“Thus, I became a madman
And I have found both freedom and safety
in my madness;
the freedom of loneliness
and the safety from being understood
For those who understand us,
enslave something in us.”
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Question: Why is Khalil Gibran saying that those who understand us enslave something in us?
Speaker: The context, in which Khalil Gibran is using these lines, has to be seen. When he says ‘loneliness’, read it as ‘aloneness’; when he says ‘understand’, read it as ‘think of’. What he is saying is that, those who are able to know us via thought, are able to know us only in terms of material; name, form, shape, size, time, past, identities. So, those who know of us in terms of these time and space bound variables, have a relationship of master and slave with us. They act as the master and slave, and we too act as the master and slave. Only such is the quality of the relationship.
He is saying that he is happy that he became a mad man and now no one understands him. By this, what he means is that, now no one is able to predict him, now no one knows him via thought. Now, nothing can be said of him using the patterns of the mind; because, the patterns of the mind recognize only patterns. A madman is free of patterns. So, nobody can claim that he comprehends the mad man. And that is what brings joy to the author of these lines. He is saying that, “They do not know me anymore. I am a stranger to them.” And this is great freedom. This is great freedom that now nobody knows me, and this is the destiny of every mad man. This is the destiny of every person who is pulled by faith. Meditation brings out the mystic in you, and when the mystic in you emerges then nobody can claim that they are familiar with you. In fact, those who were familiar to you in the past now would start saying that they do not know you. They would say that, “We do not understand you that your ways have changed. You are no more the same person.”
Now, if your meditation and your faith are deep, then you will celebrate these words. When somebody tells you that, they do not understand you anymore, it would be your joy, just as Khalil Gibran is expressing here. ‘I have found both freedom and safety in my madness. I have found the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood; because those who understand you, enslave you.’ So, you would rejoice, you would say, “Great that these people, the world and the society, the friends and the family members, who used to know me so long, know me no more.” You would celebrate, but if your faith and your meditation are deep enough, then this will become a reason to be pulled back to the world. You would say, “Oh my god! I am losing out on all my acquaintances. What will happen to me without my friend circle? What will happen to me without the protection of my family? What will happen to me without the endorsement of the society?”
So, you will be pulled back. What is certain is that the deeper you go into love, towards the truth, the more will be the lack of recognition from falseness. As you move towards the truth, the false will start saying, “I do not know you, who are you?” Take this as an expression of congratulation, take this as a commendation. Do not take this as an accusation. Yes, they will throw this at you in a manner of accusing you. They will say that you have been disloyal. They will say that you probably have been brain washed. They will say that you have broken the promise of trust and the commitment of togetherness. So, all these things will be said to you. But look at Khalil Gibran; look at his love, his freedom, and his boldness. How clearly he is saying that, “Since the day I became a madman, it is great that I am alone. And it is great that now no one can claim acquaintance with me.
When nobody can say that they know you, then for sure you have known yourself. And when everybody in the world knows you, then for sure you do not know yourself. Aloneness brings you to yourself, and it is only when you are alone that it is possible to relate in any truthful and substantial way to others also. The road towards others goes via your own heart, via your own centre. If your relationship with others is firstly not passing through your own centre, it is impossible that you can have any true relationship with others. With most of us the meaning of relationship is going outwards. We feel relating to the other means relating to someone outside ourselves. And that is the reason why our relationships are so full of deception, suffering, boredom and eventual disappointment; because firstly the relationship didn’t arise from the heart, and secondly the relationship didn’t pass through the heart. And both are actually one. Your relationship with others can pass through your heat only if first of all the relationship arose from the heart and not from the body. If the relationship principally arises from the body, it is impossible for it to pass through the heart.
You look at something or somebody and you feel attracted. Obviously, the attraction is arising from the body and is towards the body. There is no way it can take a u-turn and pass through the heart. On the other hand, if you are relating to someone because in the presence of that someone you come close to yourself, that other person does not takes you away from yourself, instead brings you back to yourself, then obviously you are relating to the other through yourself, through your center, through your heart. That is the test. A person is a friend, a person is a worthwhile companion, only if in that person’s company you can feel alone, you can feel relaxed and peaceful, only if the person’s company does not make itself felt. Are you getting it? Have you come across such people with whom you feel like going outwards all the time? When the fellow is with you, if you are attracted to the person, if you are thinking of the person, then obviously the person is not bringing you back to yourself.
On the other hand, there can be a totally different quality of companionship. You were distracted, you were restless, and the moment you went and sat next to a man, a person, your restlessness subsided. Now, this is a totally different effect the other is having upon you. Do you see the difference between these two effects? You were with yourself, alright, composed, and then a particular walks in and sits in front of you. And the result of his company is that you get excited, that you start thinking of him, that you can no more be at peace. The fellow sitting next to you is causing movement and vibrations in your mind. This person is dangerous for you. Not in the sense that the person is evil, but in the sense that the relationship is not arising from the heart. Are you getting it?
But our relationships are mostly of the kind that Khalil Gibran is celebrating freedom from. He is saying, “Great that now nobody knows me, great; because if they know me, they will enslave me.” The great Panjabi poet and mystic, Bulleshah said, ‘Na koi saadi jaat pachhane, no koi saanu manne. Chal buleya chal othe chaliye, jethe saare anne. Na koi saadi jaat pachhane, no koi saanu manne.’ Let’s go to such a place where nobody knows me, because when these people claim that they know somebody, they know him only through their corrupted eyes. When a man stands in front of them, they say that they know where he lives, they know what cast he belongs to, they know what his gender and economic status is, they know what his past is. That’s all that these people know. Now, this knowing is not knowing at all. You have no relationship with me. You only have relationship with this and that, about me. You have a relationship probably with the way my face looks, you have a relationship with the attractiveness of my body, you have a relationship with the money in my pocket, you have a relationship with the fact that I was born in your house. You do not have a relationship with me; the trouble is that, to have a relationship with me you must know me, and to know me you must first know yourself. If you know yourself as a body, you can only have a relationship with me as a body.
Use this as a test. And verify the deep truth of Khalil Gibran’s words. He is saying that the more you can be known, the more is the probability and depth of your enslavement. If it can be known that you can get angry upon hearing a few words, then you can be enslaved. What does it mean to be enslaved? Your behavior, your ways can be dictated. I want to get something done through you; I can get it done by making you angry. I know your handle, I know your lever, I know you, I know your ways. I know how conditioned you are and what is the pattern of your conditioning. I know where to hit at that pattern. So I can make you angry, dictate your ways and this is enslavement. Similarly, if I know that you are deeply physically conditioned then I can enslave you, I can cast a sexual arousal upon you, and then you are all mine. I will say, “Come over”, and you will have to come over. In fact even without my orders, you will obey my orders.
How is a man able to enslave a woman? How is a woman able to enslave a man? Because both are just conditioned patterns and every conditioned pattern of the mind can be known by the mind. Mind being patterns can know only patterns. So, if you live in patterns then you are thoroughly exposed, predictable and hence, open to enslavement.
You would have heard that amusing story from Japan. So, there was this Zen boy and Shinto Boy. Both these boys are being taught by their teachers in their schools, the monasteries. So, the Zen boy goes out and the Shinto boy meets him and the Shinto boy asks him, “Where are you going?” Now, these two schools are at odds with each other, there is a constant struggle of supremacy. So, now these two meet, this fellow throws a question to start a debate. He says, “Where are you going?” and he expects some kind of great philosophical answer from the Zen boy. The Zen boy says, “Where my legs take me.” Now, there is no scholarship or erudition about this answer. The Shinto boy does not know. He searches in his mental encyclopedia but does not find a guideline as to how to respond to this kind of an answer. “Where are you going? Where my legs take me.” Had he said I am going towards enlightenment then he could have proceeded with the debate. But how do you debate with this kind of a statement – ‘Where my legs take me’.
So, irritated he goes back to his teacher and says, “I met this Zen guy and he gave me this kind of an answer.” So, the Shinto teacher says, “It’s the matter of the prestige of the Shinto school.” So, he says, “Tomorrow again meet him and when he says, ‘Where my legs take me’, ask him what if the legs take you to illusion, to evil. That’s a great question.” So, next day again he meets him, and he asks him, “Where are you going?” The fellow says, “I am actually not going. I appear as if I am going, I am not going at all.”
“Now, this is bad”, he says. “Yesterday you gave a different answer and now you are giving a different one. You must have some consistency.” But the Zen boy walks away.
So, he goes back again and tells his master that, “You know, today he said this.” The Shinto master again teaches him a few tactics. And this time, it’s a three-four hour long session. They are trying to forecast and predict all kinds of nice answers that can be expected from the Zen the next day. And they are trying to prepare counter questions in advance. So, now they are trying to predict everything. And they have readied counter questions that, if he says this then this is the question, if he says this then this is the question.
Now, he goes and says, “Where are you going?” The Zen boy says, “I am going to the market to buy vegetable.” Now, again no counter question is there for this statement. What question can you ask to this type of an obvious statement? He says, “Can’t you see? Are you an idiot? This road goes towards the market and I am going to the market to buy vegetable. Why are asking this question?”
You can be beaten only if you are predictable. You can be defeated only if you conform to the pattern-based definitions of victory and defeat. Otherwise, how can you be defeated? Notice this. In a wrestling match, one wrestler wins and the other gets defeated, right? For somebody to be defeated he must, first of all, accept the same definition of winning and losing that his advisory is holding. He must agree to this condition that, “I would be defeated if you hold me to the ground for fifteen minutes.” First of all the two of them must agree to this definition. If this fellow’s definitions are all different, he cannot be defeated. And worse still, if this fellow has no definition of defeat at all then the word ‘defeat’ itself becomes so meaningless. Forget about not being defeated, the word ‘defeat’ itself becomes meaningless. “What did you say defeat? I do not know what you mean.”
Often you all complain that the world is pressurising you. Let us understand this. We are about to proceed for the learning camp and we have received excuses from so many people that they cannot come for these reasons: somebody has to go somewhere, somebody’s wife is not allowing him, somebody’s mother is not allowing her, somebody’s parents are ill, somebody is saying that suddenly I have fallen ill, somebody’s kids are not allowing him. It’s actually happening. You know some people say that they cannot come because of their parents and there are people who say, “We cannot come because of our kids.” Now, one does not know who is dominating whom? The question is can you be dominated without you first creating a situation in which you can be dominated?
Somebody once asked a master the same question, “People dominate me, people get me angry, and people are there on my mind all the time.” So he pointed towards a wall and said, “Can you hang your coat on this wall?” I am asking you the same question today: “Can you hang your coat on this wall?”
Listeners (in unison): No.
Speaker: Now, why can’t you hang your coat on this wall?
Listeners (in unison): There is no nail there.
Speaker: There is no nail, there is no hook. Do you understand what I am saying? How will the society hang its coat upon you? How? You have to provide a nail. And you are providing enough nails. Your whole mind is nothing but nails. Anything, anybody, any agency can just control you through fear and greed. And the mind knows nothing expect this, ‘fear and greed’. I keep coming to these two again and again and again. Fundamentally, you are not enslaved by the others; you are enslaved by your own fear and greed. There are no other masters.
So, never come up with this excuse that “I am slave of the world and the world is too powerful upon me.” The world has no power at all. It’s the nails and hooks that you provide. The one who can go without respect and prestige is free of mental bonds. The one who can go without food and shelter is now free of physical bonds. And these are the only two ways of libration. As far as mind is concerned, learn to go without respect and recognition and attachment; learn to live a life free of respect and identities and attachments. Now, you cannot be enslaved mentally. Now, nobody can come and blackmail you by saying that, “Unless you do what I am telling you, I will expose you.” Because then you reply by saying that “I have no respect at all that can be lost through any kind of exposure. So, you are free. You can go and expose whatever you want to. I am anyway naked, what will I loose.” Now, you cannot be enslaved by the other.
The final way of enslavement is: “We will confiscate all your property, you won’t even have food; you will die on an empty stomach.” If you can tolerate living on an empty stomach, if you can sleep on the roads; then even this weapon will not work upon you. So let them say that we will take away your shelter and you will say, “I will sleep on the ground.” So who will enslave you? They will look at you as if they are looking at a Madman. And that’s why Khalil Gibran is celebrating being a madman. That’s exactly how they would look at you when you say, “Take away what you want to take away. I will live without it and when I cannot live without it, I will die; as simple as that. As long as I can live without it, I will live. And when I can’t live then obviously there is nothing but to die. So I will die away.” And I promise you, when you say this; a deep shudder of utmost horror will run down their spine. They will not know what to do with you. I am not giving you a tactic to scare somebody as it’s a bad tactic. He may actually take away their shelter, and then you may regret saying these words. And that scary feeling might be the beginning of that person’s redemption. For the first time he might have seen somebody who cannot be enslaved. That would scare him at first but would also reveal to him that living such a life is possible. That not everybody is in the market to be sold, that not everybody can be commanded and enslaved. So, indirectly you would be helping that person. It is not a tactic to extract revenge upon somebody, no! Are you getting it?
The more you want, the more is your enslavement. Because you can only want from the world and from where else you will want? And when you want something from the world, remember the world does not give it for free. The world asks for a huge price.
That is the thing with desires. Desires are bad deals. To get something which is worth five rupees; you trade away something which is worth, Five Crore. To earn bread and butter, you trade away your precious life. To earn a little bit respect and acceptability, you trade away your precious youth. Never say, I have earned something in the world; earning is such an illusion. What you really have, you do not earn and with the world, whatever you get you get through trading, not through earning; it’s just barter.
Are you getting it? Existentially, really, in the sense of Truth, whatever you have, you have not earned it. It is just grace. And in terms of world, whatever you have that too have not been earned. That has come to you through barter; you have given up something very-very important and landed with that material. So earning is such a bad word. But the ego likes to say “I have earned it”. You have not earned.
You sell your precious family silver to get two pieces of bread. Would you say that you have earned the bread? You sell away your precious time to get bread. Would you say you have earned your bread? No, you haven’t earned your bread.
The mind that could have been meditative, the mind that could have been peaceful, the mental energy that could have gone towards Truth. All that goes towards fulfilling the greed of some employer. You really want to say, you have you earned your salary? You have not earned your salary. You have traded away the most important, the most central for something very trivial. Not that you have actually been able to trade it away, because it will always remain. The Truth cannot be traded away, but from your own side, you have made all arrangements to trade it away. And will get punished for this. Whenever somebody makes anything his priority except the truth, punishment is certain. Whenever you say that something is important for me and that is why I could not be with the truth. It’s a bad trade, its and extremely bad deal. And the deal is its own punishment.
Make no deals. Like Khalil Gibran, be a stranger to the market place. When you won’t be trading they will say you are a madman, because the market is full only of traders, only businessmen are here. They will say what kind of man is here? He is not trading. But it’s a loss making markets. Why do you want to trade here? No wise man will trade here? A market of traders recognizes only traders. When you won’t trade, they will say you are a stranger and they will say that they do not know you. They will ostracize you. They may even throw you out saying that you are barred from our community. It’s great if that happens, it’s not a matter of regret, don’t complain about it; rather rejoice.
As Kabir said, ‘Bhala hua meri matki phooti, ab main paniyan bharan se chhooti.’ Great that you are no more with me as I won’t have to obey your orders anymore. Because that is what our relationship i.e. Master-slave. Great that all this is dropping away.
Look at the bliss with which he says, ‘I have found both freedom and safety in my madness’. But our faith is not as deep. When something drops, the moment when we are to lose something, our age old securities; they start calling. We may keep saying that “I know that the Truth is the most important and when it will come to choosing between the Truth and the rest of the rubbish, I will choose the Truth. But when the moment comes, you are found short. When the moment comes, your impotency shows up. Like a warrior, who has been training and preparing and rehearsing for a war. And the moment the war trumpet sounds, this fellow gets loose motions. We have many like these; the world is full of people like these you know. Loose motions. It’s quite funny actually. Here you have the war trumpet and the military is ready. And the adversaries have come, the moment has arrived and our great young warrior is there in the wash room; he cannot come out.
The body hatches strange conspiracy. Beware of the body; it follows the mind. If you really don’t want to do something, your body will ensure that it does not get done. You will feel sleepy.
View the Session at : Prashant Tripathi on Khalil Gibran: If others can predict you, others will enslave you The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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