Acharya Prashant on Zen: To love somebody, love like a nobody || Acharya Prashant (2016)

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If you love, love openly

Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practising meditation with a certain Zen master.

Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her.

One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.

Eshun did not reply. 

The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose, addressing the one who had written to her, she said. “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”

AP: We all got the text, right?

We all have heard it. It’s just about acknowledging, is it not? The whole life, the whole game of suffering, the whole thirst for spiritual attainment, is that not all about acknowledging?

You see, there can be only two things:

Either you say that you don’t have it and you go after it and that is the way of attainment—You don’t have it, you are going after it so you ought to attain.

The other is, you have it and all you can do is acknowledge. If you already have it then there is no question of attainment. So now what is left to do? Still, there is something left to do. What is that? You don’t have to maintain it. It can’t be lost. It’s there, still, there is something that the mind is must yet do. What is that?

You have a diamond. One situation is that you feel that the diamond is lost, you dropped it out somewhere and you go out to attain it, that is the way of attainment. The other is that the diamond is still there in the house, it’s right in front of your eyes, now what is left to do? You don’t have to attain it.

Listeners: Gratitude

AP: Yes, that is just acknowledgement, open acknowledgement. That is saying “Yes, I do have it.” Otherwise, in spite of having it you don’t have it, mind you. Acknowledge that you do have it. This whole koan is about the immense importance of acknowledgement. We don’t have to find, we don’t have to realize, we don’t have to attain, we just have to say Yes I have it. This internal agreement, this internal declaration, this loud declaration — Yes I have it, is the only thing that matters.

L1: Sir, what comes to my mind immediately is that I have realized that I am not allowed to say ‘Yes I have it’ because then I am named to be an egomaniac. I mean, I do not find myself enough daring to say that— Yes I have it.  

AP: The spiritual one is the most arrogant one. He not only says that- I have it, he goes to the extent of saying that – I am it. You remember the cataclysmic declaration of the Upanishads? I AM THAT Aham Brahmasmi. I am that and I am no short of God.

L1: Sir but I find it very difficult to acknowledge it to myself that I am THAT or I have it. There is a punisher inside me to say: Hey Raka, who are you to say this?

AP: You know what, we say we want Joy but we can’t even acknowledge our happiness! We say we want total freedom, but we cannot acknowledge even limited freedom. We say we want metaphysical love, the final union but we can’t even acknowledge even love to a mortal body!

That’s what this koan specifically said:  You have it obviously. We don’t have any doubt about you having it but whatever you have will remain dormant, will remain not useful to you till you come out with it. You have to speak out loudly. And whenever you speak out loudly, it will have to be a declaration to the world because you yourself, the one who is hearing through the ears too is just the world, a product of the world, which means you have to acknowledge.

If you don’t find anybody else to acknowledge then acknowledge it at least to yourself. You cannot carry out clandestine affairs. If you think that you can keep it buried, if you can pretend, masqurade or lead a double life then it is not possible. You have to live one life, one life in which you’ve made it known that where your heart is. You have to know, the entire world has to know where your heart lies. That’s what the lady in koan is saying.

She is not saying that she doubts whether he loves her because being a monk herself she very well knows that there is nobody who does not love. Love is our nature. Love is the essential thirst of the mind. So, if a male monk comes to her and says: I love you, then there is nothing surprising about it. Obviously, he would love her because we are full of love. But she says that love finds no expression, love provides no relief instead love becomes a medium of suffering just because love remains unexpressed. That also takes us to the very way and the purpose of living.

The purpose of living cannot be attainment; then it has to be just expression. We do not live to attain the Self instead we live to express the Self. And love is something that is intimately related to the Self. If you can’t express your love — and expression of love is obviously not merely verbal. It has to show up in everything that you do. It has to be talking through your breath — and if it is not expressing itself then in spite of it being there, it would be useless for you.

Kabir has a beautiful one on this, he says-

‘hargat mera saiyaan, suni sej na koye
‘Balhari wa ghat ki, jis ghat parghat hoye’

Hargat mera saiyaan, suni sej na koye:

The lord is there in everybody, conscious-unconscious, small-big, irrespective of the properties of that body the god is there in everybody.

Balhari wa ghat ki, jis ghat parghat hoye:

But I bow down to that particular body in which He finds expression.

Obviously, the lord is everywhere but that One is special in which he finds expression. Otherwise, he keeps sleeping here. He is very much there in everything, entire universe is nothing but the lord but Kabir says that he has a special reverence for one in which the lord finds expression. Now again that’s not an exactly precise thing to say because the lord has never denied himself the permission to express. It’s you who must decide to express the lord. The lord is not blocking himself, you are the one blocking the lord. You have to decide that you will unblock him, that you will express, acknowledge, open the gate and declare.

L2: Sir, I have seen that the child is being conditioned from the very beginning.

AP: Yes, but at the same time I would say that when I say acknowledgement to declaration that does not mean bragging the tongue, that does not mean announcing anything or getting it published in the newspapers. It’s about living it. Expression means living it. Every thought is an expression, every action is an expression. So when we say we must express the Self or we must come out with our love, that means we have to live that way. Otherwise, if it’s just about enunciating it through words, it’s then very cheap. Anybody can go to the market and just get drunk and then stand on a rooftop and declare that- I love you or I love god or I am God.

L3: It is always this sureness that is missing, somewhere I know I have it but when it comes to declaring then I feel that no, may be  it is not 100 percent.

AP: That declaration itself will be the sureness. There can be no sureness sans there is a declaration. You are shying of the declaration, waiting for sureness but the sureness won’t come till you declare it.

L3: Similarly, exactly what’s when embracing someone, like my loved one is standing in front of me and if there is nobody around then I am okay with an embrace but when there are others present then it is difficult for me to have the same embrace as it would be without the presence of the others. So you are saying the same for this also.

AP: Obviously. Don’t you see that you are not embracing and giving power to that within you which is doubting that you must embrace?

Just go and embrace.

And if you repeatedly find that you can’t embrace then at least don’t claim that you have it.

Love, realization, these are things that roar aloud. They are extremely intimate yet their expression is out there to the world, in the world. On one hand, they are things of the core, of the heart yet if it is there, then there is no way you can hide them.

Kabir has also said- ‘Even if you hide it with all your might yet your eyes would reveal it because they would cry’.

How will you stop your tears? He says these are not things that you can ever prevent from getting expressed. So don’t even try.

L3: There’s this very strong tendency that when you know you love but you don’t want to share it with people and you don’t want to let others know that you love.

AP: Will they be able to harm or is it just so that you are afraid of other people? Is there something that they can do to reduce what you have, if not, then why you must be shy of expressing it? And I am not saying that you must express in order to tell others; I am saying that you just express. You do not prevent the expression. The acknowledgement is natural, don’t block it.

I am not saying that you must go to the market wearing a shirt that says- I love God or that you must began each conversation by declaring that I am Brahm or that if you are in love with a woman then you must put a sign on your rooftop or have a tattoo somewhere on your body, I am not saying that. But when it does speak through your eyes, through your actions, through everything you do, through your very being then why must you be afraid and block it? It does speak, does it not? Your very glance changes, the way you walk changes, your choices change, your decisions change. It really speaks out through you. It’s there for the entire world to see.

Then why must you be afraid?

L3: We have been always taught that it’s a private thing.

AP: It is a private thing. I do not deny that. It’s a thing of the heart. But the heart has a fondness for expressing itself. Why must you block that expression?

Pay attention to this, it is a important thing:

By blocking the expression you are blocking the thing itself.

You are not only blocking the expression of the heart;
you are blocking the heart itself.

You don’t allow it to be express and it’s gone.

What do you think the seed wants to be expressed. If you block the expression of the seed, would the seed survive for long? The seed is in the soil and craving to be expressed and every time it’s about to express itself, you block it. What would happen to the seed? The seed would die. Fortunately, for us, the seed inside our heart never really dies but you can push it deeper into dormancy. It cannot die but you can still push it deeper down the earth.

And that’s not really good for you.

See, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you must go out and necessarily kiss in the public or make out in the public. I am not talking about juvenile declarations of that kind. You know what I am saying, right? I am saying – Be true. When it is there then why must you live a double life. That is hypocrisy. Don’t do that.

Kabir has another one on this. He compares the crow and the flamingo (white bird that stands in the water on one leg). It appears almost meditating and suddenly, the beak goes in and out comes the fish. Kabir says, look at that bird, the skin (appearence) is white and the mind is all black. He appears to be meditating but in reality, he is just aiming to kill.

He says-

“Ta sau to kauwa bhala, tan-man ek hi rang”

He says that the crow is far better because it has same appearance and mind, because it looks black and always looking to aim and kill, at least, there is honesty to that extent that it is just displaying that what it is like within. It’s a way of saying. He is actually laying emphasis on being one from inside and outside. What you feel, what you really think, what your deepest conviction is you must be expressing that. Even if that means that you appear all black, and black here signifies let’s say vices nothing else.

Really, we don’t miss anything else. What is lacking is just the acknowledgement. We don’t want to admit to ourselves that we have it. This admission, this final admission that there is no need to run around, we have it – I am that, it is here, because you know if you admit this then the ego suffers, then the ego is left with no job. Nothing to do and the ego hates it. The ego says that how can I remain unemployed.

Give me work and the moment you acknowledge that it is here then what would you be left with? Nothing, just enjoyment, just fun.

L1: Acknowledgement kills the ego.

AP: Yes, acknowledgement kills the ego. But on the contrary, acknowledgement looks so much like ego. The fact is that we label it as ego. That’s the hindrance.

Watch the session video: Acharya Prashant: To love somebody, love like a nobody The transcription has been edited for clarity.


  1. Reblogged this on cluelesslives and commented:
    Acknowledgement kills the ego.
    *Relevance to my life-* I love a lot of people, a lot in my life but not all of them know this. I find it difficult to put my love for others in words. People around me are always unsatisfied because they expect the love they give me, to be reciprocated the same way. I rarely do that. I always feel this guilt also that why I can’t tell them how much I love them (mostly parents), others and all. But my actions do. You can’t hide anything in yourself. It is a relief to know this, yes maybe not like them but I also express my love in my own way. Moreover, I know it, I live  it and it’s in my everything I do, so I don’t have to be sad really. That’s no more a problem. But I will still try to express my love verbally to people also. I am blessed to have very understanding people always around me, they always see a soft side in me and my love for others, no matter how tough and rigid I try to act. That’s silly because I don’t want that side to come out but NVM. Somebody said the same thing to me in YlC also. I was like, “damn it, NO.” 


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