If you want to come into the understanding of things, there’s an easy way. Just give up this business of filling your mind with other people’s second-hand ideas. Why not loosen your neck tie a bit? Look, it’s a beautiful day. Can you see the sun shining and the sky painting clouds especially for you? Why not take a walk with no destination in mind? Who knows where you might end up? What an easy thing it is. You just don’t know what kinds of birds will come to settle on your shoulder.
There is a great deal of difference between the initial experience of arriving to the place that you never left and becoming situated there. The difference is similar to the difference between the visitor who visits a neighbourhood occasionally and the resident who lives there.
But it is also not just a matter of arriving to the place that you never left. You must also come into remembrance of the understanding that you always had. This is much more difficult because this sort of knowing of things has no end. These understandings can only be recovered little by little.
In the search for the universal there is the tendency to disregard the particular. There is the notion that the particular is of no consequence. And so, in the attempt to capture the universal the one who’s looking sets his eyes dreamily beyond the horizon. He looks out into the far distance to see what’s out there. The peculiar thing though is that the universal is not discovered beyond the horizon. The universal is to be found in the particular. The particular is the immediate expression of the universal and so it is only through the particular that the universal is truly discovered.
When it comes to discussion concerning things, people always like to have the last word. They like to be able to close a thing. To seal the box with the padlock of finality. To bury the coffin once and for all. But when it comes to love can you ever say, “I have reached the end of love”? When it comes to joy, can you ever say, “I have reached the end of joy”? When it comes to amazement, can you ever say, “I have reached the end of being amazed”? In the same way, when it comes to knowing, can you ever say, “I have reached the end of understanding”?
In life there’s usually two parts to a thing. There’s a left and there’s a right. In the same way there are two parts to transmission. There’s a transmitter that transmits. And then there’s a receiver that receives. If there is no transmitter transmitting, there is nothing to receive. And if there is no receiver capable of receiving then there is nothing to receive.
To receive the transmission the receiver needs to be switched on. That’s the first thing. And it needs to be in working order. I mean if it’s out of order it won’t receive properly, will it? And also, if the receiver is trying to transmit when it should be receiving then it can’t receive either. It will be jammed up with its own signals. Nothing will come through. So, you see it’s really simple. To receive all the receiver needs to do is receive. That’s all.
I must confess that it can be confusing. Sometimes the beginning can look like the end. And sometimes the end can look like the beginning. Indeed, there are some people who mistake the beginning for the end. When they get to the beginning, they think that they are at the end.
No doubt you are wondering what I am talking about. So let me explain. When you return to the place that you never left, that’s only the beginning you see. It’s not the end. When you return to the place that you never left, then you can begin. You can begin to make yourself useful. You can plant trees. You can grow flowers. You can redecorate the world in beautiful colours.
For some reason people seem to love methods and methodologies. The more elaborate they are, the more they seem to love them. They get a methodology in their hands and they get excited. And then the sales talk starts. They say, “This method is best. Your method is no good. It’s not as good as mine. Only my method works.”
So, which method is best? Well, which is better, bicycle, bus, tram or train? There are lots of ways of getting to where you already are. In the end what does it matter? If you have to bang in a nail, you may as well use the hammer that’s closest at hand. There’s no point going all the way across town to buy another hammer if you’ve already got one in your toolbox.
Once upon a time, learning was considered precious. Books were painstakingly written out by hand and accompanied by beautiful illustrations. They were considered to be treasures. Today whatever you want to know is pretty much at your fingertips. But information is not understanding. They are two entirely different things. Information can be obtained anywhere. You can have a pile of information on your shelf and it will do nothing for you. You can know everything about everything and still you will know nothing at all. The quality of your awareness and essence of being will remain exactly as it was before. There will be no change. Essence of being is developed through the experience of living. Understanding arises from deep reflection and observing with openness both within and without. The power of the flame of awareness develops in proportion to your own distractedness diminishing. Awakened awareness is created. It is not a given.
Until something happens that shakes your confidence in the order of your world, you will naturally assume that the world is the way that it is. You will assume that you are fully awake and aware. You will say, “Here I am. I am awake. I am aware. I know who I am and what is what.”
That’s fine and I don’t want to upset you. But this is not awakened awareness. It’s nothing of the kind. It is like a dream where you are dreaming but you imagine that you are awake. You imagine that you are sitting at the breakfast table having breakfast but you are lying in your bed fast asleep dreaming. Breakfast hasn’t actually been served yet.
Wherever you go nowadays you will find people on every street corner offering to help you to make improvements to yourself. It is indeed fortunate that there is so much assistance at hand. However, it seems to me that when it comes to this whole business of making improvements there are essentially two kinds of approaches you can take. You can either pick things up or you can put them down. Picking things up is called making improvements. Putting them down is called unimproving yourself.