What is turning inwards?
Turning inwards is not a turning at all. Going inwards is not a going at all. Turning inwards simply means that you have been running after this desire and that, and you have been running and running and you have been coming again and again to frustration. That each desire brings misery, that there is no fulfillment through desire. That you never reach anywhere, that contentment is impossible. Seeing this truth, that running after desires takes you nowhere, you stop. Not that you make any effort to stop. If you make any effort to stop it is again running, in a subtle way. You are still desiring – maybe now it is desirelessness that you desire.
If you are making an effort to go in, you are still going out. Any effort can only take you out, outwards. All journeys are outward journeys, there is no inward journey. How can you journey inwards? You are already there, there is no point in going. When going stops, journeying disappears, when desiring is no more clouding your mind, you are in. This is called turning in. But it is not a turning at all, it is simply not going out.
But in language it is always a problem to express these things.
There is an ancient parable: It was a beautiful afternoon, and a tortoise went for a walk on the land. And he rested under sunlit trees and he roamed around in the bushes just for the delight of it. Then he came back to the pond. One of his friends, a fish, asked ‘Where have you been?’ And he said ‘I went for a walk on the land.’ And the fish said ‘What do you mean by “a walk on the land”? You must mean swimming.’ And the tortoise laughed and he said ‘No, it was not swimming, it was nothing like swimming. It was a walk on the solid land.’ And the fish said ‘Are you kidding or something? I have been to every place, you can swim everywhere. I have never seen a place where you cannot dive and swim. You are talking nonsense. Have you gone mad?’
You understand the difficulty of the fish? She has never been on the land, walking on the land makes no sense. If the tortoise wants to make sense of his statement he will have to say ‘I went swimming on the solid land.’ Which will be absurd. But only the word ‘swimming’ can be understood by the fish.
A mind full of desires can only understand desire. Hence the desire for God. It is absurd, you cannot desire God. God comes to you when desire leaves. The cessation of desire is the coming of God to you. Again, I am using the word ’coming’, which is not true. Because God is already there – you only recognize when the desire has ceased. Nothing ever comes, nothing ever goes, all is as it is. That’s what Buddha means when he says: yatha bhutam – things are as they are. Nothing has gone wrong, nothing needs to be put right. Things are as they are, and they always remain as they are. The trees are green and the roses are red and the clouds float in the sky. Everything is where it has always been, the way it has always been. That is the meaning of the word ‘nature’ – yatha bhutam.
But man has a capacity to dream, to desire. That capacity to dream is the problem. Then you start moving into the future, then you start planning for the future. You remain here, but your mind can move into the future. It is like a dream. You fall asleep in Poona but you can dream of Calcutta or Chicago or Washington or Moscow. You are here the whole night – in the morning you will not wake up in Moscow or Chicago, you will wake up in Poona. And then you will laugh, ‘I have been roaming too much.’ While you are dreaming of Moscow you have not reached there, you remain here.
You always remain here. Here and now is the only reality, there is no other. But desire can create a dream. And in desire you go on moving outwards.
Now, what does it mean to turn inwards? Tao’s question is significant, it is very relevant. What does it mean to turn inwards? It means seeing the futility of desire, seeing the futility of dreaming, seeing the illusoriness of dreaming. In that very seeing, desire disappears. In that clarity, desire cannot exist. And when you are with no desire, you are in. Not that you have to turn in. Not that first you have to stop desiring, then you have to turn in. The cessation of desire is the turning, the transformation – what Jesus calls ‘metanoia’, the conversion. Suddenly another gestalt opens. It was there, but you were not aware of it because you were too much obsessed with the desire. The desire for money, the desire for power, the desire for prestige, does not allow your meditation to bloom. Because the whole energy goes down the drain in desires.
Once the energy is not moving anywhere… Remember, I repeat again, turning in is not moving in. When the energy is not moving at all, when there is no movement, when everything is still, when all has stopped – because seeing the futility of desire you cannot move anywhere, there is nowhere to go – stillness descends. The world stops. That’s what is meant by ‘turning in’. Suddenly you are in. You have always been there, now you are awake. The night is over, the morning has come, you are awake. This is what is meant by Buddhahood – to become aware, awake, of that which is already the case.
Remember Hakuin’s saying: From the very beginning all beings are Buddhas. From the very beginning to the very end. In the beginning, in the middle, in the end, all are Buddhas. Not for a single moment have you been anybody else. But the emperor is having a nightmare of becoming a beggar, and is tortured by the nightmare.
From This Very Body the Buddha, Discourse #9
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