She was married, but had no children. In the worldly way, she said, she was happy; money was no problem, and there were cars, good hotels and wide travel. Her husband was a successful businessman whose chief interest was to adorn his wife, to see that she was comfortable and had everything she desired. They were both quite young and friendly. She was interested in science and art, and had dabbled in religion; but now, she said, the things of the spirit were pushing everything else aside. She was familiar with the teachings of the various religions; but being dissatisfied with their organized efficiency, their rituals and dogmas, she wanted seriously to go in search of real things. She was intensely discontented, and had been to teachers in different parts of the world; but nothing had given her lasting satisfaction. Her discontent, she said, did not arise from her having had no children; she had gone into all that pretty thoroughly. Nor was the discontent caused by any social frustrations. She had spent some time with one of the prominent analysts, but there was still this inward ache and emptiness.
To seek fulfilment is to invite frustration. There is no fulfilment of the self, but only the strengthening of the self through possessing what it craves for. Possession, at whatever level, makes the self feel potent, rich, active, and this sensation is called fulfilment; but as with all sensations, it soon fades, to be replaced by yet another gratification. We are all familiar with this process of replacement or substitution, and it is a game with which most of us are content. There are some, however, who desire a more enduring gratification, one that will last for the whole of one’s life; and having found it, they hope never to be disturbed again. But there is a constant, unconscious fear of disturbance, and subtle forms of resistance are cultivated behind which the mind takes shelter; and so the fear of death is inevitable. Fulfilment and the fear of death are the two sides of one process: the strengthening of the self. After all, fulfilment is complete identification with something – with children, with property, with ideas. Children and property are rather risky, but ideas offer greater safety and security. Words, which are ideas and memories, with their sensations, become important; and fulfilment or completeness then becomes the word.
There is no self-fulfilment, but only self-perpetuation, with its ever-increasing conflicts, antagonisms and miseries. To seek lasting gratification at any level of our being is to bring about confusion and sorrow; for gratification can never be permanent. You may remember an experience which was satisfying, but the experience is dead, and only the memory of it remains. This memory has no life in itself; but life is given to it through your inadequate response to the present. You are living on the dead, as most of us do. Ignorance of the ways of the self leads to illusion; and once caught in the net of illusion, it is extremely hard to break through it. It is difficult to recognize an illusion, for, having created it, the mind cannot be aware of it. It must be approached negatively, indirectly. Unless the ways of desire are understood, illusion is inevitable. Understanding comes, not through the exertion of will, but only when the mind is still. The mind cannot be made still, for the maker himself is a product of the mind, of desire. There must be an awareness of this total process, a choiceless awareness; then only is there a possibility of not breeding illusion. Illusion is very gratifying, and hence our attachment to it. Illusion may bring pain, but this very pain exposes our incompleteness and drives us to be wholly identified with the illusion. Thus illusion has great significance in our lives; it helps to cover up what is, not externally but inwardly. This disregard of the inward what is leads to wrong interpretation of what is outwardly, which brings about destruction and misery. The covering up of what is is prompted by fear. Fear can never be overcome by an act of will, for will is the outcome of resistance. Only through passive yet alert awareness is there freedom from fear.