David: Sometimes you say that you trusted your Master and that is why you immediately accepted the truth of his words. But you weren’t very trusting on your first visit. You were annoyed that he had tricked you into coming to South India, and you were dissatisfied with him because he wasn’t exhibiting any signs of Krishna bhakti. With such a lack of trust, how did your Master’s words have such an immediate and lasting effect on you?
Papaji: This is a good question. I didn’t trust him on my first visit because he wasn’t showing any signs of Krishna bhakti. Afterwards, he appeared to me in Madras in the form of a vision and told me, ‘Krishna bhakti alone is true’.
I went back to see him and on that visit I saw him crying as he looked at a picture of Radha and Krishna. The tears of love and devotion that were flowing down his face trickled into my heart. I knew in that moment I had found a real Krishna bhakta who had just been hiding his devotion from me. From that day on I had absolute faith in him.
David: Occasionally you encourage people to cultivate the idea ‘I am free,’ or ‘I am freedom itself’. Sometimes you even tell people to repeat this phrase to themselves until they become convinced that this is the truth. This is classic manana – reflecting on the Guru’s words and generating a conviction that they are true. Since you also say that no effort and no practice can lead to liberation, how can the repetition of this phrase, or any other phrase such as ‘I am Brahman’, lead one to freedom?
Papaji: I tell people to repeat the phrase ‘I am free’ because everyone is saying, ‘I am suffering’. And because they say it, they believe it and suffer. It’s just a word or a thought, but because it is repeated again and again, it becomes the reality for the person who believes it. As you think, so you become. If you think, ‘I am bound, I am suffering,’ that becomes your experience.
So I tell people, ‘Try the opposite. Say to yourself, “I am not bound. I am not suffering. I am happy. I am free.”’
Say it with conviction. Start believing it and you will find that suffering disappears.
Two boys were once walking together. One of the boys put his hand in his pocket, took it out, brought it up to his mouth and then started chewing.
The other boy couldn’t see what he was eating so he asked, ‘What are you eating? Why don’t you offer me some?’
‘I am eating chick peas,’ he said, ‘but I’m not going to give you any.’
The second boy begged and begged until the first boy laughed and said, ‘I was just joking. I am not really eating anything. I was just putting my hand in my pocket and pretending to eat chick peas to see what your reaction would be. Look. There is nothing in my pocket at all.’
The second boy looked and saw that what he said was true.
When he had convinced himself that the first boy really had nothing to offer him, he said, ‘But why were you pretending to eat chick peas? If you are going to pretend like this, why don’t you pretend to eat something tasty, such as almonds?’
Similarly I tell people, ‘If you are going to pretend, why pretend that you are suffering? Why not pretend instead that you are free? It doesn’t cost you anything extra.’
It doesn’t even cost you Rs 10 to say, ‘I am free,’ but if you start saying that instead of ‘I am bound,’ what a difference it will make to your life. ‘I am free’ is an idea, and ‘I am bound’ is an idea. But if the former idea makes you happier, why not believe in it?
You are saying, ‘This is classic manana, reflecting on the Guru’s words and generating a conviction that they are true’. And you are also asking me, ‘How can this work since I also say that no effort and no practice can lead to liberation?’
The simple answer is, ‘It doesn’t work’. No amount of effort or practice can lead one to liberation. I tell people, ‘Don’t waste your time making efforts to get enlightenment. You are already free.’
Neither your effort nor your lack of effort will make any difference to this fundamental truth. I don’t advise people to waste their time trying to get enlightened because the results of such efforts can never be enlightenment. Anything you gain by your practice will be something that you have attained by mental or physical effort. You can attain mental and physical states by mental and physical activity, but you cannot attain enlightenment this way because it is not a physical or mental state. It cannot be attained or discovered by the mind, the body or the senses.
So I simply tell people, ‘Don’t make any effort. Don’t practise, and keep quiet just for one second.’ That’s all you have to do. You can try it now. For one second keep absolutely quiet and tell me what you find? Who are you in that moment? I offer a challenge to everybody here today: be absolutely silent for one second. Then, if in that moment you don’t see who you really are, come and tell me, ‘I did it, but it didn’t work’.
In that one second you have to discard everything that belongs to the past. Every thought you have ever had belongs to the past. And don’t think about the future. Don’t sit there thinking, ‘If I sit here quietly, I will find out who I am’. That is a thought about the future. The expectation of any result is a thought, and while that thought is there, you are not being truly quiet. And don’t think that you are sitting in front of me, trying to find out who you are. That is also a thought. Your perceptions are all thoughts. If you are aware of your body or the world, these are perceptions, and all perceptions are thoughts. In that one second of true silence you must have no perceptions at all. Whatever you can see, think, taste, comprehend or experience is not the truth because the truth cannot be registered or experienced by any bodily or mental faculty.
No one has ever tasted truth. No one has ever experienced it. Tastes and experiences are all thoughts that belong to the past, and what I am speaking of is absolutely fresh, absolutely untainted by thought or by anything that belongs to the past. In that moment of silence, the one who wants to taste truth disappears. In fact, in that moment, he becomes the tasted, not the taster.
The fate of those who become the tasted was brought out in an entertaining exchange in one of his 1995 Lucknow satsangs:
Question: Yesterday I was reading the chapter about your life in the Papaji Interviews book. I got to the part about your wanting to taste the chocolate instead of being the chocolate. That’s where I am now. What should I do next?
Papaji: First you tasted the chocolate. It was very sweet, very good, very delicious. Then you thought, ‘Why not become it?’ If you accomplish this, you can let others enjoy. Chocolate is for others. They will enjoy you.
Question: What do I do next?
Papaji: [laughing] There is no next for chocolates. They just get licked and tasted by other people.
Though Papaji happily concedes that a few people get a direct experience in the Guru’s presence while the others do not, he is not willing to admit that the ones who get it are in any way more qualified for enlightenment.
The slide show comprises photos of Papaji taken in his Lucknow home in the early 90s.
Papaji sitting outside his Narhi house in Lucknow in September 1992
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Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings