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Chapter 2: The Brash Student

The greatest barrier that stands between you and the truth is that you have convinced yourself via others that you already have it. So it is a vicious circle. First: you try to convince others - and you can convince others because the thing is invisible. Second: others don’t have it either, so they don’t know. If you go and start talking about God, and go on talking, sooner or later people will start thinking that you know about God - because they don’t know either. Except for the word god they don’t know anything about it, and you can be very clever and cunning, cunning about theories and philosophies, argumentative. And if you go on and on, just out of sheer boredom they will say, “Yes, we believe that you know, but be finished.”

I have heard, once it happened:

There was one great mystic, Baal Shem, a Jew, a Hassid. A scholar came to see him, a pretender - and all scholars are pretenders, because by “scholar” I mean someone who knows something through the scriptures, words, language, who has not encountered the reality himself - and he started talking about old prophets, and the Old Testament, and commenting about them.everything borrowed of course, unoriginal; foolish on his part because he was talking to a man who knows.

Baal Shem listened out of compassion, and then in the end he said, “Too bad, too bad; had the great Maimonides known you..”

Maimonides is a Jewish philosopher, a very great philosopher, so the pretender was very happy, overjoyed with this compliment, that had great Maimonides known him.. So he asked, “I am so happy that you recognize me and you have given me recognition. Just one thing more: why do you say, ‘Too bad, too bad; had the great Maimonides known you.?’ What do you mean? Please tell me this - what do you mean?”

Said Baal Shem, “Then you would have bored him, not me.”

Just out of sheer boredom people start believing, “Yes, you know - but keep quiet.” And, moreover, you don’t know, you are as ignorant as they. There is only one difference: you are more articulate, you have read more, you have accumulated a little more dust, and they cannot argue, and you can put them in their places and make them silent. They have to believe that you know, and it doesn’t make any difference to them whether you know it or not.

Be happy if you think you know, but you are creating such a stone wall it will be difficult for you to break it - because if you convince others, you become convinced that, Yes, I know. That’s how there are so many so-called masters. They don’t know anything, but they have followers, and because of the followers they are convinced that they know. Take away their followers and you will see their confidence is gone.

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