Death of the ego and the entrance into the mystery
CHAPTER 4: SUTRA 2
WE SHOULD BLUNT ITS SHARP POINTS, AND UNRAVEL ITS COMPLICATIONS. WE SHOULD ATTEMPER ITS BRIGHTNESS AND SUBMERGE ITS TURMOIL. YET DARK LIKE DEEP WATER IT SEEMS TO REMAIN.
Religion is the state of an empty consciousness; like the state of an empty vessel.
But how is one to become an empty vessel? If one wishes to be empty, how can one be? If one wishes to annihilate himself, what is the method?
Yesterday we tried to understand that nothing is more foolish than trying to be perfect. But the science of becoming perfect is available. We have shastras that explain this process step by step.
We have schools and universities where we can perfect ourselves in any direction. But where is the scripture that teaches void? What are the precepts that teach emptiness? One has got to pass through a particular process in order to be something. So man has developed many methods of reaching perfection. He has laid out paths for strengthening his ego. He has organised and classified his thoughts and concepts in this direction. But for emptiness? What is one to do to become empty?
Lao Tzu has a few things to say on this. He says: "Blunt the sharp edges." There are many sharp edges in the personality of an individual. Where you pierce and pain another, there is a sharp point within you. But it is always the sharp point of the other that we become aware of when it pricks us.
When we prick another, we are not aware of it within ourselves. If I pierce you with a sharp knife, you will become aware of its sharpness, not I. If someone pierces me, then alone will I become aware - but then too, only of the others' sharpness.
This causes a lot of confusion in the world. All the strife in the world is due to the fact that we are sensitive towards the sharp points of others and not to our own. Have you ever felt the sharp points within yourself? This is why we are busy wiping off the sharpness of others throughout our lives.
So the first thing to keep in mind is that we are not conscious of the sharp edges within ourselves.
We are not conscious of the fact that these sharp edges pain others. We are only aware of the pain inflicted by the sharp edge of another, for it pains us. Another thing, since we are unaware of the sharp edges within us, knowingly or unknowingly, we keep on strengthening their roots. Since we are aware of the sharp edges of others, we are always endeavouring - to destroy them.
In this connection, the most interesting thing is, the more we strive to blunt the edges of the other, the stronger we have to make our own edges; for there is no other way of breaking the opponent's edge. So the effort to blunt the edges of the other is an intrinsic effort to sharpen, to increase and to polish our own edges! And we are all engaged in this pursuit with the result that a vicious circle is created. Each one of us is engaged in sharpening and poisoning his own edges to counteract the others'.
Then it gradually happens that we remain nothing but a bundle of pins and needles.
Now we should also understand the way in which our sharp edges prick us also: When our sharp edges begin to inflict wounds on others, they all become eager to inflict wounds on us in return. This is how we realise our own pricks. So then, we at the most hide our sharp edges by drawing a cover on them. But these covers are skin-deep only. We cover ourselves with the plaster of sweetness, humility, of refinement and gentility. But the slightest attack and this layer comes off laying bare the sharp edges within.
Lao Tzu says: "Brush off all the sharp edges." Then what are we to do?
First we shall have to know the locations of these sharp points. Could it not be that through the long live of births, we have remained a mere collection of sharp points? We seem to have shed all the other part of us and saved only these! And how are we to know our own edges? Step into the place of 'the other' and you shall know.
Whenever the other person is pained by us, our mind says that he suffers from his own mistakes.
Whenever we are hurt by another, we say the other has hurt us. If you are angry with me I say you have a notable temperament. If I become angry I say, "The conditions were such, I had to be angry."
About the other, I say, "He is an ill-natured person, the situation was not such that he should have lost his temper. He is venomous!" Such reasoning helps to hide all our sharp edges and we never become aware of them.
Jesus has said, "Do unto others what you would have others do unto you." But this is a far cry.
At least let us have the magnanimity to use the same logic for others that we use for ourselves!
When I lose my temper I say the situation was such. When the other loses his temper let me also concede that the situation was such! We shall have to break this double-faced logic of ours. This double crossing logic - one for ourselves and quite another for the other is utilised mainly to save our prongs. And thus we never come to know who and what we are. This one logic spoils our whole life.
Therefore, the gist of all religions is contained in this statement of Jesus. "Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you. This is the essence of all religions. And this one statement is enough. All Vedas and Shastras and Puranas, and all Bibles and Korans are contained in this small statement.
Let a person do this much and he has no need to do anything else. But this is very difficult for we shall have to brush all the sharp edges within us - and sharp edges there are within us.
So the first thing is to become totally aware of this double-edged logic. Each moment I should be conscious of the fact that I must allow the same logic for others that I allow for myself. Then you will begin to see the thorns within you. The day we give up this logic and give the same allowances to others, conditions change and we witness a unique experience. Then we find that my nature was such that I got angry and the situation was such that the other had to get angry!
The day you realise that it is in your nature to get angry, that it is your habit to lose your temper and the conditions of the other were such that he could not but lose his temper, then you will be incapable of forgiving yourself and not forgiving the other. He who finds it very easy to forgive himself, is never able to brush away the thorns off himself.
We however, are experts - at forgiving ourselves. There is no limit to our forgiving ourselves. How long would it be possible, I ask you for you, to stay with a person, exactly like you? It will be difficult to spend a single day; but you live with your self from many births! There must be some logic that saves you from knowing yourself. You can not think what you are! You have not the least bit of consciousness to show you what you are!
To understand this, we must first have the knowledge of the pikes, of the daggers that jut out from us. Wherever we go, we are bound to hurt someone or the other. If you manage to pass without any incident, you do not feel you have really done something. You feel you passed and no one noticed you! You can only draw another's attention towards yourself when you begin to inflict injury.
There are many kinds of wounds you can inflict, of that we shall talk later, in how many ways we can hurt and how well we can explain it away!
Some friends had gathered one morning in Nasruddin's sitting-room. He called one of his disciples and handing him an earthen vessel said, "Take this to the well and fill it. Mind you, do not break it!
It is an earthen pot. Now come near me." As the youth came near him, he gave him two slaps on his face. The poor boy was dazed and the rest of the gathering were very much perturbed. One old man then said, "Mulla, you hit the youth who has committed no fault. We cannot understand this.
The vessel is yet unbroken and you have punished the boy?" Nasruddin said, "I am not from those foolish ones who wait for the happening and then mete out the punishment. What is the use then?
When the pot is already broken, then where is the sense in beating?"
You will not be able to answer Nasruddin. His words are meaningful. If you beat, you must then beat first, then it has some meaning. Later on it will have no meaning. Man is such an expert - he can deal out the punishment before the error is committed. This is the message of Nasruddin's story.
We are experts at rationalization.
But no self-experiences are experienced by means of the skill of rationalisation for the order of reasoning is useful only to hide the ego-self. Rationalisation will not do, what is needed is self- introspection. Self-introspection means the ability to put oneself in the other's place. Each one of us feels that the other's anger was unjustified. It is difficult to find a man who does not feel that he is the victim of injustice. A thousand times in the day we feel victimized for no fault of our own.
Our experience is that we are prey to injustice. But when we have spent our wrath on the other, have we ever felt that the other is a prey to injustice? As the other is ignorant of the unfairness on his part, so are we.
This is insight, this is not logic. This is an experience. Man's nature is the same everywhere.
Everyone thinks almost the way I think; everyone's experiences are almost like mine. Therefore it is not difficult to put oneself in the other's position and think. He who is successful in putting himself in the other's place or putting the other in his place, develops his insight. Then he is able to see the sharp edges within him.
Mahavira attained supreme knowledge; so also Buddha. And yet every morning when Buddha prayed he asked forgiveness of the whole world. One day a person asked him, "You have attained the supreme knowledge, now no one is hurt by you, no one can be hurt by you, then why do you ask forgiveness?" Buddha said, "I remember my days of ignorance, when I used to feel injured even when no one was injuring me. Therefore even though I do not willfully harm others, many must be feeling injured because of me, so I know that this vast ocean of ignorant humanity that is all around me must be feeling injured on account of me even though I am not inflicting the injury. They are being inflicted, whether I am the cause or not. Hence I have to ask forgiveness."
"But you have not caused the infliction?" the man asked again. Buddha replied, "But I am the cause.
If I were not, no injury will be on account of me. My being is enough to inflict the injury. Therefore I ask forgiveness. This forgiveness is not for a sin committed but for a sin that has taken place - even though I have had no hand in it."
We are in such a state where we feel the whole world is molesting us. We feel we are innocent and the rest of the world is filled with wickedness - that a great conspiracy is going on against us; that you are alone, against the whole wide world! This is our view-point. And with such a view-point, you can never see the spikes within you. So you will always be defending yourself and he who tries always to save himself, will never know himself. Hence he can never save himself for how can he save himself when he does not know himself?
So the first thing is - watch yourself. How many injuries you inflict during the day - in the speech, as you sit, as you walk, with your gestures, with your smiles and with your eyes or your lips! note the wounds you inflict - sometime even without any reason. Then you will come to realize that that is your nature.
Mulla Nasruddin was walking along a road. One man slipped over a banana peel and fell. Nasruddin laughed out loud. As he was laughing, his foot fell on another bit of the banana peel and he too fell.
As he got up from the ground he folded his hands and said, "I thank thee, oh Lord! Had I not laughed beforehand, I would never have laughed at all!" Now it was the other's turn to laugh.
When we laugh at others, we do not think; when we abuse others or scandalize them, we do not think what we are doing. It is possible that in no time we may find ourselves in the same situation.
Nasruddin speaks from the very depth of the human being. He says, "It is as well that I had my laugh for later the tables were turned!" Nasruddin is a symbol of the irony of all mankind. He is, so to say the essence, the very extract of all human psychology.
We shall have to inspect each movement of ours, lest it hides a sharp edge within itself. Are you piercing someone and are you by any chance, taking pleasure out of it? You are perhaps dominating over someone, asserting your ownership over someone, giving orders to others - and taking delight in it!
One day Nasruddin was annoyed with his son. The son is making a lot of noise. He orders him, "Sit down you rascal!" But he, after all, is Nasruddin's son! He says, "I won't!" "Then stand!" shouted Nasruddin. "Whether you sit or stand, you shall have to obey me," he tells his son!
It is the persistent effort of our mind to dominate someone. Why? It is because when we do so, we feel we too, are something. We are hardly aware of our being unless we oppress someone. The greater the number of people within my clutch, the greater a person I become. We have no other measure to measure the greatness of a person. How many will suffer if he tightens his fist? That great is the man!
We are engaged in pressing down as many necks as we can. And it is not that the enemy alone puts his hands on your neck; those whom we call friends, they too have got their thumbs on our necks.
And the enemy's hold may loosen sometime - not so the friend's! Those who are related to us, they too, are always testing and surveying their hold on you. The moment they feel their hold slackening they are filled with fear of losing their grip!
All these are our spikes. These are our violences. Lao Tzu says, "Blunt their sharp edges." If you wish to progress towards the void, you shall have to destroy these edges, drop them, cast them aside. But who can do this? Only that person who is willing to live in insecurity. We keep an armed guard at our door because we want protection. The armed guard shows in the subtle ways that we put up defences all around our individuality.
I lived with a friend for eight years. This man was a good soul. Whenever he met me he was very loving towards me. He would always smile when he greeted me. But I never saw him smiling either at his wife or his son or his servants. When his servants were around, he was a different man altogether - he behaved as if there was no one in the room. I was perplexed and so I asked him what was the reason?
He said, "I have to be alert. If I smile at the servant, he comes with a plea to raise his pay. If I smile at my wife, she puts in a demand for yet another saree and if I smile at my son, he promptly puts his hand in my pocket! So I wear this mask of severity for my protection. It is a necessary compulsion and though it is difficult to maintain, it keeps the son away and also the servants are afraid."
"But what will you gain or lose by this defence?" I asked him. "Have you pondered on this! If you die today, the servants will enter your room no more. Your wife will no longer ask for sarees and your son will not feel your pockets. They will go and throw your body out of the house. As long as you are alive, insecurity is there. The moment you are dead, you shall be secure. There is no better secured thing in this world than a corpse. Even death can do nothing to a dead man; no illness can trouble him. Nothing can be done to it - it is beyond all that you can do."
The more protected we are, the more spikes we require. These spikes are our security arrangements. We are afraid, we feel besieged by foes on all sides and we feel we must protect ourselves against them.
Nasruddin began to drink heavily in order to escape his wife. His friends began to worry about him.
They were afraid he might die. Whenever they pleaded with him he said, "I can only go home when I am drunk. My legs begin to tremble if I am sober and my mind is in a whirl preparing answers for questions that no one has ever asked but my wife would. When I am drunk I enter with never a care.
This is my defence."
When things began to go out of hand, the friends thought they would have to do something or else he would die. So they decided that one of them would dress as a devil and sit on the tree and pounce on Nasruddin. He was bound to be frightened and would do anything the devil told him.
So one night one of the friends dressed as a devil and lay in wait for Nasruddin. The rest hid behind the tree. When it struck two, Nasruddin came reeling on his way back home. Suddenly there were shouts and yells as the devil jumped on Nasruddin and catching him by the neck said, "Promise you shall drink no more or I'll wring your neck!" Nasruddin looked at him and said calmly, "First tell me gentleman, who are you?" Now this caused confusion for such an eventuality had not been taken into consideration. The man however replied, "I am the devil! Can't you see?" "Oh, then I am most happy to meet you!" said Nasruddin "I am the guy who has married your sister. Come along, I shall take you to her!"
All plans were failed. The friends came out from behind the tree. Nasruddin addressed them thus:
"With great difficulty I have come upon my wife's brother. I want to take him to her but he is running away! He has not the guts to face her."
All our arrangements our words, our language, our precepts, our wines and picture-houses, our brothers and entertainments are intrinsic arrangements for our protection. Our mosques and temples, our gurudwaras and churches are all preparations for our security. We have made all these arrangements out of fear. When a person is afraid, he has to keep all kinds of spikes around him. Then who would break these spikes?
He alone can break these spikes, who is prepared to live in insecurity.
Alan Watt has written a book called 'WISDOM OF INSECURITY' after understanding the Lao-Tzu trend of thought: Security is a foolish thing. We cannot make anything secure. We destroy ourselves in the effort to do so. One should have the wisdom to live in insecurity. We shall create no spikes, we shall prepare no defences and then if life attacks, we shall welcome it. The most wonderful thing that happens is, that when thus a man volunteers to accept all attacks and makes no arrangements to counteract them, when he believes that that is his destiny, then all attacks become impossible on such a person.
Aggression has its own rules.
If your neighbour sees you doing pull-ups, he will be frightened. Then he expects all kinds of things from you. So he too begins to do exercise. Then you look through your window and you suspect foul play. So you pick up a sword and so it goes on! And this is not between neighbours alone. This happens between Russia and America and China and India and Pakistan. One country begins to spread its army on the borders and the neighbouring country kicks up an alarm. It sends a bigger force to guard its borders. Then each begins to suspect the other, leading to minor frays and major wars.
Psychologists say that 99 Our minds revolve round this one fact - what is the other doing? Then we begin to do the same thing with double force. And the intellect on both sides is of the same quality. In this retaliation, the reflections and images that result become so powerful that man has no control over them. Then everything seems to happen mechanically.
Lao Tzu says, "Be insecure!" As it is how can you be secure? If this earth breaks today, where goes all your security? If the sun turns cold, what arrangements have you made to guard against this possibility? And if the sun recedes farther away from the earth, how will you bring it back? Once this earth was barren of all creation. What if it were to become barren again? To whom will you complain? Life has existed and become extinct on infinite planets. This earth too will not always remain so green. It will be destroyed. What measures have you against all this?
It is just like an ant that is returning home with a grain of sugar. Your foot falls on her and she is crushed to death. You are not even aware of it! All her plans, all her arrangements, snapped in a moment! God knows what all she must have dreamt about, what all she must have planned to do on returning home! Everything is destroyed. Now how can the ant get out from under your foot? Can she make any prearrangements?
You think no end of your abilities - just because you have crushed an ant? What is the status of man in this enormous universe?
If a great sun passes by us, we shall be reduced to ashes. Scientists say that three thousand million years ago, a big sun passed by the earth - that is at a distance of a thousand million miles - and in this very impact that part of the earth which we now know as the moon, broke away from the earth.
The Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean are the hollows where the moon formed a part of the earth.
In this enormous and infinite universe where there are some four thousand million suns anything is possible anytime. And no one is going to come and consult you! A slight difference and life will fade forever on this earth.
Crores of species or animals have inhabited this earth but not a single descendant of theirs exists now. And there is no special rule of life regarding the human being. We, however, make elaborate arrangements. But all our arrangements are like those of the ant. I do not say make no arrangements, nor does Lao Tzu say make no arrangements. I do not say do not store a little grain for the rainy weather. I only say: while doing this, remember well these are all arrangements like those of the ant. The gigantic wheel of life moves on its own principles and we have no control over it. If this comes within our understanding, then all anxieties of security fall off.
Security should continue but the anxiety thereof; the madness thereof, should be no more. Then there is no difficulty in dropping the spikes for the spikes are for our protection. Now there is no need to save ourselves. We are ready to accept whatever comes. If death comes, it is welcome. In this acceptance you do not feel the need of anger or violence or hate or enmity or jealousy or malice any more.
Then only can the spikes break.
Lao Tzu says, "This our mind, our individuality has become a ganglion." It has become a complex - like tangled thread. From wherever you pull, it gets more entangled. You try to disentangle in one place and it gets entangled in another place. No matter how much you try, you cannot disentangle the knots. And Lao Tzu says - "Disentangle these knots". How shall we go about it?
We are forever trying to disentangle these knots. A man comes and says, "I do not want to be angry.
Please show me how I may not be angry" It is very strange! You do not want to be angry, where is the question of being angry? Do not be angry - that is all! He says, "That is not the question. I do not want to be angry, but I become angry." This means, anger is a thread, entangled with many other like threads. This man wants to be rid of this thread but he is catching hold of some other thread.
For example, tell this man, "Alright! If you do not want to be angry, take delight in insults. Do not worry about honour and respect." He will at once turn round and say, "How can that be? After all, one should have self-respect!"
Man is very cunning. He says, "I am not arrogant, I believe in self-respect. Others indulge in arrogance; and self-respect one should have. One cannot become a worm!" He says, "I do not want to be angry but I want to keep my pride." Now pride is a thread that is joined to anger and it cannot be segregated. Self-respect is a far cry; he who tries to save even his self, will find that anger is well within him. It is not enough to be selfless for yet the self remains. Only in the condition of selflessness where the self is completely absent, then only does anger fall off.
Our condition is such that we want to preserve one end of the stick and cut of the other. And life passes in great difficulty, nothing is eradicated for we never seem to see that everything is conjoined and entangled with everything else within us.
One man says, "I shall make no enemies. I wish to be friendly with all." But remember by making friends you give rise to the enemy. One can understand the correlation of anger and arrogance but how enmity is born in friendship, is difficult to understand He who is eager to make friends, is bound to make enemies.
There is a reason for this. One method of making friends, brings about the by-product of enmity. Just as on burning coal, ash is bound to remain for it is the by-product; so when you make friends with someone, you lay the foundation of enmity with that person also. A man eager to cultivate friendship creates many out-posts of enmity all around him.
In fact, what is the reason behind your desire for friendship? If we seek deep within, we shall find that it is because we are afraid of enmity and this is a precaution we take against it.
Nasruddin is in trouble. He has incurred a great loss in his business. His friend offered to help. "Take these Rs.10,000. It will help you to tide over your difficulty," he told him. Nasruddin closed his eyes and began to ponder. "Where is the need to ponder?" his friend said, "Return the money when you can." Nasruddin was still quiet. The friend was surprised at his behaviour. "What is the matter?" He asked, "You are in such great trouble. Why don't you accept?" "No," said Nasruddin. "I have taken loans and lost friends. You are the only one left. I do not want to lose you also. You are a good friend and I do not want to lose you for Rs.10,000."
Friend and foe are the two extremities of the same thing. The friend turns into a foe any time and the enemy can become a friend any time. I have said before that Machiavelli is the other end of Lao Tzu. There is great intelligence in both of them. Machiavelli has said, "Never tell a friend what you would never like to tell a foe, for a friend can turn a foe any time. And never say things against an enemy, which you would never say against your friend for an enemy can turn a friend any time."
Machiavelli has said a clever thing. Be alert when you talk. Do not tell a friend what you dread to tell a foe for who knows when the friend might turn into a foe? And then it would be difficult. Also, never say things about the enemy which you would not say about a friend, for that too may turn out to be a bad bargain. The enemy can become a friend any time. We wish that we should have many friends and no enemies. It is an onerous involvement.
Lao Tzu says, "Extricate the knots." But how? When we try to unravel one end, the other end becomes more complicated. We are taught - Eschew anger, learn to forgive. This causes problems.
We are told - Do not hate, love all. Commit no violence, be non-violent; tell no falsehood, be truthful.
But all these cause more entanglements. If a man resolves to tell the truth, why should the knots become more entangled? But they do.
The moment a man resolves to speak the truth, the confusion begins. For one thing, he shall always have to be aware of falsehood. He shall always have to keep in mind what falsehood is and be every moment aware of it. The moment his thoughts go away from falsehood it will be difficult to hold truth.
Children lie naturally for they have no idea of falsehood. They are so simple that as yet there is no distinction between truth and falsehood.
I have heard that a little boy once went to his mother and said, "Mother, today I saw a dog as big as an elephant!" His mother said, "A thousand times I have told you son, do not exaggerate but you do not listen to me." Now the child is not telling an untruth. Why? Because the child's sense of proportion is very different and this we are not aware of. A dog that appears small to you can appear as huge as an elephant to him. His mathematics are different. What the child sees, we do not see and what we see, the child does not see.
Tell a child to draw a man. He will leave out the torso completely. He will draw two arms, two legs, and a head but the trunk of the body will be left out completely. And this is done by children all over the world!
Psychologists became very curious and they tested children from all over the world. Whether the child was from America or from China, it invariably drew the picture of a man without a trunk. Why does the child leave off the middle portion? It is because the child is oblivious of this part of the body. For a child the human structure consists of a head, two arms and two legs. He is not aware of the mid-portion; he is as yet unconscious of it.
So a child can see a dog as big as an elephant. But the mother says, "I told you a thousand times!"
Now this is pure exaggeration while the child's exaggeration is not!
The mother however, rebukes the child and tells him to go and ask forgiveness from God and vow that he would never lie again. The child goes, prays to God and comes back. The mother asks, "Did God forgive you?" "Well, of course!" Says the child, "He even told me! Never mind little one, I too had felt the dog to be an elephant when first I saw him! It is not your fault at all. Look again and he will now look like a dog".
Now this child is not telling a lie. We may think this is a downright lie. Which God ever speaks like this? But we are not conversant with the child's mind. The child can raise the question on one hand and provide the answer on the other. He must have spoken thus to God. "Do you know what I saw?" And he must have supplied the answer himself as coming from God. "I too felt the dog to be an elephant when I saw him for the first time. It happens this way for the first time. I did not know whether it was a dog or an elephant!" The child has not uttered a falsehood at all for he is as yet blissfully ignorant of it. He is also not telling the truth for he is not aware of the existence of truth! He speaks what he feels.
If we understand correctly - To speak the truth is to speak of a thing as it happens. But this is not the brand of our truth in which we are conscious of falsehood also. The child speaks what he feels.
He sees a dog to be an elephant - he says so. He has not made this up at all! He hears God saying it happened the same way with Him - he recounts the happening faithfully. Truth has another completely different dimension. Truth is, where there is neither truth nor falsehood; where things are as they are.
There is no sense of falsehood there. Therefore many a time, people who live within truth and falsehood feel certain things to be false. As for instance - a dog appearing like an elephant! That is a downright falsehood! How can that be? This is our explanation of falsehood and it conveys the state of our mind. It tells us nothing about the working of a child's mind.
Actually, when we point out the difference to a child for the first time, we initiate him into falsehood.
A new priest came to Nasruddin's village. He gave his first discourse in the Masjid. As they were leaving for home, he came up to Nasruddin and giving credence to his old age asked him his opinion about his discourse. The Mulla said, "Wonderful! We never knew what sin is before you came!" Does sin need an explanation for it to be known as sin?
It is said that Nasruddin accosted his lawyer outside the court and asked him, "What are the rules of divorce?" "What do you mean? What has happened?" The lawyer asked. "My wife has no manners.
Her table manners especially are atrocious! The whole town is talking and my dignity is at stake. I must divorce her!" "How long ago were you married?" the lawyer asked. "About 30 years ago," said Nasruddin. "If you have borne with her for the last 30 years, what troubles you now?" asked the lawyer.
Nasruddin replied, "All these years I did not know. It was only today that I was reading a book on etiquette. It was then I realised that I was doomed! My wife has no table-manners at all!"
When do we become aware of things? When there are expositions on them. Lao Tzu says, "An inch of a distinction, and heaven and hell fall apart." If we bring in the distance of even an inch in our thoughts, it causes a difference of heaven and hell. Lao Tzu says, "Make no distinction." Say not that this is right and that is wrong for the moment you differentiate everything is destroyed. Live in non-distinction.
How will these knots disentangle?
Ordinarily, what we do is we set about disentangling each knot, one by one. Then what we do is, we bring in its opposite to counteract it. For instance, if there is too much anger within us, we bring in a big dose of forgiveness. If we are violent by nature, we switch over to non-violence in a big way. If we are greedy, we become charitable. But nothing is solved this way.
According to Lao Tzu, to disentangle means to view the conditions as they stand. All this confusion is the cause of your differentiations. Your distinction between virtue and sin, truth and untruth, love and hate, has given rise to all this confusion and entanglements. Leave all distinctions and live in plain simplicity. Live naturally as you are, flow with your nature. Make no distinctions. Then there are no entanglements - no knots.
If someone asked Lao Tzu whether he had ever made any atonements for his sins, he would say, "No, for I know not what sin is." He does not say he never committed a sin. He simply does not know what is sin! If someone asked, "Have you performed any good deeds, for then, you are bound to be rewarded?" He would reply, "I have no idea, for I know not what a virtuous act is. I have never weighed my actions. I have never calculated. Whatever came out of me naturally, I did. I have never even repented for my action nor praised myself for them. These two things I have never done."
The knots will disentangle, if we know the alchemy of their formation. What is the alchemy? We tend to break everything into two. At the very outset, we break the thing and then we proceed to act.
Then we find ourselves in the same predicament as Zeno.
There was a very famous thinker of Greece called Zeno. He was one of the very few top-most thinkers of Greece. His paradoxes are many. He says, "There is a distance of one mile. You divide it into two and first travel the first half-mile. Then you divide the other half into half and then this again into half. This way you keep dividing into halves and you find you will never be able to complete the mile." Now one mile is no great distance. You can cross it in no time. Now Zeno says you cross the first half because the mind divides all things into two. Then divide again the next half, then again divide the remainder and thus you goon dividing and ultimately you find that you are unable to cross this short distance till eternity.
According to the mathematician, this is absolutely correct. This distance cannot be crossed till infinity.
Zeno says that you pull an arrow across the bow string. Now say the arrow left the bow at 12 o'clock.
So the arrow is at a place, say A, at 12 o'clock. Where will it be at one minute past 12? It should be at B. Then at 2 minutes past 12, it should be at C. Then only can the arrow move. But Zeno says, at these two points, how will it cross the distance from A to B? Zeno says, "According to mathematics, the arrow has travelled no distance. It is stationary."
Zeno walks, he uses the bow and arrow. When people ask him how then he walks and uses the bow and arrow, he says, "I do not know." But according to mathematics, the arrow does not travel.
For in order to travel it has to be first fixed at one place. Now when the arrow is at A, it cannot be at B and as long as it is stationary at A, how can it reach B? Now if we say it is at A and B at the same time, this will cause confusion."
It is now 2000 years since Zeno wrote his paradoxes. Many attempts were made to find answers to his paradoxes. Many tried to answer but could not answer. There were no answers, for the mind breaks everything into two before working on it. Now the arrow does not break things. In fact it is not even aware when it was at A and when it was at B - or where are A and B? The intellect breaks things into two; the feet walk on without any break. The feet never stop to measure; now this is half mile, now it is again half of half mile! There is no synchronization between the mind and the feet. The rule of the intellect is to break; and the result of breaking is confusion. If you want to save yourself from entanglements, then go back, do not break. If you do not want to break, discard the intellect. When the intellect is dropped, non-distinction arises. Then all the knots are unknotted; all the ganglions are destroyed.
One of the names of Mahavira is 'Nigrantha'. It means that person whose knots are eradicated, whose entanglements have fallen.
Remember, the stress is on the extinction of entanglements and not on the unravelling thereof. I have a bunch of jumbled threads. How to disentangle them would mean, I shall draw each thread out one by one and wind them separately. Now the extinction of entanglements means that these threads should fall from my hands and I should forget the entanglement completely. I am rid of them, my hands are empty. The stress is on the annihilation of entanglements. Lao Tzu says "Eradicate all entanglements." Mahavira says, "Be sans-knots. Cast away the knots."
Nowadays psychologists have begun to work a great deal on complexes. In the East, the word 'GRANTHI' (knot) is a very old word. We refer to the entanglements of the mind as granthi. The West has begun to use the word complex for the same thing since the last fifty years. There are many complexes in the mind. The psychoanalysts are trying very hard to remove these complexes but fifty years' untiring work has brought them to one conclusion that no amount of psychoanalysis can bring about the eradication of these complexes. All that happiness is, that the patient ultimately becomes resigned to his trouble.
One man is full of anger. He is very anxious to be rid of it. He goes to a psychoanalyst where after a prolonged treatment, he will come to resign himself to anger. Now he says, "Since it does not leave me, I may as well accept it. I shall fight it no more." This is as far as you can reach if you try to disentangle yourself. The complex does not sort itself out. The mind itself is the complex. It is its nature to be entangled. It is not that the complexes are removed and the mind becomes clear. The mind itself is the complex.
The only remedy that people like Lao Tzu offer to be free of these complexes is to break down the foundation, the basis of this mind, which is distinction: the distinction of yours and mine, light and darkness, friend and foe, life and death, body and soul, heaven and earth. All these distinctions should be dropped.
Nasruddin was knocked down by a car. He was badly hurt. Almost all his bones were broken.
He was taken to the hospital. The Sultan happened to pass by his village. He came to know that Nasruddin, who was very well-known, was in the hospital. He went to see him. When he saw him, the king did not know what to say and how to say it! Except for his face and eyes, the Mulla was completely bandaged. He had to say something however, so he said, "You are badly hurt Nasruddin.
There is no part of your body that is intact. It must be really painful."
Nasruddin replied, "Not exactly, your majesty. It only pains when I laugh."
The Sultan could not understand. How can a man laugh under such conditions? He was at a loss, he dared not ask further. Yet he thought he might as well ask him since he had come. He said, "Tell me Nasruddin, can you laugh in such a condition?" Nasruddin replied, "If I cannot laugh in this condition then I have never learnt to laugh at all. What is the meaning of laughing? And what can be the occasion of laughing? And I laugh because many a time I felt, but I was not quite sure, that even if all the bones break, Nasruddin does not break. So I laugh to myself within and Oh! it is so enjoyable! Everything is broken. All who come, show their sympathy but I feel no pity for myself.
There is no chance of recovery for all the bones are shattered. When people ask, 'How are you Nasruddin?' I say, 'Nasruddin is alright.'"
If you can see yourself alone and apart from the mind-complex, the complex falls immediately.
Then you are absolutely alright. All the bandages will be where they are, all your knots will be entangled and the confusion will reign all round you but you suddenly find yourself outside of this.
You transcend all this. Transcendence is disentanglement. The knots cannot be disentangled, they have to be transcended.
Darkness cannot be eradicated by staying in a valley. But you can climb the mountain and reach the sun. There is the bright sun. Darkness is in the valley only. But man chooses to be in the valley though he need not be.
All our endeavour is to light a lamp, light a fire and brighten the valley; but stay we must in the valley. We insist on staying where there is illness and try ways and means of eradicating illness.
We never try to go beyond illness. The alchemy of Lao Tzu and the philosophy of such as him, is the philosophy of the Beyond. Be separate and free from everything. Remove yourself from where there is confusion and survey everything from a distance. You will laugh. Then nothing binds - no entanglements.
Lao Tzu says, "Remove the knots, disentangle them so that their glare is tempered." The pride that is within us, is like a flame; it burns. Its brightness hurts the eye. There is no splendour, there is fire within it. So Lao Tzu says, "Temper its brightness. Blunt your edges a little, disentangle the complex a little and you find your ego (AHANKAR) is ego no more. It has become 'ASMITA'.
It will be well to understand these two words ahankar and asmita. The sanskrit language is very rich in words. There is one word 'ahankara' which is equivalent to the word ego in English. Then there is another word 'asmita', for which there is no equivalent in English. This word is difficult to translate even in Hindi. Ahankara means "I am such" and it deals a blow to the other. Asmita means, "I am such" but it hurts no one. It is so mild, it has no sharp edge. The very sound of the word ahankara is aggressive. The feeling in the tone of the word asmita, is like that of a storm that has abated; all waves are quiet. The lake still exists but the confusion and chaos of the storm and tempest is no more. These very waves that rose high above and tossed the boats in the storm, are now asleep - quiet and tranquil.
Asmita means that ego which has lost its sting. The flowers of which have plied down and only the lustre remains. What is this lustre? The light that spreads over the skies before the sun comes out is the lustre. Once the sun is out, the heat begins. The sun is as yet below the horizon but it is morn and the night is no more. It is the period between night and day. We call this period when the lustre prevails as the dawn. When the ego declines, the piercing flames of the 'I' disappear. The ego sinks and then what remains is the lustre of being.
The 'I' still exists but it is without the 'I-ness'. Then too, I am but then I just am, there is no storm of I-ness within. There is no noise of the ego within and yet if someone asks, I will say, "I am". But if no one asks, I shall not be aware of the fact that 'I am'. The 'I' that I utter will only be in response to someone's question. It is just a word I make use of; otherwise there is no 'I' formed within. You must have noticed however, that the ego always is, whether some one asks or does not ask. When you are alone, all by yourself, then too, it exists.
It has been told that once a ship sank in the sea. There was a rich businessman in it, who somehow happened to reach an uninhabited island. He was not only a businessman but also an expert sculptor and an architect. What could he do on this lovely island? He began to carve images, he built houses. He kept himself busy carving stones and cutting logs. Years passed and his township grew.
He constructed all things that he normally required and was used to but which were meaningless here.
He made the shop from where he bought his stores. He constructed the hotel where he went and relaxed and had his meals. He made the station from where he used to catch the train. Every morning he went to the shop and wished the imaginary shop-keeper. Many a time he went to the hotel and relaxed. He had also built his church. He had made all arrangements as if he were in his own town.
After about twenty years, a ship happened to pass by his island. Those aboard knew this man and were surprised to find that he was still alive. They told him to go along with them. He requested them to come and see his township. He took them to the shop from where he pretended he bought his stores; then he took them to the hotel where he rested when he was tired. Then he pointed out the church where he went to pray. The visitors saw that there were two churches and asked him the reason for the second one.
"This is the church in which I did not go," he said. "There were two churches in my town. One I visited and the other I did not for it belonged to my enemies."
The visitors were surprised. "Why did you make the second church if you were not going to use it?"
they asked. The man replied, "There was no fun in going to church without this second church. It has to be in contrast to mine. Do you notice the wonderful condition of my church? And look at this other one! Nobody goes there. Why, it has never once been painted in all these twenty years!"
Ego, even when alone, will create a world for itself around it. It will even go to the extent of building the church where he does not go! Ego cannot be alone. It is 'other-oriented'. It has no identity without 'the other'. Asmita is alone. It has nothing to do with the other. It is my 'being' whereas ego is my battle against you. Asmita is my own existence; it has nothing to do with you. When the ego becomes strong, the asmita is buried underneath. When the ego fades away, asmita appears in all its splendour. There is fire in the ego for it is born with the intention of burning the other. Asmita is mild and gentle.
Lao Tzu says, "TEMPER THE BRIGHTNESS." Do something so that this sharp brightness within you, this violent, fierce and poisonous form of your being may get less and less and that it may become mild and quite. Let there be only lustre and flame, no light. Remember, fire and light are one and the same; but fire burns whereas light does not. Fire can bring death, light brings life. There is burning and speed in fire whereas there is mildness alone in light. It is so soft and slow that you cannot hear its foot-falls.
Lao Tzu says: "Let its restless waves submerge into water". This poisonous ego, this insane desire to be perfect, let its dangerous waves sink into the ocean. Let them sleep in your life.
Then Lao Tzu says,"YET DARK LIKE DEEP WATER IT SEEMS TO REMAIN." And even when this happens, everything is yet mysterious. Do not think you have solved the riddle, do not think you have got all the answers to existence.
This last line is very precious: "YET DARK LIKE DEEP WATERS IT SEEMS TO REMAIN."
Like fathomless water! The lesser the water, the brighter it appears to be. As the waters increase, it becomes blue and when it becomes fathomless, it becomes dark. In the right perspective, darkness is the symbol of the Mystery. Remember, the Mystery lies not in the light, it lies in darkness. In a way light is shallow. Darkness has abysmal depths. It is limitless. If the whole world is filled with light, the circumference of light is limited; whereas even if a small room is filled with darkness, the darkness is infinite. Understand this a little.
If the whole world is filled with light, even then it is limited. Light forms a boundary. A small room filled with darkness, makes the room limitless. A small darkness is also infinite and the biggest of light is limited.
Lao Tzu says, "When all this happens, it will yet remain dark like deep water." This existence is like the deep waters that are steeped in darkness, boundless and enveloped by Mystery. There is no beginning and no end to it. Only the Christian fakirs have given the symbol of darkness to God.
There is a very ancient sect of Christians that existed long before Christ. They were called Essene and it is said that Jesus had taken his training from them.
These Essene fakirs say: "Oh Lord, thou art the Absolute Darkness!" Many symbols have been chosen for God by many people. The symbols with light are many. The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Koran all say that God is light. Then these Essene fakirs must be very wonderful people, who likened Him to Absolute Darkness!
The reason was only this, that darkness is infinite. No matter what dimensions light has, it is always limited. Another interesting factor is that light is transitory whereas darkness is eternal. Light can be put on and put off, darkness requires no effort on your part. It makes no difference whether you come or go; whether the lamp burns or the sun comes out. Darkness exists in its own place, untouched, inviolable, sacrosanct! Light can be defiled, darkness cannot, for it cannot be touched.
Lao Tzu says: "Fathomless water, steeped in darkness, steeped in Mystery!"
Mystery means, that which we know and yet know that we do not know. Please bear this in mind.
Mystery does not mean that which we do not know, for that which we do not know is ignorance.
That which we know is knowledge. There is no mystery in knowledge and there is no mystery in ignorance. The ignorant says, "I do not know". There is no mystery in this; that he does not know, is clear. The learned man says, "I know." Again there is no mystery. It is clear that he knows. Rahasya (Mystery) means, 'I know that I do not know.' In one sense, I know but in some other sense, I cannot say that I know.
In a sense I feel that I have known, recognised. I have come very near and at the same time it feels that nearer I go, the farther I am from it. I put out my hand and feel I have grasped something but lo, the hand seems to be lost in that Something! I jump into the Ocean and feel I have attained the Ocean but when I look closely I find I am Lying in a nondescript corner of the Ocean. Infinite is the Ocean unknown, untouched - I shall never be able to attain it.
It is evident that the ignorant man does not know. It is also clear that the wise man knows. Thus there is a common element between the ignorant and the wise - the element of unambiguity. The mystic is different. He is unlike the ignorant as well as the wise. He says, "In some respects I know and in some respects I do not know." The knowledge has revealed my ignorance. As much asI came to know, I found as much yet remained to be known.
Lao Tzu says, "The day everything is solved, you will find nothing is solved." Everything is like the dark deep fathomless water, steeped in complete darkness!
Now those who are prone to contemplation find it difficult to accept this. What is their difficulty? To take so much trouble to become empty, to work so hard to remove the complexes and ultimately nothing concrete comes to hand, then all the effort is fruitless! They do not know that when something specific results, the effort is in vain. That which is achieved completely, totally, becomes useless, meaningless.
When you attain and find you have not attained; when you reach and find that the destination is as yet far away; when you delve deep and find you are still on the surface and when you are deep at the bottom of the valley and yet feel the journey is as yet to begin, then you reach that place which is never devoid of meaning, which is full of meaningfulness and which is an unending poem filled with eternal romance.
Religion is eternal romance. The closer we reach to the beloved, the more He is hidden. There are veils upon veils, and infinite doors that hide His beautiful face! And these gates that lead to Him are infinite. Therefore this journey is purposeful in infinite ways, where each step is filled with wonder and mystery. And each step of this journey can be looked upon as a destination and each step can be taken as a resting-place from where a new journey starts.
Therefore Lao Tzu says that when all this happens even then - this term 'even then' is very meaningful - even then it is not that the destination is reached. Some one may say "We have reached." Only shallow people say they have reached - those who do not reach. Existence is so deep, so unfathomable that no one can assert that he has attained it completely.
There is a story in the Upanishads that a father sent his five sons in search of Truth. They went.
After years they returned. The father was on his death-bed. He asked them whether they had attained Truth. The first son says yes and begins to repeat the Vedas. The second one repeats the Upanishads, the third talks profoundly on Vedanta and the fourth resorts to the quintessence of all religions.
As the boys gave their answers, the father became sadder and sadder. By the time the fourth son replied, he lay down in bed again. The fifth son, however, remained quiet. The father thinking he did not answer because he feared his father was tired, got up from the bed again. "Do not think I am tired son. Please answer, I am waiting for your answer." The son still kept quiet. The father commanded him to speak. He did not, he even closed his eyes now.
The father then said, "I can now die in peace. At last one of my sons has known and is therefore silent."
Bodhidharma was preparing to return after working for ten years in China. He gathered his disciples and asked them, "Tell me what is the secret of religion? What is Mystery? What is the message of Buddha? What have I given you?" Bodhidharma wanted to test his disciples.
One disciple replies, "Liberation and the mundane world are one and the same. Everything is Advaita (undivided)." Bodhidharma tells him, "You have my skin." The disciple was shocked. He was talking of such deep knowledge and the Guru likes it to his skin!
The second disciple says, "It is difficult to say. It is inexpressible." The Guru says, "You have my bones." "Only the bones?" The disciple asks. "Yes," says Bodhidharma, "for you say it is inexpressible but you express it in words." The third disciple says, "It cannot be said it is undivided, nor can it be said it is inexpressible. Words do not work here. Silence alone is useful for it." The Guru says, "You have my marrow." Now what could be deeper than this?
Then he looked towards the fourth disciple. This disciple falls at his feet and places his head on it.
The Guru picks him up and looks into his eyes - they are empty. There is not a single reflection, not the shadow of an image within them. They were empty like a cloudless sky. The Guru shook him and said, "Did you hear me or not? Have my words reached you or not?" The empty eyes remained void and the lips remained closed also. He once again fell on the Guru's feet. Again the Guru picks him up and tells him to speak. The disciple remained silent. Bodhidharma said, "I am with you. Now I take your leave." Thus saying, Bodhidharma left. He told this disciple, "I am with you."
The meaning of Mystery is, it cannot be said it is attained; it cannot be said it is known; and it cannot also be said that it is not known. It is both - neither known nor unknown. The Absolute, the All, is so vast that nothing can be said about it. That is why Lao Tzu says 'still'. Solve everything, know all the secrets, remove all complexes, eradicate all your illnesses, yet you will find that the Mystery of the universe remains unknown. On the contrary the Mystery deepens - as deep waters become dark!
Enough for today, Rest, tomorrow.