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AP: Suffering is a fire that burns down a lot. It brings along a certain purification. One of the poets gave the example of a snowball. Snowball that is cleansing itself in its own blood; by melting down. When a snowball starts melting, it starts becoming cleaner. And the process of melting is surely not the pleasant one. In fact, at several points, I have been compelled to say that Awakening begins with suffering. And if there is no suffering, only so-called bliss then really you are not being purified at all.
The saints have all sung songs of intense longing, intense pain and intense feeling of separation. Feeling of being devastated. Feeling of being burnt away. Feeling that house itself has come thrashing down. Most of that literature at least to extent, my knowledge allows, is in vernacular Indian language, and is not in English. But I still hope that memory would serve the right ones right now.
It is Kabir who says:
Sukhiya sab sansaar hai, khaave aur soye (सुखिया सब संसार है, खावे और सोये)
Dukhiya das Kabir hai, jaage aur roye (दुखिया दास कबीर है, जागे और रोये)
Sukhiya sab sansaar hai, khaave aur soye (The world is happy and smiling, it eats and sleeps)
Dukhiya das Kabir hai, jaage aur roye (Only Kabir is suffering. Kabir wakes and weeps.)
The world eats and sleeps and Kabir wakes and weeps. This is obviously contrary to our commonly hailed images of spirituality. We equate spirituality with Joy, and Joy with happiness. So we expect the spiritual one to look happy all the time. Kabir is saying the world will look happy, the mind that is waking up would be in turmoil because this world is coming apart.
In another one, in which He says:
Birhan odi laakdi, sakuche aur dhudhuaaye (बिरहिनि ओदी लाकड़ी, सकुचे और धुंधुआय)
Chhut pado ya birah se, jo sigri hi jari jaaye (छुटी पड़ो या बिरह से, जो सिगरी जरि जाय)
The world is like damp wood, wet wood. What happens when you try to put damp wood to fire? It only billows; lot of smoke and very little fire. He says that is the situation of the world. It preserves itself like the wet wood; it doesn’t quite burn up; it doesn’t really immediately go up with flames. It preserves itself. All you get is a lot of smoke.
He says that a simple solution is to allow oneself to burn down totally, like dry wood. All this in between states of desperation, frustration, burning, not burning, smoking, not smoking — all this is such a conflict that you are neither here nor there. Neither are you burning nor are you not burning. Far better than this Kabir advices is to allow yourself to be eaten away totally by the flames. Burn down completely. There would be no fire, no smoke. Nothing left to be consumed.
This has to be understood.
On one hand, the same Saint sang the joyful songs of union with the beloved, songs of peace, songs of great ecstasy, songs of love, songs of liberation and celebration. On the other hand, they have sang equally poignant songs in tears, in blood, in separation, in desperation, in longing, in waiting, songs of destruction and death. You must see that these two go together.
It is a celebration in which you celebrate your own devastation.
It is a celebration of a madman.
Kabir says, Jo ghar jaare aapna, chale hamaare saath (जो घर जारे आपना, चले हमारे साथ.)
Only the one who is prepared to burn down his home can come with me. Kabir puts down a condition. He says not all are qualified to walk with me. Only those who are prepared to set their house on fire will come with me. So it’s a celebration that demands the highest price. It is not a cheap celebration. It is a party that demands the heaviest entry fee that you can give.
A great celebration is going on and the entry fees is that you chop off your head and deposit it right at the entrance and then headlessly you can go and dance.
That great dance is only for those who are having no heads.
It’s a dance of death. A dance, undeniably a dance, nevertheless, a dance of death. Not an ordinary dance and because it is a dance that extracts the highest price from you, hence, it is a dance in which you reach the deepest ecstasies as well.
You cannot enjoy or celebrate till you have given yourselves fully to enjoyment or celebration.
To give yourselves fully to anything is to fully give yourselves.
Those who want joy should not be afraid of suffering. It is in the depth of suffering that you know what joy is. Do not equate joy with pleasure or happiness. Joy has nothing to do with our ordinary smiles. Do you remember the second day of this tour? We took the ‘Myth of the smile.’ So when I see people around me in turmoil, suffering, on one hand, it really affects me. I do not want to be a cause of suffering for anybody. But on the other hand, I also know that probably this is the only way.
Kabir keeps on talking of the warrior who wins, rather, who is not at all concerned about winning. Such a great winner he is – not at all concerned about winning; who wins because he kills himself before the battle. And then having killed himself, he goes and fights. Now he cannot be killed. Now, he fights without the fear. Do you get the image? Does the metaphor speak to you?
And this warrior is fighting in the battle field of life. The battle field is life. Kabir’s warrior makes sure that he does not carry the burden of living to the battle field. So before the battle begins, he chops off his head, he kills himself. And being human beings that we all are, killing oneself is never fun. To be born is to be born with body identification. Whenever it comes to snapping those identifications, it hurts. It hurts even till your last day, I assure you. You may be a Buddha, you may be the greatest enlightened master, it still hurts. You have to find your way in the middle of that hurt.
Joy lies in your capacity to take hurt. The more hurt you can take, it proves that you are still on top of the hurt. The moment you say, ‘I cannot take anymore’, the moment you start blocking hurt that is the moment when hurt has won.
The reward of the one who is capable of taking wounds is that he gets more wounds.
I once met a young girl and she had a crystal in her palm and forcefully, almost violently, she was again and again banging it against the floor, throwing it at the walls. I asked her, ‘Why are you doing this?’ She said, ‘Because I have been told that it cannot be broken.’ When you are somebody who cannot be broken, your reward will be that you will receive more and more banging against the floor and the wall. The whole existence will know that you are unbreakable. So, you can take a little more of thrashing, pounding, beating.
The more thrashing you are able to take, the more pounding you are receiving, the more it is certain that you are capable of taking it. Hence, the more it is certain that whatever the world is throwing at you does not really affect you, bother you.
Ways of Truth are mysterious, paradoxical, sometimes rather opposite to what we think and sometimes not even opposite of what we think. If they are just opposite of what we think, it is still a mercy. The great bewilderment is when the Truth is not what we think and Truth is also not what we do not think. Then one is left in the middle of nothing.
If you have an image of Truth, God, or Love, and what they will give you and how it will feel to be liberated, very soon, you will find that God is having a good joke at your expanse. You thought that when you would get clarity, when you will be capable of freedom then you will experience a certain delight and it is the mind’s habit to extrapolate. You may be dying for freedom. But what is freedom for the mind — a word, an idea, an image. The moment you say that you are aiming at freedom, you are aiming at some particular vision. I assure you, when freedom arrives, it will not corresponds to that vision.
In fact, you will be then left wondering why at all did you strive for freedom. You may even be left saying that you are better unfree than free. But freedom and love are gifts that cannot be returned once received. Now that you have it, keep it, bear it, tolerate it — that’s just the right word. When you get God, all you are left with is to tolerate him. You would fervently pray. You know what you will pray? Go away.
When he is not with you, all your prayers say, ‘Come here, come here lord, father, beloved, darling. Come. And when he would come, you would find him such a stranger that at least initially you would be wishing that he goes away’. But he is sticky, obstinate. Having come, he does not return. Rather, you having gone to him, lose your capacity to retract your steps.
There is ecstasy.
There is ecstasy in spirituality. There is intoxication but it is like getting inebriated by drinking your own blood. That kind of intoxication. Do you remember Rumi? So pay the price.
Pay the price. Live through the suffering.
Cry a lot. And if possible laugh a little.
Truth loves you so much that he tolerates none of your accessories and makeup. He tears away all your masks, all your ornaments, all your garments. He strips you off everything that you are carrying and wearing. That hurts. But that’s the naked love of the Lover.
He won’t touch you if you are not pure.
First of all, he sanctifies you. He prepares you so that he can enter in you.
And if you are not prepared to be prepared by him, you will also not become a part of him.
Have a great capacity to take suffering.
Learn to live joyfully in the thick of suffering. And don’t deny when it comes; accept it.
Don’t turn your back on it because it anyway does not go away.
You just become pretenders. There is no need to pretend.
Great songs emerge from longing. Great actions happen from the mind when there is a fire. Suffering has a certain dignity about it that pleasure does not have. Tears, more likely, have a depth that laughter can never have.
As a Teacher, since many year now, I have been in deep touch with so many students, so many friends, often, I see them in suffering on coming in contact with me, at least initially suffering. And it feels bad. You even feel like apologizing. It appears that everything was alright in the certain person’s life and then you touched. And yours was a touch of destruction. But I also know that you couldn’t have come to me or stayed with me had you not wanted that destruction? I call everybody, not everybody comes. Only those come whose time has come. So the changes that occur — the destabilization that happens is something that was waiting to happen. I just probably only precipitated it.
The common man does not suffer. The common man lives a life of blissful ignorance. You ask him ,’How is he doing?’ He says, ‘Very fine’.
A saint suffers.
When you suffer, just know that you have been chosen in some way. Remember what Jesus said, ‘If you receive sufferings and anguishing, if you are revealed then do not forget that before you, I suffered for you and all the prophets.’
The prophet suffers.
The common man does not suffer. Now, that does not mean that just by suffering you will become a prophet. I am not suggesting a method to you. But what I am saying is that liberation is not a fancy, pleasurable idea.
To be liberated is to be liberated of yourself.
You are not liberated of anything else.
You are your own bondage.
Liberation means hacking down the bondage which means hacking yourself down.
The chains that shackle you are you.
When you cut down those chains, you are cutting yourself down.
L1: Do isolation brings suffering?
AP: If one has been accustomed to live in a crowd, in a clutter, in a society, in a web of relationships, then one suffers when that web is cut down. We live amongst others. Our relationships have a certain quality. They are built on a certain foundation — that foundation is the ego. That foundation is self-interest. When Truth hits at that self-interest, the foundation of all your relationships shakes. Not one, all your relationships. The whole world changes for you. So, the web inside which you are living is no more. And if you are habituated to live close to others then isolation hurts.
L2: Does suffering depend on religion?
AP: Just as there are two kinds of religion, there are two kinds of suffering as well.
The first kind of religion is a man-made religion in which man decides what God is. Man builds the God and then builds a certain way towards that God. This is man-made religion First of all, decide a god then define a way to god. When man does this, then there is suffering involved in this. But this is a suffering that perpetuates itself. This is a suffering that does not converge to a point. This is a suffering that man calls as holy, that man seeks to continue ,to preserve, even sanctified. This suffering leads to no liberation. In this suffering there is no Joy, there is just humiliation, in fact, even more than humiliation, it is deception. Because you would be suffering, yet not admitting that you are suffering. You would be calling your suffering by many other names — responsibility, or love, or duty, or religion, or obligation, or patriotism, or commitment. Right? There are many names that you give to suffering. And those can be acceptable names.
Then there is another religion. That religion is not man-made. It’s a dynamic religion. It has no idea of God. This religion does not aim at an idea. This religion aims directly at peace which is idea-less-ness. As long as there is idea, there is mental activity, there is turmoil, and hence, no Peace. Real religion is to act in peace and act towards peace at every point. And this cannot be predefined. In this religion, you cannot be told in advance what to do, when to do, how to do. This religion is freedom. This religion is total surrender to peace, and hence total freedom to act in whichever way that suits peace. Your only condition is now that you would have peace. In everything else, you have total freedom — how to have it, when to have it, what to do, what not to do. You know and you decide based on the situation. But there is one non-negotiable, there is only one thing that you cannot compromise on and it is that you must be acting from and aiming towards peace. This is real religion.
In this real religion too, there is suffering but that suffering is a suffering of breaking of identifications, breaking of beliefs. If beliefs thicken then there is suffering because the more beliefs thicken, the more your nature of intelligence is obfuscated. The more your nature is obfuscated, the more you suffer. So while there is suffering in the thickening of identities, amusingly, there is suffering even in the dissolution of identities. Because the entity that is suffering — the ego, is attached to identities. When identities drop, the ego suffers. Are you getting this?
We are a bundle of identities. In the former type of religion, those identities thicken. Thickening of identities obviously is suffering but that suffering is called as suffering. That suffering is sometimes called as progress, sometimes called as evolution. Lot of names; nice names. And when those identities drop then too you suffer. That is real religion.
In real religion, there is real suffering. So suffer really.
L3: You said that there are two types of suffering. One is for sake of pleasure and another is for sake of Truth. Then what is peace?
AP: When you are suffering for the sake of Truth, then it is a suffering that keeps converging. The more you moves towards Truth, the more your suffering converges. This convergence of suffering is Peace. When your suffering is for the sake of pleasure, the suffering only keeps expanding, diverging. The more you try pleasure, the more you become habituated to pleasure. The more you end up suffering, the more pleasure calls you. It is a vicious circle.
L4: Tantra says that pleasure is the way to go. Do you support this?
AP: Tantra is absolutely right in what it says. The word Tantra itself means a method. And Tantra is saying something very practical. Tantra says that whatsoever is happening in life is a method. What is it that our lives is full of? Pain, pleasure, pursuit of pleasure, hope, disappointment, effort, success, failure — this is what our life is all about. Tantra says that in the middle of all this be aware. It is inevitable that you will chase pleasure. What we call as the normal human being is a pleasure-chaser. Everybody is a pleasure-chaser. The Tantra says, when you are chasing pleasure, know exactly what is happening whether it is at the time of getting some food or getting sex. Know exactly what is happening.
Tantra says that there is no point in condemning something, barring something, suppressing something. Because you cannot suppress, it is impractical. It will show up in some other way. So when it happens, know that, just know that it is happening. In the middle of the happening, wake up! Which is a very practical thing. In fact that is exactly what I keep saying. Just the same.
It is just that, in Tantra, you have specific methods. I do not suggest any specific method. I say, Everything is a method. But if you will pick up a copy of a Vigyaan Bhairav Tantra, it will say, Pick up a bowl and watch it without watching the boundary or the substance and in that there is pure awareness. Now you don’t always have a bowl. Like in this moment instead of a bowl, we have a tumbler! So does that mean that your method will fail? What I say is that it doesn’t matter whether you have a bowl or a tumbler, just be aware.
Vighyaan Bhairav Tantra says, Go to a deep well and watch it. What if a well is not available? Your method has failed. I say, it doesn’t matter whether there is a well or not, whatsoever you are watching, watch it really. Otherwise, what will you do? Dig a well? No. That is one of the specific techniques mentioned in the Vighyaan Bhairav Tantra: Go to a deep well and watch it and that’s a method of meditation. But where are wells these days in the metro cities? Show me the wells. Is it not practical than to be aware in whatever you are doing whether it is a well, or a canal, or a tank, or simply a glass of water.
Life is a meditation.
Remain centered. Remain peaceful. Simple.
That is the mother of all methods.
~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch session video : Acharya Prashant on Saint Kabir: Getting God is easy, tolerating Him is difficult
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