To A Friend

by Swami Vivekananda

Utter darkness
calls itself enlightenment,
while misery passes itself off as pleasure
and disease gets a clean bill of health.
And how does a newborn
prove he’s arrived —
that he’s in our world to stay?
By crying! Is this really
where you want to find happiness?

War won’t give up,
competition turns eternally
father against son.
“Me, me, me”
is chirped from every tree.
Is this where you want to find peace?

Who can climb up out of this world
with karma’s collar around his neck?
Where can a slave go but deeper
into this artless pastiche
of heaven and hell?

The paths of yoga and indulgence,
the householder’s life
and the solitary’s, too;
devotion, worship, work,
vows and promises,
I have seen through them all
and what do I know? This:

There isn’t a drop of happiness
to be found,
only the tempting, empty cup
of your own heart —
the bigger it is,
the more misery it’ll hold.

Big-hearted lover, o unselfish one,
listen: there’s no room for you here;
you are a figurine, you’ll break.
Unless you become a lump of iron.

But if you could learn to sit here
inert and defeated,
words flowing thoughtless like honey
from your stricken heart,
cut off from truth by your love
for your dark little self,
then you’d belong here.

Buying knowledge with my life,
I gave half my days on earth to love.

Like a madman, I have lunged at shadows.
For religion, many paths have I followed,
lived in mountain caves,
on ground where corpses burn,
by the Ganges and other sacred dreams,
and how many days have I begged

friendless, wearing rags, owning nothing;
feeding from door to door,
eating out of chance’s hand,
my body broken under stones of austerity,
what riches, you ask, did I earn?

To you will I speak my heart,
for it has found the truth:
Tossed and tumbled by the waves of life,
only one boat gets us to shore.

Ways of worship, measuring the breath,
science, philosophy, diagrams of the heart,
giving up possessions —
these are all games the mind plays:

the only treasure is love.

In the hearts of men and gods,
ghosts, animals, birds, angels, worms
is this treasure.

Who else is the god of gods,
who keeps the universe moving?
The mother dies for it
if her young are threatened
the criminal tries to rob and steal it;

beyond what we know or say
it lives in pain and pleasure,
coming as Kali to destroy,
or as the kindness of your own mother.

Disease, grief, the pinch of poverty,
living right and living wrong
are but different ways to worship it —
and it accepts all worship —
if it didn’t, what would yours be worth?

He who looks for happiness
only imagines it.
Deluded, in fact, are all who seek
happiness or misery,
or long for life or death.

However far you think your brilliant mental car
is going to take you,
you’ve just driven it into the ocean,
happiness and misery swirling up around you,
sucking you in.

Little soul without wings, listen to me:
that isn’t the way to fly,
you’ll never get out that way,
you keep falling down,
so why not get the message?

Let go your trust in knowledge,
let go prayers and devotions,
let go with all your strength,
for love is all you’ve got
and it’s not even yours.

Look! another insect just disappeared
into the flame, and won’t be back.
The soul is drunk on loves wine.
O true love, find your own fire
to flick your little self,
and its enthusiasm for itself, into.

Is happiness for grumblers?
Why do you want pity?
The only thing you should be asking for
is to be able to give everything away.

You were born to the infinite,
and within your heart is all of love —
so start giving it away.
If you ask for anything in return
your ocean becomes a drop.

From the highest god to this worm
and beyond, to the atoms in the stars,
everywhere the same God loves all.
Friend, lay your mind, soul and body
at their feet.

He is in front of you right now,
and the different forms He’s taken;
if you turn away from them,
where will you find Him?
The first to love all beings
without thinking
worships God.

From Hiranyagarbha
December 25th, 1994

V by Jan Zaremba

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