Early one morning, before sunrise, a fisherman went to a river. On the bank he felt something underfoot and found it to be a small sack of stones. He picked up the sack, and putting his net aside, squatted on the bank to await the sunrise. He was waiting for dawn to break in order to start his day’s work. Lazily he picked a stone out of the bag and threw it into the water. Then he cast another stone and then another. In the absence of anything else to do, he kept tossing the stones into the water, one by one. Slowly the sun rose, and it became light. By that time, he had thrown all the stones away except one; the last stone lay in his palm. His heart almost failed him when he saw, by daylight, what he held in his hand. It was a gem! In the darkness, he had thrown a whole sack of them away! What had he lost unknowingly! Full of remorse, he cursed himself. He sobbed and cried, almost out of his mind with grief.
He had accidentally stumbled upon enough wealth to enrich his life many times over, but unknowingly, and in the darkness, he had lost it. Yet in a way he was fortunate: still one gem was left; the light had dawned before he had thrown it away too. Generally, most people are not even that fortunate. There is darkness all around and time is fleeting. The sun has not yet risen, and we have already wasted all life’s precious gems. Life is a vast treasure trove, and man does nothing with it but throw it away. By the time we have realized the importance of life, we have whiled it away. The secret, the mystery, the bliss, the deliverance, heaven – all is lost. And one’s life is spent.
I intend to speak on the treasures of life. But it is difficult to enlighten people who treat life like a sack of stones. People are annoyed if you draw their attention to the fact that the very things, they are throwing away are jewels, not stones. They flare up, not because what has been said is incorrect but because they have been shown their own folly, because they are reminded of what they have lost. Their egos step in; they get angry. Even with what has been lost up to now; even if the life that is left is short; even if only one stone is left, your life can still be salvaged. It is never too late to learn. Help is still possible and, especially in the search for truth, it is never too late. There is still reason to feel confident. But out of our ignorance and in the darkness, we have taken for granted that the sack of life is filled with nothing but stones. The faint of heart simply accept defeat before they make any effort to search for the truth. To begin with, I want to warn against the pitfalls of fatalism, against this delusion of certain defeat. Life is not a pile of sand and stones; if you have the right eyes to see it, there is much that is good in life. In life you will find the ladder to reach God.
Within this body of blood, flesh and bones, something or someone aloof from these things exists. It has nothing to do with flesh, blood or bones; it is immortal. It has neither beginning nor end. Formless, it is at the core of each one of us. From the darkness of your ignorance, I urge you, yearn for that imperishable flame! But the immortal flame is disguised by the smoke of mortality, and so we cannot see the light. We encounter the smoke and step back. Those who are a bit more courageous search a little, but only in the smoke, and so they cannot reach the flame, the source of illumination, either.
How can we make this voyage to the flame beyond the smoke – to the self within the body? How can we realize the Our self, the Universal? How can we come to know that which is camouflaged by nature, that which is hidden in nature? In the first place, we have smothered ourselves with such prejudices, inflated ideas and phony philosophies that we have deprived ourselves of the ability to see the naked truth. Without knowing, without searching, without any curiosity, we have ready-made hypotheses about life. For thousands of years we have been taught that life is meaningless, that it is useless and miserable. We have been hypnotized into believing that our existence is useless, purposeless, full of sorrow; that life is to be despised, to be by-passed. This constant repetition keeps tightening the stranglehold that is smothering us, so now we feel that life is nothing more than a big noise, a big din, a hotbed of misery.
It is only because of this contempt for life that all joy and love have been lost to man. Man is now just a formless lump; he is a turbulent sea of sorrow. And it’s not at all astonishing that, because of these misconceptions, man has stopped trying to reflect upon himself. Why try to search for beauty in an ugly lump? And when one firmly believes that life is simply meant to be thrown away, to be rejected, then what sense is there in trying to acknowledge it, in trying to cleanse it and to beautify it? The whole effort seems futile.
Our attitude to life is not unlike that of a man making use of a waiting room in a railway station. He knows he is only there for a while, that he will be leaving shortly. So, of what importance is the waiting room? It is of no importance whatsoever; it is completely insignificant. He tosses odds and ends about; he spits; he dirties it; he is thoughtless; he’s not concerned with his behavior: after all, he will be leaving it in a while. In the same way, we regard life as a temporary residence.
The current tendency is to ask why one should bother searching for truth and beauty in life. But I want to emphasize that life will come to an end in due course, and then there is no escaping the reality of life. We can change our houses, change bodies, but the essence of our life remains with us. That is the Self, with a capital ‘S’. There is absolutely no way to be rid of it. We are formed by what we do. Ultimately, our actions make us or maim us. They change our lives. They shape our lives and mold our souls. How we live and what we do with our lives formulates our futures. One’s attitude to life guides the path of one’s soul: how it will evolve, what hitherto unknown mysteries it will unravel. If man were aware that his attitude to life melodies his future, he would immediately drop this dismal view that life is discord, that it is useless and meaningless. Then he might realize the fallacy of the belief that existence is meant to be full of woe, that there is no scheme to things. Then he might come to know that everything that is opposed to life is irreligious.
But we are taught the negation of life in the name of religion. The philosophy of religion has always been death-oriented, instead of life-oriented. Religion preaches that what comes after life is important, but that what happens before death has no significance whatsoever. Up to now, religion has revered death, but shown no respect for life. Nowhere is the joyous acceptance of the flowers and the fruits of life to be found; everywhere there is an obstinate clinging to dead flowers. Our lives are eulogies on the graves of dead flowers!
The focus of religious speculation has always been on the other side of death – on heaven, on moksha, on nirvana – as if what happens before death were of no concern at all. I want to ask, if you are unable to live with what happens before death, how will you be able to cope with what comes after life? It will be almost impossible! If we cannot avail ourselves of what is here, before death, we can never prepare or qualify for what comes after death. The preparation for one’s death must be done during one’s life! If there is another world after death, there too we will be confronted with what we have experienced in this life. There is no escaping the after-effects of this life, in spite of all the harping about renouncing it.
I say there is not, nor can there be, any God but life itself. I also say that to love life is one’s sadhana, one’s path to God. The true religion is to avail one’s self of life. To realize the ultimate truth that exists in life is the first auspicious step towards achieving total deliverance. The one who misses life is the one who is sure to miss everything else.