Is the river really flowing? || Acharya Prashant (2016)

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Shri Prashant: What is a flow? A flow implies change. Yes, the river indeed does look like a flow, change. But is there any ‘real’ change? Water is being substituted by water, but it looks like flow, and if one thinks that there is ‘change’, then that is good entertainment for the mind, is it not?

One could keep saying – the thing is changing, and when it is changing, something ‘else’ is coming – ‘else’ by definition, must be ‘new’. If the ‘else’, the substitution, is the same as what it substitutes, then there is no change, right?

It has been classically always held that river is a metaphor for life, but won’t it be wonderful to see that what we call as ‘life’ is not a series of changes, but that actually nothing changes in life. Mind keeps flowing and the flow is all assumed change, but what really changes? Attraction for one thing becomes attraction to another thing; mother is substituted by wife, wife is substituted by daughter; one job is replaced by another job; one pair of clothes is replaced by another pair of clothes; one wife goes, another wife comes; one breath goes, the next breath comes; one meal is done, the next meal is coming; water replaces water. If we think that change is real, then there is an expectation of what is coming next. If the assumption is that there indeed is change, I do not know you have to figure it out, whether wisdom lies in seeing that all this just the same old stuff, the same ancient water that nothing is really changing and if nothing is really changing then there is no point waiting for the next gush of water. There is no point waiting for the next big event. You can keep sitting by the river all day, and all that you would get is the same old..?

L1: Water.

SP: Water. I have to call it the same old water only in comparison to our expectation for new water, because there is nothing called new water, hence, I am calling the water as old; otherwise, I do not mean to disrespect the flow. But because we have great tendency to hope that new water is about to arrive, so we must see that there is nothing called new water and that nothing really ever changes in life. Illusions were there at the time of birth, illusions continue till death, don’t they? Attachment to body is there in the infant and attachment to body is there in the old one. Indeed, it does look, that a lot of water has gone down the river, but has anything new happened? Has anything new happened? And when one sees that the flow is just an apparition, then the water remains but the flow is gone, and that is merging of the river in the sea. Now the element remains, but the illusion that there is change, is gone. Truth remains, the unchangeable remains, the changing is gone, and that is the union of the river with the ocean.

This morning is such a good time to reflect on whether all our efforts have really resulted in any kind of change. The only change that happens in the whole process of the flowing of river and its union with the ocean is when the river sublimates into the ocean – that is the only real change. The flow of the river is ‘no’ change; the stopping of the river, the cessation of the river, the dissolution of the river, that is the only change that can happen. Now, is that real change happening in life? Lot of illusory and fake changes are indeed happening, the river is flowing from here to there, right? Alright, Sawa river, Sawa. Since how long has Sawa been flowing?

Since how long?

L1: Thousands.

SP: Is it as old as mankind? Is it?

L2: No. It’s old.

SP: Is it as old as man’s mind? Older, even older. So it has been flowing and flowing and flowing, since time immemorial. It must have covered a lot of distance. How far has it gone?

L1: Nowhere.

SP: Where was it when you saw it last?

L1: Somewhere near Lubiana.

SP: So where was it? How far from Lubiana?

L1: Very near to Lubiana.

SP: Very near to Lubiana. Now, when you’ll go back, how far it will be from Lubiana?

L1: Same.

SP: Oh! But it has been moving restlessly.

L1: But, still, it will be at the same place. 

SP: So, such a non-compromising flow, she is indeed quite impatient, right? – too eager to reach somewhere. What I am asking this ancient river – as ancient as man’s mind – where does it reach? Keeps flowing and flowing and flowing and flowing and even the waters are never emptied. It never becomes short of water, even though all the water is continuously been drained out, yet it keeps getting more water from somewhere. Whatever the river is trying to do, if it is trying to reach somewhere, it doesn’t reach; if it is trying to empty itself out into the ocean, even the emptying doesn’t happen. If it is seeking renunciation or liberation or enlightenment, it doesn’t come. The river is continuously trying and trying and trying and what it is trying for, never really happens, never happens.

Man seems to be doing a lot, and yet he is able to do nothing, for the real change never comes – small, fickle, deceptive changes keep coming, the real change hardly ever comes. In fact, won’t it be nice to find out whether the small changes, the superficial movements, are a nice ploy to escape…

L3: The Real change.

SP: Real change. One must remember, that the pure-self does not flow, it is not even stationary, how can it be a flow! The ego flows, time flows. When we go to the Ganga this afternoon, it would be a good occasion to look at the currents, the bubbles, the rapids; the shallows, the rocks being wetted, and see, how ‘we’ are flowing.

All the flow is just crying for a stopping. The river is man’s mind, running all the time, reaching nowhere. It is lucrative to say, “River, indeed, does reach the ocean”. My question is “If it does reach the ocean, then why it is still flowing?” But in poetry, it is so sweet to listen that the river, like a restless maiden, is hurrying to enter into a divine embrace – a union without separation. What kind of a hurrying is this that you have been hurrying since, since, since? And you are still hurrying. Can man’s mind stop? Can this continuous flow of time past and future stop? Can the river find the ocean here in Shivpuri?

Can man’s mind, stop?

Can this continuous flow of time – past and future – stop?

Can the river find the ocean here, in Shivpuri?

SP: Probably it can. Probably, it does not need to travel thousands of kilometres here, but it is so tempting to say that “The ocean is far away. Yes, the ocean is far away, so right now I can relax. It is so far.” – that’s what the river keeps thinking – “The ocean is far away. I must reach the Bay of Bengal, that’s where I will meet the promise of the distant.”

Maybe, the ocean is here; maybe, we can talk a little river; maybe, she will tell us – “If you can stop right now, I too will meet the ocean right now, here itself. So before you advise me, find out whether you can stop. If you can stop, I too would have stopped.”

The ocean is here.

~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: Prashant Tripathi: Is the river really flowing?

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