Commentaries on Living [1]

Chapter - 87

THE SMALL STREAM was flowing very gently beside the path that wound round the rice fields, and it was crowded with lotuses; they were dark violet with golden hearts, and they were clear of the water. Their scent remained close to them, and they were very beautiful. The sky was overcast; it was beginning to drizzle, and there was thunder among the clouds. The lightning was still far away, but it was coming towards the tree under which we were sheltering. It began to rain heavily, and the lotus leaves were collecting drops of water; when the drops became too large, they slipped off the leaves, only to form again. The lightning was now above the tree, and the cattle were frightened and straining at their ropes. A black calf, wet and shivering, was calling piteously; it broke its rope and ran towards a nearby hut. The lotuses were closing themselves tightly, shutting their heats against the gathering darkness; one would have had to tear the violet petals to get at the golden hearts. They would remain tightly closed till the coming of the sun. Even in their sleep they were beautiful. The lightning was moving towards the town; it was now quite dark, and one could just hear the murmur of the stream. The path led past the village to the road which took us back to the noisy town.

He was a young man, in his twenties; he was well fed, had travelled a little and been to college. He was nervous and there was anxiety in his eyes. It was late, but he wanted to talk; he wanted someone to explore his mind for him. He exposed himself very simply, without any hesitation or pretension. His problem was clear, but not to him; he went groping about.

We do not listen and discover what is; we foist our ideas and opinions on another, trying to force the other into the frame of our thought. Our own thoughts and judgments are so much more important to us than to find out what is. The what is, is always simple; it is we who are complex. We make the simple, the what is, complex, and we get lost in it. We listen only to the increasing noise of our own confusion. To listen, we must be free. It is not that there must be no distractions, for thinking itself is a form of distraction. We must be free to be silent, and only then is it possible to hear.

He was saying that just as he was going off to sleep he would sit up with a start of naked fear. Then the room would lose its proportions; the walls would go flat, there would be no roof, and the floor would disappear. He would be frightened and sweating. This had been going on for many years.

What are you frightened of?

"I don’t know; but when I wake up with fear, I go to my sister, or to my father and mother, and talk with them for some time to calm myself, and then go off to sleep. They understand, but I am in my twenties and it is getting rather silly."

Are you anxious about the future?

"Yes, somewhat. Though we have money, I am still rather anxious about it."


"I want to marry and provide comfort for my future wife."

Why be anxious about the future? You are quite young, and you can work and give her what is necessary. Why be so preoccupied with this? Are you afraid of losing your social position?

"Partly. We have a car, some property and reputation. Naturally I don’t want to lose all this, which may be the cause of my fear. But it isn’t quite this. It is the fear of not being. When I wake up with fear, I feel I am lost, that I am nobody, that I am falling to pieces."

After all, a new government may come in and you may lose your property, your holdings; but you are quite young, and you can always work. Millions are losing their worldly goods, and you too may have to face that. Besides, the things of the world are to be shared and not to be exclusively possessed. At your age, why be so conservative, so afraid of losing?

"You see, I want to marry a particular girl, and I am anxious that nothing should stop it. Nothing is likely to stop it, but I miss her and she misses me, and this may be another cause of my fear."

Is that the cause of your fear? You say that nothing out of the ordinary is likely to happen to prevent your marrying her, so why this fear?

"Yes, it is true that we can marry whenever we decide to, so that cannot be the cause of my fear, at least not now. I think I am really frightened of not being, of losing my identity, my name."

Even if you did not care about your name, but had your property and so on, would you not still be afraid? What do we mean by identity? It is to be identified with a name, with property, with a person, with ideas; it is to be associated with something, to be recognized as this or that, to be labelled as belonging to a particular group or country, and so on. You are afraid of losing your label, is that it?

"Yes. Otherwise, what am I? Yes, that is it."

So you are your possessions. Your name and reputation, your car and other property, the girl you are going to marry, the ambitions that you have - you are these things. These things, together with certain characteristics and values, go to make up what you call "I”; you are the sum total of all this, and you are afraid of losing it. As with everyone else, there is always the possibility of loss; a war may come, there may be a revolution or a change in government towards the left. Something may happen to deprive you of these things, now or tomorrow. But why be afraid of insecurity? Is not insecurity the very nature of all things? Against this insecurity you are building walls that will protect you; but these walls can be and are being broken down. You may escape from it for a time, but the danger of insecurity is always there. That which is, you cannot avoid; insecurity is there, whether you like it or not. This does not mean that you must resign yourself to it, or that you must accept or deny it; but you are young, and why be afraid of insecurity?

"Now that you put it this way, I don’t think I am afraid of insecurity. I really don’t mind working; I work over eight hours a day at my job, and though I don’t particularly like it, I can carry on. No, I am not afraid of losing property, the car, and so on; and my fiancee and I can marry whenever we want to. I see now that it is none of this that is making me fearful. Then what is it?"

Let us find out together. I might be able to tell you, but it would not be your discovery; it would only be on the verbal level, and so utterly useless. The finding of it will be your own experiencing of it, and it is this that is really important. Discovering is experiencing; we will discover it together.

If it is none of these things that you are frightened of losing, if you are not afraid of being insecure outwardly, then of what are you anxious? Don’t answer right away; just listen, be watchful to find out. Are you quite sure it is not physical insecurity that you are frightened of? As far as one can be sure of such things, you say that you are not frightened of it. If you are sure that this is not a mere verbal assertion, then of what are you afraid?

"I am quite sure I am not frightened of being physically insecure; we can marry and have what we need. It is something more than the mere loss of things that I am afraid of. But what is it?"

We will find out, but let us consider it quietly. You really want to find out, don’t you?

"Of course I do, especially now that we have gone as far as this. What is it that I am frightened of?"

To find out we must be quiet, watchful, but not pressing. If you are not frightened of physical insecurity, are you frightened of being inwardly insecure, of being unable to achieve the end which you have set for yourself? Don’t answer, just listen. Do you feel incapable of becoming somebody? Probably you have a religious ideal; and do you feel you have not the capacity to live up to or achieve it? Do you feel a sense of hopelessness about it, a sense of guilt or frustration?

"You are perfectly right. Ever since I heard you some years ago as a boy, it has been my ideal, if I may say so, to be like you. It’s in our blood to be religious, and I have felt I could be like that; but there has always been a deep fear of never coming near it."

Let us go slowly. Though you are not frightened of being outwardly insecure, you are frightened of being insecure inwardly. Another man makes himself secure outwardly with a reputation, with fame, with money, and so on, while you want to be secure inwardly with an ideal; and you feel you have no capacity to become that ideal. Why do you want to become or achieve an ideal? Isn’t it only to be secure, to feel safe? This refuge you call an ideal; but actually you want to be safe, protected. Is that it?

"Now that you point it out, that is exactly it."

You have discovered this now, have you not? But let us proceed further. You see the obvious shallowness of outward security; but do you also see the falseness of seeking inward security through becoming the ideal? The ideal is your refuge, instead of money. Do you really see this?

"Yes, I really do."

Then be what you are. When you see the falseness of the ideal, it drops away from you. You are what is. From there proceed to understand what is - but not towards any particular end, for the end, the goal is always away from what is. The ‘what is’ is yourself, not at any particular period or in any given mood, but yourself as you are from moment to moment. Do not condemn yourself or become resigned to what you see, but be watchful without interpreting the movement of what is. This will be arduous, but there is delight in it. Only to the free is there happiness, and freedom comes with the truth of what is.

Chapter - 88

ALOOF AND INCLINED to be cynical, he was some kind of minister in the Government. He had been brought along, or more probably dragged, by a friend, and seemed rather surprised at finding himself there. The friend wanted to talk something over and evidently thought that the other might as well come along and hear his problem. The minister was curious and rather superior. He was a big man, sharp of eye and a facile talker. He had arrived in life, and was settling back. To travel is one thing, and to arrive is another. Travelling is constant arriving, and arrival that has no further travelling is death. How easily we are gratified, and how quickly discontent finds contentment! We all want a refuge of some kind, a haven from all conflict, and we generally find it. The clever, like the foolish, find their haven and are alert within it.

"I have been trying to understand my problem for a number of years, but I haven’t been able to get to the bottom of it. In my work I have always brought about antagonism; enmity has somehow crept in amongst all the people I have tried to help. In helping some, I sow opposition among others. With one hand I give, and with the other I seem to injure. This has been going on for more years than I can remember, and now a situation has arisen in which I have to act rather decisively. I really don’t want to hurt anyone, and I am at a loss what to do."

Which is more important: not to hurt, not to create enmity, or to do some piece of work?

"In the course of my work I do hurt others. I am one of those people who throw themselves into their work; if I undertake something, I want to see it through. I have always been that way. I think I am fairly efficient and I hate to see inefficiency. After all, if we undertake some kind of social work, we must go through with it, and those who are inefficient or slack naturally get hurt and become antagonistic. The work of bringing help to others is important, and in helping the needy I hurt those who come in the way. But I really don’t want to hurt people, and I have begun to realize that I must do something about it."

Which to you is important: to work, or not to hurt people?

"When one sees so much misery and plunges into the work of reform, in the course of that work one hurts certain people, though most unwillingly."

In saving one group of people, others are destroyed. One country survives at the expense of another. The so-called spiritual people, in their ardour for reform, save some and destroy others; they bring blessings and also curses. We always seem to be kind to some and brutal to others. Why?

Which to you is important: to work, or not to hurt people?

"After all, one has to hurt certain people, the slovenly, the inefficient, the selfish, it seems inevitable. Don’t you hurt people by your talks? I know a rich man who has been very hurt by what you say about the wealthy."

I do not want to hurt anyone. If people are hurt in the process of certain work, then to me that work has to be put aside. I have no work, no schemes for any kind of reform or revolution. With me work is not first, but not to hurt others. If the rich man feels hurt by what is said, he is not hurt by me, but by the truth of what is, which he dislikes; he doesn’t want to be exposed. It is not my intention to expose another. If a man is temporarily exposed by the truth of what is and gets angry at what he sees, he puts the blame on others; but that is only an escape from the fact. It is foolish to be angry with a fact. Avoidance of a fact through anger is one of the commonest and most thoughtless reactions.

But you have not answered my question. Which to you is important: to work, or not to hurt people?

"Work has to be done, don’t you think?" put in the minister. Why should it be done? If in the course of benefiting some you hurt or destroy others, what value has it? You may save your particular country, but you exploit or maim another. Why are you so concerned about your country, your party, your ideology? Why are you so identified with your work? Why does work matter so much?

"We have to work, be active, otherwise we might as well be dead. When the house is burning, we cannot for the moment be concerned with fundamental issues."

To the merely active, fundamentals are never the issue; they are only concerned with activity, which brings superficial benefits and deep harms. But if I may ask our friend: why is a certain kind of work so important to you? Why are you so attached to it?

"Oh, I don’t know, but it gives me a great deal of happiness."

So you are really not interested in the work itself, but in what you get out of it. You may not make money at it, but you derive happiness from it. As another gains power, position and prestige in saving his party or his country, so you gain pleasure from your work; as another finds great satisfaction, which he calls a blessing, in serving his saviour, his guru, his Master, so you are satisfied by what you call altruistic work. Actually it is not the country, the work, or the saviour that is important to you, but what you get out of it. Your own happiness is all-important, and your particular work gives you what you want. You are really not interested in the people you are supposed to be helping; they are only a means to your happiness. And obviously the inefficient, those who stand in your way, get hurt; for the work matters, the work being your happiness. This is the brutal fact, but we cunningly cover it with high-sounding words like service, country, peace, God, and so on.

So, if one may point out, you really do not mind hurting people who hinder the efficiency of the work that gives you happiness. You find happiness in certain work, and that work, whatever it be, is you. You are interested in getting happiness, and the work offers you the means; therefore the work becomes very important, and then of course you are very efficient, ruthless, dominating for the sake of that which gives you happiness. So you do not mind hurting people, breeding enmity.

"I have never seen it that way before, and it is perfectly true. But what am I to do about it?"

Is it not important to find out also why you have taken so many years to see a simple fact like this?

"I suppose, as you say, I really didn’t care whether I hurt people or not so long as I got my way. I generally do get my way, because I have always been very efficient and direct - which you would call ruthlessness, and you are perfectly right. But what am I to do now?"

You have taken all these years to see this simple fact because until now you have been unwilling to see it; for in seeing it you are attacking the very foundation of your being. You have sought happiness and found it, but it has always brought conflict and antagonism; and now, perhaps for the first time, you are facing facts about yourself. What are you going to do? Is there not a different approach to work? Is it not possible to be happy and work, rather than to seek happiness in work? When we use work or people as a means to an end, then obviously we have no relationship, no communion either with the work or with people; and then we are incapable of love. Love is not a means to an end; it is its own eternity. When I use you and you use me, which is generally called relationship, we are important to each other only as a means to something else; so we are not important to each other at all. From this mutual usage, conflict and antagonism must inevitably arise. So what are you going to do? Let us both discover what to do rather than seek an answer from another. If you can search it out, your finding of it will be your experiencing of it; then it will be real and not just a confirmation or conclusion, a mere verbal answer.

"What, then, is my problem?"

Can we not put it this way? Spontaneously, what is your first reaction to the question: Does the work come first? If it does not, then what does?

"I am beginning to see what you are trying to get at. My first response is shock; I am really appalled to see what I have been doing in my work for so many years. This is the first time I have faced the fact of what is, as you call it, and I assure you it is not very pleasant. If I can go beyond it, perhaps I shall see what is important, and then the work will naturally follow. But whether the work or something else comes first is still not clear to me."

Why is it not clear? Is clarity a matter of time, or of willingness to see? Will the desire not to see disappear by itself in the course of time? Is not your lack of clarity due to the simple fact that you don’t want to be clear because it would upset the whole pattern of your daily life? If you are aware that you are deliberately postponing, are you not immediately clear? It is this avoidance that brings confusion.

"It is all becoming very clear to me now, and what I shall do is immaterial. Probably I shall do what I have been doing, but with quite a different spirit. We shall see."

First Page < 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 > Last Page