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When you pay attention to the partial, the partial burns away
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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Questioner (Q): We exist so that timeless can be discovered. Who is it that discovers timeless? If the ego-self, the 'I', is itself a product of time, how is it going to discover the timeless?

Acharya Prashant (AP): What is meant when we say that the ego-self is a product of time? It means that all that the ego-self knows itself to be has come to it in the stream of time, hence it is a product of time. Whatever you call yourself as has been given to you by some experience in time. It happened someday. It kept happening over a period of time and hence you said, "This am I".

When you were a few months old, somebody came to you and said "Mumma". It happened someday and then it kept happening and hence you said, "A daughter am I". You did not just become a daughter, time made you a daughter. You might say, "I am someone who is quite easily hurt". Time did that to you, a sequence of experiences in time did that to you. Remove those experiences, remove those moments, remove those periods, where is the one who is hurt? Gone. Finished. That is meant when it is said that the 'I' is a product of time. 'I' relates to stuff and all that stuff is time-based.

The 'I' is always incomplete and hungry. It wants to hook on to something. It is always looking around for a companion. "Hello, I am incomplete. Would you complete me?" "Hello, there is something missing here. Can you please plug the hole?" "Hello, a bit of the jigsaw puzzle is missing. Can you help me?" And various helpers arise. Some as friends, the others as enemies. And the 'I' sense keeps swelling, the 'I' sense keeps acquiring layer after layer. That is what time does to 'I'. What does time do to 'I'? One day the 'I' gets attached to A, so now 'I am A'. Another day, the 'I' gets attached to B so now I am?

Q: B.

AP: (shaking his head in denial) I am A 'and' B. The funny part is A and B might not be friends with each other. Now I am in real deep shit. Then as one moves along time, time, time, one comes to see and there is a new relationship and a new experience and now I am? A 'and' B 'and' C. And A and B and C are all (enemies of each other) and I am in even deeper...

Do you see why our lives are hell? Because of what I am. A and B and C and D. The alphabet is lucky it stops at twenty-six. All the permutations and combinations that can be there far exceed twenty-six, they are infinite. And they are all at odds with each other, struggling, competing and the 'I am' becomes a battlefield. It doesn't matter who defeats whom, it doesn't matter who is at odds with each other, the sufferer is the 'I am'. The 'I am' keeps suffering.

I am a daughter and I am a wife and the father and the husband fight with each other. They might fight with each other, the blood that is spilled out is mine. So the 'I' sense keeps accumulating over time and time and time and time. It snowballs. Do you understand the snowball effect? As the snowball proceeds on its journey, it keeps on getting bigger and bigger and bigger. The snow itself attracts more snow.

To come to timelessness is to see that all this load that I am gaining is ultimately just making me obese. And I need to give it all up otherwise I'll be killed. My knees cannot bear even 1kg more.

That is timelessness - to see that all that time has given me is futile and false.

I thought that relating with A would give me peace; it didn't. I thought relating with A and B would give me peace; it didn't. I thought getting this, acquiring wealth, acquiring fame would get me peace; it didn't. Whatever I did for a reason failed that reason, so you come to a reasonless-ness, you come to a craziness, which is the utmost sanity. When you have reached that craziness-ness that is timelessness.

I am no more hopeful about time. I seek my redemption no more in time which is in the future, I am already redeemed. I am no more living in hope of liberation, I am already liberated and that is timelessness. The time now means nothing. I am not seeking emancipation in the future and I am no more a captive of my past. So, the past has fallen down and the future too has fallen down, and alone I stand - that is timelessness. The snowball has given up all the snow, what remains, find out. That's a nice Zen koan. Who are you? The one who remains after the snowball has given up all the snow.

Q: Yog means total. So how do we understand totality or Yog, in terms of time and timeless? Is it something like time plus the timeless makes the total?

AP: Whatever time gives you is always partial. The one who depends on time is also partial. Please understand, the 'I am' sense is partial. To be partial is to be incomplete. To be incomplete is to be a beggar. So the 'I am' sense is partial, it's a beggar. What time can give you is also limited and partial. Do you ever meet Mr. Perfect? Do you ever come across a totally fulfilling job? Do you ever read a book that is the final one? Have you ever had your last dinner, even though the food might be tasty, sumptuous, finger-licking good and whatever, whatever? Everything is partial, never final, never total, never complete.

Q2: Isn't time a concept also created by the mind?

AP: Yes, of course, of course. And all concepts are partial. The thing is, the 'I' sense is also a concept but calling a concept, a concept is also a concept. Do we really know a concept as a concept? When we say time is a concept we might still be looking at our wristwatch. How long is it going to last? Time is a concept and you have five minutes more. So, we conceptually know concepts to be concepts and this knowing is also conceptual. We are looking into concepts themselves, right? So I am a beggar, that is a concept. You too are a beggar, that too is a concept. But because I do not know a concept to be a concept, for me, these two are not concepts but realities.

When you do not know a falseness to be falseness, the falseness to you is a reality, is it not? So, 'I am’ is a beggar and all that time gives the 'I am' is also partial and hence a beggar in its own, right? Now, these two beggars meet and hope that this meeting would make them a millionaire. One beggar goes to beg in front of another beggar and both are hoping that by begging to each other, both of them would become multi-billionaires. That is how stupid this snowballing is. You are gathering more of the partial in the hope of gaining fullness, gaining totality. You hope to gain totality and what are you accumulating?

Q: Partial.

AP: That which is partial. By accumulating more partial, more partial, more of the partial you will never come to totality. Totality is not a sum of the parts, totality is a different dimension altogether. But the mind only knows how to do arithmetic so it thinks that by having more of parts, more of parts, more of parts, more of parts, it will one day reach the total. That cannot happen. Reality does not follow this arithmetic. You may accumulate as many parts as you want to, all you'd have a lot of parts. You'll never have the total. Once you realize that, once you give up on your assumptions, on all the worldly knowledge, on hope, then the total suddenly comes upon you as if it were lurking somewhere. Just waiting for you to be totally disappointed and your total disappointment has opened the doors.

Q1: Timeless is not the opposite of time?

AP: No, no, no, timeless is not at all the opposite of time. Neither is timelessness an opposite of time nor is timelessness some sort of an aggregation of time. It is a different quality altogether. By having salts of different tastes you would never come to sugar, or would you? If you are a salt connoisseur and you have salts of hundred different kinds and you try mixing them in a thousand different ways, would you ever come to saltless-ness?

Q: No.

AP: But that is what the mind wants, an impossibility. It says, "By mixing salts of various kinds I will one day reach saltless-ness. By gathering tensions of all kinds and by trying out their various interplays I will one day reach tensionless-ness. The wife was already a tension, I get another tension in the form of my seventh girlfriend, and I hope that the pursuing dynamics would take me to freedom, tensionless-ness. One kind of thinking was not sufficient so I go and acquire three-four other kinds of ideologies. And I hope their sum total or resultant chemistry will relieve me of all of them." It doesn't.

Whatever you do remaining yourself only adds to the snowball. I am sorry if it disappoints. In fact, I am glad if it disappoints. Whatever you do remaining yourself only adds to the snowball. It doesn't matter whether you are doing the holiest act, it would still remain unholy because it would add to the snowball. And that is, by the way, also the definition of unholy-ness. The only unholy thing is to add to the snowball. Nothing else is unholy.

Q3: How do we get to that place which is beyond time, beyond the construct of the mind, so that we can connect to that which we really are?

AP: The solution lies in the structure of the question itself. You see you said, "how can we reach that which we really are?” You might have reached a lot of places in your life. Wherever you reached, you reached, right? When you reach your home do you disappear? When you reach a hilltop do you disappear? Wherever you reach, you reach preserving yourself.

And even right now you are asking, "How do I reach that final peace?" You want to reach that final peace remaining yourself just as you reach your office remaining yourself. Has it ever happened that you reach a church or a temple and you found that you are no more? That doesn't happen. Now that is the self-preserving instinct of the ego. I want to experience death. I want to see what it means to have died. Do you see the impossibility of this question? I want to die and I also want to be alive to experience what it means to live beyond death. That cannot happen. We, remaining what we are that which we are really chasing, would never be available to us.

If I can put it very simply and continue the analogy that we had been using. We are partial, right? The partial says I want to reach the total. Now, what happens to the partial when it reaches the total? So the partial is dead. Dead! But we don't want to die, we say we want to reach the total. 'We' want to reach the total. Aah, so I have reached the total and who am I? The partial. It's like sickness saying, "I want to reach health". Well, sure, of course, you can be granted your wish. You can reach health but what happens to you when you reach health?

You are no more. That's the price that you have to pay. You'll be no more.

The price is life itself and that’s what yog is all about, that's what I had been stressing upon.

Every second of the 24 hours that you live daily, every moment is an expression of the snowball. You'll have to be very alert about every moment. You'll have to see how the snowball is gathering more weight, more momentum every moment. And the moment you see this, something is checked, something is stopped. The partial is always fiddling with more of the partial. And the partial survives because our attention is also partial.

In the fire of total attention, the partial burns away.

That changes you, rather, that annihilates you. And when the partial is gone, what remains is either nothing or the total, which is both the same.

We live in partial ways, we energize our partial ways. You'll have to see how you live partially. That seeing must not be partial. That seeing is the only opportunity of the total available to you because your actions are partial, your intentions are partial, your instincts are partial, your intuitions are partial. Can you see that everything is partial? This seeing is not partial. But when you see what all is partial, the partial drops, the partial dies. That is the price you pay.

Once you have seen that you are being too clever, it becomes difficult for you to maintain your cleverness. That is the price you pay. Once you see that you are loveless, it becomes difficult for you to continue your loveless-ness. That is the price you pay. Once you see that you exist in a relationship for the sake of greed, it becomes difficult for you to continue that way. That is the price you pay. You must be prepared to pay that price and then you reach, but the destination is your death. It is another matter that beyond that death there is eternal life but that is just a concept. I can't talk of that too much, I can only terrify you more. I want to terrify you so much that you realize how deeply you want it. You want it so deeply that all my attempts to terrify you are going to fail. That happens in love, does it not? I am terrifying you 'If you go to your beloved, I will cut off your right hand'. You still dare to go and that tells you how deeply you love her. I am provoking your love. I am challenging you so that ‘I’ may be defeated. Pay the price. Right hand, left hand, right leg, left leg, the head itself.

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