Between man and truth lie only his own ideas and expectations of truth.
One who is obsessed with endless talks and descriptions of truth, the truth which is by nature inexpressible, only adds more veils to the path toward truth. Language which works by way of concepts and conceptualizations is precisely that which lies in between us and truth.
Truth is a matter of direct experience rather than excessive reading and reasoning. Reading and reasoning which is a possibility of human mind and language and which makes sense only against the background of conditioned knowledge can only produce a personal and biased version of truth. Nothing is father away from truth than the talk or truth, for to talk truth is not to experience it, and to reason about truth is to delay a direct perception of it. Reason is by nature discursive and indirect while truth is gasped only in an intuitive and direct manner and not in any other way. This is of crucial importance particularly for those who are used to chasing truth and spiritual experience in the lives and words of others, be it spiritual and intellectual giants or not. Listening and reading is of help no doubt; but it must have a negative role in that one should realize at the end that “even that was not it.”
Although all formulations of truth have a relative import in the plane of human existence, namely all of them being attempts at expressing one and the same inexpressible truth, however all such formulations are pure and simple false in the face of the Absolute itself. Truth is not something to be thought or imagined or arrived at by sheer reasoning. Truth is only to be seen directly with one’s own eyes, eyes that will be opened only at the moment of confrontation with the truth. Thus, everything thought or imagined or reasoned about truth cannot be it and must be discarded sooner or later; it cannot have any resemblance to truth whatsoever, for thought, imagination, and reason are operative within the sphere of human possibilities, while truth dwells exclusively and in principle outside this sphere. In other words, one can see the truth if and only if one has already outgrown one’s human form and content, and hence has witnessed the extinction of one’s ego which is much more intense and destructive experience than anything comprehensible in human terms. Anyone who has not felt the pain of total extinction and annihilation has not yet known or experienced it. After all, that which ultimately faces the truth and sees it directly is no more a human person but the truth itself, for only infinity can contain infinity; only God can know God. The human receptacle which is by nature mundane and finite is not a vessel that can contain the infinite and the absolute truth; this human phenomenon is not a vessel at all no matter supreme its intelligence or spiritual powers, for its very existence is the hardest veil and the most difficult one to pierce.
Human being is in principle the very veil that conceals the Absolute. Our humanity is the first and the last and the only veil to be torn apart before a direct vision of truth is made possible. Thus, no amount of human effort, whether spiritual or intellectual, can bring about a direct perception of truth, for anything pertaining to human sphere is by nature a veiling force with veiling influences. It is with this understanding that total renunciation is prescribed as the direct path to the heart of truth. Even those who choose different paths must at end come to the total renunciation in order to face the beloved. But true and effective renunciation, whether partial or total, is not about facing away from the material world and despising what is worldly. In the face of the truth the spiritual is as mundane and veiling as the worldly and the material. After all, religion and spirituality like wealth or anything else are possibilities within the world and not outside it, and hence they are as worldly as anything else in this world. A wealthy materialist who creates jobs for a hundred humans in this world or puts a smile on a family in need in this life is much more spiritual and Godly than a corrupt Pope or guru living off people’s donations while praying and lying in their face and molesting their children behind their backs with a promise of better lives in another world. The distinction between the spiritual and the material is only a human creation for the benefit of the religious elitists. The total renunciation that takes us to the feet of the beloved has nothing to do with the world and its objects, for as we emphasized above what keeps us away from the truth is not anything but ourselves, our very humanity, our own ideas and expectations of truth and God, the crooked veil that we are.
Total renunciation is not a leaving of the world but a leaving of one’s own ideas and expectations of the world which includes a leaving of our own ideas of God and truth; of course this cannot be done by the fainthearted or one who is emotionally or intellectually invested in religion and spirituality. The face of the truth is for a few to see, for most men and women prefer what they like rather than what is. As simply put by Jack Nicholson: Not everyone “can handle the truth.”
Total renunciation which is perfect objectivity is the highest ideal of mankind and the only means by which he/she can attain to truth as it is in itself. In other words, one attains to a direct perception of truth precisely when one has let go of all ideas of truth, of all that one knows or has heard of it, of the search for truth, for to seek truth in any way is at once to miss it. This is the known peculiarity of truth which is hinted at by mystics many times: To seek it is at once to miss it.
One who longs for truth but doesn’t know anything scriptural or intellectual about it is closer to it than the chatterbox of truth. This peculiarity is exactly what makes direct perception of truth a difficult task; it is difficult and almost impossible precisely because it is so unbelievably easy and straightforward to see it. Truth is so close to us that we always miss it. To seek the truth is like trying to bite our own teeth. To seek is to go, but truth is always where we are standing, for only truth can seek the truth; only truth can seek itself!
The situation of people seeking the truth by going outside themselves and looking in the lives and words of others is like the ironic situation of people who are running all over a globe looking for its poles, little knowing that every point on a globe is a pole; everyone is standing on a pole.
It is a well known fact by all mystics that the realization of truth, which is a matter of direct perception, comes precisely at the moment where they realize that the seeker, the sought, and the way are one and the same and have always been so all along. Bayazid Bastami, a renowned Muslim mystic living in the 9th century perfectly captures the situation in the following words:
“The truth of which we speak can never be found by seeking, yet it is found only by those who seek it.”
The inner meaning of this saying is that the goal of spiritual life is not something to be found in a place, be it in thought or imagination or mind or in someone’s words or in reasoning. Truth is nowhere to be found, for it was never lost to begin with. There is nothing but truth; there is no seeker, no path, no world and no beings; truth is all that there is and it is forever inexpressible.
One cannot find truth; one can only become it, and this is possible only because one was never anything but the truth. Again, one cannot find the truth; one can only see that one is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The human state is the self-forgetfulness of the truth. One cannot find the truth; one can only remember it, and this remembrance is not a human kind of remembrance; it is a seeing of a new kind, a seeing that is at once a remembering with the highest degree of certainty and self-evidence: Truth is the transcendental seeing of the nothingness of man and world. That is why nothing of the world, whether its reasoning or chanting or imagining, can bring us any closer to the truth; any movement in this mundane world, whether of body or mind, is a movement away from the truth which is transcendental and inaccessible by all human ways and means. As Rumi says, to see the truth, the beloved, in this life you must “die before you die.” This death before the physical death is the same as the total renunciation.
Despite the all-pervading and transcendental nature of truth, and though it is not found by seeking it, only one who longs for it can see it at the end. Thus, the true seeking in the spiritual path is not seeking in the literal sense of the word, for truth is neither outside us nor inside us. The true seeking is in fact a longing for a direct perception of truth. It is this intense longing that brings about such direct experience.
Thus, longing for truth in silence and solitude is the true path instead of outwardly searching for it, worst of all reading and thinking too much about it in terms of the opinions of others, for what you read is someone else’s experience; it is their interpretation; it is what they see and not what you must see. The only exception is what one learns from a guru who has realized the truth for him/herself and has had disciples and many years of experience teaching the way to serious aspirants within the framework of a revealed tradition. Such rare teachers are devoid of egotistic motivations and refrain from too much talk and lecture about the nature of truth, for they can impart knowledge by a glance or a gesture. They too know that the real guru, the true guide, is the inner Self of man: You will eventually see what is right in front of you precisely when you let go of seeing the world through the eyes and ears of others, precisely when you realize you need nothing outside yourself to see or know the truth directly. Even if we get inspirations from the outside world, we must always return to ourselves where the ultimate confrontation will take place. Everything others say about the truth becomes a veil if we fail to realize that “even that was not it.”