The invisible, inaudible and intangible Tao
LOOKED AT, BUT CANNOT BE SEEN - THAT IS CALLED THE INVISIBLE (YI).
LISTENED TO, BUT CANNOT BE HEARD - THAT IS CALLED THE INAUDIBLE (HSI).
GRASPED AT, BUT CANNOT BE TOUCHED - THAT IS CALLED THE INTANGIBLE (WEI).
THESE THREE ELUDE ALL OUR INQUIRIES AND HENCE BLEND AND BECOME ONE.
This is a sutra pertaining to the supreme mystery of existence. But all words used to express this mystery fall short of it. Not only do they fail to express it, but the very opposite meaning is conveyed through them. This has to be understood from different aspects.
The human word is imperfect, incomplete. No word spoken by man is perfect. No word can be perfect, because all words are the creations of the intellect, and the intellect is but an infinitesimal part of existence. Whatever is created by a part cannot be perfect.
Intellect is a very small part of our lives also. We are much more than the intellect; we are much greater than our intellect, more vast. The intellect is but an iota, a mere drop, in our being; it is not the ocean. Words are formed by the intellect and therefore they are imperfect, because that which is derived from an imperfect source cannot be perfect. Therefore, all words formed by the intellect fall short of expressing the supreme mystery.
All our words are influenced by our senses. If we say that the supreme truth can be seen, it means that the eyes can behold it. If we say that the supreme truth can be heard, can be touched, it means that the ears can hear it and the hands can feel it. The hands touch, the ears hear, the eyes see. But whatever the eyes see will be limited, for the eyes have their limitation. Similarly, whatever the ears hear will be limited, and whatever the hands touch will be gross. The senses work in a limited field.
Hence, their experiences are limited. Then, when we set out to conceive of the vast, boundless existence, all our words, which are influenced by our senses, become useless because they all bear the trace of the confined spheres of the senses. To set a limit to the limitless is to destroy its very nature.
Whenever, we think about any object, duality steps in. Thinking is a process of division. It is a method of looking at things by breaking them up - just as when the sun's rays pass through a prism and give us the seven basic colours. The prism breaks the ray into seven parts that form the seven colours. The ray in itself is colourless. When the colours are blended together, the resulting colour is white. In a like manner, the intellect breaks everything into two. We say: hot and cold. This is again a state brought about by the working of the intellect. What we call cold is a measure of heat, and that which we call hot is a measure of cold. Cold and hot are not two different things. They are the two different states of the same temperature.
The intellect, however, refuses to accept this, for if hot and cold are two conditions of the same thing, then ice and fire should appear to be the same. The fact however is that ice is an infinitesimal part of the temperature of fire and fire is a part of the temperature of ice. They are the extreme degrees of the same temperature: at one end it is ice, at the other end it is heat. That is why, the thermometer can measure both. If cold and heat were two different things, we would have had to have separate gauges to measure them.
The intellect, however, breaks all things into two. Take for instance love and hate. It is easy to understand heat and cold for they do not form a part of us, but the mind is not prepared to accept hate and love as two conditions of the same thing. How can love compare with hate, or forgiveness with anger, or enjoyment with renunciation, or the craving for wealth with the longing for beatitude?
But these can be gauged by the same thermometer. Hate and love are two ends of the same emotion. Therefore any love can change into hate, and any hate can change into love. And it happens that way: love turns into hate, hate turns into love; friends become foes and vice versa. If hate and love were not one and the same, there would be no way for a friend to become a foe or a foe to become a friend. Machiavelli, in his unusual book, THE PRINCE, has advised kings not to tell their friends what they do not want their foes to know for a friend can turn into a foe any time. Also, not to create such misunderstanding with an enemy, because the enemy of today can become an ally of tomorrow. The enemy is a friend in seed-form. He has the potential within him of becoming a friend. Friendship and enmity are two ends of the same relationship.
The intellect, however, breaks everything into two - even birth and death, though they are two extremities of the same life. On one side is birth; on the other side death. There is no gap between the two. Birth turns into death. Can we point to any part of life where birth ends and death begins?
Birth extends and expands into death. When we view life from one side, we see birth; if we see it from another side, it appears as death. But they are the two ends of the same happening, two names of the same thing.
Because the intellect breaks everything into two, all the statements that it makes are incomplete.
When we say, "God is light" - as many shastras have said, as the Koran and the Bible and the Upanishads have said - it only depicts our sentiments, our emotions, our expectations. As far as poetry goes it is all right; but as for stating a fact, it is a lie. For then, what is darkness? If God is everything, what about darkness? God is both light and darkness. Actually, light and darkness are two ends of one and the same thing. There is no darkness without light. Darkness is a particular condition of light. There is no light where darkness is also not present, and there is no darkness where light is not present.
Similarly, there is no birth without death and no death without birth. They are two ends of the same thing. But the intellect breaks them into two, and then darkness is identified with satan and light with God. There is the auspicious and the inauspicious, goodness and evil. The mind says that God is auspicious. Then what will be inauspicious? The truth is, they are not two; they are one. Whenever the mind sees an object it is promptly broken into two - this is its way of seeing.
Understand this well. Things are not two; it is the way the mind perceives that makes them two. If we put aside the human mind for a while and look at things, will there be beautiful things and ugly things? Things will be as they are - neither beautiful nor ugly. When things are viewed outside the prism of the mind, they shed their colour and become colourless - and one.
Is it not an interesting fact that the rays of the sun divide and become colourful; and as soon as they unite, all colour is gone? All seven colours unite and form white, neutral; they divide and colours are born. One cannot imagine that the lovely colours viewed through the prism do not exist outside of it.
The rays are always present in the sky but the raindrops act as prisms and cause the rainbow in the sky. The rays of the sun passing through the raindrops break into seven colours. One who has no authentic knowledge of the rays of the sun will insist that the sun's rays are of various colours and that they cannot be colourless.
This is the trouble with our intellect. When a thing is viewed through the intellect, it is only natural that some believe God is light and, some darkness. The mystical order in which Jesus was first initiated was the Essenes order of Egypt. This is the only religious order that looks upon God as darkness:
God is total darkness. This also is poetry, and darkness has its own rhyme. There is no reason why this poem should be expressed in terms of light only. It seems at times that by comparing God to total darkness, the Essenes have given a profoundness to God that no one who has seen God as light has been able to give.
There is a kind of stimulation in light, whereas there is supreme tranquillity in darkness. Light has a boundary whereas darkness is boundaryless. Light comes and goes; darkness is forever. Light has to be brought about from some source, whereas darkness is sourceless. Light is born out of a lamp, or the sun or electricity, or some such source - it requires some fuel, whether from a lamp or from the sun. Scientists say that even the sun is running out of fuel. In three or four thousand years time, it will get cold. So light can be used up. Not so darkness.
Therefore, there is profound vision behind the Essenes perception of God as total darkness. This does not come easily within the grasp of our understanding for we are very much afraid of darkness.
All those who have identified God with light have done so out of fear. We are afraid of darkness, so we cannot look upon God as darkness because then we shall have to love darkness. We are less fearful in light, so it is easier to look upon God as light. All these are our desires and expectations.
But this concept also has its disadvantage. There is nothing wrong in believing God to be darkness but to look upon God as darkness is as erroneous as considering Him to be only light. This is the trouble with the Essene, for his intellect, too cannot accept both darkness and light together.
The intellect divides everything into two. God is pure: we have invested Him with the most beauteous, most excellent, most pure qualities. Then the difficulty of all that is inauspicious comes in.
But there has been a sect of people who considered God as inauspicious. There has been a sect who have worshipped satan. In present times, the first church of satan has been constructed in America. There are thousands who look upon satan as God. Evil is God. And their reasoning is powerful. They say, "Where is goodness? It is only a conception. Evil is a fact. Where is the benign, where is the propitious? It is only in our imagination. Evil is the reality, evil is present - and that which is present is God. How can that which is only in our dreams and imagination be God?
Non-violence may be in dreams; violence is present."
So there are priests and people who have their own church where they worship the devil. But they carry out their activities in secret, for those who believe that goodness is God are not so good that they will allow the devil worshippers to exist if they come out in the open. They will destroy them.
This is the very argument in favour of the devil worshippers. These people, they say, who believe in God as being goodness have done so much of evil that it proves their point: that evil is God. When it is only evil that manifests itself behind the veil of goodness - the reality is evil - then why not accept it? The believers of Satan say that man is weak and hence he is unable to accept evil. "Evil exists, However much we may try, have we ever escaped it? So we accept the evil, we worship it, we acknowledge it."
Those who worship evil, deny the good. Those who worship the good, deny the evil. The intellect divides all things into two and then chooses one.
The supreme truth, which is the totality of everything together - all the seven colours together - is, in itself, colourless, transparent. If you call it red, it would be wrong; if you call it yellow or blue or any other colour, it would be wrong. But our eyes can only see colours; the colourless existence is beyond our perception.
Now let us try to understand this sutra.
"LOOKED AT, BUT CANNOT BE SEEN...." Things can be seen, for seeing is in my hands, but He is nowhere to be seen. I can, with all my might, look for Him; and yet when my eyes do locate Him, nothing is visible except vast emptiness. Thus, the most secret sutra of sadhakas is: as long as you keep seeing things, know that you have not seen God. In meditation also, as long as you see something - whether light or bliss, whether Rama or Krishna, Jesus or Buddha - know that you have not yet seen Him. Then, when will He be manifest? When nothing is visible and only the seeing remains. There is an emptiness all around, a void. The eyes look objectlessly and there is pure light. Then, know that that is He.
He forever remains unseen. You see Him and yet He remains unseen: "LOOKED AT BUT CANNOT BE SEEN." The significant happening does not take place in His coming into view, but in the act of seeing. The transformation that takes place is due to my effort to see and not to His being seen.
Therefore, when someone says he has had darshan, he does not mean he has seen Him; he means his power of perception has become so pure that he can look into the void. The mirror has become so immaculate, so free from defect, that no reflections form in it. It is empty, it is void. In this state of void, it gives a reflection of the void: the invisible, unseen reality (truth).
Saint Augustine said: "Do not ask about God. As long as I am not asked, I know Him. As soon as you ask, I am in a quandary. Therefore I pray to you, do not ask. I have seen Him; but I cannot describe Him for you."
The Sufis have a book - THE BOOK OF BOOKS. It is a blank book which has nothing written in it. It has 200 pages - all blank. No publisher was ready to publish it; for 1500 years it remained unpublished. Recently a publisher volunteered to publish it, but then, only when a Sufi offered to write a foreword of ten pages. This foreword gives the history of the book - who wrote this book first, who he handed it over to, whom this person then gave it to. You can read this book. Though there is nothing to read, the experiment is worth trying. Try and read each empty page with as much interest and concentration as you would a printed page. You will want to close the book quickly. But history says that such and such a fakir read the book. He read it again and again, and then all over again. One fakir read it fifty times in his life. One fakir did not partake of food till he read it through each day. What could these people be reading?
If a person fixes his eyes on the empty pages with full concentration, his eyes also will become blank and empty. This must have been an experiment in meditation. What will he read? Even if the mind reads, by and by all words within will be lost. Eventually, there will be nothing left within, and then the mind will become as blank as the blank paper before it.
This method was prevalent among the Sufis. People asked: "Have you read the KORAN, have you read the BIBLE? Well and good. But have you read THE BOOK OF BOOKS?" It was considered the book of books.
Saint Augustine says: "I see Him, but when you ask, I find myself in difficulty." This sutra says:
"LOOKED AT, BUT CANNOT BE SEEN."
Understand this well. He can never be seen. The sadhaka who engages in the effort of seeing Him ends up in some imagination of his own.
People come to me and say, "Give us some anchor, some support to go by - Rama, Krishna, Buddha - someone to meditate on!" If I say, "Just meditate," it becomes difficult for them. Whom to meditate on? Where to fix the eyes? Some place, some form, is required and the eyes get fixed on it.
But as long as the eyes do not remain on the formless, you cannot have any experience of the ultimate mystery. Till such time, whatever we see, whatever we know will be the forms of our own intelligence. However holy. however pure the visions - whether they be of Rama or of Krishna they will only be the furthest limit of the mind. As long as the mind continues to make shapes and forms, one cannot meet He who is formless. Therefore, He is called formless.
"Listened to, but cannot be heard...." Everything in this world is audible. Each object has its own vibrations and waves of vibrations. Everything in the world can be heard; only God is inaudible. He seems to emit no vibrations. From where can we catch the wavelength of His music, what is His melody?
Hear Him we must, but there is only one way to do so. Your ears should begin to discard all sounds, all outside vibrations. A moment then arrives when the ears hear no sound; they become soundless. Then, only the silence remains. When the ears stop catching all outside vibrations, then what is 'heard' is He who is forever inaudible, He who is never heard.
Svetketu returned home after completing his study of all the shastras. His father asked him, "You have learnt all that could be heard, but have you heard that which cannot be heard?" Svetketu was very proud of his attainment. He had mastered all the knowledge of the Vedas. He was confident that he knew all that could be known and his father would be proud of his attainment. But the very first question his father asked was: "Did you hear that which is inaudible?"
Svetketu replied that he knew of no such shastra. All shastras are audible. Therefore, all that he learnt was audible. The Indian name for scriptures is shruti or smriti: that which can be heard and that which can be remembered. Therefore, God cannot be in the shastras; He is inaudible.
Shastras can be heard, can be remembered, but He remains far behind. Svetketu replied, "That which is inaudible, I have not heard."
His father said, "Then go back. All that you have attained is useless. All that this knowledge can do is to provide for your livelihood. I sent you to become a Brahmin, not a priest. You could have earned your livelihood in other ways also, for you are a Brahmin by birth. But you will have attained nothing. You can only call yourself a true Brahmin the day you hear the inaudible. Only when the Brahma is heard or seen can a person become a Brahmin. you will have to go back."
Svetketu went back and did not return for years. He went and told his guru what his father had told him. The guru said, "I could only tell you what can be told; I could only teach you what can be taught.
Foolish boy, how can I tell you that which cannot be heard?"
Svetketu said that it was impossible for him to return home without hearing the inaudible. The guru then showed him what to do. He said, "Take the cows of the ashram and go deep into the jungle.
Do not return till there are a thousand in all." There were four hundred cows in the ashram.
"What will I do in the jungle?" Svetketu asked.
The guru replied: "Worry about the cows, not about yourself. Forget that you are, and get completely involved in the service of the cows. When the four hundred cows become one thousand, you may return."
Svetketu left the ashram with the cows. He also left his Self behind. as his guru had ordered him.
He went deep into the jungle and began tending the cattle. Each day he took care to water and feed them. He saw to it that they were well-rested. He passed his days serving the cows with one-pointed attention. Years came and went. At night he went to sleep watching the stars. Each morning he got up with the sun. There was no one he could talk to. There were only the cows around him, who looked at him with their blank eyes. One of the reasons why the cow is looked upon as the Mother by the Hindus is because of her eyes. No other animal possesses such an expression of the formless and the void in his eyes as the cow. When a person's eyes develop this expression, he attains meditation.
Svetketu had nothing else to do except look into their eyes. He began to forget himself more and more. And so, days passed into years. Svetketu so lost himself that he was unaware of the fact that the number of cows was now a thousand.
Then, the story goes, the cows gathered together and addressed him. "Svetketu," they said, "we are now one thousand. It is time to go home."
So Svetketu returned home with the cows. He went to his guru's ashram. The guru came out, and taking Svetketu in his embrace, said, "There is now nothing left to ask. You can now go back to your father."
Svetketu asked, "How did you know that I have heard the inaudible."
The guru replied, "My son I saw not one thousand cows but one thousand and one cows returning."
The thousand were the cows, and the one extra was Svetketu himself. He had become like a cow so much were his eyes filled with the void. He walked between the cattle as if he himself was one.
Then, a very strange thing took place. As Svetketu came into the village and his father saw him through the window, he told his wife, "Svetketu has returned as a Brahmin. Now he will come and touch my feet and I shall be in a dilemma, for I am not as yet a Brahmin; I have not yet heard the inaudible. So I shall run away." The father left home from the backdoor.
When Svetketu went inside the house and found his father was not there, he asked his mother. She said, "Your father has gone away to become a Brahmin. He will only return when be hears what you have heard."
The inaudible can only be heard when the ear ceases to hear all sound. The invisible can only be seen when the eye drops all forms and images. Truth is attained by him whose dreams are lost for ever; when the eyes no longer make pictures or weave dreams but are blank and empty.
"GRASPED AT, BUT CANNOT BE TOUCHED...." No matter how much we understand Him, no matter how much we grasp Him.... The truth is that the tighter we clench our fist, the more He goes out of our hands. He is like the air. As long as the palm of the hand is open, the air remains. As soon as it is clenched, the air slips out.
Comprehension is the clenched fist of the intellect. Therefore, an intelligent person is always tense.
The fist of his intellect is always clenched. But the harder one holds on to intellect, the less it is there. This is why a man cannot be a pundit and a wise man at the same time. It is very difficult, because a pundit is like a closed fist whereas a wise man is like an open hand. If the palm is open, all the air of the world can be on it; but if it is closed, even the air on the palm slips out.
Grasp and it is lost. No grasp can hold it because our grasp is so small and He is so big. So if we insist on holding Him, only the grasp will remain in the end. He who clenches his fist is left with only his fist. The pundit finds he is left with his mind only, a mind that is closed on all sides, with not a single opening. The wise man has nothing left in his hands. His hand is empty. Therefore, everything comes within his hands.
This sutra says: "GRASPED AT BUT CANNOT BE TOUCHED."
We shall have to go deep in order to investigate what is meant by understanding. When we comprehend something, what do we do? What is the process of comprehension? If a strange animal is brought before you and you are asked to understand it, what will you do?
In the mountains, the neel-gai (white-footed antelope) lives. It is not a cow, but it is somewhat like a cow. You can say it is like a cow because you know what a cow is, whereas you do not know this animal.
A woman once came to visit me. She had brought her little son along. She had warned the child not to pluck the flowers in the garden. While the mother was busy talking to me, the child went into the garden. He saw the gardener pruning the shrubs and removing flowers and branches. He came running in and said, "Mamma, there is a big boy cutting flowers and leaves!" The child was only acquainted with children; and in trying to explain the man, he could only liken him to a big child.
The first process of comprehension is that we compare the known with the unknown. We connect what we know to what we do not know. To understand is to reduce the unknown to the language of the known. This is what we do when we try to understand something we do not know; and when we do this, we say we have understood. If God also was an unknown entity we could have understood Him by the above method. But He is unknowable; this is the difficulty.
Science accepts two things: the known and the unknown. These are the two divisions of the world.
The unknown means that which is unknown today but which can be known tomorrow. We will try and understand it some day. In other words, we will widen the circumference of that which we know till it covers the unknown. Thus, the unknown will become the known. It is a matter of time. As the days pass, the unknown will become less and the known will increase. Then a day will come when we shall say, "All is known."
Religion believes in three classes: the known, the unknown and unknowable. Science believes in two: the known and the unknown. This is the difference between religion and science. Religion says there are some things known and some things unknown. These are the two divisions created by the intellect: known and unknown; light and darkness; birth and death. Behind these - what remains is the unknowable. That which is behind the integrated intellect is the unknowable - that which will never be known. You may turn the unknown into the known and the known into the unknown but the fundamental support behind the two shall always remain unknowable.
This is the difference between religion and science; this is the reason for the quarrel between the two. Science says, "We are ready to concede the unknown. If you say God is unknown, we agree.
But we shall know Him some time in the future." But religion says, "God is unknowable. You can never know Him." Unknowable means that which cannot be transformed into the language of the known.
The ultimate reality of life shall always remain unknowable. There is a reason for this. The reason is that my being is so tiny. This infinitesimal 'me' is the knower, and what I want to know is an enormous, infinite expanse. The knower is but an atom in the boundless existence.
My knowing depends on very ordinary things. A small pellet of opium can knock out my consciousness; one injection of morphine and I lose my power to know and feel. How puny is my power to know? A stone hits my head and I am knocked out, and with this insignificant power at my command, I set out to know the vast, unbounded, infinite existence! Besides my power of perception, my very being can be destroyed by a single injection or the thrust of a knife. And with this negligible power I set out to investigate the limitless ocean of existence! Religion says, "We can never know." And what religion says is scientific and logical. How much is our power to know? Let us investigate, our power of perception a little more deeply.
The child in the mother's womb is completely unconscious for nine months. It knows nothing.
When it is born, it sleeps for twenty-two hours, then twenty hours, then eighteen hours and so on. What happens when it grows up? If we live for sixty years, we spend twenty years in sleep, in unconsciousness. The remaining forty years we spend in conducting our research into life, investigating. If we investigate into these forty years and we find that we have known that which is to be known for even forty seconds, it is too much! We find instead, that these forty years we have also spent in an unconscious state. We do not even have the required amount of consciousness needed to know for a single second. We keep slipping into unconsciousness and insensibility; and with this mind filled with insensibility, we set out to explore the vast unknown.
If you are told to concentrate your attention on the flame of a lamp for five minutes and exclude all other thoughts, you will know how difficult it is. For five minutes you cannot hold your attention in one place. A thousand obstructions will come in the way. A thousand thoughts fill the mind. The mind wanders here and there, the eyes begin to blink, you forget the flame altogether. You do not have the strength to concentrate on a flame for just five minutes - from where will you gather strength to know the everlasting, all-persuading expanse of existence?
Then also, I am here today, but I was not here yesterday and I may not be here tomorrow; whereas this infinite expanse has always been and will always be. When I was not, it was there; when I shall be no more, it will still be there. How can I, in my momentary existence, know the whole? A wave leaps up to the sky and, in the process expands in order to know the whole ocean! Then it falls down and is lost in the ocean.
Man's consciousness is just such a leap. How can he know God then? Does religion then say that ignorance is in our very being and that we can never know? No. But religion says that as long as the effort to know is there, knowing cannot be, for in the very effort lies the ego, the consciousness that 'I am'.
As long as the fist is kept closed, knowing cannot be. The fist is infinitesimal, puny. Open it, and the palm of the hand contains the whole; there are no more boundaries. Open the intellect, break all its doors, let it merge with the vast space, maintain no boundaries, and knowing takes place. And yet, this sutra exhorts you to understand this: that even then, it remains untouched, unexplored. But the knowing takes place, and you will understand it as such. It becomes clear to you then that it is intangible.
How does this happen? There are many reasons. The first reason is what Kabir says, "I searched and searched, and in the process I lost myself." The process of seeking is such that the seeker is lost. And when the seeker is lost, who is to touch and what shall be touched? The seeker is no more! The seeker's very being - the ego, the 'I' - is the only obstruction. Nicodemus asked Jesus, "What shall I leave in order to attain God?"
Jesus replied, "To leave everything will not be enough. You will have to leave Nicodemus himself."
Nicodemus replied, "I can leave everything else, but how can I leave myself? I can leave all else and run away, but how can I run away from my very self? Wherever I go, the self will be with me."
Said Jesus, "That is what you have to learn. The day Nicodemus is left behind, you shall meet God."
Knowledge occurs the day the knower is lost. Wisdom dawns when the knower within is no more:
when the palm is no longer closed.
The ego, however, is very close-fisted in every way. Until it is completely satisfied that something still remains in its palm, it does not open up. That is why people go on asking, "How can I believe that God is unless I see Him?" That is to say: until He comes within my grasp.
Karl Marx has said, "Unless we can dissect God in our laboratories, we cannot believe that He is."
But in order to do this, we shall have to provide a table big enough to contain Him. Then also it is going to be difficult for Marx, because he will be standing at one edge of the table - a puny, insignificant creature - beside this vast entity that is God. How will he begin his work? It will be like a mosquito setting out to analyse the Himalayas! The ratio between the mosquito and the Himalayas can, however, be measured. The difference found would be nothing compared with the difference between man and God. The mosquito is at least of some consequence viewed before Everest, but before God, Marx is not equal to even a mosquito! And yet Marx maintains that he shall not believe in God until he has fully analysed Him!
It is not Marx alone who feels this way. We all feel the same way. We say that we shall believe in God only if we can. Until we see that He is, He is not. It is necessary for us to be a witness to him in order for Him to be.
Lao Tzu says, "GRASPED AT, BUT CANNOT BE TOUCHED..." because he who was to touch is annihilated by then. Hence He is called 'intangible', for he who was to touch has been lost long before. In fact, the seeker can touch only when he is no more, when his 'I' has melted away. There is no way to know Him except by complete extinction of the self.
The entire flow of our life is in our being, and the entire flow of religion is in not-being. Therefore, we are unable to establish any relationship with religion - because the whole process of our thinking is based on the fact that 'I am'. Darwin has said that the existence of the whole of mankind can be defined by the existence of a single term: the struggle for survival. Darwin is right. But Buddha cannot be convinced by this statement about struggle for survival. If we are to understand Buddha correctly, existence mean, the struggle to not be. It is an attempt to lose oneself; to destroy one's very being. We all strive to be - to be more and more Buddha strives for non-being; to be empty, to be void, to lose oneself. If we compare ourselves to water, we can say that we strive to become like ice: hard; strong, assured of being. If Buddha is ice, he would want to melt and become water - liquid. And if he could help it, he would like to turn into vapour so that no form remained. He would not even like to be vapour because vapour too has some kind of form.
Religion is the courage to be annihilated. Therefore. when a man turns towards religion, he should first find out whether he is prepared for annihilation, for extinction. Is he prepared to bear the hardship, the agony of losing himself? Then only can he move towards religion.
We proceed in the direction of religion, but for the wrong reasons. So our religion becomes False.
We approach religion in order to be something more, to attain something more. We say that we want to attain heaven, bliss. Our intention is to secure our life after death. We strive for a life without death because in this life, death is certain. So here, also, we are struggling for survival. All our efforts are to save ourselves. That is why we find our priests teaching us, "Only those who are with us will be saved. On the day of judgment, we shall be your witness." Such teachers find followers by the thousands because all of us desire to be saved. This desire can be easily exploited.
It is hard for a teacher like Buddha to find followers because he says, "Die! Lose yourself, be no more, for your very being is your woe. Become empty, void."
Lao Tzu says, "He is called intangible because one who is to touch Him is lost when He appears."
As long as we are, we can touch, we can grasp, but. He does not appear. The two (you and God) cannot meet; it is impossible. And yet, the meeting takes place - on a different plane. My non-being and His being meet. As long as 'I am', He is not. When I am not, the whole existence undergoes a transformation - and then, He is. My non-being itself becomes the eye that sees Him, the hand that touches Him. My non-being becomes the very ground of his manifestation. My non-being is the throne for He who is the Lord. As long as 'I' am perched upon the throne, there is no place for Him.
Zen fakirs have said, "When a guest arrives, we make room for him. He who goes to invite the supreme guest must vacate the full house of his being." Not an iota of ground can be left for the ego.
Therefore, He is called intangible. He is thus, invisible, inaudible and intangible. And thus, He is outside the scope of our investigation. He escapes all our inquiry; He slips out of our grasp in every way and remains forever unknowable, incomprehensible. We must understand this.
He escapes from all our inquiry. I have told you that there is one difference between religion and science, and the distinction is one of categories. Science believes there are two parts to existence whereas religion believes there are three. It is this third part that is the main stay of religion.
Inquiry is the source, the foundation, of philosophy. There can be no philosophy in the world without inquiry. But inquiry is not the mainstay of religion. It is for this reason that people from the West say there is nothing like philosophy in India. To a certain extent they are right. Philosophy has never existed in India in the same sense as it existed in Greece and as it exists in the West today. India, China, indeed, the whole of the Orient, say that God is beyond the grasp of inquiry. None of our questions reach Him because they are too small, too puny. What kind of questions do we ask?
Questions also arise out of experience, remember this.
We ask, "How can we believe God is unless we see Him with our own eyes?" Our experience of knowing is seeing. Whatever we see we believe, because then there is no question of its being false. We have not investigated this matter enough.
In dreams, also, we see with our eyes. When we are dreaming, everything seems real. It is only on waking in the morning that we find it was a dream. Would that some day we were to wake up to realise that that which we called life was nothing but a long dream! A man can remain in the dream-state for as long as seventy years or more! And he will never know that what he saw was a dream.
We have more faith in our eyes than we should. If you go to the desert, you may see a lake of water at a distance - your eyes tell you it is there. Not only your eyes see water, but they also see the reflection of trees and shrubs on its banks. This is nothing but an illusion created by the rays of the sun. You soon realise it, when you reach the spot. You may find some trees, but the lake is certainly not there.... And you had actually seen the ripples in the lake! The eyes saw all this. The eyes deceived you!
When we raise questions concerning God, our questions are connected inevitably with the eyes. We say, "I must see Him, I must hear Him, touch Him." Our questions are involved with the experiences of our senses. Remember though, all inquiries as arise out of the experiences of the senses cannot reach even the fringe of existence, because God is beyond all senses. We shall never be able to touch Him from anywhere.
Our experiences are the foundation of our inquiry. Then how can we inquire about that which we have never known? How much is such inquiry worth?
This seems very difficult. How can we inquire about that which we do not know? Suppose you go to a foreign land where roses do not grow. You try to tell them about the rose. What will you say? You may say, "The rose is very beautiful." They might place a diamond before you and say, "Is it that beautiful?" They will raise questions according to their experience of beauty. Now you will find yourself in trouble. If you say, "No, not this kind of beauty," they will feel offended. Then what do you mean by beauty?" they might ask. Now if you say that to a certain extent the diamond can be Compared to a rose, they might ask, "Is the rose as lasting as a diamond?" You will then have to state that the rose blooms in the morning and dies in the evening; and they will scoff at such beauty. You may try in vain to state your point, you may say that the diamond is a dead, lifeless thing, whereas the flower is a live thing - but they will refuse to agree with you. The reason is only this: that their questions and inquiries arise from their own experience.
There are questions that seem appropriate in language but are meaningless in existence. I can ask, "What is the fragrance of the colour green?" This seems appropriate in language. If a blind man is told that the green colour is very beautiful, he can ask you how it smells, because his experience of things is through smell and sound. His question would not be inappropriate because he can only try to know things by identifying them with things, already known to him. You will say his question is irrelevant. What has the colour green got to do with odour? But this man will say, "If this has nothing to do with odour, it has nothing to do with me." His experiences are all through the sense of smell.
Lao Tzu says, "He is beyond the grasp of our inquiry because inquiry arises from the known. Inquiry is useful in the investigation of the unknown; but if the unknowable is to be sought, inquiry is useless.
Therefore, inquiry is the base of philosophy and science but not of religion.
In our country, there is an entirely new word coined: 'mumuksha', as opposed to 'jigyasa' (inquiry).
This word is the foundation-stone of religion. We do not ask questions about God because all questions come out of our own experiences and He is beyond all our experiences. Therefore, all our questions regarding Him are irrelevant. So we ask nothing about Him. Rather, we begin to ask questions about ourselves. Thus starts mumuksha.
Understand this a little. A blind man asks, "Does the colour green have any odour?" This is an inquiry. But if the blind man says, "I cannot see, show me the way to understand this colour you are talking of so that I may know it," then this is mumuksha. "What is the colour green like?" - this is inquiry. "How should I change so that I can see the green colour of which you talk?" this is mumuksha.
Inquiry leads to thought; mumuksha leads to sadhana. Jigyasa (inquiry) gives rise to reflection; mumuksha gives birth to meditation. An inquirer wanders in thoughts only. Where religion is concerned, the mumukshu reaches the destination which is beyond the grasp of the inquirer. He who tries to know truth through intelligence will be a failure. He will know nothing, because thoughts make us blind. To one who can be in the no-thought state, that which is unknowable becomes manifest immediately. He finds it right next to him. God manifests within and without, and on all sides.