The Shadow Of The Ego
WHAT GRIEF OR ATTACHMENT CAN THERE BE FOR A REALIZED SOUL - A MAN OF WISDOM - WHEN ALL THE ANIMATE AND INANIMATE OBJECTS OF THE WORLD HAVE BECOME HIS SELF, WHEN HE SEES ONENESS EVERYWHERE?
What sorrow or what attachment can there be for that realized person - that wise man - who has known himself in all animate and inanimate objects, or known all animate and inanimate objects in himself?
There are three or four important points to be understood in this sutra. Number one, whom do the Upanishads call a man of wisdom? The root word from which this word comes is ved. The word ved means to know. The meaning of the words 'man of wisdom' is one who knows. What does he know? Someone knows mathematics, someone knows chemistry, somebody knows physics. There are thousands of things to know. Someone knows the scriptures. Some know all those matters of deep mystery told by the saints. But the Upanishads do not consider them wise.
This is a very strange and interesting thing. The accumulation of information is not knowledge according to the Upanishads. They call him a wise man who knows only that one great element - truth: that is, who knows himself, because one who knows himself, knows all. When he knows himself he becomes a mirror in which reflected images of all begin to appear. But the fact that he knows all does not mean he must be a great mathematician or a famous chemist or a great scientist.
No, that is not the meaning. The only meaning of this sentence - "By knowing himself he knows all" - is that through knowing himself he comes to know that supreme, that purest, that occult element which is hidden within all. He knows the formula, the essence, whose play is all this. He knows that supreme law whose authority abides everywhere. He knows that supreme lord who is in everybody.
He knows that supreme showman who holds in his hands the strings on which dance all the puppets!
He is not an expert - he is not at all an expert. If you ask him about a particular thing he may not know the answer. He knows the essential which is hidden in the entire universe. He does not know each leaf, but he holds the root in his hand. He knows that deep and mysterious great life-force; and no sooner does he know that than he becomes free from grief and attachment.
This is the characteristic of the wise man, and it is a strange one. It is not his capacity to reply to your questions, it is not that he will be able to solve your problems. It is that he becomes free from the effects of grief and attachment. A mathematician, however great an expert he may be, will not be free from grief and attachment. Let him be a great psychologist like Freud - and there have been very few psychologists like Freud in this world - his mind will still be that of an ordinary man, even after learning a great deal about the mind. It makes no difference, there is not the least transformation in his mind. He still becomes anxious, afraid, burning with anger and jealousy, and is as grieving and attached as any ordinary person. And the paradoxical thing is that he has more theoretical knowledge about fear, about jealousy, than perhaps any other person in the world. He has a fund of knowledge about sexuality, but even in old age it agitates his mind as much as it does anybody else's mind.
The Upanishads do not consider such a person learned. They do not even consider his knowledge as true knowledge. They call it a fund of information. Such a person is an expert. Whatever is known about fear is known by him. He knows about the fear, but not the fear itself. If he had really known the fear he would be free from it. An expert in religious scriptures knows everything about religion, but does not know religion. He knows what the Vedas say, what the Upanishads say, what the Gita says, what the Koran says, what the Bible says - he knows all this. He knows what is said, but he does not know the one for whom it is said, in what way it is said, with what experience it is said.
The difference is like this - that a person knows everything about swimming but does not know how to swim. It is not difficult to know theoretically about swimming; a book on swimming can be studied.
All the literature on swimming can be memorized. A person can be an expert on swimming and can answer any question asked about swimming. And yet, don't push such a person by mistake into a river, because to know swimming is altogether a different matter.
Nor is it necessary for a person who knows swimming to know all about swimming. It is possible that he knows only swimming but is ignorant of any theoretical knowledge. But the entire theoretical knowledge of a person will not be of any use to him if his boat is sinking and his life is in danger.
At such a time, the person who knows nothing about swimming but who knows swimming itself, will be able to swim and save his life. This is why the sage of the Upanishad correctly points out the fundamental characteristics of the truly learned person. He says they are the learned, the wise, who see all the animate and inanimate objects in themselves and see themselves in all animate and inanimate objects. Such people become free from grief and attachment.
Why has he grouped these two - grief and attachment - together? They are grouped together because these two are one; they are unavoidable, concomitant parts of the same mental condition.
Of the two, one is never alone. So understand them correctly. The mind which is attached will have sorrow and grief also; and where there is no attachment, grief cannot be there. In fact, grief comes when the object of attachment is destroyed. There is no other cause for sorrow. Suppose I have an attachment to somebody: if he dies I am immersed in sorrow. Sorrow is like a shadow that follows attachment. If I have no attachment to anybody it is impossible to be sad, even if I wish to be.
There is a house to which I am attached. If it catches on fire I feel grief. There is grief immediately attachment is frustrated or fragmented - wherever it meets with some difficulty, wherever it is broken, wherever it is opposed. And remember, when grief comes you will have to create a new attachment to save yourself from the grief. When grief comes you will have to find a new object for your attachment, to save yourself from the grief, to get away from it. If a person whom you love dies, you are not able to forget him until you find a substitute to love. It is difficult to forget the old attachment until you throw it away and replace it by showing your love to the new substitute.
So grief comes when attachment is broken, and to run away from that grief we have to create new objects for our attachment. Thus this vicious circle goes on. Every attachment brings sorrow and every sorrow is suppressed by new objects of attachment. Sickness comes; medicine has to be given, and it causes other types of sickness. Then new medicines are given for the new sickness and those new ones give rise to new sicknesses. Thus the circle goes on. So it was a wise decision to group these two together.
This is why it is said that one who knows becomes free from grief and attachment. How can ideas of mine and thine come to one who sees himself in all animate and inanimate objects and sees all of them in himself? How is attachment then created? It is created only when you bind yourself to somebody, and say, "This is mine, the rest are not," or when you say, "This building is mine, the rest are not mine."
When I was coming here, a certain woman came to see me. She said, "Because of your great grace my son's shop was saved from catching fire. The adjoining building had caught fire, and it had got up to our shop. But our shop was saved." She had brought sweets to offer to me. She was delighted that her son's shop was saved. No, she was not at all grieved for the buildings that were destroyed in the fire, because she had no attachment to them. On the contrary, she was pleased because the building to which she was attached was saved.
Attachment is always exclusive; it clings to one and leaves out the rest. It says, "This is my wife, this is my husband, this is my son, this is my house, this is my shop" - there is I in all these - "and I am not concerned with the rest!" It will not affect you in any way, it will make no difference to you, if anything happens to the rest. You are pleased that your own is saved.
The degree of attachment decreases as the field of attachment spreads. The greatest attachment is for oneself, because nothing appears more 'mine' than oneself. So if, for example, it appears that a boat is sinking, and a husband and a wife are in it, and the situation is such that only one of the two can be saved, then both will wish to be saved. If fire breaks out in a house, the owner will jump out first and then inquire about other members of his family. No sooner does a person know about the fire than he himself runs out. So, attachment is concentrated mostly around I; it is strongest linked to I. Then it gradually decreases as the field of 'mine' goes on expanding. It will be less towards the family, still less towards the town, still less towards the country, and even less towards the whole of humanity. And if people are living on some other planets, there will be no attachment towards them.
Scientists declare that there is life on at least fifty thousand other planets. We show no attachment in relation to them. Even towards humanity it seems minimal. We remain unconcerned and unaffected when seven hundred thousand people die in Pakistan. If one person dies in our family we are more grief-stricken than when so many die in Pakistan, and if one of our fingers is cut we experience more pain than we felt when those seven hundred thousand died. As we approach the 'I', attachment becomes more concentrated, and as we go further away from 'mine', its shadow becomes thinner and rarer.
Attachment is the shadow of the ego. Attachments are immediately created wherever you see 'I am'. But as I said, attachment is exclusive; to make attachment possible, something or somebody must be left out. Therefore, the sage says, one who has seen all animate and inanimate objects in himself, becomes nonexclusive; the feeling in him now is, "All are mine." He becomes all-inclusive.
Then attachment does not happen, because there is now no foundation for it.
When all are 'mine', there is no purpose in calling anyone mine. There was a purpose to saying 'mine' as long as there was a purpose to saying 'thine' - there was someone who was not 'mine'.
So you made boundaries, you drew lines to show the limits of what was 'mine'. You created a wall, a boundary. Beyond this limit, another world began with which you had no concern at all. "Whether it dies or is destroyed is no concern of mine." On this side of the boundary is your world, for which you desire that there be no misery, no distress, no affliction, because you are grieved when it is in trouble.
The Upanishad says a man's attachment vanishes when he sees himself not only in all animals, not only in all living things, but in all animate and inanimate objects, even in a grain of sand - that is to say, in whatever exists in the world. Then no attachment is left. Attachment is there while the boundary is there. Attachment cannot be limitless. Remember, limitless attachment is an impossibility. It lives within limits. As the boundary widens, the attachment weakens; and as the limits are narrowed, the attachment grows stronger. In limitlessness, attachment disappears.
And then, how can grief be possible when attachment has disappeared? It does not exist without attachment. If there is no attachment, there is no grief. So the Upanishads call him a wise man who stands beyond both attachment and grief. And how does he stand beyond? He stands beyond by seeing himself in the whole of existence, which is there spread all around us but invisible to us because we are also there in it.
The following event happened in the life of Rabindranath Tagore. It is worth noting. He wrote prayers about God in the Gitanjali, for which he received the Nobel prize and became famous the world over.
But there lived an old man near his house who began to harass him constantly. Wherever he met Rabindranath, he would hold on to him and ask, "Please tell me truly: have you known God?"
The old man was obstinate and Rabindranath, being an honest person, could not tell a lie. The old man looked so straight and deep into the eyes of Rabindranath that his hands and legs used to tremble. Here was the winner of the Nobel prize. Wherever he went he was much honored by the people. People used to say, "Here is a living example of one whom the Upanishads call a Maharishi."
Yet here he was, being troubled by an old man from his neighborhood. And the harassment was not for just one day or one morning or evening, but continued every day, because the old man, having nothing to do, spent all his time sitting on a chair near the door of his house so Rabindranath found it difficult to avoid him.
Rabindranath has written in his diary that he found it very difficult to leave the house: "Before going out, I would inquire whether the old man was sitting there or not. Otherwise he would grab hold of me and ask, 'Have you seen God? Have you known him?' I used to tremble on hearing these questions because I know nothing about him. On hearing my answer the old man would laugh loudly and heartily. His laughing in that way spoiled my sleep, it began to haunt me; I began to be afraid of that old man. Once I thought, 'I really created trouble for myself writing this Gitanjali.' I thought, 'That old man must have had some glimpse of God, otherwise he could not haunt me so.'" From his eyes it appeared he knew something, because Rabindranath could not get away with it by staring at him and repeating one or two lines of the Gitanjali in answer to his question.
Thus years passed, and the old man continued his haunting. Rabindranath has said: "A great load was removed from my mind on the day on which I could tell him, 'I have known God.'" It was the beginning of the rainy season, and the first downpours were leaving puddles everywhere.
Reservoirs and small pits on the roadsides filled with water. Frogs were croaking. It was morning and Rabindranath was tempted out by these changes in nature - the croaking of the frogs, the confused din of the falling rain, the new fragrance of the earth. He saw the old man was not on his usual seat. Perhaps he was not up yet.
Rabindranath ran out of his house. The sun was rising over the sea. He stopped at the seashore.
The sun was shimmering on the water. He looked at the sun and its reflection, and then began to return to his home. The sun was reflected in each puddle, in each small pond, in every dirty ditch on the roadside. It was shining all around - in dirty puddles, on the sea, in clean small streams, on every side. Seeing all this, some music, some unknown, indefinable sound within began to play in Rabindranath's heart.
As he returned, he was dancing. He was dancing because he saw that the reflection of the sun was never tarnished. He was dancing because he saw that the sun's reflection was as fresh and clean in the dirty, muddy water as it was in the cleanest water. Reflection can never be dirty. How can it be dirty? Only water can be muddy and dirty. But the sun that looks into it, whose reflection appears in it, is not dirty. It is absolutely fresh and clean. No water can spoil it. This was a tremendous, a revolutionary experience for him. It meant that God, who is even within the worst of men, cannot be made dirty. The reflection of God in the most sinful person is as pure as it is in the most pious person. So he was returning dancing. A door had opened within.
That old man was sitting near his door. This was the first time he was not afraid of the old man, and for the first time the old man said, "It is all right, it seems you have known him." And the old man approached Rabindranath and embraced him and said, "Your ecstasy, your dancing today, tells me that you have known him. Now I can honor you!"
Then for three days Rabindranath remained in a state of ecstasy - in a state of madness. The members of the family were afraid to see this. Only the old man often used to come and tell them, "Be glad! Be joyful!" and began to inform the neighbors that he knew God. But the people in the house were very much afraid because Rabindranath was behaving in a very strange way. If he saw a pillar he would embrace it. If a cow passed by on the road he would embrace her, too. If he saw a tree he would embrace it. The people in the house thought he had lost his mind: "He has gone mad!" But the old man continued to say, "Don't worry. He was mad until now, and now he is fine.
Now he has begun to see, in all existence, that without which the song he was singing all this time was useless. It was only rhyme, a poor excuse for poetry. Only now, real music is born in his life."
Rabindranath has written: "I could, by and by, control myself and bring my ecstasy under control, with great effort. Otherwise I yearned to embrace everybody and everything I met. Until now I was yearning and praying, 'Oh God, where is your door?' Now God was my door, and now wherever I looked I saw his door. Up until now I was searching for him and asking, 'Where are you hiding?' But now I was amazed because he was there already in me; there was nothing else but him."
He who sees his presence in all existence or sees the entire existence in himself is truly a wise man; and such a person is beyond attachment and grief. Remember, there is neither happiness nor unhappiness in his life, there is only ecstasy. The purity of existence dances in his life. He is life itself, dancing and singing the praise of existence. His life itself is music; and all that brings grief, all that binds, all that becomes attachment, all that seems to bring happiness today but is the cause of unhappiness tomorrow - all these have no place in his life. He is now a mirror.
When you stand before a mirror you are seen reflected in it, and when you go away from it, it at once leaves you. It does not hold on to you. No sooner are you gone from it than it becomes empty, without reflection. The mirror carries no attachment to you. That is why, when you stand aside, instead of in front of it, it is not broken into pieces out of sorrow for you. Its heart does not break into pieces. It does not say, "How can I now live without you?" Instead it says, "When you stood before me you were very beautiful, very good, and you showed me great favor; and when you leave me I feel no displeasure." Nothing changes. The mirror is as joyful when it is empty and unreflecting as it was when it was filled with reflection.
Thus lives a learned man, like a mirror in the world. He is pleased with whatever comes before him.
He is happy if he sees a flower and becomes its reflection, throws its reflection back, sees godliness in it. If there is no one in front of him - when all is empty - he sees godliness in emptiness. The very emptiness is godliness. Then he dances in that emptiness, and is in ecstasy even in emptiness.
Enough for today. Now let us try to become mirrors ourselves.