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“Your life, my friend,
is a residence far away from any other
residence and neighbours.
Your inner soul is a home far away from
other homes named after you.
If this residence is dark,
you cannot light it with your neighbour’s lamp;
If it is empty you cannot fill it
with the riches of your neighbour;
Were it in the middle of a desert, you could not move it to a
garden planted by someone else…
Your inner soul, my friend,
is surrounded with solitude and seclusion.
Were it not for this solitude and this seclusion
you would not be you and I would not be I.
If it were not for that solitude and seclusion,
I would, if I heard your voice, think myself to be speaking;
Yet, if I saw your face, I would imagine that I were looking into a mirror.”
~ Khalil Gibran
Acharya Prashant: Poets have a way, of presenting the Truth. The way helps. The way is beautiful. But as happens with all ways to the Truth, the way itself is a bit of a hindrance to the destination.
What Khalil Gibran is saying here, is essentially very straightforward. The inner seclusion and solitude that he is talking of, is nothing, but your calm, peaceful, silent, immovable, center.
Seated at that center, with the calmness, the immovability, of the center, vested in the mind as well; the mind gains intelligence, the mind gains discretion.
In this discretion, two things happen parallelly. One, one is able to tell things apart, and secondly, one is able to see that that which sets things apart from each other, may not necessarily be real. Will understand this.
When you look at the world of things, you see differences there, form, color, name, properties. Things ‘are’ different from each other. And you also look at human beings. You also look at the world of the deepest consciousness, you find there is Joy, there is Simplicity, there is Understanding, there is Freedom. And to the un-intelligent mind, to the clouded mind, Love and Joy may also appear as ‘things.’
So, there are nine things in front of you — a red ball, a yellow ball, a white cube, some sugar, some salt, some wood, a brick, a car, a child, a man, a woman. Nine such ‘things.’ Nine such perceivable entities, that you can think about. And then, there is also freedom that you think about, there is also Love that you think about.
The function of intelligence is to know, what is different amongst all of them, and what is common. In that seclusion, in that solitude, that Gibran is talking of one knows, one understands, that all ‘things’ are fundamentally the same. Even though everything will appear different from other ‘things.’ The ball necessarily appear ‘different’ from the racquet. The ‘man’ appears different from the ‘woman.’ ‘Black’ appears different from the ‘white.’ But the differences are superficial, and the commonality is deep.
What is the commonality? The commonality is that all ‘things,’ appear in consciousness, and fade away with consciousness. All ‘things’ arise in consciousness and disappear with consciousness. They constitute consciousness and are modified by consciousness. They are the ‘stuff’ of consciousness. ‘Things’ are the ‘stuff of consciousness’. Underlying all things, is the dualistic process of consciousness.
The ball and the bat, might appear different, but what unites the two is the fact, that the moment you go to sleep, both of them disappear for you. The moment you start thinking of ‘other things,’ both of them disappear for you. Take away their name, their appearance, and both are left with no existence.
So, in that undifferentiated state, that Gibran is talking of one sees, a lot of differences to be just nominal. Those differences don’t really matter. But that lack of difference, that uniformity, will be known, only when one is in his own deep undifferentiated state.
So much about the nine perceivable objects that we talked of. What about the other two objects that we mentioned? Love and Freedom.
We have called them objects, for the sake of discussion. While the first nine were ‘in consciousness,’ and would disappear the moment consciousness gets altered or dormant. The last two, show up when the game of consciousness subsides.
In fact when one is quite conscious, then Love and Freedom, would keep eluding him. And one sees that the properties that united the nine things, are nowhere to be found in ‘Love’ and ‘Freedom’. You cannot touch them, you cannot weigh them. They exist, even if their name is taken away. They are not really products of thought. So, by thinking more about them, you cannot change them or improve them.
One comes to see, that there is a difference. A difference between the set of nine and these two. This is the only difference, that the intelligent one admits. The difference between that which is fleeting thought based, that which rises and falls, almost accidentally, in the sea of consciousness. And that which is not accidental, that which you cannot get close to, by conceptualizing about it. That which remains, that which is inalienable, that which won’t just disappear because you have started thinking about other things. This ability to differentiate between these two is called discrimination, discretion.
Discretion is possible only in one’s state of aloneness.
That is what Gibran is referring to as, solitude. If you are not situated there, then you will be confused. You will start seeing differences, where there are no differences. And you will not appreciate differences, where there is a huge, dimensional difference. If you are not seated in that solitude, you will see difference between ‘things.’ The differences between ‘things’ will matter a lot to you. An expensive thing and an inexpensive thing will appear worlds apart. They will have the ability to dominate your mind and spoil your mood.
One word, versus the other, will mean so much to you. One color versus the other will mean so much to you. Victory will appear very very different from loss. Gaining will appear very very different from losing. One kind of food will appear very different from another kind of food, and this will be your world. Continuously finding differences between ‘things.’ Hence, continuously, placing your hopes upon things. Continuously thinking that moving from one thing, one object, one person, one situation, to the other will help you, or improve you. Oh! You will be running from one end to the other end of the world, from pillar to post. From one thought to the other, from one battle to the other, from one hope to the other, from one disappointment to the other.
This is what happens when you start seeing differences, where there are none.
It’s almost like taking a coin, and seeing that it’s denomination is five rupees. And then flipping the coin, looking at the other side of it, and hoping that now it would be worth fifty rupees. Obviously, you will be disappointed. But you can keep playing this game for a very very long time. When you are looking at one side of the coin, the other side is hidden, hidden from the senses. And because it is hidden, it offers you hope.
Had it been directly in front of you, evident, irrefutable, then you won’t have been able to hope. But, uncertainty enables you, to escape into hope.
And as far as the person is concerned and his limited knowledge is concerned, there would always be uncertainty, because knowledge is never complete. Because you do not ‘know’ fully, so you are uncertain. And because you are uncertain, you hope. And this hope is nothing but pleasurable imagination. You hope only for that, which would please you, that’s obvious.
So, we talked of the first mistake that happens when one is not rooted in solitude. It is that one starts seeing differences among things. The second mistake that one makes is, that one does not see differences, where they actually are. One takes money, and one takes Love, and puts them, on the same pedestal. One thinks they belong to the same dimension. One does not differentiate. One takes a common swindler, and one takes Jesus, and one punishes them side by side. One says both are common criminals. There is no difference between them. Both have breached the law, both ought to be punished. And you cannot argue with the one who is arguing thus.
At the level of facts, he is right. But he is unable to see deeply. He is unable to see beyond the superficialities. This is the second mistake. This is an equally grave mistake and even more grave mistake.
To not to admit anything beyond consciousness. To think that all that one can talk of, is just a concept, is just a product of man’s mind.
Such a mind is very ungodly, it cannot surrender.
To surrender, you ‘have’ to admit something beyond yourself.
And if you have convinced yourself that all that is, is within your neural networks, mental domain, then where is the question of surrender? To whom are you going to surrender? It is obviously absurd, to surrender to your own thinking. You won’t be able to do that. And even if you do that, that is no surrender. That is even more egoism.
In aloneness, in solitude, the poet is suggesting, that we are able to see the differences, and we are able to see the commonalities. We are able to see, that there is no Love without Freedom and Love and Freedom are one. Oh, they are one! Love and Freedom are One! Just the name is different. And we are able to see, that black and white are One, that the circle and the rectangle are One, that the victory and the loss are One, that the man and woman, that day and night are One.
The day and night are One, the man and woman are One, the child and the aging one are One. They are all One. There is no need to discriminate between them. When you don’t discriminate between them, you are said to be living in equanimity. But you must differentiate, between ‘this’ world, and ‘that’ world. The world of surrender, the world of wonderment, the world of innocence, the world of direct Truth.
Differentiate between all these mundane items and that world. Learn, to differentiate between that which is fleeting, and that which is dependable.
Learn to differentiate, between the ripples of the mind and the depth of the Heart.
And then another mistake is possible. That you start differentiating between, Truth and Simplicity. That is called, ‘conceptualization in the spiritual domain.’ You can write a book on Truth, and you can write a book on Simplicity. And you may write a book on Love and you may write a book on divinity. And it would start appearing as if you are talking of four different things. That is another mistake, that too must be avoided.
Spirituality is essentially, very simple.
Oh, the ways are many. But one must not get lost in the ways.
One must not give too much importance to the ways.
If one focuses too much on the ways, then the destination recedes in the background.
Yes, there are different kinds of unities, Yoga, but don’t start seeing them as essentially different. Essentially they are One. Yes, there have been many Saints, many Prophets, many Rishis, many Gurus, but don’t start seeing them as different. Their periods were different, their worlds were different, their expressions were different, their contexts were different. Essentially they are One. Don’t discriminate there.
Discriminate between the world and the Saint, but don’t start discriminating ‘between Saints.’
Take the world as one monolith, as one unit, that appears hugely differentiated, hugely nuanced, but is actually not.
Is just one.
Like all the stuff appearing on a TV screen. Oh, there is so much there, but you push a button and all is gone. Don’t you see, that ‘all’ was just ‘one.’ And the proof is that all disappears upon the touch of a button. That was all one. But there were multiple channels and each channel was offering you multiple images, sounds. So much to be carried away by, so much to think of, but all that was just One, just One.
What is left after all that is gone? The blank screen. Was the blank screen visible when there was so much on the screen? When there is so much on the screen, one forgets the screen.
Take the stuff away, and then you will see that it was useless thinking of the variations in the stuff as real variations, as real differences.
as a man of wisdom, as a person of intelligence, differentiate, where there really are differences; and see Unity, where there is really Unity.
Watch Full Discourse: Acharya Prashant on Khalil Gibran: You know your real face, and your real home? The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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