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Listener: We are all one…
Acharya Prashant: In what sense?
L1: Connected to each other…
AP: But I see you as distinct. How are we all one?
It is often said, and it sounds nice to hear that we are all one. But I want us to not just accept anything because tradition has it, or because wise men have talked of it, but really go into it ourselves, and figure out what is meant by oneness?
What is it implied by the unity of mankind? You’ve heard this often, right?
“We all are one.”
What does that mean?
L1: We can say something is there in all of us which is common; which is central…
AP: What does it mean?
L2: Kindness and emptiness.
AP: Yes, but we are all one, what does that mean? How are we all one?
L1: We can describe it according to the material concept that we all start from the same place and come back to the same place.
AP: Let us start from where we are, what we see. Do you see one being sitting here or different persons?
L1: Different persons.
AP: What do you see?
Different persons. Not one being, right?
Do you see many posters here or one poster?
L1: Many posters.
AP: Do you see many lights here or one light?
AP: We live in a world of many-ness, right? Not oneness.
So, when you live by the eyes, by the senses, all you see is differences and diversity. If you believe your eyes, they will only tell you that things are different. In fact, the senses can communicate the existence of things, only when things are different; only when things have a limit and a boundary. One thing is different from the other because it stops somewhere and then the other things starts, right?
See, if you can perceive this wall, it is because this wall has a boundary, it starts and ends. Had this wall been infinite, you wouldn’t have been able to perceive at all. So, senses are limited and all that they perceive is limitation. Eyes are limited and if you go by the eyes then what you will see is limitation and hence differences and hence diversity.
Do you see this?
Now, instead of being a blind believer in eyes, one goes a little deeper. One says that, “Is it not true that if I am seeing four posters there on that particular pillar, the other one too, is seeing only four?” and then you say, “Now, there is something common between the two of us.” Earlier we were seeing only differences, and now we are seeing something that is not different, and that is common.
What is it that is common between the two of us?
That we perceive in the same way. We perceive different things, but we perceive in the same way, alright?
Then, you also see that everybody has a tendency to over perceive that which appeals to him, which suits his conditioning and to under perceive or ignore that which does not mean anything to him. Do you see this? And you will find another commonality.
The deeper you keep going into the mind of man, you find that more and more is common amongst us. Happiness is common amongst human beings, so is sadness and sorrow. We all are conditioned alike. We all have a deep yearning for peace. We see that since thousands of years, man has lived, psychologically, in the same way.
It does not matter to which country you belong, it does not matter to which time you belong. Wars have been fought, then agreements have been made, then conflicts have again arisen, then again wars have been fought. And when you see that, then you see that essentially, the mind of mankind is one — it does not matter what your gender is, it doesn’t matter what your nationality or ethnicity is, it doesn’t matter what your religion is, it doesn’t matter what your education is.
The fact is that fundamentally, the mind of man behaves in the same way. And then, you also see that it is not only the mind of man, not only the mind of human beings, but also the mind of all sentient creatures. When you go into their very impulses, in to their basic urges, you see that we are all one.
An animal wants to reproduce so does a human being.
When death approaches, a tree shivers in the same way as a human being shivers.
So, all consciousness is one.
Do you see this?
Fundamentally, it is not about only the unity of human beings, it is then, about the unity of all sentient, conscious beings. Do you see this?
But all these statements of unity, of oneness, can be made only when you go deeper and deeper into the fundamental nature of the mind. I repeat, if you remain only at the surface, all that you see is differences.
It is extremely easy to say that this is violet, this is red; he is old, he is young; here is a man, there is a woman; here is an Indian and here is a European — it is extremely easy to see and claim differences. That is when you are living at a sensory level, but the deeper you go, you say, “Ah! Are we not all one? Is the woman not striving for security in the very same way as the man? Is the dog not wishing to further his existence through his progeny in the same way as the wisest man? Is the tree not enjoying fine weather as the whale?” Now you have reached the root of ego and that is where we are all one.
We are all one in that sentient, conscious thread which binds us together.
Unfortunately, that sentient conscious thread which holds us together is also the thread of sorrow.
We are all one in our misery.
We are all one in our fears.
We are all one in the type of wars that we fight.
Can we be one differently?
Yes, it is possible to be one differently. Man does not need to be like man only in his sorrow, only in his suffering.
Can we be unified in joy as well?
Now, is joy merely the absence of sorrow?
Is joy happiness?
Yes, we are one in the fact that we are all happiness seekers, that we pursue pleasure but is there something else which brings us totally together? You know, even when we are pursuing pleasure, still we are a little different, why?
Because, as divided beings we seek pleasure in different things, so, still there remains a modicum of a difference.
Is it possible to be absolutely one?
OK, let me elaborate through an example: We are talking, right? And we are together, and it has been a beautiful evening — we have read, we have discussed, and soon we will be coming to the closure of the proceedings. We have been very close, I have spoken, intermittently, you have spoken and we have spoken in harmony. Yet there always remains a difference when you speak and when I speak; when you speak and when she speaks. The words themselves create a boundary.
When can we be absolutely together? Now, I could say, “You know, you are my brother and I love you.”
And you could say, “Yes, you are our brother and we love you.”
And still there would remain a difference – what I mean by Love is not what you mean by love.
It is a love that we have declared. It is a love that is a product of man’s mind. It is a love that we have announced and hence, we have reserved the rights to withdraw. So, in spite of saying that we are one; I am saying, I am announcing here that, “We are all one.” And you too do that and like a mantra, a chorus arises, “We are all one”, and still a great difference remains.
When would we be really one?
L1: When the barrier of language transcends and we would be able to understand.
AP: And that is what you call as Silence. It is in silence that we are one. Is silence something material? Silence is the absence of that which creates differences. We are one when we are silent. We are really one, when we are not what we have assumed ourselves to be.
Till the time you think of yourself as a European and I think of myself as an Indian — we cannot be one. Till the time you carry a distinction and so do I — we cannot be one. Till the time you are knowledgeable and I am ignorant — we cannot be one.
Till the time you and I are anything or anybody — we cannot be one.
Oneness is possible only when you are nobody and I am nobody.
So, oneness is actually zero-ness.
Hence, your question that what is meant by oneness of mankind must now move into zero-ness. Oneness of mankind does not mean that you and I together are commonly one something. No!
Between human beings, oneness is possible only in nothingness. Only when you stop taking seriously whatever you believe or assume yourself to be, then you and I really can be unified, that is also called as Love.
Believing in your identities, carrying with yourself the load of all your education, your qualifications, your ethnicity, your religion and all else the mind carries and matters to the mind, carrying the load of all that, it is impossible to harmoniously relate to the other human being. You may say that you are a Hindu or a Christian and you are trying to be kind as a Hindu or a Christian but the fact is, as a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian, you would only be kind in a Hindu way, or a Muslim way or a Christian way, which is no kindness at all. Do you see this?
Kindness is possible only when you are not;
only when you are nothing;
only when you are empty and zero.
You are trying to be a loving husband to your wife but this love would be the ‘love of a husband’ as a ‘husband’ and hence it would be no love at all. It would be just an image of the love which would be called a ‘husband’s love’.
Love is possible only when you are not a husband and she is not a wife. It is only then that two free beings are relating to each other. Only when you are nobody and she is nobody then there can be love. Do you see that?
As long as you operate in memories, you approach her with the burden of the past, you approach her with the knowledge that you already know her — there is no real relationship possible. All that would happen between you and her is a role play based on a preset script, a role play that is carried forward by experiences and memories.
The more you are something or somebody, or anybody, the more divided you are. The more divided you are, the more violent you are.
We need peace. Don’t we? That is what we are all deeply craving for. The mistake that we often make is that we want peace as somebody.
You can never be a peaceful somebody; you can just be peace.
If you say, “I am a peaceful X or Y”, and that X or Y could be anything – your gender, your ethnicity, your nationality, your religion, your qualification, your age — anything — all you have created is a boundary. It is like crying from within a boundary that, “I am free.”
How much sense does that make?
You raise walls and then from within the walls you say, “Freedom, Freedom!”
Does that make sense?
We are all one only in the open sky. It is the open sky that bears no distinctions only that is undivided. From within boundaries, you cannot ask for oneness. And the matter is that, without oneness we will never come to relax. Oneness is what we are desperate for. Oneness is what the poets, the sages, the Rishis have sung of. Oneness with each other is also oneness with the Divine.I am one with you when both of us are one with what you can either call as emptiness or alternately, as God.
We all are one either as the swelling sea – the full sea – or as the empty sky.
In the sea there are no distinctions. Pick up water from everywhere or anywhere, it is the same and in the sky too, there are no distinctions. Let the clouds remain, yet there are no distinctions. You fill the whole sky up with smoke, yet the whole sky is not tarnished or stained.
My request is, kindly do not commit the mistake of having the right intentions from the wrong positions. Often, we have great intentions, but from the wrong position.
“As a father I want to do good to my son.”
I will never be successful!
Because the father is an identity, the father is a pre-set role, the father will remain ‘fatherly’ – which is a limitation; which is a boundary that he is setting to the relationship with his son. Now, as a father, I want to do good to my son and that is why the world is a place where we have so much of friction between fathers and sons, precisely, because fathers are ‘fathers’ and sons are ‘sons’.
I often ask my audience, I say that, “You know, if somebody knocks on that door and you have a hole available in that door through which to peep. If it is a stranger, you at least bother to look at the face of the stranger for a few seconds or a minute. Don’t you? If you come across a stranger you at least pay so much of attention; but when you go home and you meet your father or mother or husband or wife or son or daughter, do you pay attention to their faces?”
You say, “We already know them, what is there now new to look at?”
A stranger at least extracts this much of consideration from us that we look at his face for let’s say five seconds or ten seconds. The ones to whom we are already related how many time do we bother to closely look at their face as if we are looking at them for the first time. We say, “What is the need to look at them? We already know them.” We start our conversations from where we left it in the past. We do not start afresh, anew. Now, how can there be oneness? How can there be a relationship and Love?
It is knowledge that creates so much of our problem. Mankind has accumulated a lot of knowledge. Spirituality is about having the confidence to live free of knowledge in matters that are essential. Yes, in driving a car you need knowledge and skill. Yes, in working up on machines, you need knowledge. But when you become a creature of knowledge even in the essentials of life, then you are becoming mechanical; then you are losing out on your life, and the result will be implicit and explicit violence as well.
Are we together on this?
L2: Sir, people live with boundaries, with limited boundaries but they don’t understand that it is not love.
AP: Because the boundaries have been given respectable names. We continue with them because our boundaries, our limitations have been given very sacred names. That, which is a burden to us, has been given respectable names — we call it duty, responsibility, identity, ambition, growth, progress. And when you start giving your disease, beautiful names then you are ensuring the continuity and furtherance of the disease. We have given our diseases very beautiful names.
We must look at facts as facts. Often what we call as duty is just fear or is it not? Often what we call as love is just attachment or is it not? Let’s call it at least by the right name, that much of honesty is needed.
Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: What is meant by oneness of mankind? | YouTube
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The book throws light on how the search of happiness is a futile one. With utmost simplicity, he explains how freedom from both happiness and sadness is the ultimate peace.
Author’s genius lies in the fact that he does not talk of happiness and sadness as some far off terms and does not throw concepts of ‘higher living’ to the readers. Rather, he deals with issues in a very simple, personal way and through this book extends an invitation to join the ongoing existential party.