K: Why do we have ideas? And is the ground an idea? That is where we must first be clear. Why have ideas become so important?
DB: Perhaps because the distinction between ideas, and what is beyond ideas, is not clear. Ideas are often taken to be something more than ideas; we feel they are not ideas but a reality.
K: That is what I want to find out. Is the ground an idea, or is it imagination, an illusion, a philosophic concept? Or something that is absolute, in the sense that there is nothing beyond it?
DB: How can you tell that there is nothing beyond it?
K: I am coming to that. I want to see whether we look at that, or perceive that, or have an insight into that, from a concept. Because after all the whole Western world - perhaps also the Eastern world - is based on concepts. The whole outlook and religious beliefs, are based on that.
But do we approach it from that point of view or as a philosophic investigation - philosophic, in the sense, love of wisdom, love of truth, love of investigation, the process of the mind? Are we doing that when we discuss, when we want to investigate, explain, or find out what that ground is? …
Say for instance X says there is such a ground. And all of us, Y and Z, say, what is that ground, prove it, show it, let it manifest itself? When we ask such questions, is it with a mind that is seeking, or rather that has this passion, this love for truth? Or are we merely saying let’s talk about it? …
Someone comes along and tells me that this ground is not an idea, is not a philosophic concept; it is not something that can be put together, or perceived by thought.
DB: It cannot be experienced, it cannot be perceived or understood through thought.
K: So what have I? What am I to do? I have only this mind that has been conditioned by knowledge. How am I to move away from all that? How am I, an ordinary man, educated, well-read, experienced, to feel this thing, to touch it, to comprehend it?
You tell me words will not convey that. You tell me you must have a mind that is free from all knowledge, except that which is technological…
You are asking this particular mind to eschew all knowledge. Has this ever been said in the Christian or the Jewish worlds?
DB: I don’t know about the Jewish world, but in some sense the Christians tell you to give your faith to God, to give over to Jesus, as the mediator between us and God.
K: Yes. Now Vedanta means the end of knowledge. And being a Westerner, I say, it means nothing to me. Because from the Greeks and all that, the culture in which I have lived has emphasised knowledge. But when you talk to some Eastern minds, they acknowledge in their religious life that a time must come when knowledge must end; the mind must be free of knowledge. Vedanta is the whole way of looking. But it is only a conceptual, a theoretical understanding. But to a Westerner, it means absolutely nothing.
DB: I think that there has been a Western tradition which is similar, but not as common. For example, in the Middle Ages there was a book called The Cloud of Unknowing, which is on that line, although it is not the main line of Western thought.
K: So what shall I do? How shall I approach the question? I want to find it. It gives meaning to life. It is not that my intellect gives meaning to life by inventing some illusion, some hope, some belief, but I see vaguely that this understanding, coming upon this ground, gives an immense significance to life.
DB: Well, people have used that notion of God to give significance to life.
K: No, no. God is merely an idea.
DB: Yes, but the idea contains something similar to the Eastern idea that God is beyond knowing. Most people accept it that way, though some may not. So there is some sort of similar notion.
K: But you tell me that the ground is not created by thought. So you cannot under any circumstances come upon it through any form of manipulation of thought…
But when you say thought is limited, I don’t feel it. It is just a lot of words which you have said to me. Intellectually I understand. But I have no feeling for it. There is no perfume in it.
How will you show me - not show me - how will you help me - not help - aid me, to have this feeling that thought itself is brittle, it is such a small affair? So that it is in my blood - you understand? When once it is in my blood, I have got it. You don’t have to explain it.
(Extract taken from The Ending of Time, Conversation 5, ‘The ground of being and the mind of man’)