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OSHO Online Library   »   The Books   »   Reflections on Khalil Gibran's The Prophet
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Chapter 12: The Wine and the Winepress

Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said, Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.
And he said:
Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.
But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship,
And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man.
When you kill a beast say to him in your heart: “By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed.
“For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.
“Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”
And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:
“Your seeds shall live in my body,
“And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
“And your fragrance shall be my breath.
“And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”
And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyards for the winepress, say in your heart:
“I too am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,
“And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”
And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup;
And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.

It is significant that now the question is from an old man. These are metaphors, because Kahlil Gibran is a poet. He has glimpses of mysticism but he is not a mystic himself. Hence I will not be agreeing on all points that he is giving in reply to the old man.

The old man is representative of the traditional mind, of the orthodox, of the past, of all those who are dead. But still, there was no need to answer him the way he has answered. That shows the difference between a poet and a mystic.

These words are coming from Kahlil Gibran himself. He is no longer the hands through which existence speaks, the eyes that smile at you but the smile is of God. The window that was opening to the eternal is for a moment closed.

I have talked about the distinction between the poet and the mystic: the mystic is always the same, on the same height, on the same sunlit peaks, but the poet goes on falling back.

Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said, Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.
And he said:
Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.

But now the authority is gone. The words are still beautiful but something is missing. Up to now he was speaking from the heights; now he is standing amongst the crowd, just one of them.

But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it be an act of worship.

This is compromise. And this is one of the reasons why the world was not annoyed with Kahlil Gibran. He reaches to high peaks - that too, through a fictitious figure, Almustafa - but he will go on falling back many times and will not have the courage to go against tradition, the traditional mind, the society, its old, deep-rooted ugly behavior.

It is strange that a man like Kahlil Gibran will agree with killing living animals to eat. He was born in a nonvegetarian society; he has not been able to be completely free of its bondage, its conditioning. Otherwise it would be impossible to say that you can go on killing animals for eating, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst.

Man for thousands of years has been a hunter. And if you are born in a society which eats living animals, you certainly don’t have any reverence for life. He is allowing the old man in himself to say these things.

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