Freedom from the Known

By: H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

All problems always arise from knowing, not “not knowing.” If you do not know, your mind is open, and you say, ‘‘Oh! Maybe! Perhaps this is something I don’t know.’’ You do not label something you do not know. Whenever you think injustice has been done to you, whenever you think you are a victim, whenever you think something bad has happened to you, all this falls in the category of “I know it, this is how things are.”

Suffering is a product of limited knowledge. A question is a sign of limited knowledge. But when there is amazement, patience, joy and waiting, you are in a state of “I don’t know, maybe something, oh, what is it? I don’t know.” The whole life is a shift from the limited “I know” to all possibilities. You think you know the world and this is it. That is the biggest problem. This is not just one world, there are many layers in this world.

When you are upset, you are not just upset for any reason. There is some string that is being pulled. When your mind is open to all possibilities, an event happens and there could be many possibilities for that event to be that way, not just in the gross but some other reason in the subtle as well. Suppose you enter your room and find that someone at home has made a big mess in your room. You are irritated. Now you attach that cause for your anger to just that person who is there. But there is something more happening in the subtle. At that moment, something else is in the air but you can only see that person who has created a mess and you attribute all the anger to that person.

This is what limited knowledge does. Even after experiencing that you do not see something beyond. This is the most amazing thing. There is a proverb in India that says: “You fell in the well in daytime, which you could see at night.” You saw the well at night, you were careful, you avoided it and walked, but in the daytime you fell in the same pit. What does this mean? That your eyes are not open, you are not sensitive enough to see and recognize what is going on.

As we attach the events and emotions to individuals, the cycle continues. You will never be free from that. So first detach an event and emotion from that person, space and time. This is called astrology. It is the knowledge of oneness of the universe. If a pin is pricked into your hand, your entire body knows it, feels it. So every cell is connected with the whole of you. In the same way, every person is connected to the entire creation, to everybody, as there is only one life at a very subtle level, though it appears to be many in the gross.

If you go deeper and deeper, it is one existence, one Divine. So the wise person never labels individuals. In fact, in a wise person, all individual existence ceases. That is why one should not see any intention behind other’s mistakes or attribute mistakes to somebody and hold a grudge. The wise ones thoroughly know and understand that it is nobody’s mistake.

The mind drops cravings and aversions and becomes free. This is one way of saying it. Another way of saying it is that the mind ceases to exist. So when the mind goes away, only the Self remains. You are never given a problem that you cannot handle. Every problem that you face is to make you realize your abilities. How much more skill, talent, and joy you can bring forth. It’s all to make your mind, your intelligence, function.

In life, there should be all flavors. There should be all colors and charms. That is how every life is novel and interesting. It is so beautiful. It’s perfect the way things are. See it from a broader vision. You will thoroughly enjoy this place called Earth. You would like to come back here again and again. It is a play, it is a game. Otherwise, you would say, “Enough is enough; I don’t want to come back.” When things bog you down, you are caught up, then people say, ‘‘I want to get out from here.’’ Look at children – they play, they fight, they shout, they yell, they do everything. They want a game to be played. They just want to be there. Similarly, see life as a game.

You can be at ease with the uncertainty of the world when you realize the certainty of the consciousness. Often people do just the opposite. They are certain about the things in the world and uncertain about God. They rely on something that is not reliable and get upset. Uncertainty causes craving for stability and the most stable thing in the universe is our Self.

The world is of change, the Self is of non-change. You have to rely on the non-change and accept the change. If you are certain that everything is uncertain, then you are liberated. When you are uncertain in ignorance then you become worried and tense. Uncertainty with awareness brings higher states of consciousness and a smile.

Often people think that certainty is freedom. If you feel that freedom when you are not certain then that is “real” freedom. Often your certainty or uncertainty is based on the relative world. To be certain about the uncertainty of the relative makes you certain about the existence of the absolute and brings a “certain” faith in the absolute. In knowledge you can be enthusiastic in uncertainty. Often people who are uncertain don’t act, they simply sit and wait. Acting in uncertainty makes life a game, a challenge. Being in uncertainty is letting go. Certainty about the relative world creates dullness. Uncertainty about the Self creates fear. Uncertainty about matter brings certainty about consciousness.

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International Yoga Festival 2020 Spiritual Lecture Series