"WHAT IS THE QUESTION?"
It seems that the goal of many of these quests was to find one holy man, one guru, who could give you a single thought of some type to become the guiding light of your life. If you went to the holy places like Varanasi or Hardwar and asked around, you would hear about many such gurus of many descriptions. One might live in an inaccessible forest. One might be completely in the state of nature. One might have taken a vow of silence. One may have chosen to remain standing for a year. And so on. So you decided to trek and visit the one that most caught your imagination.
Once you came to the place of your would-be master, it was never clear that he would receive you or speak to you. You might be tested as to how sincere your quest was. But if you were past all these, and were in presence of the man, what did you do then? I understand that you remained silent and let the man take the lead. If he spoke, you listened. If he did not speak, you waited. But if you were truly in luck, an opportunity would present itself somehow for you to ask what you came to ask.
Now comes the important part. There was also an existing protocol for this process. I do not know how that protocol came about or how it got promulgated. But it was very much there. You did not just shoot off questions. You had the opportunity to ask one question. One question. You had better make that one shot count. So you had to formulate the question with great forethought and great cleverness, and then put it to the man. And hope for the best.
So what would you ask? I have heard two formulations of the question that could elicit the 'maximum' answer. One is: What is the way? And the other is: What is the journey? These are both well thought out questions. What do you think? Can you best this formulation? Probably not. Unless of course you wanted to be cute and asked:
What is the question?