The first thing is to awaken from this sleep. Everything else comes after that. Nothing preceeds it. Don’t attach any value to the thoughts you have learned or to the behavior you have been disciplined in during this sleep. Just look at them as happenings in a dream. While you yourself are unknown to yourself it is impossible that something right can happen from you. Your knowledge, your conduct, everything is bound to be false. Your faith, your trust, your convictions will all be blind. Whatsoever path you may walk, it will not lead to the truth. In fact, there is no question of your walking at present. Does anybody walk a path while asleep? It is only a dream about walking.
The ignorance of the self is the sleep I am talking to you about. It is necessary to awaken from it. In order to wake up from this sleep it is also necessary to understand the factors that do not allow you to wake up. Before knowing religion it is necessary to know what religion is not and also to understand what you are holding onto as religion. This religion is more like a sleeping pill than a means for awakening.
Karl Marx has called religion “the opium of the people.” Religion is certainly not a drug, but what is generally mistaken for religion is nothing but that. Marx was mistaken in branding religion as opium and you are mistaken in branding opium as religion. It is essential to understand what religion is and what opium is.
Let us first consider what religion is not and then you will experience what religion is. Just contemplation is enough to make irreligion evaporate. But about religion, contemplation alone is not enough; religion comes through spiritual endeavor.
Let me tell you one thing. If you really wish to make some progress in your religious life, you must begin by not carrying any belief. If you wish to know the truth, you should not create any preconceived notions about it. You must approach truth in complete peace and emptiness, and without any preconceptions. Preconceived notions and biases dim and distort your vision. What you know then is not the truth but a projection of your own thinking. That way truth does not reveal itself to you, on the contrary you impose yourself on truth.
When there is no particular view or theory between you and the truth, what you will know then will be the truth. Otherwise you are not able to get out of the boundary of your mind and you go on knowing things as you want to know them. This is not knowledge, this is imagination.
Man has an unlimited power for imagination and this imagination alone is the wall between him and the truth. If you have preconceived ideas about God, truth and the soul, your mind will form an image of them and you will think that you have known something. But the reality is that you have known nothing and have wandered only in the realms of imagination. This is not seeing the truth, but a dream.
You know very well that your mind has an inexhaustible capacity for dreaming. Our desires show us things that do not exist at all. They create mirages: that which truly is becomes hidden and that which is not becomes apparent.
But you will say that dreaming happens only in sleep. It is true that dreams happen only in sleep, but sleep can be induced, and in one sense you can be asleep while you are awake. Don’t you daydream?