Questions versus Questions

I used to think I was looking for enlightenment. That was a direct fallout of another mistake, which was that I used to think I was a spiritual seeker. Neither of those was true. They were cases of mistaken identity. This mistaken identity stemmed from my confused lack of real thinking about what was driving me. It all started when I was five, but that's another story. What showed up for me at five was a question. That question was (as near as it can be put in English), "Being that I exist, why then can I not find my self?" That question stuck like a splinter in my mind and nothing would dislodge it. As I grew this question remained, like a constant itch reminding me that I had not dealt with it.

This question, "Being that I exist, why can I not find myself?" sounds like a spiritual thing. At least it did to me when I happened upon the idea of spirituality. Taoism and Buddhism especially sounded like they were concerned with this question. That was a mistake. They are not. Or, rather I have come to see that they are involved with that question in the wrong way. I am speaking here about how the of people who have a similar question in their heads (seekers, teachers, practitioners, gurus, masters, etc.) seem to handle the question. This hinges on a point that is hard to make in English. (I don't know if it's a hard point to make in other languages since I don't really speak any, but the trouble seems to be consistent.) The difficulty is that not all questions are questions.

Let me explain that last bit. Questions, as we normally deal with them, are handled by finding answers that fit. That's good as far as it goes. From what I can see, though, it doesn't go very far. When a question is answered, the answer inevitably seems to lead to more questions. In fact, the better the question is put together, the more it does this. I think that's a very good thing for normal life, development, and evolution. However, such a process of questions leading to answers leading to more questions doesn't do much for the kind of thing (also called a question because words are often pressed into serving multiple roles in order to keep the vocabulary of a given language manageable by a human brain) which spurs one on to becoming a spiritual seeker.

This other kind of question, the one that scrapes at the mind and won't stop until it is addressed, is more like a statement. It's a paradoxical presentation of how reality seems to be. This kind of question seems to cancel itself out, and yet it doesn't. It functions like a question because it demands a reply. That is as far as the resemblance to the other category of questions mentioned above goes. This second type of question cannot be answered. No answer will fit. Instead, the question needs to be directly confronted. The question needs to be faced on its own terms. Answers are often deflections or labels for putting something into a convenient category. As mentioned before, they lead to more questions. Answers will not do for these special kinds of questions. Instead, you need to face the question directly and not stop until the question goes. When such a question goes it does not leave an answer. Nor does it leave a void. When it happens you will not "figure it out." More than likely you will not even see the question go. One moment the question will be there with you, burning as brightly as ever. Perhaps it will be burning even brighter than it usually does because of all the attention you have fed it in finally facing it. Perhaps the burning will be so fierce that it will pain you. Perhaps it will seem as though nothing but the question really exists. Regardless of all that, one instant it is there in full force, an unmovable object consuming your life, and the next it is simply gone. Some people report a huge fanfare from such an occurrence. They talk about the Heavens opening wide, and the grace of God pouring down on them. To me that sounds more like an answer, and probably means the question was mistaken for the other kind. I really can't say. For me, there was no fanfare. For me, there was just a slight surprise. It wasn't until days after that I realized what had happened. That thing that had been stuck in my mind for so long that I took it for granted, was nowhere to be found.

Perhaps that is what spirituality is really all about; a treating of the burning question as the kind of question that answers make sense for. If that is the case, then spirituality will never deliver the goods it promises since most questions (especially those refined into strong form) always give birth to new questions when they are answered.

This all points to a consistent behavior I have seen in many of the "anti-spiritual" thinkers I admire in the spiritual milieu. It comes in many forms, but I find the way UG Krishnamurti expressed it to be the best. UG would often confront people who came to him with the question, "What do you want?"

For fortyish years, I thought what I wanted was enlightenment, awakening, Buddha-mind. I mistakenly believed that such a thing would relieve me of my question. What I really wanted was that question resolved. I didn't want it gone, and I knew any answer just led to more versions of the same question. I just wanted to be done with it. If someone had come at me with the, "what do you want?" tactic earlier, I might have saved a lot of time. I suspect a lot of people in the spiritual game would be saved a lot of confused groping with this tactic as well.

Personally, I say that whatever you want is groovy, Be honest with yourself about it, what the consequences of that want might be, and then if you still want it then go for it. The point here is that it's probably a good idea to actually move in the direction of getting it. For me, spirituality was in the wrong direction for dealing with what I actually wanted. Your mileage may vary.

photo credit

Tags: ,

Leave A Reply (No comments so far)

No comments yet