The sky is clear now. Soon it will be filled with clouds. The clouds will come, they will shower rain, and will be no more. The sky will remain the same however. The sky is an actionless passivity. The clouds are an activity. Clouds form and disperse. The sky is never formed and never unformed. The clouds are there sometimes and they are not there at other times. The sky forever is. The existence of the clouds lies in between birth and death. For the existence of the sky there is no birth and no death. The sky is beyond time, it is eternal. The clouds form and disperse within time.
The name of this sutra is: KNOWING THE ETERNAL LAW. Wherever activity is, eternity cannot be; for each activity has to revert to repose and hence cannot be eternal. Activity has to tire out and return to repose. Only inactivity can be eternal.
It is very necessary to understand this sutra. The religious have said that God is the Creator. Lao Tzu does not accept this. He says that creation is an activity. If God is the Creator, someday He is bound to be tired of this activity. Every activity leads to repose. The result of each and every activity is inactivity. If God is the creator, and if creativity is His form, He cannot be eternal. Only intrinsic inactivity can be eternal.
If the sky was also active, it too would have faded like the clouds. The clouds are always engaged in activity. They get filled with moisture. Then there is loud thundering and clapping and flashes of lightning. Then it rains and the clouds are empty; they are lost. They are bound to be, for all activities have a beginning and an end.
That which has no beginning has no end. Lao Tzu's God is inactive. Therefore, Lao Tzu does not refer to Him as God. He calls him the eternal law: Tao. If we see this from different angles in life, it will be easier to see within oneself. Then we shall understand Lao Tzu's sadhana. Then we shall understand what he says, what type of a person can attain this eternal absolute.
We saw a seed: a tree is born. Its branches spread on all sides and then the flowers come. Then one day this tree falls and becomes once again one with the soil. A person is born; he lives his life.
Then one day we put him in a coffin and return him to the soil. You wake up in the morning, you are tired by evening and sleep claims you at night. Birth is also an awakening and death an eventide.
We fall back to where we started. But is there something with us like the sky is with the clouds?
The tree is born out of the soil. The soil rises towards the sky and becomes the leaves and branches.
Then, in this soil - in the form of the tree - the flowers bloom. Then the flowers wither, so do the leaves and branches, and eventually the tree. Dust returns to dust. Was there something besides the leaves and branches, something like the sky within the tree? The whole of the tree's being was like that of the clouds: the small seed bursting into a sapling and becoming a huge tree, and then its consequent end. This was activity. Was there anything besides that in the tree - something like the sky, that was there when the tree was in seed form and which still remained when the tree was no more?
A child is born. It is like the birth of a cloud. There will be a great commotion as the child passes through life. He becomes a youth. Desires hold him. He is filled with ambitions and life becomes a mad frenzy of activity. There will be anxieties and tensions, defeats and failures. It will become a long story. And then, everything ends, becomes nothing. Dust into dust as Omar Khayyaam says.
Were there only clouds in this man and nothing like the sky?
Desires are like clouds. Sometimes they are over-laden, like rain clouds. Look at a young man, he is like a rain-filled cloud. Look at an old man. He is like a spent cloud. Everything within him has drained away. An old man is like a rainless cloud. But is there something like the sky behind a man's desires, his ambitions, his achievements, or is there not? If there is no sky behind him, then there is no atman either. If there is some sky behind him, then only the atman is.
Those who do not believe in the atman, admit that clouds form but they do not acknowledge the existence of the sky. There can be no clouds without the sky. The sky can exist without anything. If there are clouds, the sky is there. If there are not clouds, the sky is still there. It makes no difference to its being. The clouds are an accident or a happening that is dependent on many factors.
Understand this. Clouds form in the sky because of many factors. The sun comes out, water evaporates and rises towards the sky and clouds are formed. If the sun does not shine and no heat is produced, no clouds can form. If the sun gives heat and there is no water, no clouds can form.
The sky is noncausal. Whether the sun shines or does not shine, whether clouds form or do not form, whether water is or is not, whether the moon or the stars or the earth or man exist or not, the sky forever is. Its existence is unconditional and is not affected by anything. This means that all things that are conditioned by some cause are like the clouds and all things that are not caused by anything are like the sky.
You are born. There are two factors that play an important part in your birth. One part is like the clouds. Without your parents, you could not have acquired your body. There are a thousand reasons that went into giving you a body, but if these reasons alone were enough, then there would be no sky within you. If you could still be, without your parents, without your body, then alone can there be the atman within you. Otherwise there is no meaning in the term atman.
Lao Tzu says that within each of us there is the cloud and there is the sky. Just like clouds cannot be without the sky, desires cannot be without the atman. Just like clouds need the sky in order to sail along, so desires need the atman to swim in. The atman can be without desires but desires cannot be without the atman. And just as we cannot see the sky when the sky is over-laden with clouds, so also when the atman is overladen with desires, only desires can be seen and not the atman.
Each desire leads to activity. This is why the sages of old said that unless a man reaches the state of desirelessness he cannot attain the atman. Until he reaches desirelessness, he cannot attain the state of non-activity. Each desire gives birth to an activity. The rise of a desire within means that you have started on an activity. When a desire is born, activity begins, and the clouds begin to form.
The greater the number of clouds the less of the sky is visible. The sky is visible only when there are no clouds.
Or between two clouds we can see the sky. Between the gap of two desires, we sometimes get a glimpse of the atman. But ordinarily this does not happen, for no sooner is one desire fulfilled than we create a hundred others. One desire dies and a thousand are born. Our sky is always filled with clouds. Therefore, when a man tries to understand himself, he finds he is merely a collection of activities.
This is exactly how we see ourselves. If someone asks you who you are, what is your answer? You will at once recount your accomplishments: how much wealth you have, how many houses you own, how many titles and degrees you possess. You are a collection of all your actions. You look upon yourself as the cloud; you have no notion of the sky. The sky has nothing to do with your activities.
The sky is, and you do not have to do anything about it. Its existence is not dependent on anything.
In each happening that occurs these two sutras are present simultaneously. There is the world of activity and the atman of inactivity. To know this passivity, this inactivity, is to know the eternal law.
Let us understand this sutra. Lao Tzu says that we should attain the supreme state of passivity and hold fast to it with the help of calmness and tranquillity. What is meant by attaining the supreme state of passivity within one's self? This does not mean you are to do nothing. As long as there is life there is bound to be activity. If you do nothing and just sit, that sitting will also be an act. If you lie like a corpse, that too becomes an action. If you leave everything and run away to the forest, that too is an activity.
A youth came to the Zen fakir Hiutti. He told him to remember this sutra of Lao Tzu: "ATTAIN THE UTMOST IN PASSIVITY." The youth tried to follow his advice. The next morning he went to Hiutti and sat like an image of Buddha: silent, unmoving. Hiutti shook him and said, "We have enough images of Buddha in the temple. We need no more. This will not do. Attain the utmost in passivity.
It is only you who is sitting and you have to put in a lot of effort in order to sit like this. When a man sits in his normal manner, it involves less effort; but when he sits like the Buddha, he has to strain more."
The youth tried every method but he kept on failing because no method led to passivity. The very word "method" means action. How can action help one to attain non-action? If a man wants to stop, how can he stop by running? If a man wants to die, he cannot do so by living. How can one attain non-action by action?
The youth was distraught with grief. He did not know what to do. He went to the elder disciples who had been there long before him and who must have gone through this same initial training at the guru's hands, and asked for their advice. They said, "Passivity can only be attained in death. As long as you are alive how can there be no action? To live means to be in action. Life is activity."
The next day the youth went to Hiutti. On being questioned about his progress, he dropped dead at the guru's feet. The guru said, "Open one eye." He opened an eye and looked at the guru. "What is this?" The guru asked, "Who taught you this? Truth can never be taught. Don't you know that?"
The youth burst into tears and said, "I have tried everything. This was my last effort. I know nothing more. How can I attain passivity?"
The guru said that as long as he kept asking how? he would never attain. What does how mean? It means: in what manner, by what method, by what attempt and what action? He said, "You are only asking about action and not inaction Passivity cannot be attained, for it is already there. The only thing to be done is to shift your attention from action towards non-action, from the clouds to the sky.
It is just a matter of shifting your focus."
The sky is not to be attained; the sky is. We have never lost it. At the most, we have forgotten it.
The sky does not have to be created so we cannot create it by our efforts. Anything created by our efforts can never be the sky.
Therefore, there is no method to attain the atman. There is no sadhana to attain the atman. All efforts, all sadhanas, are meant only to shift our attention from the realm of clouds within us so that we can see the sky behind.
This sutra of Lao Tzu says: "ATTAIN THE UTMOST IN PASSIVITY." Because of the words, it creates a misunderstanding. "Attain" means to achieve something. These are the shortcomings of language, Lao Tzu told us in the very beginning that what he wishes to say can never be said, and whatever he says will inevitably become false.
Our language depends entirely on action. Even when a person is dead, we say he has died - as if it is an act he performed. One does not have to do anything in order to die. But our language is the language of action. It is bound to be so because we know life according to the clouds. There is nothing but movement, action, in it.
We say to a person, "I love you" - as if love is an act. No one has as yet made love in this world.
Love is not an act that you can perform. Love either is or is not; there is no question of doing it. If it is, well and good. If not, so be it. You cannot attempt to love. Love has no connection with activity.
But in language, love becomes an action. We say that a mother loves her son. There is no method of doing love, but language converts everything into action.
In exactly the same way, we look upon meditation as a form of action. A person says, "I meditate."
This is the burden of language, and its helplessness to express what is. It changes everything into an act.
That is why this sutra seems very contradictory: "ATTAIN THE UTMOST STATE OF PASSIVITY."
Attainment means action. But if the state of inactivity is to be attained, it cannot become an achievement. All achievements are actions. You can attain wealth, you can attain honor, you can attain a status. These are all actions. But how can passivity be attained?
Lao Tzu explains: "There are two layers within us. One is the layer of activity: of clouds, of waves and ripples. Exactly below this, in the lower depths, there is the sky." It is in this sky that all the clouds glide. This sky, this space, is boundless, whereas the clouds are limited. The ability to see beyond these clouds becomes the attainment of passivity.
Lao Tzu goes on to say, in the very next part of the same sutra, "ATTAIN THE UTMOST IN PASSIVITY. HOLD FIRM TO THE BASIS OF QUIETUDE." When you know of the sky within, don't wander anymore in the clouds. No matter how much you wander in the clouds, always be united with the sky within. If you can always be aware of the sky within that you have experienced, you may safely indulge in all activities. Let your journey be in any direction, so long as you are constantly aware of the fixed and stable factor within you that never moves.
Always keep this fixed, passive sky in your mind. If the clouds of anger spread over your mind, or the smoke of sex fills the mind, or the poison of greed spreads within, remain aware and conscious of the clear, passive sky that is, deep down, within. The clouds sometimes are and sometimes are not. They come for a moment and go in a moment. So one does not have to be agitated by them.
One only gets agitated if he forgets the profound basis of quietude within himself.
There is Sufi story. An emperor was growing older. He called his ministers and said, "I am getting old and I see death coming closer and closer. I have not been worried about knowledge before, but now that death is approaching, I have to worry about knowledge. If there was no death, perhaps there would have been no need for religious scriptures. My mind is restless and I am afraid. I need something now to hold on to so that I may not be afraid. I find that all the measures I took to protect myself are useless before my approaching death, I made huge fortresses. I have a huge army, well-equipped with guns but what is the use? They cannot save me from death! Find me something to give strength to my trembling mind. I hear old age knock and I tremble like a leaf:"
The ministers said, "We can advise you about your palaces and fortresses but in this connection we know nothing."
A country-wide search was made in order to find someone who could relieve the king of his fear.
Ultimately an old fakir offered to help him. He gave him a sutra enclosed in a taveez (charm). He exhorted him to open it only as a last resort, when all his efforts failed and he felt he could do nothing more.
The king tied the amulet on his arm. Many times he felt it was time to open the charm but then a new course of action would be opened to him. Years passed by. Then one day he was defeated by an enemy. As he fled for his life, with the enemy close on his heels, he suddenly remembered the amulet. But then he thought that he had a strong, fleet-footed horse and he could cross over into another country. So he did not waste any time and sped along. After some time, as fate would have it, he reached the top of a mountain. Before him was a deep abyss. Behind him he could hear the hoofs of the enemy horses coming closer and closer. There was nothing he could do. He opened the amulet, hoping it contained a magic mantra. To his dismay he found the fakir had written: "This too will pass." He was angry with the fakir for having fooled him like this, but he could do nothing.
There was no escape. He waited for the worst, with the amulet in his hand. Then, to his surprise, the sound of the horse hoofs began to get fainter and fainter. The enemy had taken the wrong path.
He put the amulet back on his arm and turned back. This time, his army defeated the enemy.
From then onwards, he began to open the amulet and read it again and again. If someone insulted or abused him, he took out the charm and read it. Then he would smile and fold it back in its case.
From then onwards, no one ever found him unhappy or anxious or even angry. Nor did the thought of life or death trouble him anymore. His ministers were eager to know the contents of the magic charm that had brought such a change in their king. It was a small sutra: "This too will pass."
If you understand this well, you will know that that which passes away is the cloud and that which neither comes nor goes is you. That which comes and goes is not you. If this remembrance gets deeply rooted within, you shall be well-rooted to the basis of quietude within. The emperor had found his roots well within the ocean of tranquillity within him.
That which is within me and is not manifest without - that is me. All my actions come and go; whatever I do passes away. Therefore, there is no connection between my actions and the eternal law. Rather, my very state of non-action is joined to the eternal law.
All things that assume form become active. The cloud takes a form and becomes active. The tree takes a form and becomes active. Desires take form within us and become active. But then we see them reverting back to repose again.
Lao Tzu says: "MYRIAD THINGS TAKE SHAPE AND RISE IN ACTIVITY, BUT I WATCH THEM FALL BACK TO REPOSE." If we begin to understand that all forms - whether beautiful or ugly, whether pleasing or repulsive - form and disintegrate, that disintegration is the inevitable rule of creation; that what is born today must die tomorrow, (the flower that blooms today must wither tomorrow) - if we understand that this withering is only the other part of blooming; if we can see beyond it, then we shall have developed a religious attitude. Buddha referred to this as the eye of religion. He used to say, "Everything is undecided and prone to decay and destruction. Nothing persists; nothing remains. That which has a beginning has an end. He who sees this attains a religious-eye."
By learning the Koran or the Bible or the Gita by heart, we cannot acquire this religious-eye. It only comes with experience.
But we see only the form. We see the cloud in the sky and the sky is wiped out from our vision altogether - the sky that always was and always is and always shall be. The clouds become everything. We forget that soon the clouds will roll away; they will be no more. We forget that they are nothing but a mass of vapor, condensed smoke. A person who can still see the clear sky behind the clouds attains a religious eye.
All forms take shape and disintegrate. But forms attract the mind very easily. Forget about actual forms. People even hold pictures of beautiful bodies against their hearts. A few lines on a piece of paper are enough to sway the mind. It is no wonder that people are affected by actual forms.
If we look a little closely however, we shall be able to see the blank paper behind the pencil lines.
If we observe more closely, we shall be able to see the vast sky behind the framework of bone and flesh. All people and all things are nothing more than lines etched out on the canvas of nature.
Buddha says, "Everything is an accumulation, and all accumulations fall apart."
Buddha was on his deathbed. His bhikshus were standing beside him weeping. One asked: "Now what will happen to you? Where will you go?"
Buddha replied, "I will go nowhere. That which you took to be me was a mere accumulation of lines and forms. It will disintegrate and become one with the dust before your very eyes. You yourselves will cremate it. What you consider to be me will become one with the dust for it is created out of dust. But what is actually me has nowhere to go. But you do not know that part of me."
Behind each form is the formless. Without the formless, form cannot be, just as without the sky the clouds cannot be. The formless is inevitable in order for the form to be. But we can see the form only, not the formless.
Lao Tzu says that all things become activated as soon as they assume form, but then they return to repose once again. To observe this is religion.
"LIKE VEGETATION THAT LUXURIOUSLY GROWS, BUT RETURNS TO THE ROOT (SOIL) FROM WHICH IT SPRINGS."
A plant is born. It grows and blooms, spreading its fragrance all around. Its branches seem to want to reach up to the sun as they swing and sway with the wind. So much colour, so much form! And then, after six months or a year, it is no more. Dust returns to dust - like a wave that rises high, as if it would touch the sky, and then falls quickly into the sea and is no more. But when the plant was in full bloom, with its abundance of foliage and flowers, we did not notice the sky behind it.
Lao Tzu says: "All things go back to where they came from." Only one who can see things reverting back is able to touch the ultimate point of passivity. This person alone can become one with the basis of quietude.
"TO RETURN TO THE ROOT IS REPOSE." This is a question of perception. One should develop the eye to perceive this.
We can see a plant. We know that in due time it will disintegrate. We can see a cloud. We know that in due time it shall be no more. But when a person applies this introspection to his own self and knows that whatever of him is visible - his body, his mind, his thoughts, his ego, his am-ness, his intellect.... All of him that can be perceived will one day revert back to the soil just as all forms do. Then, says Lao Tzu, "TO RETURN TO THE ROOTS IS REPOSE." He who is filled with this experience returns to his roots this very moment.
These words are very precious: "TO RETURN TO THE ROOT IS REPOSE." This knowledge of returning back to the fundamental root is the actual going back. To re-attain one's roots is the supreme repose.
The serenity on the face of Buddha was not the reflection of meditation or of the repetition of a mantra. When a man repeats a mantra, his face assumes a serenity which is a cultivated serenity.
There is another type of peacefulness that can be induced by drugs, but it will be the peace of death.
The serenity on Buddha's face comes from this returning to the roots. It is a living serenity, born out of repose. Look at the image of Buddha. Observe his face well and you will notice that it feels as though there is a centre within to which his whole image is bound. It seems as if a central focus point controls the whole form.
Look at yourself as you walk, as you sit, as you move about, and you will find that there is no central focus point within. Or, rather, there are many centres. There is a crowd within, a market-place, with all kinds of people. Your interior is filled with contrasting notes. Those who identify themselves with the clouds find themselves in this plight. The sky is one; the clouds are many. The cloud that is just a speck now becomes large and ominous and then, after a while, it disperses. You cannot depend on the cloud's form. One moment it is beautiful and another moment it is ugly because clouds are gaseous matter that change form every moment. The person who joins himself to his actions and his achievements, the person who is the sum-total of the clouds of ego that are within him - such a person oscillates in a cloud within himself.
It is very difficult to think along these lines. By pure thinking alone, one cannot understand this. It is easy to think about a tree - that today it is and tomorrow it shall not be - but it is very difficult to admit that "tomorrow, I too will not be." We all know that everyone must die - "but not me". Everyone knows we are all images of clay - "except for me." We include our own self. It never occurs to us that in this world of changing forms, I too am a form. It is painful to face this fact and to admit to oneself that "I am but a bundle of flesh and bones. I am but a figure drawn on a blank paper. I am but a vaporous cloud." To bear the pain of this knowledge is penance, because if this thought persists in the mind, where will the ego stand? Then how will I protect my image? How will I know who I am?
Khalil Gibran has said, "As long as I did not know myself, I thought I was a solid image. But when I recognised myself, I found myself sitting with my hands tightly clenched, hands that held nothing but thin air!"
We all are clenching our fists tightly and there is nothing but air in them. We understand this intellectually but the knowledge does not penetrate deep within us. Why is that so? It is because this knowledge will shatter the pattern of life that we have made around ourselves. If someone tells me, "You are beautiful and I love you," then if I become aware that I am nothing but a handful of air, what will happen to this love? If I tell someone that my love is eternal and it shall always be - and then, unlike the love-story we find in books if it dawns on me that I have professed my love to a handful of skin and bones - what will happen to my love?
All the investments I have around me will stop me from thinking in this way and will assure me that I am solid, I have a personality that will endure. People sing, "When the stars and the moon are no more, even then my love shall be." If we realise that we are nothing but endings, what will happen to the infinite dreams we have created? What does it all mean? If I am no more than a puff of air, of what value is my love?
If I am nothing but smoke, of what value are my words? And if I am to exist no more, on what scale shall you weigh my words and my actions?
There is no answer. That is the difficulty. There are times when the thought comes to one's mind that I am no more than a line drawn on water. And we understand it too. But then, fear grips the heart. What of the mesh we have woven around ourselves? So we fall back and let life continue as it is.
All patterns depend on our perception. If our perception changes, the whole pattern has to change - the whole pattern of life.
Lin Yutang has written in his recollections that a Chinese man sent a small wooden box as a present to his friend in Germany. It was a beautiful antique. But whoever had fashioned the box had engraved a condition on it - that the front of the box should always face the sun. For thousands of years, whoever owned the box respected the wish of its maker. The Chinese man requested his friend in Germany not to break this tradition which was an inheritance of a thousand years. The German replied that there was no difficulty in observing the rule.
When the German put the chest in his sitting room, the whole place began to look incongruous. He had the whole room changed to suit the wooden chest. He changed the furniture and even the doors and windows, and repainted the room. But then, the rest of the house looked drab in comparison to this gorgeous room. So he changed the whole house in order to match the sitting room. But then, he found that the locality of his house did not go at all with the new interior. He gave up. He said that it was beyond him now to make any further changes.
A small change brings a revolution all around. A change in perception is not a small change; it is very profound. In fact, it is the most profound change possible. As soon as your perception changes you are not the same person any more. Everything around you changes. This fear of change is what holds a person back. If the courage to change is lacking, a man cannot become religious, even if he hears about religion all his life.
Lao Tzu says: "TO RETURN TO THE ROOT IS REPOSE." This basic space, this nothingness within.... And space (AKASH) means nothingness; it means existence. It is not solid; it is not an object, it has no form. It is empty space. Everything appears and disappears within it, and it remains untouched, unaffected by everything. "THIS IS WHAT IS CALLED GOING BACK TO ONE'S DESTINY."
Lao Tzu says: to fall back to the roots, to revert back to the fundamental source and experience oneness with it, is to go back to one's destiny, back to one's nature, back into creation. This is our destiny. As long as a person does not become one with his destiny, he keeps wandering, for he lives on end. This long journey for millions of lives, is all because of our identification with form.
"GOING BACK TO ONE'S DESTINY IS TO FIND THE ETERNAL LAW." There are two laws in this world. One is the law of this world. Here, change is the law. Everything flows like the river. Nothing is repeated and nothing is stable. Science is the research of this changing world. That is why science has to change its laws every day.
There is a joke prevalent among scientists. Just like it is said in the Bible, "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light," so scientists say, "And God said, 'Let Newton be born', and Newton was born - and the world has never been the same again." Newton was an important person in the world of science. Now, the same joke is repeated about Einstein.
With Newton, law and rules come into being. He laid down three rules and the whole world, which was nothing but chaos and confusion, became organised. Then the joke goes on to say that God became so bored with the orderly world that He said, "Let Einstein be!" and Einstein was born. And he brought all the chaos back. The orderly world that Newton created with such labour - where 2 +
Now, what Einstein said needs to be changed everyday. Science will have to keep on changing its theories everyday, because that which it tries to discover is always changing. What fact today becomes a fallacy tomorrow? We cannot draw a permanent picture of this ever-changing world.
It is like this. The railway station is a stationary place but there are many roads to reach it. If we take one of these roads we are sure to reach the station. But if the station was not a stationary place, we could never be sure of reaching it. Then a person who took the wrong road might reach, whereas a person going by the right road might not reach at all. Because the station is immobile, the roads to it can be determined.
If the world itself is unstable and ever-changing, it cannot have fixed rules. Therefore, science has to change its course once every four, five years.
Three hundred years ago, scientists used to say that their search was the search for truth. A few years ago, Bertrand Russell said, "Do not talk of absolute truth. Approximate truth is enough." But what is near-truth, approximate truth? What is the meaning of approximate love or approximate theft or approximate truth? It only means a truth which holds good for the time being. As soon as it does not serve our purpose, we shall have to look for some other non-truth to replace it. Approximate truth means that truth which has yet not been proven false.
This is only natural. It is very natural because the very subject that science deals in is ever-changing.
Lao Tzu says that there is also an eternal law. This law never changes. This is the second law. But to discover this law, we shall have to set aside every thing that changes. So the laws of religion do not change.
Many Western philosophers are baffled because of this. Buddha said something, Krishna said something else and Christ said something altogether different. Also, nowadays, many people in our country find Western thought to be more significant. It has been 2500 years since Buddha died.
How can the truth he preached still hold good? When, what was accepted as a fact by science a hundred years ago is no longer a fact, and even what was accepted by science as truth ten years ago is no longer considered true, then how can the words of Buddha, Mahavira, and Krishna still hold good? These people are right, because what they know as truth is forever changing. They have no knowledge of the truth that Krishna taught; they have no knowledge of the truth that Lao Tzu taught.
Lao Tzu talks of that truth where changing truths are dropped completely. That is the first condition that is fulfilled. The stream of constant change has been set aside. Religion has nothing to do with it. But it has everything to do with religion for it flows within it. It has nothing to do with the clouds.
Its search is for the sky in which clouds form and die. One may argue that since the clouds seen in the afternoon are not the same as those in the morning, and those of the evening are quite different from the clouds of noon, then which is this sky I am talking about? If the clouds change, the sky must be changing too. The sky is eternal. Whatever changes, changes within the sky; but the sky never changes.
This search for the sky, this search for inner space, is what Lao Tzu is talking about. Whenever a person attains this inner space, he attains his destiny. He attains that which after attaining, there is nothing more to be attained. He has reached home. He has found his house. Now there is no need to go anywhere because he has found what he was looking for.
Each person is in search of his home, whether he knows it or not. It is possible that he does not know what he is looking for. The fact is, he is ignorant of what he is seeking. If someone asks, "What are you seeking?" you will be very uncomfortable. So no one asks such impolite questions.
If someone insists on asking, you will be confused. When you get up in the morning, the question will stare you in the face. Why have you gotten up? What do you want? What are you searching for? We are absolutely ignorant about what we are seeking. And yet, the search is there. Some unknown shores keep calling, and do not let us rest.
It is not that we do not get rewarded for our worldly efforts. We achieve a great deal, but nothing satisfies us. The best thing in this world is for us to attain whatever we strive for. If not immediately, then a little later. But when it is attained we find it was not worth striving for. All our efforts were in vain for that which we attained did not fulfil us. He whose every desire is satisfied is the most miserable man in the world.
Just think, if God were to appear this very moment and say that all your desires are fulfilled, what would you do? Where would you go? What would you have to look forward to except death? And yet we are empty, unfulfilled within - because we have not yet begun to search for our destiny. Destiny means: the attainment of which brings satisfaction, fulfilment.
Understand the difference. That which you wish to attain may not necessarily be your destiny. It may be; it may not be. It can only be gauged after you attain it. If it gives you the sense of fulfilment, then you have attained your destiny. If not, you have not attained your destiny. Destiny means you have reached the supreme point where desires no longer are, where all search ends and there is absolute fulfilment.
A man seeks fame and gets it. Then he realizes that he has gained nothing except for the fact that people around him think well of him. That's all. A man attains a lot of wealth. Then it occurs to him that he has spent his whole life collecting these bits of gold. Now there is nothing he can do with it except make a garland of it and tie it around his neck; and, thus, make a noose for himself. There is nothing else he can do with it.
Bernard Shaw has said that those who have said that you shall be tortured in hell must have been very imaginative people. He says that if it were left to him, he would describe hell as a place where whatsoever you wish for you attain immediately Really there can be no hell bigger than this. One moment you desire something, and the next moment the desire is fulfilled. And yet, there is no sense of fulfilment within, because our desires are not the desires of our destiny.
Whatever we desire may perhaps not be our desire at all. Your neighbour buys a car and you too wish to possess a car. Your neighbour builds a house and you also wish to do the same. All our desires are borrowed; they are not our own. Destiny means the desire that is in your nature, that you have not borrowed from someone.
People live on borrowed desires. They run after them their whole life. Then, when the desire is attained, they find themselves as empty as ever. But they have no time to think about it because, by then, other people have passed on other desires to them.
Every man realises at death that he spent his whole life running after the fulfillment of other people's desires. Then he asks himself, "Did I have no destiny for myself? Did I not come to this earth to attain something? Was there no order in my being? The time has been spent in amassing wealth and gaining fame. But what was my destiny? What did I come here to attain?"
Lao Tzu says that destiny is attained the day a person attains the eternal law, the inner space within himself. "TO ATTAIN ONE'S DESTINY IS TO ATTAIN THE ETERNAL LAW. TO KNOW THE ETERNAL LAW IS ENLIGHTENMENT. AND NOT TO KNOW THE ETERNAL LAW IS TO COURT DISASTER."
All troubles are born by running after clouds. All the pains a man takes in order to attain a happiness that turns out to be no happiness on attainment, all the pains one takes to reach destinations that are only resting places from where one has to set out again, are all due to the fact that he does not know the eternal law.
Would that we only knew that there is an element within us that is changeless, eternal, and that we could establish our identity with it, be one with it. Then, no matter how many clouds fill the sky or how the storm thunders, there will be no shadow of a tremor within. There will be intense peace.
To attain this intense peace, I shall tell you three things. One, always use your discrimination in order to note the changes that take place within or without you; and also note that which does not change. Remember always, that what is significant is that which is changeless. All that changes is of no relevance, even if it is within you. Only that which does not change is valuable.
At all times, as you go about your work or as you walk on the road, concentrate on that within you which does not walk. The part of you that walks is all right, but there is something beyond that.
When eating, keep your mind on that within you that does not eat, that does not feel hungry. While going to bed at night, know that the body is tired and needs rest; but that there is that within you which never sleeps. In every act, remember the witness who is always observing all your acts.
When we are hungry we say. "I am hungry." From outside you may utter these words. But always remember within that the body is hungry; the stomach is demanding food. Consider yourself to be only an observer and never the doer. No sooner you become the doer you then are tied to the act. Then, when you are hungry, you will have to eat. When you stand apart from the body as an observer, and eat, you will feel that it is the body that has eaten, not you. Then, a mere spectator, an onlooker, is born who looks within. And then, life becomes one long play. The world of action becomes a drama, a stage. Passivity becomes your existence.
Attain passivity. Always keep passivity in mind. Let your mind always wander in the field of passivity.
We begin to see whatever it is that the mind is concentrating on. Scientists have spoken of a gestalt of awareness. For instance, sitting in this room, our mind concentrates on the walls of the room Then only the walls become significant, even though the eyes can see the doors and windows also.
But they don't count. Then, if we shift our attention to the emptiness of the room, the emptiness now becomes prominent. So in the same room, you can have two kinds of experiences.
This may be a little difficult to understand. Let us try another experiment. Hold three fingers of your hand before you and concentrate on the middle finger. Let the middle finger be the centre of your attention. The other two fingers will fade away from you, even though you can see them. Then shift your gaze to the two fingers. Make them the centre of your attention. You will find that now the middle finger has become insignificant. Then you will know that such a little change on the outside changes everything within you. When your attention is on the middle finger, the other two fingers are as if they are not there. They seem far away. When you concentrate on the two fingers, the middle finger fades away and becomes secondary.
Or, keep one hand over the other and move the hand that is on top. Feel yourself inside the hand that is moving. You will feel that the lower hand does not belong to you. Then shift your attention to the lower hand and feel yourself in it. Now move the top hand as before. You will find that it does not seem to belong to you. All this is to show you that a change in attention is a change of focus.
Both hands are mine. You cannot tell with which hand I am identifying myself at this moment. If I have identified myself with the upper hand that is moving, then the lower hand will be alien to me; I will not be the lower hand. The same becomes true of the lower hand if I shift my focus to that. For all purposes, nothing has changed on the outside but the inner focus has changed. I am wherever the flow of my attention is.
In the same way, when you eat; if you think that you are eating, it is one state. If you experience the body eating and you are merely watching it then the focus within will have changed. While walking on the road, if you feel that you are walking, that is one state of your mind. But if you think that you are watching the body walk, the focus changes immediately, the gestalt changes immediately.
If you wish to experience the passivity that Lao Tzu speaks of, you shall have to keep a constant eye on the inner space and not on the clouds. I,et the clouds form. Let them glide by. Keep your focus on the sky within.
What is this sky within you? You feel hungry. That is a cloud. It comes, it goes. You feel angry. That is a cloud. It comes and goes. Love comes. It is a cloud. It comes and goes. In the same way, joy and sorrow, honour and dishonour etcetera, come and go like the clouds. What is that which sees all? Concentrate on that. Let all channels of your thought be linked to this.
Be one with the observer. Break all connections with the doer. Be one with the observer and you will at once feel one with the inner space within, the passive sky. When this happens, all sorrows fade.
Death and change become as unreal as dreams. Lao Tzu says: "This alone is the eternal rule."