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Chapter 9: One Step at a Time

So the king said, “We will see. Take the healthiest, the youngest and the happiest man in the village prisoner.”

There was a young man in the village who was famous for his beauty and health. This young man was taken prisoner and locked into a cell. He was given all kinds of comforts and conveniences, good food and good clothes, but he was not given anything to pass the time. All he had were the walls and the empty room. And the guards who were put there neither understood nor spoke his language. Food was given to him, water was given to him, but he was locked up. For a day or two he really screamed about why he had been locked up, he made a big fuss. For a couple of days he did not eat. But slowly, slowly he stopped screaming and began to eat. After five to seven days it was observed that in his loneliness he was sitting and talking to himself. The minister showed him to the king through the windows: “Do you see, now he is trying the last resort to forget: he is talking to himself.”

When there is nobody near you, you start talking to yourself. People often start talking to themselves as they become older. While they are young their lips are closed, but as they start growing older it is as if their lips become animated - they start talking to themselves. You must have seen people walking along the road talking to themselves. What are they doing? - they are trying to forget themselves.

For three months this young man remained locked up. When he was released after three months he had gone mad. What does it mean that he had gone mad? It means that he had created an imaginary world around himself: he had friends and enemies, he fought with them and talked with them. What does his madness imply? - it implies that the real world was not available to him, there was no one to fight with and no one to talk to, so he created an imaginary world around himself. And then he no longer had anything to do with the real world - he had created a world of his own where he could forget himself.

This young man went mad. Any one of you would go mad if you did not have to go to the shops or to work, if you did not have to fight with people in the morning and if right after getting up in the morning you could not escape in stupidities and engage in useless activities. If you didn’t have any distraction for twenty-four hours a day and you were left completely alone, then you would go mad. It is because of all these distractions that you cannot see the pain within you. If you were able to see all of this pain you would commit suicide, or you would find a way to go mad by using your imagination to forget yourself.

A religious person is someone who, if left alone, utterly alone, will feel neither pain nor look for an escape.

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