“What is holiness?”
The question arises in the minds of many. If holiness had anything to do with our clothing and external appearance, the very question would not have arisen. Certainly holiness is not an external reality, it is some internal reality.
What is this internal reality?
Holiness is being in oneself. Ordinarily, man is outside himself, not even for a moment is he in himself. He is with everyone, but not with himself. This very separation from the self is unholiness.
Coming back to the self—being rooted in one’s own self, becoming healthy, is holiness. Spiritual unhealth is unholiness, spiritual health is holiness.
If I am outside myself, I am asleep. The external is the ‘other’, it is unconsciousness. Mahavira has said, “He who sleeps is the non-sage. To wake up from the dependence of the ‘other’ into the freedom of the ‘self’ is to be holy.”
How is this holiness recognised?
This holiness is recognised by peace, by bliss, by wholeness. There was a saint—Saint Francis. He was on a pilgrimage with his disciple Leo. They were on their way to San Marino when they were caught up in a rainstorm. They got completely soaked and covered with mud. Night was setting in, and the day-long hunger and travel-weariness had overwhelmed them. The village was still far off and it was not possible for them to reach there before midnight.
Suddenly Saint Francis said “Leo, who is the real sage? Not he who can give eyes to the blind, who can give health to the sick and can even raise up the dead—he is not the real saint.”
There was silence for a while. Then Francis spoke again: “Leo, the real sage is not the one who can understand the language of the animals, trees, stones and rocks. Not even he who has acquired the knowledge of the whole world is a real saint.”
There was silence again for a while. They kept on moving in the middle of the rainstorm. Now the lights of San Marino were visible. Saint Francis spoke again: “… Nor is the one who has renounced all a real sage.”
Now Leo could not remain silent anymore. He asked, “Then who is the true sage?”
Seeing only divine
Saint Francis replied, “We are about to reach San Marino and will knock at the outer door of the inn. The watchman will ask, “Who is there?” We will reply, “Your own two brothers—two ascetics.” If he were to say then, “You beggars, wretched mendicants, lazy parasites—away, get away! There is no place for you here!” And if he refuses to open the door, and hungry, tired, covered with mud we continue to stay in the middle of the night out there in the open. Should we knock at the door again and if at this time he were to come out, hit us with a baton and say, “You scoundrels, do not disturb us!”, if nothing moves within us on this occasion too, if everything within remains peaceful, calm and empty, and in that innkeeper we continue to see nothing but the divine—then this is real holiness.”
Certainly, to attain the state of undisturbed peace, simplicity and equanimity under all circumstances is holiness.
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