You are the personification of the only Real; why then must you chase an ideal? || Acharya Prashant (2015)

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Questioner: Sir, it is also not incidental that man has, throughout history, connected other worldliness with Truth or God, I mean this is the way that things have been propounded, right, in all the religions, in all the images…

Speaker: Not really, are we saying that Dattatreya is outside the domain of religion? The highest word in religion has always been this. But if you are confining yourself to the lower echelons of religion…

Listener: Which is the mainstream religion.

Speaker: The mainstream is idiotic, what can you do about it?

Listener: Sir, one thing is this that the way things have been presented, the other thing is also the style of the discourses, the way things have been presented – we always talk about the ideal – the way you should listen, the kind of expression that must be on your face – inadvertently an image gets created, you can’t help it – this is the way you should listen, this is the image of a saint, this is this, this is this.

Speaker: No, but that is important. You see, we are constantly talking of coming close to the material.

Listener: What I mean is that when we create that image, however unintentional, it distances us from the material.

Speaker: Yes it can, but only if you are not even following the method impeccable. For example, you talked of the saint. The saint is sitting in front of you in his material body. And what are you doing? You are scratching your back, somebody is busy with a water bottle, and somebody is busy scribbling something on her thumb, with the pen. Now, how will you get close to even the material? Look at the scientist in the laboratory, do you think he is dozing off? Even to get close to the material you require a particular quality of attention. That is needed. The man who was building the temple of Truth was into it –  twenty-four hours, dedicated, with one mind. So approaching the material requires the summoning of your highest energies, it is not a despicable act. To be a materialist is really not so easy. I say, to be a materialist, you must first know the material. Do we know the material? We’re talking of the Saint, do you ever pay attention to him? Really? And the Saint will not come to you in some fifth dimension of space. If the Truth comes to you in the form of the Saint, it will be in a three dimensional body, right?

It will be in a three dimensional body. That is all that you can see. But do you pay attention? And paying attention has its methods. The problem is not with the prescribed methods, the problem is that you do not follow those methods. You don’t follow those methods and then you blame those methods, because they have failed. Have they failed because they are faulty in design or have they failed because you didn’t follow them properly?

Listener: What I am saying, for instance, is that in no spiritual discourse would it be said that you should be jealous. Right? This is one virtue. One also sees that one is jealous. And at one place it said, “One should not be jealous”, at another place it is said, “Go close to the fact that you are jealous.” All I am saying is that, this ideal – ‘You should not be jealous’, this reality – ‘I am jealous’ and this method – ‘go close to the fact that you are jealous’, they do not get together, there is no way they can get together. Because when you say, “You should not be jealous, and one sees that one is jealous, at that very point the method has to fail, because you know, “Oh, one should not be jealous”.

Speaker: I see the contradiction that you are referring to but it is more of a contradiction in expression than in intention. We’ll understand this. Yes, there are scriptures that have talked of getting rid of jealousy. Krishna, for example, talks of getting rid of the six enemies, the shad-ripu, and one of those enemies is jealousy. On the other hand, here I am saying, “Get close to your own sense of jealousy” and that too has been said. “Come close to yourself and watch the mind.”  You’re saying that these two don’t go together. Right?

They do go together. You see, one is just looking at things from two different points.

It is being said that you have the power to go close to happening, and it is being said that when you go close to the happening, then the happening opens up into something beyond itself. Simply put, you have the power to go close to the fact and when you go close to the fact, the fact opens up into something beyond itself.


When the fact opens up, then the fact does not remain very material, very important, very significant; it remains present, as a fact, but something beyond it comes into being, the picture; the mental picture. Getting it?

So what is being said is – Go close to jealousy and on going close to jealousy, you find that jealousy evaporates, sublimates into something else. Are you getting it?

It’s just that these are two different points, two different situations, two different steps in the process. When one reads step two, prior to step one, then there is bound to be confusion. It is being said – Go there. You find it there. You miss out on step one, which is ‘going there’, and you read just step two, which is – you find it there. Now you don’t find it anywhere and you are blaming it on the process-writer. Yes the process-writer did say, “Get rid of jealousy”, but he said, “Getting rid of jealousy is just the same as going close to jealousy”. In fact going close comes first, getting rid is automatic. Going close comes first and getting rid of it is automatic, natural.

But if it has not been stated accurately, or heard in attention, then you will miss out on the first step, will be left with the second one only, and you will keep wondering, “I am being told to get rid of jealousy, but jealousy has such a hold over my mind, that there is no way that I can get rid of it.” And that’s our predicament, right? We are given such great ideals that are impossible to fulfill.

At the root of those ideals lies the simple spiritual practice of closeness, of courageous Faith. Go close, don’t be afraid. Go close. When you go close then all those ideals, even without your effort, even without your volition, you find materialising; they all just happen. Just happen. But go close first, sitting at a distance and wondering and conceptualising will only keep you there in concepts.

Listener: Going close does require a strong sense of self–performance and also acceptance. Sir, what has happened with me, is that when one encounters ideals, when you compare your material situation with those ideals, there is a strong sense of guilt that this is not how things are working out with you, which leads to self-denial and hence…

Speaker: You see, the larvae has no business comparing itself with the butterfly because it is the butterfly. That is the foolish thing about ideals, you are that which you are comparing yourself with. The illusion of time separates you from that. What lies between larvae and the butterfly? Time. But if the larvae is given the ideal of the butterfly, what will happen to the larvae; it will just collapse under the weight of expectations and there is nothing in the larvae that suggests that it is going to turn into a pretty butterfly. Nothing. Have you looked at a larvae, seen how ordinary it looks? And the larvae has been given an ideal of a butterfly. The larvae is the butterfly, what will you do with that ideal? Being ‘jealousy-free’ is your natural state, why do you need to have an ideal of being ‘jealousy-free’?

Do you need to have an ideal about yourself? You are the Truth, what will you do with ideals? You are the highest ideal personified, what will you do with images?

Think of that larvae and he is badly caught in an inferiority complex, “O my God, look at all those beautiful butterflies, I could never be like them.” So what does he do? He goes to a guru and if the guru is one of those, then he gives the larvae a complete makeover, “Why can’t we clip these things a little, why can’t you wear this cute hat? These days a new technology of plastic surgery has come up, let’s try it on you, little thing!” The butterfly was already there but in all these acrobatics, the butterfly is being lost. Getting it?

Listener: Sir, in this analogy that you gave about the larvae and the butterfly, it is obvious that after a point in time the larvae will be converted into a butterfly but when I see myself then it is not obvious that with time – I will be ‘jealousy-free’.

Speaker: Is it obvious to the larvae?

Listener: No.

Speaker: How can it be obvious to you? It is not obvious to anybody. The larvae is the larvae in its own eyes; that is what is called as ego.  In its own eyes, the larvae is the larvae. In your own eyes you are what you are. But really, you are what you are.

Listener: Sir, does it mean that one’s perception about Truth as Truth?

Speaker: You have a perception, right? And you are trying to perceive ‘something’. The result is some kind of image that you build up, some kind of conclusion that you reach. Some mental activity. The output of that mental activity is not Truth, but the driver of that mental activity is surely Truth.

You see, you are trying to solve a problem in mathematics, you are trying to reach a solution, and you try all kinds of tricks, and ultimately the answer that you arrive at, might be wrong, but what is certain is that you want a solution. That want itself comes from the solution. Had you had no taste of the solution, no prior taste of the solution, there is no way you could have wanted a solution now. So currently, the answer that you might be at might be wrong, and mostly the answers are wrong; the mind is not a machine that can really draw a map of the Truth, but one thing is certain that this machine is powered by the Truth. Powered by the Truth, yet unable to reach the Truth.

Now, sages have always, always told you both the things, it depends on you, that you take them together. The sages have, on one hand, told you, that there is no way that the mind can think of the Truth. Right? The seer says, “The eyes cannot look at it, the ears cannot hear it, the mind cannot think of it.” So that is one thing that has been told. What is that one thing? Mental activity will not take you there. Parallely, another thing has been told that the Source of the mind is nothing but the Truth. These two always must be taken together. Always. Getting it?

On one hand, the mind cannot take you there, on the other hand, the very existence of mind is the proof of the Truth. That’s the fun of it. That’s the amazing part of it. “I know that what I am saying is not the Truth, yet it is the Truth that makes me say all this and hence I must say it.” Getting it? These two have to be taken together. If you take only the first part which says, “The mind cannot reach it”, then you are condemned to live in a continuous neti (denial), just a denial, a negation – “this is not true, that is not true.” That day Rohit was talking of nihilism and we have such people, who only perceive the falseness of things. Right? “This is false and that is false. The mind cannot reach it, whatever the mind is talking of is false.”

And if you take only the second statement, then you have the so-called ‘atheists’ who keep conjuring up images of Truth and of God, they forget that though the Truth is the base of the mind, yet the mind cannot bring the Truth into images. They forget this and so they come up with a thousand images. We see people of both kinds, right? We see the negation-ists, the nihilists and also the so-called ‘atheists’, image worshipers.

None of these are hitting the mark, both are missing. These two have to be remembered together:

  1. Whatever I am thinking of is not That.
  2. Had That not been there, how could I have thought?

So the very process of thinking is a proof of That. These two things have to be remembered together, you forget either one, and you are in for trouble.

Listener: Sir, if you only remember the first, then life becomes too dull.

Speaker: Too dull, too dull. Not worth living, if nothing means anything how will you live? And that is why, so often, your intellectuals have such insipid lives.

Listener: You also start living in self-pity.

Speaker: Self-pity, self-contempt. So the really Godly man says, “It is. If I am, It is. But it is not what I think it is.” It takes great courage to straddle in this way, on one hand you are saying with all your.., “It is.” It is. With all the power of Faith, you are saying, “It is.” On the other hand you are saying, “But it is not what I can ever think it to be.”

This is bhakti (devotion) and gyan (knowledge) – together. Great Faith in the Truth and yet a complete rejection of mentation about the Truth. “Yes, it does exist, nothing exists but That.” At the same time, “I cannot say any further.” At the same time, “I will not build images. But what I know that it does exist. Form? I do not know. Shape? I do not know. But it does exist.” And if I am too interested in shapes and forms, then here is this great world lying in front of me. Any shape is as good as the other. This is the shape of Truth; that is the shape of Truth. This is the form of Truth; that is the form of Truth. If you are so interested in shapes and forms and names, give it any shape, or any form, or any name. Do not be selective or choosy. If you must build an image then any image is as good as the other image. If images are what attract your mind, then have the same attitude towards all images. Do not just see the Truth in one particular deity. Then see the Truth in the larvae as well, not only in the butterfly. In the pig as well, not only in the cow. In the ugly as well, not only in the pretty. So don’t see it anywhere, or see it everywhere.

Listener: Sir, you said, “If I am there, then it is.” In the same way, there is poem by Faiz-Ahmed-Faiz that “Ham hain to khuda bhi hain(If I exist, then so does God.), so what exactly does this mean?

Speaker: You may be false, you may be a shadow. But can a shadow exist on its own? The existence of the shadow is the proof of the Man. “Ham hain to khuda bhi hain(If I exist, then so does God.), if the shadow is there, it proves, that the man has to be there. “I may be false, but the existence of the false is the proof of the Truth.” Are you getting it? And if you do not have access to the Man, at least go close to the shadow. Being close to the shadow, brings closeness to the Man as well. Because at some point, the Man and the shadow are probably going to be connected. So go close to the shadow, if you can do nothing more. The shadow will bring you to the man and once you have seen the Man, you will recognise all the shadows. You see a shadow is not a very potent thing, a shadow cannot give you the clear and complete picture of the Man, but the shadow can help you come close to the Man, especially if you have no other option. And we hardly have any other option. We live in this world, the shadow. Use the shadow, come close to the shadow and you will come close to the Man. Having known the Man, you will know all shadows. If you know a Man, won’t you immediately recognise his picture, his photo? Won’t you?

Listeners: Yes Sir.

Speaker: That’s when you start saying that all images are His images. “Having seen Him, I see His face everywhere.”

Listener: Sir, you have said that at some point, the shadow is connected to the Man, and at some point, the larvae becomes the butterfly. In all of this, there seems to be a distance and a time and once I had asked, “Can this process take me to the Truth?” and you had said that the choice is available at every moment. So, how are the two connected? Every moment is a choice but the larvae doesn’t have the choice to become the butterfly at this moment, there is a process involved, right?

Speaker: No. You see, is there any way the larvae continue to grow without the butterfly already being inside the larvae? How is the larvae growing? Because it knows the butterfly. All its steps are precisely calculated to take it towards the butterfly. Does that not prove that the butterfly already exists inside the larvae? The larvae is living for the sake of the butterfly. Can we say that the larvae does not know the butterfly? Is the larvae doing anything that will take it away from the butterfly? Every second, every step, it is moving only towards the butterfly. It knows the butterfly, its heart is full of the butterfly.

Listener: Sir, then what is the choice?

Speaker: The choice is either to accept it or reject it. What did I just say? Everybody here understands. Some accept and some reject. But your acceptance and rejection has no bearing upon the Truth. You may reject the Sun. That does not hide the day.

~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabdyog’ session held at Advait BodhSthal, Noida.

Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at: Prashant Tripathi: You are the personification of the only Real; why then must you chase an ideal?

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