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Chapter 1: The Great Illusion

To take refuge in existence, in godliness, means that one’s refuge in ego has come to an end; it is the end of one’s own will. The man who is full of what we call willpower will find this statement quite meaningless because he feels that, “I am my own power. My power comes from me; my success comes from me; wealth, position, prestige, all come because of me. I am the source of power; I will create wealth, expand the empire, increase my power. I will fight even death and will one day attain to the final victory.” A worldly man means a man whose confidence is in his own ego.

To understand this is difficult because we attach great value to self-confidence, we teach self-confidence, we tell every child, “Stand on your own two feet. Have confidence in yourself. Fight, resist, don’t be afraid. Maintain the idea that you will win, then you will win. The very secret of competition, ambition, contest, is in keeping confidence in yourself. If you lose confidence in yourself you will waver and fall.” We teach every one, “You are immensely powerful. Do not fear; fight, and if not today then tomorrow, all will come to your refuge.”

The day this illusion shatters is the day one feels, “How can any power be mine, because I myself am not! ‘I am’ is nothing but an idea. I can be only if I can manage to remain separate from this whole existence. But if I have no air to breathe even for a few moments, I will come to an end; no sunrise and I will soon die. In this vast network of existence, even if a single little thing slips from somewhere, all the bricks of the house - the house called ‘me’ - collapses. Of this whole cosmos I am just a small part, and not such as can be separated. The moment I become separate, I am not.” Just think about it. Separate yourself from existence, and what are you? Immediately you disappear.

Your life current flows from the whole, the totality. Your breathing comes out of the whole, and goes back to it. You are born out of it, and in death you return to it. Everything comes from it and returns to it. There is a vast cycle of existence in which you revolve; your existence is not separate. Then with whom is the struggle? It can arise only if you are separate; then others are your competitors, your enemies.

Remember this: until one experiences existence as the refuge, everyone in the world is an enemy; nobody is a friend. Even the one we call friend is just a hidden enemy; he too is in conflict with us. We are sitting here, and there appears to be no struggle. But let the oxygen content of the atmosphere fall and we will all become competitors as to who inhales the oxygen!

Scientists say that toward the end of this century the air will be so badly polluted that only the rich will be able to get oxygen. Ever since the advent of technology, our atmosphere has become more and more polluted. Oxygen is not going to remain a free commodity for long, because it too is limited. In big cities like New York and Bombay only the wealthy will be able to buy oxygen; the poor will have to exist on polluted air. Just as now the poor live on polluted water, in dirty dwellings, in filthy clothes, in the future they will have to live on polluted air because they will not be able to buy pure air. If this situation goes on worsening, only a few will survive - those who can afford pure air. All the rest will die.

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