Chapter 5: From Emptiness toward Truth
“Exactly!” said Fareed, “and you have got your answer. There are people who are attached to the shell of the body. If the body is hurt, they are hurt. There are others who so detach themselves from the body, that even when the latter is severely castigated they are not affected. Jesus and Mansoor were like the dry coconut and the likes of you are green coconuts - that is what I wanted to tell you.”
The body alone is visible, because that which is within is so integrated with the body that it cannot be located separately. If we can separate the two, it can be observed.
Now the question of the importance of the soul: The soul is the thing, hence its significance. The body is not of much value - of what value are clothes? The perpetual is to be prized and not the transient; clothes do not have the same importance as the wearer of the clothes. So also, the body does not have the same significance as the self that resides within the body. No one knows how many bodies this soul has acquired and how many it has abandoned. Its journey is long, but we do not know anything about it - for we know only the body, the covering, and take it to be the thing.
Those who know will tell you that that which is within is the real truth. What is outside, is the covering that changes and keeps changing every day. Perhaps you do not know that your body of today is not at all the body you were born with? The cluster of cells within the embryo in the mother’s womb was something entirely different from what you are now. The body changes every minute - as the waters of the river. Scientists say that every cell in the body will be replaced, so that in seven years’ time we have a completely new body. If a man lives for seventy years, his body changes ten times. The body is a perpetual flow, but within there is something that does not flow. It is the same forever.
The body passes from infancy to youth and from youth to old age - but you? You are the same today as you were yesterday, and you will be the same tomorrow and in the days to come. This is the reason why you can remember that you were once a child. If you had undergone a complete change there would be no one left behind to remember. I knew the body when it was a child; now that it is young, I know it as such. When it gets old, I shall know it as such. Those with deeper understanding are also aware of death when it comes, and are capable of witnessing the same.
When Sikandar was about to set out for India, his friends said: “When you return, bring a sannyasin from India along with you, for genuine sannyasins are found only in India.”
As he returned homeward, after plundering many lands, he remembered his promise. He was passing through a village of the Punjab. He told his men to go and find out if there was a sannyasin in the village and ordered them to bring him with them. The village folk told his men: “There is a sannyasin who stays by the seashore, but we are not sure if you could take him.”