Chapter 7: I Too Am Listening
Does anybody leave by and by, when the fire alarm sounds? He gets out immediately. He won’t stop even if the informant remains behind. One who knows there is fire jumps first and thinks afterwards, when he is out of the house. So Buddha said, “You believe the fire is there, but you refuse to see it so you suffer unnecessarily. A person like you should not even trouble yourself to find out. You should not even try to test my advice. You have not even opened your eyes to see that there is fire all around you. You have admitted you are in difficulty and now you think, ‘Fire is there, now I will get out of it, by and by’ - and you ask me to show you a way to get out!”
When somebody tells me, “I know anger is bad and yet I cannot be free from it,” I say, “It would be good if you could say, ‘I do not know that anger is bad.’ What you really know is: ‘Anger is good, and I am doing what is good. But I have heard from other people that anger is bad.’ It is what you have heard that you consider to be knowledge.”
Then what is true knowledge? You will have to know within yourself that anger is bad. So you will have to pass through it, you will have to endure the difficulty of the fire of anger, you will have to bear the anguish and pain caused by anger. When all your limits have been burnt by the flames of anger and when your life has become a great turmoil full of smoke, then it will not be necessary to go to anyone to ask whether anger is bad or not. Then it will not be necessary to seek out any method, any ritual, any remedy to escape from your anger. On knowing that anger is fire, you will be at once free from it. Such a knowing is vidya - true knowledge.
That knowing which is called true knowledge by the Upanishads carries freedom within itself and liberates the knower at once; and that knowing which lacks this attribute is not true knowledge. We all have a lot of information, we all know many things. If we were to refer to the Upanishads about the quality of our learning they would declare it to be avidya - ignorance - because our knowing does not even touch us, it does not transform us; though our knowledge increases we remain where we are. Knowledge becomes a storehouse of information, and we stand far away from it. Our treasury goes on growing bigger, but it is mere accumulation though we claim it as knowledge. And whoever considers this as knowledge will soon be wandering in a hopeless condition. This is ignorance.
Accept as true knowledge not that which is an addition to you but that which transforms you. That is true knowledge which does not require any memorizing but which becomes your life itself; that is true knowledge which does not turn into memory but which is absorbed into your life itself. It is not a matter of knowing intellectually that anger is bad, but of your behavior reflecting your discovery that anger is bad. It is not that you hang up signs saying, “Greed is sin!” on the walls of your house, but that your eyes, your hands and your face reflect your understanding that greed is sin. It becomes true knowledge only when your total personality demonstrates that greed is sin.