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For the sick, grace is help; for the healthy, grace is health || On Vivekachudamani (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
24 min
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He remained occupied in graveyards, while you waited for him with moon and dew. Smile, for such foolishness and disloyalty, is the preserve of a lucky few. Smile, for if the One cannot abandon even a corpse, will He ever abandon you?

~ Acharya Prashant

Questioner: This poem you have written touched me deeply like all your other poems I have read so far. Please go into the verses, as I would like to hear the meaning straight from you.

Acharya Prashant: “He remained occupied in graveyards, while you waited for him with moon and dew. Smile, for such foolishness and disloyalty, is the preserve of a lucky few. Smile, for if the One cannot abandon even a corpse, will He ever abandon you?”

Truth, grace have no form of their own. They have nothing of their own, so obviously they cannot have a particular or unique quality or image or appearance. When you are sick, Truth comes to you as help. When you are healthy, Truth is in you as health. If the healthy one starts asking for the same kind of help that a sick one needs and deserves, it would be a travesty.

But man is a creature of habit. If one becomes used to receiving a kind of help, one starts valuing the help less and the kind more. The kind is the form, the kind is the appearance, the kind is gross; help itself is the real thing, but it is subtle, essential, imperceptible. It is far easier for the senses to relate to the kind; it is far more demanding to relate to the essence.

And that is the reason why so many people often feel that grace has deserted them. It is not because grace has deserted them but because they want grace to be available to them only in their preferred forms. It is not a small mistake; it has big consequences. The moment you feel that grace has deserted you is the moment when you get the opportunity to be on your own. You say that you anyway have no support available anymore, so you better start taking personal care of yourself, and that is the moment of the ego. “I am my own caretaker. I have nobody to look after me. I am an orphan in the universe. The Father does not shelter me.”

The feeling of being orphaned is not true, yet very common. And it would not be improper to say that this particular feeling is the cause of so much evil. “I am unloved, uncared; I am not being looked after; no one loves me, I am lonely.” As soon as the mind gets to come to such conclusions, it licenses itself a lot of mischief. The argument is childish, yet compelling. “Why should I be a good boy when no one cares for me? Why should I abide by goodness when goodness does not look after me?”

“He remained occupied in graveyards, while you waited for him with moon and dew. Smile, for such foolishness and disloyalty, is the preserve of a lucky few. Smile, for if the One cannot abandon even a corpse, will He ever abandon you?”

If you are not receiving apparent or tangible help, it is probably the best help that you need. Time has come where help would be dangerous; you are at a position where you are capable enough to strive and grow. The caterpillar must struggle, force itself against the cocoon, or there would be no butterfly. In the name of help, if the caterpillar is assisted, then it would forever remain a caterpillar.

Remember that life is a movement; you are evolving. That’s why you were born—to evolve, to grow, to be more of yourself, which means you are never the same at any two points in your life. If you have been living rightly, you have been improving, then how can the form of help that you require at any two points in your life be the same?

But, as we said, man is a creature of habit. We associate the gift with the package; the package is easy to experience, feel, remember. The gift is not a thing, so you don’t even need to forget it, for it cannot be even remembered in the first place. The package is remembered. Do not run after particular kinds of packages. Do not pray for a particular kind of help. You will never be abandoned. You have never been abandoned. All help that you need is available today. You don’t even have to hunt for it—it is right in front of you.

Do not complain, and do not compare. You do not need today what others need, and you do not need today what you needed yesterday. The touch of the divine is not an entitlement, it is a gift in love, and you get gifted what you really, really need, not what you desire. He will not fulfill your desires not because he is hard-hearted or insensitive or uncaring, but because it is not good for you that your desires be fulfilled. It’s a strange bracket containing volatile, inflammable bits of perceptions and concepts. “My desires are not being fulfilled, which means that I have been deserted, and therefore I will put greater energy into the fulfillment of my desires, which means I will have less and less attention towards what I already have and what I am continuously getting.”

Another kind of very curious and obviously stupid phenomena is possible: instead of falling in love with health, the patient gets attached to the doctor. And therefore, when he leaves the hospital, he feels that he has been wronged. Health he values not, and what you do not value is easy to give up. It would be given up. So, the healthy one may decide to forsake health and return to the hospital so that the doctor can invest time and attention on him, and the sickness would make the patient happy. It’s strange! The patient would say, “I am again sick, but now my desire is being fulfilled: I am in the company of dear doctor.”

Never, never allow yourself to feel like God’s victim. It’s a strange phrase—God’s victim. You might exclaim, “Oh, but it’s absurd. How can God victimize anybody?” But look into your minds. Each of us somewhere feels like a victim; each of us has a grudge against grace. Don’t we cry, “But why did this have to happen to me?” Oh my God, what have you done? If God is victimizing you, then you will run straight to Satan. If God is your oppressor, then obviously the Satan will be your savior. Don’t you see that?

Never allow yourself to say that grace is oppressing you or is unjust to you. If grace is unjust to you, then you would immediately have to lodge a complaint in the court of the devil, and that’s what most of us are doing. Most of us are like petitioners in front of the devil, complaining to him that God is unjust. And the devil is continuously on the lookout for those who feel that they have been wronged by existence.

All this hardness, all this insensitivity, all the inner violence and cruelty have one fundamental reason: the ego believes that it is an orphan. The moment you start taking yourself as an orphan… In India there is a more revealing word for that: anātha . And nātha means God. The one who does not have God is an orphan.

Complain as much as you want to; at the end of all your complaints there must be a big thank you. “This is wrong, that is wrong; yes, I suffered here, I lost there, but I know it would all be for the good.” How? “That I do not know. I do not know how it would be for my good, but I have not been deserted. I cannot be deserted; that’s a law. So, I may or may not understand, but it is good.”

And it is obviously good because ultimately your destiny is liberation, all your movement is towards liberation. How quickly that happens depends on whether you collaborate with the process of your liberation; it depends on your consent and support. So, when the entire journey is towards liberation, obviously all is happening for the good, either directly or obliquely. Even the worst of your experiences are in goodness. So, do say that you have had a bad experience, but do not say only this much. Add a final, powerful, and conclusive line to your utterance: say, “Yes, I have had a bad experience, and it is for my good.”

Why did the experience have to be bad? Why couldn’t a good teaching be delivered in a pleasurable way? Because, kid, the bad experience was the only way available to teach you. Were you available to be taught using kinder methods, believe me, harsh methods would not have been used. If you are meeting harsh experiences in life, it is because harsh experiences you need. There is something that only those harsh experiences can teach you. And that does not mean that the teaching is obtuse enough to be taught only through harshness; it means that you have come to a position where only specific methods will work on you. Sometimes the method has to be harsh; at other times, the method need not be harsh, then it is not. And that is why you have both pleasure and pain in life. Sometimes pleasure can teach you, at other times pain is very necessary. So, do not cry foul when you come to pain. You needed it. Be thankful.

One of the great mistakes we make is when we accord attributes to Godliness, when we personalize grace. Haven’t you seen people very confident that God is kind? We say, “O compassionate! O merciful!” And these are loaded words—mercy, kindness, compassion, justice. The moment you apply them to divinity, you have ascribed man-made attributes to that which is not man-made. When you say God is kind, then you expect a certain flavor that you call as kindness. And that is why man is often perplexed: “If God is kind, why is there so much violence in the world?”

Man wonders, as we saw yesterday, why does a Jesus, or a Mansoor, or Ali, or a Sarmad have to suffer and be slaughtered in spite of being devoted to God? The way you define kindness is not the kindness of God. God’s kindness is a total kindness. When you are kind, then you are kind in fractions, you are kind very partially because you know only partially. A kid comes to you and asks for sweets; you give him a sweet and you think that you have been kind. It is because you do not know that the kid has diabetes.

Your kindness is based on your partial perception. Your kindness is often a thing of pleasure. Your kindness so often debilitates. Your kindness is so often based on your own self-interest, and your kindness is also partial in the sense that you are not kind equally to everybody, your kindness is reserved for a select few.

When you do not get any ostensible help, then you start feeling as if there is no help. Why don’t you see that help in its highest form resides within you? That you can listen right now and understand is nothing of your doing; it is merely help, grace. Look at this. If you do anything right now, your hearing will be impaired. Those who are not doing anything right now are able to listen; those who are doing anything are not able to listen.

So, obviously the fact that you can see, listen, understand is not something of your doing or earning. And if it is not your doing or earning, it is obviously grace. But it is so fine that we don’t acknowledge it. On the other hand, if you cannot get up, and somebody comes and offers his hand, then you are quick to say that you are being helped. Right now as you listen with attention, it doesn’t occur to you that this is divine help. No, not the words being said by the speaker—your ability to appreciate, understand. Isn’t that divine help?

What if you could not understand? Where would you go and complain? Please. If you cannot look at me, then you can probably consult a doctor. If you cannot hear what I am saying, again you can consult a doctor. But what if you can look at me, hear me, yet not understand me? Where are you going to lodge a complaint? Tell me. And isn’t that outrightly scary? You hear everything and not understand anything—who can help you then? Is there anything, anybody in the universe who can then help you? No, nobody. Doctors can assist you in hearing, not listening.

Who is it, then, who is enabling you to listen? Who is it? That you never wonder about, and therefore you are quick to feel that you are on your own. Employ your imagination, imagine that terrible scenario: you look at everything but see nothing, you hear everything but understand nothing. And why can that not happen to you? And if that is not happening to you, aren’t you already being helped?

Have you ever wondered how great a boon is this thing called understanding? And what if understanding disappears? Where is understanding? Where would you look for it? How would you search it? How would you reclaim it? If gone, it’s gone. You can’t even tell someone what you have lost; so subtle is this thing called understanding.

And that is the reason why very wisely scriptures begin with very loudly praying to the Lord. The Upanishads begin with śāntipāṭha (peace invocation). Godliness is again and again invoked. In Islam they keep saying, “Praise Allah, praise Allah.” And that is very necessary because we are people of words and senses; we must utter through words that we are grateful. Had we been people of silent remembrance, then words wouldn’t have been so necessary. But we are people of the material, we are people of the senses, so we must explicitly express our gratitude. Our tongue must utter praise that our ears must hear. It is not about just remembering in an inner way; you must shout out, “Praise to God! Praise to God! Praise to God!”

Reminding yourself again and again that you are greatly lucky is very important. And that process of reminding is everything, because the ego, the devil wants you to quickly forget that you are blessed. And that is why it is a mark of the man possessed by the devil that he keeps complaining; he has complaints against everything. If you don’t have complaints, how will you fall in the devil’s lap? You know what’s the devil’s holy book? It’s a complaints register. In the house of God you find the Upanishads, the Kabirs, the various Gitas; in the house of Satan there is just one book—what is it called? Complaints register.

How full is your complaints register? You worshiper of the devil! And that’s the only book you not only read but actually compose. This is wrong, that is wrong—yes, of course, to the senses so many things appear wrong, and you are entitled to simply utter what all is wrong. Do that. But I said, at the end of all your complaints must be a big expression of gratitude, a big and loud expression of gratitude. Where is that?

Listen to the poem again:

“He remained occupied in graveyards, while you waited for him with moon and dew. Smile, for such foolishness and disloyalty, is the preserve of a lucky few. Smile, for if the One cannot abandon even a corpse, will He ever abandon you?”

The Bhakti saints have expressed it quite nicely. The corpse reminds me of something. I am not sure whether it is Tulsidas or Kabir Sahib, it’s one of them. He says, “Rama gives wood and fire even to the dead; how will he not fulfill the needs of the living? Even the corpses are provided with wood and fire. Why are you so worried? What makes you worry so much?” And don’t you see that if there is one thing that you have used to bleed yourself, it is the effort towards self-protection, self-preservation? That’s the axe you have chopped yourself down with. When you are just stupid, then you say, “Oh my God, what is happening to me?” And when you are in your evil mood, then you say, “All the bad things are happening to me!”

These are the two places between which we ordinarily fluctuate: we are either stupid or just evil. When we are stupid, then we say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” as if something terrible can even happen. And when you are in your evil mood, then you say, “I am sure a calamity is going to befall.” Don’t you see how eager we are to accept bad news? If somebody tells you that something great is happening close by, you would doubt. But if somebody tells you that there is a murder happening close by, you will pounce upon the information, won’t you? Now you know why the media serves you what it does. It’s not as if the world is bereft of goodness; it’s just that we want to maintain our victim self, and therefore we want to listen only to the rotten news.

In this ashram, good things can keep happening for ten years—nobody is going to report them. But one misdeed here, and you will find news splashed all over the pages. Now, what is this? They will say, “But it’s a holy place! How can a misdeed happen here?” Yes, right, if it’s a holy place, misdeeds should not happen, and if a misdeed has happened you are reporting it. But why weren’t you reporting anything when misdeeds were not happening, when only holiness was there? Your answer is: because holiness is not worth reporting, misdeeds are worth reporting. And misdeeds you are reporting exactly on the pretense that a holy place cannot have misdeeds. So the holy place, according to you, is an important place, right? And that’s why you are saying misdeeds can happen elsewhere, but not at a holy place. And if a holy place, according to you, is an important place, why don’t you talk about it? You will not talk about it, but you will wait for the day when you can sniff something fishy, and then you will report.

And it’s not their fault. If they just report that trees are being planted and people are peaceful and something about grace is being said and heard, it is not exciting at all to read, is it? Ah, boring stuff, so boring. Trees—so boring! Kabir and Krishna and Ashtavakra—what’s there? Why talk about these things? But you dig a little to plant a tree and one little bone is discovered—that would be news. “Bone found in an ashram!” Avoid this tendency; avoid this ego that is looking to validate its incompleteness.

There are so many who come to meet me and end up terribly disappointed—why? Because they come and tell me they are patients, they tell me they are greatly sick, and I talk to them for five minutes, ten minutes, and I tell them, “Kid, there is nothing wrong with you at all.” They get disappointed; they even get angry; they may even become enemies because their sense of sickness was their identity, and I am taking it away from them. They wanted to believe that life has been unfair to them, and I am telling them, “Life is what life is, and you are blessed.”

The worst thing that you can do to a person is take away his sickness, his lies, his helplessness, his impotency. The ego wants to feel sick, and God is another name for health. If you will continue to allow yourself to feel sick, how will God come to you? It’s a terrible misperception that if you go to a temple and cry aloud and sing of your sickness, then God will show some mercy. Totally wrong.

God comes to you not when you are covering yourself with your fake sickness; God comes to you when you have the courage to be healthy even in the middle of sickness. If you just show your wounds to God, He says, “All you believe in is wounds. Why have you come to Me?” You have to show God that you are healthy beneath your wounds. In other words, you have to show God that you already have God. You cannot tell God that you don’t have Him and therefore you want Him.

The ways of the world and the ways of spirituality are different. In the world you get something when you don’t have it. The kid goes to the parents and shows his empty palm: “I don’t have anything,” and the father keeps something on it. That is not something that you can apply to God; there you have to tell Him that you already have Him, and then you get more of Him. That’s what Jesus so curiously says: “Those who have Him get more of Him; those who don’t have Him lose even what they have.”

But most of us stand like beggars in front of a temple. A temple is a place you go not to beg but to express your deep gratitude. You don’t go to a temple like one goes to a rich man or to an investor seeking funds; you go to a temple as one goes to one’s father, as one goes to one’s lover, as one goes to one’s friend—to enjoy, to celebrate. In the spiritual sense, a temple is the place to party. When you are in the best of your moods, you go to the temple: “Today is the time. Let’s party!” A temple is not a hospital; don’t display your sickness there. Because if you are displaying your sickness there, if you are displaying your sickness even there, it means you are identified with your sickness.

If standing in front of Krishna you still remember your sickness, then surely your sickness is more dear to you than Krishna. Why have you come to Krishna then? Disappear. I wonder how people are able to stand in front of Krishna and ask for shirt or pant or money or promotion or son or daughter or this or that. Even in front of Krishna you remember to ask all that? You don’t deserve to stand in front of Krishna then.

Don’t show God what you don’t have. Tell Him that you already have Him.

We began with saying that for the sick man grace comes as health, and for the healthy man grace is already there as health. If grace is available both to the sick man and to the healthy man, why do you choose to be sick? Why do you feel that only when you are sick will you get the touch of the Father? When you are sick, then He touches you from the outside as health; when you are healthy, He is touching you from the inside as your health. But you look only outwards, and when you don’t see Him, then you say you are missing Him. He was outside. He helped you. You allowed Him inside; now He is inside you. Why aren’t you satisfied? It’s a disgrace when the healthy one allows dissatisfaction to ruin his health.

Help is always there. Choose the help that comes to the healthy one, not to the sick one; choose subtle help rather than gross help. I’ll put it as bluntly as possible: God can help you either from the outside or from the inside. Choose that He helps you from the inside. Don’t bring yourself to a situation where He has to help you from the outside. And even when He helps you from the outside, He helps you so that outside help is no longer needed.

“Smile, for if the One cannot abandon even a corpse, will He ever abandon you?” That has to be your fundamental faith, your unshakable identity. “I am Him. I cannot be abandoned. It doesn’t matter what the situation is; the situation is of no consequence. I am so close to Him that I cannot even say that I am his son or daughter; I am just Him. How can I be abandoned? Even the thought cannot arise. Let’s think about all else but not this.”

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