It is impossible to escape from one’s self, and to make the tension bearable a man needs intoxicants – be they wine, women and song, the repetition of mantras, prayer or worship. The desire of wealth, for power and knowledge, is the desire to forget the self. And to do this a really strong wine is needed. Some turn to religion, and for them it becomes a powerful opiate. This is the reason, in the so-called affluent societies, for the upsurge of interest in religion. But it is still a race. The basic question is not how to change the direction of the race, but how to finish it completely.
The philosopher escapes through thought, the artist through his creation, the politician through power, the wealthy through riches, the ascetic through renunciation and the devotee through God. But the truth can only be realized by the man who does not try to escape from his self at all. Think about this. Isn’t the desire to amass things, to collect things, to own things, just trying to escape from one’s self? And learning is the same. Studying other’s ideas is simply another attempt to conceal one’s own inner ignorance.
I am in favor of the power of thought, but I am not in favor of thoughts at all. No thought touches the core of an individual. Nor does any kind of wealth. All wealth is external. Wealth cannot reach the soul. It can simply create an illusion of riches.
Last night I met a man who said, “I am a beggar.” His eyes and his words both betrayed his poverty, but yet I laughed. “Why do you call yourself a beggar?” I asked. “You may have no money, but is that reason enough to call yourself poor? I know people of great wealth, yet they are really poor. If you call yourself poor for lack of money alone, you are mistaken. As far as the deeper poverty is concerned, all men are poor, all men are beggars.”
One who does not know the truth of the self is poor. He is a beggar. And one who is unfamiliar with his inner being is ignorant. Remember, fine clothes do not mean prosperity and knowledge is not gained by cloaking oneself with great thoughts. One thing just conceals your poverty and the other simply hides your ignorance. For those with deeper insight, lordly garments are a manifestation of poverty and grandiose thoughts are a sign of ignorance. Consider this for yourself. Are you not depriving yourself of truth? Is anything worth attaining at the cost of your self, at the expense of your soul?
Once I stayed with a maharajah and I asked him, “Are you under the illusion you are a king?” “Illusion!” he said. “I know I am a king!” He said it with deep conviction and I felt great compassion for him. Every day I meet learned men and find they have nothing but the illusion of knowledge. I also meet monks and find them living in the illusion they are ascetics. The illusion of knowledge is created by thoughts. The illusion of kingship is created by a title and illusion of asceticism is created by renunciation. If one has outer wealth but is inwardly poor, how can one become an ascetic simply by giving up one’s riches? There is no truth to be found in possessiveness, nor is there any to be found in the renunciation of possessions either. Truth lies in the awareness of what is hidden beyond both.