To discard wisdom and knowledge, humanity and justice, cunning and utility, is the negation. Lao Tzu looks upon these as the three illnesses. It is necessary to leave these, but it is not enough. It is essential, but not adequate. The positive has to be manifested.
It is not enough not to be ill in order to be healthy. It is necessary. If there is no illness, it is easier to be healthy. But the absence of illness is not health. Health has its own positive state. Just as in illness there is pain, in health there is joy. When there is no illness, you are outside of pain, but not within bliss. To be outside of pain is not to be one with bliss; they are not synonymous. Bliss is an uncovering of an inner benediction and blessing, an unfolding of the spontaneous blooming within.
Three things Lao Tzu has talked about are like illnesses. All illnesses come from outside; health comes from within. Illnesses are aggressions, health is our nature. The very word 'swasthya' (health) means to be fixed in one's self. No word of any other language explains health so correctly.
"swasthya" is a spiritual word also. It means to be established within one's self. Let us understand this in order to understand the sutra.
When there is illness, you are outside yourself. If a thorn pricks the foot, all our consciousness begins to revolve round the point where the thorn is. If we have a headache, all our attention is around the head. If the body aches, the consciousness goes around and around the body. Wherever there is pain, wherever there is any trouble, consciousness has to rush there. Therefore it is difficult for a sick person to understand that he is not the body, that he is the atman. If this is not clear to you also, know that you are ill.
The more ill a person is, the less spiritual he is bound to be. He is body-oriented, because in disease you are conscious of only the body: there is no sign of the atman. The whole mind is concentrated on the disease, and there is only one desire within: how to be rid of the malady. There is no expectation of joy whatsoever. If the disease can be got rid of it is more than can be hoped for.
But to be devoid of suffering is not to become joyful. As the pain draws us outside, so bliss takes us within. If a man does not step out of his house, roam the streets, go out in the world, do not think he has entered within himself. He can keep standing at the door. A man who stands at the door is neither in nor out. Similarly, a man who is neither suffering nor joyful is standing at the door. If he just stands between the two, he will become cheerless, disconsolate. Then neither pain draws him, nor is there the music of bliss within him. Only a dejected indifference is there.
Lao Tzu says that if these three illnesses are got rid of - and it is necessary to be rid of them - then the inward opening can be affected. We should not take it for granted that by leaving these three we have reached the destination. This is only the negation. What was wrong has been discarded but as yet the right has not been attained. To attain the right is a different dimension, altogether a different journey. He who holds on to the wrong never attains the right. At the same time, he who has discarded the wrong has not necessarily attained the right. The wrong has to be discarded, but merely leaving the wrong and making no further effort does not help one to attain the right.
In this sutra, Lao Tzu has tried to reveal the positivity of life, the inner well-being. These three illnesses he has talked about are external and inadequate. People need something to hold on to in their journey.
People hold on to these three diseases for this very reason; they want a support, something to lean on. When these supports are snatched away they find themselves in difficulty, because how can they live without support? One man lives in order to acquire knowledge. As he progressed, he feels he is developing, attaining something. This is his support. One man lives for humanity, morality, justice, religion. He serves mankind. This is his support. One man lives for material gains, for wealth, for status, for fame. This is his support. All these people need a prop, a support, in order to live. But Lao Tzu says, "Leave all three."
It is very difficult to be without an anchor. Then we feel, "How should we live?" What should we do?"
We let go of the wrong, and the hands become empty. Lao Tzu agrees that empty hands need an anchor, need a support, but if this support is from the outside again, it will be no better than the ones that have been discarded. This support should now be an internal support, your very own from your inner self.
Therefore Lao Tzu says: "REVEAL THY SIMPLE SELF. EMBRACE THY ORIGINAL NATURE, CHECK THY SELFISHNESS, CURTAIL THY DESIRES." Let us take these one by one.
"REVEAL THY SIMPLE SELF." When our hands are emptied from the external world and there is no object left for the mind, then the full current of consciousness can be directed towards the self.
When the eyes no longer look outside, the full power of seeing can be circulated within. When the life-energy is not directed to attaining the external objects, its full power and movement can be utilised for the journey within.
To reveal the self means that all your senses that were, till, now running in and out, all your mind which was, till now, occupied and attracted to the attainment of distant things, all your attention that was, till now, running after everything except your own self, now have to be directed towards your own self. This can only be understood and accomplished if the first three things are discarded.
You sit with your eyes closed, but what you see are external things. You see the world outside, and not any thing that is within you. Close your ears and the sounds you hear are of the outside world.
You withdraw your attention from the outside and yet it keeps running outward. This is because of the three things had been mentioned previously. These three outside supports have not broken yet.
Because of constant practice and the habit of previous births, the mind keeps running out towards these. Lao Tzu says: "If these three are broken, all the senses can be made to enter within."
Close the eyes and concentrate on one thing; that you will not see any external object. Pictures will appear before the mind's eye because of the old habit, but know that they are from the outside and you are not prepared to see them. Tell yourself time and again that you are not interested; they have no attraction for you. If you stop taking interest in these pictures, you will find that they will get less and less. They appear because you call them.
No guest comes to the mind unless invited. Nothing can force itself into the mind; your invitation is necessary. It is quite possible that you have forgotten your invitation; or that you have changed your mind afterwards; or that you have no idea when and how, in which unconscious moment you extended the invitation. But the fact remains that whatever comes to your mind is what you have called. Not a single happening of the mind takes place for which you are not responsible.
If you find yourself committing crimes in your dreams and indulging in all sorts of outrages, it is because you have wanted to do so; but you have hidden it from your own self. You get up in the morning and say it was a mere dream and of no consequence. But the dreams are yours and they are not without reason. You have invented them, you have called them. So never underrate them.
Dreams tell you about yourself, they inform you about what lies in the folds of your mind. The mind is with you. In the day time you can suppress it but in the night it begins to work.
Psychologists say that if you do not dream you will go mad. This is right. Whatever you suppress during the day is thrown out in the night - a catharsis takes place. Once we believed that if a man is not allowed to sleep for a number of days he goes mad. Now it has been discovered that it is not lack of sleep but because he cannot dream that he goes crazy. Many experiments have been carried out to this effect and this is a proven fact.
You see many dreams at night. There is a chain of twelve. Twelve times you enter into the dream- state. In between, you fall into deep sleep. Psychologists have experimented on hundreds of people.
It is now possible to know by the movements of the eyes when you are asleep and when you are dreaming. We now have machines to measure the intensity of eye-movements. When you dream, the pupils of the eyes move in the same way as when you see a film. A dream is a film. When the pupils do not move, that is when there is no dream the pupils stop. When a person is dreaming and when he is not.
Psychologists have experimented on people for several years. Whenever a person began to dream he was woken up. In seven days' time he became almost insane. Then, this same man was woken up when he was not dreaming. Every time he stopped dreaming he would be prevented from sleeping. After seven days it was found that he was as healthy as ever. There was no difference at all.
Psychologists say that no one suffers because of lack of sleep. We suffer because of our inability to dream. If we cannot throw out the junk we collect throughout the day and it keeps collecting within our unconscious, it can make you insane. Dreams are not without a reason. They are yours; you yourself are in them. So when you close your eyes and begin to see things, it is because of your interest in them.
Stop being interested in them. That is the first step towards revealing the self. Let the pictures come and watch them disinterestedly, become passive. Keep looking; it does not matter. Just like when a man who is seeing a film is suddenly informed that his medical report shows he is suffering from cancer - this man's interest in the film will be completely lost. The film still continues, and he is looking at it, but now it does not appeal to him, it doesn't hold his attention. In the same manner, when we break away from these three things, the interest, the appeal, will be lost. The old habit will continue to produce the film, but you will no longer be interested.
Be disinterested in these inner dreams. As your disinterestedness increases, the pictures will become less and less. You will begin to notice the intervening gaps. Then suddenly you will find that your attention is focused on your own self. Your light falls on you; your lamp is revealing yourself. It is the same lamp, the same light that illumined the outside world for you. When the outside world no longer exists, the light of the lamp begins to fall on you.
Close your ears and sit. Outside noises will fall on your ears. You will hear bits of your past conversation with your friends; some long forgotten song will come to your mind and you will actually hear it. Listen to everything disinterestedly. Do not begin to hum the tune to yourself even in your mind. Be passive; do not react to these stimulants. After some time, after a few days, the ears will become silent. There will be no sound. And that day, for the first time, you will hear the sound of the silence within.
Each sense can be turned inwards. Take fragrance for instance. There is a fragrance within which we do not know of. Perhaps that is the real fragrance. But our noses are filled with the fragrance outside and it does not occur to us that there is a fragrance within, the fragrance of the atman.
All senses can be experienced within. Understand the senses well because they are a two-way traffic. The senses are joined to you within and also joined to the world outside. That is how it can bring the news of the world to you; otherwise you would have no knowledge of the world. But we use the senses as one-way traffic. We only take the news of the outside world from them and never of the inside world.
Lao Tzu says: "REVEAL THY SIMPLE SELF." As we see the vast skies above, the moon and the stars, and the flowers and trees and the multitude of faces which are all an experience of the great expanse outside, so also we can experience the profound expanse of the great void within. But for this, we shall have to transform our attention. The outgoing mind has to be called back within; it has to come back home.
The last resting place of this inward journey is the revelation of the self. It is the revelation of knowledge of the self.
Lao Tzu is interested only in the natural. He holds on to it in the same manner as Kabir. Kabir says; "Sadhi sahaj samadhi bhati." In every song, Kabir lays stress on the 'sahaja' (the natural, the spontaneous,). Keep this word 'sahaja' in mind.
If I create a concept of the self before beginning my inward journey, it will not be my natural self. For example, if I come to visit you with a preconceived notion about you, then I will see you through the screen of my preconceived notion. This will not be your true natural self because my notions about you will be mixed with it. I may have come with the notion that you are a very good man. You may look like a good man to me, but perhaps you are not a good man. Perhaps it is the exaggeration of my notions about you. When I have come with a fixed view that you are a good man, then I see only that which proves my point.
Then I begin to select. I will not see all that is wrong in you, I will see only that which is right.
I will keep adding the good points till my concept about you becomes strong and increases a thousandfold. Then you appear to me to be a great sadhu. Now, whether this is your actual nature or not is quite another matter. In the same manner, if I have decided beforehand that you are a bad person, I will pick out all the bad points in you. So when we see, we see only a selection, and hence we cannot see the truth. We choose what suits us even to be truth.
If someone tells you Buddha is a bad person and he convinces you, then when you go to Buddha you will not find Buddha anywhere. You will only go and confirm that he is a bad man you set out to see. Man's greatest difficulty is that he proves what he believes. His belief becomes a fact. Our beliefs appear as truths to us and we follow our own concepts. We even construct concepts about our own selves.
Lao Tzu and Kabir, or others who have a concept of the natural (SAHAJA), say that to reveal the simple self within, you have to proceed without any preconceived notions. Otherwise you will experience only your preconceived notions. One man believes it will be like this and like this - and he invariably experiences what he expected to see. But that will not be the truth. It is a play of his own concepts, an illusion of his own mind, his own projection.
We all have our own views about the atman. Some believe that the atman has a certain form, some that it has a certain colour, some already know what kind of an experience it is going to be. If you go within, with any of your expectations, the experience will not be of the atman but of your own projections.
Therefore Lao Tzu says: have no conceptions when you go within. Be absolutely empty. Go with a free vision. Wear no coloured glasses or else you will see the same colours in the atman. That is why different religions in the world have described different experiences. These are not authentic experiences; they are coloured by the colour of their conceptions.
There is another difficulty with the journey within: you have to travel alone. You cannot check in with someone, you cannot compare your experiences with another; you cannot even ask whether you are on the right or wrong path. If you go to the market and you choose something because it is yellow in colour - if others insist it is not yellow, you will become afraid that you have become colour-blind. But in the inner world you have to be alone. So any preconceptions are dangerous for there is. no way to check with others. No one is in a position to tell you what you see and what you don't see. You are absolutely alone.
Because of this absolute aloneness, you have to be relieved of every single preconception or else there is no way of correcting your illusions. In the outside world, we correct our - selves by the example of others.
Mulla Nasruddin went to the tavern with his son. Both began to drink. Mulla began to advise his son, "You must know when you should stop drinking" he told him. "I shall tell you how to decide. See those two men sitting at the next table? When they appear to be four to you, you have reached the limit."
The boy turned and looked at the men. "I see only one person on that table!" he told his father.
Nasruddin had already taken a bit too much. He was already seeing two in place of one. And he was advising his son! The son could see for himself that there was only one person at the table. In the outside world we can check things, weigh them.
Therefore, science has been able to lay down laws whereas. religion cannot. Each man has to enter on his journey alone. And there are very few people who start their inward journey without any preconceptions - some Buddha or Lao Tzu. Otherwise the Hindu enters the inward path as a Hindu, the Mohammedan as a Mohammedan, the Christian as a Christian. You take all your concepts and teachings along with you and then you see within what you have set out to see. Illusions are easy to create within oneself because there is no one there but you.
Therefore, time and again, Lao Tzu stresses the simple self. By "simple" he means devoid of all concepts. Lao Tzu goes even a step further. He says, "Do not go within even with the belief that the atman is there, for that also becomes a preconception."
When anyone asked Buddha, "Does the atman exist or not?" he would reply, "Go within and see for yourself. If I say it exists, it would be wrong. If I say it does not, that also would be wrong."
The man would say, "How can both be wrong?"
Buddha would say, "Both would be wrong in both cases I will be giving you a concept. If you go within with the knowledge that the atman is, you will experience the atman even if it does not exist.
And if you go with the knowledge that there is no atman, you will not have any inkling of it even if it is there."
Man gets captured and enslaved within the capsule of his own concepts. Once he is caught within his own beliefs, nothing can free him. The biggest jail-house is that of our own beliefs and ideas. So Lao Tzu or Buddha would say: "Do not believe anything. Simply go within. Whatever is, know that; whatever you meet, see. Do not acquaint yourself with the unacquainted prematurely. Do not cover the unknowable with your knowledge. Let the stranger remain a stranger. It is not proper to know anything about it before you know it."
This is the meaning of the simple self. Therefore Buddha never talked of Ishwara or atman. Buddha seemed to be an atheist. This was natural. He did not believe in God but he did not believe in the atman either. Buddha said, "I believe only in the void." But you can build no concept on emptiness.
If you think you can, it will not be shunya (emptiness). Whatever can be conceived becomes an object. Emptiness has no shape and hence cannot be conceived. We have many concepts of God.
Look at the number of idols we have created. We also have many concepts of the atman.
There are many peculiar concepts about the atman. Some say it is in the shape of our thumb: some say it is in the shape of our body. Still others say it is like a fluid; it assumes the form of whatever it enters. In the human body it takes a human form; in an ant it takes the form of an ant; in an elephant it assumes the form of an elephant.
But what is the concept of shunya (void)? Shunya means that which cannot be conceived.
Buddha has said, "If you want to know my belief, my faith, I have faith in only one thing; shunya (emptiness). And because I do not wish to create any concept in you, I say that I do not know whether there is an atman within or not. But one thing is certain - there is emptiness within you.
Enter the emptiness. Do not ask me what this emptiness is like, for emptiness is that which is not.
How can you express that which has no form, no colour, no shape?"
Lao Tzu says: "REVEAL THY SIMPLE SELF." Do not heed religious teachers and pundits who educate you about the form of the atman, who say that the atman is like this or the atman is like that.
Leave all thoughts about the atman that you have gathered and enter within, so that that which is can be revealed.
"REVEAL THY SIMPLE SELF. EMBRACE THY ORIGINAL NATURE." Do not ask what your nature is like. If you ask, you go astray, because for then a concept will be formed. Do not ask, do not even think, do not seek. Just enter within and taste it for yourself.
Buddha has said, "The ocean is salty wherever you taste it." At no time, nowhere, has the ocean water tasted otherwise. The emptiness within also tastes the same to whomever tastes it. But this taste is like the dumb man who tastes candy. He cannot tell what the taste is like. Man has no words to express the taste of the emptiness. It is so enormous that all words fall short of it. So do not ask.
Step within, embrace that which is so close to you, be immersed in it. Drown!
But we set out in search. We seek even the atman in the outside world. Even when we seek our own selves we ask others. It is as if we were to ask a stranger the way to our own house! Can any insensitivity be greater than this?
Whenever we ask another, our experience of the self becomes adulterated. Yet we are willing to accept this, because to believe the other is a very natural desire in an ignorant person. The knowledge is cheap. It is free, easily available. Self-knowledge entails a great deal of effort and labour. We have to proceed ourselves.
Secondhand knowledge acquired from others will not do in the quest for truth. You have to lay down the load, unburden yourself of all concepts. You have to enter within as if your boat has capsized and you are thrown on an unknown island. You do not know where you are; you know nothing about this place. Each step is an adventure in a strange land. Like Robinson Crusoe, you will have to discover everything yourself. This is the meaning of the simple self. With each step you will discover things as they are within, you will taste the original taste of the emptiness.
Pseudo-tastes can also be created outside. You must have seen a hypnotist working. If you have not, you can try this experiment. Make a child lie down and suggest to him that he is falling asleep.
It is not only with children that you can do this. Thirty per cent of people can be worked upon in this way. In a short while, the child will fall asleep. Hold an onion before him and say, "This is an apple, a delicious apple. Eat it." The child will eat it and smack his lips. He will say it is tasty.
This is hypnotism. But in everyday things we also hypnotise ourselves. Do you remember what you felt when you took the first puff from a cigarette? But since everybody smokes, it must be enjoyable.
When you took your first sip of coffee did you enjoy it? This is nothing but hypnotism.
And we are told taste has to be cultivated! When you drink coffee for the first time you will find it bitter. It is no fault of the coffee. You are not refined; you are uncultured. Keep taking coffee over a period of time and you will develop the taste. Then it will be difficult for you to remain without coffee.
What has happened? You have hypnotised yourself, you have been hypnotised by your friends and even by the advertisements of the Coffee Board. Now coffee has become delicious. But this taste is false; it is not authentic.
In the same way, the inner taste can also be false. Therefore Lao Tzu exhorts us to embrace the simple self within.
If you are impressed by Mahavira - and people like Mahavira are impressive; it is very difficult not to be impressed by them - then you sway to his music, you get carried away by his fragrance, you lose yourself in him. Then you catch hold of his words. You take these words and go within. You will get the same taste that Mahavira has spoken about. But this taste will be false. It will be like the taste of coffee - cultivated. The words echo within you. Mahavira's image is established within you; the idea of Mahavira has taken hold of you. Now you will live in this hypnosis. But this experience will not be the experience of the self.
Mahavira has also said that this is not self-realisation. He told his followers, "You will not attain the self unless you leave me." What did he mean by this? What he meant to say was: "Let my words inspire you, but let them not become your conceptions. Let my words arouse the thirst within you but let them not become the water to quench your thirst."
This distinction must be understood well. My words should awaken the thirst within you, but they should not become the water. You should not become satisfied by quenching your thirst with the water of my words. Otherwise you will be cheated out of your finding your own means to quench the inner thirst.
In spiritual life it is profitable to be influenced and it is also profitable to be non-influenced. You should be competent enough to arouse the thirst and alert enough not to come within the hold of the words. The guru's words should not become your burden.
Lao Tzu says: "Be alert, be natural and embrace your atman. RENOUNCE YOUR SELFISHNESS AND CURTAIL YOUR DESIRES." What is meant by selfishness? Not what we usually mean, because he has told us to discard that long ago. When he has already told us to banish wisdom and discard utility, selfishness does not mean the same thing as we know it to mean. It has a profounder meaning. We discarded selfishness when we gave up our habit of viewing things from a utilitarian angle.
Then what does Lao Tzu mean by selfishness? Here, the meaning of selfishness is self- centredness. An ordinary man's trouble in life is that he is self-centred. If he loves someone it is with a purpose. It is this purpose that destroys his life. We are all self-centered and we employ many subtle means to this end.
Mulla Nasruddin knocked at the door of a very wealthy man. The man opened the door. Mulla said, "A man is in great debt, he is dying. Help him."
The man took out a rupee and gave it to him saying, "Your thoughts are virtuous, go and help him."
Mulla took the rupee. As he was going away the man asked him, "May I know the name of this poor man?"
The Mulla said, "It is myself."
After a fortnight the Mulla went again. This time the man looked at him intently and said, "It seems that someone is neck-deep in debt."
The Mulla said, "You are right."
"He is a very poor man," said the master of the house.
"You are right again," said Nasruddin.
"And I suppose that man is you?" he asked again.
"No," said Nasruddin, "you are wrong this time."
The wealthy man said, "I am glad to hear that," and he gave the Mulla two rupees.
Then, as Mulla went down the steps he called out, "Can I ask you a question good man? I understand the inspiration behind your generosity last time but what is the motive behind your sense of compassion and service this time?"
The Mulla replied, "This time the creditor is myself. The debtor is a very poor man; he cannot repay me. So I am going about collecting funds so that he can pay me. Do you understand now?"
If we look beneath all acts of charity and service we shall find self-interest at the root of it. We all live in self-interest.
A man leaves his house, family and business and goes to the forest. He cannot have any self- interest; he has removed himself from the mundane world. But Lao Tzu says this is height of self- centredness. He is insistent on seeking his self, on attaining liberation, on finding bliss and being rid of pain. This is selfishness concerning the other world. It is plain and simple self-centredness because this man is also worried only about his own self.
Lao Tzu tells us to drop this also, for this too is a hindrance in knowing the self. If I make an investment in knowing my self, if I feel that by attaining the self I shall obtain bliss then my eagerness, my interest, will not be in attaining the atman but in attaining bliss. If I can attain bliss without going through the arduous task of knowing the self, I shall never take the trouble of finding the self. If someone were to tell you that you will know the self but you will not attain bliss, what then?
It has been said that Junnaid, a Sufi fakir, went to his guru. The guru asked, "What have you come for? Answer in one sentence. I do not like too much talk."
Junnaid thought all night. In the morning the guru called him. Junnaid said, "I want to know myself."
The guru said, "If you have to undergo untold pain and hardship in the quest, would you still want to know yourself?"
Junnaid said, "I want to know myself in order to attain bliss."
"Go and think again," said the guru. "When you are in search of ananda, why do you say you are seeking your self? If you seek ananda (bliss) and if it can be attained without the self, what is the purpose of knowing the self?"
Nietzsche has said that people are caught in the clutches of religions because they think they can attain bliss through them No one is concerned about either God or the soul or truth. The day you tell them religion has nothing to do with bliss, it will be difficult to differentiate between the worldly and the religious. They both run for the same purpose. They seem to be running in different directions, but the goal is the same.
One man amasses wealth, because he thinks he can gain happiness through it. One man prays because he feels prayers lead to happiness. No matter how contrary these two may seem in their actions, they are not contrary. Their thinking is the same and their journey is also the same. There is not the slightest difference.
Lao Tzu says: give up selfishness. If you want to know your self and experience the simple, the natural, do not build any expectations on it; that by knowing the self, I will attain this or that. There should be no thought of attainment, no self-interest. This is difficult, but is not difficult to transfer our self-interest from the mundane world to moksha (liberation); it is not difficult to shift our self-interest from wealth to religion. It is very easy.
The truth is that the more greedy a man, the easier he can become religious. It is easy to make him understand: "What are these pebbles you are gathering? Will all this gold and silver go with you when you die? If you want real wealth, give to charity, which will stand you in good stead after death." If you are a small-time miser you may perhaps feel; "We'll see what happens after death."
If your greed is intense you will deliberate: "If these coins are useless after death, let me convert some into the currency that works there." So the greater the greed, the quicker you will become religious because now your greed has acquired a new dimension where it can expand. But only those who have no greed can enter the realm of religion. They are not interested in liberation, in bliss or heaven.
Lao Tzu says: drop your selfishness. This selfishness is of another plane. Here, it is mentioned in connection with self-knowledge. Do not think of bliss. Who knows whether you will attain it or not attain it? Who knows what you will attain there? There is no guarantee of what you will find there.
You set out to know with the simple knowledge that you are.
Not to know oneself is a great absurdity. I am, but I do not know who I am! You set out to know yourself for this reason alone: that you do not know who you are, even though you are. Let there not be any other self-interest. Do not hope to attain joy, do not hope to attain immortality or tranquillity or even to solve the mystery of life. Attach no strings to knowing the self. He who does so has still his eyes on some attainment so he will be going around and around outside of himself. He will fail to go within. He alone can go within who has no desires left. Therefore Lao Tzu says: "CHECK THY SELFISHNESS: CURTAIL THY DESIRES."
These desires are the desires of a spiritual man. The desires of the mundane man ended with the first sutras. "Spiritual desires - this appears contradictory. We cannot imagine that there can be spiritual desires. As long as these desires persist, spirituality cannot be born within a person. Those whom we call sannyasins are invariably people who have left their carnal desires and have caught hold of spiritual desires. The authentic sannyasin is one who has no desires, neither worldly nor spiritual.
Jesus' death was near at hand. He was going to be captured by the soldiers that night. In the last moment, as his disciples began to depart, one of them asked: "In the kingdom of God, you shall be seated beside God. Where shall we, your followers, be seated?" These people may have gathered around Jesus because of his promise of the kingdom of heaven. The word "kingdom" must have enticed their greed. They must have been filled with the desire of attaining happiness. They left the mundane world for a better bargain.
The so-called champions of religion always teach people: "What is there in this impermanent world?"
If they were to be asked, "If it was not impermanent, then would it have everything?" - then what?
They say, "What is man? He is a collection of flesh and bones." If he had gold and silver within, then what? These preachers only help to incite the greed within you by changing the dimensions of your desire. Their main question is what is in it for you? They are not opposed to desires at all. The place where you have centered your desires is perishable. So they say remove your desires from there and fix them on the eternal.
Lao Tzu does not suggest changing the direction of your desires. He tells you to eradicate them.
Understand this difference well.
I am running after wealth. Somebody reasons with me, "What is this madness? What is there in wealth? Tomorrow you will die. And then? Death will surely come; it is inevitable. If you must run, run after God who is the real wealth!"
My greed totters. I begin to think, "I may amass wealth but death is a certainty. Money works everywhere but death accepts no bribes. I cannot escape death. Then what should I do? I shall run after God." The struggle continues; only the subject changes. The goal is changed; the desire is the same.
People like Lao Tzu say, "Do not run!" They do not say: the world is meaningless; God alone is meaningful, therefore, do not run. That would be selfishness. It would mean that those who are more cunning would strive to attain God. Those who are less cunning strive to gain wealth. Those who are calculating do not indulge in small things. Those who are foolish indulge in lesser things.
"What? You are building a house on earth"? How foolish! Make it in heaven. It will be everlasting.
So the whole thing becomes a play between more cunning and less cunning people.
Therefore Lao Tzu is very emphatic when he says: "Leave cunning, leave selfishness, curtail your desires." If any desire remains in the spiritual sense, be it in any direction, the wandering remains.
Stop! Do not run.
What is the meaning of desire? It means to run to attain something that is far away. I am here; what I want is there: there is a distance in between. To cover this distance is the meaning of desire. I am here; you are there. I want to attain you. There is a distance between us which I have to cover.
When I shall cover it I do not know but in my mind I can cross this distance this very moment. I desire a palace. When I can fulfil my desire is unknown but in my mind I will begin to live in the palace.
Desire is the remedy to remove the distance. Desire is the bridge between me and my goal. The goal is like a rainbow. It is visible but does not exist.
He who is filled with desires can never be established in his self. He is always somewhere else, far far away. He can be anywhere but within himself. Where there is desire there is struggle. Where there is no desire there is no running. You stand within yourself, you live within yourself. If you are not trying to attain something, why should you run? You will stop. This state is called samadhi.
Desire is running outside of ourselves. Therefore desirelessness is necessary for self-knowledge.
Lao Tzu says: "CURTAIL THY DESIRES." But this is very alarming! If someone suggests that we change our desires, we will be ready. If we are told, "Leave the women of this world. What is there in them? In heaven there are celestial nymphs," the mind is delighted at the prospect. But devas must be there to replace the women on earth. What is there in earthly wine? There are springs of wine in heaven. You can drink it, you can bathe in it, you can swim in it. But remember, if you wish to attain this wine in heaven, you have to give up this miserable concoction what is available on earth. It is a bargain. Those who are cunning fall prey to this deal.
Many times I find that a drunkard is more simple than a sadhu. It should be the other way round.
The drunkard is guileless, he is ignorant, he does not know the mathematics. He does not know what he is doing: he is giving up the eternal wine for this miserable liquid! The clever fellow bides his time. He stands with his rosary, and when the time comes he will jump in the eternal springs and fulfil his thirst. But this is a bargain, and in matters of religion there is no bargaining. This very attitude reeks of desire. Desire hides behind it.
You perform your daily puja. For what? You renounce one thing and another, you meditate, you donate to charity. For what? If you have an answer to this question, desires still remain. If you say there is no reason, no reason whatever, then you do not bargain. Then prayer in itself is enough joy.
Prayer is bliss in itself. There is joy in giving.
If you give with the idea of attaining happiness, then it is a desire. If giving is a pleasure, it is religious. If giving is with a motive, it is a bargain. If giving is a joy, there is no ledger where we keep accounts of how much has been given. We make no preparation for any heaven. If, tomorrow we find ourselves in hell, we do not complain and bring our ledgers to prove. We gave, there w?s joy in giving. The deal is complete. What could be attained ,by prayer is attained in the very moment of prayer. Those who do not attain in that moment never attain.
In this world, cause and effect are closely connected. If I put my hand in fire, I will burn myself. If I do not burn my hand now, I will never burn it. If you have prayed now, the bliss of prayer showers on you as you pray. Outside the act of prayer there is no attainment. If there is an idea of attainment, prayer also becomes a desire.
If there is no thought of attainment, every act becomes a prayer. Each act is complete in its doing.
We do not carry anything forward. Our connections are severed from the moment that is gone.
There is no bargaining. There is nothing in that moment on the strength of which we demand for this moment.
The worldly man always makes transactions. He who makes transactions is very much in the world.
It does not matter what the commodity - wealth or heaven - because a deal is a deal. A spiritual man never negotiates. He lives from moment to moment; he lives totally. Lao Tzu tells us to do away with desires because they do not let you rise above the world of transactions. Then whatever you do is with an eye to some ultimate gain.
Someone asked Omar Khayyam, "You have sung so many songs. Why?" Omar Khayyam said, "Go ask the flowers, the rose that blooms, why? Ask the stars. They twinkle at night. Why? Ask the wind. It has been blowing since time began. Why?"
In nature there is no purpose anywhere. Except for man, everything in the world is purposeless.
But amongst men, only two types of people are purposeless: one whom we call insane and another whom we call 'paramhansa', one whose intelligence is in disorder and one who has gone beyond intelligence. There is some similarity between the mad man and the paramhansa, some qualities within them are the same. This quality is the quality of purposelessness.
Lao Tzu says: abandon all these: selfishness, purposelessness, bargaining, desires, and you shall be able to embrace your innate nature. You will be able to become established within yourself. And except for this - establishment in one's own self - there is no other religion.
But we think of even the greatest things in terms of attainment only. People come and ask, "What will we gain by meditation?" What should I tell them? Only one answer is the right answer. "By meditation you shall attain meditation." But this is useless! It would seem like a tautology and what can it solve?
They will ask again what will be attained from the meditation that is attained by meditation? They want an answer in rupees, annas and paise.
Maharshi Mahesh Yogi has impressed many in the West because his answers are substantial.
He says, "You will attain wealth, you will gain success, you will gain health." The Americans were satisfied: the transaction was clear. Meditation leads to wealth and success. Then meditation can be sold in the marketplace. People like Lao Tzu cannot be sold in the marketplace. If you ask him what is the attainment he will say, "You are not yet qualified to be given an answer." What are you asking? It is as if you could ask, "What can be attained through love?" Then you disqualify yourself - even in the case of love. You are only fit to gather shells on the shore." What answer can be given to such a person? What will he understand even if he is answered? Nothing.
People ask, "What is to be attained from religion? What is to be gained by prayer? What will we obtain from meditation?" They do not know that when a man leaves the language of negotiation, only then can he enter the realm of religion. As long as he asks, he stays in the mundane world.
If we are assured of some solid gain, we shall be ready to run towards God. All we want is to run, to struggle. To stop is very stifling for the mind; it becomes restive. So people like Lao Tzu frighten us.
Confucius returned from his visit to Lao Tzu a frightened man. When his disciples asked him what sort of man Lao Tzu was he said, "He is not like a man. He is like a lion! You go to him and each hair on your body trembles, you break into a sweat. Do not ever go to him. He shakes your very soul. One look of his and your life-breath trembles like a leaf!"
This is bound to be. Lao Tzu makes you tremble, because what he says is the ultimate. He does not care to tarry over lesser things. He never answers petty questions. He will not even say that meditation gives you peace. If you want peace, take a tranquilliser and go to sleep! Why hanker after meditation?
But even when people come seeking meditation, they come for peace; they come for health. All kinds of people come, but they all come with desires. We treat our temples no better than our brothels. We also go there filled with desire. Wherever we approach with desire we turn that place into a brothel because we wish to buy something. We throw coins in temples and take care that the sound is loud enough so that it may vibrate in all corners of the temple and if God is anywhere around He may know of it that you have donated a whole rupee!
Bodhidharma left India. When he went to China the king called him and said, "I have built lakhs of temples, I give lakhs as bhiksha to the bhikshus, I have translated all works of Buddha into the Chinese language, I have distributed lakhs of Buddha's idols. I have done a great deal to spread Buddha's religion. Tell me, Bodhidharma, what shall I gain from all this? What honour will I attain?"
But he asked the wrong man. There were thousands of bhikshus who would have given him an answer to please his ears. They would have said: "God's grace is on you, oh king, there has not been one like you before in this world! The gods and the Buddhas are showering blessings on you.
You shall attain the ultimate bliss of religion!" The king made a mistake in asking Bodhidharma. He took him to be an ordinary bhikshu. But people like Bodhidharma only come once in a while, so the mistake was only natural.
Bodhidharma said, "Shut up! Now that you have asked, you will not get even that which you might have got. You asked and therefore you lost."
The king was upset. He became restless. Perhaps Bodhidharma did not quite understand. He said again, "I have done so much. And all to no avail? I will get nothing in return?"
"Desire of reward is a sin," said Bodhidharma. "Forget what you have done or you will be crushed under the weight of all your good deeds!" Bodhidharma advised him, "We are not crushed by the weight of our sins alone. The burden of virtuous deeds also kill. A load of any kind drowns a man.
A man tries to shake off his sins sometime, but he holds on to his good deeds like a vice. These are stones round your neck, oh king! Drop them. Let them go!"
The king, however, did not like this. Our desires will never approve of such advice. King Wu did not appreciate Bodhidharma's advice. Bodhidharma said, "I shall not enter your kingdom. I shall go back. I thought you had understood religion and therefore took joy in spreading it. I did not know that religion was a transaction to you." Bodhidharma never entered Wu's kingdom. He went to the other side of the river.
King Wu was restless. For a long time he had awaited the coming of Bodhidharma, who was of the stature of Lao Tzu and Buddha. How he had disappointed him! He tore his hopes into shreds. If he had only sealed his actions with his approval and told him that the gates of heaven were already open for him, that his liberation was certain, he would have been so happy!
If desires alone are our pleasure there is no place for us at the entrance of religion. If to be desireless is our only pleasure, then only can we enter. Desirelessness is a necessary state for religion, It is not a matter of petty desires alone; deep and mysterious desires hold the mind captive.
A man came up to Buddha and said, "If I meditate, perform sadhanas, how long will I take to become like you?"
Buddha replied, "As long as the thought of becoming like me persists, it will be difficult. This thought is a hindrance. Leave it, Meditate but not with the thought of becoming like me."
Some other person came and asked Buddha, "Amongst your 10,000 bhikshus, how many are like you?" Buddha replied, "Many." "But they cannot be seen," the man said.
Buddha replied, "They themselves do not know it."
The man still asked, "But you must be knowing it. So none of them are like you."
Buddha gave an unusual reply. He said, "I committed some sins in my last birth. As a result of this I had to be born as a teacher. I am completing my penance."
Among Jainas there is a full scripture on this subject. Because of certain actions, a man is born a Tirthankara. The last bondage of certain actions brings the Tirthankara into the world. Then he has to teach people in order to cut the bondage.
Buddha said, "Because af some past actions, I have had to bear the burden of being a teacher. So I have to go through this. We each bear the fruit of our actions."
Buddha had done no such thing. He was completely lost in the shunya. Within him there was no one who could explain. Everything was lost; all was empty!
When everything is thus lost, everything fades away. There are no desires, there is no self-interest.
Then the emptiness that arises out of it is your nature, it is the Tao.