Moths gathered in a fluttering throng one night
To learn the truth about the candle light,
And they decided one of them should go
To gather news of the elusive glow.
One flew till in the distance he discerned
A palace window where a candle burned —
And went no nearer: back again he flew
To tell the others what he thought he knew.
The mentor of the moths dismissed his claim,
Remarking: “He knows nothing of the flame.”
A moth more eager than the one before
Set out and passed beyond the palace door.
He hovered in the aura of the fire,
A trembling blur of timorous desire,
Then headed back to say how far he’d been,
And how much he had undergone and seen.
The mentor said: “You do not bear the signs
Of one who’s fathomed how the candle shines.”
Another moth flew out — his dizzy flight
Turned to an ardent wooing of the light;
He dipped and soared, and in his frenzied trance
Both self and fire were mingled by his dance —
The flame engulfed his wing-tips, body, head,
His being glowed a fierce translucent red;
And when the mentor saw that sudden blaze,
The moth’s form lost within the glowing rays,
He said: “He knows, he knows the truth we seek,
That hidden truth of which we cannot speak.”
To go beyond all knowledge is to find
That comprehension which eludes the mind,
And you can never gain the longed-for goal
Until you first outsoar both flesh and soul;
But should one part remain, a single hair
Will drag you back and plunge you in despair —
No creature’s self can be admitted here,
Where all identity must disappear.
— Farid ud-Din Attar – The Conference of Birds (transl. Afkham Darbandi, Dick Davis)
The man who desires to fuse with something greater,
to unite himself with another,
is avoiding misery, confusion;
but the mind is still in separation,
which is disintegration.
Love knows neither fusion nor diffusion;
it is neither personal nor impersonal;
it is a state of being which the mind cannot find –
it can describe it,
give it a term, a name,
but the word, the description,
is not love.
It is only when the mind is quiet
that it shall know love,
and that state of quietness
is not a thing to be cultivated.
Cultivation is still the action of the mind;
discipline is still a product of the mind,
and a mind that is disciplined, controlled, subjugated,
a mind that is resisting, explaining,
cannot know love.
You may read,
you may listen to what is being said about love,
but that is not love.
Only when you put away the things of the mind,
only when your hearts are empty of the things of the mind,
is there love.
Then you will know what it is to love without separation,
without fear –
and that is not reserved to the few.
Love knows no hierarchy;
there is only love.
There are the many and the one,
only when you do not love.
When you love,
there is neither the ‘you’ nor the ‘me’;
in that state there is only
a flame without smoke.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti – The Mirror of Relationship: Love, Sex and Chastity (Bombay 1950)
“The moth unwitting rushes on the fire,
Through ignorance the fish devours the bait,
We men know well the foes that lie in wait,
Yet cannot shun the meshes of desire.”
— Bhartrhari – “Against the Love of Beauty”
“For beings long to free themselves from misery,
But misery itself they follow and pursue.
They long for joy, but in their ignorance
Destroy it, as they would their foe.”
— Shantideva – Verse 28 / Chapter 1 of the Bodhicharyavatara
By and large, all beings remain steeped in ignorance and delusion. As a result, they rush headlong into abysses of suffering and misery even though wishing to be rid of all suffering. They do so by performing unwholesome acts. The pursuit of unhealthy deeds is the result of ignorance. The delusion that camouflages reality prevents them from seeing through the veil. They are unable to discriminate between what is pleasant and what is good. This leads them astray. The Kathopinisada says:
“The beneficient is different from the pleasing: both lead to different ends.”
Who does not want happiness? Event the tiniest of creatures does. However, all beings have a tendency to drive straight to hell by doing what is pleasing as distinct from what is good – like foolish moths rushing towards a tempting flame of light, to sure death. Desiring happiness, they themselves destroy it, thus becoming their own enemies. Such are people who are suicidal. But, why do they behave in such a suicidal manner? Because of attachment, infatuation. It is this blind infatuation, preventing the seed of enlightenment from generating.
— excerpt from the Parmananda Sharma Commentary of the Bodhicharyavatara
(image from inner traditions and the title is a quote from Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice))