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Acharya Prashant: Among the Indian saints, in the whole galaxy of the saints of the World, Kabir is delightfully special. It is said that he was born a Hindu, but because he was born of a widow, so out of social shame the mother went and kept the baby Kabir by the side of Ganga in Varanasi. A Muslim couple, Neeru and Neema, found the baby by the side of the river and picked him up, raised him. They initiated him into their family profession, which was weaving. Kabir, thus grew up in a Muslim family. Folklore says, he did not study much. He was fortunate to have a Guru, and was initiated by the Guru.
All his life, he lived simply as a weaver. The whole day he would weave, in the evening he would sell his stuff, and even as he would keep weaving, he would keep talking to people. He wrote nothing. All that we have as Kabir’s works, were actually collected after him. In fact it is said that he was illiterate. That may not be true. But what is certain is that he himself was never interested in writing. Kabir was there in the Varanasi of 14th century India, a hotbed of both Hindu and Muslim orthodoxy. And his courage and genius, lies in the fact that he unabashedly attacked both Hindu and Muslim traditions.
Kabir was a victim of malicious propaganda, counter attack, but he stuck to his guns, kept saying what he wanted to say. He dismissed all kinds of religious bigotries, dogmas, superstitions, beliefs, even those that are considered sacred even to this day. If you will go to Kabir you will meet both, a sharp sword that cuts through our prejudices, and a loving heart that embraces you. That is why it is difficult to categorize Kabir, neither can you call him belonging to the Bhakti tradition, nor to the tradition of Gyaan. He belongs to no tradition. He was unique, authentic and original in himself.
He lived in Varanasi, and Hindus have this tradition of going to Varanasi at the time of their death. It is said that if you die by the Ganga, then you receive salvation. And there is another place called Maghar, where if you die, it is said you land up in hell. You know what Kabir did, all his life he lived in Varanasi and at the time of his death, he made it a point to go to Maghar. Even his last breath was a taunt on the way we live.
He said if the Ganga is to give me salvation, then what role does the Truth have? If the city Kashi, Varanasi is to give me salvation, then what would Ram do?
‘Jo Kabira Kashi marai, to Ramhin kaun nihoraa’
(If I have to use Kashi for salvation then why was I devoted to Truth all my life)
That kind of a man, Kabir.
Poem by Kabir (translation in English)
People are often misled by their mind,
If by courting death at kashi, one can gain his salvation,
why should he at all pray for God’s mercy?
Then I was like this, now I am what I am.
This is how people feel boastful on Earth under influence of pride and greed.
Whoever is firm in loving devotion to god, and gains his preceptor’s (Guru’s) grace and keeps company of true saints, nothing is beyond him to achieve.
Says Kabir, listen O wise men, do not be misled by the mind,
For as kashi, so Maghar both are equally infructuous,
only love, devotion to God at heart does his blessings impart.
AP: It says, when you are in the Truth then all your actions are right, but by following predetermined actions you will not get to the Truth. With the Truth in your heart, it does not matter where you live and where you die. But if you live and die in particular places, or go to certain places of pilgrimage, or you perform certain actions with the body, kindly do not think that they will give you peace or Truth. Peace, Truth, God are direct, they simply come by devotion, by surrender. It is those who do not want to surrender, try all kinds of external tricks.
They say, “I will get this and get the truth, I will go there and get the Truth, I will read this and get the Truth.”
First of all, you get the Truth and then you do this or that.
Truth is the first step, not the last. Truth is the beginning, not the end. You begin in Truth, then all the journey is also in truth, and so is the end.
Here is a strong message for those, who believe in the capacity of Mind and its actions to get you that which you so really want. We all really deeply want something. The barrier is that we think that, that which we want will come to us through our planning, our cleverness, through our actions. Whatever you will do to get the Truth, will be the barrier. We are unable to get that because we are trying so hard. Just stop doing whatever you think is necessary to reach there, the truth is immense, you cannot size it up.
Using one’s own intellect one can never determine what needs to be done. When this is seen, it is called surrender. Surrender is nothing but a clear realization of impotency of our ways. Now I clearly see that it is beyond me. It won’t happen as per my planning, my intellect, my reasons, my ways. When you are in that place, then the real action happens through you.
L1: Don’t you need effort to realize this?
AP: The right effort will not happen through you. Your effort is small, misguided and limited, it gets exhausted so easily. It is only when you are committed to that one right thing, that you can have limitless effort. And that does not even look like effort, that is just having fun. Kids are playing and spending so much energy, do they call it an effort?
Whatever you will do as someone who wants the Truth, will ensure that you remain someone who wants the Truth – which implies I do not have the Truth. When you begin with a false premise, you cannot come to the right place. To reach the Truth, you have to begin in Truth and travel in Truth. The false cannot lead you to the true. Only the true leads you to true. And that is surrender.
The ego says, No, the false can lead me to the true. You can keep trying. Just honestly ask yourself, has it helped?
L1: But if you let go of all effort, you get lost…
AP: Do you know of that state where you have let go of that center from which the ego-centric effort comes. Have you known that state?
And if you have not known that state then please do not imagine it. This is a very well-known trick of the ego to block right action – imagine what will happen if I do this, and imagine as per one’s own intellect. And imagine that scenario to be horrible and immediately construct an argument saying – If I drop all effort, then the results can be bad. How do you know?
You are here, you have never been there, but sitting over here you are imagining horrible picture about that place, and using that imagination to block your movement to that place. All of this ensures that you remain here not there
The man who is here, is not the same man who would reach there, how do you know what that man will like and dislike? What do you know about that man? That man is not you. That which is a horror to you right now, may become a delight to that man. But sitting here, as this man, you want to imagine about that. And you have a great belief that your imagination can tell you the truth. And we don’t even see through this mental game.
Whatever you dislike right now may become very likeable and which is a horror to you right now will become delight for you.
One should not bother himself with Truth at all, one should bother himself only with Maya. Let Maya be your consideration. She is all prepared to take you there.
L2: What do you think of psychedelics?
AP: We are already so drunk, you want to be more drunk?
L3: About Maya, it’s not that the world does not exist, it’s just that it’s not what you think it to be. What do you think about it?
AP: A very simple verse explains it
‘Ya ma, sa, maya’
That which is not, is Maya. Maya is that which is not, yet appears to be. You hope of finding happiness in something, but all you get is destitution, you thought there was happiness in that but you didn’t get it that is Maya. That which does not exist, but appears like existing is called Maya.
L4: So, one has to be still for finding Truth?
AP: The stillness, is the Truth, you won’t find the Truth after you are still. The stillness, is the Truth. In stillness, you are already in the Truth, so what’s left to find? Any movement towards the Truth, disturbs that stillness. Just when you think that you are moving towards the Truth, you are actually moving away from the Truth. It is the cessation of all movement that is the Truth.
There can be nothing called the journey towards Truth. All journeys will take you away from the Truth. Truth is the cessation of the journey, not a continuation.
Nothing in the world will take you to God – no city, no river, no practice, no knowledge, no effort.
L5: So we just have to be grateful?
AP: But that gratitude is not something of saying, it is a very silent gratitude. It shows in the way you live. When you are in gratitude, by definition you mean that you are happy that you received. So, in gratitude you should not be asking for more. Which means gratitude expresses itself as, the absence of desire and ambition. If I have already received why would I ask for more? Gratitude is not about saying thank you, it’s about not wanting any more. To Not to want any more is a sure sign of contentment, and that is gratitude. Gratitude is something that you live by. It must show up in your actions. It must show in the quality of your mind. It is not a particular way of talking and speaking, it’s not a smile, it’s not a prayer, it’s in your daily life.
L5: So, how would you define gratitude?
AP: Nothing, it’s alright, that’s it. Gratitude means it’s alright as it is, nothing needs to be corrected or improved.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Saint Kabir: Gratitude and Surrender
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