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Chapter 13: Child of the Universe

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

We have come to a beautiful end of the journey. These are the last sutras of Desiderata. Each word of these sutras is pregnant with immense possibilities. Each word has a multi-dimensional meaningfulness; hence it has to be meditated upon. Go slowly with each word.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

What is a wholesome discipline? The word discipline comes from the same root as the word disciple. It means learning. Remember, learning is a verb, not a noun. It does not mean knowledge, it means the constant process of knowing. Knowledge is a dead thing, you can accumulate it. Even a computer can have knowledge, but a computer cannot learn, cannot be a disciple. A computer can only reproduce whatsoever has been fed into it; it is mechanical.

Knowledge is mechanical accumulation; learning is a conscious process. It is a process like a river, always moving from the known towards the unknown, always ready to explore. Knowledge stops, learning never stops.

A man like Socrates is a man of learning. Even at the moment of death he is still learning. When he was given the poison, his disciples started crying and weeping. He said, “Don’t miss this opportunity to learn something about death. It is one of the greatest events in life, in fact the greatest event, because it is the culmination, the crescendo, the climax. Wait, watch: meditate.what is happening to me.”

That is actually what he did. The others were crying and weeping; they were not in a state of exploration - as if they knew what death is. Nobody knows what death is, although you all have died many times; but you still don’t know what death is because you missed the opportunity of learning, you were not alert enough to learn. Hence, again and again you have died, again and again you have missed the opportunity. You have missed the opportunity because you go on believing as if you know what death is. You don’t even know what life is, how can you know what death is?

Once a man came to me and asked, “What happens after death?”

I said, “Forget about it! First try to learn what happens before death. Have you learned that? Do you know what life is?”

He said, “I don’t know.”

I said, “You are alive and you don’t know what life is - how can you know what death is? You will know it only when you are dying. But if you don’t know life, the same way you will miss that opportunity too.”

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