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Chapter 9: When Shibli Is Absent

Shibli went to visit another great sage, Junnaid. The wife of Junnaid was about to conceal herself modestly behind a screen.
Junnaid said: “Stay where you are - Shibli is absent.”
At that moment Shibli began to weep.
Junnaid said to his wife: “You must now be absent, for Shibli has returned.”

Why does man go on missing that which is always present, that which is everywhere present, that which has always been, is, and will be, within and without? Why does man go on missing that? It should be the easiest thing to be realized. But something functions as a barrier.

Why can’t you see it? Why are your eyes closed? You cannot see it because you are too full of yourself, too much filled with the “I”.

Just a few days ago a man came to see me and he said, “I am a humble man. I am just like the dust on your feet. I have been trying for almost twenty years to achieve higher consciousness, but I have been a failure. Why can’t I attain?”

And on and on he went. Every sentence started with I. If the grammar allowed, every sentence would have ended with I. And if everything was allowed, every sentence would have consisted only of I’s. “I et cetera, I et cetera, I et cetera,” it went on and on.

You are filled too much. There is no room, no space for God to enter in you. You are too crowded. A thousand I’s milling inside - they don’t leave any space for anything to enter in you. That’s why you go on missing that which is always present.

This is the arithmetic of spirituality: If you are present, you will miss the divine. If you are absent, only the divine is, nothing else exists. God may be absent if you are present. God will be present if you are absent.

So the whole effort of a seeker is how to be not present, how to become an absence. Absence is meditation. That space where you exist but not as an I, not focused in the ego, unfocused, not centered anywhere.you exist without a center, an empty house, a temple, not even the worshipper inside - suddenly, God is there! God has always been there, not even for a single moment was he absent. But you were too much present. Your presence is the barrier.

Self-consciousness is the barrier. Self-unconsciousness is the gate. And remember, self-unconsciousness means unself-consciousness. Self-unconsciousness is the highest form of consciousness. It is unself-consciousness: consciousness exists, but there is nobody in it. The self has disappeared, melted away, has been absorbed. You are and yet you are not.

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