Question: What is meant by Advait in Everyday Life?
Acharya Prashant: Advait in everyday life, what is it that we call as our everyday life? This sleeping, this waking, this trying, this reaching, this hope, this despair, getting ready, achieving, not achieving, this is what we call as our everyday life. Right? Finding, losing, meeting, leaving, holding, dropping…what do you see in this?
Listener 1: We see “I”.
AP: Yes, it is there, but what do you see about the nature of this “I”.
Alright, let me look at this present day itself, when we are talking of everyday life. We all are wearing clothes which we hopefully put on this morning itself, right? Have there been any clothes ever that you put on but never take off? We all are sitting here, wearing something, is there ever something that you wear but never unwear, never take off? Has it ever happened? Has there ever been a place that you go to but never return from? You have come here, what would happen to this coming? The coming will change into departure. It’s a matter of time. Right? This session began for you. Right? Has there ever been a session that begins but never ends? Please, has there been? What do you see about the nature of our everyday life?
Listener 2: It has got a time frame.
AP: And what do you see about time? Has there ever been a moment that returns?
Listeners: No (in unison)
AP: So, everyday life is a continuous flow of time in which, what do you see happening?
Listener 3: Change.
AP: Yes, and what is it that changes, and into what? I repeat, our so called everyday life is a flow, a mass of continuous change, a flowing mass of continuous change. What is it that changes, and into what?
Listener 4: Physical things around us are changing towards something fragile.
AP: When you talk of physical bodies, you probably mean bodies like this table, like this room. How many of us thought something in the last 15 minutes or so? How many of us experienced any kind of thought in the last 15 minutes or half an hour? Please raise your hands.
( everyone raises their hands)
AP: Almost everybody. Where is that thought now?
Listeners: It’s gone (in unison).
AP: And that thought hardly looked like this table. What is it that changes then, and into what? To make it easier for all of us, is there anything in our daily life that does not change? Clothes change, day changes into night, moods change, companions change, places change, activities change, and everything changes into what it was not.
So, let’s simply say everything just simply changes into its opposite. That’s what we call as our everyday life: a continuous movement in change. Nothing remains, everything changes. Right? This is what we call as everyday life. It’s a dance of duality. Correct? Now what is it that we have to do with duality? Why must we talk about it? Why should duality matter to us? First of all, is it clear, how our lives are full of pairs of opposites? How our lives are full, in that sense, of contradictions. Is it clear? You wear something only to take it off. You meet someone only to…
Listeners: … To bid good bye.
AP: You bid farewell only to…
Listeners: …Meet again.
AP: Meet again; if not that person then somebody else. We come to go, we sleep to wake up, we eat, again to feel hungry, and then again eat; we run to stop, we stop to run again; We are born to die – That’s what everyday life is. A movement in contradictions, a movement in duality. And between the two ends of duality stands time. So, when you are experiencing one end, the other end appears far away. Sometimes it does not appear at all. You feel as if it would never come. You say, “Ah! I have arrived, this union is permanent.” You would never be separated again, but that’s not how it plays out. Right?
So, you were asking, “even if everyday life is full of changes, what do we have to do with it? Why must we talk about it?”
Listener 2: Because I am the one who is experiencing all these changes.
AP: And what do all these changes do to this “I”?
Listener 3: They create restlessness.
AP: Be a little more specific about it. Everything is continuously changing, changing whether or not this “I” wants it or supports it. And what do all these changes do to this ‘I”?
Listener 4: Disturb the peace of “I”.
AP: Disturb the peace of “I”. What do they do? It is our life, right? We experience this in our “everyday life”. That’s what the question is- everyday life.
Listener 5: The “I’ then experiences.
AP: Then what happens to the experience?
Listener 5: It goes away.
AP: And then what happens to “me”? What am “I” doing when the experience goes away?
L5: I am hollow again?
AP: “I am” hollow again. I would have been back had that experience gone away, leaving me with nothing, but that experience goes away, leaving me with its opposite. Hope goes away leaving me with despair, disappointment. So, experience goes away, the experiencer never goes away. The experiencer just starts experiencing the opposite. Right? And what is happening to the experiencer in all this;this experiencer is the “I” obviously? What is happening to the “I” in all this?
Listener 5: It’s been drained.
AP: It’s been drained out. How do you feel about it? How do you feel when brightest of days, a day that you had waited for, a day that you had celebrated, lapses. First, you have a dimming of the brightness. Then there is twilight, and you are still hoping that the day would sustain. And then there is the night. And remember, this night is not a night of relaxation; it’s a night of gloom. How do you feel? Gloomy, of course.
That’s what our everyday life is about, experiencing dualistic opposites, and the consequent suffering. And of course that suffering doesn’t come without the accompanying hope. You cannot suffer, unless you have the wherewithals to suffer. And that fuel to keep suffering is provided to us by hope. “Let me suffer this time, this suffering will change into joy, just once more, take it bear it, and it won’t be there the next time”, that’s what the internal argument is. Right?
So, our everyday life is a movement in duality, and that is our agony. We cannot really trust anything. We cannot really be with anything. Whatever you look at, is bound to dissolve into darkness. Love changes into separation. Highs fall into downs. And it would have been alright, had even the down sustained. You could have told yourself that this down is a reliable friend of mine. Valleys are beautiful, aren’t they? But, even the lows don’t quite persist.
Even if you decide that you would remain dejected and sad, such is the funny nature of living that you can’t even remain sad. Very soon you’ll find that happiness has arrived. Try maintaining your sadness. You’ll fail. We have not tried that, right? We have tried maintaining happiness. We fail there. Good news, we’ll fail even in maintaining…?
AP: But all that only proves the helplessness of our situation. In all of this the mind is searching for something that will not pass away.
The mind is continuously eager to find something that is absolutely reliable. That will not deceive it. That will not be, not there one fine morning. Something that will not mutate into its opposite. In other words, something that does not have an opposite at all. That is what the mind is searching for, and that is what is called Advait.
Unless the mind finds that, the mind remains a shuttlecock being hit around, more aptly, a football. Even a football has its own consolations. It won’t be hit beyond the boundary. The mind’s predicament is such that it is hit, and repeatedly hit, again and again beyond all boundaries. You do not know where the nest hit would come from, and you would not know where you would land as a result of the next hit. What is certain is if you want to stay hit, you can’t, and if you want to stay still…?
Listeners: …You can’t.
AP: When you are flying in the air having received a kick, it is certain you would land. And when you land, it is only to receive…?
Listeners: …Another kick.
AP: The mind wants something beyond this flying and landing, this bouncing and crashing – that’s what we all are hungry for. That is why it is extremely necessary to find Advait in the middle of Dvait. Because this flow of dualities is inevitable, it come along with the body, it will continue. And if it is to continue, then we cannot wait for the body to cease. That would be like falling into the old trap of life after death; of awaiting a heaven as another world. We cannot say that only when the movement of time has totally stopped, in the physical sense, will I too stop.
No. If one has to really live, and not suffer as living, then one has to stop even while the flow is on. One has to be still in the middle of the flow. One has to find Advait in the middle of Dvait. Right? One cannot wait for the future. One cannot depend on time and circumstances, because time itself is the contradiction, because time itself is the space between the poles of dualities. If you depend on time, then you are still on the dualistic axis, and on that axis, there is no non – duality, there is no freedom from the suffering that duality brings.
So, it has to happen without time which means it has to happen right now. If it can’t happen right now, if it must wait for the future, than waiting for tomorrow, or waiting for the next life after death are one and the same thing.
The man, who says he would be born improved in the next birth, is no worse than the man who says he will improve tomorrow. Either the cessation of the flow of suffering is immediate, or it is never. One cannot depend on time.
So, we said two things, rather three. First, that which we call as everyday life is a denial of our expectations. It’s a flowing, gloomy mass. It’s a movement that always lets us down. It’s something that never can be depended upon. You depend upon time, and you are deceived.
Second, if the mind wants freedom from the suffering that comes along with this deception, along with this lack of rootedness, lack of belongingness then the mind must find non duality: freedom from opposites, right in the middle of duality.
Third thing we said was, we cannot wait. If we say that freedom will come after time as a result of the processes of time then we are again operating in the same old trap. Whatever you do within the trap, will never get you out of the trap.
Now, we have still not, in all this, answered quite clearly, “what ‘non duality’ or Advait really is?” We have not answered it, because no answer ever suffices. Have you ever received an answer after which there has been no question? Have you ever received an answer before, after which there has been no question at all, just silence, a full stop? So than are not all answers just like walking into this room, only to walk out at a later moment. So, what are questions and answers then?
Listeners: More duality.
AP: Hence, non duality cannot be the answer of any question. Suffice it, to talk of duality. That’s where the mind’s province ends. Let’s just understand what duality is. At most, we can adventure into saying that freedom from duality is non duality. Even this is a conjecture, not a certainty. But at most we can say this, and stop. This stopping, this surrender is advait. Iam not going to say anything beyond this. “Silence, let me just stop.” This stopping, this full stop beyond which the mind says, “sorry, I don’t bother, neither do I dare to move ahead.” is the stopping of time, is the stopping of the flow of our misery, and that is non duality.
The more you want to be certain, the more you want to know as answers, the more you are continuing in the same flow. The search for certainty is surely an indication of the flow of uncertainty. Right? So, we will stop, and just surrender to non duality. Not say much about it.
I repeat this; we are not here to find answers to mystical questions. Those things appear quite entertaining, like a detective novel, ‘God is hiding somewhere, let’s find him’. And then there are hints; a blood spot or two, a broken piece of glass, a certain Ms Lily who’s probably lying. It’s quite a Sherlock Holmes thing: the mysticism that we are used to. Right? “Where is god hiding, who is he, who am I?” let’s forget all that.
Let’s simply look honestly at everyday life. And if you can look honestly at everyday life, you will find Advait because ‘you’ will not remain to find anything. It all begins and ends where we are. You don’t have to go anywhere. Spirituality is not a search; it is just an honest acknowledgement of what is already going on. God is not hiding anywhere.
So, if some of us have come here expecting revelations, or some hidden ancient truths to be exposed, they’ll be disappointed. I have nothing fancy to communicate to you. In fact, I have hardly have anything to communicate. You are your only observer. It’s your life, and only you are in the right position to know what is going on. Only you are the experiencer of all that is happening with you. And only you must very directly, fearlessly, honestly say “ yes! yes, this is what is happening.” Seeing that, is freedom from that which you are seeing, and the one who is seeing, from both.
Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: What is meant by ‘Advait in Everyday Life’?