The first question:
What am I looking for?
Man is a search for the self – not for a self but for the self. Man is constantly seeking the lost paradise: somewhere deep in the recesses of human beings, the nostalgia persists. We have known something that is only a far faraway memory, The memory is not even conscious; we have lost all track of it, where it is. But the fragrance goes on arising.
Hence religion is not an accidental phenomenon. It is not going to disappear from the world; no communism, no fascism can make it disappear. Religion is going to remain, because it is very essential. Unless a man surpasses humanity, unless a man becomes a buddha, religion remains relevant. Only for a buddha is religion irrelevant. He has arrived; now there is no need for any search.
There are not different searches for different human beings. The search is singular, it is one, it is universal. The search is for the self, the supreme Self. One wants to know, “Who am I?” because everything else is secondary. Without knowing oneself, whatsoever I am doing is pointless. Unless I know exactly who I am, my whole life is going to remain futile. It will not bring fruition, it will not bring flowering, it will not bring fulfillment.
The first step has to be that of self-knowledge. But the paradox is that if you start searching for a self you will miss the self. By “a self” I mean the ego, the process of egoing. That is a false self: because we cannot find the true, we start creating the false, just to console ourselves. It is a substitute. But the substitute can never become the truth, and the substitute becomes a bondage.
Truth liberates. Substitutes for truth create prisons. The ego is the greatest prison that man has yet invented; you are all feeling suffocated, crushed. It is not that somebody else is doing it to you, you are the doer of it. You have taken a wrong step. Rather than searching for that which is, you have started substituting something for it – a toy, a pseudo thing. It may console you, but it cannot bring celebration to your life. And all consolation is suicidal, because while you remain consoled, time goes on slipping out of your hands.