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Series III - Chapter 10 - ‘The Problem Of Search’
IT WAS VERY early in the morning of a sunlit day, limpid and clear, and the restless sea was quiet, gently lapping the white shore. There was hardly any movement of the vast waters which were intensely blue as though some artificial colour had been added. There was a sparkle in the sea, and a gaiety; it was bluer than the blue sky, and it was old and full of joy. Last week the waters had been violent and threatening, with a strong current that would have carried one far out; but now they were all but still, with only a whisper of movement. The wind had exhausted itself after days of heavy blowing, and there wasn’t even a breeze. The smoke of a steamer far out at sea was going almost straight up in the cloudless sky. It was so quiet that one could hear the sound of a train, still several miles away, as it came along the low cliff overlooking the sea. The faint rumble grew into a roar, and soon the earth shook as the long freight train, a hundred steel cars pulled by a spanking new diesel, passed swiftly overhead. The driver waved his hand and smiled. Soon the train was out of sight, and once again there was quiet by the blue sea. Miles to the north, one could just see rows of carefully-planted palm trees, with green lawns, where the town came down to the edge of the sea; but here it was very peaceful. There were hundreds of seagulls on the beach. One evidently had a broken wing, for it was standing apart its wing hanging down; further along, a dead gull was almost covered by the shifting sands. A large dog came along, a lovely creature in the sun, and the whole flock of birds flew out to sea, made a wide half-circle, and landed on the sand again, some distance behind the dog. With a frightened cry, the injured gull moved towards the water, dragging its wing; the dog saw it, but paying no attention, went on its way, chasing the small crabs that came out of the wet sands.
A clerk in some office, he was grave and very earnest, with bright, serious eyes and a ready smile. prices had gone up he said, and living had become so expensive that it was difficult to make ends meet. Although still quite young, in his thirties, he was anxious about the future, for he had responsibilities – no children, he explained, but a wife and an old mother to provide for. “What is the purpose of life, of this monotonous, routine existence?” he suddenly asked. “I have always been seeking something or other: seeking a job when I got through college, seeking pleasure with my wife, seeking to bring about a better world by joining the Communist party – which I soon left, incidentally, because it’s just an organized religion, like any other; and now I am seeking God. By nature I am not a pessimist, but everything in life has saddened me. We seek and seek, and we never seem to find. I have read the books that most educated people read, but intellectual stimulation soon becomes wearisome. I must find, and my life is beginning to shorten. I want to talk most seriously with you, for I feel that you may be of help in my search”
Can we go slowly and patiently into this movement called search? There are those who assert that they have sought and found, and being satisfied with what they have found, they have their reward. You say you are seeking. Do you know why you are seeking, and what it is you seek? “Like everyone else, I have sought many things, most of which have passed away; but, like some disease that has no cure, the search goes on.”
Before we go into the whole question of what it is we seek, let’s find out what we mean by that word ‘seeking’. What is the state of the mind that is seeking?
“It is a state of effort in which the mind is trying to get away from a painful or conflicting situation, and to find a pleasurable, comforting one.”
Is such a mind really seeking? What the mind seeks it will find, but what it finds will be its own projection. Is there true search, if search is the outcome of a motive? Must all search have a motive, or is there a search which has no motive whatsoever? Can the mind exist without the movement of search? Is search as we know it merely another means by which the mind escapes from itself? If so what is it that is driving the mind to escape? Without understanding the full content of the mind that is seeking search has little significance.
“I am afraid, sir, all this is a bit too much for me. Could you make it simpler?”
Let’s begin with the process we know. Why do you seek, and what are you seeking? “One is seeking so many things: happiness, security, comfort, permanency, God, a society which is not everlastingly at war with itself, and so on.”
The state you are actually in, and the end you are seeking, are both creations of the mind, are they not?
“Please, sir, don’t make it too difficult. I know I suffer, and I want to find a way out of it I want to move towards a state in which there will be no sorrow.”
But the end you are seeking is still the projection of a mind that doesn’t want to be disturbed; isn’t that so? And there may be no such thing, it may be a myth. “If that is a myth, then there must be something else which is real, and which I must find.”
We are trying to understand, aren’t we?, the total significance of search, not how to find the real. We may come upon that presently. For the moment we are concerned with what we mean when we say we are seeking, so let’s inquire into the whole implication of that word.
Being unhappy, you are seeking happiness, are you not? One man sees happiness in power, position prestige, another in wealth or knowledge, another in God, another in the ideal State, the perfect Utopia, and so on. As a man who is ambitious in the worldly sense pursues the path of his fulfilment, in which there is ruthlessness, frustration, fear, perhaps covered over with sweet-sounding words, so you also are seeking to fulfil your desire, even though it be for the highest; and when you already know what the end is, is there search?
“Surely sir, God or bliss cannot be known beforehand; it must be sought out.”
How can you seek out that which you do not know? You know, or think you know, what God is, and you know according to your conditioning, or according to your own experience, which is based on your conditioning; so, having formulated what God is, you proceed to ‘discover’ that which your mind has projected. This is obviously not search; you are merely pursuing what you already know. Search ceases when you know, because knowing is a process of recognition, and to recognize is an action of the past, of the known.
“But I am really seeking God, by whatever name He may be called.”
You are seeking God, as others are seeking happiness through drink, through the acquisition of power, and so on. These are all well-known and well-established motives. Motive brings about the desired end. But is there search when there is a motive? “I think I am beginning to see what you mean. please go on, sir.”
If you are really earnest, the moment you perceive that in this whole pattern of so-called search, there is no search at all, you abandon it. But the cause of your search still remains. You may set aside pattern A, which is the search after that which the mind has projected; but then you will turn to pattern B, which is the idea that you must not pursue pattern A; and if it is not pattern B it will be pattern C, N, or Z. The core of your mind has not understood the whole problem of seeking, and that is why it moves from one pattern to another, from one ideal to another, from one guru or leader to another. It is ever moving in the net of the known.
Now, can the mind remain without seeking? Is there the mind, the seeker, when this movement of search is not? The mind swing from one movement of search to another, ever groping, ever seeking, ever caught in the net of experience. This movement is always towards the ‘more: more stimulation, more experience, wider and deeper knowledge. The hunter is ever projecting the hunted. Does the mind seek, once it is aware of the significance of this whole process of seeking? And when the mind is not seeking, is there an experiencer to experience?
“What do you mean by the experiencer?”
As long as there is a seeker and a thing sought, there must be the experiencer, the one who recognizes, and this is the core of the mind’s self-centred movement. From this centre, all activities take place, whether noble or ignoble: the desire for wealth and power, the compulsion to be content with what is, the urge to seek God, to bring about reforms, and so on.
“I see in myself the truth of what you are saying. I have approached the whole thing wrongly.”
Does this mean you are going to approach it ‘rightly’? Or are you aware that any approach to the problem, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, is self-centred activity, which only strengthens, subtly or grossly, the experiencer? “How cunning the mind is, how quick and subtle in its movement to maintain itself! I see that very clearly.”
When the mind ceases to seek because it has understood the total significance of search, do not the limitations which it has imposed upon itself fall away? And is the mind not then the immeasurable, the unknown?