Self-exploration is the key to awakening the self and core to the human experience.
While with the ascetics, Siddhartha spent a great deal of time and effort numbing his senses and denying himself the human experiences of hunger and contentment, pain and pleasure, desire and fulfilment. But now he realized that he didn’t need to flee from himself or practice any form of self-denial to reach enlightenment, but rather, he only needed to explore himself.
In this great revelation, he says, “When someone reads a text, wants to discover its meaning, he will not scorn the symbols and letters and call them deceptions, coincidence, and worthless hull, but he will read them, he will study and love them, letter by letter. But I, who wanted to read the book of the world and the book of my own being, I have, for the sake of a meaning I had anticipated before I read, scorned the symbols and letters, I called the visible world a deception, called my eyes and my tongue coincidental and worthless forms without substance. No, this is over, I have awakened, I have indeed awakened and not been born before this very day.”
Once he became aware of this, everything changed for him and he remained standing in the same spot for a long time, lost. He could neither go back to his father and become a noble priest again nor go back to the Samanas, nor join his friend Govinda in following the teachings of Gotama. He was no longer who he once had been. Unsure of what his path was from that point on, he felt alone, truly alone. His path, like our own paths at the time of awakening, was riddled with uncertainties and doubt. He felt a loss of identity, without a sense of belonging or community.
He had gone out on his own and saw no sure path with signs of trampled grass and broken twigs. His was the road less travelled but he was able to transcend it, his eyes opened anew. He was able to appreciate the moon and the stars, the serenity of a flowing stream, the warmth of the sun and the coolness of a shade.
Beautiful and lovely it was, thus, to walk through the world, childlike, thus awoken, thus open to what is near, thus without distrust.
Just like Siddhartha, when you begin to awaken, you will be faced with crippling uncertainties, lose your sense of belonging, shed the old world and the old self, feel lost, fight doubts, experience great loneliness, desperation and even despair, but those are only labour pains, the final tremors of birth of a new. Hang in there.0