Suppose your glasses are sitting on your nose, but you have the idea, “I’ve lost my glasses.” You look under the sofa-not there. You look under the cushions-not there. You look under your bed, you look on top of the medicine cabinets, you look in your car, you look in the garden; you conduct a thorough search everywhere for three hours. Finally you sit down in exhaustion and discover that they were on your nose all that time. You realize that you were looking through that for which you were seeking. Then somebody says to you, “How do you know that the three hours of searching in all the wrong places wasn’t, in fact, necessary for you to find them on your nose?”
It’s a good question, because it was only after those three hours of searching that you were exhausted enough to sit down on the sofa and discover them on your nose. It is a good question; one doesn’t know. I can just tell you that there is actually no preparation necessary. By coincidence, it may be that the common sequence of events is that people look everywhere in order to give up looking everywhere and discover that what they were looking for they had all along. But actually, the truth is, it’s not necessary. It’s not necessary to look through the whole house to find that they were on your nose. You could have found them at the beginning.
Buddha was faced once with the same question. He was born as a prince, Siddhartha. When he was born, the Vedic astrologer who came, said to his father, “This prince will either be a great spiritual renunciate, or he will become a great ruler.” The king, his father, replied, “We’d better make sure that he’s a ruler.” So the astrologer said, “Well, make sure that he never sees death or decay, because once he sees the ephemeral nature of this world, he won’t have any attachment left.” The story goes on to say that he grew up and married a beautiful bride, Yashodara, the most beautiful woman in the land. They had a son and named him Rahula. Siddhartha had everything going for him. He was the prince of the kingdom. He had fancy cars, color TV, cellular phones, everything. Then one day, to cut a very long story short, he went out with his charioteer, Ananda. “Take me outside the palace gates,” he said. Inside the palace everyone was young; nobody was allowed in there over forty-five because they didn’t even want him to see gray hairs. But he said to Ananda, “Take me out.” Ananda said, “I don’t think I should, my lord. We’ve been instructed not to.” “Ananda, I am your lord. Take me out,” insisted Siddhartha. So they went out and the first thing they saw was someone who was sick. Siddhartha asked, “What’s the matter with that guy?” Ananda replied, “He is sick, my lord.” “Sick!” exclaimed the prince. “Will I ever get sick?” Ananda replied, “Yes, it is possible you will get sick, my lord.” Siddhartha sat back in his chariot. He had never considered this aspect of life.
They continued their travels outside the palace walls and came upon a very old man—stooped and withered. “What’s happened to him?” the prince asked. The charioteer replied, “He’s old, my lord, a very old man.” “Will I get old?” asked Siddhartha. “You will surely get old, my lord,” replied Ananda.
The next thing they saw was a funeral procession. Coffins are not used in India; the dead body is just carried on a stretcher with flowers. “Well, what happened to that guy?” asked the prince once more. “He’s dead, my lord,” came the reply. “Will I also die?” inquired the prince. “Yes, surely you will die, my lord.”
Finally, they saw a renunciate sitting under a tree wearing orange and looking very glowing. Siddhartha asked, “What’s up with that guy?” And Ananda replied, “He has renounced the world.” Siddhartha fell silent.
That night the prince went home. He stood at the threshold of his bedroom door and saw his beautiful wife Yashodara lying there asleep with their baby. This is a very poignant moment—a moment that everyone comes to—a moment that I myself have come to. He stood there on the threshold, pulled one way toward his family life and his responsibilities, and the other way toward his longing for freedom.
He chose to leave his old life behind (which actually, these days, is not really necessary), but he chose to leave the whole thing. He began trying everything in his search for freedom. He cut his hair. He exchanged his beautiful prince’s robes for beggar’s clothing. For six years he did everything he could find: primal therapy, est, rolfing, Scientology, everything that was available, he tried. He hung upside down from a tree. He stared at the moon for three days. Everything he could find, he tried it.
Finally, he got to the point that everyone will get to sooner or later. That’s the invitation here tonight—to bring yourself to this point. He had been fasting; that was his latest thing. He was just eating a few grains of hemp seed a day and by now he was really skinny. He had fallen into the river and hardly had the strength to pull himself out. Finally, a woman showed up. She said to him, “What on earth is the matter with you? You look terrible!” And he said, “Oh, I’m a holy man. I’m fasting.” And she said, “Don’t be ridiculous. Have some yogurt.” (The moral of this story is: listen to women. They’ve got their heads screwed on much better than we do.) She said, “Give it up, have some yogurt.” It woke him up from the trance of masochism called spiritual seeking. So he wandered over to a tree, a bodhi tree, and sat down. I’m going to quote the original Pali scripture here, a translation thereof. He sat down under the tree and he said, “Screw this.” That’s what he said. He sat down and he said, “Screw this; I’ve had it.” That’s the point you have to get to. “I’m done, man; I’m cooked. That’s it.” He sat down, closed his eyes and said, “I’m not getting up from this tree until it’s done, whatever it is—I don’t even know anymore—but whatever it is, I’m not getting up from this tree until it’s over.”
He only had to stay there one night.
I tell you, it doesn’t even take a night. Right here in this room at 8:42 p.m.—if you make up your mind that by 8:43 p.m. seeking’s done, seeking is done. Siddhartha sat down and during the night, he came to recognize that what he had been seeking for is who he actually is. That is all. Mara, the incarnation of desire and multi-level marketing, came to tempt him and said, “”Come, come, come.” He looked Mara right in the eyes and said, “I know you are a creation of my own mind. I know that you are no more real than my thoughts.” And Mara disappeared. The illusion was cracked, you see, as soon as he realized that it was all created out of mind. Then he recognized that he was already what he had been seeking and always had been. He had always been Buddha, which means Consciousness.
Here’s the point of the story that I’m coming to. He went back to Sarnath to his buddies. They took one look at him and said, “Jesus, Sid, what happened to you?” because he looked so different; he looked so shiny. His answer is very significant. He said, “Nothing happened to me under the bodhi tree—nothing. That’s why it can be called supreme, absolute enlightenment—because nothing happened. I stopped waiting for something to happen.”
Years later he went back to the Sakyamuni Kingdom where he had been the prince and Yashodara, his wife, was there. By now she had gray hair and their son was a teenager. She came out of the palace with a rolling pin in her hand. “Where have you been all these years? You are my husband.” He said, “Well, I have reached the end of the search.” And she said, “Couldn’t you have attained what you have attained here with me and Rahula in the castle?” He replied, “Yes, actually I could have. I probably wouldn’t have, but I could have.”
This is the answer to your question. It is not necessary to spend years seeking in order to recognize that you have always been this. The actual sequence of events seems to be that one does go through seeking and exhausts the seeking, and then one realizes in retrospect that one didn’t need the seeking after all. Somehow you have to try it to realize you don’t need it. Who’s to say if it’s necessary or not?
Take it from me. There are no possible grounds for postponement. If you haven’t earned the right by now, you never will.
This is an excerpt from my book How About Now: Satsang with Arjuna. Click here to purchase your copy today!