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Chapter 4: A Milestone Marked Zero

How can you change the perfect? In what part will the transformation of the perfect take place? There is no further room for transformation. There is no further scope for change. “In its stillness” means it is fully blossomed. There is now no room for further blossoming. Bear in mind it is not like a stagnant pond, it is like a fully opened lotus. It has blossomed so much that there are no more buds to open. So here steadiness, stillness, means perfection. Where would the petals bloom, even if they wish to bloom? - because the highest spiritual element is perfect to the maximum, to the highest degree possible. It is so perfect that there is now no room for the petals to open more, even if they wish to do so. Here, stillness means that the total potential has become actual. Whatsoever was concealed in the seed is totally manifested - nothing invisible is left behind. So, stillness here does not imply inertia or stagnation; it means total perfection. So think of a fully opened flower and not of a pond, and then you will comprehend its meaning.

The next point which this sutra of the Ishavasya tells us is that the sense organs cannot reach the atman, “for it precedes them all.” As you are in front of my eyes, I can naturally see you. But I cannot see myself with my eyes because the I is behind the eyes. I see you because you are in front of my eyes. I cannot see myself with my own eyes because I am behind the eyes. If I lose my eyes, if I become blind, then I shall not be able to see you at all; but it will make no difference to my capacity to see myself. If I lose my eyesight, I shall not be able to see with my eyes. But I had never seen myself with my eyes, so in spite of becoming blind I shall still have the capacity to see myself. In this matter, two points are to be properly grasped.

Sense organs become media to see, to know those objects which are in front of them. They do not become the means to see those objects which are behind them. The word behind here also has two connotations. It does not mean only behind - at the back - it also means preceding. When a fetus takes root in the womb for the birth of a child, life comes first and sense organs follow it. It is quite proper because, if life does not precede, who will create the organs? So life precedes. The soul enters the womb first; the whole of the soul enters and then the sense organs begin to evolve one by one as the body begins to evolve. Sense organs develop slowly over seven months in the mother’s womb, and they take their complete shape in nine months. But some things do not become complete even then. For example, the sex organs do not develop fully. It takes another fourteen years for their full development, even after emerging from the womb. There are some parts of the brain which develop by and by, and continue to develop throughout life. Even the dying person is still developing, even then. But life comes first, the sense organs follow it, and other features appear later.

The master comes first and the servants are called in afterwards. Who usually calls the servants? Who employs them? The master can know the servants but the servants, in return, cannot know the master. The soul can know the sense organs, but the sense organs, on their part, cannot know the soul, because it existed prior to them, before they came into being, and in depths to which sense organs have no access. They are on the surface. They too are coverings of life. So no one can know the soul with the help of sense organs, no matter how fast they run.

The mind is also a sense organ. How fast it runs! So, there is a contradictory statement in this sutra; even the mind which runs so fast is unable to reach the soul which is still. Such a fast-running mind fails to reach it. It is a very remarkable race. The competition is very puzzling: this racing mind cannot reach this unmoving soul! But this is what usually happens in life. The motionless things can only be had by remaining still, not by running after them.

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