Q: Yes, it’s such a relief actually, to realize that you’ve been just deceived (laughing) , probably with a heavy heart. It’s a relief.

AP: That’s the reason, I didn’t interrupt the process. I was seeing the process of failure happen very clearly, but jaroori tha (it was important).

It’s a beautiful song, I mean, Sanjay will definitely remember the other lines. What else was jaroori tha ? (Acharya Ji, talking to Sanjay about other lines of that song)

There is this beautiful line, it says, “Mili hai Manzile fir bhi Musafir the Musafir hain”

Though the destination has been found, I am still a traveller as I was

It is only when you come to your dream destination, that you realize, that there is still a lot of distance to cover. “Mili hai manzile fir bhi” (Though I have come to the destination, and I realize I am still a passenger; a traveller). Otherwise, you will think that you have arrived, when you are not. Therefore, it is important to chase something like Ithaka (a poem by C. P. Cavafy) , so that you may reach there, even if only to be disappointed and that disappointment will be a curtain raiser. Something new will open up.

“Magar Bhatke to yaad aaya bhatakna bhi jaroori tha” But when lost, it was realized how important it was to be lost

It’s when you are lost, that you realize that it was very important to be lost, otherwise, you would have kept telling yourself, entertaining yourself in the notion that you are home. It’s important that life, by way of shock and defeat, reveals to you that you are still very far from home and that, mind you, is not inauspicious. That’s wonderful, because now, at least, you will be more careful.

Q: Yes, it’s a relief, really, it’s a relief, because there is no shame in knowing what you really are. It’s only in this strange deception where there’s this tension.

AP: You know, once there was this Kargil conflict, and one Indian soldier was awarded one of the gallantry awards for something quite peculiar. Listen to it.

They did not know the location of the enemy guns. The large guns, I am talking of, the 165 mm guns, that shell artillery over long distances. So, those guns were there and how do we locate where those guns are? We locate them, when they fire and their projectiles land, then by tracing the trajectory of the projectile you come to know where the enemies’ guns are positioned, right? But the enemy wants to hide the location of their guns, so what does the enemy do? The enemy tries to not fire for as long as possible, because if they fire, then you will come to know where their guns are. —‘It is from that direction that the shells are coming and that’s the trajectory they are taking. This is the velocity. This is the height. That is the angle. So, you can very quickly calculate where the guns are situated. So, they were not firing.

But one Indian soldier, with his team, they decided to expose themselves to the guns. They said, ‘We will make the enemy fire, and by that, we will know where they are hiding their guns. Once we know where they are hiding their guns, we can target their guns. We can either bomb their guns or we can target their guns using air power; our planes can go there and destroy their guns.’ So, they deliberately made themselves available to the enemy. They said ‘We are here now, fire.’ The enemy had no option but to fire at them because they were constantly inching closer to their positions. So, then they fired; the enemy fired and those soldiers were killed, but their colleagues came to know of the enemy guns’ position and for this, they were given gallantry awards.

So, it’s sometimes very important that you allow the enemy to fire at you, and you suffer damage. If that happens, obviously you suffer, but at least now you know where your enemy is. Otherwise, the enemy remains hidden. That’s why it’s important to sometimes suffer at the hands of Maya . When you suffer, then you know where she is hiding, otherwise, her guns remain hidden. That’s the reason I sometimes ask our friends here and around, to enter into Maya’s very den; very layer. When you enter her den, then you will know how dangerous she is.

So, I push them into Maya’s den. You go there, you go. You make out, you make merry. You go, you drink, you do all those things. Go. If you do not do all those things, then you will never discover her firepower. You have to come close to her to see how dangerous and how ugly she is. From a distance, she will appear very beautiful and very alluring. You have to allow her to fire at you. I repeat, you will suffer damages, but you will come to know where she is hiding. So, it’s alright, you have suffered certain damage, but now you know where she hides within you. Next time, be more careful.

Q: Thank you.

Q2: Pranam Acharya Ji, during the Bhagavad Geeta session you had told to go beyond the material or beyond your body. And in the recent Bhagavad Geeta session also, you said, ‘To know from your mistakes and what you are doing.’ Today also, you have said, ‘Know who you are.’

So, whether going beyond the material or beyond the body, is it the same to that as ‘knowing’?

AP: Same thing. Knowing is ‘beyond-ness’; ‘to know’ is ‘to be beyond.’ Wonderful. That which you know is that which you are now free of. Know it and be liberated. Vedant is extremely clear about it—'Knowledge is liberation.’

Q: One more thing, in the recent Bhagavad Geeta session, you have talked about Nirmam , and I don’t know and remember exactly those words, but you have said…

AP: Nirahankar Nirmam Nispruha Gata-vasana.

Q: Yes, but regarding Nirmam , you have said like, mera , I think it means mine. I always think and after that session I have observed myself like, who I am, and whenever speak to someone, I observe myself that I always use “I”. And in this observation, who is observing, that who I am, who is saying this ‘I’, is that the observer is also again saying, ‘Who is observing it?’

AP: Then go beyond the observer. If you observe something, then you observe the observer as well.

Q: That’s what observing is, but don’t know, again who is that…

AP: So, then go beyond that as well. Beyond-ness is, that’s the reason, so much fun. If you can detect, even the observer, then the observer has become the observed. So, become the observer of the observer.

Everything that can be observed must be observed. The observer, just by the dint of his name, does not become exempted from the purview of the observation. There is no VIP list here. Everybody will be frisked. Everybody will be enquired into. Everybody will be observed.

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