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Question: What is the most fundamental step in the liberation of the Self? Is liberation of the Self a gradual process or is it instantaneous like switching on a light?
Acharya Prashant: It is neither. Liberation is just another name for the Self. The Self by nature is liberated. Hence there can be no liberation of the Self. One is already and always liberated.
Liberation is what you really are. Even in the moment of your deepest apparent bondage, you are liberated. Even if you believe yourself in all kinds of chains, you are still liberated. Bondage is just the thought of bondage.
And pay attention: bondage is equally the thought of liberation.
Slaves are those who believe they are slaves and slaves are those who believe they are free. The beliefs themselves are the bondage, it does not matter what you believe in.
The fact that you take yourself to be a belief is bondage. I repeat- if you think you are a slave, it is bondage, and if you think you are free, you are in deeper bondage.
Whatever you think about yourself – is the bondage. Liberation is the great silence that you are.
It is the great peace that always remains, even if you act is noisy, chaotic and violent ways. Bondage and suffering are the names of a same thing. You suffer in slavery precisely because, you are free, so slavery is artificial and false. You dislike chains precisely because freedom is your nature. So, no chains can ever be attractive to you. And even in the middle of thousands of such chains your heart is always free, had it not been free then it would have glorified those chains – and we do glorify chains and yet (smiles .. ) do not find peace.
This very lack of peace, and restlessness that appears as these questions is the very proof of who you are: the one who must know because knowing is her nature, the one who must talk of slavery because freedom is her nature, the one who detests incompleteness because completeness is her nature. If you observe your daily life you would simply see what you are because in that it is abundantly clear – what you are not. Infact what you are comes to you through the root of what you are not.
You will never come to liberation if you search for it, as the very search is the bondage.
In searching you have assumed that you have lost it. Can you lose it? Don’t you see the contradiction in your assumption? One hand you say that you are searching for liberation, which means nothing but liberation can bring you to contentment. On the other hand you say, I have lost liberation. If you have lost liberation then how will you search for it? What within you is sending you towards liberation?
It is only the free one within you who sends you towards freedom. What do you think, this question is being asked by the unfree one? No, this question is being asked by the free one through the unfree one. The words, the thoughts, the expressions may have limitations, their freedom may be limited and compromised. But the one who is powering the inquiry, the one who will understand what I am saying, is already free. You have to be with her, you have to be surrendered to her. If you will remain in opposition to her, you will suffer.
We all have this great great love for the absolutely free, do not resist that love. All your thoughts and instincts are crying for freedom. Even if they say let us remain fettered, if you listen attentively to them, you will find that they are pleading for freedom. Thought may say that slavery is better, because it offers conveniences and safety, but if you will go close to this thought, if you will see what this thought is actually trying to get or protect, you will again see freedom there.
It is the greatest of miracles, not that some people get liberation, the miracle is- how most of us manage to consistently believe that we are not liberated. I see God’s hand there, seriously. People say God is the one who liberates. I say without God’s maneuvers, how would the essentially free beings that we are, manage to believe in our slavery so consistently, and universally, for so long – that is the miracle.
God has already given you all that he could. God has given the absolute to you, he has given himself to you. Now what more can he give?
You are saying,” God give me liberation,” God says , “I am helpless because I already have given the highest to you, the absolute to you. I have given myself to you, I am within you, I am in you, I am you and now you are saying give me more? Now, how do I give you more?”
You are saying, “No, but I want liberation.”
God is saying, “Now what is liberation?”
Only bonded beings talk of liberation. When you find somebody talking of slavery, hold him no worse than the one who is talking of rebellion, revolution and liberation. Both are deluded. You are free as you are. Now, in your freedom, look at all your bondages and in your freedom, if you feel like, carry all your bondages, and then in the middle of all your limitations, bondages and restrictions, you would still be free. The body and the thought would still be limited, the eyes would still be able to look upto a certain distance, the ears would still be limited in hearing particular frequencies, but in the middle of all these limitations, you would still be absolutely free.
I hope you are not misinterpreting. I am not asking you to rebel against your slavery and cast away your chains. I am saying, that you must remain free in the middle of your chains.
Once you know that you are the unconditionally free one, then you retain neither an attraction, nor an aversion, to chains. Now you don’t go about begging for more chains–as commoners do,” can we have a little bit of slavery please, Looking for someone who can drive me like a slave, so one comes out in a matrimonial advertisement – looking for a master.
One is not attracted to slavery, and one is also not compulsively averse to slavery. Because one knows in the world of the material, in the world of the senses and body, there are bound to be limitations. Now those limitations are a child’s play, one does not take them seriously. one knows that one cannot move mountains with one small finger. But one now also knows that it is stupid to demand that. One also knows what this mountain is and what this finger is.
So this very thought, this idea that one is free only when one is able to act like a superhero, starts looking more infantile. Then one does not say that it is an expression of my freedom that I must have exotic animals on my plate. Then one does not say that freedom is about being able to wear what one wants, to say what one wants, to live how one wants. All this business of wanting, of individual expression is anyways slavery, so how can it be taken seriously?
You are free as you are. Discard all other assumptions about yourself, even the most glorious assumptions. Even the highest image, the most beautiful image that you can have of yourself is bound to be an ugly image. You are infinite beyond conceptualisation, you are beautiful beyond imagination. So, even if you imagine yourself to be great, to be wonderful, you are still reducing yourself. Any idea that you have of yourself is bound to be a little idea. You can have no idea of who you truly are.
When man says freedom, freedom is a dwarf. When man becomes silent, freedom is the immense. Whatever you will say, will have your touch, would have arisen from you, so it would be just as small as you. You would say love – it would be a tainted love, you would say Truth- it would be a compromised Truth. So, don’t say anything. Your freedom lies in your such deep sureness, that you can relax in silence. When you are absolutely sure, then you need to prove no point, argue no more, and reach no where, then you just relax. That relaxation is total freedom, that sureness is total freedom, that silence is total freedom.
The influences upon you convinced you that you need liberation. There are many shops that are selling liberation, they are selling you something that you already have, that can never be sold, or obtained from outside. Anybody who ever tells you that he can help you be liberated, can not be your friend. He is either ignorant or mischievous. Either he does not know the “F” of freedom, or he does not know the “F” of freedom. The one who is free will never sell freedom to others. To sell freedom is to sell slavery.
Since childhood w e have been fed with stories of the liberated ones and how they went about obtaining the liberation. That is why we never question the fundamental assumption. All you asked was whether this process is instantaneous or gradual. So, your question was limited to these two options – whether liberation is gradual or instantaneous. You did not ask whether there can be any liberation at all? No, there can be no achievement, because you are already full, what more will you achieve. At most you need to drop, not achieve.
That which you name as spiritual attainment is about losing and dropping, not attaining. And what is to be dropped? This idea of liberation, is to be dropped. Drop the search, drop your fascination with liberation. We are like lunatics, who in their living room are clamouring and weeping and beating up their chests, believing that they are lost in some jungle. They just need to simply relax to find that they are already in the security and warmth of their ancient home.
It is possible to dream in a nightmare that you are somewhere on Jupiter, to dream that you are falling from some hundred storey building. Even as you lie comfortably on your bed you can easily imagine that you are falling. Have The search for liberation is one such nightmare. The liberated one is trying to be liberated. The relaxed one is experiencing a fall. Just wake up, and stop believing in those stories and methods.
Nobody ever got liberated. Enlightenment is the most fundamental myth. You are born enlightened, and then you are made to forget that, you are made to believe that you need enlightenment.
There is this story. You obviously want to hear to the story (everyone laughs..)
There was this man, probably a brahmin, who was passing through a jungle with his calf; calf of a cow. And there were some thieves. The first one comes to the brahmin and says “Good morning Sir, you look fresh as ever, but why are you carrying this dog with you?” The brahmin says “Are you drunk right in the morning? Don’t you see it is a calf of the sacred cow?” The man says “Sir, what are you talking? I respect you, but you are talking nonsense. And it is only in your interest that I am saying, that you must not be seen with a dog, what will the others think if they see you like this?” Dogs are considered impure.
Brahmin says, “you go away, you are certainly drunk. I will not listen to you.” SO he escapes him and then goes on for some distance, half an hour or so, and then another one of those thugs comes and greets the brahmin, “Wonderful Sir, you have already completed half of your journey, there is always a shine of dignity on your face, the moment I look at you I am reminded of the sacred.” The brahmin says, “Of course, it is my intelligence that shines on my face.” The thug then says,
“ But why are you carrying this dog with you?” He says, “Did you call this a dog?” Thug replies, “Of course it is a dog, see, it is wagging its tail.” “Did it wag its tail? Are you drunk” the brahmin asks. “Sir, how can I be drunk? I just called you intelligent. I just said that I see a sacred light on your face. Don’t you see that I can see?” Thug continues “If I can see all that correctly, can’t I also see correctly that this is a dog?” Now the brahmin is a little confounded, he praised me so, he could see the Truth, and if he could see the Truth then he must also be seeing the truth in this animal’s case.
But somehow he rescues himself and moves ahead. Then the third thug comes, and now the brahmin wants to totally avoid anybody. The Thug says, “Sir, you look handsome.” Brahmin says “ Yes, of course.” Thug continues, “Sir, look at the tirelessness in your legs, you have covered the entire jungle and still you are not fatigued. But sir, why are you carrying this dog with you?” Brahmin says “You know, he was a little sick so I am taking him to a Vet and then I will release him, take a dip in holy Ganga to purify myself. You know scriptures say that even if it is an impure fellow, or an animal, you must give love to it, so I am just showing my love towards him.”
Thug says, “Yes, that’s true, but why don’t you let others serve this dog, and you yourself stand for piousness and sacredness.” Brahmin says, ‘ well that is a good idea, but right now I thought I will do the service myself.” Brahmin sneaks away and proceeds ahead in the Jungle. And as he is approaching the end of the jungle, another one approaches him from far and the Brahmin says, “ You know it is not my Dog at all, it has been chasing me through the jungle, can you please take him away, he has given me hell.” Thug says, “Well if that is what you want, I will take it away.” And the Dog is taken away.
We are convinced that our innocence is gullibility. We are convinced by the thugs around us that our intelligence is stupidity. It is tragic when you see how we are convinced that we are in bondage. Since childhood, we have met only those who themselves have been duped by thugs, who themselves believe that they have lost their freedom (our parents, teachers, friends) and they have told us that we are unfree, and because so many have been consistently telling us, we have fallen a prey to their propaganda.
It is just propaganda, even if 100 people say that the calf is a dog, the calf remains a calf. Even if all the scriptures, and Gurus, and family members, and religions and the universe say that you are in chains, yet you remain free. Do not heed to them. Maintain that sureness, that faith within, remain proximate to the Truth. Never fall into suspicion, and even if you experience suspicion, remain certain in the middle of suspicion.
Take this as the mantra : the calf is a calf.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Enlightenment is the most fundamental myth. The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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