There is another type of vow which I call mahavrata, the great vow. This is not taken by the mind. This vow is taken after the full realization that the mind is afflicted by duality, that the mind is duality, that the mind is conflict. In taking such a vow the mind is set aside. It is not that the mind makes a vow it will not speak the truth. When you have realized what the mind is, the feeling that arises in your consciousness is not this sort of vow. The feeling comes because you have realized what falsehood is and what the mind is, and now your understanding, your realization itself becomes the greatest vow.
The man who has understood what smoking is does not have to throw his cigarette away; the cigarette falls from his hand by itself. And the man who has realized what wine is watches the bottle slipping from his hand. When you quit something it is the mind that is giving it up; if it goes away by itself it is mahavrata, the great vow. But if it is you that is putting something aside, you will surely pick it up again.
Mulla Nasruddin once went to address a meeting. It generally happens that speakers say one thing but act differently. You may be surprised at this, but it is what usually happens. It is not their fault, and you are mistaken if you think they are deceiving you on purpose. On such an occasion it is that part of the mind nearer the soul that begins to function.
Addressing a gathering, who will speak out in favor of sin? It is only talk, no doing is involved, so one can speak of high ideals and of great deeds. It is only discussion. Nothing is at stake, there is nothing to lose. So at the time he is speaking, a speaker will talk about nonavarice and not about greed, about nonviolence and not about violence, about truth and not about falsehood. When he is speaking, the speaker becomes a pious man, a sadhu – when he is speaking.
The Mulla also spoke about great and wise things – about truth, nonviolence, about honesty. The audience was surprised. And the Mulla’s son, who was also there, was surprised as well. The Mulla explained that anyone could achieve liberation by climbing the steps of truth – by being honest, by practicing nonviolence, celibacy and nonpossessiveness. “This ladder is right in front of you,” he said. “You just have to begin to climb.” I was present the next morning when the Mulla’s son said to him, “I had a dream last night, and I saw the ladder you spoke about yesterday.”
Seeing that his talk had greatly impressed his son, the Mulla was eager to hear more. “Go on,” he said. “What happened next?”
His son replied, “The ladder rose high towards heaven – its top was lost, far away in the sky. At the base of the ladder there was a notice board with sticks of chalk, one foot long, kept near it. The instructions on the board said that whoever climbed the ladder was to take a stick of chalk with him and make a mark on each step for each one of his sins.”
The Mulla was becoming more and more excited. He said, “Go on. What next?”
The son continued, “I took a stick of chalk, made my first mark, and began to climb. After climbing a little I heard the sounds of someone climbing down.”
The Mulla asked, “Who was it?”
The son said, “I wondered that too, so I raised my eyes and saw that it was you climbing down.”