What do we want in life? Many people would say ‘to be happy’. K asks whether we know the difference between happiness and gratification.
We look for peace in meetings, teachers, religions and books; keep searching externally, or we think we have found one which satisfies us and stay enclosed within it. We look for a permanent and lasting certainty because we have never experienced that for ourselves. Permanent pleasure and happiness which doesn’t fade; we call it truth or God or whatever.
It is important to understand the seeker before we understand what he/she seeks. Can peace, happiness, god etc be given from someone else? Can someone else give us the clarity, sense of reality and creative being which we get with self-knowledge? Will an external search have meaning without understanding the self? If we can’t understand our background, conditioning, why we believe certain things and identify ourselves a certain way, our search is futile. (Here I would use the analogy of hormones and receptors. If a study looks at the effect of a hormone without understanding how different receptors react to it, no matter how much you know about the hormone, a complete understanding of the interactions will not be possible.) In other words, no matter where we go, who we ask, what we read or believe in that is told to us from outside, none of it will give us peace and understanding unless we know the receptor first.
To know ourselves we must be alert, watch our thoughts, behaviour and feelings. And when we have greater awareness of ourselves, we will begin to understand others, in the dynamic interactions of relationships.
Self knowledge has no end; it is not an achievement. It is a constant state of awareness and clarity in which we may find tranquility, bliss and creative action. In that silence, we can finally experience reality.
I think this chapter was particularly simple. And K is not the first to say it although his words have their own style. There are people I know who, when I quote books to, ask me what I think. These people don’t read philosophy. They think things through in their own mind. Philosophy, like any other field has jargon. And perhaps unintentionally, these words lead us to think in their terms. So when we put away the books, or never pick them up, we form a way of thinking which makes sense to us. I find that I look at things with analogies from Biology and Chemistry; fields I was trained in for a long time. I make analogies from things I have read and understood. Principles in even maths and poetry. But they are my analogies and reflect my understanding of the world and new ideas.
But can there really be understanding and self knowledge without thought; without words and ideas from outside? I have debated this too with those independent thinkers and it is a bit like a Hofstadter loop to me but maybe this is because I am still stuck at the intellectual, analysis level. I may need to experience more to understand and know myself without thinking about it in any terms.