Tag Archives: knowledge

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A man on his deathbed left instructions
for dividing up his goods among his three sons.
He has devoted his entire spirit to those sons.
They stood like cypress trees around him,
quiet and strong.

He told the town judge,
“Whichever of my sons is laziest,
give him all the inheritance.”

Then he died, and the judge turned to the three,
“Each of you must give some account of your laziness,
so I can understand just how you are lazy.”

Mystics are experts in laziness. They rely on it,
because they continuously see God working all around them.
The harvest keeps coming in, yet they
never even did the plowing!

“Come on. Say something about the ways you are lazy.”

Every spoken word is a covering for the inner self.
A little curtain-flick no wider than a slice
of roast meat can reveal hundreds of exploding suns.
Even if what is being said is trivial and wrong,
the listener hears the source. One breeze comes
from across a garden. Another from across the ash-heap.
Think how different the voices of the fox
and the lion, and what they tell you!
Hearing someone is lifting the lid off the cooking pot.
You learn what’s for supper. Though some people
can know just by the smell, a sweet stew
from a sour soup cooked with vinegar.

A man taps a clay pot before he buys it
to know by the sound if it has a crack.

The eldest of the three brothers told the judge,
“I can know a man by his voice,
and if he won’t speak,
I wait three days, and then I know him intuitively.”

The second brother, “I know him when he speaks,
and if he won’t talk, I strike up a conversation.”

“But what if he knows that trick?” asked the judge.

Which reminds me of the mother who tells her child,
“When you’re walking through the graveyard at night
and you see a bogeyman, run at it,
and it will go away.”

“But what,” replies the child, “if the bogeyman’s
mother has told it to do the same thing?
Bogeymen have mothers too.”

The second brother had no answer.

The judge then asked the youngest brother,
“What if a man cannot be made to say anything?
How do you learn his hidden nature?”

“I sit in front of him in silence,
and set up a ladder made of patience,
and if in his presence a language from beyond joy
and beyond grief begins to pour from my chest,
I know that his soul is as deep and bright
as the star Canopus rising over Yemen.
And so when I start speaking a powerful right arm
of words sweeping down, I know him from what I say,
and how I say it, because there’s a window open
between us, mixing the night air of our beings.”

The youngest was, obviously,
the laziest. He won.

— Jalalud’din Rumi – Mathnawi, VI, 4876-4916 (transl. Coleman Barks)

The Last Will

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Not a believer in the mosque am I,
Nor a disbeliever with his rites am I.
I am not the pure amongst the impure,
Neither Moses nor Pharaoh am I.
Bulleh, who knows who I am?

Not in the holy books am I,
Nor do I dwell in bhang or wine,
Nor do I live in a drunken haze,
Nor in sleep nor waking known.
Bulleh, who knows who I am?

Not in happiness or in sorrow am I found.
I am neither pur nor mired in filthy ground.
Neither made from earth nor water,
Nor am I in air or fire to be found.
Bulleh, who knows who I am?

Not an Arab nor Lahori,
Not a Hindi or Nagouri,
Nor a Muslim or Peshawari,
Not a Buddhist or a Christian.
Bulleh, who knows who I am?

Secrets of religion have I not unravelled,
Nor have I fathomed Eve and Adam.
Neither still nor moving on,
I have not chosen my own name!
Bulleh, who knows who I am?

From first to last, I searched myself.
None other did I succeed in knowing.
Not some great thinker am I.
Who is standing in my shoes, alone?
Bulleh, who knows who I am?

— Baba Bulleh Shah – Bulleh, who knows who I am? (Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the early Mystics to Rumi…)

Who Knows Who I am?

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The moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it:
The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me; but my deaf ears cannot hear it.

So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine, his works are as naught:
When all love of the I and the Mine is dead, then the work of the Lord is done.
For work has no other aim than the getting of knowledge:
When that comes, then work is put away.

The flower blooms for the fruit: when the fruit comes, the flower withers.
The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not within itself: it wanders in quest of grass.

— Kabir – The moon shines in my body – One Hundred Poems of Kabir: Translated by Rabindranath Tagore

The moon shines in my body

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All the texts say that in order to gain liberation one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading. In order to quieten the mind one has only to inquire within oneself what one’s Self is; how could this search be done in books? One should know one’s Self with one’s own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths*; but books are outside them. Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths*, it is futile to search for it in books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.

— Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi – Who Am I? – 13. Is it any use reading books for those who long for liberation?

(* definition of the sheaths)

Is there any use reading books?

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Do not try to know the truth, for knowledge by the mind is not true knowledge. But you can know what is not true, which is enough to liberate you from the false. The idea that you know what is true is dangerous, for it keeps you imprisoned in the mind. It is when you do not know that you are free to investigate. And there can be no salvation without investigation, because non-investigation is the main cause of bondage.

— Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj – I Am That (p. 457)

Knowledge by the mind is not true knowledge

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In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?

— Rabia al Basri – Reality

The one who tastes, knows; the one who explains, lies.

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What is seen is not the Truth
What IS cannot be said
Trust comes not without seeing
Nor understanding without words
The wise comprehends with knowledge
To the ignorant it is but a wonder
Some worship the formless God
Some worship His various forms
In what way He is beyond these attributes
Only the Knower knows
That music cannot be written
How can then be the notes
Says Kabir, awareness alone will overcome illusion.

— Kabir – What is seen is not the Truth

Illusion and Reality