Jesus said, “The Father’s kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. So also with you, seek his treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys.” — Gospel of Thomas 76,
The story is about a man who went to a faraway country to earn money. He earned much, collected much merchandise, but at the last moment he came upon a pearl. He made an exchange: he sold all the merchandise and purchased the pearl. When he was returning there was an accident and the ship sank. But with only one pearl he could swim ashore and reach home with his entire treasure.
This is the story to which Jesus refers. Since the man purchased one instead of many, even though his ship sank nothing was lost. The one can be saved, not the many. When death comes and your ship sinks, if you have one pearl you will be able to carry it across. The merchant is considered wise because instead of selling the one to purchase many he sold the many to purchase the one. The pearl is the symbol of the one, the inner.
The exhortation of Jesus is, if one are searching for the eternal then be like the prudent merchant. Sell all that you possess to purchase the one pearl of your inner being which cannot be drowned, which cannot be snatched because that pearl is YOU.
A person can live in the illusion that the house, wife, husband, children belong to him/her. But sooner or later this illusion will disappear. The only thing that a person can really possess and which truly belongs to him/her is the inner self. This is the only possession that will never be lost. This is the difference between the worldly search and the religious search. Religious search is looking for the eternal while earthly search is looking for the temporal. The world exists in time and religion exists in timelessness. Only when the temporal is transcended is the home is reached.
The problem today is that people do not know where the home is and when to leave for home. So they go on wandering and knock on the doors of other people’s homes. As a result they never find rest and are always uneasy since they have not found their home. Even though they try very hard to reach it their direction is wrong because they are searching for it in the external, in the outside.
In truth nothing is valuable but for desire. It is desire that gives value to things. A car will be of no value if there is no human being to appreciate it. The birds won’t look at it; the animals won’t bother about it. It will rot and become junk. But for humans the car is valuable because of desire. If there is no desire the value disappears. The value is not in the thing but in desire. Through desire the world of many is created and this many will not fulfil a person. If a person is a stranger to him/herself the whole world will not be able to fulfil the inner emptiness. But a majority of the people do not see this.
That which is temporal cannot be truly fulfilling because it is part of the changing world. There is nothing in the visible world that endures forever. The hills will not endure for ever, they grow old and die, and continents have disappeared. Nothing is permanent in the outside world. With regard to thoughts, they are even more temporary. They continuously go on moving not a single thought stays. They come and go just like the clouds in the sky.
Hills change, thoughts change only the sky remains the same; it endures. The same is within a person: things change on the out side, thoughts change within but the sky – the self – remains the same. That is the pearl. It is formless like the sky. When this formlessness is achieved then the pearl is possessed. Possess this pearl which nobody can snatch. Not even death. This is the treasure that endures infinitely.