Search is an extraordinarily deceptive phenomenon is it not? Being dissatisfied with the present, we seek something beyond it. Aching with the present, we probe into the future or the past; and even that which we find is consumed in the present. We never stop to inquire into the full content of the present, but are always pursuing the dreams of the future; or from among the dead memories of the past we select the richest, and give life to it. We cling to that which has been, or reject it in the light of tomorrow, and so the present is slurred over; it is merely a passage to be gone through as quickly as possible
J Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living, Chapter 4, Third Series
Those who become aware of the limitations of the materialism at any point of their life, quickly become seekers. Seeing the impermanence of all sorrows, one wants to find out that which is permanent, call it by whatever name – Truth, God or Bliss. Some seekers may completely abandon all ties with the world and become ascetics or monks. Some move out in search of gurus, teachers and guides who they feel can give them enlightenment – directly or indirectly. Some may not seek personal contact with teachers and gurus but read books on spirituality, meditate, lose themselves in devotion or good work.
Gradually, the seeking starts building it’s own momentum, it’s own life, it’s own rituals, habitual patterns and dependencies. I have seen that spiritual groups are more cultish and closed than other secular interest groups.
If this is not enough, there are many more snares that our subconscious memories hide, and which present to ourselves as spiritual substitutes. Krushnamurti is eluding to them when he writes ” from among the dead memories of the past we select the richest, and give life to it”.
However, if one is really, deeply sincere and honest with oneself, all these movements are seen as false and negated. Or it may also be shown by someone whose words of truth we recognize. If one comes this far enough in dismantling all structures erected by the mind in the name of pursuing spirituality, one eventually comes to question the very purpose of the seeking. One turns one’s gaze to the seeker.
Even after having been a sincere student of Vedanta and after having understood the limitation of thought, I saw that my seeking was still continuing. It was on reading Krishnamurti, a decade after I had stopped reading him, I realized that my “seeker” had built another subtle identity. The seeker is the thinker, the observer, the experiencer. It is the past, memory functioning in the field of time, under a different garb. Krishnamurti helped me with the fundamental insight that it is “time” which is the fundamental problem. I have written about this in greater detail in my article Understanding Time and Memory
All our seeking is an operation in time (a projected future) and born out of time (a pre-conceived idea of memory/past). So, the seeking and the seeker have to be understood. It is the same old movement that is continuing. Truth has a chance when the seeking and the seeker end. It is the seeking that is creating conflict, an endless conflict between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’. Truth is not a matter of acquisition and time, no matter how cherished or haloed are imaginations are. And actually, it reminds me that the popular saying “Truth is stranger than fiction”, may really apply here :-). A mind that is seeking is always in conflict and such a mind can never find the immeasurable.
I am including a dialogue between Krishnamurti and an old man with a white beard (as K describes him :-)), an ascetic who had been out for the search of truth for the 55 years but who found nothing but sorrow, even after visiting and staying in dozens of ashrams of famous religious leaders as well as meditating in caves…
This is an extract from “Commentaries of Living, Third Series, Chapter 2” by J Krishnamurti.
He was a very old man with a white beard, and his lean body was scarcely covered by the saffronrobe of a sannyasi. He was gentle in manner and speech, but his eyes were full of sorrow – thesorrow of vain search. At the age of fifteen he had left his family and renounced the world, andfor many years he had wandered all over India visiting ashramas, studying, meditating, endlessly searching. He had lived for a time at the ashrama of the religious-political leader who had worked so strenuously for the freedom of India and had stayed at another in the south, where the chanting was pleasant. In the hall where a saint lived silently, he too, amongst many others, had remained silently searching. There were ashramas on the east coast and on the west coast where he had stayed, probing, questioning discussing. In the far north, among the snows and in the cold caves, he had also been; and he had meditated by the gurgling waters of the sacred river. Living among the ascetics, he had physically suffered, and he had made long pilgrimages to sacred temples. He was well versed in Sanskrit, and it had delighted him to chant as he walked from place to place.
”I have searched for God in every possible way from the age of fifteen, but I have not found Him, and now I am past seventy. I have come to you as I have gone to others, hoping to find God. I must find Him before I die – unless, indeed, He is just another of the many myths of man.” If one may ask, sir, do you think that the immeasurable can be found by searching for it? By following different paths, through discipline and self-torture, through sacrifice and dedicated service, will the seeker come upon the eternal? Surely, sir, whether the eternal exists or not is unimportant, and the truth of it may be uncovered later; but what is important is to understand why we seek, and what it is that we are seeking. Why do we seek?
”I seek because, without God, life has very little meaning. I seek Him out of sorrow and pain. I seek Him because I want peace. I seek Him because He is the permanent the changeless; because there is death, and He is deathless. He is order, beauty and goodness, and for this reason I seek Him.”
That is, being in agony over the impermanent we hopefully pursue what we call the permanent. The motive of our search is to find comfort in the ideal of the permanent, and this ideal is born of impermanency, it has grown out of the pain of constant change. The ideal is unreal, whereas the pain is real; but we do not seem to understand the fact of pain, and so we cling to the ideal, to the hope of painlessness. Thus there is born in us the dual state of fact and ideal, with its endless conflict between what is and what should be. The motive of our search is to escape from impermanency,from sorrow, into what the mind thinks is the state of permanency, of everlasting bliss. But that very thought is impermanent, for it is born of sorrow. The opposite, however exalted, holds the seed of its own opposite. Our search, then, is merely the urge to escape from what is.
”Do you mean to say that we must cease to search?”
If we give our undivided attention to the understanding of what is, then search, as we know it, may not be necessary at all. When the mind is free from sorrow, what need is there to search for happiness?
”Can the mind ever be free from sorrow?”
To conclude that it can or that it cannot be free is to put an end to all inquiry and understanding.We must give our complete attention to the understanding of sorrow and we cannot do this if we are trying to escape from sorrow, or if our minds are occupied in seeking the cause of it. There must be total attention, and not oblique concern.
When the mind is no longer seeking, no longer breeding conflict through its wants and cravings, when it is silent with understanding, only then can the immeasurable come into being.
The image has been taken from http://www.pinterest.com/pin/558798266239838266/