The Way of Seeing® -- a simple, practical path


Desire for Truth

by Ken Russell


Man: What is the most important thing for success on the path?
Ken: Wanting truth is the key. Lesser motivations won't sustain you over the long haul — and awakening does not happen quickly enough for most of us. Wanting a better life or some kind of success may get you started on the path but will not hold up for the duration, especially the difficult portions of the path. Only a desire for the truth will sustain you for the entire journey.
And a desire for the truth will help protect you from the dangers along the way, especially that of false or deluded teachers. If you are committed to truth — that is, to not deceiving yourself — you cannot be ensnared by a false teacher for very long. For a false teaching to succeed there needs to be collusion between the pseudo-teacher and the student. If you are rigorously honest with yourself that cannot happen for very long and you will move on.
Man: What do you mean by wanting the truth? What is this truth that you want?
Ken: The truth is not some fixed static thing that you get once and for all. It is the moment to moment seeing what is happening and responding from that clarity. There is no fixed something or other that is the truth. Truth is your experience of life unfolding moment by moment. It is seeing what is.
Man: That sounds abstract. Can you give some examples?
Ken: Yes. For instance, it is necessary to see ourselves as we are, not as we might like or imagine ourselves to be. Often a person who appears to be very "nice" and agreeable needs to acknowledge the buried anger and resentment that they are holding. They have built up an image of themselves as very good, helpful people and it can be difficult to face the buried hostility. Or conversely, you may be a very up-front, aggressive, take command person. This kind of person often finds it difficult to acknowledge the part of them that feels weak and vulnerable; indeed, it threatens their whole self-image. But until we see and fully acknowledge what lies behind our persona we will remain stuck. This unacknowledged material will influence our lives in ways that are harmful.
Man: These seem to be psychological issues rather than spiritual. What do they have to do with the spiritual path?
Ken: There is a very deep misunderstanding of what the spiritual path is. The spiritual path deals with what is; both what appears to be and what actually is. In actuality we are buddhas, or a part of god. But that is not how we perceive ourselves or how we function in the world. Though we are this absolute quality we have lost that in our daily functioning. We think we are this person or that person with these problems and these situations. Thus we need to see how we function on a daily basis, how our minds are put together, how our thoughts affect our emotions and how our emotions influence our thoughts.
It is only by unmasking the operations of our personal dynamics that we get free of them and can return to our original nature. We cannot leapfrog over our conditioning. If, through good fortune, we touch into what we really are, that experience will be lost or captured by our personality. One of the reasons there are so many religious traditions, paths, and sects in the world is that the originators or founders had a glimpse of reality but did not work through their own conditioning sufficiently and did not understand their own limitations. Thus, these various sects, paths and -isms are tainted with personal elements and are incomplete or misleading and, while they may help you along somewhat, they do not provide a complete understanding or a way to radically liberate yourself.
Man: But aren't these teachings still helpful?
Ken: Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that anything that helps you become more aware of yourself or pushes you into new experiences can help move you along. No, in the sense that you may become trapped by these teachings (perhaps out of gratitude for the help they have provided) without realizing that they are keeping you from further progress. The story is told of the egg of a flying bird that has fallen, without breaking, out of its nest in a tree and is found and raised by a land bird. Though it has been given its life, the land bird is unable to help it fulfill its destiny because it will not be encouraged to fly, there being no nest in the tree to be pushed out of, nor does the land bird understand its potential for flight.
This is where your commitment to truth is very important. If you are honest with yourself you will see that you have settled for something less than the truth, like being accepted warmly in a group, finding friends or learning enough to achieve worldly success. Perhaps, the sense of truth is that quietly nagging inner voice that says "There is something still missing, no matter how improved life is." Perhaps it is a vague dissatisfaction that keeps you moving until you realize your true nature.
Man: But haven't we been taught that acceptance is part of the spiritual path, that chronic dissatisfaction is kind of neurotic?
Ken: We are not talking about the usual dissatisfactions like I want to lose weight, I need to make more money, I wish I had more friends, etc. This is not the mind complaining about something. It is a very subtle sense of lack, that something is missing without being clear on what that something is. We can't know what is missing, it is truly beyond the ability of the mind to grasp.
Perhaps we sense that in spite of our success in a conventional sense that we lack inner peace, that we lack the ability to just be with ourselves. Society sells us on so many things that we are told will make us happy but do not. If you look at your life and examine what happens when you get what you want; does it really leave you fulfilled or is there still some sense of unease?
Perhaps this awareness of the insufficiency of what we are told should make us happy is part of an affinity for the truth. In the Hindu tradition they have a saying; Neti, neti which means "not this, not that". It means to keep on looking at your life and dismissing that which does not truly fulfill until you come to that which truly leaves you at peace with yourself and the world. That is awakening or enlightenment.
You need to examine what works in your life and what doesn't. But you must be rigorously honest with yourself. The best way to do that is to be in touch with your feelings. Your feelings will tell you how something affects you. This circumvents mental processing which can be highly misleading. You can believe or disbelieve anything you want to, but your feelings usually do not lie.
When you have been with a person see how you feel afterwards. Are you calm or agitated? Do you have more or less energy? Is your mind quieter or busier? Are you looking forward to seeing this person again? This last one is a little tricky because if you are, then that is a subtle form of disturbance, a desire for something in the future. Many apparently good things backfire because you want more of them and that creates problems.
Man: Does this sense of truth involve other people?
Ken: Not really. This affinity or wanting truth is something internal. With respect to other people it means that you need to see them clearly. Because you like or love someone else does not mean that you whitewash their failings. Or, conversely, because we are angry at or dislike someone does not mean we will indulge our minds tendency to make them wrong about everything or overlook their strong points. We do not allow ourselves to mentally paint fantasies of others that suit our needs or moods.
With yourself, you must be ruthlessly honest. The worst thing we can do is to lie to ourselves. There are times when it might be appropriate or expeditious for us to lie to someone else. But we have to acknowledge to ourselves that we are lying. If we fool ourselves we are sowing the seeds for future suffering.

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