Chapter 5: The True Knowledge
Then they went a little further and Nasruddin asked, “Do you know anything about mathematics?”
The boatman said, “No, I don’t know anything about mathematics at all. I just count on my fingers.”
Nasruddin said, “Another fourth of your life has been lost in futility, because someone who does not know about mathematics, who cannot even calculate, cannot earn much of a living. How can he? In order to earn a living one needs to know how to count. But what can you earn? Half of your life has been futile.”
Then a storm, a hurricane arose and the boat turned over and sank.
The boatman asked, “Can you swim?”
Nasruddin cried, “No, I can’t swim!”
The boatman shouted, “Your whole life has been wasted. I am leaving. I don’t know how to do mathematics or how to read a language, but I do know how to swim. So I am leaving you. Your whole life has gone to waste.”
There are truths in life which can only be known by the self; they cannot be known through books or through scriptures. The truth of the soul, or the truth of existence, can only be known by the self - there is no other way.
These things that are written in the scriptures - we can read them, we can understand them, we can memorize them, we can learn them, we can tell others about them - but no knowledge will be attained through them. The accumulation of facts and other people’s opinions is not a sign of knowledge, it is only a sign of ignorance. A person who is conscious and awake is free of all this “knowledge.” There is no question of him collecting any more facts - he knows himself. With that self-knowledge the mind is not a disturbed hive of honeybees; it is a mirror, a silent lake.
Your mind is a buzzing hive of thoughts which you have been breeding because you think they are knowledge. You have given them space in your house, you have made them residents. You have made your mind a caravanserai: whosoever comes can stay there as long as he is wearing the clothes of knowledge; then he has the right to stay. And the crowd in the caravanserai has increased and grown so much that it has become difficult to decide who is the master in this crowd. Those who are the guests are making such a noise that the one who shouts the most becomes the master - and you don’t know who the real master is. Each thought shouts loudly that it is the master, so in this crowded caravanserai it has become impossible to know the real master.
No thought wants to leave. How can you get someone to leave when you have invited him to stay? It is easy to invite a guest, but it is not so easy to get rid of him. For thousands of years these guests have been gathering in man’s mind, and if I were to ask you to say goodbye to them today, you could not easily get rid of them.