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Oh Friend, I love you.
Think this over, carefully.
If you are in Love, then why are you asleep?
If you have found him, give yourself to him, take him.
Why do you lose track of him again and again?
If you are about to fall, into heavy sleep anyway, why waste time smoothing the bed and arranging the pillows?
Kabir will tell you the truth.
This is what Love is like: Suppose you had to cut your head off, and give it to someone else, what difference would that make?
~ Guru Kabir Sahib
Question: Acharya Ji, in this poem I felt that Kabir Sahib is encouraging everyone to be in Devotion. Is that so? What does Kabir Sahib mean when he says, “Smoothing the bed and arranging the pillows”? Is he talking about the life of an ordinary, worldly man who falls asleep every now and then?
Acharya Prashant Ji: In Studio Kabir they sing, “Bin jaage na milenge sajan sakhi re (Without being awake, one will not meet the Beloved).” That’s what Kabir Sahib is again saying. “If you are in Love, then why are you asleep?”
About sleep he says, “If you are about to fall asleep anyway, why waste time smoothing the bed and arranging the pillows?”
Sleep of any kind, sleep at any place, sleep at any time means – distancing yourself from the Beloved.
Sleep implies the distance from the Beloved.
Now what kind of the lover are you, that you are preparing bed and pillow so that you slip into even deeper sleep?
What kind of lovelessness is this?
Please understand this.
In the old days, the students in India were required to keep a shikha (braid). You know what a ‘shikha‘ is? What is a ‘shikha‘? The entire head would be shaved-off and there would be a tail, a ponytail on the head. It’s called ‘shikha‘. So there are no hair, but at the top of the head there is a thick bunch of long hair, and that bunch of hair is tied together. That is a ‘shikha‘.
So the student was supposed to study his lessons, memorise them. And one of the things that would prevent him from going deeply into the lessons was – sleep. Sleep would bother him. So the student would sit with his back to the wall, and tie his shikha (braid) to a nail in the wall.
As long as he is sitting straight and doing the lessons, reading, meditation, memorising, things would be alright. But the moment sleep would take over and his head would swing downwards, the nail would pull the shikha, and he would wake up.
Those who are in love with Awakening create methods against sleep.
Don’t they? What does the student want? He wants Awakening. So he is creating a method whereby he would not fall asleep. It’s such a simple method, an effective one.
The head must stay still, and then it would not hurt. But the moment the head swings, and if it swings downwards, it would appear as if someone has just pulled you hair. And how hard would be the pull? As hard is your downward swing.
So the more deeply you are asleep, the more unconscious you have become, the harder will be the pull. So you will be compelled to stay awake.
Do you get this?
Now what kind of an idiot would want to do his lessons and also keep a soft, and nice, and scented bed with pillows ready nearby? You are making arrangement to fall into sleep, when you are professing that you love Awakening.
That’s what Kabir Sahib is saying.
That if you know that you are in Love, and if you know that you must stay awake to greet the Beloved, then why are you deliberately creating conditions that would induce you to fall asleep?
The one who wants to stay awake must create harsh conditions around him.
Those who want to stay awake drink black coffee, without sugar. Right? Or do they drink strawberry shake? You are already somnabulant. And what would a little more sugar would do inside of you? It will make you simply collapse. So if you want to stay awake, give yourself a cup of hard, steaming, sugar-less coffee.
That’s the arrangement you make.
That’s the arrangement the seeker of Truth must make in his worldly life.
He must push away all those things that offer him comfort, ease, pleasures, and sleep.
That is sadhana (spiritual discipline).
You have to stay awake. Why are you purchasing that new bed? You are a lover of Freedom, why are you creating new obligations upon yourself? What is it that you are doing? Look at these loan-papers that you are signing, and you say that you are a lover of Freedom. Are you?
There were those who wanted to get up without fail at the break of daylight. You know what they would do? They would sleep with their face to the east. And they would sleep by the window, the first rays of the Sun should fall on their eyes. They have already ensured that, because they love to be awake.
And see what kind of sleeping arrangement you have created for yourself. ‘Sleep’ is a metaphor here. I hope you get it Alok (the questioner). Of course, you do.
Look at all the luxuries that you have entitled yourself to. Would they help in your Awakening? Look at all the stuff in your house. Look at everything around you, and ask yourself, “Why is it present in my life if it does not contribute to my Awakening?”
If you are really in Love, would you really surround yourself with stuff that impedes your Love?
No, you would just throw it away.
And you would angrily throw it away.
If your beloved somehow hates to see you in a particular dress, would you still wear that dress? Would you even keep it in your cupboard? But forget about dresses, we have masks upon masks with which we conceal our face to the Beloved.
Why are you keeping those things in your cupboards, in your almirahs, in your locker, in your life, in your house? Why don’t you throw all these things away? When I am talking of ‘things’, I am not talking of only material things. You understand that? I am talking of mental stuff as well.
When you fall in love even with a mortal man or woman, you ensure that your mouth is not full of foul-breath. Right? You don’t want to smell foul. And if you have fallen in love with the Truth, why do you allow your mind to be full of foul thoughts? Do these things help you in going to Him?
Now that gives you a very definite answer as to what is worth keeping with you.
Keep that with you which helps you stay Awake.
Keep that with you that helps you go to the Beloved.
And throw all the things away that keep you separate from the Beloved.
You must very ruthlessly question.
“Why is this thought present? Is this helping me?”
“Why is this tendency present? Is it helping me?”
“Why is that thing present? Why is that relationship present?”
“Why are such actions present? Are they taking me there? And if they are not, why am I clinging to them? Not only am I clinging to them, I am actually paying for them.”
And it is such stupidity – to pay for one’s own destruction, to pay to stay loveless.
Saints say, “You anyway have to sleep for very long ultimately. You will get enough time to sleep for decades, centuries. Sleep right till the end of time, and nobody is going to come and disturb you. Right now is the time to stay awake. Sleep is anyway going to overpower you.”
Remember our friend over the Buffalo (Yamaraj, the Hindu God of Death)? The buffalo-man is going to get you all. His is the oldest taxi-service, and a very reliable one. The buffalo-man never misses a pickup, he is far better than the Olas and the Ubers.
Listener 1: He gives a one-way ticket.
Listener 2: He never cancels a ride.
Acharya Prashant Ji: He never cancels a ride, he will never disappoint you. And it’s always a solo-ride you know. It’s never a buffalo-share.
You die alone.
So the Saints say, “You will have enough time to keep sleeping. Now wake up.”
Kabir Sahib has sung so much about Awakening.
There is great relation between Love and Awakening.
Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session video: If you are in Love, then why are you asleep? || Acharya Prashant, on Guru Kabir (2018)
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