“Do your duties in the world and also fix your mind on the Lotus feet of the Lord”
“You are like ‘Elder, the pumpkin cutter’. You are neither a man of the world nor a devotee of God”
~The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
Acharya Prashant: We are referring to a man. A man is, flesh and blood. And a man is consciousness. You could say that on one end of man’s consciousness, lies flesh and blood, and on the other end, lies real living, realization, understanding, ecstasy, love. And man is both, rolled into one. On the end where man is flesh and blood, there is a primitive spell of conditioning. At the end, where man is realization and understanding, there is complete freedom – Freedom from conditioning and Freedom Absolute.
Man will always think and feel that he is one of these two ends and the other end will be a function of what he thinks and feels about himself. For example, if you deeply feel that you are flesh and blood, then you would still experience a void in your life. A general sense of dissatisfaction will be there. There would be something, that the mind would ask for, would chase. This, that the mind would ask for, this that the mind would chase, would be the God of this flesh and blood man. But because he has already thought of himself as flesh and blood, so this God too will be just flesh and blood. And sometimes, this, that he is chasing, he won’t even call it God.
He might be chasing money, then money is his God, he might be chasing a woman, then the woman is his deity. Given what you think of yourself, the other end of what you are takes form.
So, we just talked about – How the worldly man operates. The worldly man, thinks of himself, as belonging to the world. And because his fundamental assumption is that he belongs to the world, so his God also belongs to the world. He may claim that he is talking of, thinking of, or worshipping some transcendental God. But, the fact will always remain that a man of flesh and blood, who identifies himself with the flesh, with the material, will always worship a material God – A God of flesh and blood.
His God would be a worldly God. His God would always be related to worldly desires. Now, this man has lost on both counts. First of all, his fundamental assumption about himself was wrong, was just an assumption. And secondly, his highest search will never fructify, will never really give him contentment, because he is aiming in the wrong dimension. He thinks of himself as belonging to the world, and he will keep searching for his God in the world.
This is how, Ramakrishna is saying, that you get nothing, neither the world nor God. About the world, you are ignorant. You do not know who you are, so, you make an assumption about yourself and your place in the world, which is just ignorance. And then you really do not feel at home in the world, because all the time, some feeling of incompleteness keeps haunting you, so you make goals and targets. You create a dream-like vision, of a great satisfaction of your desires and you call this vision as God. You lose out on both. Your home will remain a place of discord and strife, and your temples will have no purity or sanctity either. The worldly man misses out on both – On the home and on the temple, on the world and on the beyond.
Do not forget why he misses out on both. Because he starts with the assumption that he is flesh and blood. He says, “I want to have spiritual experiences.” He says, “I want to know God. “And when he says this, notice his assumption – He is saying, “I am a material being that wants to have a spiritual experience. I am a creature, of the earth, that wants to taste the skies.” With this assumption, he suffers and suffers badly and usually does not even realize why he is suffering.
And then there is the wise man. He does not start off by saying that I am a person belonging to this world. He does not start off with this premise. He does not start off with any premise. He starts off with a clean silence, which is also called the Self. So, he says, “I am the Self, now let me see what this world this.” Notice the difference in approach. The first one is saying, “I am a worldly being, now I want Truth and silence.” Is that not what we and people around us, keep saying? This is what the worldly man says, “I am a householder, I am a creature of flesh and blood, now may I have God? Now may I have Truth? Now may I have Love and Silence? Now may I have experience of Self?? That is how most of us start.
And as we said, the starting itself is flawed. The fundamental assumption is wrong.
On the contrary, there is the wise man, he starts off with a clean emptiness. He does not feel under any pressure to declare that he is any of the identities given to him. He does not say, “I am the material, now let me experience the spiritual.” In fact, he might just say that I am spiritual, now let me understand the material. I am the final Silence, now let me see what this noise is all about. I am the Vast and the Unlimited, now let me see what all these limited phenomena is all about.
Now, remember, these are not statements to be made in language. When you want to declare, “I am Silence”, obviously, you would not say that by creating a lot of noise. Silence cannot be expressed through words. So, the spiritual man does not go about saying that he is the Self, in the same way as the worldly man would go about saying that he is the body, or father or the son or the householder. In language, in words, you can surely declare that you are a 40-year-old man. But if you declare in language, in words, that you are a pure clean emptiness, then you are making a mockery of what you are saying.
So, this man, when he declares, when he starts off, by saying that I am a spiritual being, does not really say that. His realization is sufficient. He realizes that he already belongs to the beyond. He realizes that he is already in his home. And sitting comfortably in that realization, now he looks at the world. So, what comes first for him? The Beyond, which is his home, his real identity. What comes first for the worldly man? The world, the flesh, and blood. We said, when you start off with flesh and blood, you suffer in flesh and blood, and you also never get that which flesh and blood demands.
Every creature of flesh and blood is desperate for relief. When you think that you are flesh and blood, first of all, you are mistaken, secondly, you suffer, because to say that I belong to the world is to take on all the characteristics of the world. To say that I belong to the world is to say, death will approach and whatever is there is bound to be taken away. That destiny will rule. So, flesh and blood, is suffering. And the God that comes to the mind of a creature of flesh and blood will be a false God, because, to flesh and blood, only flesh and blood can be God. He may give it a different and fancy and a decorated name, but it would ultimately be just flesh and blood disguised as a concept of God.
Now, you are starting from the wrong end of your being.
We said, ‘Man is two ends’. The mistake that we make, is that we start off with the wrong end. We said, “On one hand man is flesh and blood, and on other hand man is of the beyond. The mistake that the worldly man makes is that he starts with the wrong end. He starts with the world, he starts by assuming himself to be of the world and then wants to proceed to the other end. He fails. He fails miserably. He loses out on both. In the world, he suffers and God, he gets not. He suffers on both counts.
And then we talked of the wise man. He starts from the other end. He says, “I am what I really am. I am the Silent Self.” And when he knows of himself as the Silent Self, it is very easy to understand the world. Only when you are Silent can you understand sounds around you. Only when you are not dreaming within can you make sense of all the sites around you. With no dreams and no noise within, the world simply reveals all its secrets.
The ears hear directly and are able to listen to the Truth of whatever is being heard. So, starting with God, the world does not remain a mystery. Starting with the world, both the world and God will remain a mystery.
When you start off at the right point, everything else becomes right. When you start with Truth, then the entire journey is of Truth. And starting with falseness, kindly do not assume that you can ever reach the Truth.
When your very basic assumption is that you are a material body, how will you ever know that which is non-dualistic, that which is beyond senses?
The seeker must be free of such assumptions about himself. There must be a pure, clear emptiness, from where he must proceed. Remember when I said the seeker must be free of all assumptions, that also includes the assumption that ‘I am Truth’ or ‘I am God’. Because these two can become deeply worldly assumptions.
Man’s imagination is so wicked, that it tries to take even the Truth in its fold. Truth is not an assumption. Truth is just clear emptiness. Truth is silence.
Start off with that Silence, and you will know the world. Knowing the world, you live joyfully as flesh and blood. When you know the world, the world is no more a misery and a frustration. When you know the world, then the world becomes a plaything. When you know the world, you rule the world. Now you cannot be enslaved by the world.
So, the wise man wins on both counts. He starts off, with Joy of the within, with Joy of the beginning, and he keeps enjoying the bliss of the world. For him, the world is not really a nightmare, a frustration.
The worldly man, loses both ways, the wise man, wins both ways. The worldly man gets neither the world nor God. The wise man starts off with God and gets the world as well. Just as noise will never know silence, similarly flesh and blood will never know Truth. To know silence, you have to be silent. To know the Truth, you, first of all, have to stop assuming that whatever you feel about yourself, is real. Till the time you hold a belief in your experiences, you will never know the Truth. All your experiences are body driven. All your experiences are sense driven and mind driven. That is the fundamental flaw of the worldly man. He believes that his experiences are real. He believes that whatever is being shown to him by his senses, by the body is the Truth.
Do not start from there.
Act more intelligently. Your inquiry should be deeper. You should not just ask, “What is it that my eyes are seeing?” Rather you should ask, “How is it, that the eyes see?” These two are very different questions.
Look at the impossibility, of the situation of the worldly man. He says, “I am the worldly man, I am a householder, I am a father and a husband, now redeem me.” This is an impossible demand. If you are a householder, then you are a householder. Full stop. What is the possibility of redemption? You have already declared who you are. But that’s the whole urge of the worldly man.
L: When we are growing up, we are told that look, you are getting bigger. So, everything around us is telling me that I am flesh and blood. Now at 23, I come to know that this is very wrong, that I am trying to search, with an assumption that I am flesh and blood. Now if I say that I am the self, now that is an assumption…
AP: Bring all the flesh of the world, keep it here, and ask it to understand what I am saying. How can you make this foolish assumption in the first place? Is it flesh and blood that is listening to me? Bring all the flesh that you can, and ask it to understand what I am saying.
You are saying, “You have been conditioned to believe.” Is it conditioning? Or is it just your dreamlike, inebriated, hypnotized state? Don’t you see this obvious fact? Does flesh understand? Does blood love? But the worldly man overlooks these obvious facts. Nothing in the world, nothing at all, can help you understand, what is being said right now. Because the world is material. And what is happening in your heart right now, can simply not happen to the material.
L: It seems to me, that when he starts off, he says, I am assuming that I am a worldly man and he is writing his observations as a worldly man. And then he comes to know that I was assuming it wrongly.
AP: With an identity, you can never observe. An identity just keeps hearing its own echoes. It never is able to observe. A mirror observes observation is like reflection. A mirror has nothing of its own. So, it can purely reflect. But, with an identity, how will you observe? If you already are assuming, something about yourself, then everything that you will see in the world around you, will just confirm your assumption about your identity.
Your observations in the world, will never, never bring you to the Truth. Forget about the Truth, your observations will not even reveal the facts to you, if you do not start off with a clear mind.
I do not know who said it, but he said it beautifully, “We are not material beings, having spiritual experiences. We are spiritual beings having material experiences.”
That sums it up. You are both. The difference lies in seeing what you fundamentally are, what is the core and what is the gloss, what is the Truth and what is the manifestation of the Truth. You are both. But you must figure out, what you principally, primarily, fundamentally are.
You are not a Householder who can sometimes go to the temple. You must be a temple dweller, who acts as the householder also.
The worldly man says, “I live in a house and sometimes I go to the temple. The wise man says, “I live in the temple and acts sometimes as if I am a householder.” The worldly man gets neither the house, his house is full of stress and strife. Neither does he get the temple, as his temple is fake. The wise man gets both – the temple and the house. His temple is his house, his house is his temple.
And that gives you a hint. Is your temple, away from your house? Then you would be suffering, both in the house and in the temple. Then both are fake.
And this is one of the deepest errors that mankind has made. It has made temples, churches, and mosques, as separate and special places. Till the time, there is a house, there is a workplace, there is a marketplace and there is a temple; there would be confusion, separation, frustration and suffering in the house, workplace and marketplace, and in the temple. These two must be one. For the wise man, these two cannot be separate. And when these two are one, the wise man says, “I belong to the temple, which is also my house. He will not say that my house is my temple.
He knows that, fundamentally, he is ‘of the temple’. He is acting as if he is in the house. Not that he does not take up house related work, he does. But if you will ask him what is your primary identity, he will say “I am a temple dweller. He will not say I am a householder.” Though, I am repeating, though his temple and house are one. He could have easily said, that I am a householder and my house is my temple. No. He would say, “I am a temple dweller and the temple is also my house.”
And this creates all the difference.
What is your primary identity?
“Who are you?” That question must be rightly answered.
Who are you?
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Sri Ramakrishna: Begin in Truth, and roam about in the world The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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