Acharya Prashant is dedicated to building a brighter future for you
Articles
How does the ego drop? || Acharya Prashant, on ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
38 reads

“Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. It is not a garment that I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.”

~Khalil Gibran

Questioner (Q): Please help me understand the meaning of “It is not a garment that I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.” And also I feel it in the same way in our day-to-day life, though that skin gives us pain but still we cling to it, as apart from that we don’t know anything about ourselves. Can’t it be so that we shed our skins like a snake, involuntarily?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You know why Khalil Gibran had to make this distinction. He said it is not a garment that I cast off but skin that I tear. Identification is involved, pain is involved, difficulty is involved. You are not just keeping something aside, you are keeping a part of you aside. That's what he means when he says that to keep one's longing away, one has to go through a lot of pain. You have asked, why must there be so much pain involved in giving up the unnecessary, in giving up the skin, in peeling off the skin? You are saying that “Can’t we just do it as the snakes do it—easily, periodically, necessarily and involuntarily?

You may do it as the snakes do it, but then, do remember that snakes even after casting off their skins a hundred times, still remain just snakes. So, what’s the point? You don’t want to continue with your snake-ness, do you? What is the point in deceiving oneself with actions? That would not really take you ahead. What is the point in keeping something aside, putting something away, sacrificing something, or dropping something? That was anyway not very important or central or essential to you. What is the point in giving that up, which anyway is going to be lost because of the dictates of time, like the worn out and broken skin of a snake?

It is the snake-ness of the snake that ensures that the skin is periodically lost and renewed. How can something coming from snake-ness reduce the snake-ness? Similarly, how can something arising from the wrong centre do away with the wrong centre? How can something arising from the ego, how can something which is part and parcel of the complex of ego, reduces the ego?

Therefore, there is no option. It cannot be involuntary. When you say ‘involuntary’, what you mean is conditioned. All things conditioned are involuntary. The snake is biologically conditioned to periodically give up its skin and get a new sack to put itself in. No.

That which is involuntary is conditioned, and that which is conditioned will surely not get you freedom from your conditioning. So, it has to be absolutely voluntary. Not only it has to be voluntary, but it also has to be a very, very determined action. It requires not only your consent but every bit of your force, your energy, your sap, your lifeblood. Even a ‘yes’ won’t do. ‘Yes’ is merely of the mind and the tongue. You have to ‘pay’ for your destruction. You don’t merely have to allow your destruction, you’ll have to pay for your destruction. You will have to be doubly-destructed.

Once when you pay everything that you have and are left with nothing, and are thereby destroyed. And secondly, having made the payment, destruction actually comes upon you. So, that gives you a lot of safety, doesn’t it? You cannot be destroyed easily; you are quite secure. Destruction is not cheap. Unless the full price has been paid, the inessential won’t be peeled off you.

You have to pay with absolutely everything that you cling to; absolutely everything that you have. If you save even the last iota with yourself, destruction won’t happen. And most people would rejoice at my last statement: “destruction won’t happen.” Why won’t destruction happen? Because you paid a lot for it, and yet, you did not pay fully for it. Never say you paid a lot; that is not the question. The question is, ‘Did you save even one bit back with yourself?’ And if you save even one bit of your energy, one bit of your concepts, one bit of your ego, and your life, then you won’t be eligible to be destroyed.

So, if you are someone who has been aiming for self-destruction, for spiritual annihilation since long, and yet has been fighting it elusive, then here is why—because you are penny-pinching; because you are cutting corners; because there is something that you are holding on to.

In India, there is a saying: ‘Even after the elephant passes through, it is possible that the tail gets stuck.’ Similar thing often happens in matters of human liberation. You may have paid the biggest price, and yet there is something small that you have refused to part with. And what is the punishment that you get for remaining attached to that small thing? Your punishment is that all the big price that you have paid remains of no avail. There is something that can happen only at hundred degrees centigrade, and you have applied all the energy and all the heat to come to ninety-nine. But the thing would happen only at hundred. This one per cent, this last mile, this last centigrade, this last bit that you are clumsily, foolishly, ignorantly clinging to or forgetting about is your undoing.

Either let life be totally involuntary—live like a machine, a totally conditioned machine— or maybe live like an animal that is conditioned by Prakriti , with every little discretion, with very little free will, and then, there would be very little suffering in your life. Or, if you are someone who has now anyway stepped in the domain of the voluntary, then you must know that there is no turning back. You cannot lead an involuntary life now, you cannot wish to be blind, you cannot wish to be conditioned and mechanical, you cannot wish, again, to be animal-like, or snake-like as you are asking for.

Would have been great had you been totally devoid of consciousness. But now that you are conscious, a lowering of consciousness is just not possible; it's a one way street. If you do not find yourself alright, where you stand right now, then the only way is the way forward. Move ahead, live a more voluntary life. A more voluntary life is a less conditioned life. A more voluntary life is one in which discretion, intelligence, understanding decide where you stand. In a less voluntary life, you stand nowhere. But that's just wishful thinking; it won't materialize. Now you do stand, as the ‘I’, a half ‘I’ is very painful; make it full. Half is painful, full is just full; choose.

You are human now. Turning a snake is now, not possible to you. But you can now turn fully human; that is possible and that is the only way ahead. Mankind finds a lot of ways to turn unconscious. All kinds of means are available to somehow diminish your consciousness; they don't help. Man can deliberately suppress his inner light, but even the suppression is deliberate, it is still voluntary.

How do you move to an involuntary state using voluntary action? The road ahead involves taking a lot of blows and paying the price. What do you do? There is no option to turn back; there is nowhere to go back to. Either stand where you are or move ahead; there is no choice. If at all there is a choice, it is to just keep hanging. If you like to hang on, keep hanging. In the name of choice, that's all that you have. Otherwise, the only option is to surge ahead. One thing is certain: retreat does not exist. Either keep waiting in your current state— afraid and petrified by fear, unable to take any decisive step, arrested by uncertainty—or move.

You can stand where you are standing and keep wistfully looking back, but sorry sir, the door is closed, you can't go back. But you can waste a lot of time just standing where you are, thinking that it might just be possible to keep standing or even going back; all that is a sheer wastage of time and life energy. You should rather utilize that energy in constructive things and movement forward.

Have you benefited from Acharya Prashant's teachings?
Only through your contribution will this mission move forward.
Donate to spread the light
View All Articles