Awakening begins with suffering || Acharya Prashant (2013)

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Speaker: The question is that why good people have to suffer the most? How many of you think that it is so or how many of you have seen this happening in your surroundings that good people suffer?

(Few in the audience raise their hands)

Alright, so there are few others besides her.

Kirti, man can exist, all of us can exist in three distinct states. The first state, the lowest state is that of a stone that has zero consciousness; absolutely no understanding of what is going on. It understands nothing, none at all. And it does not suffer at all. Are you getting it?

For a stone, for a wall, for an inanimate thing, there obviously cannot be anything called suffering. If you that find most people are not suffering then the reason is not that they are joyful, the reason is that they are so deeply unconscious that they do not know that they are suffering. It’s like a part of your body has gone numb. What happens before a surgeon operates on you? Assume he has to give you local anesthesia, he has to operate your hand. Now your hand has gone numb, it has gone senseless. Whatsoever may be done to it, there would be no suffering, no pain. Now does that mean actually there is nothing wrong in the hand? A lot is being done to the hand, it is being torn open. But then you don’t feel the suffering because your sensitivity has been taken away. That is the state at which the stone exists, at a level of deep insensitivity.

Ninety nine percent of us exist at the level of stone; we are so deeply insensitive to ourselves that we even don’t know that we are suffering.

The first event that take place when you start getting a little conscious, when somebody, some force wakes you up is that when you discover your suffering. So, suffering is nothing but an indication that you are waking up. Suffering is nothing but an indication that you are gaining some sensitivity.

Does that mean that awakening, intelligence, alertness necessarily means a life of suffering? Well, no, just initially. That is an intermediate state when you are just opening your eyes, when your senses are becoming functional again, then you feel a lot of pain.

And then comes the highest stage, the stage of the awakened human being, intelligent human being. He again does not suffer.

You see, all of you would have read ‘The Buddha’s four noble Truths’. Right? And which one is the first one? The world is full of suffering, which is called, ‘The Dukkha principle.’ So why does Buddha need to assert that the world is full of suffering? Because most of us do not even know that we are suffering. So, the Buddha has to start by saying first thing that look at yourself, you are suffering. And then we say, ‘We are suffering, are we? I don’t think I am suffering, I am alright. I come to the college. I spend life like everybody else does. Where is suffering in all this?’ There is a great deal of pain but we are not translating it into recognized suffering, because our senses have become dysfunctional, paralyzed and there are repeated assaults on them.

You know that if somebody takes your hand and repeatedly hits it with a weapon, say something blunt, you will feel pain initially, but after sometime your hand will go so numb that even if somebody is beating it continuously again and again, you will not feel anything. And it becomes a way of life with you. You do not feel that you are suffering.

Only the intelligent ones, the sensitive ones, they recognize this suffering. They come in contact with that suffering.

So, Kabir says,

सुखिया सब संसार है, खावै और सोवै|
दुखिया दास कबीर है, जागै और रोवै ||

Mark his words. The entire world is not experiencing any suffering, just consuming and sleeping. But Kabir has woken up to that suffering because he is awakened, hence is he crying.

Only the awakened ones cry, the stone does not cry. The stone cannot cry. Living in a constant torture has become a way of life with us. You want to know how we suffer? Don’t you experience confusion and boredom? But then boredom has become such an everlasting thing with us we do not even call it suffering. We get bored all the time. Many of you get bored even sitting over here. Is there anything that makes you lively? Hardly anything! You are frustrated, bored, energy less. Don’t you think this is suffering and nothing else? But we will not call it suffering because we have not known any other state of suffering. You see black can be called black only when one has seen white. Because you have not known any other mode of existence except suffering, so you don’t even call it suffering.

There was this interesting case. A woman was born with a headache ever since she was a kid. She had a permanent headache and it was not detected. When she was fairly young, the doctors accidentally discovered that she is having a continuous headache. They asked her, ‘Don’t you feel bad?’. She said, ‘I don’t have any headache.’ There is no headache. You can recognize headache only when you can recognize few moments of living without headache, only in contrast and comparison to that you can know headache. We live life of such constant and unmitigated, uninterrupted suffering that we don’t even realize that we are suffering.

We are restless, we cannot sit silently, our thoughts keep wandering, and that’s happening even right now. We keep fidgeting. Don’t you see it is suffering? We keep looking for entertainment. It’s a Saturday we must have entertainment. Don’t you see that a hunt for entertainment is a sure sign of boredom from life? Don’t you see that looking for so much of entertainment is suffering? Don’t you see that being ambitious is suffering because ambition is the sure sign of discomfort from the present moment? Don’t you see an obsession with result is suffering? Don’t you see an inability of yourself to stay alone is suffering? And we all live in that mode but we don’t call it suffering. We live in perpetual suffering.

That’s why The Buddha had to assert the first thing that the world is full of suffering. What he didn’t say was that the world doesn’t even know that it is suffering. The world doesn’t even call it suffering.

You may not know that you are suffering; however life will keep on becoming hell. I may not know that I have cancer but cancer will keep on doing what it does. Are you getting it? So, what do you call as the suffering of a good person is nothing but the sensitivity that is awakened in an intelligent being, and that will necessarily happen. You are comfortably sleeping, you are secure in your relationships, in your hopes, dreams and ambitions. When you wake up and open your eyes and see the falseness of this, it will hurt a little, but that hurt is a good sign. Welcome that hurt. That hurt means that you are alive. If that hurt comes to you then it means that you are alive.

You have been carrying all kind of rubbish thinking it to be precious. When you say for the first time that it is not precious, that I have been duped and deceived, and I have been forced to carry these things, I have been conditioned to carry these things, these all are not precious, you feel a little hurt. But it’s alright.

When you see that it is not at all precious only then you drop it, and then the really precious can come to you. So, this hurt will open the doors. It’s alright, let it be there.

The good man, so called, suffers. But his suffering is the proof of his vitality, of his being alive. Alright? And that suffering is far better than ‘खावै और सोवै.’ Does that give you certain clarity?

Listener 1: Sir, is being emotional bad even when you know that people will take advantage?

Speaker: Umaashish is asking that is being emotional bad. I equate your question to- Is ‘X’ negative? He is asking me that is being emotional bad or not. I equate this question to a mathematical equation that Is ‘X’ is negative?

Now how do I declare that ‘X’ is negative if I do not understand X? To call ‘X’ negative or positive, I must understand ‘X’ first, otherwise passing a judgment is fruitless. What is emotion? All of you use this word so regularly but do you understand what emotion is? Is it something that a Hindi film hero is fond of talking? Is it something that resides in the heart, and you put all your biology to shame and you forget that heart is a blood pumping organ? What is emotion and why must we give it such a central position in life?

You know we have been trained to give a lot of value to emotion. It is possible that we may not give that value to thought, even understanding, but to emotions we give a lot of value. The moment we see tears, we are moved. Being emotional is considered as a sign of being authentic, real and all this happens without the understanding of what this thing called emotion is.

What is thought? Thought is the activity of the mind. Simple. Right? Thought has aroused due to an external influence. When you see something then arises the thought. Thoughts feed on memories, which feed on brain. This same thought when it intensifies and starts having an effect on the body as well, that is what you call is emotion. Emotion is nothing but the effect of the thought on the body. Emotion is thought.

Till the time the effect is not visible in the body, you do not call it emotion. But the moment the effect becomes intense, your cheek fresh up with blood and become pink, your hands start shivering, or your eyes get wet. Then you say this is emotion. This is nothing but thought. There can be no emotion without thought. Thought changes, emotion changes. Thought goes away, emotion goes away. And because all thought comes from an external stimulus, emotion is also external; there is nothing sacred about emotion.

So, when you say that emotional people are exploited and are taken advantage of, that is bound to happen because emotion is thought and all thought comes from an external agency. No thought is really your thought. Understanding can be yours, thought can’t be.

And whosoever is implanting that thought in your mind is surely becoming your master, hence he will be able to exploit you. So, whosoever is emotional and whosoever lives in that borrowed thought is bound to become a slave. What forms do these thoughts take? Our beliefs, for example. We think that they are our beliefs but they have been given to us by external agencies. Our religion, our thoughts about family and career, our nationalism, all these have been handed to us from outside, and hence all of these result in our exploitation. See, that is not yours and you start identifying with it. Someone else has given this to you so you will be easily exploited.

Someone comes and gives a thought to you that you are brilliant. And what does your mind do? It internalizes that statement. Someone says that you are brilliant and you start believing that I am brilliant. And now you are prone to exploitation because that person has become your master. Your brilliance resides in his hands, he has given you your self–esteem. He has given you the concept that you are brilliant. So, you can become a slave because he can also take your sense of brilliance away.

That is why most of you are so afraid of public speaking. None of you would be afraid to speak when you are alone or in front of the mirror, but face a little audience and you start shivering. Try to understand. Because your sense of yourself comes from outside, so you are afraid that they will take it back. Your thought that ‘I am somebody’ has been given to you by others, it is not the product of your understanding, others have just handed over it to you. So you are all the time afraid that these same people can also call me a ‘nobody’, a mean fellow, a worthless fellow. So, faced with an audience, you become very nervous. And these are things of your daily life. Suffering, but you won’t call it suffering. You will give it some other name. Are you getting it? Thoughts, emotions they are all the means of the external to control you, to exploit you. Only a man of deep intelligence lives freely. Others are bound to become slaves of outside. All your thoughts are about yourselves, look into them. From where they come? They come from outside. Your name, your religion, your self-esteem, your sense of who you are. All your identities, they all come from outside. And because the outside has given them, the outside can take it back. You are afraid all the time and you become a slave of the outside.

You see now why this exploitation is inevitable. It will happen if you are not careful. If you are not vigilant, then this exploitation will be bound to happen.

Listener 2: Sir, if anyone is trying to hurt me, malign my image and then he hits me, and I don’t bother him, he may think that I am scared. My question is that how I should act in this situation?

Speaker: There are two parts to this question. What you are saying happens to everybody. There are forces out there that want to harm us, hurt us. Firstly, what do I do with myself? Secondly, what do I do with them? Firstly recognize that others can take away from you what others have given you. Are you getting this? Others have the power to take away which is not central and essential. So, when you say somebody hurt me, that means you allowed that person to hurt you. Nobody can hurt you, nobody can enslave you without your consent. All of us sitting here have a history of hurt at some point or the other. But you see nothing can go wrong unless you allow it. We say the society dominates us, the family dominates us, we are not allowed to do what we want to do. We don’t recognize that nobody can take our freedom unless we trade it away. How is it possible that an external force is able to hurt you? It is possible because you had an expectation. It is not possible to get hurt without expectation. Expectation means acting like a beggar. Expectation means that I am deficient and you are someone who gave me something. ‘I am walking around with a begging bowl, I am incomplete, and I am deficient.’ Now this very sense of deficiency has been given to you by these external forces.

You see today all of you have these aims, aspirations and all these things. Don’t you see how they came to you? Somewhere out there, there is this society which keeps on telling you that if there is no respectability, position and money in life then your life is worthless. And the other thing that the society tells you is that only we can give you money, respectability and reputation. Now combine these two sentences and what do you get? Society says that come to us and get it all. Do you see this? First of all, the society says that you should have all this. And the second thing it says is that only we can give you this.

So, essentially what that fellow is telling you is, ‘You come and become dependent on me’. And to become dependent is to become open to exploitation. And that is where this feeling of hurt comes. Unless you become dependent, unless you raise an expectation from somebody, nobody can have the power to hurt you. You give that power to that person. Don’t give that power. Don’t let your sense of self stay with others. Are you getting it?

Second part – What I do with that person who wants to hurt me?

Well, what do you do with a mad man? What do you do with a man who is not in his senses and is abusing you?

Listener 2: Ignore!

Speaker: Just avoid. You don’t start feeling hurt, you don’t start crying. In fact, it is fun if you can just watch it. There is no need of feeling hurt and bad. But you will feel hurt, the moment you are provoked. Remain at a little distance and watch the drama. Just watch what is going on. And in that watching you become capable of helping the other as well.

If a mad fellow is able to make you mad, you can’t even help that person. Only when you are in your senses, only when you are acting intelligently, only then you can help someone. Madness provokes madness. Do not let yourself to be provoked.

Listener 2: Sir, what if people around you are completely mad?

Speaker: It’s a group of mad men. Singular turns plural. How does it matter? But you see before we declare anybody else to be mad, we first have to be in senses ourselves. We must be able to look at that madness, to clearly identify the ways ourselves. If you yourself are not able to do this, then there is no point calling others mad.

Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: Awakening begins with suffering || Acharya Prashant (2013)

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