Acharya Prashant: (Reading, Salok Mahalla 9 Guru Teg Bahadur)
“One who is not affected by pleasure and pain, who looks upon friend and enemy alike, says Nanak, listen mind, know that such a person is liberated."
(Hindi- “harsh, shok vyape nahin bairi meet saman” ).
(Reading question) "If friendship and enmity are the results of unfulfilled desires, then the reactions towards them also come from a point of unfulfillment. Does this realization enable someone to look upon friend and enemy alike?"
These are not the matters of speculations Shubhankar, first of all, you are terming an assumption as a realization, and then you are asking me, "If I assume that I will have this realization then will I be able to look at friends and enemies alike?"
This is not how these things are done. You do not say, "If I know this or if I realize this then will my behavior become like that?" The one who looks at friends and enemies alike is a different being, is a different ‘I’ altogether. He has not just freshly learnt some principle. He is not enacting some code of conduct. He is somebody else. He is at a point where friendship and enmity do not carry the same meaning as they do usually to most people.
Do not forget that two dualities are being mentioned in the same breath. (Hindi- harsh, shok vyape nahin bairi meet saman ). Happiness and sadness neither of them dominate me and for me, enemies and friends are the same. That should give you a hint. Who is a friend for us? Because we are pleasure-seeking beings, so our friends are those who give us pleasure, simple. And that is the grave danger associated with being someone who is captivated by pleasure. Are you getting it?
That pleasure-seeking instinct will decide everything in your life. We have often said that the greatly transforming force is that of the company, that if there is one thing that can totally transform and liberate you it is company. But if you are a die-hard pleasure seeker then who would you take for company, who would be your friend? Somebody who gives you pleasure. So the biggest and the greatest and probably the only chance of liberation you had is gone.
It is for this reason that Guru Teg Bahadur Sahab has mentioned both these dualities in the same line. Happiness, sadness, friendship, and enmity. You must ask yourself, “Are you strongly drawn towards pleasure? Are you someone who gets lost in pleasure when it comes to you?" That’s a question you must very honestly ask yourself. Do you find this instinct in yourself? That when pleasure comes, it just carries you away, it turns you totally blind, you lose all Vivek , all discretion, you cannot listen to anything, you come totally regardless of light and darkness, of Truth and falseness.
If that is the case, then you also know how you will choose your company—your friends, your enemies. Who would be your enemy? The one who denies pleasure to you. The moment you will find someone denying pleasure to you, he will turn into your great enemy. And who will be a good friend—who gives you the hope of pleasure.
Now, what is pleasure, and what is pain? What are the evolutionary origins of pleasure and pain? That which helps secure and further your physical being is pleasure. That is why one of the greatest pleasures is—sexual. So, pleasure is that which helps secure your physical being. Secure it and further it. That is why one of the greatest pleasures is—food. Have you ever wondered why food is such a pleasure? Because ‘ Prakriti ’ has trained you to like that which will keep your body afloat.
Food keeps your physical body afloat therefore you find food pleasing. Sex enables you to produce more physical bodies like yourself, so you have been conditioned, programmed to find sex, pleasurable. Similar are all the instances of pleasure that you can think of. They will have an evolutionary basis. In fact, pleasure is so material that all pleasure is accompanied by the release of certain chemicals in the brain. In the brain and elsewhere in the body. You know of Dopamine and other such agents.
So, all pleasure, please see, is for the sake of physical ends, so if you are a pleasure-seeking person, what have you turned yourself into? A totally physical being and this physical being will accordingly define and label his friends and enemies. If pleasure and pain mean a lot to you then they define your friends and enemies, don’t they? If you are a pleasure-loving person then you know who your friend is. If you are a pleasure-loving person, who are you? "I am the ‘ Prakritik ’ being, I am flesh." Flesh that wants to survive, flesh that wants to continue in the next generation as more flesh. The more flesh you are, the more you will distinguish between pleasure and pain, do you see? Because flesh will be highly desirous of pleasure and highly resistant to pain.
In fact, you will find that the more pleasure-loving a person is, the less is his capacity to bear the pain. His entire body cries out for just pleasure and pleasure. You have defined yourself that way, having defined yourself, you have also defined your world, which is your company, which is your friends and enemies. Now, liberation is impossible. You will look at your world and you will use your view of the world to remain who you are. When you look out, what do you see? You see what you have surrounded yourself with. And if you are a pleasure-seeking person, what do you surround yourself with? More pleasure-seeking persons and you call them as friends.
So whatever version of the world you have, you have from the ones who surround you. So, all the possibility of transformation is now gone. The beginning itself is a disaster. "I have defined myself as the one who likes to have pleasure. Give me good food, massage the Ego, say nice things to me. Give me pleasure, give me experiences that please me. Give me stuff that makes me happy. Don’t say things to me that will displease me or hurt me. Don’t make me live on austerity. Things must be nice around me."
That is captivity. And therefore, Guru Sahab says, “If you can avoid this then you are liberated”. What else is Liberation? Liberation is always, freedom from false definition of the ‘I’. If your definition of yourself is, “I am the one who likes pleasure”, then it is devastation. If you can drop this definition, then it is Liberation. The first line warns you against total devastation. Total devastation is when your beginning itself is bad and from that bad beginning, from that bad center, you build a bad universe around yourself. The second line tells you - Liberation is nothing but freedom from the bad beginning itself.
All your problems are because you like pleasure so much and you have such a great aversion to pain. You take that as natural; you justify it by saying, “Oh but this is my birthright, nobody is condemned to live in pain”, don’t we do that?
We feel justified when we opt for pleasure, and when we run away from pain. It is surely justified but only in the evolutionary sense. If you take yourself merely as a product of evolution, then it is alright to let pleasure and pain be the deciding variables of your life and action. Then whenever you have to take a decision, all you have to ask is, "If I have to choose between ‘A’ and ‘B’, what is the defining criterion?” Pleasure.
Now the decision is easy. All you have to ask is, "Where does more pleasure lie? In A or in B? Where does less pain lie? In A or in B?" Now decision-making is easy. But the decision-maker has condemned himself to a very, very false and disastrous identity. Life will appear smooth, decisions will appear instinctive, spontaneous. But inside, there would be merely carnage—destruction of the total order.
Guru Sahab is warning us against living a life based on the pleasure-pain criteria. That is what it means when he says, Harsh, shok vyape nahi . "The criterion itself is gone. These two words, these two poles of duality have become meaningless to me."
"Is it pleasurable?"
"I don’t know."
"Is it painful?"
"I don’t know. Such is my state - harsh, shok vyape nahin . Pleasure and pain don’t occur to me because I have stopped giving them importance."
Bairi meet saman
"Is this fellow a friend giving you pleasure?"
"I don’t know. I don’t choose my friends like that."
"Is he your enemy because he didn’t give you pleasure?"
"No, because I don’t choose my enemies like that. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have friends and I don’t have enemies, it’s just that my enemies and friends are now no more coming from the pleasure and pain criteria. Who is my friend now? Who takes me to Truth. Who is my enemy now? Who stands between me and Truth, whose very presence becomes an obstacle between me and the Truth. That is the criteria now."
And it’s a stupendous difference, you see. On one hand, you say, "Who is your friend? - Who gives me physical pleasure." On the other hand, you are saying, "Who is your friend? - One who takes me to Truth." Is there anything in common between these two statements? Nothing at all. The ‘I’, the center has totally changed, this is the kind of change that the Gurus wanted to bring about.
After one-and-half hours it is no more pleasurable, is it? But if your definition is that of a pleasure-seeker then you will totally lose alignment with what is going on. The pain in the knees or in the back or in the brain (pointing to head), that is if you have any (chuckles), will start mattering a lot to you. You know that’s a thing with pain, it tells you of what you have. What you have is a pain. If you are eyes and eyelids, they become heavy, and then they are a pain.
Pleasure has no respect for Truth or light. Pleasure only knows its own gratification and it will shamelessly pursue it. Once a fellow is rooted in pleasure, he becomes deaf and absent to all counseling, advice, wisdom, and blind to Light. Once pleasure starts to become your “I” statement, you become unavailable to all else, and therefore it is not a coincidence that Sadhana always involves going against your pleasure instinct.