What is Truth?
This is the question every man has to answer on his own. And unless a man answers this question he is not truly a man.
This question has haunted humanity down the centuries. It is as old as man himself because man became man only when he asked this question. Unless we know what truth is, our whole effort to live, our whole effort to make a meaning out of life is futile.
It is ultimate, but urgent also, to know from where life has arisen, and to want to know the source and the goal, to know the inner running current that holds everything, to know the thread which is the ultimate law of existence.
When we ask the question, “What is truth?” we are entering into the world of man for the first time. If you have not asked the question yet then you live below human beings. Ask the question, and you become part of humanity. And when the question is dissolved you go beyond humanity, you become a God.
Below the questioning you remain part of the animal kingdom; with the question you enter on the path; and again being without the question you have come to realize that you have come home. The question is very difficult because just by asking, it cannot be solved. One has to put one’s whole life at the stake.
This is the question that Pontius Pilate asked Jesus. At the last moment, when Jesus was going to be crucified, Pontius Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” And Jesus did not answer him. Christian mystics have pondered over it. Why did Jesus not answer it? Why did he remain silent?
There are three possibilities. One, that the question was not sincere. A man like Jesus answers only when the question is sincere. When is a question sincere? A question is sincere when a questioner is ready to do something about it. If it is just curiosity then it is not worth answering. If it has an intense passion, a deep desire, so deep that the questioner is ready to put his whole life at the stake – nothing less will do – then only is the question sincere. A man like Jesus will answer only when the question has been asked from the very core of one’s being. So the first possibility is that Pilate’s question was not sincere. Seeing the insincerity, Jesus remained silent.
Pilate was a well-educated man, a man who had succeeded at least in the eyes of the world. He was the viceroy, a Roman Governor-general. He was at the peak of his career – power, prestige, wealth, everything was his. Whatsoever he had been doing in his life had paid him well. Facing him was Jesus, almost a hobo, a failure, one who had not achieved anything at least in the eyes of the world. He had no power, no prestige, not even respectability. He was just at the other end of life, a tremendous failure, mocked, jeered, insulted. Whatsoever he had been doing had all failed. It had not paid him in any way. His life was futile, at least for others.
The successful man asked the failure, “What is truth?”
There are two types of successes in the world. One, the worldly, which is not really a success but just trying to deceive yourself, just trying to keep up faces, appearances. The eyes are full of tears but you go on smiling; the heart is miserable, but you go on showing something else, just the opposite, to the world. They say “nothing succeeds like success” but I would like to tell you “nothing fails like success.” As far as the inner journey is concerned, as far as the transcendental is concerned, nothing fails like success and nothing succeeds like failure.
The first possibility is that the question was not sincere, it was asked just by the way. The man was well-educated, well-trained in philosophical concepts. He could have asked the question as a philosophical question. Then Jesus remained silent because the question was not really asked and there was no need to answer it.
The second possibility is that the question was sincere, that the question was not just a childish curiosity, that there was passion behind it, that it was authentic. Then why did Jesus remain silent? He remained silent because if this ultimate question is authentically asked then silence is the answer, because there is no way to answer it except silence. The question is so profound that words will not be capable of answering it. The question is so deep that words will not be able to reach it, to touch it – only silence will.
If the second is the case then Jesus did answer it, but he answered it by silence.
A third possibility is also there: that the question was sincere and yet not so sincere – that it was ambiguous, split, which was probably the case because where can you find a man who is total? A part of him was authentically asking, another part was pretending, “Even if you don’t answer I am not in a hurry. And even if you don’t answer, I don’t mind because in fact I don’t need it. In fact, I know the answer already, I am asking just to test you.”
The question was ambiguous, Janus-faced. That seems to be more probable because that is how man is and has always been – split. A part of Pilate feels the truth of this man who is standing before him – a complete, utter failure but yet his eyes are luminous, yet he has a glow. Pilate can feel it, can almost touch it. Yet another part, the egoist part, is not ready to surrender so he pretends he is asking only casually, “Even if you don’t answer, don’t be worried. It is not my need. In fact, I already know the answer.”
If this ambiguity was the case, then Jesus would also remain silent because when a question is ambiguous and the person is divided, no answer is possible. Because the answer can be understood only in your undivided consciousness, the question can be answered only when you are no longer split, when you are one, when you are in a unison, unity. Only then can you understand it.
Jesus’ silence before Pontius Pilate is very significant, pregnant with many meanings. But Jesus has answered the question somewhere else, it is recorded in the New Testament. Somewhere else he says, “I am the Truth.”
I would like you to go a little bit into history then it will be very easy to understand today’s parable.
Homer asked the same question in 850 B.C. and he answered that ‘the Whole is supported by Fate and Fate is the Truth’.
This is not really an answer; in fact, it is avoiding. When you say, ‘It is Fate,’ you don’t say much; in fact, you are not saying anything, you are simply playing with a word. You have simply shifted the question. It doesn’t answer. If somebody is miserable and you say, “It is Fate,” how have you answered it? Your answering has not added anything to the already known situation. You have simply labelled it. “One is suffering because it is Fate.” But why is it so? Why is Fate so? No, it is not a real answer. In fact, it is a lie. But one can believe in such things. Many people still do as Homer did. They have not risen above that level of consciousness.
Then came Thales, 575 B.C. He said that the whole consists of nothing but water. Water is the basic element of truth, of life, of existence.
Better than Fate, something more tangible, but very fragmentary. Water does not go very deep, does not explain much. It is reducing the higher to the lowest. Thales must have had a scientific mind; that’s what science goes on doing. You ask about mind and they say it is nothing but matter. The higher is reduced to the lower; the sky is explained by the earth. Mind is a great evolution. To explain the mind by matter is a scientific fallacy.
Thales was the first scientist of the world. He tried to explain the unknowable by something known: he called it water, the liquid element, the liquidity, the flow. But the answer is very fragmentary. It has something of truth in it but not all of it. And a fragmentary truth is almost more dangerous than a lie because it has a certain appearance of truth and it can deceive more. That fragment of truth can become very deceptive; it can cover the whole lie and make it appear as if it is the truth.
Then came Pythagoras, 530 B.C. He says that the whole consists only of numbers, mathematical symbols. He has even more of a scientific attitude than Thales – mathematics. Meaningful, but mathematics is not life. In fact, all that is very alive is nonmathematical. Love is non-mathematical, you cannot reduce it to numbers. Poetry is nonmathematical. Just think of a life consisting only of numbers – one, two, three, four – all poetry disappears, all love disappears, all dreaming disappears. Life will not be worth living.
That’s how it is happening today. Scientists have reduced everything to mathematics. Life is not equal to equations howsoever accurate the equations; life is more than mathematics can ever explain. The mathematics cannot explain the mathematician, the mathematician who deals in numbers is higher and bigger than numbers. It has to be so; those numbers are just toys in his hands. But who is this player? Whenever life is reduced to mathematics it loses charm, it loses charisma, it loses mystery. And suddenly everything seems to be worthless. Mystery is needed; it is subtle nourishment for growth.
I have heard two mathematicians talking. One said to another, ‘Is there any meaning in life? Is there any worth? Is there any purpose?’
The other said, ‘But what else can you do with it?’
The first asked, ‘Is there any meaning to live for in life?’ and the other says, ‘What else can you do with it?’ If life has to be lived just as if you are a victim, as if somebody is playing a trick upon you, as if you are being thrown into this torture chamber, into this concentration camp called the earth, then even if you live, you don’t live enough. You slowly commit suicide. You by and by, by and by, go on disappearing. Suicide becomes a constant thought in the mind if life has no mystery.
Then came Anaxagoras, 450 B.C. and his answer is mind. Certainly he took a great leap from water, number, fate; he took a great jump. Anaxagoras is a great milestone in the history of humanity. ‘Mind,’ he says. ‘The whole existence is made up of the stuff called mind.’
Better, but Jesus would not agree, Buddha would not agree. Yes, certainly better than what others were saying, but Zen would not agree. Matter, mind . . . Zen says no-mind. One has to go higher still because mind still carries the duality with matter.
Good, great in a way, a radical step; from object Anaxagoras turns to the subject, from the outer he turns to the inner. He opens the door. He is the first psychologist in the world because he emphasizes mind more than matter. He says matter is also made of mind: he explains the lower with the higher.
You can explain in two ways. Go and see beautiful white lotus flowers in a pond; they come out of the dirty mud. Then there are two possibilities: either you explain the lotus by the dirty mud or you explain the dirty mud by the lotus. And both will lead you in totally different dimensions. If you say that this lotus is nothing but dirty mud because it comes out of it, your life will lose all significance, meaning, beauty. Then you will live in the dirty mud.
That’s what Freud has been doing; that’s what Marx has done. They have great skill in reducing everything to the dirty mud. Buddha attains to enlightenment, ask Freud and he will say it is nothing but sex energy. There is a truth in it, because it arises out of sex, but the sex functions like dirty mud and out of it arises the lotus.
Ask Buddha;. He will say sex is nothing but the beginning of enlightenment, the very first steps of nirvana. That’s how Tantra was born.
These are two ways and you will have to remember that your life will depend more or less on the way you interpret, on the way you choose. You can try to reduce the lotus to dirty mud, it can be done and it is very scientific. It can be done very scientifically because all that this lotus has was in the mud. It can be dissected and everything can be found, and then the mud can be dissected, and whatsoever the lotus has, everything will be found in the mud; nothing special, nothing extra, nothing from the outside has entered into the lotus so it is nothing but the mud. If you are choosing your life with this attitude, your life will be just nothing but mud.
And the person who says that the mud is nothing but potential white lotuses, that the mud is nothing but a waiting to manifest its beauty in lotuses, has a higher standpoint, the standpoint of a religious man. Then the whole life becomes full of splendor, significance, glory. Then wherever you look, you can find God, you can find the white lotus. Then everything is moving towards a peak. Then there is evolution. Then there is future, possibility. Then even the impossible becomes possible.
With the first attitude – the dirty-mud-attitude I call it – even the possible seems to be impossible. But with the second attitude – the lotus-attitude I call it – you can see deeply into mud and you can see hidden lotuses there. And the dirty mud is no more dirty mud, it is just potentiality. Then sex becomes potentiality for samadhi, the body becomes potentiality for the soul, the world becomes the abode of God.
Anaxagoras was one of the greatest revolutionaries, a radical thinker. This word radical is beautiful. It means: pertaining to the roots. He changed the outlook. He said mind. He took a necessary step, but that too was not enough.
Then came Protagoras, 445 B.C. and he said “Man.” Now his standpoint is more total. Mind is a fragment of man. Man is many things more, mind plus. If Anaxagoras is thought to be absolutely true then you will remain in the head; that is what has happened to many people. They have not moved beyond Anaxagoras. They go on living in the head because mind is all. Then mind becomes dictatorial, it goes on a great ego trip. It starts dominating everything and crippling everything. It becomes a destructive force.
No, you are not only mind. You are mind, certainly, but plus. Many more things are there.
A lotus cannot exist alone; the flower cannot exist alone. It will need many more things to exist: the pond, the water, the air, the sun, its connection with the mud, and leaves, and a thousand and one things. So if you think only in terms of the lotus and you forget all connections with the universe, your lotus will be a plastic lotus. It will not be a real lotus, it will not be inter-connected, it will not be rooted in existence.
Protagoras has a more holy attitude, wholistic attitude. Man, and the totality of man – the body, the mind, the soul – becomes truth.
Then came Socrates, 435 B. C. and he said: wisdom, knowing, knowledge. When man attains to maturity, he becomes wise; when man comes to fulfillment, then wisdom arises.
Wisdom is the essence of man, the fragrance of the lotus flower. A still higher attitude.
And then came Jesus who says, “I am the truth.” This one statement is one of the greatest statements ever made in the world. Either it is the greatest truth ever uttered or it is the most egoistic and arrogant statement ever made. “I am the truth.” It depends how you decode it. Ordinarily, when you hear that Jesus says, “I am the truth,” you think this man is a megalomaniac, has gone mad. He is uttering nonsense. This man is truth? Jesus is truth? Then what about us all?
Jesus is not saying that, you have misunderstood him. When he says, “I am truth,” he is not saying, “Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, is the truth.” What he is saying is totally different. He is saying “I am-ness, I am, is the truth,” so wherever there is this “I am-ness” there is truth. When you say “I am” you are uttering truth. Your “I am” and my “I am” are not two things, we both participate there. Your name is different, your form is different, my name is different, my form is different, but when I say “I, I am” and you say “I am” we refer to some common experience, we refer to some common root. Your “I am-ness” and my “I am-ness” are not different, are not separate, they belong to one “I am-ness” of God. When Jesus says “I am the truth” he means wherever this integration is felt of being totally “I am”, there is truth.
Ordinarily you are many I’s – you don’t have any capital I; you have many I’s, lower case. Gurdjieff used to say that we should not use the word I, only God can use it because you don’t have any single I, you have many i’s like a crowd. For one moment one I comes on the top, and becomes the ruler; in another moment it is gone and another I comes over and rules.
You can watch it. It is so simple. One moment you say, “I am happy. I am tremendously happy, at the top of the world” and the next moment you are unhappy, at the lowest bottom of the world, in the seventh hell. Are both these I’s the same? One moment you were flowing and you were compassionate and loving and another moment you were closed and frozen and dead. Are these two I’s the same? One moment you could have forgiven anything and another moment just any small tiny thing and you cannot forgive. Are these two I’s the same? One moment you are sitting in silence, in zazen, meditating, and you look so Buddha-like, and another moment, for a small thing, you are nagging, fighting. You will yourself feel ridiculous later on. For what were you getting so hot? For what were you creating so much fuss? It was not worth it. But another i was ruling over you.
You are like a wheel of many I’s; those I’s are like spokes. The wheel goes on moving, one spoke comes on top; hardly before it has come it starts declining. It goes on changing. Again it will come up and again you will feel a different being existing there within you. Watch. Have you got an I? Any substantial I? Any essential I? Can you say that you have some permanent I in you? A crystalized I in you?
You promise, and next moment you have forgotten your promise. Gurdjieff used to say that unless you have a permanent I, who will promise? You will not be able to fulfil it. Who will fulfil it? You say to a woman, “I love you and I will love you forever and forever.” Wait! What are you uttering? What nonsense! Forever and ever? How can you promise? You don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, you don’t know who is going to rule you tomorrow. Your promises will create trouble for you. You cannot promise because you are not there. Only a man like Gurdjieff or Jesus can promise. Yes, he can promise because he knows that he will remain the same; whatsoever changes in the world will not affect him. He will remain the same, he has come to a crystalized soul. Now he knows that his wheel has stopped. He is in total possession of his being. He can promise.
But ordinarily people go on promising, and you never see the fact that no promise has ever been fulfilled by you. You completely forget about it. You don’t even remember it because that remembrance will be like a wound. You find out ways and means to rationalize: you cannot fulfil it because the other person has changed, you cannot fulfil it because the circumstances have changed, you cannot fulfil it because you were foolish at the time you made it. And again you will make promises.
Man is an animal who goes on promising, never fulfilling any promise because he cannot fulfil it; man as he exists has too many I’s. When Jesus says “I am the truth” he is saying that whosoever attains to “I am-ness” is truth.
And this truth is not something philosophical, this truth is something existential. You cannot come to it by logic, argumentation; you cannot come to it by finding a right premise and then moving to a right syllogism and then reaching to a right conclusion. No, that is not the way. You will have to come to it through an inner discipline. That’s what Zen is all about.
From Dang Dang Doko Dang, Discourse #9
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