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The Perfect One for marriage || Acharya Prashant, on Rumi (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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The man who married a harlot, on living dangerously.

The prince of Tirmidh said one night to his court-jester Dalqak, 'You have taken to wife a harlot in your haste. You should have mentioned the matter to me, then we might have married you to a respectable woman'.

Said the jester, 'I have already married nine respectable and virtuous women. They all became harlots, and I wasted away with grief. Now I have taken this harlot not knowing her previously so as to see how this one would turn out in the end. I have tried good sense often enough already; hence forward I intend to cultivate madness!'

Lest safety go, and live dangerously; forsake good repute, be notorious and a scandal. I have made trial of provident good sense; hereafter I am going to make myself mad.


Question: Acharya Ji, I am unable to understand what is he trying to say.

Acharya Prashant (AP): He is trying to say that nine of your choices should be enough to cultivate some sense in you; nine instances of your choices going bad should be enough to drill some sense in your mind. And if you are not, then you are worse than a court jester.

You know who a 'court jester' is? A joker whose only job is to make others laugh. A court is a serious place; people are tensed, heavy matters. So a court jester is often placed there. What does he do? When he sees that the atmosphere is quite tense, he suddenly cracks a joke, or he does something that makes people laugh. He’s a very important person. He does, in this case at least, what the so-called respectable and serious people wouldn’t be able to do—and he does that twice.

In the first instance, he does that by marrying nine times. It is beyond normal human capacity. People are unable to live through the trauma of even one, and this one had the guts and the gumption to try nine-times over. He’s really a strong fellow and that is why the tenth time, he seems like succeeding. He says that those I thought of as 'virtuous', were anyway harlots.

You understand what harlot is? You have to go to Kabir Sahib to understand who a harlot is. Kabir Sahib repeatedly talks of the sati , and in some places he talks of the vyabhicharini , which he also calls as vaishya . The difference between the two is - when the distance between the sati and the Lord, the Truth is created, then then the sati feels the distance very acutely. The distance makes her return to the Lord, the Truth. She says, “I am feeling that a distance has been created. I’ll have to return.” The sati , (the 'sati' is symbol of a particular mind which is devoted to the Truth) , when a little away from the centre, is overtaken by grief. And the *vyabhicharini*—when she finds that now there is a distance between her and the Truth, the Lord, then she takes this as an opportunity to go further away.

There are the two types of minds possible.

The first kind of mind, when it finds that there is a distance, it gets troubled. And this trouble makes it seek the centre even more desperately - “I cannot tolerate it that there is a distance.”

And the second kind of mind takes the distance as an opportunity. It says, “Good that there is now some distance. Now I can escape and run away.”

So, you know who a harlot is now? - the one who is actually not virtuous at all, because Truth is the only virtue. The harlot is the one who would escape from the Truth to be with something or somebody else. That is the definition of the harlot or the unvirtuous one, in the lexicon of the Saints.

If you ask the mystic, "Who is a prostitute?," he would say, “The one who loves anything or anybody, except the Truth. That is prostitution.” To be attracted towards anything or anybody but Silence, is prostitution.

So, the court jester, Dalqak, he’s saying, “I thought when I married them, that they were virtuous women. But now I have seen in all the nine cases that they were attracted to something besides the Truth.” One might be attracted to riches, one might be attracted to power, one might be very particular about her own beauty. One of them might be very attracted even to Dalqak. And all of that proves that they are not virtuous at all. They are harlots.

So he says, “Now, I don’t want to be surprised. I would simply go ahead and marry a harlot. That won’t surprise me. I won’t be grieved.” And a harlot, the one who is known as a 'harlot', has some potential; she is at least openly what she is.

I have heard a story.

A man once asked a Fakir, “There are so many women in the city. Can you tell me who is the most pious one?” The Fakir pointed to the most infamous, notorious prostitute. He said, “This one is the most pious lady.” That man said, “Sir, what are you saying? It is a common knowledge that she is a sex-worker!” The Fakir said, “I maintain that she is very pious.” The man said, “How?”

Fakir said, “When she is with somebody, she is only with that person, unlike most other women who claim to be with one, but are actually with many. This one, when she is with somebody, she is only with that one.”

Now, of course, the story is just symbolic, but it tells how what appears like apparent, superficial virtue, might not be virtue at all. That does not mean that harlots are necessarily more virtuous than ordinary women; that is not the point of this story. The point of the story is: what you choose as virtuous, will never be virtuous at all. That doesn’t mean that the tenth time you start choosing harlots, you don’t need to act like a court jester. It is enough that you see that continuously, nine times, one after the other, you are being made fool of, because you have been too sure of your own choice.

Lao Tzu says, “When virtue is called as 'virtue', rest assured that there is no virtue.” He says, "When love is called as 'love', rest assured that there is no love." He says, “Whenever a thing becomes apparent, rest assured that the thing is totally absent.”

Don’t be sure of your choices, you would be fooled.

I am sure, when this fellow Dalqak, was unmarried, he wasn’t a court jester at all. He wouldn’t have known any jokes. It is this cycle of marriage after marriage that has taught him so many jokes. So much so, that he became the principal jester in the country. His sufferings elevated him to the position of the court jester.

When life is a joke, then you can so easily crack jokes. And nobody knows the joke that life is, better than someone who has nine wives, or better than someone who has tried nine times. So now you are a court jester. Someone needs to try; either you would get enlightened, or we will get some good jokes.

Questioner(Q): At the end it is written, “Let safety go and live dangerously." Should we need to become an exhibitionist?

AP: In living dangerously, what exhibition is there?

Q: No, I mean, is it about deliberately try to face more and more fear, more and more danger?

AP: But then you are not exhibiting it to anybody.

Q: But we at times deliberately do it.

AP: You may deliberately do it, yes, but that is different from being an exhibitionist.

You see, this thing called 'conscious choice', is a great myth. What you call as 'done deliberately', is actually not deliberate at all. You may deliberately want to rush into a dangerous act, but will your deliberation give you the courage to rush into that act? What you call as 'deliberate', is not deliberate at all.

The courage comes first, and then the thought to go into danger. Now, what is deliberate then? Courage was there. Because courage is there, hence you are thinking about inviting danger. It is not as if you thought about getting into danger, and therefore you summoned up courage. Wrong! Unless you have the courage, the thought itself won’t arise.

Please understand the difference.

Courage comes first, and then comes the thought or the motivation, the guts to dive into danger. So what is conscious or deliberate about that act then?

Q: Sometimes it may happen that courage may not come first, desire may come first. And that desire…

AP: That desire is born out of courage. You cannot have that desire without the centre that desire comes from. Desire is a thought, and every thought arises from a particular centre.

Q: Sometimes, in my life at least, I’ve felt that suddenly a desire is created.

AP: You have suddenly become conscious of the desire. A little frog might be sitting next to you since a long while; you can become conscious of it much later.

* * Courage comes to you and fills up your heart, and then you start thinking of extraordinary things. It is not as if thought is the first thing, the first thing is the Heart.

It is from the fullness of the Heart that great motives arise. So the motives are not deliberate; the motives are a blessing. The Heart has first been blessed to be full, and from there the motives have arisen. Never say that the motives were the driving force. The driving force behind anything real and significant is always beyond oneself.

Q: That is why when we think and do something, in that there is not great force. But when there is inner purpose that we have to do, then there is a very great force behind.

AP: Yes, yes. And when there is that great force, then the requirement of the thought is minimized; then you require thought only for very little reasons.

Q: And that inspiration stays with us and doesn’t need that force.

AP: It depends on you.

The question is not whether the inspiration stays with you; the question is whether you stay with that inspiration. The choice to summon the inspiration is never there, but the choice to run away from the inspiration is there. That choice is called ‘maya’.

You can never summon God to yourself, it is impossible. But the choice to rush away from God is always with you. That choice is 'maya', because that choice is a fake choice; it is not a choice at all. But you feel as if you can really rush away from God.

The fish in the ocean gets angry with the ocean and rushes away with great speed: “I don’t want to talk to you. I am going away.” The fish is now angry. The fish is telling now to the ocean, “I am going away.” Yes, it is indeed going away, in great speed. “Huh…I won’t talk to you.” That’s how we get away from God. It’s maya, because you never actually get away. But in your mind, you indeed have gotten away, and that’s what matters. In your mind, you are away. So your mind suffers.

No Better Gift

When the ocean comes to you as a lover, marry at once quickly, for God’s sake!

Don’t postpone it!

Existence has no better gift.

No amount of searching will find this.

A perfect falcon, for no reason, has landed on your shoulder, and become yours.

~ Rumi

AP: It tells you of two things. One - how precious the ocean and the falcon are! And the second thing is not as explicitly mentioned is - how rare the ocean and the falcon are!

Rumi is saying, "When the ocean comes to you, marry it quickly; don’t postpone it." Equally he is saying, "Be extremely cautious of who has come to you, because given what you are, it would be extremely rare that the ocean comes to you."

Given that we live in mirror-houses, echo-houses, what comes to us? Our own image, our own voice. The ocean comes only to the ocean. If you are a little one, rest assured, only the little one would have come to you; so be cautious, don’t marry him. If you are full of waste and filth, no falcon would sit on your shoulder. Yes, crows and vultures would come. Falcons lands on only the shoulders of the rare one. And that is why Rumi is saying that if a falcon has landed on your shoulder, then don’t ignore.

His advice is needless.

A falcon does not land on everybody’s shoulder; it lands only on the shoulder of the deserving one. And the deserving one would anyway not ignore the falcon.

The ocean doesn’t anyway come to the teacup, the ocean comes only to vastness. And vastness anyway has no reasons to reject the ocean. Only vastness is suitable to the ocean, and only ocean is suitable to vastness. What would vastness do with a petty drop?

The thing to be learnt from this verse is - do not start assuming that the little drops are oceans. If you are not sure about who has come to you, stop looking at the other one, and rather look at yourself.

If you are stubborn about your littleness, rest assured, the Great wouldn’t have come to you. If you want to check who has come to you, check the quality of your own life. Living your little life, it is impossible that you would have opened your gates to ‘The Immense One’. Living your little life, only the little ones would keep being attracted to you.

"Do not name these little ones as 'oceans'," Rumi is cautioning.

You must be very particular about welcoming the ocean, and you must be even more particular about not welcoming the little drops, and you must be even more particular about not naming the little drops as 'ocean'.

That’s a great delusion; the mistake that man pays for all his life - all you have is little drops in your life, and you are calling them as, “Oh, my sweet little oceans!”

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