One expansion is external. The eyes look out; the hands feel the touch of external objects; the ears hear the outside sounds. But there is an expansion within also, which the eyes cannot see the ears cannot hear, and hands cannot touch. That is why, perhaps, what is within remains unknown and unfamiliar. Or perhaps it is because it is so close to us that we cannot see it.
What is at a distance can be seen; that which is close lacks perspective. To see, there must be some distance between us and the object. I can see you because there is a distance between us. I cannot see myself because there is no distance whatsoever between me and myself. The eye can behold all except itself. We who know all, are unable to know ourselves. And in the quest for truth, he who does not know himself, what else is he capable of knowing? And for he who knows himself, what else is left to know in the quest for truth.
The first experience of truth is within one’s own self, for that is the nearest point of access. We can know everyone externally, but have no way to penetrate the internal being; and for this there is only one point of approach – one’s own intrinsic self. Hence the first door to the temple of truth is the self within. But it is a strange enigma – life passes away and there is no trace of one’s self, not even a faint suggestion of it! A whole lifetime is wasted without a hint of the self!
There was a thinker by the name of Schopenhauer. One night he went to a public park for a walk. It was about three in the morning and quite dark as yet. He was so engrossed in a problem that he did not know when he reached the garden, but the night watchman saw him. He came with his stick and lantern to investigate. He could not see him clearly but he was sure that the man who had stolen into the garden at this time of the night, and was talking loudly to himself, was a madman. He thumped his stick and called out “Who are you? From where do you come and why have you come here?”
Schopenhauer laughed and said: “That is a difficult question you ask, my friend. All my life I have been asking myself this question: Who am l? From where do I come and why? And this is what you ask me too! Would that I had an answer to your question!” The gardener was convinced he was mad for he knew not from where he came or why – but do we know?
We too may laugh at Schopenhauer, but our plight is just the same. We too do not know who we are, from where we come, or why and to what purpose is this journey of life. We are not acquainted with a single essential factor of life. The nature of life is a closed book to us. The greatest wonder is that we are strangers to our own selves! Who am I? – and if I do not know this basic fact, how will I know the other aspects of truth? To know one’s self is the first unconditional step in the direction of truth, without fulfilling which, this search is impossible.