Understanding, emptiness, surrender and effort
WHY IS IT THAT NO REVOLUTION TAKES PLACE EVEN AFTER UNDERSTANDING? IF WE PRACTISE NON-ACTION, WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO LABOUR? HOW IS PERFECTION IN EMPTINESS ATTAINED? IF THE VESSEL IS EMPTY, IT WILL ALSO DISINTEGRATE? WHAT IS THE WAY TO EMPTY THE MIND?
LAO TZU SAYS THAT UNDERSTANDING IS ENOUGH AND THAT TRANSFORMATION TAKES PLACE TOGETHER WITH UNDERSTANDING. WE FEEL THAT WE HAVE UNDERSTOOD WELL BUT FEEL NO TRANSFORMATION WITHIN US. WHAT IS THE REASON? KINDLY EXPLAIN.
Bhagwan Sri: Lao Tzu says that once a matter becomes perfectly clear, there is nothing more to be done, for then the understanding leads all our actions and makes us do what is worth doing. What is not worth doing, falls of its own, just as dry leaves fall from a tree. Nothing is required to be done in order not to do what should not be done. What should be done, happens on its own, and what should not be done, stops happening also.
What is this understanding? Since you say that you feel you understand and yet the transformation that Lao Tzu talks of, does not take place! This then can mean only two things: either what Lao Tzu says is wrong or what we call understanding, is not understanding.
What Lao Tzu says is not wrong because not he alone but all those who have ever known on this earth, have all said the same thing. Whether it was Socrates in Greece or Buddha in India, they have said the same thing, wherever a wise one has spoken, he has said only this: "Understanding is enough."
There are many points to be taken into consideration, then only shall we understand that if there is no transformation, it only means that what we know as understanding is not understanding.
The first thing is: why does the wrong thing happen through us and why do the right things not happen? What is the reason behind this - non-understanding or something else? If non- understanding is the reason, it will be eradicated by understanding. If the reason is other than non-understanding then nothing will change. The actual question is: that if ignorance is the cause of our actions, it should be wiped out by understanding.
For example: I go out of this room and knock my head against a wall. If the reason is, that the room is dark, then by lighting the room, this will not happen. If however, in spite of the light, if I still knock against the wall, then it can only mean two things: It either means there has been no light - I thought there was light but actually there was none. Or it may mean that knocking against the wall is not related to darkness. The reason in that case, must be quite different. Darkness and light have nothing to do with each other.
If it is something else that cannot be eradicated even by knowledge, then it will never be eradicated.
That which cannot be destroyed by understanding, cannot be destroyed by anything else for there is nothing above understanding within us. Then we say, if understanding does not work, action might; but who will perform the action? It is the ignorant man who will perform the action and if it cannot be wiped out with knowledge, how can it be eradicated by the action of the ignorant?
But your question is reasonable, for we feel we have understood and yet no transformation takes place.
Now we have to understand that understanding can be of two kinds. There is one that is apparent understanding. We have a mechanism for understanding - intellect. With this intellect we can understand anything logically If any logical thought is placed before the intellect, it understands it very well. But intellectual understanding brings no transformation, for the intellect is a very small part of the individuality. Individuality is a very big thing. When you understand something intellectually, it does not mean you have understood your personality, your very being.
Up to the beginning of this century, the West was not clear about the fact that what we know as the intellect is 1/10th of the strength of the unconscious mind. I explain to you that anger is bad. You understand. But the intellect that has understood, has never been angry! Anger comes from the nine parts of the Unconscious that lie behind the conscious mind.
Take it this way I live in a house. There is a guard at the door of this house. Now this poor man causes no mischief. Whenever there is trouble it is the owner within who comes out and causes it.
Whenever a preacher comes along. he catches hold of the door-man and explains to him that anger is bad and that he should not quarrel. The poor man admits he is quite aware of the fact that anger is bad. He says he is aware of the fact that whenever there is a fight, the owner comes from within and then there is chaos.
Now this preacher is not aware of the fact that the one he is preaching, has never indulged in anger or rowdyism and the one who has indulged in rowdyism has no line of communication with the watchman outside. Whenever the master comes with a rifle, the watchman falls at his feet, for he is the owner! When the master retires, the watchman is back on his stool, browsing over the fact that anger is not a good thing.
What you know as intellect, is only a part. If we divide your mind into parts, then one part understands, whereas nine parts are in darkness. All life's confusions and turmoils come from he darkness of these nine parts. When the desire for sex arises within you, it comes from these nine parts of the mind and when you read a book on Brahmacharya, it is 1/10th of your mind that reads it, the conscious part that is the watchman. The book appeals to you and you say it is correct. But when the other nine parts of the mind are filled with desire for sex, this one part of the conscious mind becomes ineffective and helpless. It is brushed aside by the wave of desire that rises from the folds of the unconscious.
The intellect is assigned only one job: To try and understand at one time and sit and repent at another. This one part of the mind has no say anywhere.
Remember, the deeper the layer the stronger it is. Strength is never at the circumference. It is always at the centre. What we know as intellect, is at the circumference. It is the compound wall and no one keeps his treasures there. The treasure is always hidden in the innermost recesses of the house. So our life-energy is hidden in the innermost part of our being while the intellect stands at the door. It is this intellect with which we read, it is this intellect with which we hear and understand.
When Lao Tzu says, "When it comes within your understanding, the transformation takes place," he talks of the centre within you. When it comes within the understanding of that which is within you, the ultimate Master; when he begins to understand, the transformation takes place.
Now our difficulty also, is very genuine. We feel we understand and yet there is no transformation.
We are where we were. Now this so-called understanding starts another kind of confusion! Now we are divided into two. The mind drives us to do one thing and we wish to do another, which however never happens for we can do only that which comes from within. Then remorse and the feeling of lowliness and inferiority catches hold of the mind. Then we fall in our own esteem. Then we feel, "I am nothing. I am not worth anything."
So, Lao Tzu is not talking about this understanding. This intellectual understanding is a deception.
It is just as if someone tells us that if you sprinkle water on a tree, it will give out flowers. Now we go and sprinkle the leaves with water but no flowers appear. From this it is evident that what we were told was not true. Or perhaps, the water we sprinkled was not water. It is then natural that we should question why there are no flowers. But he who told us to water the tree, was talking of watering the roots of the tree.
Now this is an interesting fact that if you water the leaves, the water does not reach the roots but if you water the roots, the water reaches the leaves. The reason is simple: the roots have the mechanism to convey water to all parts of the tree, whereas the leaves have not. The roots are the centre and the leaves are the circumference of the tree. Therefore, whether the leaves remain or fall, is non-essential. New leaves come. But if the roots are destroyed, they are difficult to replace - impossible.
Understand these two things. One is: That which you call understanding, is merely a reasoning, a theoretical, intellectual, understanding. It is not intrinsic, pertaining to self or our entire understanding. It does not reach your very being. Therefore there is no transformation. Therefore, the matter is completely understood but you are where you are - there is no difference in you. What is to be done to bring about this understanding that can reach up to our very roots?
All our education and training is of the so-called understanding. We learn mathematics with this intellect, we learn languages with this intellect and it is enough for our day to day purpose. And these are workable only because our innermost centre has no mathematics of its own. If it had, schools and colleges would have served no purpose in the world. When you add two and two together, there is no one within to say it is not four but five. If there was, no number of schools and universities could force you to accept 2+2 as 4. You will always say it is five.
Universities are alright for practical purposes of day to day existence because mathematics, languages and whatever is taught at school is created by man. If these are not taught to a person, he will remain without them. If we do not teach a child to speak a language, he will not be able to speak on his own but we do not have to teach a child how to be angry. If we do not teach a child mathematics, he will never know it but no school or college is required to teach the sexual desire.
Keep him in a jungle, away from everything, there too he will learn. There is no question of learning, he will know it of his own for it rises from within him.
This means that whatever arises from within you, in life, puts you into a predicament. You are never in difficulty regarding things that do not arise from within you.
You can learn any language for it is superficial and the mind within does not offer any opposition.
What the schools and colleges teach, trains the upper layers of the mind. But when you desire to change your life from within, you are up against difficulties for then also, you make use of the surface layers of your mind only. This is the crux of the problem. You say to yourself, "I shall not be angry" but this also is said by the same mind that learns mathematics. Anger is a different problem altogether. Mathematics is man's creation, anger is a creation of nature and not of man.
It is when we try to develop our understanding by this portion of the mind that the difficulty starts. We find it does not work. If this understanding is to be taken to the innermost recesses of your being, there is a method of doing so. Now this method means that you must first understand how you have obtained this superficial understanding This also, is a training for you.
After a training of 20-25 years, it is now possible for you to understand that 2 and 2 make 4.
Mulla Nasruddin was found one day dressed in a pompous attire. People were intrigued at his lavish clothes and he even wore a diamond ring on his finger! "What has happened Mulla?" They asked, crowding round him. "I won a lottery," the Mulla replied. "How did it happen?" They asked again.
"For three nights," the Mulla replied, "I dreamt the same dream. I saw number 7 each time. So I multiplied 7 by 3 and laid my bet on 28." "But 7 x 3 is 21 Mulla and not 28," they insisted. "Be that as it may," the Mulla replied haughtily. "What difference does that make? I played 28 and won!"
You are trained to learn that 2 and 2 is 4. It does not come from within you. This has to be learnt and known. Now there is a method also to carry your understanding to the innermost centre and for that you have to pass through various processes.
When Lao Tzu talked about this, man was very simple as yet. Now things are very different and that is the cause of all difficulty. Lao Tzu's audience comprised villagers, simple, artless folks who had no intellectual training. They had no intellectual treasures. They were very close to nature, they were of innocent minds. If Lao Tzu were to speak to you, the very first question you would have asked would be the one that has been asked today. You would have said, "Though we understand...." The people who heard Lao Tzu never raised this question.
In the thousands of memoirs of Lao Tzu and Chuang-Tse, not one man has raised this question, that we have understood but life is the same. It is true that many of them said, "We do not understand, please explain again." Then Lao Tzu would explain again.
Once it so happened that a man came every day for twenty-one days to hear Lao Tzu. Every day he would tell Lao Tzu, "I have forgotten what you said yesterday. Please explain again". This went on for a few days. Lao Tzu's one disciple Ma Tzu could bear it no longer. On the morning of the fifth day, he stopped the man outside Lao Tzu's hut and said, "What is your problem?" The man replied, "I have forgotten what was said yesterday and so have come to ask again." Ma Tzu said, "Go away, do not enter in for one mad person is you and another is this Lao Tzu. If you come with the same question for the rest of your life, he will keep on explaining to you. Since the last five days I have noted that you are where you are with your question and he is where he is with his answer!"
When this talk was going on, Lao Tzu came out of his hut and said, "You have come brother? Come in. Have you forgotten? Then hear again." For twenty-one days this went on. On the twenty-second day, he did not come. The story goes that Lao Tzu went to his house, fearing he might be ill. "What is the matter? Why did you not come today?" Lao Tzu asked. The man replied. "I have understood.
Now I am a different man."
Understand the difference: Had we gone twenty-one times to Lao Tzu it would not have been for the sake of understanding. The understanding, according to us, took place the very first day but life did not change. This man however says that: "If I understand what you have said, my life must change."
And there the matter ends.
Whenever Buddha spoke - and this amazing fact came to be known when his books were edited - he repeated each line not less than three times. Now it is difficult to print the same matter three times. Besides, making the book three times its size, it proves burdensome to the reader also.
Therefore when Rahula Sankrityayana first translated the vinaya pitaka, he put an asterisk after each line and in his notes he added another asterisk and yet another - the whole book is filled with asterisks.
What was the reason? Why did Buddha repeat so often? To explain a thing, a logic has to be given but to convey the thing to the innermost to those simple people, all that was needed was repetition, which then became mantra-like and suggestible and it quickly penetrated the innermost centre. Continuous repetition was enough. Each repetition helped it to penetrate more within.
But our intellect grasps and understands at the very outset so that repetition is not required. If it is repeated the listener will complain that his time is being wasted. He will say, "I have understood.
Now proceed further."
Today, people who are experimenting with the unconscious mind, are doing nothing except repeating. For instance, there was a great psychologist in Paris by the name of Emile Coue who cured thousands of people. He used to lay his patient on a couch and repeat continuously for one hour, "You are not ill, you are not ill."
His patient could have easily told him "Enough. I have understood. Where is the need to repeat it over and over again?" But Emile would say, "You have understood from the very beginning but this repetition will carry the message deep within you." After a little while the superficial intellect - which takes interest only in the new and not in the old - will soon get bored and go off to sleep. Hypnosis is only this and no more. The superficial consciousness is put to sleep.
But Emile keeps repeating. Then when the conscious mind falls off to sleep, the layers of the unconscious pick up the echo. After sometime, these layers also fall off to sleep. Then the layers behind these, pick up the suggestion. This goes on and on till the message reaches the innermost core. When this centre believes that you are not ill, the illness is no more.
For this reason, several methods of mantras, dhyana and tantra and various other processes were evolved. All this came later as man began to be more sophisticated. Till the times of Lao Tzu, there was no need, for people were simple, artless. The door of their innermost being was open and there was no sentinel of intellect guarding it. Therefore, whatever was spoken by a person like Lao Tzu, used to penetrate deep within. Arrangements were made to this effect.
He alone could approach Lao Tzu, who was ready and willing to have faith in him. If anyone began to debate with Lao Tzu, he would tell him, "You go to so-and-so Guru for sometime, and stay with him."
I was recently reading the life-story of a Sufi fakir - a wonderful Sufi. A great pundit of the village came to hear him once. He found that the fakir was not well-versed in grammar and his knowledge of language was also insufficient. He told the fakir, "First you explain the language and its grammar to the people who hear you. Begin from the beginning. What is this? You talk of such high things when your language, your grammar is wanting?"
The Sufi told him, "Bear with me a while. Be my guest for some time." The fakir's miracles were well known. The pundit accepted his invitation. He stayed. The Sufi told him, "Pray will you teach grammar to all the dogs and cats that gather near my hut in the evening?"
The pundit thought this was madness but since the fakir said it and he was a man of miracles, he thought there must be some mystery. Perhaps these are no ordinary dogs and cats. Or perhaps there is some other reason. Perhaps I might learn something in the course of teaching them.
Thinking thus, he began to teach them.
He taught the simplest of lessons but the dogs and cats would have none of it. Six months passed, he was well nigh tired. The fakir would ask, "Any progress? There seems none. I hope you have started from the very beginning." He said he had started from the very beginning and that there was nothing beyond that. The fakir asked, "What is the difficulty? Why is there no progress?" The pundit said, "They do not know the language. They do not know how to speak! Had they known how to speak, I would have taught them grammar!"
The fakir said, "The things I talk of, belong to a world, the language of which you do not know, nor the grammar. Had you the slightest knowledge of the grammar of my world, perhaps I could have made a beginning with you."
This was a set rule of olden days that when a person came to debate, the Guru sent him to a place where there was only debate and debate, so that in time he became tired of it. He would then be so disillusioned with debate that he would come back and ask if the Guru would show the way. He was tired of argument.
Then alone did people like Lao Tzu speak.
There is a story about a Sufi fakir. There were two fakirs who stayed opposite each other. The disciple of one of them, approached his guru and said, "The Sufi next door is spreading all kinds of stories about you. He even maligns you and spreads horrible rumours about you. Why do you not set him right? Why do you not say something to him?"
The fakir told him, "Why don't you go and find out yourself? But do not ask him in haste for priceless things are not told to a stranger. If a traveller, walking on the road asks a question the answers are only good for the road." "Then what shall I do?" The disciple asked.
"Go and serve him for a year. Try to be as near to him as possible. Win his confidence. Then some day, seeing the right hour and opportunity put him the question."
For a year the disciple served his Guru's enemy. He won his confidence and was very close to him.
One night as he was pressing his legs, thinking the moment to be opportune, he asked him, "Why do you speak against and abuse the fakir across the road? What is the secret?" The fakir replied, "I shall tell you since you ask but tell no one. I am his disciple. I am forbidden to give out the secret.
You better go and ask him yourself. Remember, these things are not spoken about to a stranger.
Try to be as near to him as possible."
Now the poor disciple was in a dilemma! Thinking him to be the Guru's enemy, he had set out to solve the mystery and this man turned out to be his Guru's disciple! He went back to his Guru and served him devotedly for two years. Then one day as he was bathing the Guru and nobody was about, he asked him, what the mystery was.
The Guru said, "He is my disciple. I have specially placed him there to spread false and derogatory rumours about me. Those who believe the false rumours, do not come to me for they are false. This saves my precious time, which I utilise on those only who are really the seekers of Truth. Those who turn back by rumours alone, are not genuine seekers. This is my own man and he has served me as no other can. He has saved me from hundreds of useless seekers."
This was the general rule: When a person was filled with faith, this means, when a person was ready to open the portals of his heart directly, then the real Guru begins his work.
What are the psychologists, the psychoanalysts of today doing? They do only this, Psychoanalysis is carried out on a patient for three years. For hours on end the psychoanalyst talks to the patient on the couch. The patient keeps talking and he keeps listening. Why? By and by the superficial things will fade away and the patient will begin to speak of his inner feelings. Then after some time these too fade away and the patient talks of his innermost problems. Then an opening is created.
By talking to the psychoanalyst continuously for a year, he brings out all that is within him. Then when the analyst sees that the things that were deeply embedded within have begun to come out, then the time has come when the patient is open to suggestions. Now his inner gates are open and some things can be implanted within which can later fructify.
Understanding means: Something that reaches the innermost layers of your being. Reason, logic, however. will never allow this and we try to explain only by logic. Reasoning is the cause of all confusion; logic is the sentinel. Reason says, "First convince me. Then only will I let you meet the master. Since you cannot convince me, how can I let you meet the master?" Then a further difficulty arises when the intellect is made to understand: It begins to feel itself the master.
Then he sees that he understands but no problem is solved for that which we call the intellect, has no power of its own. It has no 'force to act'; that lies within in the innermost recesses behind it.
Therefore this interposition takes place.
So if there is no direct access to the centre within, then this guard of intellect has to be broken.
Something has to be done to that effect. Meditation has to be practised. Some such method of meditation has to be used to make you irrational.
The method I apply for meditation is entirely irrational. The rational will run away from it. He will say, "What is this? People dance, jump, shout, they have become senseless!" Intellect does the work of a censor. It says, "Why do you laugh? There is nothing to laugh about! Why do you cry? There is no occasion to cry. Why do you jump, is the earth on fire? Why are you boxing the air?"
The intellect always says that whatever you do, should always be within reason. But nothing in life follows the pattern of logic. When love happens, where will reason be? When anger takes hold of you, where is logic? When you feel like hitting someone or committing suicide, where does your reasoning go? So, intellect does not work in the case of the essential needs of life; and you cannot descend to these innermost depths, if you listen to reason.
All the devices of meditation are efforts to break the layers of your intellect. Once they are broken, you become simple and artless. And when you are artless, you develop an inner vision from where things become clearly visible. Then the question does not arise that 'I have understood and yet there is no transformation'. To understand is transformation itself. To know is to be transformed.
Knowledge is transformation. This question does not arise then.
But this question arises and I do not say it arises wrongly. As man is today, this question is bound to arise.
We are divided into two. The part of us that understands is not even remotely connected with that part of us which acts. The understanding part is separate and the acting part is separate. The house is divided into two. That which has the power to act, does not come to know. That which has no power to act, comes to listen. Now these two never meet. Then what is to be done?
There is only one way: The knowing layers are to be broken and we have to descend into the world of irrationality. Be a little irrational and see. Slowly and slowly the wall that divides the rational from the irrational, will begin to crumble and you will begin to go in and out into both the worlds. Then you shall be integrated - one.
Then this man, who is an integrated personality, whatever comes within his understanding, fructifies.
We are not one, we are 'two' and therefore one question becomes more and more entangled as we live on and after every life it gets more complicated for we split into more and more parts. Break this division from somewhere.
In the last Abu Shivir, there was one person, very learned and holding a government job. For two days he watched. He came to me and said, "I shall not be able to do this that the others are doing."
I said, "How can you say you will not be able to do it? Have you tried or without trying you say this?
Or is it because you are afraid that what is within will come out. What is the reason?" Our friend looked a little frightened. He glanced hesitantly at his wife who was sitting by his side.
I told his wife to leave us alone for perhaps he was not prepared to give up his intellectualism before her. Then he said, "This is my fear that if I begin to jump and dance, perhaps I shall cause a lot of confusion".
I told him, "Go ahead and cause as much confusion as you like. Try it out once. You will then get acquainted with a completely new part of yourself. That is your authentic face which comes up in your unguarded moment and over which you have no control. It comes up for a moment and is hidden again."
Psychologists say that anger is temporary madness. It is madness in its complete form, only temporary. It lasts a short while and hence you are not aware of it. If it becomes permanent, you will go mad. That which is temporary, can become permanent any time.
I advised him to try, "Shall I try? Shall I dare?" I told him it is no question of trying or daring. You will have tied a band on your eyes and when you feel the madness coming, forget that you are a big official, that you are an educated and intelligent man."
The third day I saw him jumping. He was a different person altogether. He came to me and said, "I feel so free and light! So much so, I feel I shall fly away. God knows how many maladies have left me. Now I feel, whatever you say, will come within my understanding."
The guard of intellectualism that stands watch on our mind has to be removed. Then only can understanding penetrate within you. So first do something to break this so-called understanding.
There was a Sufi fakir by the name of Junnaid. When a sadhaka first came to him he used to make him do all kinds of mad things. For instance, he would say, "Go to the market-place and declare that he who beats you with his shoe, would get a blessing in return. And he who does not will get a curse." If the sadhaka complained, he would say, "First take a round of the market-place, then only we shall talk. I cannot work on you directly. First go and get well beaten up so that which lords it over you has fallen. Then only can I talk directly to your within."
Lao Tzu talks of the inner depths of understanding. What he says is right; "Throw the bait with the fork of understanding. Then alone is the fish of transformation caught." But what do we do? We sit at home fishing in a bucket! You cannot catch any fish and you know well there is no fish. The understanding with which you set out to catch the fish of transformation does not reach, for there is no transformation there. That which you look upon as intellect, is nothing more than a conformist and all orthodox part of your mind; and there nothing will come within your understanding.
Deeper than this, where the life-energy flows, where there is fluidity, where everything takes birth and where there is the chaos of Existence, from where anger, sex love, hatred, pity and compassion arise, there you have to throw the fishing hook. Not from where the mathematics and languages come, nor also from where the knowledge of physics and chemistry or history and geography comes but when the hook is thrown into the very fountain of origin, from where love, hate and other passions rise, then the fish of transformation is caught; and not until then.
Now, when there is one man in a million who is simple and artless, the happening takes place at once. But nowadays, such .a person is hard to come by. So we have to devise ways and means of breaking through the intellect. Then only can we enter within. And then? Then understanding and transformation are not two things. They are the two sides of the same coin.
THE SECOND QUESTION ASKED IS: IF LAO TZU SAYS DO NOTHING THEN WHAT HAPPENS TO EFFORT AND LABOUR?
Do you think that not doing anything is a small insignificant effort? To do nothing is the greatest effort in this world. The power to do nothing, is the greatest possession in this world. Actions even children perform. There is no labour required for it. It is a natural, ordinary happening. Even animals are active. Not to do anything is a very great thing. So when you hear that Lao Tzu advises inactivity, all efforts are nullified. Surrender is the greatest resolve. Now this seems contrary somewhat. It does not come within our understanding. We feel that by placing our head on someone's feet, we have annihilated ourselves. But do you know? It is not the capability of an ordinary man to place his head on someone's feet. And thus to truly place one's head on someone's feet, to let go of one's self, is only possible of one who is completely a master of himself. How will you let yourself go? The mere action of placing the head on someone's feet is not enough. There should be such a great sense of ownership that you can say, "I leave myself completely." But who leaves? Can you leave - you who cannot leave anger, who cannot even give up smoking? Can you give yourself up completely?
A man gives up smoking and tells all the world of his great effort and will-power and even then he is not fully successful. So to give yourself up completely is not a small effort. it is the greatest of efforts. It is the ultimate effort. There is no effort beyond this.
ONE FRIEND HAS ASKED, "YOU SAY NOTHING IS COMPLETE, THEN HOW CAN THE VOID BE COMPLETE?"
If you had to attain the perfection of the void, you would never have attained it. The void is complete - it is, it is! You have just to stop filling yourself and you will suddenly realise that you are empty!
There can be no completeness in this world of anything. Nothing is attained by man s actions.
Once the Sultan in whose service Nasruddin was, was displeased with him. He told him, "You are a perfect dolt!" Mulla replied, "Do not flatter me. Nobody is perfect."
However, if Emptiness too, had to be brought in, it would not be perfect. But the fact is, Emptiness is your nature. You have not to bring it about. It is. All you can do is to cover up what is, hide it, forget it. You cannot destroy it. You have not to attain the perfection of Emptiness. You have only to give up all efforts towards perfection. Then you will find that you have become empty.
THE SAME FRIEND HAS ASKED: "IF THE VESSEL BECOMES EMPTY, WILL IT NOT BE DESTROYED?"
Now here the point to understand is, what Lao Tzu means by the vessel and what you mean. There is a difference here of language. We look upon the wall of clay that forms the vessel as the vessel.
So when we buy a water-pot from the market, we pay for that clay which the potter has made. That is what the water-pot means to us. Now Lao Tzu means by the vessel, that emptiness within which is surrounded by the wall of clay. The wall of clay only forms the boundary of that emptiness which Lao Tzu calls the vessel.
And this boundary has to be made use of in order to fill the vessel. If it has to be kept empty only, these walls are not required.
Now think - why do we have to create this boundary? Why does the potter make a circular wall of clay? It is so that we can fill it with something. We cannot fill anything in emptiness. So we surround emptiness from all sides with matter, so that we can fill the empty space within. It will be the emptiness only that gets filled but we have first to form a base or else the water will flow out.
Therefore we have to form the base and the wall of the vessel in order to hold the water in the empty space. within.
Now if the vessel is to be kept empty only, will you go to buy it in the market? Who would take the trouble of looking after an empty pot?
If the vessel is not to be filled, the walls become useless. They were made for a specific purpose - that of filling. In the same manner when a person decides to become empty, the walls of the body fall off. This is what we call - not reborn again.
Take it this way: There is an emptiness within us which is the soul. Our body is the vessel - a wall of clay. As long as we keep filling ourselves with desires, with hopes of reaching somewhere, with the ambition of attainment, of reaching a goal; as long as there are passions and desires within us the potter who makes our vessels will keep on making them again and again.
The day Buddha attained wisdom, he addressed his own self thus: "Oh the Potter of my mind, now you no longer need make any more pots. This is the last one you have made. I thank you for all the pots you made for me. Oh Mason, no longer will you have to build a house for me! For now the dweller no longer wishes to dwell within. I need a house no longer!"
Every time, it is our desire to fill ourselves with something that causes the body to be born. The day we are prepared to become empty, there will no longer be any need for the body. However, we commit the same mistake with the body as we do with the water-pot. We take the walls of the pot as the vessel and our own walls (body) as our self. We neither recognise the emptiness within us as to what it is, nor do we recognise the emptiness of the pot as to what it is. It is the space within that is important, for things are fitted within this space. You buy the pot on account of the very emptiness within it. Since you are eager to fill, the potter out of His compassion, forms the vessel.
When the surrender to the void takes place, the walls cannot be saved. Nothing happens with the falling of the vessel except that the space within the vessel and the space outside become one.
There will be no barrier in between. The atman that was surrounded within by the vessel, becomes one with the Parmatman. You may call this moksha or nirvana or whatever you like. The vessel (body) then becomes redundant. when you want to store something you need the vessel. When you have nothing to store you do not buy a container. In the same way we need a body as long as we feel the need to fill it. When this need is no more, there is no question of the body.
Lao Tzu says that this emptiness is not to be created by you. You only create the vessel. The potter does not create the emptiness within the pot. He merely raises a wall on all sides of emptiness.
Therefore it is so cheap; otherwise even so much of the Void is unattainable even with all the riches of the world! Not all the treasures of the world can create even that much of emptiness that is held within a pot. Emptiness is. No potter creates it.
Now when you take the pot from the potter's to your home, it is not the space that was in it in the potter's house that you find on reaching your house. The space changes with every step you take.
The vessel remains the same, the space within changes; and the moment the vessel breaks, the space within merges with the space without.
Therefore, a very priceless statement that Buddha had made, was never understood. Invaluable statements are rarely understood. Buddha said, "Do not think it is the same atman that walks with you." This statement of his was never understood. Now as I told you: You buy the pot and start from the potter's house. You have not moved an inch and the space within the vessel changes. And this goes on changing till you reach your house, where the space within your house will fill the pot. But since you are only concerned with filling the vessel, the space within makes no difference to you.
So this statement of Buddha caused a lot of difficulty. Everyone thinks there is one particular atman that resides in each body - and that alone is the atman. Buddha says, "No. As you travel the atman changes. You are the container that travels and the atman is the empty space that fills the container."
Buddha says, "It is like a lamp you burn at night. When you extinguish the lamp in the morning you think it is the same flame you are putting off. But the flame you lighted in the evening was lost a long time ago. Each moment the flame dies and another takes its place - therefore the smoke. This happens so fast that there is no time-gap in the exit of one and entrance of the next flame.
"But when you put off the flame in the morning," Buddha says, "it is not the same." At best you may say, "Put off that flame that burns in place of the one we had lighted last evening." This flame that now burns, is a succession of the initial flame which died long ago, so also the other flames that followed it.
The flame however flows in the same series. Therefore Buddha says, "Atman is a series of Existence." Mind you, it is not a unit of Existence. The same atman that you possessed in your last life is not with you in this life. It is a different atman, of the same series though. Understand this.
For example, let us say we have lighted two lamps. They burn all night. In the morning when we put off lamp A, the flame of lamp B is not affected because A and B are apart from each other. Yet, A is not the same flame we lighted last evening. If we call this flame A1, then the flame that we extinguish in the morning will be A1000. The same goes for B. If the evening flame is B1, the morning flame will be B1000. A has its own series and B its own.
The flow of our births is also a series. It is Buddha who for the first time explained the Universe as a dynamic river-like flow. When the vessel breaks, it is not the atman that desired liberation that will be liberated; some atman in the series of consciousness will attain salvation. The series is one.
There is no unit but a flow. Now scientists have also almost discovered this truth in the realm of matter. They say it is not correct to say 'atom', we must say 'event'. It is not correct to call an object an object, it is a flow of matter - Quantum.
Lao Tzu says, "Become empty!" The moment you are empty, the vessel will become useless. The vessel though, can last for some time for it has its own laws. You bring a pot home for filling it but on reaching home you change your mind. But your decision will not cause the pot to break. The pot has its own existence. You keep it in one place. It will remain for a long time. Then it will begin to crumble and break. This may take ten years or more perhaps. One thing is certain though: the day you decide not to fill the pot, it is certain you will no longer go and buy another pot. This one you have already brought, will not be affected by your becoming desireless. It will exist by its own momentum.
Thus Buddha attained Truth at the age of forty but died at the age of 80. His vessel lasted for forty years! Mahavira attained knowledge at the age of forty-two. He also died at about eighty. For forty years the vessel remains but now it is empty and it awaits its own time to disintegrate. Now if the vessel is not to be filled, why conserve it, why not break it and throw it away? This is a question that arises naturally. Then why do Buddha and Mahavira choose to live for such a long span of 40 years, when there is no desire within them?
If Buddha or Mahavira is questioned thus, they will say, "To break something, is also a desire." There is not even this much desire left within to get rid of the vessel. Now things are allowed to take their own course. The desire to break also is a desire. For that also, something will have to be done. This doing is an indication of yet some kind of attachment towards the vessel. It shows you are still in some sort of relationship with the vessel.
Buddha or Mahavira say, "We are now empty - that is alright. Now let the body live out its life according to what we had desired in our last birth." You go to the potter and ask for a pot that will last for 10 years. Now after years, you feel no desire to fill it but the pot has five more years to live out. Now you will not break this pot for you have paid for it. You will allow it to be and live out its life.
It will fall when it falls by itself. Then you will do nothing to save it either.
Therefore Buddha partook of the poisoned food. It was absolutely bitter; pure poison, and he knew it. People questioned him how a person so alert (that he was known to be awake in his sleep also) could not make out that the food was poison? Buddha said, "I knew perfectly well at the very first morsel." "Then why did you not spit it out, why did you not refuse to eat it?" They asked. Buddha replied, "The person who had cooked the food for me, would have been pained unnecessarily. He is a poor, lonely fellow. The food he had cooked was barely enough for me. He was so filled with joy that I found no reason to mar his happiness!" "But this could kill you!" They insisted.
"On my part, I am dead ever since desires have faded and passions have ended." The body lived by its own momentum and lasted as long as it was to. And if someone comes along and breaks this vessel, Buddha feels no cause to stop him. He will not break it himself but he will also not stop another from breaking it. But this vessel was the last. Such a consciousness does not go again to buy a vessel. He is not born again. Freedom from birth and death means only this: he who has decided to become empty, has no occasion to buy another vessel.
One question now remains.
SOMEONE HAS ASKED, "MIND ALONE IS THE BARRIER ON ACCOUNT OF WHICH WE CANNOT STAND FACE TO FACE WITH THE SELF. HOW IS THIS MIND TO BE EMPTIED?"
Forever have we been asking this question. This question is wrong. Because it is wrong, whatever answers accrue, are of no use to us. To ask a correct question, is very difficult and to get the correct answer is even more difficult. If a correct question is asked, the correct answer is bound to follow.
We always ask how to tame the mind, how to empty it.
We should ask only this: how not to fill the mind. The question is not how to empty it because empty it is! You have not to empty it. It is enough that you do the kindness not to fill it. But we are for ever busy trying to empty it and in the process we evolve such methods that eventually fill it more.
Whatever you do, you will fill it more. So it is better to ask, how not to fill it.
We keep loading the mind all the twenty-four hours. The most intriguing part is, if we do not allow it to fill for 10 minutes, all that has been filled into it for thousands of years gets emptied out. The fact is, that which we fill, is empty and because we are continuously filling it, we are under the illusion that it is full. If we stop filling it, for even 10 minutes, all that is filled in it from thousands of births, falls away and the vessel becomes empty for it is a bottomless vessel.
But we are filling it incessantly. It is just as when a man keeps placing wheat in the grinding-wheel and the flour falls out below. Now one question is just as if this man would ask how to stop the flour!
He is adding wheat at the top and wants to stop the flour from coming out. Now if he stops adding wheat for five minutes, the flour automatically stops forming. The grinding-wheel will become empty on its own.
The problem now is to see how we fill the mind. All the twenty-four hours this filling goes on. There is not a single day when we have not invented fresh desires. If you stop creating new desires and be with your old ones only, you will find one day that you have become empty. Try to halt with your desires of yesterday. This should not be difficult. If you had desired Rs.10 yesterday, desire Rs.10 only, today also. Then you will have stopped at yesterday. You will find yourself in difficulty within 24 hours. You will begin to feel empty. If you have to save your yesterday's desire for Rs.10, you will have to desire Rs.20 today. You will have to keep your desire alive by giving it food and water by way of additional desires. Then only can it exist.
If you halt for even a moment, it will be something like this: When you ride a cycle, you fall the moment you stop paddling, If you are on an ascent, you fall instantly, if you are on a slope, the cycle will run a while; but fall you will. Constant paddling is essential for cycling. The wheel of the mind also requires constant paddling. A moment's lapse can be dangerous - the cycle might fall.
Everyday we create new desires - everyday. We see someone's clothes, a new desire rises, we see someone's house, a new desire arises, we see someone's face and desire arises. Every moment some desire is kindled within. Become aware of this. Be aware of filling the mind and forget about emptying it. You will not be able to empty it - no one has been able to empty it. You give up your eagerness to fill it and one day you shall find, it has stopped filling! The flour no longer comes out of the hand mill and it is Lying empty! We must first investigate from which directions the mind gets filled and be alert towards these. Do not be in haste to stop filling. Merely watch with all alertness, how and from where this filling takes place.
Man is such, he fills his mind till the last breath in his body.
Nasruddin was bitten by a rabid dog. He did nothing about it for the first few days. People advised him to see a doctor since the dog was rabid. By the time he did go to the doctor, the poison had spread within him. The doctor thought it fit to tell him directly that he had contracted Hydrophobia and his case was beyond repair. Very soon he would go mad and then die. They were fearing that Nasruddin might panic but the Mulla said, "Never fear. Get me a paper and pencil." The doctor thought perhaps the Mulla wanted to write his will; or perhaps he wanted to write to his wife or his friends. They were however surprised to find not the slightest sign of anxiety on his face. He wrote for a full hour without once lifting his head. When at last he looked up. the doctor inquired kindly, "Were you making out your will Mulla? Or are you writing a letter?" "No", said the Mulla, "I am writing down the names of all those whom I am going to bite! Once I go mad, I shall not be able to do so."
And he told the doctor, "Do not feel jealous. You shall not be deprived of it. I have put your name first on the list."
This man Nasruddin gives a true portrayal of man as he is within. If a mad dog bites, the first reaction is, whom to bite! What was to happen has happened, now the question is whom to bite? Thus the mind keeps creating desires till the last breath.
Be conscious of the fact that you are filling the mind every moment. As you become more and more aware, you will come to realize how useless it is to fill the mind. All your life you failed to fill it. You have filled it in number of births before and yet it remained unfilled. You fill it here and it empties out there and yet this illusion of filling does not leave us, for we never notice that we are filling.
One more story of Nasruddin and I shall finish my talk:
A youth came up to Nasruddin and asked him what his device was to empty the mind. Nasruddin said, "Right now I am going to the well to fill water. Come along with me. Ask no further questions.
If you do I shall drive you away. I shall answer you on our return." Nasruddin picked up two buckets and proceeded towards the well. The youth followed him.
Nasruddin kept one bucket on the wall of the well. The youth was perplexed. This bucket had no bottom to it. It was a drum open at both ends. Now he was in a fix. This foolish Mulla had warned him not to talk and without water, he would refuse to go home. What was to be done? Anyhow, he thought it was best to wait and see.
Nasruddin drew water from the well and poured it into the empty drum on the wall of the well. All the water fell out as he poured. He drew another bucket and poured the same way, then again and again. "Wait!" exclaimed the youth, "I do not need to ask any more. Even if you offer me your advice, I do not want it but may I tell you something?" "Shut up!" said Nasruddin, "It invariably happens that the one who comes to learn becomes too eager to teach. You came as a disciple and you have now become a master! You dare to advise me? Don't you dare be impertinent! Stay where you are!"
The youth pleaded with him, "When will it fill? Just think, you have already poured three buckets into it and not a drop does it hold!" Nasruddin replied, "Have I taken a contract to keep in mind things that are wrong, when no one in the world does it? From birth to birth man fills and fills and it is as yet unfilled. Why, I have poured only three buckets! Be quiet!"
The youth became silent and watched. Nasruddin poured about ten buckets more. "Have some consideration!" The youth pleaded, "Just look up once!" "Why should I?" said Nasruddin. "It is not my business to see whether the bucket is full or not. I am performing my duty and my duty is to fill this bucket. I shall see how it does not fill!"
The youth bade him good-bye and ran away.
But he could not sleep the whole night. He kept awake wondering what kind of a man was this Nasruddin and what could he have meant? The more he thought the more he felt that there was a slight mistake. He should have waited longer. Could he still be at the well, taking out water to fill the bottomless drum? But Nasruddin left soon after him. The youth went to the well and found he was not there. He went to his house. Nasruddin was fast asleep. He woke him up and said, "What happened? Did you fill the bucket ultimately?" Nasruddin said, "You foolish fellow, I have left it on the well for you."
We are filling our minds from untold births but this mind refuses to be filled. Previous births aside, (for they are so old that they are forgotten) even in this life we are continually filling up our mind. And have you ever thought - whether even an iota of all that you filled in, remains within you? How many times you have been angry, how many times you have indulged in sex, what all you have done but is there any trace of it within? What is your wealth? The bucket is empty. And we keep asking - how the bucket is to be emptied?
The bucket is empty. It was never filled sc you have not to empty it. Kindly, learn to see yourself engrossed in this act of filling the bucket that is bottomless - time and again you lower it in the well and take it out.
Our question is just as if Nasruddin were to ask someone how the bottomless drum should be emptied. Where is the mind filled? The mind is empty. But we are so fiendishly engrossed in the act of filling that we miss this point altogether. Try and observe this process of filling. Become aware of all that has been filled and that which has not been filled so far. If a person takes it upon himself not to fill the mind for a full day, he will find this mind was forever empty and it cannot be filled. So, do not ask the other way round. Do not raise an erroneous question. Wrong questions lead to wrong answers. The correct question is: how can we stop filling our minds, with all the things with which we fill them.
And how should we not fill means only this that we are required to be a little alert. If you know that the drum is open at both ends, would you get busy in filling it? The bucket will then fall off from your hands. You will laugh at the stupidity of all this. The emptiness has not got to be brought in. It is already within us.
The miracle is that we have managed to make that emptiness look filled in. It looks as if we are filled within. It is enough that we should awaken towards this illusion.
Enough for today, the rest tomorrow.