Sri Ramakrishna would tell a beautiful story to explain how seekers often search for Truth or ultimate reality in faraway areas whereas the Truth is very near.
Once a bird sat on the mast of a ship. When the ship sailed through the waters of the Ganges into the black waters of the ocean, the bird had failed to notice this transition. Finally when it became aware of the ocean, it became panicky since its very existence depended upon land where alone it could find food. It left the mast and flew North in search of land. But, it found that the expanse of water was insurmountable and so returned back. After resting a while, it flew South. There too it found no limit to the water. Panting for breath, the bird returned to the mast. Again after resting a while it flew East and then West. Finding it impossible to cross the waters of the boundless ocean in any direction, at last it settled down quietly on the mast of the ship. Just then someone in the ship threw a big slice of bread in the direction of the bird which ate it with great glee. Initially, it had wrongly imagined that land alone offered it a secure dwelling. So it tried to escape from the mast and reach the shore. But after much struggle, it realized that there was no need to search for any escape and that whatever it needed would be available nearby.
Similarly, what a man seeks is very near him. Still he wanders about from place to place. As long as a man feels that God is ‘there’, he is ignorant, but he attains knowledge when realizes that God is ‘here’.