Poem 31

If in a church, mosque or temple you see the true light — what harm is it?
God is merciful and one day will give you the true sight.

If you deny the scriptures and the prophets by whom they were written — what harm is it?
It may be a case of twice shy after one has been once bitten.

If for a better value you change your religious cage — what harm is it?
At least you have demonstrated some degree of courage.

If you believe that Truth will be uncovered by a telescope — what harm is it?
The Path is a thread of darkness; each must light some candle of hope.

If you marry (in law or fact) or remain celibate — what harm is it?
Either way there are jubilations, and woes to relate.

If you are one who reaps harvests, or sows the wind with desires — what harm is it?
The harvests are stored, or squandered, and the wind returns and inspires.

If you are not rushing about madly trying to earn love’s grace — what harm is it?
Why should you get your neck get broken in the Beloved’s embrace?

With its catchy rhetorical question as a refrain, ‘what harm is it?’, the poem conveys a laid back tolerance and good will. It seems to say that the distinctions we worry about are unimportant compared to hidden realities of God’s mercy, so we should be happy and not worry. But the last couplet has bite:

If you are not rushing about madly trying to earn love’s grace – what harm is it?
Why should you get your neck broken in the Beloved’s embrace?

Isn’t this a sharp reminder that maybe this is exactly what should be happening, casting a rueful irony on the common sense of the rest of the poem? It makes us think about the other couplets.

How well tuned he is to Baba’s message becomes clear when we read the following:

“To have one eye glued on the enchanting pleasures of the flesh and with the other expect to see a spark of Eternal Bliss is not only impossible but the height of hypocrisy.

I cannot expect you to understand all at once what I want you to know. It is for me to awaken you from time to time throughout the ages, sowing the seed in your limited minds, which must in due course, and with proper heed and care on your part, germinate, flourish and bear the fruit of that True Knowledge which is inherently yours to gain.

If on the other hand, led by your ignorance, you persist in going your own way, none can stop you in your choice of progress; for that too is progress which, however slow and painful, eventually and after innumerable incarnations, is bound to make you realize that which I want you to know now. To save yourself from further entanglement in the maze of delusion and self created suffering which owes its magnitude to the extent of your ignorance of the true Goal, awake now. Pay heed and strive for Freedom by experiencing ignorance in its true perspective. Be honest with yourself and God. One may fool the world and one’s neighbors, but one can never escape from the knowledge of the Omniscient — such is the Divine Law.”—The Highest of the High by Meher Baba.