A man lives in a house with 3000 rooms.
He begins each day standing in the courtyard at its center.
He chooses a room. And on his way to that room, he anticipates a great prize. Something that is going to change his life.
He arrives at the room. When he opens the door, he sees nothing unusual. He looks under the sofa, beneath the mattress, behind the dresser, and under the nightstand. He gains a slight dose of pleasure from the smell of the room. But that’s all.
The day has come to an end.
The next day, he chooses a different room. This time he gains a drop of pleasure from the photo on the wall. But he finds nothing else.
The day comes to an end.
The following day, he returns to another room. He finds nothing. And on his way out, he finds a dollar bill behind the door. This gives him an ounce of pleasure.
This day comes to an end.
Some days he revisits the same room.
Some days he goes to a new room.
And each time he goes to a room, he is filled with hope. That today is going to be his day. Today, everything is going to change. Today, his life is going to take on new meaning.
He is utterly convinced that somewhere within one of these rooms lies a secret.
A secret that he has missed for all these years. And upon discovering it, he will finally discover “That.”
He doesn’t precisely know what “That” is. It might be peace, freedom, joy, bliss, rapture, or even a permanent end to the search.
All he knows is that he doesn’t have “That” now.
He forges relationships. He builds businesses. He even invents gods.
But “That” is nowhere to be found.
And anytime he asks someone . . .
Anytime he shares his problem with someone . . .
They give him a quick solution.
They say to him, “Oh, you must go do xyz.”
So he does “xyz” but it doesn’t produce the “That” that he’s searching for.
And when he tells them this, the individual says to him, “Oh ye of little faith. You must believe. You’ve only just started. Keep doing xyz and one day it will come.”
So he keeps doing “xyz.” Years pass. But he has gotten nowhere.
He returns to the individual and asks him how long he has been doing “xyz.” The individual tells him he’s been doing “xyz” for 45 years.
He asks him if doing “xyz” for 45 years have given him the “That.” The individual says no. But he’s certain that one day it will come.
The man thinks to himself. Everyone in the world around him is chasing, chasing, chasing. Some are chasing jobs, others high positions, others more wealth, others happiness, others religion . . .
And that is all fine and good. But somewhere within this mass of humanity, by sheer odds alone, there must be Someone who has found “That.” There must be at least One Person who has found the thing that they have been chasing their entire lives.
There are young humans and old humans. The old humans have come to the twilight of their life. They have been chasing the longest.
So he asks one of the old men how long he has been chasing. The old man says he’s been chasing for 87 years.
He asks him if he has found the “That.”
The old man says no, but if it’s god’s will he will find it before he dies.
He asks the old man that if it was all dependent upon god’s will, why chase in the first place?
The old man says, “Because god only helps those who help themselves.”
But the old man Did try to help himself. He helped himself for 87 years.
With nothing to show for it.
So he goes to a Buddhist monk. Surely the monk must have the answer. They have devoted their lives to such things.
He visits the oldest monk in the temple. The leader. The most venerable among them.
He says to him, “Venerable sir, have you found That?”
The monk says, “Your desire is strong my son. Perhaps you’d like to become a monk.”
He says, “I’ll consider it. But can you please tell me if you have found That?”
The monk says, “You must be patient, my son. We monks have devoted our lives to meditation, simplicity, and service. In order to discover the Buddha within each of us.”
He responds, “I understand, Venerable sir. But I wonder if you could please tell me if you have found That?”
The monk says, “It is said that there is no That. That there is nowhere to arrive.”
He says, “If there is no That, and if there is nowhere to arrive, then why do you meditate and do penance and shave your head and wear robes? Why go to all this trouble?”
The monk says, “We do it in search of Enlightenment.”
He responds, “So you do have a That. It’s Enlightenment.”
The monk says, “Yes, I suppose.”
He says, “Sir, have you found Enlightenment?”
The monk says, “Not as yet.”
He leaves the temple and sits on a rock in an open field.
He comes to the realization that no one, not even the monks who have devoted their lives to austerities, have found the That.
And if there is no That, then he wouldn’t feel this strange longing within him. This constant sense of dissatisfaction.
And where there is dissatisfaction, there Must be something that satisfies it forever.
He returns to his house. He stands in the courtyard. He pours gasoline onto the floor. And sets the house on fire.
And as he walks away from the burning house, he sees with exquisite clarity that any direction he walks will not lead to the answer.
He sees without a shadow of a doubt that everyone is searching. From the beggar in the street to the monk on the throne.
He sees that not a single thing will give him what he seeks. That not a single location on the earth holds the answer to his problem.
He sees that the very spot on which he is walking is his most ultimate destination.
He drops to the ground under an endless sky.
He banishes every drop of hope.
And suddenly his dissatisfaction vanishes.
He sees as clear as the sun that shines upon him, and he closes his eyes and begins to laugh.
He touches the dirt upon which he sits. He runs his palm along the grass. He feels the weight of his limbs.
And he quietly whispers to himself,
THIS . . . is “That.”
Originally published at www.kapilguptamd.com on March 21, 2018.