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(Speaker in conversation with Shri Edson Mattos from Brazil)
Mattos: Thank you for allowing me to attend this session. I’ll be very quiet and just observe.
Speaker: In fact it would be even better if you speak. When we meet in our office, which happens twice a week, our discussions or deliberations center around life, mind, and the way we look at things, how we perceive what we perceive, what we want, illusions, facts, the light of Truth and then to aid us in these discussions we take texts from all times and places. We pickup stuff from the Oriental traditions, we have the Vedantic tradition, the Buddhist tradition, the Taoists. We also take stuff from the Abrahamic traditions, so the Sufis, the Bible. That is how we proceed. The clarity sessions happen twice a week in the office.
And occasionally, once a month or so we go out to a bit of a remote place for a period of around a week and we organize our learning camps there. We intend those places to be very secluded, man-less, civilization-less, almost like a jungle.
Mattos: Do you practice Silence?
Speaker: The emphasis is on the essence of things. So, Mauna (Silence) at the surface level is just wordlessness, which is good initially as a tool because the mind’s tendency is to remain busy and act. Words are a form of acting. So, to go against the tendency is to size up the tendency but that is all. If Mauna (Silence) means wordlessness then that is all one can do. It always remains on the surface; though it is useful. When we take up Silence we try to let the inner Silence let us know the real meaning of Silence. What really Silence is.
Mattos: To live Silence.
Speaker: Yes, to live Silence, and the living of Silence may actually involve lots of words. One may speak the Silence within, and that is beautiful. The entire rainbow is available, emanating from the core of Silence. Hardly have we ever practiced Silence, yet Silence pervades everything that we do, all that we talk of. Be it Silence or self-inquiry or Love or Truth, those old culprits, the spiritual subjects, Joy, Freedom.
The emphasis is on coming to the essence rather than just the functional aspect of it. What happens is that when one is looking for something then it pleases the mind if one gets that thing quickly in a form, in a way that is apparent to the eyes and rest of the senses. It pleases the mind because it is an indicator to the mind that the search has fructified. Let’s say I am looking for Love and I come across a person who promises me love and that is happening all over the world with the young and the old alike. It pleases the mind that I was looking for Love and I got love, in a form, visible, in a way that I can touch and feel. I will be quickly impressed and I will want to state and declare to myself that I have been successful, that my search has yielded results. I am not really wrong; it’s just that there is much more to it. The form is always a fraction of what the formless has to offer. Even to say that it is a fraction is to bring the form to the same dimension as the formless. So, we can’t even say that it is a fraction.
Mattos: It is impossible to speak of the formless.
Speaker: Wonderful. Similar is the case with Freedom or any other spiritual subject. All over the world people are looking for Freedom. We have had this incident in France and people are talking passionately about the ‘Right to Freedom’ and ‘Freedom of expression’ and such things. We have so much turbulence in the world around the central topic of Freedom. Now what is this Freedom that we all want? I am pretty sure in your country also there are lots of discussions and movements and things happening around freedom. Lot of politics must be centered around freedom, in economic policies, in the way the society is moving. Even within the family – how much freedom do kids need to have? Parents are talking about freedom, spouses are talking about freedom.
Mattos: Yes, yes.
Speaker: But what really is Freedom? We all are so concerned about Freedom. What really is Freedom? Now there is a kid, he wants to have pizza, for him that is the only thing that freedom means. And if he gets that pizza, it’s a very clear, formal, direct expression of freedom. And he will be happy. He will say “I have received freedom. Freedom is in my hands, I am eating, biting, chewing, swallowing freedom. It’s running in my veins, in my blood.” And it all appears so real because you know “The Pizza – freedom in my hands.” But is that what I want? Will that satisfy me? The pizza industry will greatly suffer if a pizza means Freedom because if one pizza means Freedom, one should not require anything else. The next pizza should never be ordered. The entire industry would come to a close. The reason why this industry runs is because it is not Freedom. So that is the handicap one faces in the spiritual pursuit. We all are spiritual seekers; every pursuit is a spiritual pursuit. The one handicap we all face is that we tend to take the shape of things, the form of things and attribute them, call them, name them as the essence of things.
Simplicity, for example. I am elaborating on this because this is something I deal with daily. Now, what is Simplicity? Is it a matter of the kind of clothes that I wear? Is it a matter of the food that I take? Is it the question of words that I choose in my language? What really is Simplicity? Is it something that is visible to the eyes? Is it something that, on which one can write a software program, a code that – if you find these certain set of things then call the man or the behaviour as simple or otherwise label it as complex. What really is Simplicity? These are the essential question I think that one must go into.
You talked about returning from India. India is not really a geographical entity, let alone a political one. India is the name given to Understanding, to going into the essence of things. So, if you are really probing deep, you can never go away from India. You may take the flight, you may reach home, yet India will be with you, and tomorrow the political entity may suffer a breakup, and things may happen, life is unpredictable.
Mattos: But India is beyond that.
Speaker: But India is beyond that because India stands for going right to the core, the Atman of things.
Mattos: The Self.
Speaker: The Self, and everything has to be seen in light of the Self.
If I have a meaning for a particular experience not associated with the Self, if the meaning is not really coming from the Self, if the meaning is not really associated with the Self, then I have to be careful as to what really is happening. If I say simple, then only the Self can be simple. And the Self is attributeless. I can’t call any attribute as Simplicity.
Mattos: I think that there are 7.5 billion people on earth and simplicity means 7.5 million different things to these people. When we try to describe things that are not describable, we fail. I think the mind is looking for Simplicity; the Self is not looking for Simplicity, the mind is. The mind is naming India, you, me, the grass and everything. I have learnt something, please correct me if I am wrong, that whenever I appreciate something, I have to deeply appreciate it. But whenever I give it a name, for example “Oh, what a beautiful sunshine,” its beauty is lost, as I tried to put it in words. And words come from the mind. What I am experiencing here is beyond words. But I still need words to define something. It’s amazing and contradictory. Is there a way to get rid of the need to use words to define things?
Speaker: There is a way to get rid of the ‘need’ to use words. But obviously there is no way to get rid of the words themselves. The need to wordify, the need to put everything in language, that need is the need of the ego, to bring all within its own domain. Like someone trying to lay his dirty hands on everything. “I will spoil everything”, and the whole thing here (Pointing at the head, meaning the ego) is so arrogant that it doesn’t want to leave anything untouched. So, the essentials, the fundamentals, the beyondness, even that is not spared. It (The ego) wants to name it, codify it, systematize it, give a causal interpretation to it, and ultimately say that “I understand.” It doesn’t want to live in mystery, it doesn’t want to live in the sheer mysticism of being. And this is real Mauna – the ego reconciling to its limitations that, “Not that I don’t want to use words. It’s just that it would be impossible and if I attempt naming It then I would end up saying something that I really don’t intend to say”. That would probably be Silence.
In a way words are like envelopes. One needs envelopes but there must be a worthy message within; and within is the core, the essence, the Atman or the soul. If words are being powered from there, if there is a very direct connection, then it is wonderful. But unfortunately, especially in the spiritual world what one finds is empty envelops. Beautiful envelopes but really not connected to That (The Self). Just by looking at two envelops it is quite difficult to say which of them carries the letter. The letter is coming from there (points towards the sky). You never know just by looking at the envelops, which one is empty and which one is carrying the message.
So, much has already been said by the way of words. There is hardly anything that has not been said. There is hardly anything that is remaining to be said. There are more than 700 texts on Vedanta alone. Today we were discussing the Tripura Rahasya. There are libraries of Buddhist scriptures, then there are texts from other traditions. We have contemporary masters whose recordings are available. Words, words, more words and yet the world is full of suffering.
Won’t you agree that words are more available to the 7.5 billion population today than it was ever in the history of mankind. We have the internet today, economically the world’s population is better off today than it was ever in our history. There is so much accessibility. If the text is in Sanskrit, today it has been translated into 20 other languages. So, the words galore, you ask it and the word is available and yet the world, the Sansar is such a hell. Words are mostly useless, sometimes even misleading. We all know that so much of violence today attributes itself to the Holy word. “My religious text says this. So I am fighting a war.”
It’s a very interesting thing, that the word might be there. The first thing is, is the word coming from There (Truth)? Second thing is, even if the word is coming from There, who is reading the word?
Mattos: Who is interpreting the word.
Speaker: Yes, and whenever we read we interpret, we can’t read without interpretation. In fact the word hardly means anything without interpretation. So the word is a symbol which carries something underneath it. So, I have a mind that is wanting. There is a sense of incompletion within. I am caught in my patterns, habits, conditioning. I might read the holiest of scriptures but what will I make of them? And will I not utilize the best of words and their most accurate translations to my own petty profits. The translation might be accurate, the word is Holy, the Son of God himself uttered the words, the word is Holy, but what will I do with the word? It’s a very strange thing with words.
Mattos; I agree, that’s why we began with Silence.
Speaker: Yes, but even in Silence what happens is – you have the uttered word and the unuttered word. (Smilingly) Can we really call the unuttered word as Silence?
Speaker: When you went down to South India, did you happen to visit the Ramana Ashram in Arunachala?
Mattos: No, I couldn’t. India requires at least 100 lives to visit all the places.
It’s amazing. It’s such a wonder. It’s a challenge just to decide where to go. Even this place…Why did you choose this place for the session?
Speaker: We really didn’t know. In fact, this week we felt that we need to go somewhere and this happened to be close to Delhi.
Mattos: It’s a very traditional place. I recently visited a temple which was supposed to be built by Arjuna’s family.
Speaker: But India is littered with these everywhere. Every five kilometers you will find something left by the Pandavas. Draupadi might have dropped an anklet or Sita might have missed a nose ring or something.
Mattos: Do you bring Kabbalah also to your studies, the Jewish tradition?
Speaker: Not yet, but we have read the Jewish scriptures, just as we read the New Testament or the Bhagwad Gita, so in that way.
Mattos: I am not a Jew but I have a daughter who converted to Judaism last year, she is living in Jerusalem. Her choice. I think there are so many similar things in it with the Indian scriptures.
Speaker: Which religious traditions have you studied?
Mattos: Some superficially, while comparing what I read, many teachings of India are everywhere.
Speaker: It’s beautiful to realize that, isn’t it? Have you read the Vedantic scriptures.
Mattos : I have a Portuguese translation of Bhagawad Gita. I want to know whether the translation is worth reading.
Speaker: Sure, for that I have to see the book.
Mattos: Because we have to be careful while choosing a book.
Speaker: Yes, yes. It is extremely important to carefully choose a book. In fact, the Bhagwad Gita is the most highly misquoted, misinterpreted and utilized text for one’s own ulterior motives or egoistic motives. There must be not less than 200 ‘prominent’ commentaries on Bhagawad Gita. Anyone with a spiritual hobby firstly wants to write commentary on the Bhagawad Gita. If I am somebody then I must have written something on the Bhagawad Gita. And its all hogwash, most of it.
But yes, the other thing that you referred to is the delight of the spiritual seeker. When you see that what Krishna is saying in the Gita sometimes matches even verbatim with what Jesus is saying in the Bible, it gives you a very different kind of a high. If you go to the Sufi tradition, when you are talking of a Rumi or a Fareed and you look at the concurrence of their words on one hand with that of sage Ashtavakra and on the other hand with that of a Kabir or a Meera or a Nanak. You don’t know how to explain it and whether it needs to be explained at all. It’s all coming from one source and its mystical. Everything matches so nicely with each other.
Here in Advait, which is the name of the organization that we belong to, one of our favourite activity is to just pick up nice pictures from nature and make posters. These days what I am seeing is that people are making posters containing verses from two different sources. And the sources are totally disjoint in terms of their authorship, the nationality, the ethnicity, the tradition, the culture and might be placed thousands of years apart. Yet the message is just the same. It is so beautiful to place both of them in the same frame. You know, Buddha and Lao Tzu in the same poster. And you may have what Moses has said and something which a Kabir has said, in the same poster. They both are fitting in so nicely together.
Mattos : “Aneka Janma Sampraapta Karma Bandha Vidaahine, Atma Gyaana Pradaaneyna Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha“
Which means – “The best influences will be burnt under the fire of self knowledge”.
And Jesus said “Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.”
Speaker: Almost every proverb attributed to Jesus, almost all of his prominent sayings, will have an Upanishadic counterpart. I must not use almost. Every single word of Jesus in its entirety, is completely present in the Upanishads.
Mattos: The same could be said about Kabbalah, what Jesus said is absolute Kabbalah.
Speaker: Yes, and that was how many years before Jesus, 600 years before Jesus?
Mattos: More than that. They say that the first Kabbahlist was Abraham.
Speaker: Who knows? And there is no way it could have been passed on to Jesus as knowledge. There is no way he heard of it or read it. There, one might find some historical possibility because he belongs to the same lineage of prophets, the Jewish prophets. But what do you say when Jesus and the Indian Rishis have so much in common, placed 4000 km away and 4000 years away.
Mattos: I think the answer is that they all got that from the Source.
Speaker: The Source, yes. And that is Silence.
Mattos: Catholics don’t like to talk about that but Jesus never said that he was God. In reality, he said, “The Father and the Son, we are One”. If you go to any Saint in India, it’s the same, they are One with God.
Speaker: In fact, they don’t even say that, “We are One with god”. Essentially what they say is that, “There is only God”. So, to say that I am One with God would imply at least a minimum separation. At least it is theoretically possible. India has said that there is nothing except God. So even saying that “I am God” is redundant. Why should I say that?
Mattos: Oneness is Oneness.
Speaker: Yes, and That which is God, is not even one. That is the principle from which the name of our organization “Advait” comes. It’s a beautiful word. Advait means “not two.”
Speaker: Yes, if there can be a word that can be a spiritual word, though we know that the only spiritual thing is Silence, but if there can be a word that can be called a spiritual word, it is Advait. It is such a beautiful and such a mysterious word. What it means is ‘Stop all this seeking. Stop all this mental seeking, stop all mental activity.’ The moment you say ‘two,’ it means the counting has begun. It says stop counting. That is the Truth. And don’t ask any questions as there are no answers. Not two, not even one, because one would mean that the counting has at least started, and not even zero because when nothing is there then who is there to call anything as zero? So, even this thing regarding Oneness of God – India goes a little beyond that. India doesn’t talk of Oneness. India doesn’t talk even of Zeroness and when you are talking of Advait which is not two, not one, not zero, this Not-ness is Silence. I am not allowing the mind to make any images. Two would mean the entire diverse universe with all its infinities, infinite numbers of diversity. One would mean something to worship, one God, and that would mean a very fundamentalist kind of behaviour. By fundamentalist behaviour, I don’t mean going to the real fundamentals. When I say fundamental, you know what I mean.
So, not even one, if I say, “There is one God.” You know what that one God becomes? It becomes one, my personal God. I say that there is one God but what is that one God? My God.
Mattos : 7.5 billion Gods.
Speaker: Wonderful, so one God means 7.5 billion Gods that would lead to conflict. 7.5 billion possible conflicts and all the permutations and combinations. India says that, “Even using the word God is not really good for you.” And that is Silence .
Mattos: That is why many Kabbahlists in Judaism don’t even allow people to say the name of God, instead Hashem – The name, is used.
Speaker: Wonderful! But this is a beautiful method which will be co-opted by the ego. So, they will not call it God, they will just say Hashem. There is Brahma, there is Allah and there is another new name. The ego is such a trickster it will co-opt everything.
Mattos: It will say that my God is distinct.
Speaker: A distinct God, yes.
Mattos: I see that in India devotion brings God so close to people. It’s almost material. I see the crowd in the Krishna temple and their proximity to the Krishna statue, they are living together, as if Krishna is with them. Their devotion is so intense, so high. I don’t know why but I really like it. It’s a way of relating to God in a very special way.
Speaker: Is this relationship really at the Aatmic (The Self) level or is this a relationship just like our many other relationships where we have husbands, friends, wives, sons? I want to point out a few things. I am an Indian and I love the essence of India, I live by it. Yet it’s very important for me to point out a few things. The geographical area that worships Krishna most, as you talked about a Krishna temple, the Agra-Mathura-Vridavan area, which is the seat of Krishna worship, is also a geography where you would find that the gender ratio at birth is probably 900, maybe even lower than that. So, one or more out of every 10 girls that are being born are not even being born. They are being killed even before being born. Feticide. And that geographical area is full of Krishna worshippers. So, is it possible for a man to have intimate relationship with God and yet indulge in stuff like these? Is India really as spiritual as it appears on the surface? Yes, we have a Draupadi temple, a Sita temple, a Sudama Jhaanki and stuff like these littered everywhere. Do you really think these people, they are spiritual? They might be following a religious tradition but is it the same thing to follow a religious tradition and being spiritual?
Mattos: No, no. Of course not. It means to be awakened.
Speaker: It’s an entirely different thing. Don’t you think so? You forget the economics and look at the aspects of human behaviour and human development. And I find it so unfortunate, I feel sad, that my country lags behind. I am not talking in terms of how many factories we have or what is the GDP of this nation; I am talking about the basic internal compass, which is missing. In terms of being open to newness, in terms of not being afraid, in terms of really being simple and not being ostentatious.
I don’t know how this sounds to you but here is an Indian really asking you – Is India really spiritual? The world knows India as spiritual. All over the world India is considered the spiritual capital. Anybody who wants to experience what it means to be blissful or is pursuing Moksha or Nirvana would end up coming to Varanasi or Bodh Gaya and we have hundreds of places like these. But does the behaviour of Indians, their entire mental makeup testify that they are spiritual people, really? Dancing in front of a Krishna statue is one thing and living life as per the essential Gita is totally a different thing.
Mattos: As Krishna thought.
Speaker: As Krishna thought. Krishna says, “Live in the present, forget the fruits of your action. Do not be the doer of your action. Vest everything that you have in Me.” Do you find any of that in Indians? Really?
Mattos: I don’t know so much about India to say that. But I think that Indians are humans just as Brazilians, Catholics, Jews are humans. A Famous Kabbahlist was asked by his disciple if he could summarize all the knowledge he had in just few words, while he was standing with one feet on the ground. “What would you say?” He asked. And the master said “Do to your neighbour what you want to be done to you. All the rest is rhetoric.” So, this is living the word. So, even if you don’t believe in God…
Speaker: No, God never comes and says, “Believe in me”..
Mattos: Yes, of course. I think he just wants us to do our job.
Speaker: Let’s put it this way “If we don’t do our job, we will allow God to do his job”. We are too busy with taking the job upon ourselves and that is doership. We don’t need to do God’s job.
Mattos: Krishna said “There is doing but not the doer; thinking but not thinker”
Speaker: Have you read Lao Tzu?
Speaker: Lao Tzu said something which applies to the world very nicely, especially to India. What he said was, “When the real thing is no more then the word becomes very loud and prominent.” When Love is gone, then you will find people talking a lot about Love. When Truth is gone, then you will find people talking a lot about Truth. I am really sad that my country talks a lot about God. You must infer what that means. Lao Tzu says, “When a thing is missing, then there is a lot of talk about it.” This country, my country, talks a lot about God.
We have had the deepest meditators here. We have had the most intelligent spiritual masters. That is real India. And when ones looks at the travesty that we have become today, one wonders, “How is it possible that the land from which the Upanishads came, the land from which Buddha, Mahavir and hundreds of other religious traditions came. More recently we had the Bhakti Saints (mystics), and we have had Sikhism and if you read the scriptures you would be delighted. Then you wonder, “How is it possible that in a land where all this happened, so much debauchery is there at every step?”
Mattos: Ego likes to do that, its Leela.
Speaker: It’s Leela, yes. If one doesn’t believe in Leela, he has to come to India.
Mattos: Leela is everywhere, even in Brazil.
Speaker: I don’t deny that. I am not saying that the rest of the world is better. What I am asking about is that: Given the historical background that we have had here, how it is possible that we have come to this state? That is the question to be asked.
Mattos: I think there is no answer for that really. Just hope. One should also not forget that so many wonderful things are happening all over the world. I can’t change anything, I can just change myself. To be better today than I was yesterday and to be better tomorrow than I am today.
Speaker: What does being better mean to you?
Mattos: To be aware of myself and pray that one day the real Atman will be my consciousness, I will reach the true meaning of the Self, that’s it. At the same time we are all together for a reason.
Speaker: But we must never try to know that reason, never. Because that reason itself comes from that Silence. Only He (God) really knows.
Mattos: I think I have to consider each person as someone God sent to me. When I listen to you now, I am listening to God talking to me. And I see all the eyes turned to me as God’s eyes looking at me.
Speaker: Not God’s eyes looking at me, its God’s eyes looking at himself.
Speaker: Let God look at himself, why should I intervene. It’s wonderful the way India looks at it, that’s why I Love my land. “Let God do whatever he wants to do, I will just relax.” In India relaxation is of supreme importance. No other people have given relaxation so much importance. India says, “Just relax. Chill. There is nothing to be done.”
Mattos: Thank you for allowing me to attend the session with you. I was supposed not to talk but...(Laughs) I sincerely hope to meet you in Delhi one day or to attend your weekly session. If you come to Brazil it would be an adventure, I guarantee you. I have to respect my country but it is a mess.
Whenever you come to Brazil it would be a pleasure to have you at our home. I live in the mountains not far from the sea, one hour far from the sea. It’s a beautiful part of the state in the South. Maybe some day you will come there for an international seminar on Vedic scriptures. Bringing Vedanta, Jesus and Kabbalah together. I feel blessed to have received so many gifts here in India in terms of learning, meeting wonderful people, very conscious people, I feel blessed. God Loves me.
Speaker: God Loves himself.
Mattos: Are you leaving today?
Speaker: Yes, tomorrow we are meeting around a thousand college students.
Mattos: Can you elaborate a bit about your activities there? It’s a group, it’s a school?
Speaker: Everybody you see here is a teacher. We are life education teachers, all of us. Specifically tomorrow what happens is, there are around 1100 students, divided in around 30 groups, around 30-35 students in each group. One teacher takes care of one group and they are with us for 5-6 hours and the topic of the day’s activity. One day for example last Saturday we discussed what it means to be sure, being sure within, the inner sureness. We are usually in a doubt, so what is this thing about ‘being sure’? Someday we talk to them about what is being serious or what is Freedom or what is Love. And that is not done in a very pedantic way, there are activities that are constructed that take care of these things, sometimes little obliquely. So we will probably have an activity which will deal with personality and individuality along with the relationship between them. The name of the activity would be painted faces and million colors. Something like that.
These are kids aged between 18-23, they are at a very important stage of their life. Every stage is an important stage but for them it becomes more important because in India certain decisions are still quite sticky, in fact irreversible. The decisions that you make regarding your career, livelihood, how you choose your spouse; this is more important in India than elsewhere. So we are lucky to deal with those kids at this stage in their life.
Mattos: You are teaching them to think.
Speaker: Those who can’t think we provoke them to think. Those who think too much we have to say it’s enough, stop thinking. Mostly we have to tell them to stop thinking because this current generation all over the world is diseased by excessive mental activity. They are thinking, planning, collecting knowledge, all the time. This is what happens on Saturday and similar things happen the rest of the week. Saturday would be a particular place, rest of the week would be few other places and that’s how we run our projects. Everything happens in the college and the university campus.
Mattos: Is there any practice in terms of meditation?
Speaker: The practice is in terms of self-observation. So, the students have to observe the world around them and within them and write their observations daily. Then the teacher has the option to comment on it, clarify it or probe and ask for more of the same stuff. That is the practice that we follow. We use WhatsApp groups a lot. So we use WhatsApp groups consisting of students, the student has to come and write something and there might be a reply here. We also talked about that poster making thing, we use that as an instrument.
Mattos: The fire of self knowledge.
Speaker: Yes, it’s a beautiful phrase. You know what the Upanishads say? They say “Self-knowledge is the fire that burns all rubbish and then it also gets exhausted by itself.” They say “Its like a burning stick”. In fact, what specifically they say is that, “It is like funeral pyre”. So you have a lot of wood on which the dead body is there. Now what will the wood do, the wood will burn away all the deadness, the dead body that is there and then the wood itself won’t remain, the wood would be gone, the body would be gone and the fire would also be gone and nothing remains. Silence.
~ Excerpts from a talk between Shri Prashant and Shri Edson Mattos held at Sariska Wildlife Reserve, Rajasthan.
View the session at: Prashant Tripathi: The real meaning of Mauna (Silence) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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