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Who is the lover the saint sings for? || Acharya Prashant, on Hafiz (2016)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

31 min
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The subject tonight is love and for tomorrow night as well.

As a matter of fact, I know of no better topic for us to discuss, until we all die.


Acharya Prashant: Rumi, Hafiz, Meera, Bulle Shah, they sing of love, and in their poetry the lover often appears like a person. They talk of the lover, to the lover, in language that appears known and worldly. It is almost as if the man next door is composing and singing for his beloved who lives in the same town or somewhere afar. The whole ambience appears beautiful but not unknown. It is very easy therefore, to think that one person is singing for another person or one person is calling God, God as we know God. And is doing this lyrically, nicely, beautifully, heart fully. But the song, is something that we are familiar with.

It is easy to think this way. It is easy to think that this is just another love story, just another couple, just another man, possessed by a woman or the God idea or something else. In fact that is the reason why the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz is so frequently used by lovers all around us. And we are talking of very mortal, very material love, love that is hardly any different from attraction and identification. Even such lovers appropriate the words of Rumi to express their feelings and somehow Rumi seems to be giving nice, suitable, beautiful, magnified, decorated expression to the state of their mind. It is easy to be misled.

It is very easy to think, for the poet himself is creating the impression that when Rumi says ‘moon’, he means ‘The Moon’. Moon as we know it. Moon, the rock, the satellite, the shining object that our eyes see. It is very easy to think that when Hafiz is talking of night, he means night that follows the day, night that depends on Sun, the object. And it is very convenient to believe that when Hafiz is talking of God’s kiss, the kissing is not very different from the kissing that we think of. In the same way, it appears almost natural to believe that when a Kabir, or a Rumi talk of love, then they intend broadly the same mental happening that we call as love.

I repeat, first of all it has to be understood that the poems in front of you may not be what they appear to be. The words, the vocabulary, the symbols, the objects, the motifs, they all may seem known, familiar, yet they may be pointing towards the unknown. Yet they may be pointing towards something that we have no acquaintance with. So, it has to be read and listened to in that humility. Otherwise, these poems too will meet the same fate as they usually do, as hundreds of other poems have.

Sufis, particularly Rumi, are widely read today. Does that mean that mankind has suddenly woken up to the wisdom of the Sufis? No, it only means that the ego has grown so much in ignorance that it has totally taken over even the pointers that could have led to the beyond. That which could have salvaged the ego is now serving to inflate the ego. That which could have been our medicine has been manipulated, misused, in a way that makes it poison.

We will be careful not to repeat that same mistake.

The subject tonight is love and for tomorrow night as well. As a matter of fact, I know of no better topic for us to discuss, until we all die.

What does ‘night’ refer to, in the parlance of the mystic? The Truth is ‘the day’, only when Truth is shining, can it be called the day. Does that mean that there are occasions when the Truth stops shining? No, never. Just as the Sun always is. But a part of the Earth frequently decides to turn away from the Sun, every day and half the day. That is what is called as ‘the night’.

Night is not the absence of the Sun, but one’s own situation, one’s own predicament, one’s own misfortune. When due to the vagaries of duality, one is facing away from the Sun. the Earth lives in duality, only one part of it can ever face the Sun. And whenever one part will be towards the Sun, the other is bound to look the other way.

The Earth looking the other way is the night, the Sun never sets. Setting of the Sun is the language of the ego. The Sun never sets, the Earth decides to turn away, only to return. For, what does the Earth do except dance around the Sun, how far can it go. With the Sun as the center, all that the Earth does is dance in a circle. For sure, there is some great attraction between them. If there is such great attraction, why don’t they coalesce, why don’t they merge?

Well there surely must be something which is keeping the Earth away from the Sun. The Earth is attracting the Sun, the being of the Sun, the being of the Earth, they are one. Their very beings pull them towards each other. Then what is it that maintains the separation. Any student of physics knows that it is the centripetal force, and what is that force caused by? It is caused by circling itself.

The Earth is going round and round probably saying something to him, probably tempting him, Prakriti and Purusha. But what she does not realize is that in this circling movement, an outbound force develops. This circling itself creates a force that takes her away from the Sun. If the rotational movement stops, then their mutual love, their mutual gravitation would do the trick. No circling, no centripetal force, no separation, no circling, no dancing, no night and no day either. What would be a constant bathing in the luminosity, in the power, in the effulgence of Sun, would actually be the simultaneous vanishing of both day and night. Continuous day, is the disappearance of the dualistic day.

So when the poet says, ‘night’, it has to be understood what he means. Night, is when the Earth is preparing for the day. As ‘night’ advances, the day keeps coming closer. Night is when the mind assumes itself, to be away from the Truth. Night is when the mind is at a distance from the center, in its own eyes.

What is ‘love’? Love is the angst of this separation. Because it is night, you yearn for the day-that is ‘Love’. Because you are separated, something pulls you towards the beloved. That pulling force is love. Of course, ‘love’ can be experienced only in the night. That is why, even in a physical sense, Sufis are so fond of nights. For nights are when, love blossoms.

Do we understand this? The subject tonight is love. If it is ‘night’, the subject has to be ’love’. What else are nights for? Night means, that you will be called….. By the day. Night means that you are experiencing darkness, and darkness is an invitation of light, of realization, of Truth.

‘Love’ is the effect of Truth, upon the mind. ‘Love’ is the pull of the source, on the ego. And ‘night’ is the ambience that is created, baked, assumed and then experienced when there is separation from the light of the Truth.

The subject tonight, has to be ‘love’ – Oh, you could have skipped this line. But then, we are such ignorant readers, if a line is skipped, we do not read that line. If a word is not said, we do not hear that word. Because we live in the gross, and we see only what is shown, and we hear only what is said, so the poets have to say a lot of things. It is not really needed for them to say anything. Could we see, without eyes, and listen without ears, and know without the mind, why would the Hafiz bother himself with the writing?

The subject tonight is love and for tomorrow night as well – Oh, Yes, of course. As the sky will keep getting darker, your mind will crave more and more for the heart, for light, for the Truth. Today, tomorrow, yesterday, centuries back, centuries hence. Whenever you would not be what you are destined to be, you would not feel alright, you will find it difficult to sleep as lovers do, you will find it difficult to relax as seekers do, you will keep waking.

As a matter of fact, I know of no better topic for us to discuss, until we all die – And if, one requires to read any further after this, then he surely is dull. When a mystic says ‘death’, it must be understood what he means. The poem can be read both ways. Kindly read it the poet’s way. Kindly avoid reading it as yourself. Read it as Hafiz. What does he mean, when he says ‘die’? And what does love have to do with dying.

The common man thinks of death as the annihilation of the body, for he knows no more of himself than the body. But the mystic knows better. He knows that what you call as the body, what you call as the Universe, what you call as the ‘not body’, all these are the mind, are in the mind, are the stuff of the mind, merely objects of the mind. The disappearance of one object, will not mean the disappearance of mind itself. Hence, if body goes, just one object has gone for a while, it will rise again.

You sit by the side of a road, and people are walking, driving past you. A fellow goes past you, that does not mean that the entire flow of coming and going has stopped. This coming and going, this movement, is the mind. If one person goes away, the road is such that one, or two, or three persons, enter the road (come into your field of vision). Persons may keep coming and going, the flow remains unchanged. The mystic very well knows that he lies at the root of the flow, and he also very well knows that, that which he calls as ‘he’, or the flow, is also the root of all suffering. This coming and going.

He does not mistake the flow, as the arrival or departure of one particular body. If he says something has gone, he will not think of that something to be merely one object, he will then mean something to be the entire flow. We are deeply identified with objects, things, bodies. So, for us death means that one particular body has now gone. For the mystic, death means that the whole game has now gone, that the mind in which there was always this movement, churning, coming and going, all games of duality, the mind itself has gone. That is what the Sufi would mean by death. And that is why the knower is so fond of dying. Remember, the death the knower is talking of, is not physical death, for physical death is merely an apparition.

What is the total vanishing of mind? And how and when can it happen?

The Earth is circling the Sun, probably it wants the Sun to woo her, to invite her, to pull her, perforce into his arms. And she is a little upset, she is upset that the Sun does not love her enough. She is upset that she is being made to go in circles, without ever reaching the center. She is trying to get the attention of Sun. She is praying, begging, she is asking the Sun, “Open your arms and open your heart, take me in; why have you become so heartless, why don’t you love me more? Why have I been cursed with this continuous separation? Why must I keep dancing around you, why can’t I be one with you?”

And as she says that, she keeps running, her circling movement continues. What she does not realize is that the running itself keeps her away from Sun. Her attempts to woo Sun are exactly what is keeping her away from Sun. For, in calling the attraction of Sun, the Truth, there is a hidden distrust of the Truth. The Earth is saying that unless I make myself known, you will not realize that I am there. Unless ‘I’ remind you that you need to unite me with yourself, you will forget. Oh, this is almost a blame. Even an insult to the Sun.

The Earth is telling the Sun that you don’t know enough. The Earth is telling the Sun that you are forgetful. The Earth is telling the Sun that she must do something to remind him, to get stuff done, to reach the ultimate. She has taken responsibility upon herself. She has become a ‘doer’, too clever a ‘doer’. The Sun is still, and she is doing so much. The Sun is centered and she is running at a mad speed.

That is what keeps the mind away from the Truth.

The very effort of the mind to reach the Truth, is what keeps the mind away from the Truth.

The very effort of the Earth, the very circling movement, is creating the force that is negating the gravitational pull. That is counterbalancing the outstretched arm of the Sun. If the Earth could trust a little more, she would stop running. If the Earth could be just a bit more surrendered, she would say, “Now I don’t do anything, I give up myself, now it is upon you; call me, hug me, become one with me.” The moment she says that she would be one with the Sun. The Force taking her away would cease to act. The arms of the Sun are already eager to pull her in.

But he won’t do it perforce. Unless the Earth is equally eager, the unification won’t happen. Unless the Earth trusts the Sun as much as the Sun trusts her, they won’t become one. Till the time the mind keeps running, the running itself will remain the barrier. Till the time the mind wants the Truth, the ‘wanting’ itself would not allow the mind to melt into the Truth. For what the mind wants, is so near and so easily available that it is only foolish to want it and to put effort to obtain it.

Truth is not for fools.

If you are displaying such faithlessness and such stupidity, then Truth will wait, Truth is not impatient. Truth will wait for you to realize your folly, for you to give up what you call as yourself. To be one with the Truth you must be somewhat like the Truth. No?

I know of no better topic for us to discuss, until we all die – we said, wanting Truth keeps you away from Truth. But we see people all around, who want so many things, but not the Truth. If you circulate a question here, asking people what they want, hardly anyone would write Truth. People would write, money, power, prestige, miscellaneous desires. It has to be understood, that whenever you have wanted, you have only wanted ‘The One’. But we are such ignorant people that we do not even know what we want.

It may appear that we are wanting a person, it may appear that we are wanting security and money, or physical pleasure. But all that you want is relaxation, peace. All that you want is a state where you don’t have to worry anymore. You want ‘the climax’, nothing lower than that. And because you want only that, hence Hafiz says, “Why talk of anything else?” ( I know of no better topic for us to discuss). Only fools discuss of miscellaneous things. Oh, they may call it even an intellectual discussion. But the Mystic knows that this is just gossiping.

If you are talking of anything except the Truth, then you are a fool, fooling yourself.

Only fools engage themselves in random talk. Fools can talk for an hour, over a cup of tea, about the cup of tea. And don’t we do that, and don’t we call that as bonding and socializing. Don’t we also call that as friendship? Loose banter. And when it happens between so-called lovers, we call it, sweet nothings. If you are a lover, how can you talk of anything but the Truth? And unfortunately, the lovers that we see around, talk of everything but the Truth.

In fact, the very assertion is that we are lovers, is it our time to talk of Truth and spirituality? No. So, we are talking of flesh, we are talking of kids, we are talking of settling down. We are talking of the night’s plans. We are talking about what to have for dinner. We are lovers, we are talking of the candles that would be lit, over dinner, Truth, No. Such are our ways that most of that which ought to be done, is frequently the opposite of what we do.

If you know love, then you cannot talk of nonsense. If you are a lover, then you will keep repeating, Truth, Truth, Truth. Nothing else will come to you. Whatever you will say, you will be demanding only ‘The One’, ‘The Truth’. But look at our intimate relationships, husband and wife, do they ever talk of Truth. No, they talk of their son’s marriage. They talk of the housemaid. They talk of the next property to be bought. They talk of the husband’s pretty secretory. All these things are so important.

Have you ever seen husband and wife sitting together and discussing The Gita? Have you ever seen lovers trying to go together into a Upanishad? And that is why what we call as love, is the no. 1 source of suffering for everybody. Our heart has been shredded by our failures in love. Nothing has broken, pierced, torn us apart so much as our wants, our loves and the disappointment that has come with them. It was bound to happen. What you are calling as love is not love at all.

A friend came here, oh he used to come; he went with me to a 4-5 day camp and the camp requires that when you return you will share the readings and yourself with your friends, family members and all those who you claim to love. So, there was Kabir and he very enthusiastically took Kabir to his wife and said let’s sit down and study Kabir. And the wife immediately broke down, wailing, yelping, “Why do you want to divorce me? What has gone wrong between us? Why do you want to leave me?” He said, “When did I say that? I am just saying let us read this thing together.” She said, “No, you will now leave me, you will become a Sanaysi.”

He said, “No, all that won’t happen. Just sit, let us read this.” She said, “Over my dead body. How can I allow this kind of stuff in my house? It is below me, abominable, humiliating. Have we fallen so low, that we will now read a naked weaver? I have bought some expensive books, if you want we can read them, modern, postmodern writing. From influential western authors, they teach us how to succeed. They teach us how to double our wealth. They teach us how to have wonderful relationships.”

Such are we. The husband has to hide from the wife, if he wants to read the Upanishad and the Kabir. The wife has to defy the husband, if she wants to come to a Bodh Shivir (Learning Camp). Parents tell their kids, “Do whatever you want and tell us how much money you need? But please, avoid all this, the talks of Truth, Love and other such dangerous things. Your time has not yet come. Grandma used to say that one should turn to spirituality only after the age of 110.”


Such are we. Everything else is important, and Hafiz is saying I know of no better topic for us to discuss. Nothing else is important. That is the only difference between the wise man and the fool. For the fool, a thousand things are so important, and for the wise man, only ‘the One’ is important. Everything else is no comparison. You must figure out, what is important for you. Must you not?

Death – The last word in the verse, is the ‘coming alive’ in the real sense. Death here is the cessation of all wandering, all foolishness. Death here, is the submergence of the self in the Source. But that Divine Death, that ultimate relaxation can happen only when you first give up all other topics. It is this diversity, it is this division and fragmentation. It is this multiplicity that distracts you so much that takes you away. Or does that mean give up everything else? No, it means, all this everything else -stuff, must be inquired into.

If the thoughts of your next house occupy you so much, you must figure out why you need a house? You must figure out with great ruthless honesty, why are you crazy after those walls? That piece of land. Why? When you go sincerely into the many, you discover that ‘the One’ is calling as the many. That ‘the One’ lies at the root of many. Whenever you have wanted, whatever you have wanted, it is only ‘The One’ you have wanted.


Let not the day deceive you. What you call as the day, is just a preparation for the night to come. But because, every night, every disappointment, every pain is followed by hope and pleasure, so you say, “Alright, the game is not yet over for me. See, I must be doing something right, and the proof is that I am experiencing happiness and pleasure.” You are experiencing your happiness only because you have been suffering terribly. After having suffered so much, of course, a little happiness will become available. That is the nature of duality. You cannot be in pain for too long. After pain, there would be pleasure.

So, don’t be deceived when you see yourself or others in pleasure. If somebody is in pleasure, it does not mean that he is living a right life. It only means that he has been suffering and the pleasure is further preparation for suffering. But because the mind is limited and it can hardly ever see the total picture; so you look at one corner and are duped. You say, “Look, that family, they look so happy, we must follow their footsteps. You know, the Vermas are being feted all around. We must emulate them. Everybody calls them successful. So, that surely must be the definition of success, the way they are living.” No, that is not necessarily so.

Till you really start seeing, don’t trust your eyes, they deceive you. Till you really start listening, don’t trust your ears, they are cheating you.

So, The subject tonight is …

L: Love

AP: Is this day? If you will really see, you will say it is a very dark night. But some of us are foolish enough to look through the eyes. And those who look only through the eyes, will say, “Oh, it is day time, day time, 1.00 pm.” Yes, it might be 1 pm, but still it is the thick of the night. Don’t you see, don’t you see how dark it is? It is very-very dark, and the subject tonight is …

L: Love

AP: And for all nights to come.

We are not here in a group. There are just two, you and me. And even these two must become one. That is the entire process of spirituality. First of all to discount and negate ‘the many’. If you are still occupied with ‘the many’, how will you go towards ‘The One’? So, there is nobody else here, there is just you and me. And even this separation must drop. Right? So, you don’t have a neighbor. Nobody is sitting besides you. And do not do anything which compels the neighbor to feel your presence. Because, you must not exist.

You must do nothing that makes somebody else feel, as if there is somebody else here. You are not here, let everybody relax into his aloneness. If you look towards someone intuitively, someone will look back towards you. Do you know what you are doing? You are again reinforcing the whole assumption of the mind that there are.… ‘Many’. That there is a crowd, that the world indeed ‘IS’. Don’t do that, hold your horses, and your eyes, for the subject tonight is …

One does not love ‘many’. And if you love many, then you know who you are.

How many of you met each other and said ‘Good morning’ ?


Remember the famous verse from the Bhagavad Gita,

Same thing he is saying here, “When it is night for everyone, that is when the Knower is awake”. The ways of realization are different. When the world thinks of itself as awake, then you must realize that it is deep night. And when the world is soundly asleep, that’s when you must keep waking.

L: Sir, Wanting the Truth keeps you away from Truth. So, once you have seen Truth, then you have to be away from it, you cannot even want it, it seems like contradiction.

AP: What do you want?

L: Relaxation

AP: Define, what you want, express it as much as possible, in words. What do you want?

L: No worries, very light mind.

AP: That which you want, is that perfection or not? Do you want anything short of perfection? That which you want, must it have even a trace of ignorance?


You want a unification, right? You want you to not to be separated from that which you want. You want to reach there. So, you want a unification. So, you are thinking that unification is proper, it must happen.

L: Yes.

AP: If something is proper, won’t the Perfect One already know that it is proper? Or would you go and announce it to him?

Go into your own statement, you want the Truth. Truth you call as perfection, right? But you have taken it upon yourself, to remind the Truth. You are trying your own clever ways. You don’t want to leave it to the Truth. For that hurts you so much. That is surrender. That is what the poet calls as ‘becoming like the dust at the gate of the Truth’. You don’t want to accept that. You say, “I have my own authority and how can I accept the authority of the Truth. How can I become like the dust, at the gate of the Truth.”

But that is what the real seeker does. He says, if the one that I love so much is perfect, then let him act on my behalf. Why must I act? Because if he is perfect, then he would be a zillion times more potent than me. Surely, only he can do, what needs to be done. This giving up of the feeling of your potency, is the unification into the ‘All Potent’. Till the time you take yourself to be even mildly potent, you are distrusting the all-powerful. You make any effort, you are gone.

Now, not making any effort is interpreted by you as blocking an effort. Because, whenever you do, ‘You’ do. So, when you act, ‘You’ act, and when you do not act, even then it is, ‘You’ who does not act. For ‘You’, there is no third stage. Sometimes you claim that you acted, other times you claim that you did not act. So, whenever it is said, “Do not act”, you enter into the other ‘action’ of ‘not acting’. ‘Not acting’ is also an ‘action’ for you.

So, you can comfortably keep flipping, these two states of duality. I was making effort, and from that you are saying that, I am not making effort, but in both of these statements, it is ‘You’ who is in control. I was driving the car, and now I am not driving the car. Oh, but, my decision to drive, and my decision to not to drive.

So, whenever you are told that ‘your effort’ is keeping you away from Truth, you quickly interpret it to mean that ‘you must not make effort’. You do not realize, that it is not the doing that is the barrier, it is the ‘doer’ that is the barrier. You are so prepared to drop the doing, but you are not at all prepared to drop the doer. And when you are not prepared to drop the doer, then the ‘dropping of doing’ is just an apparent change of one form of doing into another form. You want the ‘doer’ to remain. You are saying, “I must remain and I must experience, remaining myself, what it means, to ‘not to be’.”


You are saying, remaining myself, I want to experience, what it means, to not to be. Don’t you see the stupidity of what you are trying? You don’t want to give up who you are, you want to take that (being who you are) to the summit. It is like trying to die alive.

The ‘doer’ will not go, till you see that the ‘doer’ is not your friend. You have to see that the doer, just keeps bothering you. The doer is such a nuisance. And you see that, that the doer goes. Don’t you see, how much you think and analyze? What does that tell you about yourself? That you have belief in your own conclusions. You are saying, I will think, and that will help me conclude. Conclude what? The Truth. (Smiles)

Even now, you look so puzzled. Whatever is coming to you, you are taking it into the brain. The brain cannot process what I am saying. It is an unknown thing. It is like a machine, which operates only in, let’s say, two dimensions. And you have given it ‘fear’ to comprehend. What will happen to the machine? It will fail. It does not acknowledge the third dimension. But it will try extremely hard. So, that is the reason I keep giving these fears to you. So, that you may try to comprehend this ‘fear’ in two dimensions. I want you to think very hard, think so hard that you burn out. Your machinery must break.

If you can be present, you will know what I just said. You are thinking, then think more, so that you crash sooner than later. Think harder, go to your Professors of thought. The two of you must crash together. But the thing with us is, neither do we leave the thinker, nor do we think fully. If you can go to the bad extreme of thinking, then too, you will be liberated. The entire world will vanish, because they will put you in an asylum. That is what they do with compulsive thinkers.

But that too, you won’t do. You are an intellectual and intellectual is someone, who thinks within boundaries. Neither can he totally drop thinking, nor can he go insane with thinking. You think too little. Even that is meditation, thinking without bounds. That, you say, is too much for your little brain, ‘thinking without bounds’. So, some itsy -bitsy thought that must keep roaming. Like all those young men, in the communities and mohallas, who keep challenging the kids for a game of cricket. And then they defeat them and they say, “Ah!”

So, little-little thoughts are alright. But you won’t challenge a real player. Neither would you sit in meditation with a real player, nor would you get into a fierce debate or a fierce argument with a real player. Because in both these cases, you will be broken. Meditation breaks you and a real honest argument would also break you. So, you do neither of these. You keep declaring your omnipotence over 8 years olds. So, Billu, Tillu all of you come, and here is the ball, go bowl. And then you hit a long six.

Tonight, let us have a real game of cricket, without lights. How would that be?

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