The second monk laughed. He said, “Forget all about austerities! – austerity is nothing but torturing yourself. The real thing is the knowledge of your ancient scriptures. Nobody can compete with us. Our monastery is the oldest, and we have all the scriptures, and our people are so scholarly. What about austerities? – that you fast, that you don’t eat in the night, that you eat only one time a day. How dare you? – all these things can be done by any idiot. But what wisdom have you gained?”
The third monk was listening silently. He said, “You may both be right. One lives in a very arduous and hard way, sacrificing his body; and the other may also be right that his people are great scholars.”
They both asked, “But what about you and your monastery?”
He said, “What about me and my monastery? We are the tops in humbleness.”
Tops in humbleness! It is so difficult… Now they have grown, for their self, a religious garment; it has become stronger. Hence, I say, even sinners may have reached to the ultimate shores of life but not the saints – because the sinner knows he is not living in austerity, nor is he knowledgeable, nor is he humble; he is just an ordinary person who knows nothing. And perhaps he is the person who is more religious because he is less of a self, and coming closer to his soul.
Almustafa is touching on very significant things; hence, don’t just hear, but listen too. He says:
And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?
The real freedom is neither political, nor economical, nor social; the real freedom is spiritual. If it were not so, then Ramakrishna could not have become what he became – a light unto himself – because the country was living under the slavery of the British rulers. Then Ramana Maharshi would not have been such a glory, such a silence and such a blessing, because the British imperialism was still keeping the country under slavery.
Spiritual freedom cannot be touched.
Your self can be made a slave, but not your soul. Your self is sellable, but not your soul. Almustafa is saying that if you want to know what real freedom is you will have to go on dropping fragments of your self – forgetting that you are a brahmin, not a sudra; forgetting that you are a Christian, not just a human being; forgetting what your name is – knowing it is only an ordinary utility, but not your reality; forgetting all your knowledge – knowing that it is all borrowed, it is not your own experience, your own attainment.
The whole world may be full of light, but deep inside you are living in darkness. What use is a world full of light, when you don’t even have a small flame inside you, slowly, slowly trying to understand that whatever has been added to you after your birth is not your true reality?