Socrates used to say, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” But if you examine your life you will be surprised to find that nothing in it can survive close scrutiny. Just turn back and look: where are the moments when you really found happiness? Yes, at first you may recall a few precious moments, like when you fell in love for the first time. The memory is very blurred now, and you will have to wipe the dust off those recollections. But if you do this and recapture those moments you will begin to tremble with the realization that those moments too only gave the illusion of happiness, not happiness itself. And the deeper into those memories you look, the more their so-called happiness will disappear.
Whoever truly reflects finds that life is empty, so the seeker always comes to the experience of his own emptiness.
Only fools think that their lives are full. They go through life carrying bags full of stones and believe them to be jewels. They have only to empty out their baggage and look at their contents to discover the utter barrenness of their lives. To the man who has not seen the emptiness, the door of religion is closed. A man only turns inward when he finally sees that all his pleasure-seeking is in vain. There is not a single moment of true happiness, and yet in attempting to find that moment we suffer so much unhappiness.
With great difficulty a man builds himself the house he really wants, and when he finally moves in, he asks where the happiness is – and sets about finding something else with which to continue his search. If he has ten rupees, he devotes his energy to turning it into ten thousand rupees, and when he comes to rest and relax, his task accomplished, he cannot find any happiness in the ten thousand rupees that are now his. But even in this situation we do not allow our mind to really see this fact. It feels so dangerous to do so that we immediately commit ourselves to turning the ten thousand into ten million: this is the way the mind works. And even if we make the ten million we will not be happy; instead we will be busy turning the ten million into ten billion! And the last thing we have any intention of doing is leaving ourselves any space to be able to look back and assess what we are doing, to reflect and meditate on whether we have actually experienced any happiness in pursuing or achieving our goals.
If you face your desires, and all the efforts you have exerted in attempting to achieve them, you will be in trouble. There is much effort, but the gain is nil. There is no lack of effort on your part – in fact there is so much of it that you have become completely lost in it! But you fear the examination – and your fear is that you will have to see that your work has been in vain, that you have gained nothing. The fear of failure is really great.