Into the disinterested depths of Tao
CHAPTER 1: SUTRA 3
ALWAYS STRIPPED OF PASSION WE MUST BE FOUND IF LIFE'S SECRET WE WOULD SOUND; BUT IF PASSION ALWAYS WITHIN US BE, ITS OUTER FRINGE IS ALL THAT WE SHALL SEE.
The path that can be trodden upon, is not the Path. The Truth that can be investigated, is not the Truth.
The Creator of Existence is without any name and the Name is the mother of all substance.
After the first two sutras (quoted above) the third sutra of Lao Tzu starts with Therefore. This therefore is first to be understood before we proceed to the sutra. It looks strange - the first two sutras bear no relationship with the third sutra, which could justify the use of therefore. Truth cannot be expressed in words. The Path that is, cannot be trodden upon. Nameless is Existence; the world of substance is the world of denomination. Therefore - the mind steeped with desires, can never know the bottomless depths where lies the secret of existence. It can only know the fringe of existence.
The word therefore can only be used if that which follows, is a natural outcome of the preceding statements. If the third statement is a corollary of the first two statements, then alone can 'therefore' be used. But what is the connection between a mind filled with passion and a mind filled with words?
What can be the connection of a Path that cannot be trodden, which cannot be given a name, to a mind filled with passion? This is not apparently clear; it is inevident. Therefore, it will be very difficult to understand this word therefore, as used by Lao Tzu.
Let us first examine the connection. Actually, he who is filled with desires, wishes to reach somewhere. The very desire to reach is passion. If I am happy to be myself and accept myself as I am, all paths become useless for me. Then there is no path for me. If I have not to go anywhere, if I have not to reach anywhere then there is no need no purpose, for a path for me. If I have to reach somewhere go somewhere; if I have to be something attain something then paths become inevitable. If I have not to travel anywhere, what meaning can paths have for me? But if we want to take a journey. then paths become meaningful. Whatever paths we create are all paths of desires, of passions. No path is ever created without a desire, although, the desire is not concerned with the passage at all. Passion is concerned with the destination only. But no destination can be reached without a route. So no desire can be fulfilled without following a path. Some means are always necessary to fulfill a desire.
Passion is the aspiration to reach somewhere. Some distant star keeps shining on the horizon of a passion - ridden mind and beckons to it: "Come hither, there is happiness, there is joy, there is peace, where I am. Where you stand, there is no joy, no peace." Now there is a great distance between us and the skies, and we have perforce, to find a way to connect the two. Then it makes no difference whether we pave the path with wealth or with religion, whether we travel inwards or outwards. It makes no difference whether we aspire for worldly gains or seek the doors of beatitude and God through that path. If our desti-nation is outside and away from us, we have to make a path to join us to our goal. Then the path becomes inevitable.
And Lao Tzu says: "The path that can be trodden upon, is not the Path." But a mind filled with desires, is bound to tread on paths. So it means, that whatever path a desire-ridden mind follows, is not the real Path. It is only the wrong paths that can be trodden. We have not to walk on the actual Path. Really speaking, the ambition to reach anywhere is an erroneous aspiration - anywhere unconditionally. It is not that the ambition of amassing wealth alone is a wrong ambition or the ambition of winning the whole world is a wrong ambition - No; even the ambition of attaining beatitude, is equally wrong. Actually as soon as the question of attainment comes in, the mind is filled with tension and becomes restless.
A mind filled with passion is never where it is but keeps forever wandering where it is not. This is a very impossible situation. I am not where I am but am always wandering where I am not. Then it is but natural that I am filled with anguish. I am tense, for I can only be at ease where I actually am; where I am not, I cannot relax. It is necessary however, that in order to be where I am, my mind should not desire to be elsewhere - it should not be taking flights to distant lands!
Hence Lao Tzu says: "Therefore a mind filled with passion, a mind filled with desires, cannot open the doors to the deep mysteries of existence." It can only be acquainted with the outer fringe; the inner mysteries remain unknown. The palace of existence remains unknown and the desiring mind lives out its life taking the outer walls to be authentic. It is bound to do so.
For the palace is here and now; and the desirous mind is always somewhere else. It is never here and now. It is lost in dreams. It is not that if the mind satisfies a particular desire there will be any sizable change in the situation. If I am here today, I think of being somewhere else; then when I reach that place, the mind will sow fresh seeds of desire for some other place. So we keep running.
This is a very interesting race where one destination starts off a new race for another destination - and there is no end!
Actually, that which we thought to be the destination, we discover to be a temporary encampment.
Before reaching, it seems that everything will be attained by reaching the goal and on reaching we find it was only the beginning - there is much farther to go. Therefore we are never at peace, even for a moment. Lao Tzu has purposely used the word 'therefore' to imply a calculated inference. And the conclusion arrived at is that: "ALWAYS STRIPPED OF PASSION WE MUST BE FOUND," with all passions, uprooted, uncovered. We should strip ourselves of desires as one would peel an onion, layer by layer till nothing remains in the end.
Do you think you will remain, if you remove all your desires? Are you anything more than a collection of desires? If all your layers are removed like the layers of an onion, what will you be but a zero?
You are what you have desired to be - a collection of your desires. Think what will remain if all your desires fall off - A mere emptiness - Nothing! But it is this 'No-thing' from which the door to Existence opens.
In fact, all doors open through the void.
You build a house. You make a door in it. Have you ever thought what a door is? The door is merely an emptiness. Where you have not built the wall, the door is. The actual interpretation of a door would be - where there is nothing. You cannot enter through the wall. You can enter only through the door. What is the meaning of the door? The door means where there is the void; where there is nothing, you enter from there. Where there is something, you cannot enter. Now this is an interesting thing: You cannot enter a house through the house. Entrance is only possible from where there is nothing: mere emptiness. The door means, where the house is not. Whatever is besides the door, is the house.
Till such time that we discover just such emptiness within ourselves, till then, we cannot enter the acme of the mystery of existence. The castle of existence will remain unknown and unfamiliar to us.
"Rip off the layers of desires," says Lao Tzu. Not a single layer should remain. We do sometimes, peel off the layers of desire, but only when we have formed other and bigger ones than before. We leave one desire only when it is replaced by another, when it is fully complemented. Actually. we leave a desire only, when we come across a bigger and better desire. We break small houses in order to build bigger ones. We leave smaller assignments for bigger ones. We too let go of desires but only when a bigger rampart is in sight, do we let go of smaller walls.
Sometimes it also happens that we leave the entire frame of human desires. A man who sought wealth, position, fame, leaves everything. He climbs down from his high office, renounces wealth, he renounces his clothes and becomes naked and he says, "I now set out in search of God." He renounces all worldly things but then his eyes are set towards a very vast attainment. He destroys all worldly attainments. Now no one can say that he is after wealth or position or fame.
But if we ponder on the word 'ISHWARA', we shall know the secret. The word Ishwara is derived from 'AISHWARYA', which means glory, grandeur, majesty and super-human power. The ultimate 'Aishwarya' is 'Ishwara'. Now he is after that grandeur and majesty that are endless. Now he seeks wealth that cannot be stolen. He is after that acquirement that death cannot take away from him.
But still it is a search all the same. Now he is out to seek a position from which he has not to climb down; he is after that fame that never dies. The search continues all the same, it is only that he has given a new name to his seeking - Ishwara (God). Keep this in mind: no one can make God an object of his desires. If he does, he will not find God. He will only establish his new desires in new forms. Liberation cannot be an object of desire. If it is, he will find it is just a new kind of prison he has created - beautiful, inlaid with gold, filled with flowers but a prison all the same. Actually desires cannot lead us outside of prison. Wherever there is desire, there is bondage.
Lao Tzu says: "Remove, tear off each layer of your passionate desires." Why? for it you want to measure the bottomless depths where lie the mysteries of existence, you shall have to be desire- less. To be desireless means - devoid of all desires. The desire for tranquility, the desire for meditation and Sadhana remain even when other desires are gone. The mind is very clever. It says: "It is perfectly alright; you do not want wealth, hut meditation you want. You do not want position but you do want peace!" The mind lives not in wealth or position, the mind lives in desiring.
Therefore, any topic is good enough for the mind. Let there be an aim - of what sort does not matter to the mind. Desireless-ness means desiring nothing. Beware, the mind's deceptions are very subtle! So much so that it can make you desire to be desireless also! It will goad you to desire to be desire-less. This way by standing behind your desireless-ness, it can exist.
Somewhere in Gitanjali, Ravindranath has sung to the Lord:
I desire nothing from you. My only wish is, that no desire remains in my mind." This makes no difference to the desire - none whatsoever. If you were to examine deeply, you will find that the person who wishes for ten thousand rupees or a big house, his desire is nothing compared to the desire of Ravindranath. What is the worth of his desire when compared to Ravindranath's?
Ravindranath says: "I want nothing save desirelessness." This is the ultimate desire, last and very subtle. And Lao Tzu says "Be desireless. Rip off all desires - rip them off to the last breath of your life."
A Sadhaka once approached Lao Tzu and said: "I want peace." "You will never get it," Lao Tzu replied. The youth was startled, "What have I done, what is there in me such that I cannot attain peace?" Lao Tzu then explained: "As long as you wish for peace, you will not get it. I too desired for a long time and ultimately discovered that the desire for tranquility becomes so great a dissatisfaction.
that no restlessness is greater than this. There-fore, give up the idea of desiring peace."
I remember another incident: A Sadhaka went up to Lechee and said: "I have left everything."
Lechee replied: "Be kind enough to leave this also. Then you may come." The youth said: "I have left everything." Lechee says: "There is no need to hold on to this much also." The feeling of desirelessness is so very subtle. The youth again insists: "But I have left everything." Lechee says: "Leave this much also. Why have you kept this much back?" The youth replies, "I have kept nothing back. There is nothing left with me." Lechee says: "Do not hold on to this also." Desire, wishes and longings capture us from many directions. To be desireless means: "I accept myself as I am." If I am restless, I am restless. If I am uneasy I am uneasy. If I am in captivity, I accept that I am in captivity. If I am in misery, I am in misery. The total acceptability of myself as I am. There is no question of my being an inch otherwise. I am what I am. Then there is no motivation. Then how can any journey start? Then how can the mind goad you to go here, attain there? Then what I am, I am.
The quintessence of Tao is 'Tathata,' acceptability. Where there is total acceptability, there is the condition of desirelessness. The slightest unacceptability, gives rise to desire. Then longing and passion follow in its wake. Then the race begins. Mind you, longing is born out of unacceptability.
We all, live in our longings. If you probe into each desire of yours you will soon come to know, which non-acceptability has given birth to which desire. Which thing you wished was not as it is, which ought to have otherwise, which ought to have been different and what desire accrued therefrom?
A funeral procession was passing by Nasruddin s house. Someone has died and all the reputed gentry of the village were in the procession. As they passed Mulla Nasruddin's house, they all raised their hands in salute to him, for he was widely respected in his village.
The Mulla's wife who was standing at the door, saw this. She ran in and told the Mulla that someone of consequence had died and the gentry in the funeral procession were saluting as they passed the Mulla's house! "It is possible," says Nasruddin. "I heard the noise but I had turned the other side.
And you know the dead man s wrong habits! He could have died an hour later, when I would have turned the other side!" That was a joke of Nasruddin on mankind. He says, "I was facing the other way. There was no question of turning sides to accept their greetings!"
At one time, the people of his village thought, that Nasruddin was in a bad way. They gathered some money and went to present it to him. He was lying straight on his back, under the open skies, beneath a tree. One of them came forward and offering the bag of money said: "Nasruddin, we heard you were in difficulty. We have brought some money for you. Please accept it." Nasruddin tells him: "Please come after some time. The fact is, my pocket is under my back. When I turn upside down you may come and put the money in it."
Nasruddin's jokes are very subtle hints of man's failings. He was a priceless man.
If we go deep into the nature of desirelessness, we shall know that everything is acceptable (in that condition) as it is and how it is. There is not the slightest desire for it to be otherwise. "In the absence of such a desire," Lao Tzu says, "the mysteries of existence and its bottomless depths can be touched." And it is in the depths that Existence actually is. On the surface is the mere fringe of existence, the outer lines. If supposing I touch you, I will go back and say I touched you and invariably this is what we say. The fact is I have only touched your outer form and not you. The outer form of your body is not vou. It is only a boundary-line between you and the world. You are deep within the deepest within. All else is an outside arrangement within which you can be. It is only your house, your mantle.
If we know others by their outward appearance, it is pardonable. We see our own selves also only from the outside. We feel and touch our own selves also from the outside.
We can feel the whole existence only from the outside and Lao Tzu says, "It is because of the passion-ridden mind." It is important to understand this well. Why can not a mind filled with passion, go deep? There are three reasons: One is, - A mind filled with passion cannot stay in one place for more than a moment, therefore it cannot dig within. A passion-ridden mind, is a fleeing mind, it cannot stop a moment anywhere. And to descend within one self, you have to dig within. Now you cannot dig a well by running with a pick-axe in your hand! At the most you will remove a few stones here and there and spoil the road by making pot-holes all over but you will never dig a well. To dig a well you have to dig in one place with all your strength and with all your patience and this, a mind that is always running cannot do. This mind is always a step ahead of you. As the shadow walks behind you, the mind flits before you. It works up visions of distant lands as yet ahead of you. So a passion - ridden mind does not stop anywhere and without stopping, no depths can be reached.
Secondly, a passion-ridden mind is never in 'the Present' - never. And life is always in 'the Present'.
A mind steeped in desires remains always in the future. If Existence is to be felt, it must be felt in this very moment, but the desiring mind says "Everything is hidden in the moments ahead. Where I shall reach tomorrow, there is nothing but bliss and untold treasures! Today? - There is nothing in the present day!" The passionate mind is always dejected about the present and eager about the future. The secret of Life lies in the Present. In fact in Existence, there is only the Present - there is neither past nor future. Existence is always Present. Existence always is.
Past and future are the simulations of a desiring mind. The mind stores the past carefully, for the journey into the future, depends entirely on the past. Therefore, what we call the future is a repetition of our past only. It is a reflection, a projection of the past only. Whatever has been attained in the past, we try to attain again and again in the future, with a slight modification. So we safeguard our past in order to create our future. But the past is a mere recollection, not existence and the future is a mere conception and not existence. The future is a dream that is still to happen and the past is a dream that has already happened. But That, which forever is, is neither the past nor the future; it is the present.
It would not, however, be correct to call it strictly the Present, for that we refer to as present, which is between the past and the future. Now if the past is false and the future is false, there cannot be a reality in-between the two. There is no means for the existence of Reality between two falsities. Therefore, it would be better to say that there is no present also - Only Existence, Eternity, Immortality, Is, where nothing is destroyed and nothing made and where everything Is. It is a full state of Beingness, and he who enters into this 'Being-ness' this 'is-ness' he alone can touch the fathomless depths of Existence.
The desiring mind will keep running along the circumference. It will take delight in the past and project dreams for the future. It will have its roots in the past and spread its branches in the future in the hope for the flowers that will never come. And Existence? Existence that is Now is flowing away every minute. It is now, here, this very moment!
Now the third reason:
Life is the closest proximity. Perhaps this too is not strictly correct, for we ourselves are existence.
Therefore if it were in the closest proximity, it would still be at a distance from us. We are Existence itself. A desiring mind is a search for the far-away; whereas Existence is closer than the closest proximity. A desiring mind is farther away than the farthest and these two never meet. Kipling says in one of his poems: "Oh East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet." Perhaps it is possible for East and West to meet but mind and Existence can never meet. Therefore, he who is filled with the mind is devoid of Existence and he whose mind is empty, is filled with Existence.
Now we are filled with the mind, so it is a difficult question for us, whether we have any knowledge of existence or not. No, we have no knowledge of existence whatsoever. We have taken our mind for our existence and this is as good as someone taking pebbles to be diamonds. It is just as if someone would take the fallen dry leaves of a tree to be flowers and never raise his eyes to see the actual ones above; and he would gather these dry leaves that are useless and treasure them! The mind is the collection of ashes of the past. As a traveller's clothes get filled with dust, so also the dust that collects as we pass through existence, forms the mind. And it is with this collection of piles of dust, that we think about the future.
Lao Tzu wants to cut out the very roots of the mind. Therefore Lao Tzu says: "Freedom from desires," for where desires are not, the mind cannot exist. Desire is the root. If you ask Buddha, he will say: "Avarice". Where ambition is not where avarice is not, there everything is. It is an apt word - Avarice and Lao Tzu refers to it as desiring, passion. Mahavira calls it 'Distraction, error'. Different words have been used by different people but the roots that have to be destroyed, are the same.
He who desires - anything - cannot step out of the mind. He who desires nothing stands outside of the mind - this very moment! He has not to wait for another day. This very moment, if you summon enough courage to desire nothing this very moment you will stand outside the blind state of countless lives you have lived. This very moment! But beware of beguilement! Deception is not possible for the only reason that it is almost impossible to step out of the mind. Beguilement is possible because you do not know and understand the secrets of the mind. You will bear me and say to yourself "If it is possible, why not step out this very moment? I must step out this minute."
Then you create the desire of step out of the mind, in order to be tranquil, to attain bliss, to attain the secrets of Existence. If you give this also a form of desire, you will go astray again.
There was a Sufi fakir by the name of Byajid. When he first went to his guru, he was in the habit of sleeping a great deal. When the guru taught, he would be fast asleep. If he was sent to guard the gate. Byajid would fall asleep there also. The guru explained to him: "Look Byajid, you will lose everything by sleeping." Byajid replied, "It is not that I am asleep all the time. I sleep sometime and I am awake sometime." But the guru said: "You do not know. Many a time it happens, that a person keeps awake all the time and then if his eyes close just for a moment, everything is lost."
Then one night Byajid dreams that he is dead and is standing at the gates of paradise. The door is closed and it bears small placard which says: "He who wishes to enter, may wait here. The door opens once every thousand years and for one moment only. Be alert and wait." Byajid was perturbed. The door opened just for a moment, once in a thousand years - and sleep was bound to overpower him! He gathered himself together and with great effort he managed to keep his eyes open. But in spite of this, he dozed off. When he awoke he saw the gates just closing. He ran but the door had closed already! He waited another thousand years. Then one day as he dozed, he heard that the door had opened. But the mind said: "You are dreaming. The gates do not open just like that! The thousand years are yet not over." Byajid however got out of his sleep, frightened and confused. He saw the gates were closed. Then he awoke and found it was all a dream.
Byajid ran straight to his guru. though it was mid-night. He fell at his feet and said: "Now I shall not even blink!" "What happened?" Asked the guru. He told him about his dream. The guru said, "Did you not read the notice on the other side of the door?" "No" said Byajid "Both the times the doors were almost closed when I awoke."
His guru said, "When the dream comes again make it a point to read what is written on the other side. It says, "This door open only when you are asleep." The door opens when we are unconscious.
What could such a term of condition mean? The truth is, (which Byajid's guru did not tell him), as we go deep within, we find that when the doors open, we become unconscious, and this is due to the mind. So it is not that the doors open when we are unconscious; rather, when the doors open, we become unconscious. The reason for this is, that once we see the doors open, there is no way to keep the mind alive. So the mind invents a thousand ways to save itself.
It was only the day before yesterday that a youth came to me. He had come to me before. Then he was tormented by the restlessness of the mind, its uneasiness, its confusion. This time his anxiety was different. He said, "My mind is becoming peaceful with meditation. It is now less uneasy but a new fear has caught hold of me. Now I am not sure whether I should go further in. I may lose all interest in the pleasures of life, I may lose all sense of competition and ambition. Then how will I progress in life?" What he says is correct. The mind brings up such questions. The mind invents a thousand deceptions whenever the door opens.
I have tried to go closer to so many people. Whenever their meditation deepens, the mind at once devises excuses and quickly comes out of meditation. It brings within you the fear of upsetting your normal arrangements and warns you against medita-tion.
One person has written to me that he is going deeper into meditation but is afraid of going deeper still for he fears he might die! He wants me to take the responsibility in such a case. I asked him whether death was not going to come to him without meditation. I told him that if he is certain that death will not come to him if he does not meditate, then I take the responsibility. But since death is bound to come even without meditation, whey does he throw the responsibility on me? Some others write and express their fears - "Is it possible that we might lose our sanity in meditation?"
The mind quickly invents excuses. As soon as you reach the door, the mind warns: "This much and no more. Go back!" I used to explain to people that merely changing one's clothes and changing one's name or taking sannyas brings no change in a person. Then they would come and beg for some external support to help them to go within - "If you do not give us some aid - a mala, an image, clothes, a temple or some exercise like fasting. how can we go in? Give us something to go by."
So I agreed to give outside support. Now these very people come and say: "What can happen by changing clothes? What change will the mala bring about? How will pooja, prayers and Kirtan help?
These are all external things. At times I am distressed at the way man's mind works. The same man gives both opposing views and still it does not occur to him that it is his mind saying both the things!
When he is asked to go within. his mind says: "How can you go within without any tangible help?"
When he is given an outside aid, his mind says: "How can an outside agency help? You have to go within." And the most wonderful part is, that our foolishness is so sound that we fail to understand the trickery of our mind. Every time we make an effort to awaken, the mind promptly devises ways of putting us back to sleep and these excuses are at times so paltry. so trivial.
A friend came to me today and said: "You always say one should not give pain to others. If I put on the clothes of a sannyasin, my wife will be pained." So I asked him: "When did you hear me?"
He said, "Ten years ago." Have you given no cause for complaint to your wife in these ten years? If so, I consider you a sannyasin already. There is no need for you to change your clothes." He said:
"I cannot say, I gave no cause for complaint to my wife." In that case, I said, "You never came, and asked me for other pains you inflicted on your wife. You merrily went about causing her pain and now you have become so considerate of your wife's feelings when it comes to changing your clothes?"
Man's foolishness is incomparable! For everything else, this man is ready to do as he pleases without a twinge of conscience but when it comes to taking sannyas - oh, he is so considerate of those around him!
What is most confounding is, that we never step aside and watch our mind, how it tricks us into sleep. It brings forth such excuses as seem very correct. But this wife is just an excuse. The mind is the real thing and it is the mind that prompts. when eyeing the neighbour's wife, the mind puts forth no pious suggestions! Then it said on the contrary: "What wife, what love? These are all make-shift arrangements. Who really is your own in this world?" Then the wife is shelved in a corner, out of sight!
But as soon as any step is taken to go beyond the mind. the mind quickly comes forward with a hundred plausible suggestions to put us back to sleep. The door of paradise does open but the mind quickly puts us off with a thousand excuses.
Lao Tzu says: "Desire is the mind. There is no way of entering the depths of existence without becoming desireless."
QUESTION: BHAGWAN SRI, PLEASE EXPLAIN WHETHER THESE STATEMENTS OF LAO TZU ARE NOT MEANT FOR A DEFEATED EXISTENCE. FOR AN ANGUISHED PERSON? IS THERE NOT A NEGATIVE ATTITUDE, A SORT OF DEFEATISM AT THE ROOT OF THESE TEACHINGS?
WOULD NOT THESE ETHICS, OF ACCEPTANCE OF THINGS, AS THEY ARE, GIVE LICENCE TO THE GOVERNMENT TO EXPLOIT THE PEOPLE? AND FINALLY, CAN THIS NOT BE CALLED A PURE THEORETICAL IDEALISM? THESE TEACHINGS ARE NOT AT ALL PRACTICAL. THERE ARE NO MEANS OF ATTAINING FREEDOM FROM DESIRES OR OF AWAKENING IN THEM.
Bhagwan Sri: Lao Tzu does not believe in remedies for he says, "Only desires require remedy". No remedy is required for desirelessness. Remedy means a device followed to reach somewhere. A path means an arrangement to connect with a destina-tion - a bridge or some means of connection.
Lao Tzu says "It is only desires which require a device, a path, effort, struggle." For desireless- ness, understanding is enough. No device, no method is necessary - according to Lao Tzu. He who understands Lao Tzu's teachings in their entirety needs no methods or principles to go by. All concepts are toys given to the non-understanding; an arrangement to help them to let-go step by step as they are incapable of doing so all at once.
Lao Tzu says: "Understanding alone!" If you become conscious of the labyrinth of the mind, you will step out of it this moment. No other method is necessary. If I know that this cup contains poison, it will automatically drop from my hands. I shall have to make no effort to let it go. If I under-stand well that fire burns, my hand will not go towards it, without any effort on my part.
Remedies and methods are required where there is no understanding. Where there is understanding, they become redundant. Therefore there are two ways: One of method - of ignorance. The ignorant man says, "I have no knowledge. Show me some technique, some method by-which I can develop my understanding." Ignorance, lack of understanding, demands methods. It cannot exist without them. Comprehension requires no such thing. You understand - and there the matter ends. It is enough that you understand. There is a reason for this.
People like Lao Tzu think that actually, we are not bound; we only are under an illusion of being bound. We are not ill - we are simply ignorant. There are two things: One man is ill, he is really ill.
An actual illness has caught hold of him. Then he requires medicines, treatment is necessary. But there is another man who is not at all ill but who imagines himself to be ill. Treating such a person with medicines will not prove only costly but also dangerous. There is the possibility of the medicine triggering off new illnesses. This man only needs to understand that he is not ill, he is only suffering from an illusion. If such a man has to be treated, he can be given only sugar pills and water as medicines to console him that he is being treated. Lao Tzu's opinion is - and it is the right opinion - that life's difficulty is ignorance. Life itself is not difficult to understand.
We are not really estranged from God - we only think so. We have not really gone away from life, we only think so. We have not lost the treasures of life, we have only forgotten them. If this is so, then Lao Tzu says, "Where is the need for devices?" There is no question for remedy. Understanding is enough. Understanding is the remedy.
Buddha has said: "For those who do not understand, I have devised methods. For those who understand, I have given them understanding. There the matter ends." This is almost like the case of hundreds of people who visit the psychologists. They have no illness but suffer from the illusion that they are ill; and this makes them more ill than those who are genuinely ill. So they have to be treated. And what is the treatment. What do Freud and Jung do? Nothing, except they help the patient to recount his illness and in the course of this talk, if the patient develops understanding, he manages to step out of his illness; if not he remains within his hallucinations.
The problem of life is not a veritable problem of illness. It is a problem of a pseudo-illness. Therefore, Lao Tzu does not talk of remedies. He says, "Be without help - without resources - that is the only remedy. Know, understand and be settled - this is the only way."
Lao Tzu's instructions are not for the defeated or the despondent. This is interesting and needs to be understood for this question does arise in the mind. People like Lao Tzu sound as if they are escapists. They say: "Desire nothing". If we do not desire, how will we Progress? But how many have progressed by their ambition - can we count them?
Someone asked Aldous Huxley - whose three generations had worked for the progress of mankind - to give a detailed account of whether man had profited by the efforts of his forefathers; whether man was happier, more at peace, more blissful than what he was 5,000 years ago. Huxley said, "If you had asked of my great grandfather, he would have boldly said, 'Yes'. If you had asked my father, he would have hesitated. But I - I can give no reply!" No: Man is neither happy, nor peaceful nor blissful. There has been a lot of progress otherwise."
From Lao Tzu's talks, it seems all progress will stop; but is man required for progress or progress required for man? If man is required for progress than it is alright that he be sacrificed at the altar of progress. If man dies, let him die but the slow moving 10 miles/hour vehicle must be replaced with the a 100m/ hour vehicle. It does not matter if man lives or dies. The stars and the moon are to be conquered, no matter if the travellers live or die. If progress is the goal then Lao Tzu is wrong. But if man is the goal, his bliss, his savour is the aim, then what Lao Tzu says is 100 Remember, by running it does not mean that you have reached. By running alone one does not reach but the logic of the mind says, if you do not run, you do not reach! Lao Tzu says, "The supreme wealth of Existence can only be experienced and known by he who halts and not by he who runs." It is not Lao Tzu alone who says this. Buddha, Mahavira, Patanjali are of the same opinion. All those who have known have said the same thing. If that is so, all enlightened people are escapists and all ignorant people are progressive.
It is also very interesting that all these ignorant people, who are seemingly progressive, ultimately seek shelter at the feet of some Lao Tzu, begging for peace; whereas, Lao Tzu never goes begging at the fed of the ignorant, for progress. The progressive has always ended up at the feet of the escapist but the escapist has never approached a progressive in search of happiness. This is true without exceptions. Lao Tzu has eyes to see, so has Buddha; they can see how far the progressive has reached, whereas they have lagged behind. And yet, it is the progressive man who seeks refuge at the feet of Buddha or Lao Tzu, and begs to be shown the way to peace and happiness.
No, this is not escapism. It is a matter of condition. Words are not dangerous, their connotations make them so. If my house catches fire and I run out, you can say I am an escapist. In verbal terms, this is correct - I am forsaking the house for it has caught fire. But it is not wise to stay within a house that has caught fire. If it is sensible to stay within a house on fire then it is an act of bravery to stand before a truck in full speed. He who steps aside at the honk of a speeding truck, is an escapist, for in the hour of trial he is losing courage! If we understand well the conditions of life, we will know that Lao Tzu is not runn-ing away from life. He only steps aside from the follies of life, he is only stepping aside from the fire, the disease. He goes deep within life. We who think that we are going ahead in life are progressing in sheer ignorance alone and are being cheated out of life.
What is the ultimate test? We should compare our face with Lao Tzu's. Lao Tzu is not worried even at the time of death and we are filled with anxiety even when we are alive! Lao Tzu is happy to embrace death and we cannot even embrace life. Lao Tzu laughs in illness, we cry even when we are well. What is the proof? If Lao Tzu is offered thorns, he is filled with gratitude; if someone places a flower in our hands, we do not even feel grateful. No; What is the way through which we can know? What is the measure? Lao Tzu is not an escapist.
And if Lao Tzu is an escapist, everyone should be an escapist. Then escapism should be our religion for Lao Tzu escapes from the futile and enters the purposeful-ness and meaning of life.
It seems as if there is defeatism and despondency in his words. Is he afraid of life? Has he no strength to fight? Perhaps he is weak and therefore he steps aside. But there is no sign of weakness in Lao Tzu. The strength that effuses from people like Lao Tzu, Christ and Buddha is unsurpassable.
Those whom we call progressive gradually begin to show signs of nervousness. Their limbs begin to tremble and they are filled with a thousand fears. The psychologists of America of today say that there are hardly 10 No progressive man can sleep as soundly as Lao Tzu nor can he eat with such joy and relish - nor can he digest his food so efficaciously. He does not enjoy Lao Tzu's health, nor his fearlessness.
He cannot enjoy the silence that is within Lao Tzu nor the ever-flowing stream of bliss within him, which gives no indication of defeat or despondency.
He is not a defeated man - this Lao Tzu. On the contrary he says: "No one has ever defeated me." And when someone asks the reason why, he says: "Because I have never wished to conquer anyone. I can only be defeated if I am out to conquer somebody. I wish to conquer no one." We might think Lao Tzu is afraid to fight but Lao Tzu says: "I do not wish to fight for there is nothing worth fighting for in your world. The paltry, things you set out to conquer are too ordinary for my consideration. Then why create this fuss of conquering trivial things? If you set out to conquer you will be defeated and even if you win, you gain nothing. If you lose you are burdened with restlessness and distress. So I did not set out to conquer; not that I was afraid of defeat but because there was nothing worth conquering."
The question that rises within our mind is but natural. We feel this can only be the view-point of a pessimist but then a pessimist is a sad and unhappy person whereas Lao Tzu is not an unhappy man. We, the so-called optimists appear unhappy. When the scriptures of Buddha were translated for the first time in the West, they branded him as a pessimist par excellence! For they say he says, "birth is pain, old age is affliction, life is sorrow, death is pain - everything is pain". But they did not take the trouble of gazing at his face. He is a pessimist, you are an optimist, so there should be signs of happiness on your face. But there is no sign of happiness evident on your face! This man who says "Birth is pain, life is agony, everything gives pain", his bliss knows no bounds!
Then there is certainly some place where we have erred. Buddha says, "Life is sorrow. He who realises this, attains bliss. He who thinks life to be blissful, attains nothing but misery." This calculation of Buddha is very profound. Buddha and Lao Tzu both say: "He who takes life to be happiness, ends up in sorrow, for life is sorrow." If I look upon a thorn as a flower, the thorn is bound to prick me and cause pain, for it is a thorn a nd not a flower; but if I know a thorn to be a thorn, it cannot hurt me. It can only hurt me if I take it to be a flower. Buddha says: "Life is sorrow - know this. Then no one can snatch your joy away from you." But if you take life as happiness, you will fall into unhappiness for you will have started a chain of illusions.
Lao Tzu is not a pessimist. He is an extreme optimist. He is at the pinnacle of supreme bliss.
There was a famous disciple of Lao Tzu by the name of Chwang-Tse. He was called by the emperor of China to come and be his prime-minister. Chuang-Tse sent back a message to him: "There is no happiness beyond the joy I am in. By making me your prime-minister you will be dragging me down from my heights; for there is no joy beyond this. Now to go forward in any direction, is to go back.
To move an inch from where I am, is to lose. There is no greater bliss than that I am in."
You might think this man is mad to lose such a golden opportunity. When the emperor himself calls him to be his prime-minister, he should have grabbed the opportunity. But Chwang-Tse's understanding tells him that if he moved the slightest bit from the supreme bliss he was in, he would fall for there is nothing further beyond it.
When Lao Tzu or Chuang-Tse or anyone else talks of Tathata (That which Is), when they talk of acceptability, it is not out of frustration or distress. It is not also because it is a good thing to be contented in life. The attitude of acceptance comes about for two reasons: One is, a man accepts because there is no way out. Then at least there is consolation. But Lao Tzu's acceptability, is not this explanation of Tathata (That which Is).
Lao Tzu says, "The man who says there is satisfaction in acceptance is as yet refusing to accept, for if there is no denial then where is the dissatisfaction?" I say there is a thorn in my foot. If I am to accept this, at least there will be the satisfaction of acceptance of the fact. It pains, let me accept - but there is denial behind this acceptance. In truth, my acceptance is a form of non-acceptance.
I am in pain, I am in agony but when there is no way out, I close my eyes and accept the fact.
Then I console myself that perhaps this too, is a divine mystery; the curse may be a blessing. The glistening flash of lightning lies hidden behind black clouds and the flower hides within the thorns, so happiness hides behind sorrow. But my search is the search of happiness for the bright streak of light; I do not accept the black clouds. And when the night is at its darkest, morn is close by - but my eyes search only for the dawn! By keeping the desire of dawn, I try to lessen the darkness of the night. I am trying to be contented.
But Lao Tzu does not talk of this Tathata. He says, "Acceptability not for the sake of contentment, rather because non-acceptability is foolishness." Non-acceptance does nothing but drag a man into hell. Lao Tzu stresses more the need to under-stand non-acceptability rather than acceptability. The day I understand clearly that I create my own hell by non-acceptance, that very day non-acceptance will vanish. What then remains will be acceptability. Understand this reasoning.
There is one acceptability which we impose against non-acceptance. There is another acceptability that results on the disappearance of non-acceptability. There is a difference between the two. When there is denial within and we impose acceptance without, a conflict is created. There is denial within and acceptance without: My friend dies. I say to myself, "That is how it is. I shall have to accept the fact. There is no other way." Then I keep telling myself that everyone has to go one day or the other.
Death comes to everyone. Who has lived forever in this world? I try to console myself this way but the pain throbs within. The friend is gone, the emptiness troubles. The mind wails within: "This should not have happened. It is bad. it is bad!" From without I console the mind: "Death happens. It has always been happening. We cannot escape it." These two things go on simultaneously. I try to dress the wound from with-out but it remains bleeding within.
Lao Tzu does not advocate such acceptance, or Tathata. He says, "I am not pained at the death of my friend. I only wonder how he remained alive all this time!" Life is an impossible happening.
Death is a natural happening. Death is no wonder whereas Life is a wonder.
Lao Tzu says: "How do we manage to remain alive so long?"
I have mentioned Chuang-Tse to you. His wife died. The emperor went to condole him. He found him playing a tambourine on his door-step. His legs out-stretched, he was singing a song. In the morning he bade farewell to his wife and at noon he sits playing the tambourine! The emperor hesitated. He had come prepared with condolences as we usually are when someone dies. We are such experts at this game that we even have the dialogue by heart! We know exactly what is to be said and what would be the answer. So the king was prepared for his part but he found that things were quite the opposite here. The old dialogue would not hold water here. Chuang-Tse was singing and he was filled with joy.
The king however could not with-hold himself. He said: "Chuang-Tse, it is enough that you show no grief but for God's sake do not play- the tambourine!"
And do you know what Chuang-Tse said in reply? He said: "Either I should grieve or play the tambourine. There is nothing in between. And why should I be sad? I thank God who gave her life for so many days - wonder of wonders! How well she served me and so long - ah wonder! And the love she showered on me - oh most beautiful wonder! And if I do not bid farewell to her with music in these parting moments, it would be an improper act on my part! I am giving her a send-off. Now she goes further and further away from this world and the sound of my tambourine must be fading away softly. I have bidden her a joyful farewell."
We are such, we are not happy even when staying together and we call ourselves optimists! And here is Chuang-Tse bidding farewell to his wife with joy and we call him a pessimist! Then our optimism and pessimism is very strange. We are pessimists, for we are filled with pain and sorrow all the twenty-four hours. Chuang-Tse is one from among the extreme Optimists.
Lao Tzu does not ask us to accept out of helplessness. No, he says accept with all your strength all your power, all your might. It requires great strength and valour to accept life as such. Someone throws a stone at Mahavira. Mahavira stands still. To us it would occur: "What a coward! He should return a stone for a stone!" But Mahavira just stands - not out of cowardice but because of a great strength - a supreme power. He possesses such gigantic energy that stones do not hurt him.
They start no reaction within him. And he who throws the stone is childish. Mahavira is filled with compassion for him and pities him for his vain labour.
We can do only one of the two things: Either we return a stone for a stone or we run away. We know no third alternative. But Mahavira knows. He neither runs away nor does he throw back a stone. He does not take the stone in at all! The stone causes no intervention within him at all. And the stone causes him no harm. On the contrary it proves useful for it helps him to be more firmly established in his supreme peace and bliss. He is not swayed an inch here or there.
All religions are born through great prowess and valour and all religions are born out of fearlessness, not fear. And all religions are consecrated in bliss, never in pain. The maxim of pain is the demand for happiness and to be consecrated in bliss is to accept pain.
QUESTION: ARE NOT LAO TZU'S INSTRUCTIONS ON LIFE BASED ON PESSIMISM AND ESCAPISM?
WHAT IS MEANT BY UNDERSTANDING?
Bhagwan Sri: Whatever happens in life can happen in two ways: One with understanding and the other without under-standing. An example will make things easy:
You abuse me and I am filled with anger. Does your abuse at once give birth to anger within me or is there a happening of understanding between the two? When you abuse me do I try to see within myself how the anger is born by your abuse? Do I go within and see whether anger should arise or should not arise? Do I see within what anger is? I see nothing of this. All I know is, you abused and I got angry; there is no gap in between. On one hand is the abuse, on the other, anger. You pressed a button and I flared up - then I behave like a machine! This behaviour is the behaviour born out of ignorance.
You abuse me and I see what is rising within me and why. Where does the abuse touch me, what wound it disturbs within me, where does it hurt me and why? What is there in the abuse that fills me with rage, what is there in the abuse that fills me with poison? All this I examine within myself and then I see this poison rising within me, this anger ascending from within, this fire ravaging within me - I see it and I understand it. Then what I do will be out of understanding. It is interesting to note that one can only be angry in ignorance and never knowingly. Therefore, if when you abuse, I worry more about my understanding of the reaction within me, anger becomes impossible. You abuse me and I do not watch myself within, then only is anger possible.
This is why, people like Lao Tzu say that there is no need to take measures to remove anger.
No mantras or charms, no oaths or vows are necessary. Understand anger and anger becomes impossible.
A Western friend is practising meditation. He is here with us. His trouble is anger. He is so filled with anger that it overflows at the slightest excuse. I advised him to vent his anger on a pillow. He was surprised! "That is madness!" He exclaimed. "On a pillow?" I told him, "You start and see, it is not so bad. If you could vent your anger on a human being and not see the foolishness of it. It is not more foolish to take it out on a pillow I assure you." He tried the first day and came and gave me a complete report. He felt a little awkward in the beginning. After five or seven minutes when the momentum built up, he started hitting the pillow hard as if it were alive. Not only did the pillow become alive but it assumed the form of the person he hated most. He remembered this foe and all that had happened ten years ago. He had wished to beat him up but could not. He says he felt to laugh, he felt very uneasy too but he enjoyed it also!
Since the last three days he is beating up his pillow. Today he has given the final report and it is very astonishing.
The full report is like this: The very first day all the faces of people he had wanted to hit and could not, began to come up. The next day all faces disappeared. There was no one before him, there was plain anger alone. He saw the anger coming out from within him and there was no one to receive it at the other end - pure anger. Then it occurred to him that all this was already within him, he only needed excuses to throw out the poison within him. Then an understanding arose. He saw anger in a new form. Now the responsibility of anger, shifted from the other person. Now he knew that there was a fire within him that needed to come out. Now the responsibility shifted on him - it no longer was objective, it became subjective. It was no longer that the other abused and the anger arose.
Now he understood that he was wanting to be angry and was looking out for excuses. If no one had abused him, he would have found some other excuse. He would have even gone to the extent of inciting someone to abuse him! And the simple reason for all this was, that there was something within him that was pressing for release. It was necessary to be rid of it.
The next day in the course of these beatings that he carried out 3-4 times a day, it became absolutely clear to him that the anger was not because of another but was within him. Today was his third day.
He told me: "I am shocked at myself". As soon as the realisation came that the anger is not on someone, that the anger is already within myself, something departed from within - everything was peaceful. Now I have become absolutely weak and incompetent to be angry. If you abuse me now, I shall be unable to express anger. At least I find myself incapable of doing so at this moment. Some load has come off me and I feel empty within."
Understanding means: Whatever happens within you is with your full consciousness and in your full awareness - Whatever happens. Then many things will stop happening by themselves. What stops happening, is sin; and what keeps happening even in your full consciousness is virtue.
Understanding is the test. Whatever can go on with understanding is virtue. What does not go along with understanding, is sin. What can be activated in ignorance alone, is sin and that which cannot be activated in ignorance, is virtue. So understanding means only this: that whatever happens within me, happens with my full knowledge and nothing slips from my consciousness.
Whatever happens to you, happens outside your consciousness. You do not know when you are filled with anger or filled with love, when you are happy, when you are sad - everything happens in your unconsciousness. Suddenly you find yourself happy, suddenly sad. You feel a terrible melancholia and you look for the cause outside of you. You do not realise it is coming from within you. You begin to blame your son or daughter, your wife or husband or your business. You set out to find and you end up by making a scapegoat of someone or the other.
These are simply excuses-pegs. You think you would not do all this if you are by yourself. You will! If you are locked up in a room alI alone, you will do all that you do to another person. You think you talk only when a friend meets you. If you are left to yourself, you will begin talking to an illusory friend.
You think yoU are angered because someone irritated you. Put yourself in a room and in 15 days' time you will find you have become angry hundreds of times. You then vent your anger on your shirt or on the bath-room tap! You will find a thousand ways.
If what happens within you, happens with your full consciousness it becomes a different thing altogether. No happening of my inner existence should happen in my unconsciousness - this is understanding. What is interesting to note is, that once understanding is born within us, all that is wrong stops happening on its own. Without understanding, even with your best efforts, you will not be able to do the right thing. This is why the whole stress of Lao Tzu is on understanding, knowledge and wisdom.
The rest tomorrow.