Question: Sir, can you please speak on suffering and cessation of suffering?
Cessation of suffering is to know the suffering as false.
Cessation of the suffering is the cessation of the confidence that you place in your suffering.
Cessation of suffering is not the same as the stopping of something Real.
Cessation of suffering is just like waking up from a dream.
Cessation of suffering is just like getting rid of an imagination.
That is why the word “nirvana” is so beautiful word. It does not mean that you reach into another elevated state. It means your burning has seized. You are burning internally and now the flame is gone.
Suffering does not occur without your active consent.
Can you be happy without being full of acceptance for a situation? And your acceptance comes from your expectations. Can you suffer without being full of resistance for a situation? You suffer only when you do not want something to happen. Your resistance is the suffering and who is the one that resists? The one who feels himself to be threatened, insecure and small. So he says, “If this happens, then I am in danger. So let me resist.” The moment you resists, suffering starts.
Suffering itself is a concept based on another concept.
The mother concept is “I am small”— a concept and hence, “I must resist.”— a concept. “I resist and I am unable to defeat that which I resist”—another concept. Do you see how the whole chain flows? At the center, of all this, lies a perception that you are limited.
Unless you are limited, you have no reason to feel inflated because of something, and hence you cannot be tied to pleasure.
And unless you are small, you have no reason to be afraid of something and hence you can have no reason to resist.
Then you stand in front of the winds, open chested, and then you say, “Come what may, I am not resisting something because nothing is so powerful that it can influence me or defeat me.”
Now you are not resisting. Now the universe is flowing into you, and then through you. You are a part of everything.
Do you see this?
I am again asking you—Can there be suffering without resistance based on self-preservation? There can be a lot of pain, we agree; But can there be suffering?
Suffering is always psychological.
Suffering is always tied to your inner sense of well-being.
Suffering is related to the question “Who am I?”
Pain is a fact.
You can be in a lot of pain but suffering is always dependent on whether you live a real or an imaginary life. The one who really lives, cannot suffer. And do not take me wrongly. Pain and pleasure will still come to him. You might find him in tears. You might find him groaning and grimacing but he would still not be suffering. Psychologically, he would still be healthy. Even in the moment of the greatest threat or in the moment of the greatest deprivation, he would still not be feeling bad about himself.
I know that’s loose language but I hope you are getting what I mean to communicate.
There is no way you can avoid pain if a rock hits your shoulder. But you very well know what it means to suffer. You can say, It’s a conspiracy of the universe against you and suffer. You can say you are especially born unfortunate and suffer. You can say your Guru has not blessed you and you got this and suffer.
And there are ‘n’ other ways.
This mind is very fertile.
It is just that it yields only one type of crop, which is suffering.
Man is a creature of imagination. That is probably the difference between man and the rest of the existence. Man alone lives in thought. Man alone is intellectual. The others live; we live intellectually.
It’s we who have a “tail”. The tail is the intellect. What do you think animals have tails? No, they just live. We live and then comes the tail. I don’t know when man will be able to drop that tail? Evolution has failed.
Listener: And people have been proud of carrying that tail.
AP: Yes. Monkeys have no tails. Man has a tail.
L: So do I suppose to live just…
AP: Even when you say supposed to, do you see the assumptions contained here? That there is some power outside you that will come and dictate, come and decree how you are supposed to live. What do you mean by supposed to live? Who is the authority outside of you that will declare how you are supposed to live?
But that is the sense of inferiority that we have internalized. We ask “Am I supposed to live this way?” And who will answer that? But you know, this mind is dominated by the corporations, the media, religions, priests, mothers, fathers, teachers, books, scriptures, markets, ideologies; and when we say that Am I supposed to do this? It is their sanction that we seek.
Can someone bigger than me, outside of me, please approve? Can one of the holy books please come and grant their sanction? Am I aligned with one of the accepted ideologies? This is what you mean by—Am I supposed to just live?
As long as you ask this, you are not living.
Living is not a favour that somebody grants you.
By virtue of being, you are free to live.
Free to live and free to live freely.
You need nobody’s approval.
No God has the power to sanction your being.
If you are, you are.
And who can deny that?
You have become so burdened, so indebted, so differential that even to breathe, you require permission. Even to love we require somebody’s approval. Even to be, we seek acceptance in somebody else’s eye. Don’t we?
L: Sir, this quotation of yours says, “You will have to look at yourself as you are.” When I say ‘as you are’, I have an idea about myself and on the other hand, you say, ‘You are perfect as you are.’ How to understand this?
AP: Unless you know yourself to be perfect, you cannot look at yourself as you are.
You know what perfection means?
Perfection means it is alright the way it is.
And what does an idea of yourself say?
It is alright only if it is this particular way.
Perfection is very dynamic and flexible. Perfection says—whichever way it is, it is perfect. Which means you have all the freedom to be in diverse ways. And ideal says- It is alright only when it is in one particular way. Now, if you look at yourself with an eye full of ideals, then you will want yourself to be aligned with those ideals. So your vision would be compromised, manipulated. You would have a stake, you would be an interesting party.
I am saying, ‘I am looking at my face and my idea is that my face should be green.’ Now I look at my face and found my face to be blue. What would happen? The ideal says, “Unless your face is green, you are not worthy of living.” And I look at my face and found it blue. What would happen? Would I simply accept that the face is blue? I would say, “No, it is bluish-green or greenish-blue? Or it is blue turning into green.”
Do you see how I would cleverly manipulate the situations?
I will not be able to look at myself as I am. I will not be able to do that. But if I know that all is perfect, and I look at myself and found green or yellow or brown, and I have no compulsion, no pressure upon myself to manipulate or misreport, I will say, “Oh! It is violet.” It is violet and perfect. The next moment I say, “Oh! it is yellow.” Yellow and perfect because perfection is flexible.
Perfection means in this vast space, wherever you are, you are still in the space. So there is no way you can go away from home. You are always in perfection. There is no way you can be denied home. You may be a saint or a sinner, you still are perfect; you may remember or forget but you are perfect. So, it is blue and perfect. Someday, it is colorless and perfect. Now, you can look at yourself as you are and can just state it that way.
So to know a fact as a fact, first required a tremendous confidence upon yourself. Otherwise, you will not report the fact as fact. Otherwise, you will enter the zone of, what you call as, “creative journalism.” They look at something and they send back a very imaginative version of what they have looked at.
So only when you are powered by the Truth, only when you have no imagination that you have strayed away from the Truth, then you get the sureness to know the fact, to acknowledge the fact, simply and directly without a need to distort it.
L: This is also a very violent attitude towards the blue or to violet or to the green.
AP: Of course. Because you see, we are creatures of change. You are violet now, and blue the next moment and then green and then red.
If your perfection is an ideal, it can never able to take into account your infinitely diverse nature.
The emptiness that we are, manifests itself in an infinite diversity.
If you are tied to some part of that diversity, you will miss the Whole.
Then you will say, “I am good only when I am behaving mercifully. But existence also requires you sometimes to hit really hard. Then you will reject yourself. Then you will fall in your own eyes. You will say that I am good only when I am abstaining from, let’s say, physical gratification. But existence has it, that one day you will find yourself in a physical embrace with someone. Then you will again fall in your own eyes. And then you will look for perfection. Then you will ask forgiveness from the God, which means the priests.
Do you see this?
L: If I have cancer, I could say that it is okay, and I could also say that I have cancer and I could want to change it.
AP: Yes. Of course! I am the one who wants to change it and this want is Perfect.
L: Yes. Everything is perfect and I stay there.
AP: Yes. It does not mean that you have to be a status quoist. When I am talking of the infinite diversity, that we are, of course, those infinite diversities, the various currents, keep mingling into each other; it’s a process of continuous change. And in that desire is included. So if I am desirous, it’s perfect. It is perfect. It’s a subtle thing. We must go into this.
I am desiring to change the situation, knowing fully well that the situation is perfect. Knowing fully well that the blue is perfect, today I decide that I want green. And who is anybody to tell me that I must not want that?
The green leaves, doesn’t it turn yellow and then brown? And then soil? Who are you tell the leaf that the brown is any less perfect than the green? Today green, tomorrow yellow, the day after it, it is brown and then it is a part of the soil. Change is happening all the time. But all the change is contained in perfection.
I repeat this.
You want to change something so that it may become perfect. Our attitude usually is, it is not perfect, I want to change it so that it may become perfect.
What I am saying is, everything is already contained in perfection and now, let’s change. It’s like all these posters in this hall. They are already contained in this hall. Now let’s change their location. Doesn’t matter where you put one thing or the other, it is always going to be within this hall. Doesn’t matter what you desires to change, all desires and the pre-state and the post-state, are going to be within perfection, which means I am never going to say that I am trying to make something perfect.
Do you get this?
“Oh! it’s already good. Now let’s throw it away. It’s already perfect. Now, let’s discard it totally. Let’s come out of something new.” Why? “Maybe just for fun.”
If perfection includes everything, perfection also includes the right to refuse perfection.
Blue was perfect, but now I want a little bit of yellow. May I have it please? Who are you to declare me a sinner because I want yellow? That doesn’t mean, by the way, that yellow is anymore perfect than blue. I am not saying that; not at all. Blue is perfect and so is yellow.
L: Sir, you see a pattern and you see it happening again and you are dissatisfied with it. You want to break free of this pattern. Maybe it is green and you want to go to yellow. You don’t know what the next pattern is or maybe you have a glimpse of it. So how to be contended with all this?
AP: Feel greatly contented with the pattern. With the existing pattern. there is nothing else, everything else is just an imagination. There is the pattern and there are you—the carrier of the pattern, the expression of the pattern. It’s all right.
Who am I? The one who lives in patterns.
The pattern gets energy with your resistance to the pattern.
The day and the night are patterns; such a beautiful pattern. What’s wrong with them? The child, the young man, the old man and the death, are all patterns. Are they not? To eat, to excrete, to eat again and to assimilate, are all these not patterns?
Live with the patterns. And know the pattern as a pattern.
Don’t attempt to change anything.
Change is the law of the universe.
Just as this pattern comes from somewhere, it will go somewhere.
It is held in its place; it is tied to you by your own resistance.
Resistance is attachment.
We all live in patterns.
There is nobody who here is not wedded to some kind of pattern.
What do you do with them?
“Oh, just a pattern; I realised perfectly that I live in patterns.” And be not concerned about what will follow or replace the pattern? It may be nothing; it might be another pattern. How does it matter? All is within the sky. All is within this space. All is within this hall.
You might be a very restless bird, but will you flow out of this sky? Ever seen a bird that flew out of the sky? With all your restlessness you will keep flying within the sky. All your restlessness is nothing. It’s a child’s game. You are the bird. You are the sky. Keep flying.
It is not so difficult. You will see that it is possible to be contented along with the existence of the pattern. You must not make your contentment contingent upon the disappearance of the pattern. The pattern will be there and you would still be contented—these would be parallel. It is possible.
The limited span of the wings and the infinitude of the sky, they are both possible parallelly and together.
The pattern will be there and your infinite contented nature will be there.
L: It is also that fear also prevents you from looking at the blue; looking at what you really are.
AP: Yes and the fear that we always have is the fear of an object. Our fear is never just a fear. You fear something and if you go deep into your consciousness, you will be able to dig that out. You fear the authorities who told you must be ‘green’. And hence you fear to look at yourself when you are ‘blue’.
You must be free of your investment in those authorities who keep promoting ‘part living’; who keep saying that this particular way of living is the right one. They are the one who keeps promoting the ‘greens’ and the ‘violets’ at the cost of the whole of the spectrum.
Do you see this?
Till the time you give those authorities acceptance, validation, strength, approval, the right to be an authority; till the time you internally keep bowing down to them, you will find that your life remains divided. A narrow part you accept and the rest you will reject. But who can partition the sky? Who can tell the bird to not to fly to that particular part of the sky? The bird will fly. It is the bird’s nature to fly. Then you will curse the bird, abuse the bird, and will say that the bird needs to taught enlightenment.
L: Sir even if I did not give the authority to somebody outside of me, still I have this ego. I am ego. I live with it.
AP: Where did it come from? Did it come from your core?
L: No, Sir.
AP: So you have already given authority to someone outside of you if you have given authority to the ego. The ego is not yours. The ego is the world sitting inside you. It is a dangerous thing to give authority to a person, an ideology, a thought, a religion, a cult, or something. It is a dangerous thing to do that.
But it is even more dangerous to vest authority in yourself. Because now those things that were outside and clearly and obviously outside have made their way into your psyche. You have internalised them. You are calling them your own. And when you call something your own, you allot to it all your energy. All sense of belongingness, all sense of mine. You say, “It is mine, it is my opinion.” But it is not your opinion at all. It is somebody else’s but given that now you are embracing it. You will protect it far more.
L: Can I say that guilt is very much similar to fear?
AP: Of course. One very well knows the relation between them. One very well knows that they co-exist and that they are part of the same phenomena.
L: Sir, there is the conflict between understanding and conditioning and it is a continuous process? Every time a situation comes, there is someone who understands, okay. But conditioning always wins. It comes and hence comes the suffering.
AP: I will not say that a day will come when this will be stopped. As of this moment, as of today, it suffices to say that it is continuous. The moment I say it is not continuous, one day, the conflict will stop then you will keep looking forward to that day and that day will become the day of judgment or the day of enlightenment for you.
So, be all right, be contented, even with the conflict. There is conditioned part of you and then there is that part, which you called, the understanding part and you see them in conflict, let the conflict be there. Even with the conflict, be all right. It is not difficult. There is no method in this.
Have you ever had a bad churning in the stomach? Is it not possible to remain all right with it?
L: It is possible.
AP: Same way. There is no great way. One part of you can be up in arms against the other part and some foreign stuff too has invaded you—some bacteria or something. So, there are many parties now; it is a multipolar contest. You can still be alright, right? Let the things fight and when it is your turn to heave a sigh; or to groan a little, do that. What can you do?
Be comfortable with not being comfortable and be comfortable when you want to challenge the discomfort.
If you are not comfortable you have only two options: Either you keep living in it or you challenge it and try to change it. Be comfortable in both the situations. It’s all right.
You are feeling restless in your stomach and you are still continuing to sit. Be peaceful in sitting. A moment comes when you get up and walk towards the loo. Be peaceful with the decision to go away. Do you get this?
You need not say only in a particular way of operating, only in a particular way of living, only by taking a particular decision, do I get the right to feel all right. You must be all right when you are sitting here and you must be all right when you get up and walk away. All of that must be happen in the sky of contentment, it is already happening in the sky of contentment. Just that we think a little too much.
L: It is so tricky to operate like this.
AP: That is tricky, only when you think about it. If you think about it, it is trickier than you can imagine. In fact, it is so tricky that you will not be able to come to terms with it. It is so tricky that you, by yourself, can never be able to operationalize it. It can be executed, it can happen, only on its own. You interfere and you will fall to the trick.
L: If I enter with an objective to implement this, then I end up becoming insensitive.
AP: The moment you enter, you enter only because you are not contented. Otherwise, why will you enter? So your entry itself is the defeat. It is not what will you do post entering will be the defeat. The very decision to enter is the defeat. Do you get this?
L: Sir, now the question is, how not to enter into this? It’s a futile question, but…
AP: It is because you are already all right, why do you want to enter? And if you must enter, enter again in peace. Alright, I have entered. I am habituated to enter. Even when I enter, I enter not with the objective to get peace. I enter in peace. Not aiming peace.
You know and you are peaceful.
You do not know and you are still peaceful.
You are highly agitated, and you are still peaceful.
Your peace is greatly disturbed and you are still peaceful.
That’s the knack.
L: It is that corner that knows agitation and that stays away from agitation.
AP: And in saying this, so cleverly, you have lost it and it is still perfect.
Do not try to conceptualise it.
You will never get on top of it.
The bird will never have the wings large enough to span the sky. Never.
L: So sir if one tries to conceptualise it and then tries to implement it, then one ends up in having an insensitive relationship with himself.
AP: You are operating, then in some other universe. You don’t have a relationship actually. If you see some kind of relationship, it is purely coincidental. It is not happening. You are assuming.
L: Basically, if I say what we are talking about is equanimity. And one’s conceptualised, it becomes completely insensitive.
AP: Yes. Equanimity would then become indifference.
L: Sir, what is this personal relation? I mean…
AP: Live it fully. Live it fully, fully. The fear that comes to you when you express that living force within you is the fear of death. You are alive so that the mind and the body can express the Self, the great core. That is the only purpose of this body and the mind—to continue to express the greatness you are. And that greatness is not a thing of concept. When I say “great”, do not start thinking of “greats”.
That which you are, continuously expresses itself.
That which you are not, continuously strives for its life.
There is no reason to hold yourself back.
L: What holds us back is mainly because of fear?
AP: Only because of fear.
L: Fear and ideal, these two are related?
AP: They are greatly related.
L: Then, what is all this?
AP: Nothing. Just life. Just life.
L: How much planning is important in life? Should we forget planning?
AP: It depends. All of these things you have complete freedom to sometimes remember, sometimes forget. In all these matters, you have all the leeway to go this way or that way. See tell me, in your own house, do you think so much before entering the one room or other? If you are in your own house, does it matter to you so much? Do you seek the advice of the Gurus, “Should I enter the drawing room or the kitchen or should I stay in the hall?”
So wherever you want to go, do go. You stay within your own house. One day, you may decide to go there, another day you may decide to go there. How does it matter? Even if it does matter, you have complete freedom.
L: Sir, I am a bit confused now. There are two situations—One is when I am agitated or fearful. So there is this and then the other thing, living totally in fear in order to get through it. How does the two happen? How to operate at all?
AP: Live in fear. Sometimes fear does come.
Live in fear. Do not become fearful.
Let fear come; experience it.
Fear is nothing but the experience of fear.
Let it come.
See that in the middle of fear, you can still maintain your well-being.
L: It is very difficult thing to do.
AP: It is most difficult rather the impossible thing to do.
You place a great confidence upon yourself, who cannot be relied upon.
And you place no faith on That which can be totally relied upon.
So immediately you start talking the language of doing. Who will do? You?
You must have the ability to be and to operate as a healthy being even in the middle of sicknesses, difficulties, and imperfections.
And there is no limit to it. You can carry it to extremes.
L: The bigger problem than fear is: the idea that you should not be fearful.
AP: Wonderful! And that is an ideal. That is an imagination of perfection—you must be courageous.
Courage does not mean the absence of fear.
Courage means that there is something untouched by fear; bigger than fear.
Fear is there. You might be trembling in fear. Yet there is something more important. This sense of knowing that there is something more important than all the difficulties, than all that which is going wrong, is extremely important. Otherwise, you simply lose perspective. Perspective—that’s a beautiful word. You must know what is it that is significant.
L: And for that, you require a little trust upon yourself.
AP: Of course.
L: And that wouldn’t come till the time you trust what is and you are too much infatuated about an ideal. Too much infatuation with the ideal, no contact with what is there and hence no trust upon yourself, thus resistance, thus fear.
AP: Yes. All this is one stuff.
It is not difficult. It is not impossible. You see at this moment we all know how important is to record this session. But we very well know that both of these are discharged (recorders). Nobody charged them. And nobody has taken care to put a mike on this.
But does that mean that I should bother about that? It happens, it is happening and we are all right in the middle of that. Do you get this?
It is not difficult, not impossible, in any way.
L: Sir, I suffer, and then I get to a point where I just let go and then it again starts. Again you let go and then again it starts.
AP: It will start again and again. Do not ever think that it is going to come to an end in the future.
L: It seems like its capacity is increasing. It seems that if I understand, I have to take more.
AP: Yes. That is the reward of knowing.
See, this world will remain as it is. You are a limited being, a limited body. You are aging. You are moving towards death. Are you not? All of us are. Now can there be a bigger hell than this—to be moving towards death each moment? People think that in the future lies enlightenment. For sure, in the future lies death.
Can there be a bigger hell than this? It is what it is. Now, what do you want to do? Cry hoarse? Curse the heavens? Attempt suicide?
L: Sir, once you understand this, even if you want to run away you cannot run away.
AP: Ah! It’s stupid.
L: It’s like you are stuck in understanding; which is very weird.
AP: And sometimes you do run away, which is again very stupid and still perfect.
L: But that thing is there and it becomes a cage in a very different way.
AP: (Smilingly) A perfect cage.
Change whatever you want to and whatever you can.
You have all the freedom to go, play around and create a mess.
You have all the freedom to do whatever you want to do. It’s all yours.
At most, you will die in the mess; that you will anyway.
Let none of this encroach upon your fundamental, essential stillness. The world is a chaotically randomly moving affair. Or at least that how it appears. Some may come and say, there is a great harmony and peace. And they are equally right. It doesn’t matter how you look at the universe. One thing is certain, there is a flow. In the middle of the flow, you are still. It doesn’t matter how it flows, it doesn’t matter where it goes, it doesn’t matter from where it comes.
Stillness is the essence of the flow.
What does that mean?
That you can flow freely. When you know that stillness is the essence of the flow, then you need not arrest yourself from flowing. Then you need not dictate a particular type or kind of flow. Then you need not say that there is a virtue in one kind of flow and sin or vice in another kind. Then you give yourself the freedom, the authority, the licence, to just flow.
When you just flow, you do not know whether you are flowing or just still.
To flow freely is just the same as being absolutely still.
Do you get this?
It is your resistance to the flow, which is still all right.
L: One thing is that there is noise and when you see that what is disturbing me is my aversion to noise and not the flow of the noise. So then what you do is, you try to find peace. You do it for some time and then the noise overpowers you.
AP: You are not obliged to bear the noise. In the noise, you are all right if you bear the noise and you are still all right if you want to go out of out it.
Let spirituality not tell you that you must be in the noise and bear it and then say that you are all right with the torture. If you are in noise, you are all right. And if it happens that you get up and rebel, it is still all right.
L: For example: If you came to know that If I go to Devpryag (A place in) there will be noise and I don’t like noise. So it is like fear of going to Devpryag. You know that there is noise there and if I go there, I will not like the noise even though if I can manage or find peace. So you remain away from Devpryag? Is it okay?
AP: For a while. You see this mind is quite flippant. How long will you stay away from Devpryag? The very fact that you are thinking about Devpryag will one day take you to Devpryag. As long as you stay away, stay away not feeling bad about yourself. The day you go, go without feeling defeated.
Back yourself. Not feeling like going, not feeling like going. One day you feel like going, back yourself. Support yourself. There is no need to censor yourself for every step. You are no authority to censor yourself. It is not that censoring itself is problematic. It is just that the entity that is trying to assume the authority of censorship has no authority at all.
“The pot is calling the kettle black.” Have you heard that?
Who are you to pronounce judgment upon yourself?
L: Like in campus there used to be some parties. So in front of me there used to be two options; whether to go and not to go? So for two years, I tried both the cases and in both of them, I feel bad.
AP: Just go, or don’t go.
Don’t vacillate. Don’t fret. Don’t hang about.
Okay, vacillate! and still feel all right.
This end is all right. The opposite end is all right and everything in between is also all right.
L: Sir in all of this it seems as if I made a decision
AP: Your decision is a decision only if it differentiates. You come and say that you are a sinner and I decide that you are all right. You come and say that you are a saint and I decide that you are all right.
Now does my decision mean anything? So keep deciding, but let the decision always be one. Decide if you are habituated to deciding.
Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Cessation of mental suffering
Read more articles on this topic:
Article 1: Morality makes the mischief of the world your personal suffering
Article 2: Mercy and sympathy – agents of suffering
Article 3: Suffering is the disease in which the sickness becomes the doctor
Books by Acharya Prashant :