But when I came to see the life of Gautam Buddha, I was simply amazed, because in a way it can be said that he attained his enlightenment after six years of hard work, but that is not the whole truth. It is not even a small fragment of the truth. The truth is, he attained enlightenment only when he dropped all desire for it, all work for it, all hope for it.
This gap between the hard work and relaxing and dropping the idea that anything like truth exists…. He had done everything that was told to him, and yet no silence had descended on him. He had not been able to enter into his innermost being. He had knocked on all the doors, but no door was opened. His work was so total and intense that he could not conceive that there was anything more to be done.
I have been to the small river Niranjana, by the side of which he had become enlightened one full-moon night. That day, the most important experience happened – which is not even talked about by the Buddhists, by the followers. It does not look important, they are not to be blamed. He had tortured his body, he had been fasting for months, and he had become so weak…and Niranjana is a very small river. He had got into the river for his morning bath, but even the smallest river and its current was too much; he started going down with the river. He could not manage to get out of it. He hung to the root of a tree.
That moment was momentous. Hanging to the root of the tree in the river, a thought arose in him, “What kind of stupid life have I been living? All this asceticism, all this arduous effort, has led me nowhere to truth, but only to weakness. It has not given me an abundance of life; it has brought me closer to death. How is this kind of discipline, which is being taught by all the schools, going to help me cross the ocean of life and reach the further shore?”
A question mark about his whole lifestyle, and in a clear moment, in a transparent moment on that morning – the sun was rising – something changed in his whole being. He had renounced his kingdom; in that moment he renounced his renunciation too. He had renounced this world; in that moment he renounced that world too. He had renounced ambition, power, prestige – and now he saw that in a subtle way even the effort to achieve enlightenment is nothing but ambition, that it is also a desire. A desire for a more eternal life, desire for truth, but anyway it is also a desire.
As he struggled to get out of the river, that desire was also dropped. He rested under a bodhi tree. For the first time in his whole life he was utterly relaxed. There was nowhere to go, nothing to find, no effort to be made. And amazingly, the silence that he was seeking started descending on him like rain.
By the evening he was a totally changed man – calm and cool, at home, at ease. The center that he was searching for – he laughed about it, because the seeker himself was the sought. He had been doing something absurd. The center of his being was not something separate from himself. Unless all desires disappear, all ambitions disappear – unless you have nothing to do, nothing left to be done; you are just sitting, peacefully….
He found the center.