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Series I - Chapter 40 - “My Path and Your Path”
Series I - Chapter 40 - “My Path and Your Path”
HE WAS A scholar, spoke many languages, and was addicted to knowledge as another is to drink. He was everlastingly quoting the sayings of others to bolster up his own opinions. He dabbled in science and art, and when he gave his opinion it was with a shake of the head and a smile that conveyed in a subtle way that it was not merely his opinion, but the final truth. He said he had his own experiences which were authoritative and conclusive to him. “You have your experiences too, but you cannot convince me,” he said. “You go your way, and I mine. There are different paths to truth, and we shall all meet there some day.” He was friendly in a distant way, but firm. To him, the Masters, though not actual, visible gurus, were a reality, and to become their disciple was essential. He, with several others, conferred discipleship on those who were willing to accept this path and their authority; but he and his group did not belong to those who, through spiritualism, found guides among the dead. To find the Master you had to serve, work, sacrifice, obey and practise certain virtues; and of course belief was necessary.
To rely on experience as a means to the discovery of what is, is to be caught in illusion. Desire, craving, conditions experience; and to depend on experience as a means to the understanding of truth is to pursue the way of self-aggrandizement. Experience can never bring freedom from sorrow; experience is not an adequate response to the challenge of life. The challenge must be met newly, freshly, for the challenge is always new. To meet the challenge adequately, the conditioning memory of experience must be set aside, the responses of pleasure and pain must be deeply understood. Experience is an impediment to truth, for experience is of time, it is the outcome of the past; and how can a mind which is the result of experience, of time, understand the timeless? The truth of experience does not depend on personal idiosyncrasies and fancies; the truth of it is perceived only when there is awareness without condemnation, justification, or any form of identification. Experience is not an approach to truth; there is no “your experience” or “my experience,” but only the intelligent understanding of the problem.
Without self-knowledge, experience breeds illusion; with self-knowledge, experience, which is the response to challenge, does not leave a cumulative residue as memory. Self-knowledge is the discovery from moment to moment of the ways of the self, its intentions and pursuit, its thoughts and appetites. There can never be “your experience” and “my experience; the very term “my experience” indicates ignorance and the acceptance of illusion. But many of us like to live in illusion, because there is great satisfaction in it; it is a private heaven which stimulates us and gives a feeling of superiority. If I have capacity, gift or cunning, I become a leader, an intermediary, a representative of that illusion; and as most people love the avoidance of what is there is built up an organization with properties and rituals, with vows and secret gatherings. Illusion is clothed according to tradition, keeping it within the field of respectability; and as most of us seek power in one form or another, the hierarchical principle is established, the novice and the initiate, the pupil and the Master, and even among the Masters there are degrees of spiritual growth. Most of us love to exploit and be exploited, and this system offers the means, whether hidden or open.
To exploit is to be exploited. The desire to use others for your psychological necessities makes for dependence, and when you depend you must hold, possess; and what you possess, possesses you. Without dependence, subtle or gross, without possessing things, people and ideas, you are empty, a thing of no importance. You want to be something, and to avoid the gnawing fear of being nothing you belong to this or that organization, to this or that ideology, to this church or that temple; so you are exploited, and you in your turn exploit. This hierarchical structure offers an excellent opportunity for self-expansion. You may want brotherhood, but how can there be brotherhood if you are pursuing spiritual distinctions? You may smile at worldly titles; but when you admit the Master, the saviour, the guru in the realm of the spirit, are you not carrying over the worldly attitude? Can there be hierarchical divisions or degrees in spiritual growth, in the understanding of truth, in the realization of God? Love admits no division. Either you love, or do not love; but do not make the lack of love into a long-drawn-out process whose end is love. When you know you do not love, when you are choicelessly aware of that fact, then there is a possibility of transformation; but to sedulously cultivate this distinction between the Master and the pupil, between those who have attained and those who have not, between the saviour and the sinner, is to deny love. The exploiter, who is in turn exploited, finds a happy hunting-ground in this darkness and illusion.
Separation between God or reality and yourself is brought about by you, by the mind that clings to the known, to certainty, to security. This separation cannot be bridged over; there is no ritual, no discipline, no sacrifice that can carry you across it; there is no saviour, no Master, no guru who can lead you to the real or destroy this separation. The division is not between the real and yourself; it is in yourself, it is the conflict of opposing desires. Desire creates its own opposite; and transformation is not a matter of being centred in one desire, but of being free from the conflict which craving brings. Craving at any level of one’s being breeds further conflict, and from this we try to escape in every possible manner, which only increases the conflict both within and without. This conflict cannot be dissolved by someone else, however great, nor through any magic or ritual. These may put you pleasantly to sleep, but on waking the problem is still there. But most of us do not want to wake up, and so we live in illusion. With the dissolution of conflict, there is tranquillity, and then only can reality come into being. Masters, saviours and gurus are unimportant, but what is essential is to understand the increasing conflict of desire; and this understanding comes only through self-knowledge and constant awareness of the movements of the self.
Self-awareness is arduous, and since most of us prefer an easy, illusory way, we bring into being the authority that gives shape and pattern to our life. This authority may be the collective, the
State; or it may be the personal, the Master, the saviour, the guru. Authority of any kind is blinding, it breeds thoughtlessness; and as most of us find that to be thoughtful is to have pain, we give ourselves over to authority.
Authority engenders power, and power always becomes centralized and therefore utterly corrupting; it corrupts not only the wielder of power, but also him who follows it. The authority of knowledge and experience is perverting, whether it be vested in the Master, his representative or the priest. It is your own life, this seemingly endless conflict, that is significant, and not the pattern or the leader. The authority of the Master and the priest takes you away from the central issue, which is the conflict within yourself. Suffering can never be understood and dissolved through the search for a way of life. Such a search is mere avoidance of suffering, the imposition of a pattern, which is escape; and what is avoided only festers, bringing more calamity and pain. The understanding of yourself, however painful or passingly pleasurable, is the beginning of wisdom.
There is no path to wisdom. If there is a path, then wisdom is the formulated, it is already imagined, known. Can wisdom be known or cultivated? Is it a thing to be learnt, to be accumulated? If it is, then it becomes mere knowledge, a thing of experience and of the books. Experience and knowledge are the continuous chain of responses and so can never comprehend the new, the fresh, the uncreated. Experience and knowledge, being continuous, make a path to their own self-projections, and hence they are constantly binding. Wisdom is the understanding of what is from moment to moment, without the accumulation of experience and knowledge. What is accumulated does not give freedom to understand, and without freedom there is no discovery; and it is this endless discovery that makes for wisdom. Wisdom is ever new, ever fresh, and there is no means of gathering it. The means destroys the freshness, the newness, the spontaneous discovery.
The many paths to one reality are the invention of an intolerant mind; they are the outcome of a mind that cultivates tolerance. “I follow my path, and you follow yours, but let us be friends, and we shall eventually meet.” Will you and I meet if you are going north and I south? Can we be friendly if you have one set of beliefs and I another, if I am a collective murderer and you arc peaceful? To be friendly implies relationship in work, in thought; but is there any relationship between the man who hates and the man who love? Is there any relationship between the man in illusion and the one who is free? The free man may try to establish some kind of relationship with the one in bondage; but he who is in illusion can have no relationship with the man who is free.
The separate, clinging to their separateness, try to establish a relationship with others who are also self-enclosed; but such attempts invariably breed conflict and pain. To avoid this pain, the clever ones invent tolerance, each looking over his self-enclosing barrier and attempting to be kind and generous. Tolerance is of the mind, not of the heart. Do you talk of tolerance when you love? But when the heart is empty, then the mind fills it with its cunning devices and fears. There is no communion where there is tolerance.
There is no path to truth. Truth must be discovered, but there is no formula for its discovery. What is formulated is not true. You must set out on the uncharted sea, and the uncharted sea is yourself. You must set out to discover yourself, but not according to any plan or pattern, for then there is no discovery. Discovery brings joy – not the remembered, comparative joy, but joy that is ever new. Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom in whose tranquillity and silence there is the immeasurable.