There was a holy man who lived in a state of ecstasy, but was regarded by everyone as insane. One day, having begged for food in the village, he sat by the roadside and began to eat when dog came up and looked at him hungrily. The holy man then began to feed the dog; he himself would take a morsel, and then give a morsel to the dog as though he and the dog were old friends. Soon crowd gathered around the two of them to watch this extraordinary site.
One of the men in the crowd jeered at the holy man. He said to the others, “what can you expect from someone so crazy that he is not able to distinguish between a human being and a dog?”
The holy man replied, “Why do you laugh? Do you see Vishnu seated with Vishnu? Vishnu is being fed and Vishnu is doing the feeding. So why do you laugh, oh Vishnu?”
Question: Why can’t we see Vishnu?
Acharya Prashant: Because he is not to be seen. The story says, “Vishnu is feeding Vishnu, and Vishnu is watching. This is a gross representation. This is just very overt symbolism. Vishnu here stands for the essence. Vishnu here stands for the centre. You could call it—the Atma, the soul, the source, anything.
With Vishnu at the centre you are free to look at the world as it is. With Vishnu at the centre you get the fearlessness, the courage, the directness to not to load your prejudices, biases, and fears upon what you see with your eyes, and what you sense with your entire mental apparatus. What does this mean? This means that you do not need to label anything as Vishnu. Forget about labelling everything as Vishnu; you do not need to label anything as Vishnu. The wall is a wall, not Vishnu. The chair is a chair, not Vishnu; a boy is a boy; a woman is a woman; the earth is the earth; the sky is the sky; and there is no need to call them Vishnu.
Where then is Vishnu? Vishnu is that which gives you the power to call a chair, a chair, a boat a boat, a man a man, a woman a woman; the sky the sky. Do you get this? As human beings you do not have any obligation to keep labelling everything as ‘one Vishnu’.
To be born human is to be born in diversity. To be born human is to necessarily see diversity. There is no need to suppress diversity, and force yourself, or train yourself to call everything as ‘one’. That would be insane. That’s not spirituality, that’s just insanity.
Do you get this?
You must be able to not only see differences, but actually celebrate differences. He is what he is, he is what he is (pointing at the listeners), there is no need to use an umbrella term, “Vishnu,” for anything or anybody. People are what they are, things are what they are, black is black, white is white, yellow is yellow. They are all different flowers in the jungle. Sometimes they are trees, plants, the grass. Sometimes they are just leaves of the same tree. Vishnu then is the earth from which all the diversity in the jungle arises.
For all the diversity that the jungle has, the earth is the same. Not only is the diversity rooted in earth, it is actually the earth that rises to take the form and shape of all diversity. Is that not so? The tree is nothing but the earth rising to take a certain colour, form, and name. Do you get this?
So let the mango tree be the mango tree, the neem tree the neem tree, the peepal tree the peepal tree – let them be what they are. In spite of being what they are, in spite of apparently being different, yet they have essentially something in common, and that subtle commonality is Vishnu. Do you get this? Whenever you will see with your eyes, you will only see mango tree. It will be very difficult to visualise the earth in a luscious mango fruit. Very difficult to do that, even though it is nothing, but the earth that has taken this sweet and colourful form. And there is no need, just call the mango as mango
When you are able to call the mango as mango, and nothing else, there is no need for projection, no need for generalization, no need for identification, and then it means that you are seated at your centre which is Vishnu. When you are seated in the Truth, then you can call a fact a fact. I repeat this, when you are seated in the Truth only then can you live in facts. When you are seated in Vishnu, then you can look at all diversity as diversity. Then you do not need to say that two and three are the same. No, two and three are not the same.
Two is two and three is three. May be their ground is the same, but that is very different from saying that two and three are the same. And a great mistake happens when in the name of spirituality you start suppressing differences, or you start acting as if you do not realise differences. You must realise differences. In fact, the more deeply you are seated in oneness, the more accurately you will be able to discern differences. Are you getting this?
For too long and for too many there has been this impression that the man of Truth sees no differences in the world. It is absolutely bogus. The man of Truth sees even the faintest differences in the world. And that is why his life is a celebration. That is why he doesn’t get bored, because for him continuously there is movement, a dance. If there is no difference, where is the question of movement, and dance? There is nothing called as static dance. Dance means dynamism, movement, differences. Do you get this?
And that is wisdom, that is sharpness, that is intelligence—to be able to perceive differences. But you can perceive differences; you can perceive the many colours, moods, and swings of the mind, only if you are firstly seated in that which does not change. And that is Vishnu.
When you are seated in the unchangeable, then you can detect even the smallest change.
When you yourself are dithering, and shaking, and moving, then you will never know whether it is you who is moving, or it is the other, the world that is moving. For you to be able to surely say that there is movement first of all you must be immovable, otherwise there is just confusion. You do not know what is happening, what is movement, and life is movement, thought is movement, time is movement. We get confused with movement precisely because we too become movable; we do not remain affirmed in the immovable. That immovable is Vishnu.
Do not look for Vishnu with your open eyes. You will not find him anywhere. And if you start seeing Vishnu outside of you in the world, then you are hallucinating. There have been many such hallucinators who have taken the name of mystics and spiritual masters. They will say, “Oh! I see nothing, but Vishnu all around.” You need to consult an eye doctor. They will say, “Oh! I hear nothing, but the Naad.” You need to get your ears cleaned. The man of Truth does not need to resort to these antics.
His eyes are clear. And his eyes are purely and merely biological. He need not say that, “I am looking in that direction and I am able to see Krishna, or Ram, or Kali.” If you do that, then you are living not only living in facts, let alone the Truth. And India has suffered too long because of this tendency. There have been charlatans, frauds, cheats who conjure up images, who say that they are able to see things. And they have almost made it a cult to hallucinate. That is also one of the reasons why this place lagged behind in science, because science requires that you stare the fac,t in the eye.
You must be able to say that A is A, and B is B, one point one is one point one, and two point zero two is exactly two point zero two. If you start saying that A is Vishnu and B too is Vishnu, and hence A is B, then there can be no science. If you start saying that one and four are the same, because all is Vishnu, then there can be no mathematics. You must be able to very sharply perceive differences.
The real man thus lives at two integrate levels. At the level of the heart there is no difference, there is just Vishnu, and at the level of the mind, there are only differences. There is no attempt to suppress differences, or to roll them over into one. Do you get this?
So, it is great if you do not see Vishnu with your eyes. He is not to be seen with your eyes. He is the eye that sees. He is not an object that you can capture with the eye; he is the eye that sees. He sits behind the eye. He projects everything that the eye sees. How will the eye able to figure him out? But, there have been just too many people who have seen Vishnu. Kindly be couscous of them.
Vishnu is not there, Vishnu is here (pointing at the heart). Here there is just oneness, and outside there is just diversity, and that diversity is the dance of Vishnu. Respect that diversity. If you cannot respect that diversity, if you say, “No, no. diversities are fake, because the supreme Truth is one, then you do not know the supreme Truth. The supreme Truth might be one, but it always presents itself as…?
AP: Many. So, if you want to respect that one, then you must be firstly able to respect the many. Those who cannot respect the differences, those who cannot respect this world, how will they respect the Truth, or God? The world itself is Godliness. You want to shun the world; you want to renunciate, is it not an insult to the God contained in all this Godliness? If the creator is the creation, and you are full of contempt towards the creation, then aren’t you contemptuous towards the creator as well? And remember that the creation is diverse. When you do not acknowledge that diversity, when you make a sweeping statement like saying, “Oh! All is Vishnu,” then you are being contemptuous towards the creation.
So, never say, “all is Vishnu.” All is not Vishnu. All is what all is. Respect things for what they are, and in this respect lies Vishnu. Be sensitive, open, and present to all the different flavours and the little diversities of life. Do not just brush anything away. Do not say that there is something about the world that is abhorable. The world in its totality is what you are. If you disrespect the world, you are disrespecting yourself. If you disrespect the manifestation, you are disrespecting the essence as well. And I repeat that the manifestation is diverse. To not to acknowledge diversity is to disrespect the manifestation.
If you start saying that, “All is Vishnu,” how will you live? How will you act? How exactly? Because when you say, “All is Vishnu,” you are conjuring up an image. Vishnu for us is something, somebody to be revered and worshiped. Will you step on Vishnu? If all is Vishnu, then the earth too is Vishnu. How will you step on the Earth? How will you defecate? Tell me. Can you go and empty your bowels on Vishnu? No, you can’t. Obviously you can’t. But if all is Vishnu, then the earth too is Vishnu, and the commode too is Vishnu. How will you unburden your stomach? How? No. Vishnu is the unthinkable, inexpressible essence. That essence must not be given a gross name.
When you are firmly seated in Vishnu — I repeat that — then you get the courage to deal with the world as it is without experiencing a compulsion to misrepresent, or re-represent things, without feeling a compulsion to hide the nature of things, to cover the things with a respectable or spiritual veneer. Then you don’t experience any such compulsion. Then you don’t feel an artificial need to display respect to this and that.
“This and that needs to be treated on its own merit. And Vishnu here has given me the licence, and authority to treat everything as per its merit. Now, I need not be unnecessarily reverent. Now, I can heal, and I can also kill.” But if all is Vishnu, how can you kill?
“Now, I can stop, and I can also go beyond. Now, I can start, and also I can stop. Now, I have the whole freedom to operate in an unhindered way. Now, if somebody attracts me, I do have the freedom to retaliate in self-defence, but if he is Vishnu, and the gun to, and the bullet too is Vishnu, how can I dodge Vishnu? The bullet is coming, and Vishnu himself is coming to penetrate my intestines. How can I dodge the bullet? I’ll have to be respectful, and welcoming. Please Vishnu, come and enter.” No, you do not need to do all these stupidities. When the bullet comes towards you, you must dodge it.
Vishnu is the one who gives you the alertness to dodge the bullet. Vishnu is the one who gives you the discretion to spontaneously know what is the right action in a given moment is. That is Vishnu. Stop calling the gross bullet, and the elephant, and this, and that as Vishnu. Yes? And even if you call them as Vishnu, then do not call them as Vishnu with a certain image of Vishnu in mind.
If you must be very exact, very prude, then you’ll say, “No, I need to call the leaf, and the elephant, and the bullet, and the door all as Vishnu.” Go ahead. Please do that. But then your Vishnu must be nothing, because the real Vishnu cannot be thought of, cannot be imagined, cannot be talked of. So, call then everything as Vishnu, but then that Vishnu must be meaningless. It must not stand for anything.
L: It all seems mixed up. Advait says, “There is no two.” We are saying there are many. The many have to be respected the way they are. The non-dualistic philosophy, the Vedanta is about, “Not two.” So, I am not able to comprehend.
AP: “Not two,” also does not mean ‘one’. When you are saying, “All is Vishnu.” You are saying, “Not two.” But you are clinging to ‘one’. “Not two” means stop counting. “Not two” means live in stuff as it is. “Not two,” means a total emptiness, a total non-interference of the mind, the counting apparatus.
You see, what would duality mean? Duality would mean, in daily life situation, that outside of you lies the Truth. Right? What does non duality mean then? Does non-duality mean that Truth lies inside of you? If that be non-duality, then non-duality is just the dualistic counter part of duality. Duality says, “Truth is outside of you.” Non-duality says, “Truth is inside of you.” Then how is non-duality fundamentally any different from duality?
Non-duality means—stop bothering about the Truth.
It is neither inside nor outside, stop bothering about Vishnu. Just stop bothering, and live life as it is. He is neither inside nor outside. If you think about him, you are being contemptuous. You are wasting your time. Non-duality essentially means that Truth cannot be an object of consideration at all. The daily life must be totally devoid of so called ‘spiritual concerns’. Non-duality means, the tree is tree, the earth is earth, the man is man, the woman is woman. Where is the Truth? Why must that question arise? Who bothers?
Non-duality means—let thought take a break, because all thought is dualistic. Non-duality means—do not talk about Vishnu at all. In talking about Vishnu, you are creating a Truth outside of yourself.
Do you get this?
Non-duality and duality are non opposites. They are not comparables at all. In fact anything that you say about non-duality—makes it dualistic. So, whenever you will talk of non duality, you would essentially be reducing non-duality to duality. Non-duality is not a philosophy. Non-duality is not a thought. Non-duality is a cessation of all that you can say in dualistic terms. And whatever you say is going to be dualistic. So, non-duality is simply a cessation of the self.
Are you getting this? By creating images of non-duality, we are turning non-duality to duality. By talking so much about Vishnu, we pretend as if we have lost Vishnu. What is Vishnu? Nothing, but the non-dualistic essence. That is Vishnu. By worshipping Vishnu, do you see that you are inviting duality? Do you see that? In non-duality there can be nothing called worship, because worship means “I am worshiping somebody else.” Whom to worship? To whom are you paying your obedience?
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
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