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When you meet beauty, pay attention || Acharya Prashant, on Vedanta (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): When you come upon something beautiful, try to understand it. That’s what is meant by watching. The worldly bird, the engaged bird would have surely glanced at her neighbour many times, that’s not really called looking. To look is to understand; do you really understand, or do you just keep looking?

We said that if you are looking and not understanding, then something in you is just looking to avoid and it’s very possible, be warned, that you might just be looking at something or someone for years for decades and yet be a total stranger to the reality of that person. Just as several people keep reading holy books all their life and yet really understand nothing because nothing shows up in their life.

Similarly, you could be looking at the person of the saviour bird for months, years and decades and yet gain not an inch of real closeness, because you just kept looking and never understood anything. You never approached the secret; you never had any love for the bird’s core. You kept looking at all the external actions, the words and all the fluff. There is no bird without fluff. You kept looking at all the fluff.

“Aah! Golden hued, big, small,” you kept noticing twitter, you never knew the centre, and I am repeating the warning, it is not merely possible, it is very, very probable. You will be very, very close and unimaginably far, further than you can ever imagine as most people in the world are. You stand in front of a statue of Krishna, how close are you to the essence of Krishna? Are you getting it?

Something in us does not want to acknowledge the Truth, because the Truth is so poignant that falseness will melt, if not in heat, then in tears. When you really look at the Truth, there is not merely illumination, there is a deep pathos.

One is humiliated, almost ashamed. There is a recognition of suffering. Why did the saviour bird even have to sit on the same branch as the worldly bird? Afterall, she has nothing to do with fruit. What is she doing at that branch? Tell me, please. Why does she have to enjoy the company of a foolish flock? The worldly bird, we can understand, she has a purpose. What’s the purpose? The fruit is the purpose. But why is the other one sitting adjacent to her? Think and that’s where the pathos lies.

One is there to consume and the other is there just to oversee, with no purpose of her own; that’s witnessing. The fruit is right next to her, all around her, she doesn't consume. In the psychological sense, please, obviously if the bird exists as a mortal bird, she would be taking in some nutrition, some food, but in the psychological sense she is not consuming anything, yet she is present why?

When you really look at the Truth that’s when you have an explosion of appreciation and recognition. Something very, very important is happening very, very close to you and you have been totally blind—insensitive, indifferent, and that internal explosion of recognition breaks you down into pieces. The ego needs a certain pride to survive, that pride is gone, and the ego has been humiliated here, not by a display of power but by a recognition of love. “I sit here to eat; she sits here for me. I am here for the fruit; she is here for me.” I am calling it an explosion of recognition and it is bound to happen if you look a bit carefully, so you will avoid looking.

Long back, almost a decade ago, I wrote, “Witnessing is love and the so-called paths of knowledge and devotion are not at all separate from each other.” It requires tremendous love to witness. Parbrahm is not even an even a witness. Parbrahm, Nirgun-Brahma is Turiya-Teet , even beyond witnessing. The one who is here to witness has taken upon herself a lot of suffering. You may not have anything to do with what you know of in witnessing, but why would you ever want to know about something you have nothing to do with? Isn’t it a kind of punishment to keep knowing of random stuff, useless garbage that you are anyway not at all concerned with? That’s the suffering the witness knowingly inflicts upon herself for the sake of her sister bird. Do you get this? Ask yourself, why the hell must you be perched on a tree you have nothing to do with? Why must you keep sitting next to a foolish bird tied to her greed? Love, compassion, the essence of witnessing.

Questioner (Q): Acharya ji, what is the meaning of looking up bit more carefully? You told that when you look a bit more carefully, then you will have that explosion of recognition. How to look a bit more carefully?

AP: Do not allow your logic to run amok. What does the logic of the first bird say? She looks at the other bird, she does not need to enquire carefully because the second bird looks so much like herself. So, she very quickly concludes: “She looks like me, so she behaves like me. She looks like me, so she desires like me.” So, do not allow your mind to come to quick and cheap conclusions. Do not think that the place you operate from is the place the other one also operates from. Otherwise, you will not only miss but come to horrendous conclusions. “You see, I am the worldly bird, I am here to eat and this one, obviously, she is so much like me—same colour, same breed—she too is here to eat but she is such a loser she cannot even get to eat.”

So, forget adulation, what you will raise within is humiliation for the saviour bird. She is here to eat, that’s her intention, but she is failing to eat, she is such a loser. Will you now have adulation for her or humiliation? What’s the fundamental flaw? You looked at her, and you said because she is like me, in appearance, in mortal form, therefore she is internally, too, like me. Do not allow yourself to extrapolate a lot. Do not pause it, assume, imagine. Ask, seek to know, that’s called looking. Your assumptions are no good and you have a lot of assumptions.

That’s why a conversation between the knower and the seeker is often quite difficult. The seeker has assumptions not only about himself but also about the knower. And then the knower finds it very difficult to reach the seeker. You don’t have to assume that knower is a knower, you just have to not assume that you know the knower. I am not asking you to start worshipping any bird that appears like a witness. I am asking you to check your tendency to assume that you know about even those birds who behave differently compared to you, but you will keep positing, why? Because the ego does not love uncertainty. The ego is so fragile, it wants to come to quick and cheap conclusions.

“I know what that bird is here for, don’t I? I know what you are doing.” You know nothing about that bird, nothing at all. That’s horrible, and therefore when this massive ignorance ends, I said, there is an explosion of appreciation. In that explosion you are reduced to pieces. And that’s the reason why you will not allow yourself to know the reality of the witnessing bird. It will not allow you to remain intact. You would rather cocoon yourself in cozy stories. “Oh, this bird is my cousin, just one month older than me. I know the name of her father. I know!” You know nothing. Had you really known anything, you wouldn’t have been yourself till now.

Get into the shoes of our shopaholic bird, the worldly one. What’s she thinking? “The weather is nice, the fruit is ripe and what’s this one doing here? Tell me, what's the other bird doing here? Oh! Maybe she is melancholic, missing her mate, she just doesn’t know how to live.” I can very well imagine her telling her witness, “Mate, go get a better life. I know you are not eating because depression reduces one’s appetite. I know that’s why you are not eating. You are just depressed.” And in between, you can also visualize her sermonizing, “Dude, one life is all we have. Come on! Why are you wasting it? Fruit is ripe, juicy, succulent, don't miss this one grand festival called life.” She is trying to motivate the witness.

Coming from the wrong centre, our relationship with the Truth too is very wrong. Not that the Truth isn’t available, our relationship with it is very flawed. Look at what we have done with the lives and stories of our saints, sages, avatars, prophets. See what we have done? We haven’t tried to look at their Truth. Instead, we have narrated them as some kinds of decorated shadows of our own lives. You take your own picture and then you dress it up and you start calling it the avatar. That's how we have related to the Truth. We ask their intentions, their motivations—“But why did Ram do this, why did Krishna do that?” We don’t even ask, we assume that we already know. “I know why Ram went after the deer; I know. I know why Krishna wanted to kill Duryodhan; I know. Who else will know? Afterall Krishna was so much like me.” Because there is no Truth except my ego, so even the Truth must be like my ego. When there is no Truth for you except the ego, then the Truth must be like your ego. That’s our operating principle, so we miss.

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