Abraham Lincoln said, “You may fool all the people some of the time, you may even fool some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
But in today’s world “We can. And we do.” Every time we introduce ourselves are we really as good as we make out to be? We mask our mistakes, fudge our failures, shroud our shortcomings, veil our weaknesses and camouflage our character by showcasing our successes and glorifying our gifts. People reveal part truths and post truths. Real truth is lost somewhere between the two and their many shades. In our world of hollow truths, decorated truths, disguised truths and virtual truths… dishonest leaders, politicians, professionals, salespersons and vendors are having a field day. And who suffers? We do. At our cost and our cause, a web of lies eclipses reality. While we seek sympathy as helpless sufferers, we forget that we perhaps may be the greatest contributors to this chaos of deceit.
These days, to find fools is not difficult, and to find people who fool is even easier. But who is the greatest fool of all? Us, ourselves! Bhagwan Swaminarayan has clarified in his spiritual teachings called the Vachanamrutam, “Who is the greatest fool of all fools? The person who knows everything external, and nothing internal. The jiva who sees and observes the attractive and the unattractive, witnesses childhood, youth and old age, as well as countless other things of the material world but fails to see, observe and know one’s spiritual self is the greatest fool of all fools, the vilest of the vile, the lowest of the low and the most ignorant of the ignorant” (Gadahada I 20).
Knowing everything and everyone, but not knowing yourself is farcical. The story of ten fools, often told by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj vividly captures the message. A flock of ten friends embarked upon an adventure. Crossing rivers, scaling mountains, traversing forests, they arrived into open fields. Suddenly, one screamed, “Oh my God, one of us is missing. We started off with ten and now there’s only nine.” They hurriedly sat in a circle, began counting and cried for the missing tenth. Once again, the first counted each one and wailed loudly as he reached the ninth. Number one was on his left and number nine was on his right. Where was the tenth? The second did the same and so did the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth… The tenth was nowhere to be seen. They all kept crying like fools till a wise man pointed out that each one counted everyone, except himself.
The missing tenth is us ourselves. Of what use is knowing the ends of the universe, if we cannot understand the secrets of our own soul; of what use is forecasting the weathers of the week, if we cannot predict the moods of our own mind? It is as foolish as the monitor of the class calling out every name, except remembering his own. Without knowing ourselves, we will get nowhere. To show us a way even google maps first asks us our location. Without knowing where we are, or who we are, we will go nowhere. In life, despite our public success, we often suffer private failures. Within ourselves, we may remain lost always, in all ways like the missing tenth.
No wonder ‘Know Thyself’ has remained a timeless secret that echoes along the corridors of universal spirituality. But is anyone listening?