That which seems most feeble and bewildered in you
is the strongest and most determined.
Is it not your breath that has
erected and hardened the structure of your bones?
-Khalil Gibran The prophet (The farewell)
Acharya Prashant: There are two ways one can look at this; which of these two are more beneficial to us depends on who we are. We will talk about both the meanings.
‘That which seems most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined. Is it not your breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your bones?
What we call as strong is that which is materially strong. What we call as purposeful is that which has a material purpose, a tangible goal. Truth, Tao or Brahm or Emptiness has no material strength, neither does it have a material goal. Even to say that it does not have a goal is not quite proper. It does not have a goal but it also does not not-have a goal. It would be more appropriate to say that the Truth is beyond purpose and goal. The truth is beyond strength and weakness; beyond strength and beyond goals.
So, when Khalil Gibran says, ‘That which seems most feeble and bewildered’, it could easily refer to the truth because the Truth actually cannot seems strong for the simple reason that going by our definition of the word strong, the strong is that which is materially strong that which has power to move, that which can reach somewhere, that which has science, dimension and penetration.
So, the Truth, that way, is not strong at all. It may seem feeble to many. Similarly, he says ‘Bewildered’, the truth is not purposeful at all, it is direction less. It is directionless actually because it is beyond directions but since it is directionless, we may call it bewildered because to us only the two opposites of duality exist. If somebody is not moving in a purposeful direction, to us, he has to be at the extreme end of duality. We say that because he does not have a direction hence he has to be bewildered. So, when Khalil Gibran says seems bewildered he is just right.
The Truth, the truthful mind will look like a wanderer, a mad man, a lost one, a bewildered soul to the common worldly man. That’s how the worldly mind will look at an expression of Truth; it will say it is just bewildered. The author says That which seems most feeble and bewildered, and we are saying this appropriately refers to the truth, is the strongest and most determined, yes it is. And Khalil Gibran goes on saying that Is it not your breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your bones — from the non material emerges the strongest of materials; from emptiness springs forth all that fills it up; from the point emerges the entire circle.
Nothingness is the fountain head from which all and everything just spring forth.
“Is it not your breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your bones?”
From where does material arise? You look at your body and when he talks of bones he is not referring nearly to the human body because a human body cannot exist without the material world. When he talks about human bones, he is referring to the entire material world within us, around us, the world that we are. From where does it come? Somebody asks you, ‘From where do your bones come?’ You will give a few reasons, a few sources, a few causes — the bone has come from air, water and you will keep going back and then you will say prima facie, it has comes from two the cells of my parents and from where does the two cells of the parents come? They come from their bodies, there bones and the cycle will again continue. You are actually not at all moving towards an answer.
The bone is the effect; the world is the effect, you wanted to search for its cause. All your answer not quite taking you any closer to the cause because all your causes are material causes. For material phenomena you are trying to search for a material cause and that’s all that the human minds do.
Look around: See how the power of reasoning operates? We ask for reasons only for that which is material because nothing else exists in the paradigm of the mind. The mind is material and in the mind, all that exist is material. Mind asks for reason that from where does this material come from? This material could be anything this material could be a rainbow, this material could be a human body, this material could be the entire universe. You are fond of asking from where does this material come and the answer that you seek is again material. That is why the answer is never sufficient.
No answer is ever a final answer.
Because we are looking for answers in the same dimension as the question.
And whenever the question and the answer are in the same dimension, no progress has been made. The question, the disturbance, the query stands where it was, you have not moved even an inch closer to understanding. There would be a cause beyond a cause and another cause behind another cause and all of these would be in the same dimension which is material.
If you want to bring an end to the whole matter of asking and re-asking, you will have to seek, refuge in another dimension and that other dimension cannot be material. The cause of bone cannot be food, air, water or parents; your bones do not come from there. If you keep speculating that my bones which is my body, which is my universe, that my universe might have come from there, you will just be disappointed, your question will stand where it was.
Khalil Gibran says, “Is it not the breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your bones?” What does the breath stands for? The breath stands for something that is no really material.
In the language of science, the breath is material, it is air molecules but the way Khalil Gibran is referring to it is something that is not material. You don’t even know what it is, but from that breath comes your entire universe. That is one way of looking at it — this is the way of the surrendered mind. He says, ‘All that is important, all that I call as existence, all that is my world comes from a point that is not really within the world’. This mind cannot be a materialist mind. This mind will never say that the purpose of life is consumption and material accumulation.
This mind understands that what we call as being comes from non-being and returns into non-being and the intermediary period which consists of space and time is marked by, is punctuated by things, that we call as material and that cannot be taken very seriously, and when material is not taken seriously then the mind is light.
Material is the burden of the mind.
If you investigate, whatever troubles you has to have a material existence. If you can start taking material lightly, life will become very light.
Is there even one of your problems which is not a material problem?
Think of it.
All your problems are material problems; your problems are serious only when you take the material seriously.
Stop taking the material seriously.
What do I mean by material?
Anything which begins and ends anything which has a boundary, anything which can be expressed through name and form that is material, anything which occupies space, anything which comes and go, anything which is located somewhere, anything that can be possessed and dispossessed — all that is material. Fundamentally, anything that you can think of is material. If it can be contained in thought, it is material, simple. So if you are thinking of God, God is material, if you are thinking of Truth, it is material. That is the final test of whether or not it is material or not — if you can think of it, it is material.
Now all your problems are first of all thoughts. No thought, no problem. If you are thinking of it, it is bound to be a material. This is the way of the surrendered mind. And what is the surrendered mind? The surrendered mind is that which is not arrogant enough to say that my eyes, my ears and my mind are at the top rung of everything.
When you say that only material is there, essentially, what you are saying is, ‘What my eyes tell me is the Truth. The truth is that which is brought to me by my eyes, the truth is that which is brought to me by my ears, the truth is that which is brought to me by my mind.’
A surrendered mind is the one that says, ‘No, not really. I understand that the eyes, ears and the mind all operate in the realm of duality. They do not have any independent existence of their own and Truth cannot be dependent. The wall is depending on the eyes and the eyes are depending on the wall. I depend on the universe and universe depends on me. Truth by definition cannot depend. Hence, I refuse to believe that that which the eye bring to me is the final, the ultimate. The ultimate has to be beyond my eyes.’
I call that as the surrendered mind, which says, ‘There is something beyond me’.
The surrendered mind says, ‘I am there but since I am dependent on ten things hence, I cannot be the final truth. I depend on things, things depend on me; neither I nor the things can be the ultimate. The ultimate has to be beyond me and things.’
When the surrendered mind is reading Khalil Gibran this is the way he will interpret.
Now, let me talk of a more useful interpretation because most of those who are listening to this would not really be surrendered. I come to the second interpretation now.
‘That which seems most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined in you.’
What seems the most feeble within you? Whatever you call as a weakness.
Now, if your weakness is really weak then it should be is easy to get rid of the weakness.
I am saying your weakness is not weak at all. You know of your weakness since the last for twenty or forty years. You know of your weakness since decades. Had your weakness really been weak you should have been crush it or thrown it away. Is your weakness really weak? No your weakness is not weak at all, your weakness is very-very strong.
Rehear what Khalil Gibran is saying, ‘that which seems most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined.’ So many of you say that you have habits that you want to get rid off. Do you know how determined your habits are? Have you been get rid off your habits? But you know that your habits are your weaknesses. Have you been able to do anything about your weaknesses?
And do you know which is the deepest and the worst habit that you carry?
It is yourself.
You are your worst habit.
Have you been able to get rid off yourself? No, you are extremely determined.
People come and sit here in front of me and often they would behave and present themselves as victim of circumstances. They would say, “We want to change but we are unable to change.” They would say, “You tell us what to do and we will do whatever is possible, we want to change.” And if you look at your faces, they appear so very weak, pitiable, in need of consolation but I look into their eyes and I see a determination, steel-like. I know they will not change, I know how steadfast they are in defense of their ego.
Now, ego is not only when you are acting arrogant, ego is deeper when you are acting miserable. “I am weak and miserable” — this is deep ego and you will not give it up, it is scary. I look into their eyes and I see such a firm resolve. You say “Sir, you may keep saying what you want to say we will not change. I will not let my hell disappear.”
In fact, I am not at all strong as you are. You are so strong that whatever comes to you to shake you a little, to disturb you a little fails. You are very-very determined people. Are you not? Have not all the scriptures failed on you? You have defeated all the scriptures; you have defeated all the saints. That’s what Khalil Gibran is saying – that which seems the most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined.
You may think that there is only some feeble, little, pitiable part in you which is lying in some corner of your mind, but the fact is that which you call as your weakness is not lying in a corner of your mind, it rules your mind. In fact, it is only your weaknesses that rules you, you make a great mistake in calling them weaknesses; they are not weaknesses at all. They are very strong and it becomes an oxymoron to call something a strong weakness!
Would you like to say, ‘Sir, I have very strong weaknesses and I am resolute in defense of my weaknesses.’? In fact, that is the only thing that can be defended; nothing else needs defense. Only weaknesses need defense and you are defending yourself all the time.
Are you not?
Even as I am speaking right now, are you open, are you vulnerable, are you allowing my words to penetrate right up to your heart?
No, your armors reflect away everything, whatever I may say never really reaches you.
You defend your borders like your life, you defend your limitations like your life.
And only limitations are to be defended, what else is there to be defend.
Does Truth needs defense?
Truth needs no defense, only the false needs defense.
Who can attack the Truth?
But you defend yourself so greatly.
Kindly don’t be in the impression that this is a very agreeable session going on.
Let the ignorant ones think that this is an interaction and friendship, that this is an affable communication. No, not at all. Right now what we have here is a battlefield. Khalil Gibran wants to come to you and when he wants to come to you when he knocks on your doors, your ego takes it as an attack and turns the knock of love, the call of love into a siren of war; it attacks, it retaliates, it defends. This could have been a session in love but it is never really a session in love except on few graceful occasions, except when we have been surprisingly lucky, then it happens and that too with just one or two of us. Otherwise, mostly what we have here is a battlefield. It may not look like a battlefield you are sitting very silently, you look so calm and composed. But I am telling you it is a bloody battle going on here. See how you are resisting, see how your gates are closed, see how your hearts are closed, see how your mind is still thinking. Didn’t I say once that you are always at war and thought is your weapon.
That is the second meaning of this.
A man may have nothing in life but one thing he surely has — self-concept. And he will defend it to the last breath. Whatever that self-concept may be that self-concept might be that I am an idiot. There might be a person whose self-concept is that he is an idiot; it doesn’t matter what the self-concept is, self-concept might be I am rich man, I am a poor man, I am Hindu, I am an Indian, I am a terrorist, I am a doctor, I am an old man, I am a wise man, I am a spiritual man or I am an idiot.
Whatever be the self-concept, this self-concept is the center of our life and we defend it with great resolution.
“That which seems so feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined.”
Won’t you want to applaud your ego for its determination? It is determined to never be defeated, to never go away, to never surrender. Saints upon saints have kept coming, scriptures after scriptures have been gifted to you but your determination has vanquished all of them.
“Is it not your breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your bones?”
The body is our deepest tendency there can be no I-sense without the body. Even in the dream when you have an I-sense. Bones refers to the body, and hence, to the I-sense. Breath, in this case, refers to the root of your deepest tendency. We can call it the ‘aham vritti’. Now, the ‘aham vritti’ is actually very-very desperate and frustrated always because it says ‘aham’ and then it looks around confused and lost, craving for something that can give it meaning. ‘Aham’ what? ‘aham’ means me I, ‘aham’ yes I am. Now, what am I? Who am I?
The aham vritti is actually very weak, always in search of a partner, always in search of something to get associated with and in its efforts to reach some kind of sense of completion what it gives birth to is the ‘jeeva – the mortal being’, the body. There is nothing else that the body strives for, the body is striving for the world, the body is always desperate for the world, the body draws it very sustenance from the world. For the body, the world is everything.
Your very incompleteness expresses itself in the form of your body that is why the scriptures say that only incompletenesses are born. What is born in the form of a baby is nothing but incompletenesses; they say only desires are born, only desires are born, nothing else. And that is why that which is born is desirous since the first moment, since the first moment it is desirous—that body. And it spends its entire life just trying to fulfill those desires.
The weak and feeble and teary I – ‘aham vritti’ turns out to be so strong that it controls the entire life of the mortal ‘jeeva’. What is ‘aham vritti’? What is it? It’s a crying mass, weeping, weeping all the time — give me a partner, give me a sense of meaning, give me completion, give me wholeness. Such a pitiable thing, this I am is. But don’t consider it weak because this pitiable thing is running the entire world. Your entire life, this entire universe is being run by this pitiable thing.
You look at all the movement that you see in the world. What is that movement for? Anybody who is moving in the streets, anybody who is erecting a new building, anybody who is expanding his business. What actually is he trying to do? He is trying to gain some kind of mental completion, mental fulfilment that weak sense of ‘I am’ is trying to complete the circle. That weakness is this grand world. Never underestimate it.
And take a hint:
Whosoever you think of as weak, whether within you or outside your body, would surely be the one who would be controlling you through his weakness.
Weakness is such a great strength!
The child controls the mother. How? Not through his strength but through his weakness. Decades and decades of the mother’s life are controlled by the child through the child’s weakness. If the wife is strong or if the husband is strong they would not really want to control the life of their spouse but if the wife is weak, see how she would control the life of the husband. In fact, the very desire to control and exercise strength arises from weakness.
You might think that somebody is weak but see how that which seems as weak is the most potent, lethal and effective weapon. Just see that. I am mad and madness suppose to be a weakness. Is it not? ‘But I am mad and I will commit suicide if you do not live as I want you to live’ and you know the person is mad and then you would be controlled by him because he is weak and he can commit suicide so you have to live by its dictate.
A fellow is weak, weak in the sense that it doesn’t have the basic power of reasoning, the basic wisdom so he can go and blow himself up anywhere and you will have to negotiate with him because he can blow himself up. He is mad, you have to talk to him his weakness becomes it strength.
Why talk of others so much?
These are examples just to help you to look at your own weaknesses. Your weaknesses, I repeat, are very strong. They are so strong that they control you. They are so strong, they defeat all expressions of Truth.
You know, we were going to the last camp and we had a member who had confirmed his participation. And at the eleventh hour, he withdrew. I received a mail from him. We know what the camp is, right? It’s an opportunity, a rare opportunity where you can meet the Truth. Otherwise, you can keep spending months and years of your life and your entire life in your routine. Decades will keep passing and you never get essence of what this drama is all about. We know what is the importance of the camp and look at the contents of the message I received. The mail said “Sir my mother knows nothing about Advait(The Foundation), my mother knows nothing about the scriptures and my mother knows nothing about the camp and in fact, she can’t even understand, she does not have the basic power to understand; basically she is mentally weak, and she does not want me to go to the camp. Now, why does she don’t want me to go the camp? That even, she does not know. Sir, she does not understand but you understand. So, Sir you should understand that I cannot come to the camp!”
Supreme logic! Sir, she does not understand but you understand. So, sir, you should understand that I cannot come to the camp.
What has one weakness or strength?
Do you see how weakness wins?
Strange are the ways of Maya: Maya does not need to show its strength to overpower you, maya needs to pretend that it is very weak and she will win.
Surely, Khalil Gibran would have received many messages like this.
That’s what makes a man utter these words.
~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
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