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Question: Sir, if Peace is something that the mind can never know then what is the point of all this enquiry?
Acharya Prashant: What is enquiry? How does knowing happen? Does enquiry mean that one keeps asking questions? Does enquiry mean that one is looking for particular answers within obviously the framework of the question asked? If that were so then Anubhav (referring to the questioner) here would not be asking what he is asking. What is it that you have asked Anubhav? What is it that you have asked here?
Let me read out exactly what he is saying, “By getting an answer for a question, more questions arise. I try to calm my mind but the restlessness still remains for getting an answer. Question and answers; and no answer is final, every answer leads to the next question. So is enquiry possible by asking questions? Will any question ever be the final question to be asked?”
But we ask, we talk and lot of our education has been about encouraging the student to ask questions. And in asking question there is a certain assertion of the self—I exist, I am asking, I want to know. To not to ask a question feels like an abnegation of the self to us. If I’m not asking a question, I’m not doing anything to help myself, right?
If I have a query, if the mind is restive, then what do I do? Ask, seek, strive. If in this situation it occurs to us that there are solutions that can be obtained without seeking, without striving; we don’t want to accept, it’s a little humiliating. Even answers should come to us, even peace of mind should come to us through strife.
“How did I attain Peace? By working hard for Peace.
How did I attain Peace? By fighting for Peace.
How did I reach the solution? By trying for a solution.
I did all this, I reached Peace.”
We feel quite stupid if it comes to us that your effort to get the answer was probably the only barrier. That when you will ask a question, all you can get is an answer commensurate with the question, and your question is so small. Had it not been small then why would it have risen? Does any big question ever arise? Only petty questions arise.
How big can be your question? Can it be bigger than the expanse of your mind? How much can you ask for? Only that much that your mind can contain. Had you really known the depth of your malice, you won’t have asked a question. You would have cured it finally and truly, once and for all. All we know is some symptom of the disease and we want an answer to the symptom. What is worse is, anything deeper than a superficial answer annoys us.
You go to buy potatoes and someone says, “Why do you want potatoes?” And we’ll say, ‘Mind your own business’. What is the question? ‘How much do the potatoes cost today? Tell me the market rate that’s what I asked for, right?’
The answer cannot be bigger than the question. If it is, it annoys you. And yet our arrogance is that we think that we can get remedy to our restlessness by asking questions.
Are you really intelligent enough to ask a question big enough to contain your restlessness?
Real enquiry is not about asking questions or seeking answers or striving for the Truth.
Real enquiry is in Silence.
Real enquiry is about just listening.
If a question is getting an answer, rest assured it is just shrouding itself only to re-appear. It will come back, and it will come back strongly in a more convoluted way. The best questions are the one that you forget to ask. The best questions are the one that start appearing unimportant. And that is the only proof that enquiry really happened. But remember when your questions start appearing insignificant to you, you do feel a little stupid. “I was carrying this question as a matter of life and death for so long. This used to be such an important question, and today I don’t bother for an answer.”
Come on, think about it, there are so many things that you can ask about; do you really ask about all of them? What do you ask about? You only ask about that which your sense of self finds important. Otherwise, everything in the universe is a million questions. But do you ask questions? You are wearing this shirt, are you bothered which particular chemical is used in the die? You won’t ask. But if someone runs away with your shirt, you will ask the name of that person because now there is possessiveness, revenge and humiliation, right?
Your questions only reflect what you are.
And till the time you are what you are how does it make sense to get your questions answered.
Someone runs away with your shirt and you are seething with anger, and you are asking: Tell me the name of that person!
And even if you are told the name of that person. Is that really going to help you? Tell me, is that really going to help you?
You have known, when you don’t feel like asking who ran away with my shirt. Now you have known something. Now the entire question has become unimportant. You have forgotten your shirt. You have forgotten the question. Now, something Real is happening. So it is good if you’re feeling that what is the point in enquiring when anyway the mind cannot know; the essentials—peace, love, joy, freedom, simplicity and Truth—cannot be known through an active enquiry of the questioning mind; never, never and never. So it’s great that you’re feeling disappointed. And what is the point in then working so hard? Let everybody realise that—there is no point. By working so hard you have only created more and more questions for yourself.
Listening is sufficient. But if you will analyse and make these words an object, then you will miss. If you’ll keep analysing whether I’m getting the answer to my question then you will miss. Because you will not realise what corresponds to what.
Does the sweet aroma of the flower know that it is arising from the ordinary soil? So the gardener is coming with some fertiliser, with some manure to the plant, and the flower is wondering, “How will it help me? I need to be more brightly coloured, I need to be more fragrant and this fellow is dumping soil! How can soil contribute to brightness? How can soil contribute to fragrance?”
You never know.
You don’t know.
Which word cures what, you will never know, so just pay attention. If you think you are smart enough to be selective in listening then you’re making an idiot of yourself. You will never know what cures what. You will never know what contributes to what. And you will never know that in your inattentiveness you have missed what. You’ll just miss and you’ll think: Oh! What I missed was quite unimportant. Like in a detective movie, you do not know what is unfolding, and you missed fifteen minutes out of the two-hour movie and you think: No, no, no those fifteen minutes were quite unimportant. It has to be a very lousy movie if fifteen minutes are unimportant in it. And because it is a mysterious story how can you know what exactly you have missed, can you know? But you’re so smart, you know, you think: I can pick and choose. I can select what is important for me. I will decide. I can come thirty minutes late. I can pay attention to my own questions and I can remain clumsy when other questions are being answered; I know what is important for me.
Had you known so much, why would you still have questions?
You never know what will hit where so just be attentive. And every moment is a moment of attention.
When I say just be attentive then I do not mean that these three hours when this session is on and you can afford to be negligent later on. Keep yourself awake, and that is enquiry. Questions are just verbiage. You may be speaking the most flowery language, existentially, it is just noise. All your questions are just noise.
Real question is asked in Silence, it is a non-question. Real enquiry happens in Silence. When you don’t have anything to ask, just go and sit. Just go and sit, and you don’t get disappointed, and you don’t start feeling desperate and impatient that why is my question not being answered. No, I asked something else why is he not giving a direct answer. Whether or not you have been helped; remember, there is one method to test and only one method:
Do you still remember the question?
And after all this, do you still remember the question?
That is the only test.
The one who knows does not have great answers; the one who knows does not have big words or big answers; the one who knows is the one who does not have even small questions. If you ask him for answers, he will conclude that he is a fool because he does not have answers. His being lies in not having questions, in realising just one thing that all questions are noise. He knows the Self and he knows the Self is blemishless. There is no place for doubt or confusion there. He sits rooted in sureness. He will say, “Only a Faithless mind can have questions. I know the source, the genesis of all questions, how can I give questions importance?”
And as far as this general drama is concerned, it is alright, we can play the game. I can ask you what is the time and you can tell me what the time is and we both can laugh over it. When you know what time is then you can laugh over a question like ‘What is the time?’. Because we don’t know what is time so we take this question very seriously: ‘What is the time?’ The one who knows what is time will ask, “Sir, what is the time?” and laugh, because he knows what is the time. That is the difference. Now he can ask and not worry about the answer because whatever you respond anyway does not mean anything. Now he can ask, “Sir, what is happening?” and laugh, because he knows that nothing ever happens. So he can very comfortably ask and not be perturbed by any reply that he gets.
You can tell him ‘These are the worst of days’, and he will laugh. You can tell him ‘Evil is happening!’, and he will laugh, and you can tell him ‘It is the kingdom of God, and great things are happening’, and he’ll still laugh, because he knows that nothing ever happens, nothing ever happens, so it is alright, now we can talk.
“So Sir, what is happening?”
It’s alright. Now these questions are jokes, and one can deal in jokes. There is nothing obnoxious about that. Jokes just jokes. ‘So, how are you?’ You get the right to ask this question, ‘How are you?’, only when you know, ‘Who am I?’ When you know ‘Who am I?’ then go ahead, and in all casualness throw around this question, ‘How are you? How are you doing? What is happening?’ It’s alright. You know that there is nobody to whom this question can be asked. You know that this is a joke! You know that neither does the questioner exist nor there is anybody to answer the question. So fine, now you can ask. ‘How is your wife?’ He’s not there so how can there be a wife. Now it’s alright. Now nothing will be taken seriously.
The one who knows that no question is important can now deal in questions. He has earned the right. Who should avoid asking questions? The one who feels like asking questions. If questions are still important to you, don’t ask; if questions are not at all important to you, come over. We’ll play question-question. You ask two questions, I’ll ask four questions.
What is a question?
A question is a sense of I do not know. That is what a question is, right? A feeling that I do know. Can you ever know? This is always going to persist. Question the question itself, if you are so fond of questions. But if you have a certain dishonesty, then you will say, “Well, I asked a question and got an answer.” I challenge you, give me one question to which a final answer can be given. Go and ask all your philosophers and all your towering personalities of science. If there is one question to which they have been able to give a final answer. But yes, if you’re dishonest then you’ll say, “Well, I asked a question and got an answer.” And then you call it enquiry.
You meet someone and you ask him, “Sir, who are you?” He says, “I am Raj Shekhar” and you walk away, ‘Yes, I got an answer’. So what have you come to know? What does Raj Shekhar mean? Nothing. But you don’t even have the intelligence to realise that you have learned nothing. You feel as if some query has been answered. Has anything really been answered? Or go and ask all your scientists, they keep asking questions and they pretend that they receive answers, ‘Has anything really been answered?’ You check a circuit and you find that the current is five amperes, so?
You have only named the happening.
Have you really known what is happening? What do you mean by five amperes? You’ll say a certain flow of electrons, and what is that? And what is that? And what is that? And soon you come to point where you don’t know. So why do you pretend as if you know? No question can ever get an answer. But there are people being awarded great prices just because they can name one thing as another. So there is a happening in the physical world, and if you can translate that into mathematical equations then you’re called a great scientist. What have you known! What have you known in that? It’s just that now from the language of English, it is now written in the language of Mathematics. Does that mean that you have known anything? Does that mean that the query has been answered? And you are arrogant enough to name these answers on your own name. So you have Mr. Tom’s laws, Mr. Harry’s equations, Mr. Dick’s Theorem.
What have they done? What have they known?
I once asked, ‘Who knows chlorophyll? The scientist who is experimenting on it or the leaf? Who knows chlorophyll? Does the scientist know chlorophyll or does the leaf know chlorophyll? Who knows chlorophyll? But if you ask the leaf, ‘Tell me about chlorophyll’, then the leaf will say, “Who bothers? And I do not know anything called chlorophyll. You have named something as chlorophyll and you’re researching on it. I am chlorophyll!” And that is when you know when you are it. That is the only way of knowing.
When Real knowing happens then it cannot be put in words.
Then it is no more a concept.
But the scientist is so arrogant that not only will he research on chlorophyll but also claim a noble price for it. No leaf has ever been given a noble price!
I am again asking, who really knows chlorophyll? Does the scientist know chlorophyll or does the leaf know chlorophyll? Who knows chlorophyll? Unfortunately, when knowing happens, you do not know that you know. Because for us knowing is just concept formation, what do you claim to know? You only claim to know that which you can put in words and concepts, right? When do you say that ‘I know’ something? When you can put it in a sentence or an equation. When you can make a concept about it, only then you will say that I know. So the scientist will say ‘I know chlorophyll’ but the leaf will never say ‘I know chlorophyll’. Now the leaf is living chlorophyll—eating, breathing, sleeping chlorophyll— but the leaf cannot claim that ‘I know chlorophyll’. Scientist will claim! Such a stupid situation. Such a stupid situation. And the scientist will say, ‘I know the exact chemical equation of chlorophyll’. Does the leaf know the chemical equation of chlorophyll? Does the leaf know? Now that is very very strange! The leaf does not know even the ‘C’ of chlorophyll, scientist know so much.
In Real knowing, there is no knowledge involved.
Are you getting it? Never confuse knowledge with knowing.
In Real knowing, there is not even a trace of knowledge.
And that is why in Real enquiry you do not gather any knowledge, all you get is Silence; and in Silence, you really know.
You cannot know without Being.
You cannot know as long as there is separation.
As long as there are the subject and the objects—That is separation, right?—’me’ and the ‘object’ that I want to know. And you can never know then because you have already decided that there is a separation, and unless there is a separation, how will your tools work? Because all your tools depend on separation. You use a microscope, for a microscope to be used there has to be something separate from you that can be put under the microscope. Now the moment you use a microscope, you have already ascertained that you can never know because it is separate, what is separate can never be known.
Nothing can be known in the world of duality.
Knowing happens when this separate entity—the questioner—this sense of self that wants to know something about the world, only when this seizes to exist, does Real knowing happen. As long as there is ‘you’ and there is the ‘world’ and you want to know something about the world, there is no knowing possible. Yes, you can collect a lot of knowledge and that’s what man has been doing. Separating himself, he has been collecting knowledge, and he has been fortifying the ego. But all that knowledge is of no avail because you remember the question that we started with? Peace. All knowing is so that you can get Peace. You do not ask a question for the sake of the answer, you ask a question so that you may get Peace. Remember, you never ask a question to get an answer, you ask a question to get Peace. But questions and answers will never get you Peace because in asking questions, you have ensured that you are separated from the universe, and in this division, there is violence. And how can there be Peace in violence?
Knowledge has arrested our minds. Even from this session, what you want is takeaways. What you want is something that can be called as ‘knowledge’. When you will go back, you’ll want to boast and people will ask you, “So, what did you learn today? You had gone all the way. Now you’re returning late in the night, what did you learn today?” And you want to have something objective to tell them, right? How will you show Peace to them? How? How will you show Silence to them? Knowledge, you can show; concepts, you can display; but how will you demonstrate Peace, when somebody asks you? It’s a poor situation.
You want knowledge because knowledge is a thing, it’s a material, it can be handed over, it can be just jotted down and transferred.
Peace, impossible, you cannot give it to somebody, and you will be in a fix—How to just say that I did not get anything? How to just say that I did not learn anything? So what will some of us do? They will try to use memory, they will try to recall a few of these sentences and put them there. And you’ll look so stupid when you’ll do that. Don’t try that. People have kept trying that and returned with eggs on their face. Copying won’t help, and you have totally missed if you think that I’m giving you words. Forget these words, they do not mean anything, these words do not mean anything. Be present to the words; be present to the happening; don’t try to lock it in memory.
Enquiry is not an ‘activity’, it is your nature to know. Enquiry is your nature; enquiry is not doing; enquiry happens by itself because it is your nature to know. You just keep knowing effortlessly, and that’s the terrible part: Enquiry is effortless. You don’t have to do enquiry, you know; you just know that you’re present. You don’t have to ask, you don’t have to raise questions. Your doer-ship is not solicited. Enquiry happens by itself and it’s so magical! That brings me to the question that our friend has asked, he says that ‘What you have gathered is through your experiences over a long time and how can I get what you have just by sitting and talking to you?’ What I have has not been given to me by my experiences or time. I did not ask questions or search for answers. It is just there. Do not search for its roots, it’s roots are so deep that they cannot be contained in your concepts. Do not try to theorise it. What I’m saying is not so cheap that time can give it.
If I can get something by having thirty-six years of experience of living then surely those who are alive since seventy-two years will have double the quantity. So don’t be a fool to assume that all this has come through experiences; that is your excuse for saying that “I’m not as old as you are so I don’t need all this as my time has yet not come. When I too will be thirty-six then I will know what you know.” Do you see how the mind is playing games? Do you see how it is keeping you away from Light by saying that the time has not yet come? It is not at all a matter of time. I’ve repeatedly said that experience does not give intelligence. You can keep living for two-thousand years and yet be very very dull and morose as people are. Does time give them anything?
Sit silently, listen quietly and don’t theorise.
This is not knowledge that arises from a book. This is not something that you can read somewhere and get. This is not something that the ups and downs of life can teach you.
There is no age to understand.
There is no wrong time to wake up.
If there is one thing that our sense of self is greatly afraid of, you know, it is the mystical, the magical. It shivers and shudders. If I tell you Praveen (referring to one of the listeners) that I read forty-thousand books and I visited great Masters and I went to the four corners of the world and thence I gathered this knowledge. You’ll be impressed and you’ll be alright and you’ll feel comfortable because now you know how to get it. But you’ll feel suffocated if I tell you, ‘It just happened’. If I tell you I read forty-thousand books, you’ll feel comfortable. You’ll say, “I too can read forty thousand books; at least theoretically I can read forty thousand books” You’ll feel alright. But something within you will start trembling if I say, “No, I did not do anything. I’ve not read much, I’ve not met any master, and I’ve not gone anywhere. It is just available, I got it. There was no route, there was no reaching and there was no achievement. It is so simple.”
You will tremble because you do not believe in magic, because the mystical does not exist for you, because you think everything must have a reason, because you do not think that something can be just bestowed. That you can just know, you’ll ask, “From where? How?” From nowhere, just like that. “How do you know?” I just know. No process, no method, no experience; no travelling, no wandering; simple knowing. Now, that is beyond acceptance, this we cannot tolerate.
This cannot be tolerated because if this will be accepted then our entire world will come crashing down. Our entire world is built on the foundation of doubt and suspicion. Suspicion is the engine of this world. We run on rationality, and rationality says, “Doubt, and then believe.” To accept that there is magic is to accept that the world of our creation is stupid, that the Real is not man-made, that the most important does not come to us as a result of striving, that we are unnecessarily bloated and inflated, that man is needlessly all puffed up—we did this! We did that! Our great civilisation! Our knowledge!
And that also means that you can live free of care and concern and botheration.
When magic is there to take care of things, why are you dying of stress?
When all that is important comes just free and does not demand your contribution, why are you unnecessarily slogging your backside off?
Why are you so full of responsibility?
Why are you so worried about the future?
The Real is taking care of you. Remember once I said, that you’re mistaken if you think you’re playing the Game—stop and flow—the Game knows how to play you, but we’re not only arrogant, we’re stupid. We think we are playing the Game. Only a few people realise that the Game is playing you. And because you think ‘we are playing the game’, so you’ll keep asking, “No, no how did this happened? How did you made this move?” I never made this move, the move made me.
The other day somebody was wondering, “How did Buddha attain enlightenment?”
And when I said “Buddha did not attain enlightenment, enlightenment attained Buddha.”
There was only disbelief, how can it happen! Enlightenment is a grand thing! There must have been a twenty-year plan. Some detailed process flow, some great effort. After all the Great can be achieved only through great exertion. That’s what we teach our students—work hard; do this, do that, network with God. (Sarcastically) Buddha must have been a great networker. He must have surely networked with all the small Gods first, then gained entry into the secretariat of the larger Gods. Then he would have liaisoned with the secretary of the chief God. Buddha’s LinkedIn profile would have had twenty-thousand contacts, all Gods. So He would have worked hard, really hard, and then one day He would have gained an appointment. And that day He would have boasted everything that He could to the chief God or let’s say the chief of God staff.
And then he would have gone and boasted that “You know, I know this, I know that, and Naarad is my old friend, and Lakshmi is the cousin of my wife and Saraswati used to be my batch mate.” And the chief God would have become quite impressed and he would have said, “Alright, you can take 5% enlightenment. Rest upon the scheduled completion of task. And don’t forget to pay a little of commission to all my Rishi Munis who are gathered outside, my agents.” Now it is alright, now you have a theory of enlightenment. This is how to get enlightened. So Buddha attained enlightenment, and you can write a good, nice novel.
And then Buddha comes back and opens an academy of enlightenment. Where he is telling people, you know, how to start off. If you want it in twelve years, the lousy way, the snail-like pace, then you have to pay only $12,000. But if you want tatkal (immediate) enlightenment, then you have to pay accordingly.
Now it is alright, Buddha attained enlightenment, and now enlightenment is an object that Buddha can hand over to others as well. But to say it comes for free, enlightenment was always chasing Buddha, when Buddha stopped running away from it, He realised that it is there already.
There is nothing to be attained. It is there already.
Watch the session: Real enquiry happens in Silence || Acharya Prashant (2014) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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