Selected questions and answers from talks and emails.

Q & A

By ‘Choicelessness’, it is meant that one’s choice itself is ‘choiceless’. This is because what you think is your choice, is truly not ‘your’ choice. Your choice is based on your genes and conditioning – two factors over which you had no control. Choicelessness does not mean that you don’t choose – let’s say, blue or green. It means that you choose what is in your nature to choose.

‘Choice’ means you have the ability to make and take a decision. I have to decide whether to take a left or a right turn on the road – that is my free will and my choice. The average person thinks that it is ‘my will’ which is making me take the left or right turn. But, in truth, there are a lot of factors that determine your decision, and these factors are not in your control.

You all may feel that it is your will that made you come here, but the fact is that if I had not written a book, and if Khushru (the organiser) had not read it, I would not have been invited for this talk. Further, if I were not a publisher – my book probably wouldn’t have got published.

If that stream of events had not happened, I would not be here with you today.

Similarly, how much of ‘your will’ did you exercise to come here? It’s possible that you may not have been on the mailing list and, therefore, not seen the announcement of the talk. You could have got stuck in traffic, or another engagement could have come up. So do you see the chain of events, which goes far back, that influences what you decide to do at some later date? Yet you feel it’s one action of ‘mine’ that is ‘my choice’.

Day to day living requires one to make and take decisions. One has to because that is how we, as human beings, function – by taking decisions. All I am saying is that you must remember that the outcome of your decision is not in your control, because the outcome will be according to God’s will. What’s more, don’t indulge in ‘what ifs’ and blame yourself: ‘If I had not done that, then this wouldn’t have happened,’ and so on. Don’t blame yourself because what you thought was your free will was truly not your free will.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna saw the enemy’s entire army positioned against him, whereas on his part, he had chosen only Krishna. So he told Krishna, ‘I can fight my relatives, but I cannot fight my preceptors,’ and having said that he put his bow and quiver of arrows down. Krishna said, ‘Look here, you were born in the warrior caste, your whole training in life has been to be a warrior, you are designed to fight… so you pick up that bow and fight because that is your dharma. And please don’t think you are killing them, because I – as Time – have already killed them.’

One day at my guru Ramesh’s home, a man of around 65 years of age came for the talks. He had been a veteran soldier somewhere in Europe. He said that for every night since the end of the war, he had broken down in tears because he had killed some soldiers of the enemy. And Ramesh told him the same thing. He said, ‘Look, you belong to a family of soldiers (the man had said even his grandfather was a soldier), you were conscripted into the military when you were a young boy, your conditioning was to fight for the country, so why are you taking ownership of the fact that you killed the enemy? If you realise that you were meant to kill, then you will be at peace.’ And this man just started sobbing. He said, ‘I am now ready to die tomorrow.’ So, let’s not become attached to what we think is our choice and free will. Not being attached is a liberating feeling.

Hitler was born because it was God’s will, and so was Osama Bin Laden. By ‘God’ I mean the Source or Consciousness, and not an individual sitting up there in heaven. If God did not create ‘bad’ people, then who created them? There cannot be two ‘Sources’, otherwise it would beget the question that where did they come from? The Source created Hitler, and the Source created Mother Teresa.

Consciousness does not differentiate. One of the more painful facets of humanity is that of handicapped children and you wonder how God could do that. God would probably answer that by saying, ‘Nobody asks Me why I created healthy children!’ We don’t know the basis of God’s will. The Nirbhaya case (someone in the audience had raised the issue of the recent gang rape that had created a mass revolution of sorts in India) is horrific. But what it does to each of us, how each of us is impacted individually, how we are impacted collectively as a group, what it makes us feel – in other words, what role that event was supposed to play, will be played according to God’s will.

When Jesus said while he was nailed to the cross: ‘Not my will Oh Lord, but Thine,’ that signified his total surrender to God’s will.

Now, as far as the perpetrators of the Nirbhaya rape were concerned, thankfully they were all nabbed and the law of the land will take its course. What punishment the Court metes out to them would ultimately be God’s will. Just as it was God’s will that they be nabbed. A happening may be God’s will, but it does not absolve the individual of the consequences of his action and his responsibility to society – which is also God’s will.

Do exactly what you think and feel you should do, but know that the results of your action are not in your control. This does not mean ‘sit back’. It’s not in your nature to sit back. Fatalism is felt by the ego – it feels helpless with this approach. It does not like it. But it’s not that. Deep down, the arrow has hit home. With this approach, you will be more relaxed when you do things. You will not be that attached, you will still do them but there will be a lightness because you know that, in any case, the results are not in your control. It will not make you fatalistic; you will, in fact, enjoy doing those things much more than you did before. Why? Because it will no longer be ‘you’ doing them. You have the realisation that it is happening through you.

As the famous Russian ballet dancer Nidjinsky once said: ‘Nidjinsky dances best when Nidjinsky is not there.’

A 27-year young man, who was impacted by the teaching, once said to me, ‘I am not in ‘thinking mind’ mode; I play video games all the time so I am in ‘working mind’ mode.’ What he meant to say was that he was not sitting idle but keeping his mind engaged. Then he went on to say, ‘It’s my destiny to play video games and not to work,’ and so on.

See, the ego is very naughty. At the heart of the matter was the burning question: ‘Who am I without ‘my’ mind?’ It was afraid of that, because it felt it would lose its identity, its sense of self, if the mind was not kept engaged in some activity or another.

You could call it a cunning or conniving mind, but the beauty is that it was made that way. So you can’t tell someone ‘You have a conniving mind.’ That is your interpretation. God made that person that way for a reason. His spiritual growth would happen when he would realise that nature of the ego. So this young man, even if one says he has a conniving mind, the realisation should be there that he is not a conniving ‘being’. How can a human being be conniving? A ‘being’ can simply ‘be’ – being. There’s a big difference between the two statements. It is the nature of the mind to be conniving. If you start looking at people from that perspective, you will be more relaxed. The resonance of the intellect is in the heart, not in the mind. We should think from the heart, and not the mind.

This does not mean you should not tell someone – let’s say your son (pointing at a couple who said their teenage son was giving them a hard time) – to stop playing video games throughout the day, if that’s what arises. You should not prevent what comes naturally to you as well. But deep down you know that you’re not targeting an individual ‘me’ but a person programmed by his genes and conditioning – both factors that are beyond his control. So it removes the sting from your relationship with people.

(On the same couple’s earlier question regarding the difficult time their son was giving them.)

It’s the way their ego is conditioned – by your upbringing of them, which plays a large part in the child’s conditioning. One also has to take into account the conditioning they receive in school, college, society in general, and so on.

The fact is that you were not responsible, because God was responsible for your conditioning. So, the next time it happens you might laugh, because you will realise that he is playing out a script based on his destiny. He is meant to think the way he is thinking, and you are meant to be there to put forward your point of view. But his problem is that you keep repeating your point of view.

See, the ego never likes to be told the same thing over and over again. He will rebel against that. All you need to do is plant the seed, and then let go of constantly trying to put someone on a particular path. It’s just like constantly watering the seed which would destroy it, instead of giving it the time and environment to sprout and grow. You know, our mother never once said ‘No’ to us. And because of that, all of us siblings grew up quite well-disciplined. So, the next time when you see that that’s the way the person’s mind is working, you will perhaps give a quiet smile of understanding.

Doing something about that would mean a lot of ‘doership’ on your part. He wants to come closer to you because of who you are. So, by going out of your way to do something in order to make that person come closer, you are, in a sense, going away from your own centre. It will be the destiny of that person who is attracted to you, to come to you. And his journey lies in that journey towards you. I would say you have to be exactly as you are. So, if the ego steps in and wants to hasten things, that would create a disturbance in the dynamic – of course, if that happened, then even that would be destined. There is something in you that is wanting the other person to come to you; just remain a witness to that. Investigate those moments –what is your state which is drawing him to you? Be present for him as That.

The best thing that you can do is to just witness. However, the point is that witnessing is not something you can ‘do’. Witnessing happens when the sense of doership is not there. ‘Witnessing’ is not the same as ‘observing’ because when we observe, we judge. Observing is the ‘me’ observing something else done by the individual. When you are impartial and have not established a point of view, it is then that witnessing happens. The ego cannot try to witness because the ego, as the thinking mind, is not the witness. Witnessing is the total collapse of the thinking mind, which is the characteristic of the ego, into the total acceptance of this present moment.

The witness is that which is aware of this happening. So when the awareness arises that ‘I am in a game’, that is the witness. The more the awareness that you are in a game – the lila, the more the witnessing is happening.

That’s the flip-flop. But with time that starts reducing. It’s like climbing a hundred steps… one at a time. Life is a learning curve. With this understanding, your involvement in situations starts reducing. Your drama is playing out in consciousness. If you were not conscious, there would be no drama being played out. So, the teaching is just pointing you back to the consciousness, which is the witness. You can’t have a problem with someone if you are not conscious. In deep sleep, you cannot have a problem with anyone.

Boredom is natural, else one wouldn’t get bored. If that is destined to happen, it will happen. Who is it that gets bored? Sit with the boredom once. Don’t avoid it by becoming engaged in other things. One type of boredom is an energetic boredom where the body needs to walk, exercise, and expend energy in order for the feeling to go away. But more often than not, boredom is in the mind. And one tries to engage in other activities so one does not get bored. In a sense, one is running away from just ‘being’.

For example, some people have a hard time sitting in meditation with their eyes closed. They get bored. That is because they are habituated to being engaged in something or the other – they are externalised. Then there are others who just close their eyes and are lost to the world. No one gets bored in meditation – it’s the mind that gets bored. Why? Because the mind wants to survive, it does not want to die. In meditation it dies.

Real meditation is Consciousness contemplating on Itself. Thoughts are witnessed just like traffic moving by. There is no attachment to these thoughts, which normally translates into thinking. Thoughts will arise, because that is the nature of thoughts. You can’t block a thought. Here, thoughts are not the issue, but rather, thinking is. It is the stretching out of a thought in the duration of time that is the issue.

When you’re comfortable with just being, you will realise that you don’t have to be ‘doing’ all the time. Boredom could be a sign that the person is habituated to the ‘doing’ mode all the time. You could not ‘do’ if you were not conscious. And meditation is Consciousness contemplating on Itself. Meditation is making one realise that Consciousness is one’s true nature.

In meditation, you are aware that your mind is going all over the place. In the waking state you are not aware. So be happy that a lot of thoughts come in meditation because you are aware that they are there. Most of us are not aware; we are just caught up in running here and there with our thoughts. The fact that you said a lot of thoughts come during meditation means you were not those thoughts and, therefore, you recognised them as thoughts. People get discouraged when they realise they get a lot of thoughts in meditation, but that’s actually very good. The thought does not occur: ‘Who knows that?’ Who knows that there are many thoughts coming? With time, the thinking will subside in meditation. In life we are constantly taught the same lessons in order to bring them to our awareness. Once we learn something, it generally does not manifest again because the learning is complete. Your head is already in the tiger’s mouth, as the first step of sitting in meditation has already been taken.

That is what the sage Nisargadatta Maharaj used to say. His whole teaching was that ‘you are not the body’. So what he is saying is, don’t read the Gita from an individual perspective. Read it as if you are ‘the pure light of Consciousness reading the book’. In other words, if you were not conscious, you could not read the Gita. So read it from that perspective and not from the twisted judgements and views of the individual ‘me’ – an individual identified with the name and form of his body. Read it from the perspective of the Universal Consciousness – Krishna. Do not read it from the perspective of the identified ego consciousness.

If you can live like that, then that is ‘awakened’ living. If you are free from resentments, ill-will, spite, hatred, jealousy, pride, arrogance, guilt and shame – the game is up. But if you think you are free from all that, then the game is not up.

Of course it is. The deer is programmed to be afraid of biological death, so it runs.

No. You ask questions, which the deer does not. The deer does not live in fear – fear of the future. Unlike you, he does not think: ‘What’s going to be my bank balance three years from now?’ …and so on. The biological fear of death in a human being is that which does not make you close your eyes and cross the road. That is what is common between the deer and a human being. But we have a psychological problem with dying. We have the intellect that God gave us, which makes us ask questions. The deer has no questions to ask. The deer does not want possessions, it does not build a monumental story around another deer it falls in love with – ‘Will you be with me for the rest of my life?’ – nor does it indulge in other such projections.

That’s a natural, biological process – pure being. The deer does not seek permanency in the future.

They’re probably more ‘awakened’ than most of us. They don’t get attached to places and things. They simply move on. We get habituated even to which restaurants we go to, and which table we sit at.

For most of us, God is an object – one which we pray to. More often than not, that prayer is in the form of begging, asking God to do this or that for us. That is not the God being referred to. The God being referred to is Consciousness. If you were not conscious, you could not worship any God. So who are you referring to when you say God? Is it the God that is within your consciousness as an object? Or the Consciousness within which is the object one calls God? Some people don’t like the word ‘God’ because of a lot of conditioning associated with it, so ‘Consciousness’ is a more appropriate word. It is the Source without which there is nothing – no ‘you’, ‘me’, ‘he’ or ‘she’.

Well, it’s not working according to your will. If it did, then everything you did in life would go your way. So, it is working according to the will of the Source.

The Source does not reside in you; it is you who reside in the Source.

We actually got disconnected from the Source, because it was the will of the Source. The Source wants to reconnect to Itself through us.

Because if I keep using the word Consciousness, my tongue will get tired.

You know, my teacher used to say that an atheist can be an atheist only if it is ‘God’s will’.

On a more serious note, if he was not conscious he would not be an atheist. So the teaching keeps pointing back to Consciousness.

Obviously. That is the first sign of God. The sage Ramana Maharshi once told his audience: ‘There is no free will.’ One person put up his hand and said, ‘I put up my hand, so that’s my free will.’ Sri Ramana said: ‘Of course not! If I had not said that there is no free will, you would not have put up your hand!’

No tools. Who wants the tools? The mind – more specifically, the thinking mind! So please don’t get involved in trying to be a witness, because the ego cannot witness.

Questions asked through email

According to my understanding, the conviction that you are not the body is the ‘awakening’. It is the Total Conviction, and not just an intellectual conviction.

After this, there is no ‘one’ to be concerned with the cycle of birth and death.

Indeed, that was your childhood conditioning, over which you had no control. And neither did your father and mother over their conditioning. That is the Advaita perspective.

At a talk given by me last year, a man asked me that he had tried various healings and therapies – reiki, pranic healing, workshops, courses and so on, and he was quite a spiritual tourist in that sense. He wondered if and when this would stop, as he had been at it for over 20 years.

My answer was simple. I said that it would stop the moment he asked himself what he was looking for. Once he knew that, then at least he would know whether he found it. He was quite astonished. He said he did not know what he was looking for, and even the thought of it had not arisen.

Then I repeated what my guru used to say: ‘What the human being is looking for deep down, and whether he knows it or not, is peace of mind.’ The fact that he was continuing ‘looking around’ meant he had not found that elusive peace of mind. This impacted him tremendously as he wholeheartedly agreed that it was peace of mind that he was looking for. He now knows that there is a ‘criteria’ and he needn’t look around aimlessly.

Sometimes, one has the good fortune of chancing upon the teaching of Advaita, which in my experience is capable of bestowing this peace. You have said that it resonates deeply within you. That is because it validates your life experience.

We did not create our childhood conditioning in the first place, and yet we get involved in endless efforts to ‘de-condition’ our conditioning. It is ironic, but that is the way the ego functions – in a mode based on ‘doership’. Advaita offers a unique perspective in its understanding. This is what is meant by ‘don’t fight one’s conditioning’. When it is clearly seen that we are all products of our genes and conditioning, both of which are not in our control, then how can we blame others (and more importantly, ourselves) for something they or we are supposed to have done?

We are all instruments through whom God’s will functions. When this realisation sinks deeper and deeper, it is observed that one’s conditioning gets transformed over a period of time; sometimes it gets transformed instantly. So, rather than ‘doing’ something to de-condition oneself, it is in fact the Understanding that starts working through you, in daily living. This in turn creates fresh conditioning, and it is reflected in one’s attitude and response to current situations. All we need to ‘do’ is give it a chance. In other words, your resonation with Advaita is the new conditioning that brings you the peace.

Yes, peace is found more easily when one is amidst nature or when one is alone as there are no others to deal with. That is, no other ‘egos’ to deal with. However, daily living involves relationships with others – be they friends, relatives or strangers. And peace of mind in ‘daily living’ is what is sought, which is the precious gift of Advaita.

As you rightly say, one needs to earn money to live and one also desires contact with other human beings. I would encourage you to go back and take another dip in the waters of daily living, rather than isolating yourself, as you have been gifted with this teaching.

I don’t think it is a question of ‘fighting’ the conditioning, which perhaps is something you might have been doing through your spiritual practices. I repeat, Advaita brings to awareness that your actions are a result of your genes and conditioning, over neither of which you have any control. This makes it easier to accept others, as well as yourself, for who they or you are. Acceptance of ‘what is’ makes one see things in a clearer, impersonal light. That awareness, and how deeply it sinks in (even if initially only at the intellectual level), can itself change, alter or transform the current conditioning. Who is the one concerned with ‘fighting’ the conditioning? It’s the ego, of course, which can only do things like ‘fight’, as it derives its sense of self from that very activity.

Destiny is ‘what is’ in the moment. And one never knows what the next moment brings. Why project the past into the future and wonder whether that’s your destiny? It is the ‘thinking mind’ which tends to do that. Why assume you may do harm to yourself or others as part of your destiny, based on past experience? Let God decide that.

My guru would always say to seekers who came to visit him: ‘Why consider your glass half empty? Consider it half full. If God has brought you here so far, why think that he will drop you here?’ Perhaps you need to take a break from trying to de-condition yourself, and let life flow with the new perspective you have gained.

Further, if there is a deep understanding, then the issue of harming others would not arise. If there is the deep understanding that it is the same Consciousness that functions through all of us, where is the question of harming someone for something they are supposed to have ‘done’?

That is all I have to offer for now. May you rest in the warm embrace of the teaching.

Consciousness functions through different human beings like electricity functions through different household appliances. Just as the electrical juicer is programmed to produce a different output from the toaster, similarly each individual body-mind organism is programmed differently – as a result of genetics and conditioning – to produce a specific output. We are instruments through whom the same energy functions.

Therefore, to answer your question, ‘everyone is really me’ in the sense that it is the same Consciousness that functions through the different ‘me’s. However, each ‘me’ lives his life as a separate ‘me’. Therefore, the question of living another ‘me’s’ life does not arise, just as the juicer cannot perform the same function as the toaster.

At a deeper level of understanding, it means that Consciousness is all there is; there truly are no others to be separate from. We are not living our lives but rather are being lived, just as the gadgets in the kitchen are being lived by the electricity that functions through them.

An email correspondence from an aspirant seeking clarity

GS: What you have stated is the plight of many spiritual seekers. The consolation (for you) is that you did not start the seeking in the first place; God did. So let the path unfold as per His plan.

Generally, what I have observed is that such confusion arises because we don’t know what we are looking for. But it is clear that what every human being is looking for, whether he knows it or not, is ‘peace of mind’.

Therefore, I would suggest following that path or finding a teacher who shows you the way to attain ‘peace of mind’ in daily living. For what could be more important than that?

The point you raised in your mail is important: ‘I am not even sure if I truly have the desire to understand myself or is it just an escape from daily problems?’ The truth is that only you would know whether you are escaping from daily problems, or whether you are facing them but, at the same time, also seeking a balm (in the form of a teacher or teaching) that will help you face such situations with equanimity.

I can’t say whether the presence of a teacher would be ‘essential’ in your case, but I am sure it would help the process. I was in the physical presence of my teacher and for me it was essential. I think it was essential for my teacher as well (i.e. to be with his teacher).

All the best for the unfolding of your spiritual journey – it is something to be enjoyed. Consider your glass half full and not half empty.

GS: Like you have said, when you try to be one with the ‘I am’, you can’t do it. That’s precisely the point. It is this very ‘you’ with its sense of ‘doership’ that tries too hard to be its own absence, so that the ‘Presence’ shines through. Yes, the ‘silence’ indeed pops up spontaneously without you having to do anything.

Now, regarding the experience of your attention getting locked on to some part of the brain: as long as it happens on its own, without you trying to induce it, let it play its part in the process of unfoldment. As you have said, it goes off on its own after some time. The Creative Force has infinite intelligence and does not require ‘you’ to ‘do’ anything with it; it will take its natural course.

GS: What you have described is known as ‘witnessing’. The fact that you say, ‘I was doing something and also internal dialogue was going on about what is me’ and all that… means that there was awareness of it all. In other words, all phenomena were witnessed.

The world is not out there; it appears within our consciousness. For if we were not conscious, there would be no world.

Sitting in silence for some time and meditation – which is the simple awareness of being – would be beneficial.Witnessing means observing all that arises – thoughts, feelings, emotions – without judging.