THE DESIRE FOR
The desire for knowledge can be traced in all living beings, in the lower creation as well as in mankind. If one notices the movements of the birds and animals in the forest, one sees that besides their seeking for their food, their playing with their mates, their protecting themselves from their enemy, they are also interested in every sensation that comes to them through their five senses. Sound, colour, touch, scent, every sensation has an effect upon them. One can trace in the animals the natural desire to know something, and it is this tendency which in human evolution can be recognized as curiosity. From childhood this tendency seems predominant, and the more a child shows this tendency the more promising the child is, because that shows that so much more the soul part of the child is to the fore. Among grown-up persons what strikes us most in their personality is that brilliance of intelligence, apart from all their goodness and virtue. If this is such an important thing in life, it must have as a result a most important achievement. And what is that achievement ? This achievement is the knowledge of the ultimate truth, which fulfills the purpose of life.
A curious soul begins by trying to know everything that it sees, that it comes in contact with. What it wants to know first is the name of an object, what it is called, what it is for, what it is, what it is used for, how it is made, how to make the best of a thing, how to profit by it to the utmost. This knowledge is what we call learning. The different divisions of learning, called by different names, are the classification of this knowledge which one gains by study of the outside world. But life is so short and the field of this knowledge is so vast that a person may go on and on studying. He may perhaps study one branch of knowledge, and he may find that one life is not sufficient even to be fully acquainted with that one particular branch of knowledge. And there is another person; he is not satisfied with only touching one branch of knowledge, he wants to touch many branches of knowledge. He may become acquainted to a certain degree with different aspects of knowledge. It may perhaps make him, if he reaches somewhere, what may be called an all-round man. Yet that is not the thing which will suffice the purpose of his life. Al-Farabi, the great Arabian scientist in ancient times, claimed that he knew many sides of knowledge, but when it came to showing his equipment in the knowledge of music, he proved to be lacking in that essential part, which was not the theory of music but the practice of music itself.
Knowledge can be divided into two aspects: one aspect is the knowledge which we call learning, the other aspect is knowing. Learning comes from the reason "it is so, because it is so". That is knowledge. But there is a knowing which cannot be explained as "because". It can only be said, "It is so, it cannot be anything else". The knowledge with its "because" attached is contradicted a thousand times over. One scientist, one inventor, one learned person has one argument; another comes and he says, "This is not what I think. I have found out the truth about it, which the one who saw it before did not perceive rightly". It has alway been and will always be so with the outer knowledge. But with that knowing which is the essential knowledge there has never been a difference and there will never be. The saints, sages, seers, mystics, prophets of all ages, in whatever part of the world they were born, when they have touched this realm of knowing, have all agreed on this same thing. It is therefore that they called it truth. It was not because this was the conception of one person or the speculation of another person or the doctrine of a certain professor or the teaching of a certain religion. No, it was the knowledge of every knowing soul. And every soul, whether in the past, present or future, whenever it arrives at that stage where it knows, will realize the same thing. Therefore, it is in that knowledge that there is to be found the satisfaction of the purpose of one's coming on the earth.
And now one may ask me, "What is that knowledge ? How can one attain to it ?" The first condition is to separate the outer knowledge from the inner knowing. False and true, the two things cannot go together. It is in separating truth from falsehood, or rather the real from the unreal. The knowledge gained from the outer world is the knowledge of the cover of all things, not of the spirit of all things. It is therefore that that knowledge cannot be essential knowledge. It is not the knowledge of the spirit of all things. It is the knowledge of the cover of all things which we study and call learning; and to this we give the greatest importance.
One might ask, "Then why should we not try to get to the bottom of all things outside ? Shall we not reach by this way to the same knowledge ?" Yes, but that is not possible. The easiest way and the possible way is to attain to the knowledge of the self. It is the after-effect of this attainment that will give one keen sight into things which are outward, into the spirit of things which are outward. The question is about oneself, the knowledge of self: what that knowledge is. Do we not know ourselves ? None of us for one moment will think that we do not know ourselves. That is the difficulty. Everyone says, "I know myself better than I know anybody else. What is then to be learned in myself ? Is it the knowledge of the anatomy of the body ?" Yes, the first thing is to understand the constitution of the body; that is the first lesson.
By the study of this one will find that there are five different elements which constitute our physical body. The mystics for convenience call them earth, water, fire, air and ether, but these must not be compared with the scientific terms; it is only for the convenience of the mystic. Then one will see the different senses, the organs of the senses; each sense represents one of these elements. Then coming to the natural tendencies and needs of life, every action one does has a relation with one of these five elements. This study of the mechanism of the body will make one understand that something which always I called "myself" is nothing but a mechanism, a mechanism made of five elements, the elements which are borrowed from the outer world. And one will find that "my mind", which experiences through all these organs of the senses, still remains aloof as a spectator who conceives and perceives from the outside world through the mediumship of this mechanism which I call "my body". This knowledge will waken a deep thinker to the fact that he is not his body, although consciously or unconsciously there is perhaps one among a million persons who clearly realizes, "My body is my instrument, I am not my body". The one who realizes, "I am my body", is imprisoned in his body. The one who has come to realize, "The body is my instrument", is the controller of this prison; he is the engineer of this machinery.
Then there comes the next stage of knowing oneself, and that is to explore what one calls the mind. By a minute study of the mind one will find that the different qualities such as reason, memory, thought, feeling and the ego, all these five things, constitute mind. One will find that there is a surface and there is a bottom to it; its depth is the heart, its surface is mind. Each quality of mind represents one of these five elements. This again takes us to a thought that even the mind, which is above the physical body, is a mechanism. And the more one is acquainted with the mechanism, the more one is able to manage it to its best advantage. It is the ignorance of the secret of this mechanism that keeps man unaware of his own domain.
This knowledge makes one think, "Neither am I my body nor am I my mind. I am the engineer who has these two possessions, these two machineries to work with to the best advantage of life". Then one begins to ask, "What am I ?" For to a certain degree even the mind is a mechanism which is borrowed from the outer sphere, as the body is a mechanism which has been borrowed from the physical plane, which has been gathered together and constructed. Therefore, neither mind nor body is the self. One thinks, "It is myself", only because one cannot see oneself. Therefore, anything one sees one calls "myself"; the self becomes acquainted with everything but itself. So that mechanism which the self has used has become a kind of cover upon that light which fulfils the purpose of life.
Realizing this intellectually does not answer the purpose, but it begins one's journey in the search of truth. This must be realized by the process of meditation, the process by which the self can separate itself from body and afterwards from mind. For the self, deluded all through life, it is not easy to understand. It is not prepared to understand truth, it rejects truth, it fights truth. It is like the story told in the DIVAN, that a lion once saw a lion's cub wandering through the wilderness with the sheep. The lion was very surprised. Instead of running after the sheep he ran after this lion's cub. The little lion was trembling and very much frightened. The father lion said, "Come, my son, with me. You are a lion". "No", said the cub, "I tremble, I tremble, I am afraid of you. You are different from my playmates. I want to run with them, play with them, I want to be with them". "Come, my son, with me", said the lion, "You are of my kind, you are a little lion". "No", said the cub, "no, I am not a lion. You are a lion, I am afraid of you". The lion said, "I will not let you go, you must come with me". The lion took him to the shore of a lake and said, "Now look at yourself and see with your own eyes if you are a lion or if you are a sheep". The lion's cub then was convinced that it was a lion.
This explains what initiation means and what the initiator teaches to his disciple as meditation. Meditation means looking in the lake of the heart at the reflected image. Once the image is reflected in the lake of the heart, self-knowledge comes by itself.