You will find him on the banks of the Ganges, dirty, naked, emaciated, fierce, plastered with mud and covered with beads. He has taken a vow never to wash, never to talk, never to comb his long matted hair. He has become little more than an animal, angry and sly.
You will find him higher up the river, clean, elegantly garbed in silk, serious, somewhat sophisticated and scholarly, discoursing to an ecstatic group of disciples. You will find him alone, very clean, wearing a robe of saffron with a staff in his hand, keeping aloof, dignified, slender, glowingly healthy. He will hardly talk to you and when he does there is a ring in his voice. His eyes are clear and have a quality of distinction. There is austerity, chastity and beauty.
You will find him in that big house with hundreds of disciples of every kind – lawyers, retired judges, famous film stars from the East and the West. He knows Sanskrit and can quote the ancient Vedas, explaining what truth is and how to meditate. Without exactly saying so, he makes it quite clear that he is in daily communication with God. He can put in a good word for you. There is also an unwritten contract that if you do certain things according to his prescription he may take you to God after a great many years.
You will find her in another big house with thousands of disciples from all over the world. She is garlanded by her disciples who also bathe and feed her, putting the food into her mouth for she is too unworldly to eat herself and lives on another plane of consciousness. Or so they say. Is it ecstasy, is it hysteria, is it hallucination? The disciples are all in a dither carrying on around her with fruit, flowers, incense, cymbals and drums. For hours on end they hypnotically chant her name clapping their hands.
You will find him in a dirty little room with rats and mice playing under the bed upon which he sits, a bloated figure, unshaven, dirty. There is an unhealthy faraway expression on his face. He is a great scholar. Brahmins come from all over to sit at his holy feet. He knows the scriptures intimately and can quote them for hours. Chocolate wrappers lie among the books on the floor and mice eat the crumbs.
You will find him sitting in a cave. There is a beautiful look on his face. He is witty but seems to have little to say. Disciples sit around him in silence and that very silence seems to solve their problems. Of course there is always the battle for position and power next to the great man.
You will find her running a very efficient, quite prosperous colony of disciples. People come from far to see the school, the waterworks and the printing press. She seems so frail but everybody fears and obeys. She rules their most intimate lives with a rod of iron.
You will find him clad in black or resplendent in scarlet in Rome, slowly dying in his belief, his practices, his rituals and dogmas. He is about God’s business. God will not be unappreciative; one day he might make him a bishop or a pope. All the gorgeous rituals, jewels, austerities and the well- established tradition are his. There is wealth, power, knowledge, the sanctity of time. He is in the cathedrals, in the local parish church, in the protestant pulpit, in the big house on Park Avenue. He is scattered all over the world converting, correcting, persuading. He has persuaded more or less forcefully according to the political opportunities of the time and place. He starts schools, hospitals and various other good works.
He is of every shade and colour in all parts of the world trying every conceivable trick to capture God. He becomes a Hindu or a Catholic or Buddhist, or goes to a monastery to meditate on words. Or he wonders endlessly how some duck got into some bottle. He is always seeking God, truth, a promised heaven, a beauty not of the earth, an ecstasy which does not fade, an experience which is transcendental, a peace which passes all understanding, a love which encompasses all.
And life goes by.
Strangely all these people seem to be more or less the same person but in different garbs, with different phrases on their lips, playing different tricks, having different formulas or beliefs.
And life goes by.
What is it they all want? They want to realize something which is not of this world. For this world has made them lonely, empty, unhappy, mediocre. Some think they have achieved, realized, experienced; and they are willing to teach you for a price, pecuniary or psychological. They know and say they know, whether in Rome, Benares, Mecca, Tokyo, and what they know is what their ignorance longed to know. Therefore what they know is their ignorance. The realization of their Atman is already the known. The word of Christ is valid to them only because they have been conditioned to believe it is. The Muslim with his obstinate dogmatism is impenetrable, and the Hindu and Buddhist and the Christian are the same.
Is this the way we find truth? Is this the way to the supreme? Why is that they are all so clever and highly intellectual, with extraordinary cunning traditional arguments? Why is it that they have not questioned all this? Why is it that they accept authority at all? To tread the path of another is to walk in their shadow. In the shadow or in the symbol you can never find light. They will argue with you but they will never let go of their anchorage, for if they do, all the structure holding them together will collapse. They are frightened. It is this fear that makes them believe, search, practice, meditate, that makes them concerned about love and finding God. So this fear is everywhere.
Fear is this emptiness which is in each one of us and we try to fill it with innumerable recipes for God, good works, divine knowledge, worldly knowledge, amusement and entertainment, religious or otherwise. But it is always there, this emptiness and fear.
So in their emptiness they practice for something which their fear has conceived to be great and they remain in emptiness. Strip them of all their jargon, robes, formulas and holy certainties and what remains? Dull, aching emptiness and the fear of being nothing. The beauty of life goes by. Can you and I go beyond this seeking, these tortures, these actions of emptiness and fear? If not we are bound to walk in darkness; It is here when you know how to look. To see is the greatest thing.
The activity of all seeking is from emptiness and fear. Seeing this is to put it all aside. The hope of finding is less important than the reason why we seek. When we see that this seeking is out of emptiness and fear it has no more meaning, but will that emptiness and fear now express itself in some other way? If so you are back on the banks of Ganges, though it may be a nightclub this time. If the emptiness and fear no longer express in any way at all, is there any emptiness and fear left? It is the running away and the covering up that perpetuates it. Is there another activity which is not of emptiness and fear? Is there a way of life which itself is sacred? If it is to be found, it is here in the actions of relationship that is all our living, and not over there. Love is here, not there. And the beauty of the leaf is this love.
An excerpt from the book – ‘Can the Mind be Quiet?’ – Jiddu Krishnamurti.