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Question: Why do I feel lost?
Acharya Prashant: Because, you are asking this question.
We ‘think’ that we are lost, equally, we ‘think’ that we are not lost. The same place from where the thought, the perception of being lost, or not lost arises, that place is the same place from where this question arises.
There sits someone who firstly, thinks himself to be so knowledgeable that he can pass a judgement upon his situation. He thinks that he knows who he is and what is his situation is, and his location. He declares, announces, sometimes he says, “I am fine”, sometimes he says, “I am not fine”, sometimes he says “I am lost”, sometimes he says “I am home.” Are any of these judgments or questions or announcements valid, in absence of mental activity?
You woke up this morning, before waking up into this particular state of consciousness, were you asking this question? Anybody here who asks in his or her sleep, what is meant by being lost, how does one reach home? Are any of these questions relevant then? Is even the deepest spiritual inquiry relevant in a moment of relaxation?
When you are really alright, do you bother yourself with these questions?
Let me invert the whole thing.
We say that we are not lost, hence we are asking what is meant by not being lost, or we are lost, hence we are asking why we are lost.
Let me assert, that we feel lost because we ask, the way to home. It is not the situation that comes first or gives birth to the question. Rather, it is the question that gives birth to an assumed situation.
By asking a question, which is based on a supposition, I am validating the supposition.
It is like asking, were you ill again yesterday?
Do you see the assumption explicit in the question? What is the assumption?
L1: That you are someone who often falls ill.
AP: So, you have given yourself an identity. So, it is in fact an assertion, rather than a question. Now when you ask, how do I reach home? Do you see the direct assumption contained in the question? I have to reach home, I am lost.
Equally, when you say that I am home, do you see an assumption contained here? There is something called ‘home’, and something called ‘me’, who can sometimes stray away from home.
Do you see that our questions are not really questions at all, they are rather declarative judgements, but we ask as if we want to know? We do not ask because we want to know, we ask because we want to display that we already know.
It is like asking someone, “Why are you so foolish?” Do you want to know or are you asserting that you know? Is it a question of simple innocent enquiry?
The ego pretends that it knows, it must feel that it knows, and then to bolster that sense of being knowledgeable, it asks something. Now, that ‘something’, does not mean anything. In fact if that question is answered, what would that answer mean? It would just be a validation of the hidden assumption in your question.
Similarly, if you ask me, “Why am I lost? Why have I come thus far from home?” If I answer anything, I will be buying your argument. I don’t want to buy your argument, I simply don’t subscribe to any viewpoint that you have about yourself. And my advice is neither do you need to subscribe to your own opinions. If there is one thing that a man should be wary of, it is his own opinions, especially about himself.
Are you lost? You seriously think, you are lost? What makes you feel that you are lost? Or is it so, that the World does not appeal to you because you already feel that you are lost. Are we really able to look at the cause as the cause and effect as the effect?
An established doctor comes to you and looks at you, says, mate, all you have is 3 months more. And now you come out and look at the World, how would that World appear to you? World now has lost all its charm and appeal. Now what comes first, your assumption about yourself, your self-concept or the way the world appears to you?
If we can get rid of what we think ourselves to be, would we still be left with most of that which bothers us?
Are all our problems, not mostly thoughts? Especially problems that relate to self-concept, one’s perception of the World. Does it not happen that we relate the happenings, as we see them in our particular modes of consciousness, to a thought about description of who we are? The world says we are fine, and we take it in so deeply, that we become ourselves the description.
Some Guru, some scripture, tells us that the great goal of life is God realization or liberation or enlightenment. And we take it in so deeply that our present situation starts appearing horrible to us. We are told that unless we have realized God, met God, Life is futile and I haven’t realized or met god, so my Life is futile.
Now is Life futile, did that come first, or did your assumption come first?
L2: Assumption. I try to do something and wait for something to happen, but it never happens, and then I reason out things that could have gone wrong to explain why it did not happen.
AP: Why must something happen?
Is the Universe obliged to follow your principles and expectations?
L3: It does
AP: If it does, it only does so to severely disappoint you later. And it is better that the disillusionment comes early. With every instance where you feel that Universe has subscribed to your expectations you are only raising yourself higher and higher to a point from where the fall would hurt more and more. If it has ever happened that the facts have coincided with your expectations, it is just a coincidence. Do not think that the Universe has some especially soft corner for you.
Things are what they are, just what they are. Things become suffering, only when you think them to be different from what they are. They will remain what they are, you can keep crying or beating your chest.
L4: If it is all imaginary, then why does Mind conjure it up?
AP: Mind can conjure of anything. Mind is very powerful in terms of imagining in the same dimension. The Mind can never be creative, but it can always be very imaginative.
Coming to the end of imagination is creativity.
Now that is something beyond the Mind. But to continue with the patterns that the Mind has known all along, is so easy for the Mind.
Do you see how man comes to the whole idea of enlightenment? Do you see how man raises God, as some sort of an perfect image of himself. I am the one who has so many deficiencies that I perceive when benchmarked against some expectations.
I wanted to do something, I had only two hands, so let me conjure a God who has eight hands. Now his power to do is many fold. I wanted to reach somewhere I could not, my legs are limited, so let me dream up a God who flies with the power of imagination, who is omnipotent, omnipresent. Everything that I cannot do, let me vest those powers in an imaginary Godhead. It is just imagination in the same dimension.
Don’t we see that our Gods are just inflated super images of ourselves? Don’t you see how kids are fond of superman like characters? Kids are fond of supermen, adults are fond of super Gods. So, first you dream up a God and then you make your Life miserable, saying that you are yet to meet that God. That God exists only in your imagination, that enlightenment exists only in your imagination. Things are what they are, the universe is as it is right now, still, perfect and complete. It has nowhere to go, no end, no goal to reach.
L4: Just like I imagine god, I also imagine distance from home.
AP: That home is God.
God is man’s highest imagination.
L4: Is it all just an assumption?
AP: Of course, if it is being assumed then it is an assumption, if it is being imagined then it is an imagination, if it is being thought of it is a thought. And our god is something that we ‘think’ of. Is it not so? We ‘think’ of liberation, of some final emancipation. We think of God. God does not occur to us in our moments of relaxation or sleep. God is an idea to us and it’s all quite funny. First of all, we come up with an idea of how perfection should be, and then we say I am not the way perfection looks, so there is something wrong with me.
Poet Nagarjuna said, man is like the painter who paints a wild sketch, a demon on the wall, then looks at that painting and becomes horrified. Similarly we sketch an imaginary perfection and then we look at it and start feeling inferior or deficient. As long as God remains a product of man’s imagination God will be man’s biggest and deepest suffering.
If it is God who redeems, it is the ‘idea’ of God that makes you suffer.
God is the highest freedom, the idea of God is the worst bondage.
L4: It is easily understandable that an ideal when put in the front of Mind, distances it from the real and then the struggle starts, now how do you convince the Mind?
AP: You can only convince the Mind that whatever it does, is foolish. And that too not in a violent way, what the Mind does is foolish in the same way as the acrobatics of a monkey, there is a certain cuteness about that. The mind is foolish in the same way as a little child is foolish, there is certain loveliness about it.
L5: What to do when universe has answered all your prayers and you don’t know what else to do?
AP: Then you should prepare for a great fall. Because your next prayer is about to go unanswered. The universe has nothing to do with your prayers. It’s about sunrise, and you pray that the sun must rise, and the sun rises, has your prayer been answered?
The universe has nothing to do with your prayers, it neither rejects them nor accepts them. You know what does it means to pray, it means I am dissatisfied. How can you be dissatisfied without having an ideal? Why should the universe conform to your ideals? Do you ever pray without dissatisfaction? And if you can pray without dissatisfaction then that prayer will be answered. That prayer is already answered because you are now not praying for anything, you are just praying. But we never pray that way, we only pray in the moments of fear or greed, or in moments of insecurity or gratification.
Your motionless, thoughtless, expectation-less silence is the only prayer possible, there is no other prayer. You verbalize it, and you lose it. When you are feeling alright with yourself, then that noiseless silence is the expression of your gratitude. You are silent because there is nothing to be noisy about. That is your thank you.
But if you name your noise as prayer, noise would still remain noise. And most of that which you call prayer is just noise. Our temples and our churches are very noisy places. People go there to express their desires.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Why do I feel lost? Why does nothing appeal?
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