He said he had gone into the question very thoroughly, had read as much as he could of what had been written on the subject, and he was convinced that there were Masters in different parts of the world. They did not show themselves physically except to their special disciples, but they were in communication with others through other means. They exerted a beneficent influence and guided the leaders of the world’s thought and action, though the leaders themselves were unaware of it; and they brought about revolution and peace. He was convinced, he said, that each continent had a group of Masters, shaping its destiny and giving it their blessing. He had known several pupils of the Masters – at least they had told him they were, he added guardedly. He was entirely earnest and desired more knowledge about the Masters. Was it possible to have direct experience, direct contact with them?
How still the river was! Two brilliant little kingfishers were flying up and down close to the bank and just above the surface; there were some bees gathering water for their hives, and a fisherman’s boat lay in the middle of the stream. The trees along the river were thick with leaves, and their shadows were heavy and dark, in the fields the newly planted rice was a vivid green, and there were white ricebirds calling. It was a very peaceful scene, and it seemed a pity to talk over our petty little problems. The sky was the tender blue of evening. The noisy towns were far away; there was a village across the river, and a winding path went meandering along the bank, A boy was singing in a clear, high voice which did not disturb the tranquillity of the place.
We are an odd people; we wander in search of something in far-off places when it is so close to us. Beauty is ever there, never here; truth is never in our homes but in some distant place. We go to the other side of the world to find the Master, and we are not aware of the servant; we do not understand the common things of life, the everyday struggles and joys, and yet we attempt to grasp the mysterious and the hidden. We do not know ourselves, but we are willing to serve or follow him who promises a reward, a hope, a Utopia. As long as we are confused, what we choose must also be confused. We cannot perceive clearly when we are half-blind; and what we then see is only partial and so not real. We know all this, and yet our desires, our cravings are so strong that they drive us into illusions and endless miseries.
Belief in the Master creates the Master, and experience is shaped by belief. Belief in a particular pattern of action, or in an ideology, does produce what is longed for; but at what cost and at what suffering! If an individual has capacity, then belief becomes a potent thing in his hands, a weapon more dangerous than a gun. For most of us, belief has greater meaning than actuality. The understanding of what is does not require belief; on the contrary, belief, idea, prejudice, is a definite hindrance to understanding. But we prefer our beliefs, our dogmas; they warm us, they promise, they encourage. If we understood the way of our beliefs and why we cling to them, one of the major causes of antagonism would disappear.
The desire to gain, individually or for a group, leads to ignorance and illusion, to destruction and misery. This desire is not only for more and more physical comforts, but also for power: the power of money, of knowledge, of identification. The craving for more is the beginning of conflict and misery. We try to escape from this misery through every form of self-deception, through suppression, substitution and sublimation; but craving continues, perhaps at a different level. Craving at any level is still conflict and pain. One of the easiest of escapes is the guru, the Master. Some escape through a political ideology with its activities, others through the sensations of ritual and discipline, and still others through the Master. Then the means of escape become all-important, and fear and obstinacy guard the means. Then it does not matter what you are; it is the Master who is important. You are important only as a server, whatever that may mean, or as a disciple. To become one of these, you have to do certain things, conform to certain patterns, undergo certain hardships. You are willing to do all this and more, for identification gives pleasure and power. In the name of the Master, pleasure and power have become respectable. You are no longer lonely, confused, lost; you belong to him, to the party, to the idea. You are safe.
After all, that is what most of us want: to be safe, to be secure. To be lost with the many is a form of psychological security; to be identified with a group or with an idea, secular or spiritual, is to feel safe. That is why most of us cling to nationalism, even though it brings; increasing destruction and misery; that is why organized religion has such a strong hold on people, even though it divides and breeds antagonism. The craving for individual or group security brings on destruction, and to be safe psychologically engenders illusion. Our life is illusion and misery, with rare moments of clarity and joy, so anything that promises a haven we eagerly accept. Some see the futility of political Utopias and so turn religious, which is to find security and hope in Masters, in dogmas, in ideas. As belief shapes experience, the Masters become an inescapable reality. Once it has experienced the pleasure which identification brings, the mind is firmly entrenched and nothing can shake it; for its criterion is experience.
But experience is not reality. Reality cannot be experienced. It is. If the experiencer thinks he experiences reality, then he knows only illusion. All knowledge of reality is illusion. Knowledge or experience must cease for the being of reality. Experience cannot meet reality. Experience shapes knowledge, and knowledge bends experience; they must both cease for reality to be.