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Chapter 3: The Owl and the Phoenix

In you also, both exist - time and eternity. On your surface the wheel, time - you were born, you will die, but this is only on the surface. You are young, you will become old. You are healthy, you will be ill. Now you are full of life, sooner or later everything will ebb, death will penetrate you. But this is only on the surface, the wheel of history. Deep down right now, eternity exists in you, the timeless exists. There nothing grows old - the phoenix, the south, the India, the eternal. Where nothing grows old, nothing changes, everything is unmoving. That south is within you.

That is why I go on saying that India is not part of geography, it is not part of history, it is part of an inner map. It doesn’t exist in Delhi, it never existed there. Politicians don’t belong to it; it doesn’t belong to politics. It is the inner. It exists everywhere.

Wherever a man comes deep down into himself he reaches India. That is the reason for the eternal attraction, the magnetism of India. Whenever a person becomes uneasy with his life, he moves towards India. This is just symbolic. Through physical movement you will not find India. A different movement is needed, where you start moving from the outer to the inner, to the south, to the land of myth, and the deathless, “.the phoenix that never grows old.”

“This undying phoenix rises out of the south sea
and flies to the seas of the north,
never alighting except on certain sacred trees.
He will touch no food
but the most exquisite rare fruit,
and he drinks only from the clearest springs.”

This soul, this innermost core of your being, “.never alighting except on certain sacred trees,” this inner bird, this is your being. It alights only on certain sacred trees.

“He will touch no food
but the most exquisite rare fruit,
and he drinks only from the clearest springs.

“Once an owl
chewing an already half-decayed dead rat
saw the phoenix fly over.
Looking up he screeched with alarm
and clutched the dead rat to himself
in fear and dismay.”

Chuang Tzu is saying: “I am the phoenix, and you are just an owl with an already dead rat, chewing it. And you are alarmed that I am coming to supplant you. Your position, your power is nothing but a dead rat to me. This is no food for me. Ambition is not a way for life, it is only for those who are already dead. I have looked into ambition, and I have found it useless.”

Once it happened: a woman came crying and weeping to a rabbi, but the rabbi was at his prayer. So she said to the secretary, “Go in, and even if his prayer has to be interrupted, interrupt. My husband has left me. The rabbi should pray for me, that my husband comes back.”

The secretary went in and interrupted the prayer. The rabbi sent the secretary back to the woman, saying, “Don’t worry, the husband will come back soon.”