It is the dead of winter and a fierce snowstorm rages outside, but a great fire fills the space within the hall with warmth and light. Now and then, a sparrow darts in for refuge from the weather. It appears as if from nowhere, flits about joyfully in the light, and then disappears again, and where it comes from and where it goes next in that stormy darkness, we do not know.
Our lives are like that ….. We spend our days in the familiar world of our five senses, but what lies beyond that, if anything, we have no idea. Those sparrows are hints of something more outside - a vast world, perhaps, waiting to be explored. But most of us are happy to stay where we are. We may even be a bit afraid to venture into the unknown. What would be the point, we wonder. Why should we leave the world we know?
Yet there are always a few who are not content to spend their lives indoors. Simply knowing there is something un known beyond their reach makes them acutely restless. They have to see what lies outside ….
This is true of adventurers of every kind, …….. consciousness itself: whose real drive, we might say, is not so much to know the unknown as to know the knower.
The Upanishads are the oldest, so varied that we feel some unknown collectors must have tossed into a jumble all the photos, postcards, and letters from this world that they could find, without any regard for source or circumstance. Thrown together like this, they form a kind of ecstatic slide show - snapshots of towering peaks of consciousness taken at various times by different observers and dispatched with just the barest kind of explanation. But those who have travelled those heights will recognize the views: “Oh, yes, that’s Everest from the northwest - must be late spring. And here we’re south, in the full snows of winter.”