And yet, in a case like this what do you think will result from doing anything about it? At the most we will come to see that that which never was, was not there; and that which is, will be visible right before us. And the day this realization dawns on us, will we say we attained something? Will we be able to say we lost the snake and found the rope? Not in the least – because there was no possibility of losing the snake; the rope was there all the time. There was no question of finding it, it was there all along. The rope was always present, right there.
When Buddha attained enlightenment people came to him and asked, “What did you attain?”
Buddha said, “The question is meaningless, I attained nothing.”
“Does that mean your labor, all these years, was all in vain?” they asked. “Your years of penance, years of seeking, did they not yield any results?”
“If you ask me in terms of attainment – my efforts have certainly been in vain, because I gained nothing. And yet I say to you: follow the same path I did, do what I did.”
They said, “Are you out of your mind? Why should we do something which was so fruitless?”
Buddha replied, “I didn’t achieve anything, of course, but I lost for certain, I lost something that was not really there. I lost something which was not there at all, something I had believed to be there. What I found was something I always had, which was already found, something which did not have to be found. Being surrounded by lies, what I had assumed to be nonexistent – that’s what I found.”
Now what does this mean? How to convey that that which was already present was found again, that that which was already attained was found, that that which was never attained was lost?
So when I say all methods of spiritual discipline are false, it does not mean that you don’t have to do them. I am merely saying that you are so deeply steeped in falsehoods that there is no other alternative but to use equally false methods in order to neutralize them. You have moved so much on the side of falsehood that even while coming back, this much ground – the distance you have traveled going into lies – will have to be covered.
For example, I walk ten steps into this room. If I wish to get out of this room I will have to walk back at least ten steps – in this very room. Now if someone were to persuade me to walk ten steps more in order to get out of it, I would find it very confusing, for in the first place I got inside the room because I walked ten steps. Now if I were to take ten steps more, I would have walked twenty steps inside the room. Actually, what someone needs to show me is the way to get out of the room without proceeding further inside the room. Regardless, I will surely have to walk ten steps; although now my attitude will be different, my course will not be the same, I will not be facing the same direction – my back will be toward what I was facing before, and vice versa.