Commentaries on Living [1]

Chapter - 44
‘Action and Idea’

HE WAS MILD and gentle, with a ready and pleasant smile. He was dressed very simply, and his manner was quiet and unobtrusive. He said that he had practised non-violence for many years and was well aware of its power and spiritual significance. He had written several books concerning it and had brought one of them along. He explained that he had not voluntarily killed anything for many years, and was a strict vegetarian. He went into the details of his vegetarianism, and said that his shoes and sandals were made from the hides of animals that had died naturally. He had made his life as simple as possible, had studied dietetics and ate only what was essential. He asserted that he had not been angry for several years now, though he was on occasions impatient, which was merely the response of his nerves. His speech was controlled and gentle. The power of non-violence would transform the world, he said, and he had dedicated his life to it. He was not the kind of man who talked about himself easily, but on the subject of non-violence he was quite eloquent and words seemed to flow without effort. He had come, he added, to go more deeply into his favourite subject.

Across the way, the large pool was tranquil. Its waters had been very agitated, as there had been a strong breeze; but now it was quite still and was reflecting the large leaves of a tree. One or two lilies floated quietly on its surface, and a bud was just showing itself above the water. Birds began to come, and several frogs came out and jumped into the pool. The ripples soon died away, and once more the waters were still. On the very top of a tall tree sat a bird, preening itself and singing; it would fly in a curve and come back to its high and solitary perch; it was so delighted with the world and with itself. Nearby sat a fat man with a book, but his mind was far away; he would try to read, but his mind raced off again and again. Ultimately he gave up the struggle and let the mind have its way. A lorry was coming up the hill slowly and wearily, and again the gears had to be changed.

We are so concerned with the reconciliation of effects, with the outward gesture and appearance. We seek first to bring about outward order; outwardly we regulate our life according to our resolutions, the inner principles that we have established. Why do we force the outer to conform to the inner? Why do we act according to an idea? Is idea stronger, more powerful than action?

The idea is first established, reasoned out or intuitively felt, and then we try to approximate action to the idea; we try to live up to it, put it into practice, discipline ourselves in the light of it - the everlasting struggle to bring action within the limits of idea. Why is there this incessant and painful struggle to shape action according to idea? What is the urge to make the outer conform to the inner? Is it to strengthen the inner, or to gain assurance from the outer when the inner is uncertain? In deriving comfort from the outer, does not the outer assume greater significance and importance? The outer reality has significance; but when it is looked upon as a gesture of sincerity, does it not indicate more than ever that idea is dominant? Why has idea become all-powerful? To make us act? Does idea help us to act, or does it hinder action?

Surely, idea limits action; it is the fear of action that brings forth idea. In idea there is safety, in action there is danger. To control action, which is limitless, idea is cultivated; to put a brake on action, idea comes into being. Think what would happen if you were really generous in action! So you have the generosity of the heart opposed by the generosity of the mind; you go so far only, for you do not know what will happen to you tomorrow. Idea governs action. Action is full, open, extensive; and fear, as idea, steps in and takes charge. So idea becomes all-important, and not action.

We try to make action conform to idea. The idea or ideal if non-violence, and our actions, gestures, thoughts are moulded according to that pattern of the mind; what we eat, what we wear, what we say, becomes very significant, for by it we judge our sincerity. Sincerity becomes important, and not being non-violent; your sandals and what you eat become consumingly interesting, and being non-violent is forgotten. Idea is always secondary, and the secondary issues dominate the primary. You can write, lecture, gossip about idea; there is great scope in idea for self-expansion, but there is no self-expansive gratification in being non-violent. Idea, being self-projected, is stimulating and gratifying, positively or negatively; but being non-violent has no glamour. Non-violence is a result, a by-product, and not an end in itself. It is an end in itself only when idea predominates. Idea is always a conclusion, an end, a self-projected goal. Idea is movement within the known; but thought cannot formulate what it is to be non-violent. Thought can ponder over non-violence, but it cannot be non-violent. Non-violence is not an idea; it cannot be made into a pattern of action.

Chapter - 45
‘Life in A City’

IT WAS A well-proportioned room, quiet and restful. The furniture was elegant and in very good taste; the carpet was thick and soft. There was a marble fireplace, with a fire in it. There were old vases from different parts of the world, and on the walls were modern paintings as well as some by the old masters. Considerable thought and care had been spent on the beauty and comfort of the room, which reflected wealth and taste. The room overlooked a small garden, with a lawn that must have been mowed and rolled for many, many years.

Life in a city is strangely cut off from the universe; man-made buildings have taken the place of valleys and mountains, and the roar of traffic has been substituted for that of boisterous streams. At night one hardly ever sees the stars, even if one wishes to, for the city lights are too bright; and during the day the sky is limited and held. Something definitely happens to the city-dwellers; they are brittle and polished, they have churches and museums, drinks and theatres, beautiful clothes and endless shops. There are people everywhere, on the streets, in the buildings, in the rooms. A cloud passes across the sky, and so few look up. There is rush and turmoil.

But in this room there was quiet and sustained dignity. It had that atmosphere peculiar to the rich, the feeling of aloof security and assurance, and the long freedom from want. He was saying that he was interested in philosophy, both of the East and of the West, and how absurd it was to begin with the Greeks, as though nothing existed before them; and presently he began to talk of his problem: how to give, and to whom to give. The problem of having money, with its many responsibilities, was somewhat disturbing him. Why was he making a problem of it? Did it matter to whom he gave, and with what spirit? Why had it become a problem?

His wife came in, smart, bright and curious. Both of them seemed well read, sophisticated and worldly wise; they were clever and interested in many things. They were the product of both town and country, but mostly their hearts were in the town. That one thing, compassion, seemed so far away. The qualities of the mind were deeply cultivated; there was a sharpness, a brutal approach, but it did not go very far. She wrote a little, and he was some kind of politician; and how easily and confidently they spoke. Hesitancy is so essential to discovery, to further understanding; but how can there be hesitancy when you know so much, when the self-protective armour is so highly polished and all the cracks are sealed from within? Line and form become extraordinarily important to those who are in bondage to the sensate; then beauty is sensation, goodness a feeling, and truth a matter of intellection. When sensations dominate, comfort becomes essential, not only to the body, but also to the psyche; and comfort, especially that of the mind, is corroding, leading to illusion.

We are the things we possess, we are that to which we are attached. Attachment has no nobility. Attachment to knowledge is not different from any other gratifying addiction. Attachment is self-absorption, whether at the lowest or at the highest level. Attachment is self-deception, it is an escape from the hollowness of the self. The things to which we are attached - property, people, ideas - become all-important, for without the many things which fill its emptiness, the self is not. The fear of not being makes for possession; and fear breeds illusion, the bondage to conclusions. Conclusions, material or ideational, prevent the fruition of intelligence, the freedom in which alone reality can come into being; and without this freedom, cunning is taken for intelligence. The ways of cunning are always complex and destructive. It is this self-protective cunning that makes for attachment; and when attachment causes pain, it is this same cunning that seeks detachment and finds pleasure in the pride and vanity of renunciation. The understanding of the ways of cunning, the ways of the self, is the beginning of intelligence.

Chapter - 46

HE SAID HE was obsessed by stupid little things, and that these obsessions constantly changed. He would worry over some imaginary physical defect, and within a few hours his worry would have fixed itself upon another incident or thought. He seemed to live from one anxious obsession to another. To overcome these obsessions, he continued, he would consult books, or talk over his problem with a friend, and he had also been to a psychologist; but somehow he had found no relief. Even after a serious and absorbing meeting, these obsessions would immediately come on. If he found the cause, would it put an end to them?

Does discovery of a cause bring freedom from the effect? Will knowledge of the cause destroy the result? We know the causes, both economic and psychological, of war, yet we encourage barbarity and self-destruction. After all, our motive in searching for the cause is the desire to be rid of the effect. This desire is another form of resistance or condemnation; and when there is condemnation, there is no understanding.

"Then what is one to do?" he asked.

Why is the mind dominated by these trivial and stupid obsessions? To ask "why" is not to search for the cause as something apart from yourself which you have to find; it is merely to uncover the ways of your own thinking. So, why is the mind occupied in this manner? Is it not because it is superficial, shallow, petty, and therefore concerned with its own attractions?

`Yes," he replied, "that appears to be true; but not entirely, for I am a serious person."

Apart from these obsessions, what is your thought occupied with?

"With my profession," he said. "I have a responsible position. The whole day and sometimes far into the night, my thoughts are taken up with my business. I read occasionally, but most of my time is spent with my profession."

Do you like what you are doing? "Yes, but it is not completely satisfactory. All my life I have been dissatisfied with what I am doing, but I cannot give up my present position for I have certain obligations - and besides, I am getting on in years. What bothers me are these obsessions, and my increasing resentment towards my work as well as towards people. I have not been kind; I feel increasing anxiety about the future, and I never seem to have any peace. I do my work well, but..."

Why are you struggling against what is? The house in which I live may be noisy, dirty, the furniture may be hideous, and there may be an utter lack of beauty about the whole thing; but for various reasons I may have to live there, I cannot go away to another house. It is then not a question of acceptance, but of seeing the obvious fact. If I do not see what is, I shall worry myself sick about that vase, about that chair or that picture; they will become my obsessions, and there will be resentment against people, against my work, and so on. If I could leave the whole thing and start over again, it would be a different matter; but I cannot. It is no good my rebelling against what is, the actual. The recognition of what is does not lead to smug contentment and ease. When I yield to what is, there is not only the understanding of it, but there also comes a certain quietness to the surface mind. If the surface mind is not quiet, it indulges in obsessions, actual or imaginary; it gets caught up in some social reform or religious conclusion: the Master, the saviour, the ritual, and so on. It is only when the surface mind is quiet that the hidden can reveal itself. The hidden must be exposed; but this is not possible if the surface mind is burdened with obsessions, worries. Since the surface mind is constantly in some kind of agitation, conflict is inevitable between the upper and the deeper levels of the mind; and as long as this conflict is not resolved, obsessions increase. After all, obsessions are a means of escape from our conflict. All escapes are similar, though it is obvious that some are socially more harmful.

When one is aware of the total process of obsession or of any other problem, only then is there freedom from the problem. To be extensively aware, there must be no condemnation or justification of the problem; awareness must be choiceless. To be so aware demands wide patience and sensitivity; it requires eagerness and sustained attention so that the whole process of thinking can be observed and understood.

Chapter - 47
‘The Spiritual Leader’

HE SAID THAT his guru was too great a man to be described, and that he had been a pupil of his for many years. This teacher, he went on, imparted his teachings through brutal shocks, through foul language, through insults and actions that were contradictory; and he added that many important people were among the followers. The very crudeness of the procedure forced people to think, it made them sit up and take notice, which was considered necessary because most people were asleep and needed to be shaken. This teacher said the most awful things about God, and it seemed that his pupils had to drink a great deal, as the teacher himself drank heavily at most meals. The teachings, however, were profound; they had been kept secret at one time, but now they were being made available to all.

The late autumnal sun was pouring in through the window, and one could hear the roar of the busy street. The leaves in their death were brilliant, and the air was fresh and keen. As with all cities, there was an atmosphere of depression and unnameable sorrow in contrast to the light of the evening; and the artificial gaiety was even more sorrowful. We seem to have forgotten what it is to be natural, to smile freely; our faces are so closed with worry and anxiety. But the leaves sparkled in the sun and a cloud passed by.

Even in so-called spiritual movements the social divisions are maintained. How eagerly a titled person is welcomed and given the front seat! How the followers hang around the famous! How hungry we are for distinctions and labels! This craving for distinction becomes what we call spiritual growth: those who are near and those who are far, the hierarchical division as the Master and the initiate, the pupil and the novice. This craving is obvious and somewhat understandable in the everyday world; but when the same attitude is carried over into a world where these stupid distinctions have no meaning whatever, it reveals how deeply we are conditioned by our cravings and appetites. Without understanding these cravings, it is utterly vain to seek to be free from pride.

"But," he continued, "we need guides, gurus, Masters. You may be beyond them, but we ordinary people need them, otherwise we shall be like lost sheep."

We choose our leaders, political or spiritual, out of our own confusion, and so they also are confused. We demand to be coaxed and comforted, to be encouraged and gratified, so we choose a teacher who will give us what we crave for. We do not search out reality, but go after gratification and sensation. It is essentially for self-glorification that we create the teacher, the Master; and we feel lost, confused and anxious when the self is denied. If you have no direct physical teacher, you fabricate one who is far away, hidden and mysterious; the former is dependent on various physical and emotional influences, and the latter is self-projected, a homemade ideal; but both are the outcome of your choice, and choice is inevitably based on bias, prejudice. You may prefer to give a more respectable and comforting name to your prejudice, but it is out of your confusion and appetites that you choose. If you are seeking gratification, you will naturally find what you desire, but do not let us call it truth. Truth comes into being when gratification, the desire for sensation, comes to an end.

"You have not convinced me that I do not need a Master," he said.

Truth is not a matter of argumentation and conviction; it is not the outcome of opinion.

"But the Master helps me to overcome my greed, my envy," he insisted.
Can another, however great, help to bring about a transformation in yourself, if he can, you are not transformed; you are merely dominated, influenced. This influence may last a considerable time, but you are not transformed. You have been overcome; and whether you are overcome by envy or by a so-called noble influence, you are still a slave, you are not free. We like to be slavish, to be possessed by someone, whether by a Master or by anyone else, because there is security in this possession; the Master becomes the refuge. To possess is to be possessed, but possession is not freedom from greed.

"I must resist greed," he said. "I must fight it, make every effort to destroy it, and only then will it go."

From what you say, you have been in conflict with greed for a great many years, and yet you are not free from it. Do not say that you have not tried hard enough, which is the obvious response. Can you understand anything through conflict? To conquer is not to understand. What you conquer has to be conquered again and again, but there is freedom from that which is fully understood. To understand, there must be awareness of the process of resistance. To resist is so much easier than to understand; and besides, we are educated to resist. In resistance there need be no observation, no consideration, no communication; resistance is an indication of the dullness of the mind. A mind that resists is self-enclosed and so is incapable of sensitivity, of understanding. To understand the ways of resistance is far more important than to get rid of greed. Actually, you are not listening to what is being said; you are considering your various commitments which have grown out of your years of struggle and resistance. You are now committed, and around your commitments, which you have probably lectured and written about, you have gathered friends; you have an investment in your Master, who has helped you to resist. So your past is preventing you from listening to what is being said.

"I both agree and disagree with you," he remarked.

Which shows that you are not listening. You are weighing your commitments against what is being said, which is not to listen. You are afraid to listen and so you are in conflict, agreeing and at the same time disagreeing.

"You are probably right," he said, "but I cannot let go of all that I have gathered: my friends, my knowledge, my experience. I know that I must let go, but I simply cannot, and there it is."

The conflict within him will now be greater than ever; for when once you are aware of what is, however reluctantly, and deny it because of your commitments, deep contradiction is set going. This contradiction is duality. There can be no bridging over of opposing desires; and if a bridge is created, it is resistance, which is consistency. Only in understanding ‘what is’ is there freedom from what is.

It is an odd fact that followers like to be bullied and directed, whether softly or harshly. They think the harsh treatment is part of their training - training in spiritual success. The desire to be hurt, to be rudely shaken, is part of the pleasure of hurting; and this mutual degradation of the leader and the follower is the outcome of the desire for sensation. It is because you want greater sensation that you follow and so create a leader, a guru; and for this new gratification you will sacrifice, put up with discomforts, insults and discouragements. All this is part of mutual exploitation; it has nothing whatever to do with reality and will never lead to happiness.

Chapter - 48

"THE MOUNTAINS HAVE made me silent," she said. "I went to the Engadine and its beauty made me utterly silent; I was speechless at the wonder of it all. It was a tremendous experience. I wish I could hold that silence, that living, vibrant, moving silence. When you talk of silence, I suppose you mean this extraordinary experience I have had. I really would like to know if you are referring to the same quality of silence as I experienced. The effect of this silence lasted for a considerable period, and now I go back to it, I try to recapture and live in it."

You are made silent by the Engadine, another by a beautiful human form, and another by a Master, by a book, or by drink. Through outward stimulation one is reduced to a sensation which one calls silence and which is extremely pleasurable. The effect of beauty and grandeur is to drive away one’s daily problems and conflicts, which is a release. Through outward stimulation, the mind is made temporarily quiet; it is perhaps a new experience, a new delight, and the mind goes back to it as a remembrance when it is no longer experiencing it. To remain in the mountains is probably not possible, as one has to be back for business; but it is possible to seek that state of quietness through some other form of stimulation, through drink, through a person, or through an idea, which is what most of us do. These various forms of stimulation are the means through which the mind is made still; so the means become significant, important, and we become attached to them. Because the means give us the pleasure of silence, they become dominant in our lives; they are our vested interest, a psychological necessity which we defend and for which, if necessary, we destroy each other. The means take the place of experience, which is now only a memory.

Stimulations may vary, each having a significance according to the conditioning of the person. But there is a similarity in all stimulations: the desire to escape from what is, from our daily routine, from a relationship that is no longer alive, and from knowledge which is always becoming stale. You choose one kind of escape, I another, and my particular brand is always assumed to be more worth while than yours; but all escape, whether in the form of an ideal, the cinema, or the church, is harmful, leading to illusion and mischief. Psychological escapes are more harmful than the obvious ones, being more subtle and complex and therefore more difficult to discover. The silence that is brought about through stimulation, the silence that is made up through disciplines, control, resistances, positive or negative, is a result, an effect and so not creative; it is dead.

There is a silence which is not a reaction, a result; a silence which is not the outcome of stimulation, of sensation; a silence which is not put together, not a conclusion. It comes into being when the process of thought is understood. Thought is the response of memory, of determined conclusions, conscious or unconscious; this memory dictates action according to pleasure and pain. So ideas control action, and hence there is conflict between action and idea. This conflict is always with us, and as it intensifies there is an urge to be free from it; but until this conflict is understood and resolved, any attempt to be free from it is an escape. As long as action is approximating to an idea, conflict is inevitable. Only when action is free from idea does conflict cease.

"But how can action ever be free from idea? Surely there can be no action without there being ideation first. Action follows idea, and I cannot possibly imagine any action which is not the result of idea."

Idea is the outcome of memory; idea is the verbalization of memory; idea is an inadequate reaction to challenge, to life. Adequate response to life is action, not ideation. We respond ideationally in order to safeguard ourselves against action. Ideas limit action. There is safety in the field of ideas, but not in action; so action is made subservient to idea. Idea is the self-protective pattern for action. In intense crisis there is direct action, freed from idea. It is against this spontaneous action that the mind has disciplined itself; and as with most of us the mind is dominant, ideas act as a brake on action and hence there is friction between action and ideation.

"I find my mind wandering off to that happy experience of the Engadine. Is it an escape to relive that experience in memory?,"

Obviously. The actual is your life in the present: this crowded street, your business, your immediate relationships. If these were pleasing and gratifying, the Engadine would fade away; but as the actual is confusing and painful, you turn to an experience which is over and dead. You may remember that experience, but it is finished; you give it life only through memory. It is like pumping life into a dead thing. The present being dull, shallow, we turn to the past or look to a self-projected future. To escape from the present inevitably leads to illusion. To see the present as it actually is, without condemnation or justification, is to understand what is, and then there is action which brings about a transformation in what is.

Chapter - 49
‘Problems and Escapes’

"I HAVE MANY SERIOUS problems, and I seem to make them more tortuous and painful by trying to solve them. I am at my wit’s end, and I do not know what to do. Added to all this, I am deaf and have to use this beastly thing as an aid to my hearing. I have several children and a husband who has left me. I am really concerned over my children, as I want them to avoid all the miseries I have been through."

How anxious we are to find an answer to our problems! We are so eager to find an answer that we cannot study the problem; it prevents our silent observation of the problem. The problem is the important thing, and not the answer. If we look for an answer, we will find it; but the problem will persist, for the answer is irrelevant to the problem. Our search is for an escape from the problem, and the solution is a superficial remedy, so there is no understanding of the problem. All problems arise from one source, and without understanding the source, any attempt to solve the problems will only lead to further confusion and misery. One must first be very clear that one’s intention to understand the problem is serious, that one sees the necessity of being free of all problems; for only then can the maker of problems be approached. Without freedom from problems, there can be no tranquillity; and tranquillity is essential for happiness, which is not an end in itself. As the pool is still when the breezes stop, so the mind is still with the cessation of problems. But the mind cannot be made still; if it is, it is dead, it is a stagnant pool. When this is clear, then the maker of problems can be observed. The observation must be silent and not according to any predetermined plan based on pleasure and pain.

"But you are asking the impossible! Our education trains the mind to distinguish, to compare, to judge, to choose, and it is very difficult not to condemn or justify what is observed. How can one be free of this conditioning and observe silently?"

If you see that silent observation, passive awareness is essential for understanding, then the truth of your perception liberates you from the background. It is only when you do not see the immediate necessity of passive and yet alert awareness that the "how," the search for a means to dissolve the background, aries. It is truth that liberates, not the means or the system. The truth that silent observation alone brings understanding, must be seen; then only are you free from condemnation and justification. When you see danger, you do not ask how you are to keep away from it. It is because you do not see the necessity of being passively aware that you ask "how." Why do you not see the necessity of it?

"I want to, but I have never thought along these lines before. All I can say is that I want to get rid of my problems, because they are a real torture to me. I want to be happy, like any other person."

Consciously or unconsciously we refuse to see the essentiality of being passively aware because we do not really want to let go of our problems; for what would we be without them? We would rather cling to something we know, however painful, than risk the pursuit of something that may lead who knows where. With the problems, at least, we are familiar; but the thought of pursuing the maker of them, not knowing where it may lead, creates in us fear and dullness. The mind would be lost without the worry of problems; it feeds on problems, whether they are world or kitchen problems, political or personal, religious or ideological; so our problems make us petty and narrow. A mind that is consumed with world problems is as petty as the mind that worries about the spiritual progress it is making. Problems burden the mind with fear, for problems give strength to the self, to the "me" and the "mine." Without problems, without achievements and failures, the self is not.
"But without the self, how can one exist at all? It is the source of all action."

As long as action is the outcome of desire, of memory, of fear, of pleasure and pain, it must inevitably breed conflict, confusion and antagonism. Our action is the outcome of our conditioning, at whatever level; and our response to challenge, being inadequate and incomplete, must produce conflict, which is the problem. Conflict is the very structure of the self. It is entirely possible to live without conflict, the conflict of greed, of fear, of success; but this possibility will be merely theoretical and not actual until it is discovered through direct experiencing. To exist without greed is possible only when the ways of the self are understood.

"Do you think my deafness is due to my fears and repressions? Doctors have assured me that there is nothing structurally wrong, and is there any possibility of recovering my hearing? I have been suppressed, in one way or another, all my life; I have never done anything that I really wanted to do."

Inwardly and outwardly it is easier to repress than to understand. To understand is arduous, especially for those who have been heavily conditioned from childhood. Although strenuous, repression becomes a matter of habit. Understanding can never be made into a habit, a matter of routine; it demands constant watchfulness, alertness. To understand, there must be pliability, sensitivity, a warmth that has nothing to do with sentimentality. Suppression in any form needs no quickening of awareness; it is the easiest and the stupidest way to deal with responses. Suppression is conformity to an idea, to a pattern, and it offers superficial security, respectability. Understanding is liberating, but suppression is always narrowing, self-enclosing. Fear of authority, of insecurity, of opinion, builds up an ideological refuge, with its physical counterpart, to which the mind turns. This refuge, at whatever level it may be placed, ever sustains fear; and from fear there is substitution, sublimation or discipline, which are all a form of repression. Repression must find an outlet, which may be a physical ailment or some kind of ideological illusion. The price is paid according to one’s temperament and idiosyncrasies.

"I have noticed that whenever there is something unpleasant to be heard, I take refuge behind this instrument, which thereby helps me to escape into my own world. But how is one to be free from the repression of years? Will it not take a long time?"

It is not a question of time, of dredging into the past, or of careful analysis; it is a matter of seeing the truth of repression. By being passively aware, without any choice, of the whole process of repression, the truth of it is immediately seen. The truth of repression cannot be discovered if we think in terms of yesterday and tomorrow; truth is not to be comprehended through the passage of time. Truth is not a thing to be attained; it is seen or it is not seen, it cannot be perceived gradually. The will to be free from repression is a hindrance to understanding the truth of it; for will is desire, whether positive or negative, and with desire there can be no passive awareness. It is desire or craving that brought about the repression; and this same desire, though now called will, can never free itself from its own creation. Again, the truth of will must be perceived through passive yet alert awareness. The analyser, though he may separate himself from it, is part of the analysed; and as he is conditioned by the thing he analyses, he cannot free himself from it, again, the truth of this must be seen. It is truth that liberates, not will and effort.

Chapter - 50
‘What Is and What Should Be’

"I AM MARRIED and have children," she said, `but I seem to have lost all love. I am slowly drying up. Although I engage in social activities, they are a kind of pastime, and I see their futility. Nothing seems to interest me deeply and fully. I recently took a long holiday from my family routine and social activities, and I tried to paint; but my spirit was not in it. I feel utterly dead, uncreative, depressed and deeply discontented. I am still young, but the future seems to be complete blackness. I have thought of suicide, but somehow I see the utter stupidity of it, I am getting more and more confused, and my discontent seems to have no end."

What are you confused about? Is your problem that of relationship?

"No, it is not. I have been through that, and have come out of it not too bruised; but I am confused and nothing seems to satisfy me."

Have you a definite problem, or are you merely discontented generally? There must be deep down some anxiety, some fear, and probably you are not aware of it. Do you want to know what it is?

"Yes, that is why I have come to you. I really cannot go on the way I am. Nothing seems to be of any importance, and I get quite ill periodically."

Your illness may be an escape from yourself, from your circumstances.

"I am pretty sure it is. But what am I to do? I am really quite desperate. Before I leave I must find a way out of all this."

Is the conflict between two actualities, or between the actual and the fictitious? Is your discontent mere dissatisfaction, which is easily gratified, or is it a causeless misery? Dissatisfaction soon finds a particular channel through which it is gratified; dissatisfaction is quickly canalized, but discontent cannot be assuaged by thought. Does this so-called discontent arise from not finding satisfaction? If you found satisfaction, would your discontent disappear? Is it that you are really seeking some kind of permanent gratification?

"No, it is not that. I am really not seeking any kind of gratification - at least I do not think I am. All I know is that I am in confusion and conflict, and I cannot seem to find a way out of it."

When you say you are in conflict, it must be in relation to something: in relation to your husband, to your children, to your activities. If, as you say, your conflict is not with any of these, then it can only be between what you are and what you want to be, between the actual and the ideal, between what is and the myth of what should be. You have an idea of what you should be, and perhaps the conflict and confusion arise from the desire to fit into this self-projected pattern. You are struggling to be something which you are not. Is that it?

"I am beginning to see where I am confused. I think what you say is true."

The conflict is between the actual and the myth, between that which you are and that which you would like to be. The pattern of the myth has been cultivated from childhood and has progressively widened and deepened, growing in contrast to the actual, and being constantly modified by circumstances. This myth, like all ideals, goals, Utopias, is in contradiction to what is the implicit, the actual; so the myth is an escape from that which you are. This escape inevitably creates the barren conflict of the opposites; and all conflict, inward or outward, is vain, futile, stupid, creating confusion and antagonism.

So, if I may say so, your confusion arises from the conflict between what you are and the myth of what you should be. The myth, the ideal, is unreal; it is a self-projected escape, it has no actuality. The actual is what you are. What you are is much more important than what you should be. You can understand what is, but you cannot understand what should be. There is no understanding of an illusion, there is only understanding of the way it comes into being. The myth, the fictitious, the ideal, has no validity; it is a result, an end, and what is important is to understand the process through which it has come into being.

To understand that which you are, whether pleasant or unpleasant, the myth, the ideal, the self-projected future state, must entirely cease. Then only can you tackle what is. To understand what is, there must be freedom from all distraction. Distraction is the condemnation or justification of what is. Distraction is comparison; it is resistance or discipline against the actual. Distraction is the very effort or compulsion to understand. All distractions are a hindrance to the swift pursuit of what is. What is is not static; it is in constant movement, and to follow it the mind must not be tethered to any belief, to any hope of success or fear of failure. Only in passive yet alert awareness can that which is unfold. This unfoldment is not of time.

Chapter - 51

HE WAS A well-known and well-established politician, somewhat arrogant, and hence his impatience. Highly educated, he was rather ponderous and tortuous in his expositions. He could not afford to be subtle, for he was too much involved with appeasement; he was the public, the State, the power. He was a fluent speaker, and the very fluency was its own misfortune; he was incorruptible, and therein lay his hold on the public. He was oddly uncomfortable sitting in that room; the politician was far away, but the man was there, nervous and aware of himself. The bluster, the cocksureness was gone, and there was anxious inquiry, consideration and self-exposure.

The late afternoon sun was coming through the window, and so also the noise of the traffic. The parrots, bright green flashes of light, were returning from their day’s outing to settle for the night in safety among the trees of the town, those very large trees that are found along roads and in private gardens. As they flew, the parrots uttered hideous screeches. They never flew in a straight line but dropped, rose, or moved sideways, always chattering and calling. Their flight and their cries were in contradiction to their own beauty. Far away on the sea there was a single white sail. A small group of people filled the room, a contrast of colour and thought. A little dog came in, looked around and went out, scarcely noticed; and a temple bell was ringing.

"Why is there contradiction in our life?" he asked. "We talk of the ideals of peace, of non-violence, and yet lay the foundation stone of war. We must be realists and not dreamers. We want peace, and yet our daily activities ultimately lead to war; we want light, and yet we close the window. Our very thought process is a contradiction, want and not-want. This contradiction is probably inherent in our nature, and it is therefore rather hopeless to try to be integrated, to be whole. Love and hate always seem to go together. Why is there this contradiction? Is it inevitable? Can one avoid it? Can the modern State be wholly for peace? Can it afford to be entirely one thing? It must work for peace and yet prepare for war; the goal is peace through preparedness for war."

Why do we have a fixed point, an ideal, since deviation from it creates contradiction? If there were no fixed point, no conclusion, there would be no contradiction. We establish a fixed point, and then wander away from it, which is considered a contradiction. We come to a conclusion through devious ways and at different levels, and then try to live in accordance with that conclusion or ideal. As we cannot, a contradiction is created; and then we try to build a bridge between the fixed, the ideal, the conclusion, and the thought or act which contradicts it. This bridging is called consistency. And how we admire a man who is consistent, who sticks to his conclusion, to his ideal! Such a man we consider a saint. But the insane are also consistent, they also stick to their conclusions. There is no contradiction in a man who feels himself to be Napoleon, he is the embodiment of his conclusion; and a man who is completely identified with his ideal is obviously unbalanced.

The conclusion which we call an ideal may be established at any level, and it may be conscious or unconscious; and having established it, we try to approximate our action to it, which creates contradiction. What is important is not how to be consistent with the pattern, with the ideal, but to discover why we have cultivated this fixed point, this conclusion; for if we had no pattern, then contradiction would disappear. So, why have we the ideal, the conclusion? Does not the ideal prevent action? Does not the ideal come into being to modify action, to control action? Is it not possible to act without the ideal? The ideal is the response of the background, of conditioning, and so it can never be the means of liberating man from conflict and confusion. On the contrary, the ideal, the conclusion, increases division between man and man and so hastens the process of disintegration.
If there is no fixed point, no ideal from which to deviate, there is no contradiction with its urge to be consistent; then there is only action from moment to moment, and that action will always be complete and true. The true is not an ideal, a myth, but the actual. The actual can be understood and dealt with. The understanding of the actual cannot breed enmity, whereas ideas do. Ideals can never bring about a fundamental revolution, but only a modified continuity of the old. There is fundamental and constant revolution only in action from moment to moment which is not based on an ideal and so is free of conclusion.

"But a State cannot be run on this principle. There must be a goal, a planned action, a concentrated effort on a particular issue. What you say may be applicable to the individual, and I see in it great possibilities for myself; but it will not work in collective action."

Planned action needs constant modification, there must be adjustment to changing circumstances. Action according to a fixed blueprint will inevitably fail if you do not take into consideration the physical facts and psychological pressures. If you plan to build a bridge, you must not only make a blueprint of it, but you have to study the soil, the terrain where it is going to be built, otherwise your planning will not be adequate. There can be complete action only when all the physical facts and psychological stresses of man’s total process are understood, and this understanding does not depend on any blueprint. It demands swift adjustment, which is intelligence; and it is only when there is no intelligence that we resort to conclusions, ideals, goals. The State is not static; its leaders may be, but the State, like the individual, is living, dynamic, and what is dynamic cannot be put in the strait-jacket of a blueprint, We generally build walls around the State, walls of conclusions, ideals, hoping to tie it down; but a living thing cannot be tied down without killing it, so we proceed to kill the State and then mould it according to our blueprint, according to the ideal. Only a dead thing can be forced to conform to a pattern; and as life is in constant movement, there is contradiction the moment we try to fit life into a fixed pattern or conclusion. Conformity to a pattern is the disintegration of the individual and so of the State. The ideal is not superior to life, and when we make it so there is confusion, antagonism and misery.

Chapter - 52

THE SUN WAS bright on the white wall opposite, and its glare made the faces obscure. A little child, without the prompting of the mother, came and sat close by, wide-eyed and wondering what it was all about. She was freshly washed and clothed and had some flowers in her hair. She was keenly observing everything, as children do, without recording too much. Her eyes were sparkling, and she did not quite know what to do, whether to cry, to laugh or to jump; instead, she took my hand and looked at it with absorbing interest. Presently she forgot all those people in the room, relaxed and went to sleep with her head in my lap. Her head was of good shape and well balanced; she was spotlessly clean. Her future was as confused and as miserable as that of the others in the room. Her conflict and sorrow were as inevitable as that sun on the wall; for to be free of pain and misery needs supreme intelligence, and her education and the influences about her would see to it that she was denied this intelligence. Love is so rare in this world, that flame without smoke; the smoke is overpowering, all-suffocating, bringing anguish and tears. Through the smoke, the flame is rarely seen; and when the smoke becomes all-important, the flame dies. Without that flame of love, life has no meaning, it becomes dull and weary; but the flame cannot be in the darkening smoke. The two cannot exist together; the smoke must cease for the clear flame to be. The flame is not a rival of the smoke; it has no rival. The smoke is not the flame, it cannot contain the flame; nor does the smoke indicate the presence of the flame, for the flame is free of smoke.

"Cannot love and hate exist together? Is not jealousy an indication of love? We hold hands, and then the next minute scold; we say hard things, but soon embrace. We quarrel, then kiss and are reconciled. Is not all this love? The very expression of jealousy is an indication of love; they seem to go together, like light and darkness. The swift anger and the caress - are these not the fullness of love? The river is both turbulent and calm; it flows through shadow and sunlight, and therein lies the beauty of the river."

What is it that we call love? It is this whole field of jealousy, of lust, of harsh words, of caress, of holding hands, of quarrelling and making up. These are the facts in this field of so-called love. Anger and caress are everyday facts in this field, are they not? And we try to establish a relationship between the various facts, or we compare one fact with another. We use one fact to condemn or justify another within this same field, or we try to establish a relationship between a fact within the field and something outside of it. We do not take each fact separately, but try to find an interrelationship between them. Why do we do this? We can understand a fact only when we do not use another fact in the same field as a medium of understanding, which merely creates conflict and confusion. But why do we compare the various facts in the same field? Why do we carry over the significance of one fact to offset or to explain another?

"I am beginning to grasp what you mean. But why do we do this?"

Do we understand a fact through the screen of idea, through the screen of memory? Do I understand jealousy because I have held your hand? The holding of the hand is a fact, as jealousy is a fact; but do I understand the process of jealousy because I have a remembrance of holding your hand? Is memory an aid to understanding? Memory compares, modifies, condemns, justifies, or identifies; but it cannot bring understanding. We approach the facts in the field of so-called love with idea, with conclusion. We do not take the fact of jealousy as it is and silently observe it, but we want to twist the fact according to the pattern, to the conclusion; and we approach it in this way because we really do not wish to understand the fact of jealousy. The sensations of jealousy are as stimulating as a caress; but we want stimulation without the pain and discomfort that invariably go with it. So there is conflict, confusion and antagonism within this field which we call love. But is it love? Is love an idea, a sensation, a stimulation? Is love jealousy? "Is not reality held in illusion? Does not darkness encompass or hide light? Is not God held in bondage?"

These are mere ideas, opinions, and so they have no validity. Such ideas only breed enmity, they do not cover or hold reality. Where there is light, darkness is not. Darkness cannot conceal light; if it does, there is no light. Where jealousy is, love is not. Idea cannot cover love. To commune, there must be relationship. Love is not related to idea, and so idea cannot commune with love. Love is a flame without smoke.

Chapter - 53

SHE WAS AMONG a group of people who had come to discuss some serious matter. She must have come out of curiosity, or was brought along by a friend. Well dressed, she held herself with some dignity, and she evidently considered herself very good looking. She was completely self-conscious: conscious of her body, of her looks, of her hair and the impression she was making on others. Her gestures were studied, and from time to time she took different attitudes which she must have thought out with great care. Her whole appearance had about it the air of a long cultivated pose into which she was determined to fit, whatever might happen. The others began to talk of serious things, and during the whole hour or more she maintained her pose. One saw among all those serious and intent faces this self-conscious girl, trying to follow what was being said and to join in the discussion; but no words came out of her. She wanted to show that she too was aware of the problem that was being discussed; but there was bewilderment in her eyes, for she was incapable of taking part in the serious conversation. One saw her quickly withdraw into herself, still maintaining the long-cultivated pose. All spontaneity was being sedulously destroyed,

Each one cultivates a pose. There is the walk and the pose of a prosperous business man, the smile of one who has arrived; there is the look and the pose of an artist; there is the pose of a respectful disciple, and the pose of a disciplined ascetic. Like that self-conscious girl, the so-called religious man assumes a pose, the pose of self-discipline which he has sedulously cultivated through denials and sacrifices. She sacrifices spontaneity for effect, and he immolates himself to achieve an end. Both are concerned with a result, though at different levels; and while his result may be considered socially more beneficial than hers, fundamentally they are similar, one is not superior to the other. Both are unintelligent, for both indicate pettiness of mind. A petty mind is always petty; it cannot be made rich, abundant. Though such a mind may adorn itself or seek to acquire virtue, it remains what it is, a petty, shallow thing, and through so-called growth, experience, it can only be enriched in its own pettiness. An ugly thing cannot be made beautiful. The god of a petty mind is a petty god. A shallow mind does not become fathomless by adorning itself with knowledge and clever phrases, by quoting words of wisdom, or by decorating its outward appearance. Adornments, whether inward or outward, do not make a fathomless mind; and it is this fathomlessness of the mind that gives beauty, not the jewel or the acquired virtue. For beauty to come into being, the mind must be choicelessly aware of its own pettiness; there must be an awareness in which comparison has wholly ceased.

The cultivated pose of the girl, and the disciplined pose of the so-called religious ascetic, are equally the tortured results of a petty mind, for both deny essential spontaneity. Both are fearful of the spontaneous, for it reveals them as they are, to themselves and to others; both are bent on destroying it, and the measure of their success is the completeness of their conformity to a chosen pattern or conclusion. But spontaneity is the only key that opens the door to what is. The spontaneous response uncovers the mind as it is; but what is discovered is immediately adorned or destroyed, and so spontaneity is put an end to. The killing of spontaneity is the way of a petty mind, which then decorates the outer, at whatever level; and this decoration is the worship of itself. Only in spontaneity, in freedom, can there be discovery. A disciplined mind cannot discover; it may function effectively and hence ruthlessly, but it cannot uncover the fathomless. It is fear that creates the resistance called discipline; but the spontaneous discovery of fear is freedom from fear. Conformity to a pattern, at whatever level, is fear, which only breeds conflict confusion and antagonism; but a mind that is in revolt is not fearless, for the opposite can never know the spontaneous, the free.

Without spontaneity, there can be no self-knowledge; without self-knowledge, the mind is shaped by passing influences. These passing influences can make the mind narrow or expansive, but it is still within the sphere of influence. What is put together can be unmade, and that which is not put together can be known only through self-knowledge. The self is put together, and it is only in undoing the self that that which is not the result of influence, which has no cause, can be known.

Chapter - 54
‘The Conscious and the Unconscious’

HE WAS A business man as well as a politician, and was very successful in both. He laughingly said that business and politics were a good combination; yet he was an earnest man in an odd, superstitious way. Whenever he had time he would read sacred books and repeat over and over again certain words which he considered beneficial. They brought peace to the soul, he said. He was advanced in years and very wealthy, but he was not generous either with the hand or with the heart. One could see that he was cunning and calculating, and yet there was an urge for something more than physical success. Life had scarcely touched him, for he had very studiously guarded himself against any exposure; he had made himself invulnerable, physically as well as psychologically. Psychologically he had refused to see himself as he was, and he could well afford to do this; but it was beginning to tell on him. When he was not watchful, there was about him a deep haunted look. Financially he was safe, at least as long as the present Government lasted and there was no revolution. He also wanted a safe investment in the so-called spiritual world, and that was why he played with ideas, mistaking ideas for something spiritual, real. He had no love except for his many possessions; he clung to them as a child clings to its mother, for he had nothing else. It was slowly dawning on him that he was a very sad man. Even this realization he was avoiding as long as he could; but life was pressing him.

When a problem is not consciously soluble, does the unconscious take over and help to solve it? What is the conscious and what is the unconscious? Is there a definite line where the one ends and the other begins? Has the conscious a limit, beyond which it cannot go? Can it limit itself to its own boundaries? Is the unconscious something apart from the conscious? Are they dissimilar? When one fails, does the other begin to function?

What is it that we call the conscious? To understand what it is made up of, we must observe how we consciously approach a problem. Most of us try to seek an answer to the problem; we are concerned with the solution, and not with the problem. We want a conclusion, we are looking for a way out of the problem; we want to avoid the problem through an answer, through a solution. We do not observe the problem itself, but grope for a satisfactory answer. Our whole conscious concern is with the finding of a solution, a satisfying conclusion. Often we do find an answer that gratifies us, and then we think we have solved the problem. What we have actually done is to cover over the problem with a conclusion, with a satisfactory answer; but under the weight of the conclusion, which has temporarily smothered it, the problem is still there. The search for an answer is an evasion of the problem. When there is no satisfactory answer, the conscious or upper mind stops looking; and then the so-called unconscious, the deeper mind, takes over and finds an answer.

The conscious mind is obviously seeking a way out of the problem, and the way out is a satisfying conclusion. Is not the conscious mind itself made up of conclusions, whether positive or negative, and is it capable of seeking anything else? Is not the upper mind a storehouse of conclusions which are the residue of experiences, the imprints of the past? Surely, the conscious mind is made up of the past, it is founded on the past, for memory is a fabric of conclusions; and with these conclusions, the mind approaches a problem. It is incapable of looking at the problem without the screen of its conclusions; it cannot study, be silently aware of the problem itself. It knows only conclusions, pleasant or unpleasant, and it can only add to itself further conclusions, further ideas, further fixations. Any conclusion is a fixation, and the conscious mind inevitably seeks a conclusion.

When it cannot find a satisfactory conclusion, the conscious mind gives up the search, and thereby it becomes quiet; and into the quiet upper mind, the unconscious pops an answer. Now, is the unconscious, the deeper mind, different in its make-up from the conscious mind? Is not the unconscious also made up of racial, group and social conclusions, memories? Surely, the unconscious is also the result of the past, of time, only it is submerged and waiting; and when called upon it throws up its own hidden conclusions. If they are satisfactory, the upper mind accepts them; and if they are not, it flounders about, hoping by some miracle to find an answer. If it does not find an answer, it wearily puts up with the problem, which gradually corrodes the mind. Disease and insanity follow.

The upper and the deeper mind are not dissimilar; they are both made up of conclusions, memories, they are both the outcome of the past. They can supply an answer, a conclusion, but they are incapable of dissolving the problem. The problem is dissolved only when both the upper and the deeper mind are silent, when they are not projecting positive or negative conclusions. There is freedom from the problem only when the whole mind is utterly still, choicelessly aware of the problem; for only then the maker of the problem is not.

Chapter - 55
‘Challenge and Response’

THE RIVER WAS full and sweeping, in some places several miles wide, and to see so much water was a delight. To the north were the green hills, fresh after the storm. It was splendid to see the great curve of the river with the white sails on it. The sails were large and triangular, and in the early morning light there was an enchantment about them, they seemed to come out of the water. The noise of the day had not yet begun, and the song of a boatman almost on the other side of the river came floating across the waters. At that hour his song seemed to fill the earth, and all other sounds were silenced; even the whistle of a train became soft and bearable.

Gradually the noise of the village began: the loud quarrels at the water fountain, the bleating of goats, the cows asking to be milked, the heavy carts on the road, the shrill call of the crows, the cries and laughter of children. And so another day was born. The sun was over the palm trees, and the monkeys were sitting on the wall, their long tails almost touching the earth. They were large, but very timid; you called to them, and they jumped to the ground and ran to a big tree in the field. They were black-faced and black-pawed, and they looked intelligent, but they were not as clever and mischievous as the little ones.

"Why is thought so persistent? It seems so restless, so exasperatingly insistent. Do what you will, it is always active, like those monkeys, and its very activity is exhausting. You cannot escape from it, it pursues you relentlessly. You try to suppress it, and a few seconds later it pops up again. It is never quiet, never in repose; it is always pursuing, always analysing, always torturing itself. Sleeping or waking, thought is in constant turmoil, and it seems to have no peace, no rest."

Can thought ever be at peace? It can think about peace and attempt to be peaceful, forcing itself to be still; but can thought in itself be tranquil? Is not thought in its very nature restless? Is not thought the constant response to constant challenge? There can be no cessation to challenge, because every movement of life is a challenge; and if there is no awareness of challenge, then there is decay, death. Challenge-and-response is the very way of life. Response can be adequate or inadequate; and it is inadequacy of response to challenge that provokes thought, with its restlessness. Challenge demands action, not verbalization. Verbalization is thought. The word, the symbol, retards action; and idea is the word, as memory is the word. There is no memory without the symbol, without the word. Memory is word, thought, and can thought be the true response to challenge? Is challenge an idea? Challenge is always new, fresh; and can thought, idea, ever be new? When thought meets the challenge, which is ever new, is not that response the outcome of the old, the past?

When the old meets the new, inevitably the meeting is incomplete; and this incompleteness is thought in its restless search for completeness. Can thought, idea, ever be complete? Thought, idea, is the response of memory; and memory is ever incomplete. Experience is the response to challenge. This response is conditioned by the past, by memory; such response only strengthens the conditioning. Experience does not liberate, it strengthens belief, memory, and it is this memory that responds to challenge; so experience is the conditioner.

"But what place has thought?"

Do you mean what place has thought in action? Has idea any function in action? Idea becomes a factor in action in order to modify it, to control it, to shape it; but idea is not action. Idea, belief, is a safeguard against action; it has a place as a controller, modifying and shaping action. Idea is the pattern for action.

"Can there be action without the pattern?"

Not if one is seeking a result. Action towards a predetermined goal is not action at all, but conformity to belief, to idea. If one is seeking conformity, then thought, idea, has a place. The function of thought is to create a pattern for so-called action, and thereby to kill action. Most of us are concerned with the killing of action; and idea, belief, dogma, help to destroy it. Action implies insecurity, vulnerability to the unknown; and thought, belief, which is the known, is an effective barrier to the unknown. Thought can never penetrate into the unknown; it must cease for the unknown to be. The action of the unknown is beyond the action of thought; and thought, being aware of this, consciously or unconsciously clings to the known. The known is ever responding to the unknown, to the challenge; and from this inadequate response arise conflict, confusion and misery. It is only when the known, the idea, ceases that there can be the action of the unknown, which is measureless.

Chapter - 56

HA HAD BROUGHT along his wife, for he said that it was their mutual problem. She had bright eyes and was small, sprightly, and rather disturbed. They were simple, friendly people; he spoke English fairly well, and she could just manage to understand it and ask simple questions. When it got a little difficult, she would turn to her husband and he would explain in their own language. He said that they had been married for over twenty-five years, and had several children; and that their problem was not the children, but the struggle between themselves. He explained that he had a job which gave him a modest income, and went on to say how difficult it was to live peacefully in this world, especially when you are married; he wasn’t grumbling, he added, but there it was. He had been everything that a husband should be, at least he hoped so, but it was not always easy.

It was difficult for them to come to the point, and they talked for some time about various things: the education of their children, the marriage of their daughters, the waste of money on ceremonies, a recent death in the family, and so on. They felt at ease and unhurried, for it was good to talk to someone who would listen and who perhaps might understand.

Who cares to listen to the troubles of another? We have so many problems of our own that we have no time for those of others. To make another listen you have to pay either in coin, in prayer, or in belief. The professional will listen, it is his job, but in that there is no lasting release. We want to unburden ourselves freely, spontaneously, without any regrets afterwards. The purification of confusion does not depend on the one who listens, but on him who desires to open his heart. To open one’s heart is important, and it will find someone, a beggar perhaps, to whom it can pour itself out. Introspective talk can never open the heart; it is enclosing, depressing and utterly useless. To be open is to listen, not only to yourself, but to every influence, to every movement about you. It may or may not be possible to do something tangibly about what you hear, but the very fact of being open brings about its own action. Such hearing purifies your own heart, cleansing it of the things of the mind. Hearing with the mind is gossip, and in it there is no release either for you or for the other; it is merely a continuation of pain, which is stupidity.

Unhurriedly they were coming to the point.

"We have come to talk about our problem. We are jealous - I am not but she is. Though she used not to be as openly jealous as she is now, there has always been a whisper of it. I don’t think I have ever given her any reason to be jealous, but she finds a reason."

Do you think there is any reason to be jealous? Is there a cause for jealousy? And will jealousy disappear when the cause is known? Have you not noticed that even when you know the cause, jealousy continues? Do not let us look for the reason, but let us understand jealousy itself. As you say, one might pick up almost anything to be envious about; envy is the thing to understand, and not what it is about.

"Jealousy has been with me for a long time. I didn’t know my husband very well when we married, and you know how it all happens; jealousy gradually crept in, like smoke in the kitchen."

Jealousy is one of the ways of holding the man or the woman, is it not? The more we are jealous, the greater the feeling of possession. To possess something makes us happy; to call something, even a dog, exclusively our own makes us feel warm and comfortable. To be exclusive in our possession gives assurance and certainty to ourselves. To own something makes us important; it is this importance we cling to. To think that we own, not a pencil or a house, but a human being, makes us feel strong and strangely content. Envy is not because of the other, but because of the worth, the importance of ourselves.

"But I am not important, I am nobody; my husband is all that I have. Even my children don’t count."

We all have only one thing to which we cling, though it takes different forms. You cling to your husband, others to their children, and yet others to some belief; but the intention is the same. Without the object to which we cling we feel so hopelessly lost, do we not? We are afraid to feel all alone. This fear is jealousy, hate, pain. There is not much difference between envy and hate.

"But we love each other."

Then how can you be jealous? We do not love, and that is the unfortunate part of it. You are using your husband, as he is using you, to be happy, to have a companion, not to feel alone; you may not possess much, but at least you have someone to be with. This mutual need and use we call love.

"But this is dreadful."

It is not dreadful, only we never look at it. We call it dreadful, give it a name and quickly look away - which is what you are doing.

"I know, but I don’t want to look. I want to carry on as I am, even though it means being jealous, because I cannot see anything else in life."

If you saw something else you would no longer be jealous of your husband, would you? But you would cling to the other thing as now you are clinging to your husband, so you would be jealous of that too. You want to find a substitute for your husband, and not freedom from jealousy. We are all like that: before we give up one thing, we want to be very sure of another. When you are completely uncertain, then only is there no place for envy. There is envy when there is certainty, when you feel that you have something. Exclusiveness is this feeling of certainty; to own is to be envious. Ownership breeds hatred. We really hate what we possess, which is shown in jealousy. Where there is possession there can never be love; to possess is to destroy love.

"I am beginning to see. I have really never loved my husband, have I? I am beginning to understand."

And she wept.