Question: Is acceptance of everything that comes in life is same as living in the present?
Speaker: What is acceptance? What are these things that come to life? What do you mean by ‘my life’? What do you mean by ‘acceptance’?
Listener 1: ‘Acceptance’ means that the things that are coming to us, we are just watching them. I am not doing anything to change them, I am not making any effort to change them. They are leading me and taking me where they want me to go.
Speaker: They will lead you where you want to go.
Listener 1: No, where they want to take me.
Speaker: Who are you?
You are a bundle of desires; your subjective, personal desires. That is what you are, that is what your own self-concept is. “Who am I? My personal desires.” That’s what I am – the personal desires; not existential desires, not the will of the existence. You are the will of the ‘person’, the ‘me’.
Are the external situations obliged to fulfill your personal desires? You wanted a pizza, but the kitchen cooked something else. Is the kitchen obliged to cook what your personal desire is? What you mean by ‘acceptance’ then? If you are saying that I will let the external situation take me wherever it takes me, that I will allow it, then remember, you will have to die.
Who are you? A bundle of external desires. And what are the external situations doing? They are taking you in some other direction. How can you remain happy then? Unfortunately, this conflict is what we call as ‘life’. We say, “Life is a constant movement,” and we hide the fact that wherever there is movement, there is friction. Can there be movement without friction, without conflict and resistance?
What is acceptance? You are saying that ‘acceptance’ means letting the situations take me wherever they want to take me. You are conveniently forgetting that ‘me’ by definition implies opposition to circumstance. Circumstance means, something that is happening outside of you. ‘Me’ means my own personal desires. Now, how will these two fit together?
And you know, this is a great misunderstanding that most people have, especially the so-called spiritual people. They say, “I have surrendered to the divine. I am allowing time to take me wherever it wants to take me.” Nobody asks them, “What do you mean by ‘me’?” Till the time that ‘me’ is there, can you really allow the situations to take you wherever they want to take you? You are yourself, and you being yourself will inevitably have your own subjective desires. You with your own desires, how will you allow an outside force or an external situation to carry you. Will you allow? And if you will allow that superficially, internally you will resist. You will be frustrated.
On the surface you will say, “I am just allowing the destiny to do its work. I am not doing anything.” And within you will hope and wish that something else happens. So you are sitting and somebody comes and brings some dry nuts in front of you, what will you say? “This is what providence has in store for me. It is alright. Jaahe vidhi raakhe raam, taahe vidhi rahiye– live the way God wants you to live.” And within you will be wishing for a plate of sweets. “Why are you giving me dry nuts? Can’t there be some sweets?” That is the story of the people who fall in the trap of this word ‘acceptance’.
‘Acceptance’ is the name of the divine life. Who will accept? ‘Me’. Who will accept? When you say, “Accept life as it is,” you conveniently ignore or rather escape from one central question. Who is accepting? ‘Me’ being what I am, how is acceptance possible? How is it possible? This kind of acceptance is nothing but a dirty facade. It is a very cheap trick. You are trying to create an artificial win-win situation.
You are saying, “If something good comes to my plate, then obviously I am happy. If something bad comes to my plate, I will say that I anyways don’t want anything. Whatever comes to my plate, I am happy with that. I never want anything. See today I have these rotten nuts, I am happy. I have accepted.” Have you really accepted? But it is so convenient. It prevents you from accepting your defeat. That is what this kind of acceptance does. It prevents you from the real acceptance of defeat.
The fox did not want to accept that it could not get the grapes. So, it said, “I don’t want to accept that my personal wishes are not being fulfilled.” So what did it say, “I just accept everything that happens. So, if I am not getting grapes, it is alright. Those grapes might not be good for me. God does not want me to get those grapes.”
You are running like mad after something, and when you don’t get it, what do you say? “Oh! It is the will of God. God didn’t want it.’ Did God want you to run in the first place? Before running, did you ask God? Then now, why are you taking God’s name. “I lost because you know, there must be something good for me in this. This is God’s will. God’s will is bigger than mine.” Then why don’t you always abide by God’s will. God’s will are conveniently forgotten when the situations are favorable. Then what is this thing called ‘acceptance’?
And what are you accepting? You will only see what you are. To accept something, you should first have a notion of it. And your notion will come out of your mind. So your acceptance will depend on what your mind is. Getting?
You say that you have accepted those dry nuts. Your mind knows that dry nuts are not good to taste. “What are these things? Dry nuts. They have no flavor.” Who is saying that there is no flavor? The very definition of what you are accepting, is coming out of your conditioning.
Accepting what? “You know life is so painful, but I am still accepting it.” Now is life really painful? Who is declaring in the first place that life is painful? So great game! First of all you declare that ‘X’ is kept on that table. Then you give it a name and meaning. And then you say, “I am accepting it.” What are you accepting? Are you accepting something of your own creation?
Let me give you another example. First of all, based on your conditioning you declare that scoring less that seventy-five percent marks means ‘failure’. First of all you declare that, because everybody around you: friends, teachers, parents have told you that if you score less than seventy-five percent, then you are a beggar. So you create this definition that less than seventy-five percent means ‘failure’. Now, if you get seventy-two percent marks, what do you say? “Oh! I accept my failure.”
What have you accepted? Failure. Who says that it is a failure? You. So what are you accepting? Do you see what I am trying to say? When you say that I am accepting failure, is it really a failure? Who declared it to be a failure? But you don’t see that. That question of ‘Who is doing?’ remains hidden. That always, conveniently, remains hidden.
Life has only given me suffering and suffering but I have accepted it. How exactly has life given you suffering? “Sir, my husband’s height is five feet, four inches. Now, who declared that anything less that five feet, five inches is suffering? Who declared that? You. You are the one who declared that, and now you are saying that I have accepted suffering. Where is suffering, except in your declaration? Except in your declaration, your own personal subjective, random, baseless declaration. Where is the suffering? Where is the suffering?
Now, where is the question of accepting? To accept something, there must be something. Is there anything? Who is giving it a name, color, shape, form? Who is giving it a definition? Who is giving it a ranking? Who is allotting it a space? Who is attaching highs, lows and all kinds of adjectives to it? Who is doing all that? Who? You or your various layers of conditioning.
Listener 2: My various layers of conditioning.
Speaker: Then what is this game of acceptance? Please be cautious, because there are books and books these days on ‘acceptance’.(Sarcastically) The great healing power of acceptance! I admit that I am angry because lacs of people are being misled. Whether or not somebody is misleading you, know this through this test? See whether the fellow ultimately comes to the question, ‘Who am I?’ or not. And I guarantee you that these people will never come to this question. This is one question that they always run away from, always.
They will say that you do this, you do that, and then you will get happiness. But, they will never address the question of that ‘Who is this ‘you’?’ Because if they come to that, their bluff will be exposed. Caught! Hence, they will not come to that.
Listener 2: Do you think that they know that they are bluffing?
Speaker: Deep within they know. Because you see, only truth relaxes. If you have that strange restlessness within, if you know that something is missing, if there is some movement going in the mind even as you speak, as you write, then you are bluffing. Because that final sureness, that ultimate confidence, will not come unless you are in the truth. So they know. Deep within they know that they are bluffing, and still they are going ahead with it. That is why I said that I am a little angry.
Living in the present does not mean that you continue to be what you are. Living in the present does not mean that I used to think of the past and the future, now I think of the present. It is very easy to have misconceptions about living in the present.
The present is not an object of thought. To live in the present, first of all you must know what is really ‘present’. You know what is meant by present? What really is ‘presence’? Living in the present means living in the truth, because only truth is present, everything else is just fascination.
Living in the present does not mean that you must do everything that you want, this moment itself. Living in the present means, living in that, which alone is present. Living in the present means that my mind is seated at its center, the truth, the truth that is present. It has nothing to do with time. Living in the present, you have all the freedom to think of the past and future. You can do that. Living in the present does not mean that you have lost the capacity to think of the future; you can do that. Why not? “I can think of the future, but I will not leave my seat.” My seat is in That, which is present. My seat is in the truth, not in some kind of hallucination.
How do I know whether I am living in the present? Anytime you leave the present, suffering meter moves. Simple. You know what is suffering? Suffering is displacement from the present, as simple as that. The more the displacement, the deeper the suffering. If there can be a meter to measure suffering, you will that as you go more and more away the suffering, the meter reading keeps increasing. Restless, bored, not in the present. Conflict, confusion, not in the present.
Being in the present has nothing to do with so-called enjoying this moment. Avoid this phrase, “Enjoying this moment.” It is an immersion into the depth of truth, that is what is ‘being in the present’.
There are two types of appearances. One- that are, that which really are. Second- that which are not, but appear to be. Be fully attentive. Most of us, most of the times, live in that which is not, but appears to be. Give me an example.
Listener 2: Stage fear.
Speaker: Stage fear. As if there is some monster sitting on the stage, and the moment you rise to the podium, it will eat you. That is one example. Give me another example of- that which is not, yet appears to be. All fears. If there is fear, please give me thirty grams of it. Where is fear? There is no fear, but we all have experienced fear. This is strange, very strange. It is not, yet it so powerfully appears to be.
Give me a slice of the future please. Anybody who has ever lived in the future? Yet we are all the time thinking of the future. Now it is something that it is not, yet it appears to be. Anybody over here who has died two or three times? Anybody here? Anybody here who has any experience of death? You might have heard, or read of death. But any experience of death? Yet we are so occupied with death, yet it appears to be. The ones who are alive, they do not know death. The ones who are so-called dead people, they cannot come and tell whether they are actually dead, or something else has happened to them. Is there anything called ‘death’ then? Stay with me.
As long as you say that you are alive, you do not know death. Then there are some people who you say have died. But, they don’t come and say that they have died. Is there any fellow who has ever said, “I have died”? Is there anybody who has ever said, “I have died”? Now that is a strange situation. When you say that you are alive, then also you can’t say you have died. And when you are a so-called dead man, then again you cannot say you have died. So, does death ever happen? Are you getting it?
Listener 3: So, there is no definition of death. Nobody is there to tell the definition of death.
Speaker: But still ‘death’. Where is the death? Let the dead man come and say that there is death, and then we will take it. Let the dead man come and say there is death. It is a very ironical thing. Only the living are talking of death. And the living have no knowledge of death, still they are talking.
So, this is that second thing- that which is not but appears to be very real. Living in the present means, “I will not live in that which just appears to be real.” Let me tell you a test for what is actually there, and what just appears to be. Note this test.
If time can change it, it is not the truth. If time can change it, it just appears to be, and actually is not. So when you are fixated to something, totally captivated by it, ask yourself, “Will time change it?” And if the answer is, ‘Yes’, then you must know that it is only appearing to be.
Today something is dominating you and nothing except that thing appears real to you. You say, “This is the only reality. I have come upon the final one.” But pause a little and ask, “Will it last?” Today you say, “I cannot live without you darling,” don’t you know tomorrow you will say, “I cannot live with you”? Have you not seen it happen everywhere? At some places it has happened, at other places it is about to happen. It was never there, it just appeared to be. It was not real, it was not truth. That love had no substance. It just appeared to be.
Living in the present means, ” I will not live in that which just appears to be real. I will live in that which is the truth, which the situations and time can neither touch nor change.” That is what is meant by living in the present. Living in truth, not living in illusions.
The word ‘present’ means nothing less than the very truth itself. Call it ‘God’. The present is not a point in time. The present is the very source of time.
– Excerpts from a Clarity session held at Advait Sthal. Edited for clarity.
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View the session at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_TNU58T-xE