Meditation is not the way of thought, for thought is cunning, with infinite possibilities of self-deception, and so it will miss the way of meditation. Like love, it cannot be pursued.
The river that morning was very still. You could see on it the reflections of the clouds, of the new winter wheat and the wood beyond. Even the fisherman’s boat didn’t seem to disturb it. The quietness of the morning lay on the land. The sun was just coming up over the tops of the trees, and a distant voice was calling, and nearby a chanting of Sanskrit was in the air.
The parrots and the mynah had not yet begun their search for food; the vultures, bare-necked, heavy, sat on the top of the tree waiting for the carrion to come floating down the river. Often you would see some dead animal floating by and a vulture or two would be on it, and the crows would flutter around it hoping for a bite. A dog would swim out to it, and not gaining a foothold would return to the shore and wander off. A train would pass by, making a steely clatter across the bridge, which was quite long. And beyond it, up the river, lay the city.
It was a morning full of quiet delight. Poverty, disease and pain were not yet walking on the road. There was a tottering bridge across the little stream; and where this little stream – dirty-brown – joined the big river, there it was supposed to be most holy, and there people came on festive days to bathe, men, women and children. It was cold, but they did not seem to mind. And the temple priest across the way made a lot of money; and the ugliness began.
He was a bearded man and wore a turban. He was in some kind of business and from the look of him he seemed to be prosperous, well-fed. He was slow in his walk and in his thinking. His reactions were still slower. He took several minutes to understand a simple statement. He said he had a guru of his own and, as he was passing by, he felt the urge to come up and talk about things that seemed to him important.
‘Why is it,’ he asked, ‘that you are against gurus? It seems so absurd. They know, and I don’t know. They can guide me, help me, tell me what to do, and save me a lot of trouble and pain. They are like a light in the darkness, and one must be guided by them otherwise one is lost, confused and in great misery. They told me that I shouldn’t come and see you, for they taught me the danger of those who do not accept the traditional knowledge. They said if I listened to others I would be destroying the house they had so carefully built. But the temptation to come and see you was too strong, so here I am!’
He looked rather pleased at having yielded to temptation.
What is the need of a guru? Does he know more than you do? And what does he know? If he says that he knows, he really doesn’t know, and, besides, the word is not the actual state. Can anyone teach you that extraordinary state of mind? They may be able to describe it to you, awaken your interest, your desire to possess it, experience it – but they cannot give it to you. You have to walk by yourself, you have to take the journey alone, and on that journey you have to be your own teacher and pupil.
‘But all this is very difficult, isn’t it?’ he said, ‘and the steps can be made easier by those who have experienced that reality.’
They become the authority and all you have to do, according to them, is just to follow, to imitate, obey, accept the image, the system which they offer. In this way you lose all initiative, all direct perception. You are merely following what they think is the way to the truth. But, unfortunately, truth has no way to it.
‘What do you mean?’ he cried, quite shocked.
Human beings are conditioned by propaganda, by the society in which they have been brought up – each religion asserting that its own path is the best. And there are a thousand gurus who maintain that their method, their system, their way of meditation, is the only path that leads to truth. And, if you observe, each disciple tolerates, condescendingly, the disciples of other gurus. Tolerance is the civilized acceptance of a division between people – politically, religiously and socially. Man has invented many paths, giving comfort to each believer, and so the world is broken up.
‘Do you mean to say that I must give up my guru? Abandon all he has taught me? I should be lost!’
But mustn’t you be lost to discover? We are afraid to be lost, to be uncertain, and so we run after those who promise heaven in the religious, political or social fields. So they really encourage fear, and hold us prisoners in that fear.
‘But can I walk by myself?’ he asked in an incredulous voice.
There have been so many saviours, masters, gurus, political leaders and philosophers, and not one of them has saved you from your own misery and conflict. So why follow them? perhaps there may be quite another approach to all our problems.
‘But am I serious enough to grapple with all this on my own?’
9 You are serious only when you begin to understand – not through somebody else – the pleasures that you are pursuing now. You are living at the level of pleasure. Not that there must not be pleasure, but if this pursuit of pleasure is the whole beginning and end of your life, then obviously you can’t be serious.
‘You make me feel helpless and hopeless.’
You feel hopeless because you want both. You want to be serious and you want also all the pleasures the world can give. These pleasures are so small and petty, anyway, that you desire in addition the pleasure which you call “God”. When you see all this for yourself, not according to somebody else, then the seeing of it makes you the disciple and the master. This is the main point. Then you are the teacher, and the taught, and the teaching.
‘But,’ he asserted, ‘you are a guru. You have taught me something this morning, and I accept you as my guru.’
Nothing has been taught, but you have looked. The looking has shown you. The looking is your guru, if you like to put it that way. But it is for you either to look or not to look. Nobody can force you. But if you look because you want to be rewarded or fear to be punished, this motive prevents the looking. To see, you must be free from all authority, tradition, fear, and thought with its cunning words. Truth is not in some far distant place; it is in the looking at what is. To see oneself as one is – in that awareness into which choice does not enter – is the beginning and end of all search.