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Chapter 1: Go Placidly

Religion says man is more than the body, more than the mind, but science cannot believe it because of its very methodology. The way it tries to know things prohibits it from going deeper than the material, than the dead.

Hence the poet reaches closer than the scientist. The poet does not dissect the flower, he falls in love. He is immensely glad, he rejoices in the flower, and out of that rejoicing a song is born. But he is still far away from the mystic, the rishi. The mystic becomes one with the flower. The observer becomes the observed; there is no distinction left.

It happened once:

Ramakrishna was crossing the Ganges in a small boat with a few of his disciples. Suddenly in the middle of the river he started shouting, “Why are you beating me?”

The disciples were puzzled. They said, “Paramahansa Deva, what are you saying? We, and beating you?”

And Ramakrishna said, “Look!” He uncovered his back and there were marks on it as if somebody had beaten him badly with a stick. Blood was oozing out.

The disciples were puzzled. What had happened? And then Ramakrishna pointed to the other shore: a few people were beating a person. When they reached the other shore they went to the person, they uncovered his back - and the marks were exactly the same as on Ramakrishna’s back, without any difference, exactly the same! Ramakrishna became one with the person who was being beaten. He was not an observer, he was not separate; he became one with the observed.

This is the meaning of the English word empathy. Sympathy the poet knows, empathy the mystic knows. When the mystic sings, it is a totally different flavor, a different beauty, because it is not a faraway glimpse of the truth - he is inside the truth, at the very core of it.

But there are many things to be understood. The mystic may not be able to sing at all, because he becomes so one with the truth that he may forget to sing the song. It has happened to many mystics - they have never said anything. It is as if you ask the sugar.the sugar may not be able to say that it is sweet. A little difference is needed to know the sweetness of the sugar. The mystic becomes the sugar.

Once in a while the mystic is also a poet. That is a coincidence. Whenever it happens - as in the case of Lao Tzu, Zarathustra, Mohammed - then we have something of the beyond available to us. But a mystic is not necessarily a poet; to be a poet is a different talent. One can be a mystic without being a poet, one can be a poet without being a mystic.

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