The image of the eternal and the formless, the ancient and the void
NEITHER BY ITS RISING IS THERE LIGHT, NOR BY ITS SINKING IS THERE DARKNESS.
UNCEASING, CONTINUOUS, IT CANNOT BE DEFINED.
IT REVERTS AGAIN TO THE REALM OF NOTHINGNESS.
THAT IS WHY IT IS CALLED THE FORM OF THE FORMLESS; THE IMAGE OF NOTHINGNESS.
THAT IS WHY IT IS CALLED ELUSIVE.
MEET IT AND YOU DO NOT SEE ITS FACE.
FOLLOW IT AND YOU DO NOT SEE ITS BACK.
HE WHO HOLDS FAST TO THE TAO OF OLD, IN ORDER TO MANAGE THE AFFAIRS OF NOW, IS ABLE TO KNOW THE PRIMEVAL BEGINNINGS, WHICH ARE THE CONTINUITY (TRADITION) OF TAO.
The flowers bloom in the morning and wither in the evening. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. There is birth and it ends in death. Each happening has a beginning and an end.
But existence always is. There is no morning, nor evening for existence, neither birth nor death. In this sutra, Lao Tzu tells us about the beginningless, infinite continuity of the nature of existence, that is beyond both birth and death.
Whatever we know, we can encircle within a limit. On one end of this boundary there lies its beginning, and on the other, its end. All that can be confined within boundaries can be defined.
Definition can only mean that which we can encircle within our thoughts. But it is impossible to define that which has no beginning and no end, for the simple reason that we cannot confine it within the circumference of our thoughts. From where should we draw the line and where should we end it? Therefore, existence can never be defined. Existential objects can be defined, but not existence itself.
Let us understand it in this way. This sutra is rather difficult, so we shall have to unfold its secret from many sides. We see a flower and we say it is beautiful. The moon comes out in the sky and we say it is beautiful; we like a face and we say it is beautiful; some music touches the chord of our heart and we say it is beautiful. But have you ever seen beauty? Some song is beautiful, some flower is beautiful, some star in the sky. You have seen things that are beautiful, but have you seen beauty itself? Then, a difficulty arises. If you have never seen beauty, how can you say a certain thing is beautiful? You see beauty in a flower, but you have never seen beauty itself. The beauty of a flower blooms in the morning and withers by dusk. A face appears beautiful today, but tomorrow the beauty vanishes. That which is here today is lost tomorrow: that which you saw in the morning is gone by the evening. Have you seen 'that' apart from the objects? Have you ever seen pure beauty? You have seen beautiful things but not beauty.
The flower can be defined - it has its own form, its own shape, its own marks of recognition. But beauty itself cannot be defined. It has no boundaries, it has no form, no marks of recognition. And yet we recognise it, or else how can we say the flower is beautiful? But if the flower alone is beautiful, the moon at night cannot also be beautiful, because what is there in common between the flower and the moon? This means that beauty is that which is in a flower, in the moon, in the eyes and yet apart - it is something different from all these. The eyes that looked beautiful a moment ago look hard and ugly with anger a moment later. The same eyes that looked beautiful, now are ugly - something has been lost. This proves that beauty is not a flower or the moon or the eyes; beauty is something else. Have you met it face to face? Never.
We have never seen beauty, never known it, therefore beauty cannot be defined. And yet, we recognise beauty. When the mystery of beauty enters the flower, when its smoothness and tenderness permeates within it, we say the flower is lovely. When this same mystery enters into the eyes of someone, the eyes appear beautiful. When the same mystery manifests within the notes of a melody, it sounds sweet to the ears. But what is this beauty, this loveliness? The flower can be defined, so can the moon and the eyes, but what is beauty? It is indefinable. Why? Why can we not define beauty?
We know what beauty is. We come across it on some unknown path. It enters our heart in some unknown way and it thrills our soul in some unknown manner. And yet, we do not know what it is. Whenever the intellect tries to grasp it we find it is lost. It is somewhat like this. Darkness fills a room. We take a lamp to see where darkness is - and it is lost! Wherever the boundless is, if we approach it with our intellect, it disappears. The intellect can only recognise things within its boundaries. The intellect can only know that which is bounded. A thing can come within the grasp of our understanding only when the intellect can decide its limits - only when it can form its periphery and divide it in parts. It is, therefore, that the intellect goes on dividing things into smaller and smaller sections. The smaller the fraction, the deeper is the understanding.
Science has reached the atom. Its understanding of the atom is profound, whereas the vast expanse is beyond its grasp. The smaller the thing, the better the intellect can comprehend it. Now that science has analysed the atom, it has also divided the atom into electrons, protons and neutrons.
The intellect is keen to divide even these further; because the smaller the thing, the better it can be examined and defined. The bigger the expanse, the less possible it is for the eyes to Find its ends; and when the intellect cannot measure, it falls into difficulties and goes astray.
Says Lao Tzu, "Nothing is illumined when it appears, and nothing is darkened when it disappears."
Such is the imperishable, uninterrupted mystery which defies all definitions. It always is; it is eternal.
Suns rise and set, flowers bloom and die, life comes and goes, creations form and fade. The universe is created and annihilated, but God always is. That something, by whatever name may we call it, always is. It is never born, it never dies, it is eternal. This is the pure existence.
I talked to you about beauty in order that you might understand existence. We have never seen existence. But we have seen or experienced the evidence of existence: we see a tree, a river, a human being, the sun, the moon. They all have an existence, but existence as such, we have never experienced, only objects of existence. But the objects that exist, are all transient.
Let us try and understand this, for this is one of the profoundest questions of philosophy. The greatest philosophers in human history have considered this question at great length. We say, "This is a table, this is a man, this is a house, a flower, a star, and so on." These are, but are they existence? Existence, is-ness, the happening of existence, is in everything and yet we cannot see it. Now, suppose we break the table. There were two things: the table and its existence. The flower was; now it is no more. The flower is no more, but the existence within the flower - have we destroyed that too? We have never seen existence, we have only seen objects. There is a man; he dies. There were two things in a man: there is his body, made of flesh and bones, and there is his being. The body dies and dust turns to dust, but his being - does that also die?
When we crush a flower, remember that we crush only the flower and not its beauty. How can we destroy that which we have never seen, never grasped, never even touched? How can we destroy that which is beyond the conception of our senses? We can destroy a flower or blind an eye, but we cannot destroy the beauty that peeped from behind the flower or shone through the eye. Suns are formed and dissolved, creations come and go, men are born and they die but this being within them, this existence, forever is - it flows forever.
Lao Tzu says, "Its manifestation does not bring light, nor does its disappearance plunge things into darkness" - because it neither rises nor sets. We do not know it by things that appear and disappear, for it is deeper than these. That which does not manifest itself even in the light of the sun, and that which does not set with the setting of the sun - that alone is. That which is not when the flower is, and that which is not extinct when the flower is not - that alone is. That which is not born at birth and that which does not die at death - that alone is.
When a person is born, the first boundary line is drawn. A certain person Rama is born. We draw a line: he was born on such and such a day. Then this man dies. We draw another line: he died on such and such a day. This is the boundary within which the individual, Rama exists. But it is not the boundary of existence. Let us go a little deeper and perhaps we will understand.
Which day do you call your birthday? This is a debatable question. Is it the day you were born, or is it the day you were conceived in your mother's womb? Generally, the day the child is born is looked upon as the birthday. Then what should we call the day when conception takes place? We can go back a little and say the birth takes place on the day of conception.
Let us go still deeper. One half of the embryo was present in the mother long before conception and the other half in the father long before conception. The beginning of birth, according lo science, took place on their meeting. So this happening of birth is the meeting of two lives that were already existing. This, then, is not the beginning, for both the lives were already present: one was hidden in the father and one in the mother. Their union brought a new life into being. This is the beginning of the life of an individual, say Rama. But this is not the beginning of his existence, for his existence lay hidden within his father and mother - it was present and fully alive. It manifested itself in the union of his father and mother.
Let us go back even further. That which was hidden within the father was hidden within the parents of the father. What was hidden in the mother was hidden within the parents of the mother. And so we go back, and further back. Then the question arises: when did this life actually start? When you were born is your birth, but the life within you was not born with you. If we go further and further back, all the past history of the world, all the known and unknown, will be exhausted; and yet the mystery will remain unsolved. You were alive within the first man that was on earth. But how did he come to be? For him to be, it is imperative that existence must have been before him.
So existence is a continuation. Birth is a simple happening, according to science, but rather complex according to religion. The nucleus formed by the union of the mother and father is merely the beginning of the body. The soul enters this body.
Therefore, when Buddha's father told him that he had given birth to him and he was his father, he replied, "I was born through you, but you have not given birth to me. I came through you, you were the door through which I entered, but you have not created me. I was, even when you were not. You provided a passage for me and I appeared, but my journey was very different from yours".
His father was displeased with him, because Buddha was going about begging in the very country of which he was the king. His father tried to reason with him. He said, "Siddhartha, no one in our family has ever begged."
Buddha replied. "I know nothing about your family but as far as I remember my past journeys, I have always been a beggar. In the life before, and in those preceding it, I have always begged. I am a very ancient beggar. About you, I know nothing".
The two talked in different languages. They could never have come to terms. Buddha's father spoke the language of science, of logic, while Buddha talked the language of religion. From the angle of religion, the happening of life that takes place in the mother's womb is infinite. The soul that enters into life is also infinite. It is the union of two infinities within the mother's womb.
So, in this sense, I always was. Every particle of my body has always been. Every particle of my soul has always been. There has not been a single moment in this existence when you were not or when I was not. The form may have been different, the shape may have been different, and also the name, yet there has never been a moment when you and I were not, nor will there ever be. You have been born many times; you died many times. Lao Tzu says, "NEITHER BY ITS RISING IS THERE LIGHT, NOR BY ITS SINKING IS THERE DARKNESS. UNCEASING, CONTINUOUS, IT CANNOT BE DEFINED." You can be defined - your name, which place you come from, where you live. You can be defined. But how can the infinite existence that manifests in you be defined?
People would ask Buddha what his name was. He left his palace, his kingdom, and began to wander in unknown places where nobody knew him. But his very personality attracted attention, for its unparalleled beauty could not remain hidden behind beggar's attire. And when people asked him where he came from and what his name was, he would say, "Which name of mine shall I tell you, because I have been born many times. Sometimes I was a man, sometimes an animal and at times even a tree. Which name of mine would you like to know?" It is only natural that those who asked him must have considered him a mad man. "Which name should I tell you?"
He in whom the knowledge of existence thus begins, finds himself in many difficulties with the worldly-wise; for then he discovers that no definitions work. As the order of things begin to attain infinite dimensions, all definitions break down, fall to pieces.
Imperishable is existence, inexhaustive. Things happen, things pass away, but existence remains forever.
Why is existence indefinable? Because it is boundless, infinite. It is impossible to investigate it fully.
It is not that our means of investigation are poor, but that existence has no beginning and no end.
Christianity has decided on the historical birth of this world. Christian seekers maintain that the world began 4000 years before Christ. Those who worked on this have even worked out the exact time.
They say that 4004 years ago, at 9 a.m. in the morning, the world came into being. They have even mentioned the minutes and seconds! But when science looked into this matter, Christianity was proven wrong and all its findings were proven childish. Scientists discovered that the earth was four thousand million years old at least. The account of 4004 years, so many hours and so many minutes was absolutely childish. This was a great blow to Christianity, though it had nothing to do with the Christian religion. If we investigate religion in the right perspective, we find that religion cannot say from where and when things start and where and when they end. Religion believes only this; that whatever is, is. It neither begins nor ends. Existence is beginningless and endless; it is infinite Thus science has no quarrel with Lao Tzu's views. Lao Tzu says, "We accept the imperishable existence, which never began and which will never cease." That the world began 4000 years ago is a childish statement but the present statement that the world is four thousand million years old is also childish.
The extension of time makes no difference. Whether it is four thousand or four thousand millions, Lao Tzu says that things cannot begin in this world; existence always is. The forms and the shapes may change, but that which lies hidden behind these forms is eternal; it is everlasting.
This unknown factor of existence enters into state of void time and again. For Lao Tzu, the state of non-being is also existence (being). For Lao Tzu the state of being and non-being are the two sides of existence.
When people like Lao Tzu and Buddha talk of this state of nothingness, we misunderstand them.
We think that when they talk of nothingness, it means there is nothing. This is a mistake. When a Buddha or a Lao Tzu talks of non-being, it is a state of existence. To manifest or not to manifest are two forms of the same thing.
I speak, and then I become silent. If we ask Buddha he will say, "To speak and to be silent are two states of the same energy." The energy speaks at times and is silent at times. The energy is not extinct in the state of silence; it is just quiet. Not to be is the disappearance of to be, not its extinction. If this is properly understood, many things become clear. Not to be is not to be extinct because, according to Lao Tzu, nothing is ever destroyed in this world.
Now, even science concedes that matter is indestructible. You cannot destroy even a grain of sand.
You may crush it, but then that which was together in one piece will be manifest in the particles. You burn an object and it turns to ashes, but that which was present in the object is still present. How will you destroy that? You can, at the most, destroy one form and create another. More than this you cannot do.
Water can be changed into ice, and ice can become vapour. The river can become the ocean, and the ocean can become a cloud. The cloud again becomes the river; you can never destroy it. Not a single drop can be destroyed; it is impossible. Science has discovered an interesting fact: that ever since existence came into being, it has not decreased by a single particle, nor increased by a single particle. There is so much change all around us, at all times, yet the sum total is constant. How vast is the universe. and how turbulent: stars form and disintegrate; worlds are created and destroyed; people come and go, through so many lives. There are so many people, so many palaces and so many graves - and then, silence. So much turmoil while life lasts; then the silence of death. And yet, the universe is none the richer or poorer by a single grain.
The universe means the sum total of everything. There is nothing outside of it. Then how can it increase? And also, how can it decrease, because not a single grain can fall out of it. The totality of the universe remains always the same. Forms change, but that which assumes the forms is always the same. Things appear and disappear but existence is the same as ever. Lao Tzu says, "AND IT REVERTS AGAIN AND AGAIN TO THE REALM OF NOTHINGNESS."
Existence has two dimensions. Its manifestation means, its assuming various forms, and its reverting to nothingness means its becoming formless. We hear a song. A minute before, the melody was not there. Then we heard it and a minute later it was again no more - it reverted to nothingness. A flower blooms. It was not there a moment before. Then the day dawned and the sun bathed its petals with rays. The flower opened, it sang its song of life, it spread its fragrance. Then evening came and the flower withered. It fell to the ground and was no more.
Each object thus appears and disappears. But not to be does not mean that it becomes extinct. Not to be means to be absorbed into nothingness, to be lost once again into nothingness. Not to be means to be unmanifest. Manifestation and unmanifestation are the two sides of existence.
A person came to Lao Tzu. He was an atheist. He said to Lao Tzu, "There is no God."
One of Lao Tzu's disciples who was a theist was there. He said, "God is."
Lao Tzu said, "You both are correct. Each of you is talking about one aspect of God. There can be no opposition, no argument. between you. One aspect of God is His manifestation; another aspect is His non-manifestation. The atheist is talking about His non-manifestation and the theist is talking of His manifestation. You both are right. But you both are wrong also, for your contentions are incomplete."
Lao Tzu says, "God is, and God is not. Both these are true at the same time, because both are His ways of being." Lao Tzu thus becomes difficult for us to understand because it then becomes difficult to define God. One person asserts that God is. He can make a definite statement. Another asserts that God is not. His statement is also definite. But Lao Tzu maintains that God is, and is not.
This defies all definitions. But what Lao Tzu says is correct. What Lao Tzu says is right, because nonbeing is also a way of being. There is no contradiction and no opposition between the two.
If this becomes clear to us, then we shall understand that birth is a way of being and death is also a way of being. In birth we manifest, and in death we revert to the realm of nothingness. To be awake is a way of being. Then, we are active. To be asleep is also a way of being. Then we are inactive. In waking, we are active in the outside world. In sleep, we are active within ourselves. Consciousness and unconsciousness are two aspects of our being. In the state of consciousness, there is a lot of movement within us. In the state of unconsciousness. everything is silent, even consciousness.
We have to break the hostility that exists between this state of being and not being. Then only shall we be able to understand Lao Tzu. There is absolutely no contradiction, no enmity, between the two. They are two aspects of the same thing. And yet, it becomes difficult to define, because time and again the manifest reverts to the realm of the unmanifest. This persistent movement from manifestation to unmanifestation makes it difficult to define Tao. "THAT IS WHY IT IS CALLED THE FORM OF THE FORMLESS." The formless is its form. It is such that it has no form.
This also we shall find difficult to understand, for we tend to see things in terms of contradiction, whereas Lao Tzu's way of seeing things is by uniting them. We know of people who believe in the manifestations of God, we know of people who believe Him to be without form, and we know of the quarrels between them.
Islam says that God is formless, so Muslims do not allow the images of God to be anywhere. There was a temple in Mecca with three-hundred sixty-five idols of worship. Each idol depicted one form of God, and there were three-hundred sixty-five idols, one for each day. The people who created these images must have been very imaginative. Each day they worshipped God in a new form. Thus, each day they worshipped one idol. This was a priceless concept: each day they worshipped a new form. And yet they must have been adherents of the concept that God is formless. How could the form change if they worshipped form? It is only the formless that can change form so easily. That which changes from every day proves that it has no definite form. It can manifest in any form.
In our country, Hindus have created thousands of images of God. From an unhewn stone underneath a tree to the creations of Khajuraho there are innumerable images of God in India.
The concept of thirty-three crores of devas is found only in India.
There is a constant struggle between those who believe in God as a form and those who believe God is formless. One who believes in the formless cannot visualise the formless taking a form and one who believes in God's manifestations cannot understand why He who manifests himself in so many forms and shapes cannot manifest in a stone image. The stone also is a form of God. How else could it exist?
It was only much later that images began to be carved. In the beginning, any stone could be smeared with vermilion and an idol was created. And the appropriate deva manifested himself for his worshippers. When you see a stone smeared with vermilion you will fail to see how it can become a God. Perhaps the village people did not know the art of sculpture, you think. That is not so. Any shape is His shape, all forms are His, so any shape will do. This is the idea behind it.
These two concepts seem conflicting because to us, form and formless are contrasting terms. Lao Tzu sees no conflict in them. The basic concept of Lao Tzu is the concept of harmony everywhere in life. All qualities are His. He is also the quality-less. He is form and He is the formless. That is we say: the form of the formless. We accept His forms because we know He is formless. The very state of non-being we look upon as His being. His absence is just a form of His presence.
Now it becomes more difficult to define. If we rely upon words, we can draw lines of limitation. If we say God is full of attributes, we can set aside the aspect of attributelessness. If we believe in the form aspect, we can set aside the aspect of formlessness. And vice versa. But if we say that He is both, the boundary lines become hazy and definition more difficult.
He is an image of emptiness, of nothingness. An image can only be carved out of matter; it means shape, form. How can the formless be depicted in an image? And yet, Lao Tzu says, "HE IS AN IMAGE OF NOTHINGNESS." This is a subtle attempt to join the opposites. He is not. This is also a dimension of His being. It is difficult to understand, because to us if one is, the other is not.
There are things within our experience however which are. and yet we cannot define their existence in any language. You feel love for someone welling up within your heart. You feel it, but you cannot express it. This is every lover's predicament. He can give no proof of the love he experiences. If you ask a lover to give proof of the love of which he talks all day, and of which he dreams all night, the love which fills every pore of his body, which he breathes with every breath, he becomes helpless because he has no way to prove it. Even if he attempts to do so. he finds all his efforts have gone in vain. He may throw his arms around his beloved, he may press her to his heart, and yet nothing is manifested. The experience lies within, and nothing that he can do helps to manifest the experience.
He may even give his life, yet that which was within cannot be manifest.
Love is. But it is as if it is not. Love is, the way God is. That is why Jesus has used the word "love"
to define God. He said, "Love is God." This does not mean God is a lover. This is a mistake on the part of Christians who have said, "God is very loving." That is not what Jesus meant. Perfect love cannot discount hatred. What is meant by the term "God is love" is that love is the only proof we have where being and nonbeing exist together. Love is; we feel its presence in full measure. If a man is prepared to lose his life for the sake of love, it goes to prove how real is the presence of love within him and how much more important it is to him than his life. But there is no way of proving its existence, its presence, its being, we cannot put our finger on it.
Jesus gave the simile of love for God only so that you can know Him through the experience of love.
But we have no knowledge of love at all, so we find ourselves in great difficulty.
All methods of contemplation that are far removed from love end up by denying the existence of God. For example, mathematics. It is far removed from love. Science does not accept the existence of God because science has nothing to do with love. Poetry accepts God because poetry is very near love. Dance and music similarly, accept the existence of God because they are so near love.
Everything that is near to love accepts the existence of God, while everything that is removed from love finds it difficult to accept His existence. They cannot accept the fact of His being and yet not being, Lao Tzu says: "Nothingness is His image." He is not, and that alone is His being. For these very reasons He is called unapproachable, inaccessible and, hence, unknowable.
"MEET IT AND YOU DO NOT SEE ITS FACE. FOLLOW IT AND YOU DO NOT SEE ITS BACK."
These are profound words. Meet Him and you cannot see His form. He has no form. He cannot have, because all forms are His. If He had a form of His own, all forms could not be His. Lao Tzu's famous words are: "He is nowhere, for He is everywhere. He is no one, for He is everyone."
And though He has no form, it is possible to meet Him. That is why those who get involved and obsessed by form fail to meet Him. Some are obsessed with Rama, some with Krishna and some with Jesus. These are forms. He exists in these forms also, but no form is His. In other words, all forms are His. This needs to be kept in mind or else we are bound to err. The devotee of Rama seeks Rama's face everywhere. but He is faceless. Then, this very face becomes a hindrance.
The face of Rama is helpful up to a limit - for in Rama's face one can get a glimpse of Him - but it can help only this far. If it persists, the face becomes more significant than the glimpse of God that it gives.
Shri Aurobindo has said that all steps that are helpful at first become a hindrance later. The path that led the way misleads the seeker and leads him astray after some time. Therefore, choose the path carefully and remember how long it can be useful. This is very difficult - I know. Each step should be taken as long as it remains a step. As soon as it begins to bar your way, step aside. The face of Rama is helpful because the ease with which the image of nothingness is reflected in it is difficult to gauge in other faces. Nothingness becomes manifest in the face of Rama. So far it is helpful. But what happens is that the face gradually assumes more significance, so much so that it stops reflecting the nothingness that is manifest in it. This is what always happens.
When a seeker approached Buddha for the first time, he was not attracted. Buddha's eyes express complete detachment, and in this expression the seeker begins to see that which is beyond Buddha.
Then the attraction begins, and it becomes stronger and stronger. As the attachment increases, that which was beyond Buddha begins to stop manifesting. Then the seeker is left with only the face of Buddha. Therefore, Buddha told his disciples not to make images of him. The reason was not that he was against idols but because he saw the above situation happening in his sadhakas. They were losing sight of that which was beyond him.
But the face of Buddha was so beautiful that people did not respect his wish. It is said that the number of images made of Buddha outnumber all other images, so much so that the word "But"
which is a derivation of the word "Budh" began to be known as an image. This word means: an image - in Persian, Arabic and Urdu. Perhaps people were not familiar with images before and Buddha's was the first image carved out of stone. Yet he had forbidden his followers to make images of him.
This is the difficulty. If the beyond is manifest, the face is useful. If the beyond becomes unmanifest, the face becomes a hindrance. The image becomes an opening, the gate to the formless, if the remembrance of the formless remains.
Lao Tzu says: "MEET IT AND YOU DO NOT SEE ITS FACE. FOLLOW IT AND YOU DO NOT SEE ITS BACK." This will be easier to understand if we identify it with love. Has there been a moment in your life when you had the good fortune to love someone? I ask you this, because it is with utmost difficulty that one in a million experiences love. People talk about love, but we only talk about that which we have not experienced. In so doing, we seek to pacify ourselves. If you have really experienced love towards someone, you will find that in the moment of love, the beloved's face becomes hazy. This is hard to believe, but it is so, that whenever your heart fills with love towards someone, the beloved's form becomes dim and in that moment you get a glimpse of that which has no form. That is why those who have had this profound experience have talked of the beloved as God himself.
This is why it is difficult to understand whether such a person is talking of his beloved or talking of God. When we read an epic of love, we are always confused: is the poet talking of God or talking of his beloved? Is Omar Khayyam talking of his beloved or talking of love. Is he talking of wine or of samadhi? It is difficult to make out. No wonder, so many wine shops are named after Omar Khayyam!
The lover is united with the formless in moments of love. The form disappears and the formless appears. The alchemy of love is such that it begins with the form and ends with the formless. In the beginning it is always the form that attracts; but this is due to the flash of some inner light which does not belong to the form. The flame is not seen, but the soft light of it is visible.
A house of glass attracts us, but if we stop here it would be a mistake. The light within the house is the actual goal. A beautiful form attracts. This is as it should be - it is not wrong, it is no sin - but if the body becomes the be all and end all and there is no knowledge of the flame within, then there is trouble. If the form attracts and the formless is experienced, a moment comes when the form is completely forgotten and only the formless remains.
If a person loves even one person truly, there is no need to seek God separately. The beloved then becomes the door to the absolute. Because we cannot love, we have to pray. Because we do not love, we have to do sadhana and various other things. If one can truly love, sadhana, prayers, etcetera, become redundant. Therefore Meera can say, "There is no way, no sadhana, no method, no knowledge, no meditation," for she has experienced love. Therefore Kabir can say, "Leave all yoga and mantras and the various exercises. His name alone is enough." But His name is enough only for one who has had a glimpse of the love within. Otherwise it is not enough, however much you repeat it.
This is the difficulty. Kabir says His name alone is enough, because the name, taken with love, is sufficient. What more does one need? Then we presume that the name itself is enough, but we have no experience of the love within. So we repeat the name like parrots mechanically all our lives, saying: this is what Kabira said, this is what Nanak said. The name is enough, but only for the heart which has love within. And where there is love, the name becomes unnecessary. Love alone is enough.
Says Lao Tzu: "MEET IT AND YOU DO NOT SEE ITS FACE. FOLLOW IT AND YOU DO NOT SEE ITS BACK." With the union, all boundaries fall. There is no way to experience the union, try as you will. Therefore when a person says he has seen God, know that he has seen a dream - a beautiful, religious, joy-giving dream. If a person says he has seen the face of God, know that his imagination has reached the point of fantasy. No one has ever seen His face and no one ever will because no face is His, no form is His. Existence is devoid of all form.
Lao Tzu goes on further to say: "HE WHO HOLDS FAST TO THE TAO OF OLD, IN ORDER TO MANAGE THE AFFAIRS OF NOW, IS ABLE TO KNOW THE PRIMEVAL BEGINNINGS, WHICH ARE THE CONTINUITY (THE TRADITION) OF TAO."
This last sutra is for the sadhaka. All that has been said before were pointers towards the supreme mystery. This sutra gives a reference as to how this supreme mystery can be attained.
Time is the creation of man. For God, there is no Time. Past, present and future are creations of man; for God they do not exist. The only word we can use for time with regard to God is eternal, eternity. The division of time is our creation. Future means that which has yet not happened to us and present means that which is now for us. But God surrounds all. For Him, the past, the future and the present are all here and now.
In actuality, for God there is only the present. It is some - what like this. You make a hole in the wall of a house. If a person peeps through this hole and looks in, he might see me. Then he looks from another angle and he sees you. But then, he cannot see me. Then he may look again from a different angle and see others, but then he cannot see you. Those that he cannot see become the past; those he can see become the present; and those he is about to see become the future.
For one who is outside the house, the people within the room are divided into three parts; but for a person within the room, they are all together at the same time.
God is present at the centre of existence, and we are all at the periphery. Our vision is limited. The eye is not capable of seeing all that there is. We can only see a few selected things. That which escapes one's vision becomes the past; that which has not come before our vision is the future; and that which is visible to us is the present. For God there is only the present; for Him, there is no past and no future.
It is not correct to use the word "present" with regard to God because present means that which is between past and future. But for Him for whom there is no past and no future, there can be no present. Therefore, Eckhart has used the phrase "the eternal now". For God, everything is in the present; whereas for us, if we were to investigate, the present is nothing.
We say there is past, present and future, but do you realize how long your past is? If you are fifty years old, the past spreads as far back as fifty years. If you were to remember your past lives, it would extend to crores of births. Our future, too, is infinite. If you are to live for fifty years more, the future is fifty years long; and if you were to take into account the lives after death, the future extends to infinity. So the past is infinite and the future is infinite. And what is our present? Hardly a moment.
If you were to investigate more deeply, which moment would you call the present moment? As soon as you name it, the moment slips into the past. If I say, "This moment when it is 9.35 a.m. is the present," by the time I have said it, that moment has slipped into the past.
We have so little of the present in our hands that by the time we declare it, it becomes the past. The fact is that the present holds only one meaning for us: it is the point where my future passes into the past. And this point we never experience. If we begin to experience the present, if we begin to grasp the present, if it begins to fill our consciousness, this is what is called meditation.
We cannot grasp the present because the mind works with such speed, and time runs out so fast, that we cannot grasp the point between two moments. We cannot stop time, it is not in our hands, but we can stop the mind. It is very much within our power. If the mind comes to an absolute halt, we can be one with the present moment. Our union with the present moment is our union with God.
Then by and by, the past and the future fade away for us and only the present remains.
For people like Lao Tzu and Buddha, there is no past and no future. The present is everything.
When a person reaches the stage where the present becomes everything to him, he is united with God; he becomes God. The greater the length of our past and future, the further away we are from God; the shorter the distance, the nearer we are to Him. The day the past and the future fade away completely, we are one with the absolute.
Now let us try to understand Lao Tzu's sutra. He who remembers the eternal, whether he is in a shop or in the market or in the office or in the house, whether eating or sleeping, if he is living in the eternal now, he alone is capable to know the primeval beginnings which are the continuity of Tao.
Tao means religion, Tao means power, Tao means the rule (RIT). Tao means the supreme mystery, where there is no time, where there is no making and breaking, where there is no life, no death. He attains this supreme continuity.
Time is the gate. If you are swinging between the past and the future, you are still in samsara (the world). Samsara means: past-wealth-future; the present is absent. If we wish to go beyond samsara, we have to take the jump from the meeting point of the past and future. The pure present is moksha; the perfect present is Tao.
When Lao Tzu was asked, "What is your greatest teaching?" he would reply, "This which I am saying now."
When Van Gogh was asked, "Which is your best painting?" he would answer, "The one I am doing right now." For him, that which was happening here and now was everything.
He who remembers this eternal now and begins to live in it from moment to moment finds the way.
He discovers the bridge to the eternal Tao. Leave the past, leave the future and catch hold of the present. Bury the dead past, drown it for ever.
But we drag the burden of our past behind us. That is why the old are bent. The weight of the body is nothing compared to the burden of the past. It is like a mountain on his back.
When you see an old man sitting with his eyes closed, you can be well assured that he is digging into his past. He will be reliving his childhood, his youth, his successes and failures, his life and loves, his marriages and divorces. The burden becomes heavier and heavier.
Take this burden off your back. It is dangerous because it will never allow you to merge with the eternal. See children, see youths. What are they doing? They are living in the future: the castles they want to build, the journeys they have to make, the goals they wish to attain. They have their ambitions, their dreams - they live in them. Watch children. They are a great expanse of the future.
Look at the old. They are the past. The child has dreams.
Between the two we miss that which is the present. As I told you before, our present is the point where the future becomes the past. In the same manner, our youth is the point where the future becomes the past and our dreams begin to crumble.
Have you ever seen an image of Buddha or Krishna or Mahavira in which they are depicted as old?
It is not that they never became old, but we have conserved only their youthful images. There is a reason for it. The reason is, the youthful image conveys the fact that for Buddha and those like him, the present was everything. Youth became eternal. The body became old, but their consciousness never became old because there was no burden of the past on it. The mind is the reason behind it. If a person learns to live continuously in the present, he experiences a perpetual youth, an everlasting freshness. In his life, a new flower filled with fresh innocence opens each moment.
"NEITHER BY ITS RISING IS THERE LIGHT, NOR BY ITS SINKING IS THERE DARKNESS.
UNCEASING, CONTINUOUS, IT CANNOT BE DEFINED."