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Remain empty

 The word upanishad means ‘sitting at the feet of the master’. In ancient India, there was the gurukul* tradition of masters and disciples. Children were left with the master at the age of seven and they grew up centering beautifully in their consciousness. Masters are living embodiments of the scriptural truths. Their thoughts, words and deeds stem from the ultimate Truth. Disciples pick up the truth just by living around them.

Swami Sri Yukteshwar Giri*, an enlightened master from India says, ‘Sitting with the master is not merely being in his physical presence, but keeping him in your heart, being one with him in principle and tuning yourself to him.’ This is the whole technique of upanishad. The master is superconscious energy. When you tune to him, you tune to that energy. You can tune only through innocence, openness.

Openness is emptiness. Let not knowledge fill you. Knowledge is but a mere tool, not your substance. Reject all knowledge as ‘not this’, ‘not this’. When I say reject, I mean don’t settle for any intermediate knowledge except the ultimate Truth. Because when you drop everything that continuously arises in you, then you have no other go. You are thrown back into yourself and it is there you will find the ultimate Truth. It is then you are ready to be filled with the Truth. Then alone can you make upanishad happen.

Adi Shankara, the great sage from ancient India, sang the beautiful Nirvana Shatakam* when he was a mere eight year old:

I have neither hatred nor liking,

I have neither greed nor delusion,

I have indeed neither pride nor jealousy,

I have no duty to perform, Nor any wealth to acquire,

I have no craving for pleasure, I am not being bound for liberation,

I am of the nature of pure Consciousness and Bliss,

I am all Auspiciousness, I am Shiva.

Such was his blissful emptiness at that young age. If you watch children, their eyes will be filled with wonder and freshness all the time. They are so empty inside. They don’t hold any opinion about anything. They are ready to receive. Their readiness is expressed in their eyes. Have you ever seen an adult with such eyes? The eyes lose their glow as we grow older because we become dulled by what we start knowing. Knowledge makes us dull. We may know many things, but the knowing should not dull us in any way. We should remain empty in spirit always.

If you just look at life without any opinions, without any words of description, without any fixed ideas, then you are like an empty teacup into which the brewed tea can be poured. You receive because you hold nothing, because you are empty. Then you never lose your enthusiasm. You are never bored. You are like a child, innocent and fresh.

A young girl was writing something on a piece of paper. Her father asked her what it was.

She said, ‘I am writing a letter.’

He asked, ‘To whom?’

‘To me,’ she replied.

‘What does the letter say?’ He asked.

She replied, ‘How do I know? I have not mailed it and I have not received it yet.

There is so much freshness behind innocence. Life becomes an unfolding mystery every moment with it. That is the truth. Life is an ever unfolding mystery. It is the mind that typecasts it. The mind always wants life on its own specific terms. Innocence embraces life with life’s own terms. With the mind, life does not find a gate to enter with its mysteries. With innocence, life is welcomed to share its mysteries.

If you play hide and seek with children, you will see that they will hide in the same place as you hid the last time! Not just once but most of the time! How is this possible? It is because of one thing: they move with innocence. They don’t have any idea in their head. They simply follow their heart. They have great trust in you, so they simply hide where you hid, not even suspecting you will look there! That is the beauty.

In child psychology a simple experiment is conducted to determine the intellectual awareness of children. The child will be shown a doll house with dolls of father, mother, son and daughter. The counselor will take away the father and mother dolls and tell the child that they have left for work or shopping. The child will be asked to confirm the statement. Then the child is diverted to look elsewhere and the parent dolls are put back in the doll house where the child can see them. The child is now asked where the father and mother dolls are, and there are very interesting observations in the responses.

A child of up to four years would normally respond saying that the mother and father are still away at work or shopping even though they can see them clearly in the doll house. It is only beyond that age, perhaps at the age of five, that the child connects what it sees with reality. Till then the child just believes what is told to it earlier.

This is the beauty of innocence. Innocence trusts. Innocence does not worry about being exploited. Neuroscientists have explanations for this now. They say that till about the age of five or six, a child’s brain wave patterns are in the theta and delta states. These are extremely impressionable states of mind in which we dream and sleep. These are states of no identity. Till the age of twelve they say that brain waves are in alpha state, still very impressionable. This is why children believe most of what adults say to them. In their innocence they trust.

If you watch children’s eyes, they will be clear and empty. This is why they are in bliss. As you grow up, your eyes become filled with knowledge. Then you may have sight, but not insight, because you see through your eyes that are already filled with opinions, judgments and beliefs. Your sight is no longer innocent. It is filtered and clouded. You see through the filter of your beliefs and conditioned memories. There is nothing new to learn from what you see because it becomes a repetition of your past memories. The learning is missed.

On the other hand, when you see with empty eyes, everything you see goes deep and causes fresh insight. Life becomes an eternally unfolding mystery. The very nature of your questioning changes. The nature of the questioning reveals the depth of innocence of the questioner.

There are three ways to ask a question. You can ask out of innocence, or you can ask out of knowledge to show that you too know, and third, you can ask to confirm that what you know is correct. When you ask out of innocence, you are completely ready to receive the answer. When you ask out of knowledge, you completely miss the answer. When you ask for confirmation, you simply resist the answer.

A small story:

Zen masters generally give personal guidance in a secluded room. No one enters when master and disciple are together.

A Zen master used to enjoy talking with merchants and newspapermen as well as with his pupils every day. Amongst his regular visitors was an illiterate potter who used to come and ask foolish questions of him. He will then have tea and go away.

One day, while the potter was there, the master wanted to give personal guidance to a disciple, so he requested the potter to remain outside.

The potter asked, ‘I understand you are a living Buddha. Even the stone Buddhas never disallow the coming together of people before them. Why then should I be disallowed?’ The master had to go outside to see his disciple.

 The potter’s question was of knowledge. He missed the learning for the moment. Masters impart learning every moment. If there is implicit openness the learning can be received. In the space of innocence learning happens. The potter’s knowledge came in the way of absorbing the master. Children absorb everything and everyone around them like a sponge. There is nothing hindering the process as yet. That is why they were taken to masters at the young age of seven in the ancient vedic tradition. The fundamental secret of learning is to function from a state of innocence.

The problem is that those who are not empty never recognize that they are not empty. You cannot tell them they are full. They will neither understand nor accept it. But a man of innocence can say, ‘Because of my knowing I missed it. I actually don’t know. I am now eager to know.’ The moment this space is created, the learning continues to happen. In this space there is no ego of knowing. The resistance is dropped and there is pure receptivity.

J. Krishnamurti, the great philosopher, beautifully says, ‘There can be freedom from know-ledge only when the motivation for gathering of knowledge is understood.’ What is generally the motivation for knowledge? You see, the present is an unfolding miracle and mystery of Existence. We try to grasp it with the net of knowledge. That is the motivation for knowledge. But it can never happen! The unknown can never be trapped with the known. The unknown can be known only by surrendering to it. That surrender is what is called intelligence! Intelligence recognizes the mystery of the present moment and surrenders to it joyfully. That joy is the joy of innocence.

Knowledge on the other hand denies the mystery of the present moment. It tries to ascertain it every minute and the present can never be ascertained. So you continuously remain with what is called ‘fear of the unknown’. It is through the process of trying to ascertain the present moment that the fear of the unknown takes root. Otherwise, you have no fear! You are very clear that the present moment is a mystery!

Through knowledge, you somehow try to escape from the ‘not-knowing’ of the moment. To the ego, not-knowing means being nothing. It cannot handle being nothing. But innocence is being nothing and enjoying the present! The present is an unopened gift. But knowledge robs it of its suspense. When knowledge understands that the ways of the Self are yet to be discovered, then it doesn’t hinder the process of the ultimate knowing. Then it behaves as a tool that comes into play when actually required and not stand in the way of embracing the mysteries of life.

When we understand that knowledge denies the mysteries of life, when we understand that we gather knowledge because we are afraid of the unknown, we will awaken to a new intelligence of surrendering to life, and that awakening is the birth of innocence.

The problem is that society believes in instilling a set of beliefs into every child that is born. The whole method of bringing up a child is by instilling a set of beliefs in it.

What is belief?

It is nothing but an individual and independent interpretation of something.

There is no need to instill any belief into a child. A child can remain free to have its own interpretation.

J. Krishnamurti says, ‘Knowledge is both tradition and instinct.’ What does he mean by that? Let us say you are born in a Hindu family. Then, the knowledge you pick up will be from a solid Hindu tradition. Your responses and your actions will carry the strong beliefs of Hindu tradition and ideology. Both at the conscious and unconscious levels, you will be conditioned through it. The unconscious response becomes your ‘instinct’. The very experience of anything around you, happens only through instinct, not as it is. And because of this, you cannot know anything as it is. You can know it only through your knowledge. That is why we say, knowledge is a hindrance to knowing. Once knowledge solidifies in the being there is no space left for experiencing. There is scope only for replay of knowledge. Everything becomes a reflection of some past knowledge or some past conclusion. The future becomes a continuation of the past patterns and experiences. You already know the fragrance of a flower. You already know the sound of the waves. You already know the sunrise. In the very beginning, at the time of the first experience as a child, these would have been truly innocent experiences. But as we grow up, these innocent experiences start becoming mundane tradition.

Understand, Existence is not a continuation of anything. It is fresh every minute. So it is not possible to know anything. What do you know of what happens the next second? If this is understood, all knowing can be dropped. Then there is only wisdom and wisdom is innocent intelligence. It allows the experience to happen without knowledge hindering. Then the great discoveries of the Self and that which is around the Self as well as the mysteries that link both happen.

J. Krishnamurti rightly says that belief discards so many possibilities and urges you into one particular activity. Since the mind is constantly looking for activity you go behind belief. We base our whole life on beliefs. Because of this we are immersed in activity, but not action. Activity needs constant fuelling through beliefs. Activity cannot afford to stop. If it stops, the mind falls into depression. Action happens as and when required and stops. Activity happens out of belief. Action happens out of understanding. Activity causes fatigue while action creates energy and inspiration. What you need is action, not activity.

Just understand that belief is nothing but your own understanding of something and not the truth. In any given situation, four different people can conclude differently with four different beliefs. There is no absolute reality in belief. It is merely an individual perception. But innocence keeps the perception open. That is the beauty of it. It doesn’t conclude and close the doors on anything.

Look at this picture here.

What do you see? You see an old woman. But you can also see a young woman! The nose of the old woman is the left cheek of the young woman. The mouth of the old woman is the neck of the young woman’s dress! The left eye of the old woman becomes the left ear of the young woman.

There are innumerable interpretations to anything. Not holding onto any one interpretation is the essence of innocence. Then the spirit is kept alive.


* Gurukul – Vedic educational institution.

* Swami Sri Yukteshwar Giri – Master of enlightened master Paramahamsa Yogananda from India.

* Nirvana Shatakam – A collection of six verses sung by enlightened master Adi Shankara at the age of eight to introduce himself to his master , Govindapada.

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