I have heard one anecdote. In a conservative party rally, Lord Mancroft was invited to speak. He came right on time, reached the rostrum and said to the public – he was looking a little flustered – he said, ‘Forgive me for shortening my speech a little, but the fact is that my house is on fire.’ And that fact is everybody’s fact. Your house is also on fire, but you don’t even seem a little flustered. Everybody’s house is on fire, but you are not aware – not aware of death, not aware that your life is just passing through your hands. Every moment you are dying, every moment you are losing an opportunity which cannot be regained. The time that is lost, is lost: nothing can be done to regain it, and your life becomes shorter and shorter every moment.
This is what I mean when I say that your house is also on fire. But you don’t seem even a little flustered. You don’t even seem to be worried about it. You are not aware of the fact that the house is on fire. The fact is there, but your attention is not there. And everybody thinks that there is enough time to do something. There is not enough time, because whatsoever has to be done is so much that the time is never enough.
Once it happened that the Devil was waiting for years and years and nobody was coming to hell. He was waiting to welcome people, but the earth was running so well and people were so good that no one was coming to hell. Of course he became very worried. He called an emergency council. His greatest disciples gathered together to discuss the situation. Hell was passing through a great crisis and this could not be tolerated. Something had to be done. So he asked for advice: ‘What should we do?’
One disciple suggested, ‘I would go to the earth and I would talk to people and try to convince them that there is no God and religions are false, and whatsoever the Bible, the Koran and the Vedas say is nonsense.’
The Devil said, ‘This won’t do, because we have been doing this since the very beginning and it has not influenced people very much. Through such teaching you can convince only those who are already convinced. So it is of no use; it is not of much use.’
Then the second disciple, subtler than the first, said, ‘I will go and teach people and try to convince people that whatsoever the Bible, the Koran and the Vedas say is right. There is heaven, there is God, but there is no Devil and no hell, so don’t be afraid. And if we can make them less afraid, they will not bother about religion at all, because all religion is based on fear.’
The Devil said, ‘Your proposal is a little better. You may be able to, you may succeed in convincing a minority, but the majority will not listen to you. They are not as much afraid of hell as they are greedy of heaven. Even if you convince them that there is no hell, they will still want to enter into heaven, and they will try to be good for that. So this also won’t do much.’
Then the third disciple, the subtlest of them all, said, ‘I have an idea. Give me a chance to try it. I will go and say that whatsoever religion says is absolutely true – there is God and there is Devil and there is heaven and there is hell – but there is no hurry.’
And the Devil said, ‘Right? You have the right system. You go!’
And it is said that since then there has never been a crisis in hell. Rather, they are worried about the over-population.
This is how our minds are functioning: we always think there is no hurry. These techniques we are talking about will be of no use if your mind thinks there is no hurry. Then you can go on postponing and death will come first. That day will not come when you think there is a hurry, when you think that now the moment has come. You can go on postponing. This is what we have been doing with our lives.
You have to be decisive to do something. You are in a crisis – the house is on fire. Life is always on fire because death is always there hidden behind it; any moment and you may not be any more.
And you cannot argue with death. You cannot do anything. When death happens, it happens. Time is very short. Even if you live for seventy years or for a hundred years, it is very short. What you have to do with yourself to transform, to mutate, to become a new being, is such a great work. Don’t go on postponing.
Unless you feel it as an emergency, a deep crisis, you will not do anything. Unless religion becomes a very critical process for you, and you feel that unless something is done to transform you, your whole life is just wasted…. If you feel this very keenly and deeply and honestly, only then will these techniques be of any help. Because you can understand them – understanding is of no use unless you do something about it. Really, unless you do something about it, you have not understood them, because understanding must become action. If it is not becoming action then it is only acquaintance, not understanding.
Try to understand this distinction. Acquaintance is not understanding. Acquaintance will not force you to actions. It will not force you to any change. It will not force you to do something about it. You will gather it in the mind; it will become information. You will become more knowledgeable. But at death everything stops. You go on collecting many things, never doing anything about them. They become just a burden on you.
Understanding means action. When you understand a thing, immediately you start working on it, because if it is right and you feel it is right, you have to do something about it. Otherwise everything remains borrowed, and borrowed knowledge cannot become understanding. You can forget that it is borrowed – you would like to forget that it is borrowed, because to feel that it is borrowed means that your ego is hurt. So you go on forgetting that it is borrowed. By and by you start feeling that it is your own. That is very dangerous.
I have heard an anecdote. The congregation of a church was very bored by the minister. A point came when the members of the church said directly to the minister, ‘Now you have to leave.’ The minister said, ‘Give me one more chance, only one chance, and if then you say so, I will leave.’ So next Sunday the whole town gathered in the church to see what that minister was going to do now that only one chance was given to him. They never suspected, they never imagined, that such a beautiful sermon was going to be delivered on that day. They had never heard such a thing. Surprised, delighted, they enjoyed it, and when the sermon was finished, they gathered around the minister and they said, ‘You need not leave. You remain here. We have never heard such a thing before – never in our lives. Be here and remain here, and of course, with an increase in your stipend.’
But then one man, a very prominent member of the congregation, asked, ‘Tell me one thing only. When you started your lecture, you raised your left hand with two fingers raised, and when you closed your lecture you raised your right hand, again with two fingers raised. So what is the meaning of this symbol? The minister said, ‘The meaning is easy. Those fingers are symbolic of quotation marks. That sermon was not mine – it was borrowed.’
Always remember those quotation marks. It is very good to forget them, you feel good, but all that you know is within quotation marks; it is not your own. And you can drop those quotation marks only when something has become your own experience.
These techniques are to change knowledge into experience. These techniques are to change acquaintance into understanding. That which belongs to a Buddha or to a Krishna or to a Christ, through these techniques can belong to you – that can become your own. And unless it becomes your own, no truth is true. It may be a grand lie, a beautiful lie, but no truth is true unless it becomes your experience – individually, authentically your own.
Three things. First: always remember that your house is on fire. Second: don’t listen to the Devil. He will constantly say to you that there is no hurry. And thirdly: remember, acquaintance is not understanding.
Whatsoever I am saying here will make you acquainted. It is needed, but it is not enough. It starts you on a journey, but it is not the end. Do something so that knowledge doesn’t remain knowledge, doesn’t remain as memory, but becomes your experience and your life.
From The Book of Secrets, Discourse #61