Remember by Heart, and let the memory forget || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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आचक्ष्व शृणु वा तात नानाशास्त्राण्यनेकशः।
तथापि न तव स्वास्थ्यं सर्वविस्मरणाद् ऋते॥

          – अष्टावक्र गीता (अध्याय-१६ सूत्र-१)

Translation: Even after hearing from many scholars or reading many scriptures, you will not be established in self, as after forgetting every single thing.

Speaker: The question is: What does ‘forgetting’ imply?

Whatever we have in the mind, is related to the world. Usually we think that ‘forgetting’ means, that what is there in the mind is no more there in the mind. It was an image of the world and the image is just no more there. In a way it has gone back to the world. It came from the world and it is no more there, so it’s gone. Gone where? Gone back to somewhere else. It’s no more in the mind. No more in the memory. It’s gone.

There is another kind of forgetting in which what came to the mind is no more there in the mind, because it has penetrated deeply to some other place. See, understand this.

You put soil in a tray, dry soil, and you put some water over it. You pour a little water on the soil, the soil is in a tray, and obviously the tray does not have great depth. So it’s only a thin layer of soil. It does not have depth. After sometime, you find the water is no more there in the soil. It is gone.

When you first put water in the soil, it remains on the soil. Right? This is called, ‘the state of memorization’; an input coming from the world and being registered by the mind. The input is the water and the soil has absorbed the water. This is memorization. After some time, you find that the water is no more there. Now, where has the water gone? Because the soil is a very thin layer, so where has the water gone? The water has gone back. It is no more there. It has evaporated. This is loss of memory. This is what we usually mean by, ‘forgetting’. This is our general usage of the word, ‘forgetting’.

Now contrast this to another situation. You go to a field, and there you have dry soil. The soil in the field goes right up to the earth’s core. You put some water on it and the soil is dry. And when you put water, what do you see? There is a mark, a wet patch on the surface of the soil.

So first of all, it is becoming memory. Where has the water gone? The water has now gone towards the core, because the soil is now connected to the core. It is not thin. It has depth. Again there is forgetting, but this forgetting is not the same as the first ‘forgetting’. It is not on the surface. It has gone deep.

Classically, there have been said the three stages of knowledge accumulation. What are they? Chintan-thinking, Manan-contemplation and Nidhidhyaasan- understanding.

Chintan-thinking, is surface level. The water has just come and thoughts are playing with the new information gain. This is chintan-thinking. So some stimulus is there in the surrounding and mind is now reacting to it. Thoughts are going around. What is manan-contemplation? Now, active thinking is not taking place, the process has moved to the background. Like in a computer that is not showing any activity on the screen, but still the processor is operating. A background process, a background application is running, that is manan.

When manan is honest and the instrument of manan, the vritti- latent thinking, that is the agent of manan, is clean, then there is a possibility of nidhidhyaasan.

Nididhyaasan means, that it has now gone into the being. It is no more a part of thought, nor a part of deep memory. It is a part of the being now. It is similar to forgetting, because on the surface you will not see it.

Here is Ashtavakra and his gita, and there are twenty chapters. And every chapter has number of verses ranging from five to hundred. Correct? Can you really remember all the verses? Is it worth the effort? Is it really worth the effort to remember hundreds of verses by Ashtavakra? You cannot remember all the verses. You need to forget them.

When you forget the verses of Ashtavakra, then you come to remember Ashtavakra.

Understand the difference.

When a Kabir speaks, or an Ashtavakra speaks, do you think that his verses arise from his memory? When he is not operating from memory, why do you need to operate from memory? Are you getting it?Does a Kabir memorize his verses so that he may come and speak a doha in front of the audience. Does his saakhi arise from his memory? From where does it arise? From the core.

So when even a Kabir does not memorize his own saakhi, why do you need to memorize? Why do you need to memorize ? You do not need to memorize. And that is what Ashtavakra is exactly saying, “You cannot establish in the self unless you forget all scriptures.”

Unless you forget the words of Kabir, you cannot become Kabir. Or let me put it more accurately, you cannot experience your Kabir nature. And memory depends on practice. Even if you are greatly fond of one particular Ashtavakra Sutra , if you do not memorize it again in your mind over and over, after a while you will find that you have forgotten it. It is gone. But does that mean that a part of your being is lost? No, that does not mean that. Even Ashtavakra may not remember all his sutras. Chances are he may not remember anything.

This is not a license, to not read them. This is not a license to not actually remember their sayings, by heart. This is actually an invitation to remember them, not by mind but by heart.  Remembering by mind is remembering, and remembering by heart is divine forgetfulness. When you are blessed, then you become forgetful.

Have you heard these two phrases? And how loosely we use these two phrases? We often say, “I remember it by heart”? And when do you say, “I remember it by heart”? When do you say that ? When you have cramped it, absolutely. No, that is not the meaning of this phrase. “Remembering by heart” means that it has now become a part of me. It is not in the memory. I may forget the words, and that doesn’t matter; but it is now sitting in the heart, in the aatma. It has reached there. That is what the phrase “Remembering by heart” mean.

When you remember by heart, often you find that in the mind you have forgotten. That is divine forgetfulness.

He is giving you a hint. He is teaching you how to approach him? He is saying, “Do not make me an object of the mind. There is only one place that is a befitting seat for me.” And what place is that? The heart. Ashtavakra and Kabir sit nowhere else. The mind is an insult to them. They will not sit there. But the way to the heart goes through the mind. I am cautioning. Do not make it a license to not read them.

And when you read, and if you have read it by intent, the memory comes as a byproduct. So you will inevitably come to remember a few things. It is good. Do not start blaming yourself that, “Oh my God! I remember a few verses of Kabir. So that means it has not gone to my heart.”

“Darling, I remember your name. You must be very away from my heart. Because what is there in the heart, cannot be there in the memory.” What to do of the logical mind? It can play any argument, anywhere.


Listener 1: Isn’t it dangerous for us. We initially had a patch of soil. But someone does not water the soil at all, is told about watering the core. When somebody is reads Kabir, I cannot even feel good about the fact that he is reading Kabir, because I must first memorize a few of Kabir’s verses and implement them in my life. So, initially, the verses have to be memorized.

Speaker: Yes, yes. It has to be memorized.

I talked of two situations. One – in which you have a thin layer of soil. The other- in which the soil is really deep. But in both the situations, watering is happening. Not watering is not allowed. Watering has to be done daily, and so tracker has to be filled daily.


Not watering is not an option.

Listener 2: Sir, you said that forgetting is ‘Remembering by heart’, in a way that it can become a part of my being. But, when we are conditioned, then conditioning also becomes a part of my being. So, how are they both different?

Speaker: Yes. But, conditioning never goes that deep. Conditioning never goes that deep. You know what can happen? If the slice of soil is not deep enough and you keep watering it, it is possible that deep down, only as deep as it can go, at the level of the tray on which the soil is kept, you will get a pool of mud. That is conditioning. It gets accumulated. Conditioning is never that deep, that is the first thing. Second, it gets accumulated. So on the surface you might see nothing, but when you go a little deep into it, you find something there, something rotten there.

The nature of learning is totally different. Firstly, it is very deep. Secondly, it clears the accumulation. Are you getting it? Can you visualize it? You are putting water and water and water, and let us say that the tray is kept in the Sun. So after some time, what do you see? You see that the surface is dry, because the surface is directly experiencing the Sun. The water also cannot go anywhere else. So what happens?

Let us take a more clear example. You have these pots in which the plants are planted. Have you seen that at the bottom of the pot, there is always a hole given? Have you seen that? Now if the hole gets blocked, what will happen? The plant will die.

Do you know why does the plant die? On the surface, it appears that the soil is dry. So you keep watering the plant. But deep down, at the bottom, water is accumulating, and accumulating, and accumulating and killing the root. This is what conditioning does.

It is only after the plant has died and you pull it out, you say, “Oh my God! This was happening. It was blocked from the bottom.”

When the words of Saints go in the mind, they do not accumulate. They clear everything. In fact, they are not at all sticky. They clear whatever pre-exists in the mind. And they are so volatile that they clear away themselves as well. They don’t stay. They do not have the nature of attachment.

This is one test through which you can measure, what really is happening. When an aphorism, a verse, a sutra comes to you, not only should it work and clean the pre-existing dirt, but it should also not become another new load upon the mind. It must not accumulate. Sing it, breathe it, and then forget the words. If it is really worth it, it will evaporate. It will, sublimate. It won’t stay. It will be gone. It will leave its essence behind, and disappear.

Magically, even after disappearing, it never disappears. You can call it back. Because it has never gone. It would come to you again, in a new form, in new words. So you can let it go, fearlessly. You do not need to clutch to it, get attached to it, and hold it. There is no reason. You can just let it go, fearlessly.

On Christmas Eve, Jesus told his disciples, “I am going to be killed soon.” One of the disciples of Jesus, Peter, started weeping and crying, and he got a good scolding from Jesus. Jesus said, “Had you had anything to do with God, had you learnt anything from me, how could you ever think that I can be killed? I can never go away.”

Jesus said to him, “You are talking exactly like these worldly people who believe in death. I cannot be killed. They can kill my body, but that’s all what they can kill.” How can they kill Jesus? “So, I can fearlessly give away the body.” Similarly, you can fearlessly forget the words, because you very well know that the essence will stay.

Listener 3: Sir, does the word ‘remember’ mean ‘re-member’; that is to be seated at the center?

Speaker: ‘Member’ means to be a part of. ‘Remember’ means to be in a state similar to Yog. If you say, “I have been dis-membered,” dis-membered means, cut apart. And if you say, “I have been re-member,” it means, to be a part of. So, ‘re-membering‘ means going close to the center. That is what real remembrance is all about. It’s not about adding something to the memory. Remembering means, going close to That. Becoming again a member of That. To be ‘membered’. ‘Recognition’, ‘repentance’, all of them imply the same thing. You already have it, and then you were stupid to lose it. Now get it back.

Listener 4: Sir, then what does ‘realization’ mean?

Listener 5: Does it mean, “I understand it, and it will then automatically evaporate”?

Speaker: Not necessarily. It’s like this. It’s a very sensual example, but take it.

Your beloved has come to meet you. And because the beloved is coming from the world, so obviously she is wearing a lot of clothes. And when she meets you, she is done away with all the clothes because meeting can always be only in true nakedness. Now, in the state of union, is it necessary that the clothes should evaporate? Now, the clothes are there. But, they don’t matter.

What matters is that she is there with you. The clothes may be there, the clothes may not be there. How does it matter? It is possible that someone may take away the clothes. Will that be an impediment to the union? No, you are there with the beloved. You have the essence.

After getting the essence, if you remember the words, good. And if you don’t remember the words, it is equally good. It is not a crime to still have the words in the memory. Just as, it is not a crime to still have the clothes around. But to have only the clothes, with the beloved missing, is surely quite stupid. Think of this. The beloved came, kept all clothes with you and walked away naked. And you don’t know where? Now, that is a bit of a problem.


And that is our situation. That is usually our situation. We miss the beloved, and we keep his clothes. Beloved is gone, we are worshiping the clothes.

Listener 6: Or, we are with the wrong beloved.

Speaker: There is only one beloved.

Listener 2: I was one day singing one of the couplets of Kabir which says, “Maaya maree na man maraa.” Suddenly, it occurred that I have just mugged up the lyrics. The words have become stale, rotten.

Speaker: The clothes. The clothes are stinking now.

Listener 8: Sir, does melody play a crucial role in recalling the words of the verse?

Speaker: Think of the process of recalling. You first recall the melody. When you forget the lyrics of a song, you first recall the melody. So what does it prove? That you are more with the melody than with the lyrics. So essence is on number three now. First is the tune, second is the lyrics, and third is the essence.

Listener 7: But if one is recalling, it has to be the melody. One cannot recall the essence.

Speaker: Recalling means, that essence is gone. So now, even the clothes of beloved are no more. It is just a thought. Just as the lyrics sit on tune, so now you are worshiping the chair on which the beloved sit. You don’t even have her clothes.

Forget the essence, forget the words, now only melody remains. Only the stinking melody remains.

View the session at: Remember by Heart, and let the memory forget || Acharya Prashant (2014) The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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