Ideals are a curse because they prevent you from thinking directly, simply and truly, when you are faced with facts. The ideal, the what should be, is an escape from what is. The what is is the fact that you are afraid—afraid of what your parents will say, of what people will think, afraid of society, afraid of disease, death; and if you face what is, look at it, go into it even though it brings you misery, and understand it, then you will find that your mind becomes extraordinarily simple, clear; and in that very clarity there is the cessation of fear.
You must find out for yourself what it is you love to do. Don’t think in terms of choosing a vocation in order to fit into society, because in that way you will never discover what you love to do. When you love to do something, there is no problem of choice. When you love, and let love do what it will, there is right action, because love never seeks success, it is never caught up in imitation; but if you give your life to something which you don’t love, you will never be free.
You want to be loved because you do not love; but the moment you love, it is finished, you are no longer inquiring whether or not somebody loves you. As long as you demand to be loved, there is no love in you; and if you feel no love, you are ugly, brutish, so why should you be loved? Without love you are a dead thing; and when the dead thing asks for love, it is still dead. Whereas, if your heart is full of love, then you never ask to be loved, you never put out your begging bowl for someone to fill it.
If you can look at yourself without condemning what you see, without comparing yourself with somebody else, without wishing to be more beautiful or more virtuous; if you can just observe what you are and move with it, then you will find that it is possible to go infinitely far. Then there is no end to the journey, and that is the mystery, the beauty of it.
True education is to learn how to think, not what to think. If you know how to think, if you really have that capacity, then you are a free human being—free of dogmas, superstitions, ceremonies—and therefore you can find out what religion is.
Really to live requires a great deal of love, a great feeling for silence, a great simplicity with an abundance of experience; it requires a mind that is capable of thinking very clearly, that is not bound by prejudice or superstition, by hope or fear.
Our education, our environment, our whole culture insists that we must become something. Our philosophies, our religions and sacred books all say the same thing. But now I see that the very process of becoming something implies envy, which means that I am not satisfied with being what I am; and I want to understand what I am, I want to find out why I am always comparing myself with another, trying to become something; and in understanding what I am there is no need for discipline. In the process of that understanding, integration comes into being. The contradiction in me yields to the understanding of myself, and this in turn brings an action which is integral, whole.
In the few years since I’ve started to travel this world, I’ve found myself changing. The cramped cynical worldview of a man who’d only seen life through the narrow prism of the restaurant kitchen had altered. I’d been so many places, I’d met so many people from wildly divergent backgrounds, countries, and cultures.
Everywhere I’d been, I’d been, as in Beruit, treated so well. I’d been the recipient of so many random acts of kindness from strangers and I’d begun to think that no matter where I went or who I sat down with, that food and a few drinks seemed always to bring people together. That this planet was filled with basically good and decent people doing the best they could, if frequently under difficult circumstances. That the human animal was perhaps a better and nicer species than I had once thought.
I’d begun to believe that the dinner table was the great leveler, where people from opposite sides of the world could always sit down and talk and eat and drink and if not solve all the worlds problems, at least find, for a time, common ground.
Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe the world’s not like that at all. Maybe in the real world—the one without cameras and happy food and travel shows—everybody, the good and the bad together, are all crushed under some terrible wheel.
I hope, I really hope, that I’m wrong about that.
“Living it up” has become the leitmotif of modern man—a compulsive hyperactivity without any downtimes, no gap of unscheduled time, lest we end up alone with ourselves. The meaning doesn’t matter, so long as it’s intense. We feel that without constant activity, life would be fatally insipid. Friends of mine who lead cultural tours in Asia have told me how their clients can’t bear the least gap in their itinerary. “Is there really nothing scheduled between five and seven?” they ask anxiously. We are, it seems, afraid to turn our gaze in in upon ourselves. We are fully focused on the exterior world, as experienced through our five senses. It seems naive to believe that such a feverish search for intense experience can lead to a lasting enriched quality of life.
If we do take the time to explore our inner world, it’s in the form of daydreaming and imagination, dwelling on the past of fantasizing endlessly about the future. A genuine sense of fulfillment, associated with inner freedom, can also offer intensity to every living moment, but of an altogether different sort. It is a sparkling experience of inner well-being, in which the beauty of each thing shines through. It is knowing how to enjoy the present moment, the willingness to nurture altruism and serenity and bring the best part of ourselves to mature—transforming oneself to better transform the world.