A central metaphor in Buddhism is the image of a river, with humanity standing on one bank, and liberation or nirvana on the opposite bank: the near shore and the farther shore.
On the near shore is all our confusion and doubt, all our suffering and dissatisfaction (what Buddhists called samsara, meaning “wandering” - as in the forever “wandering” or becoming mind); while on the farther shore is supposed to be a mind free from limitations, free from suffering and becoming (nirvana).
For Buddhists the whole purpose of the Buddha’s teaching was to help humanity move from this shore to the other shore, with his teachings being the ferry used to cross.
However, a later Buddhist, Nagarjuna, famously said that nirvana is samsara; meaning this shore is the other shore: i.e. that this shore, when rightly understood, is in fact the other shore.
But what Nagarjuna really meant by a correct understanding of this shore remains elusive, because he still apparently (and so contradictorily) accepted the Buddha’s teachings (the Buddhist ‘path of deliverance’) as being necessary for crossing the river to the farther shore.
Enter Krishnamurti (from today’s extract of the day).
Questioner: “I understand what you say verbally, but I can’t stop groping and longing, for deep within me I do not believe that there is no way, no discipline, no action that will bring me to the other shore.”
Krishnamurti: What do you mean by “I do not believe there is no way”? Do you mean a teacher will take you by the hand and carry you over?
Q: “No. I do hope, though, that someone who understands will directly point to it, for it must actually be there all the time since it is real.”
K: Surely all this is supposition. You had that sudden feeling of reality when you heard the temple bell, but that is a memory, as you said, and from that you are drawing a conclusion that it must be there always for it is real. Reality is a peculiar thing; it is there when you are not looking, but when you do look, with greed, what you capture is the sediment of your greed, not reality. Reality is a living thing and cannot be captured, and you cannot say it is always there. There is a path only to something which is stationary, to a fixed, static point. To a living thing which is constantly in movement, which has no resting place how can there be a guide, a path? The mind is so eager to attain it, to grasp it, that it makes it into a dead thing. So, can you put aside the memory of that state which you had? Can you put aside the teacher, the path, the end - put it aside so completely that your mind is empty of all this seeking? At present your mind is so occupied with this overwhelming demand that the very occupation becomes a barrier. You are seeking, asking, longing, to walk on the other shore. The other shore implies that there is this shore, and from this shore to get to the other shore there is space and time. That is what is holding you and bringing about this ache for the other shore. That is the real problem - time that divides, space that separates, the time necessary to get there and the space that is the distance between this and that. This wants to become that, and finds it is not possible because of the distance and the time it takes to cover that distance. In this there is not only comparison but also measurement, and a mind that is capable of measuring is capable also of illusion. This division of space and time between this and that is the way of the mind, which is thought. Do you know, when there is love space disappears and time disappears? It is only when thought and desire come in that there is a gap of time to be bridged. When you see this, this is that.
Q: “But I don’t see it. I feel that what you say is true, but it eludes me.”
K: Sir, you are so impatient, and that very impatience is its own aggressiveness. You are attacking, asserting. You are not quiet to look, to listen, to feel deeply. You want to get to the other shore at any cost and you are swimming frantically, not knowing where the other shore is. The other shore may be this shore, and so you are swimming away from it. If I may suggest it: stop swimming. This doesn’t mean that you should become dull, vegetate and do nothing, but rather that you should be passively aware without any choice whatsoever and no measurement - then see what happens. Nothing may happen, but if you are expecting that bell to ring again, if you are expecting all that feeling and delight to come back, then you are swimming in the opposite direction. To be quiet requires great energy; swimming dissipates that energy. You need all your energy for silence of the mind, and it is only in emptiness, in complete emptiness, that a new thing can be. (Eight Conversations, First Conversation, 1968)
So what I take K to be saying is we have no need of an opposite, no need for ‘what should be’, no need of a farther shore. There is only this shore, whatever we are at present - the ‘what is’ - that needs to be seen. And so to be choicelessly aware of the near shore is all that matters.
What do others think/feel about this?