Why is it so challenging to know yourself?
It is certainly a challenge to know oneself, perhaps the rarest things that human beings do. Since childhood we are trained by our parents, schools, society, religions and politicians to follow. We are never encouraged to question. Questioning is considered a threat to the authority of all people and organizations.
When one is not questioning, how can one know oneself? Society rewards following and punishes questioning, so there is no incentive of any kind to question and know oneself. The modern society has trained us to look for profit and reward in anything that we do. If we do not get money, name and fame, status or security in any work, we would never like to take up that work.
Knowing oneself is not something which is going to give you any reward like money, name and fame, status or security. It gives no form of pleasure. In fact it may take away all the things that we are so attached to, in our present life.
One looks around at the world and within oneself and sees conflict raging every moment. Nations are clashing, races are warring, castes are wrangling, people are competing, families are rife with quarrels. The only way one can ignore all this strife and continue with one’s personal life while the world is crashing, is by becoming insensitive. We accept life as suffering. The only way we know to escape this constant suffering is by indulging in pleasure, by becoming insensitive and indulging in activities where we have to shut off our minds. Have we ever wondered why the entertainment industry is the richest industry in the world? It is because we are escaping all the conflict in our world and mind through these forms of entertainment. Husband and wives quarrel and then go off to see a movie or to some vacations, trying to somehow find pleasure in a relationship that is in pieces.
So why would anyone like to know oneself? The only reason one would like to know oneself is to be free from conflict. Knowing oneself would mean that one is not escaping the suffering of the world and one’s mind by senseless entertainment. It means that one starts facing up to painful emotions instead of burying them through work and pursuit of pleasure. Knowing oneself would mean that one is no longer part of a mob or a society, whose sole aim is to escape looking at oneself. This would mean that you would be alone. You would lose your friends, family and relatives who have built their lives on escape.
Only a person who is willing to really find freedom, to go all the way and see whether suffering can come to an end totally, would make an effort to know oneself truly.