Commentaries on Living [2]

Chapter - 17
What Is Making You Dull?

HE HAD A small job, with a very poor salary; he came with his wife, who wanted to talk over their problem. They were both quite young, and though they had been married for some years, they had no children; but that was not the problem. His pay was barely enough to eke out an existence in these difficult times, but as they had no children it was sufficient to survive. What the future held no man knew, though it could hardly be worse than the present. He was disinclined to talk, but his wife pointed out that he must. She had brought him along, almost forcibly it appeared, for he had come very reluctantly; but there he was, and she was glad. He could not talk easily, he said, for he had never talked about himself to anyone but his wife. He had few friends, and even to these he never opened his heart, for they wouldn't have understood him. As he talked he was slowly thawing, and his wife was listening with anxiety. He explained that his work was not the problem; it was fairly interesting, and anyhow it gave them food. They were simple, unassuming people, and both had been educated at one of the universities.

At last she began to explain their problem. She said that for a couple of years now her husband seemed to have lost all interest in life. He did his office work, and that was about all; he went to work in the morning and came back in the evening, and his employers did not complain about him.

"My work is a matter of routine and does not demand too much attention. I am interested in what I do, but it is all somehow a strain. My difficulty is not at the office or with the people with whom I work, but it is within myself. As my wife said, I have lost interest in life, and I don't quite know what is the matter with me."

"He was always enthusiastic, sensitive and very affectionate, but for the past year or more he has become dull and indifferent to everything. He always used to be loving with me, but now life has become very sad for both of us. He doesn't seem to care whether I am there or not, and it has become a misery to live in the same house. He is not unkind or anything of that sort, but has simply become apathetic and utterly indifferent."

Is it because you have no children?

"It isn't that," he said. "Our physical relationship is all right, more or less. No marriage is perfect, and we have our ups and downs, but I don't think this dullness is the result of any sexual maladjustment. Although my wife and I haven't lived together sexually for some time now because of this dullness of mine, I don't think it is the lack of children that has brought it about."

Why do you say that?

"Before this dullness came upon me, my wife and I realized that we couldn't have children. It has never bothered me, though she often cries about it. She wants children, but apparently one of us is incapable of reproduction. I have suggested several things which might make it possible for her to have a child, but she won't try any of them. She will have a child by me or not at all, and she is very deeply upset about it. After all, without the fruit, a tree is merely decorative. We have lain awake talking about all this, but there it is. I realize that one can't have everything in life, and it is not the lack of children that has brought on this dullness; at least, I am pretty sure it is not."

Is it due to your wife's sadness, to her sense of frustration?

"You see, sir, my husband and I have gone into this matter pretty fully. I am more than sad not to have had children, and I pray to God that I may have one some day. My husband wants me to be happy, of course, but his dullness isn't due to my sadness. If we had a child now, I would be supremely happy, but for him it would merely be a distraction, and I suppose it is so with most men. This dullness has been creeping upon him for the past two years like some internal disease. He used to talk to me about everything, about the birds, about his office work, about his ambitions, about his regard and love for me; he would open his heart to me. But now his heart is closed and his mind is somewhere far away. I have talked to him, but it is no good."

Have you separated from each other for a time to see how that worked?

"Yes. I went away to my family for about six months, and we wrote to each other; but this separation made no difference. If anything, it made things worse. He cooked his own food, went out very little, kept away from his friends, and was more and more withdrawn into himself. He has never been too social in any case. Even after this separation he showed no quickening spark."

Do you think this dullness is a cover, a pose, an escape from some unfulfilled inner longing?

"I am afraid I don't quite understand what you mean."

You may have an intense longing for something which needs fulfilment, and as that longing has no release, perhaps you are escaping from the pain of it through becoming dull.

"I have never thought about such a thing, it has never occurred to me before. How am I to find out?"

Why hasn't it occurred to you before? Have you ever asked yourself why you have become dull? Don't you want to know?

"It is strange, but I have never asked myself what is the cause of this stupid dullness. I have never put that question to myself."

Now that you are asking yourself that question what is your response?

"I don't think I have any. But I am really shocked to find how very dull I have become. I was never like this. I am appalled at my own state."

After all, it is good to know in what state one actually is. At least that is a beginning. You have never before asked yourself why you are dull, lethargic; you have just accepted it and carried on, have you not? Do you want to discover what has made you like this, or have you resigned yourself to your present state?

"I am afraid he has just accepted it without ever fighting against it."

You do want to get over this state, don't you? Do you want to talk without your wife?

"Oh, no. There is nothing I cannot say in front of her. I know it is not a lack or an excess of sexual relationship that has brought on this state, nor is there another woman. I couldn't go to another woman. And it is not the lack of children."

Do you paint or write?

"I have always wanted to write, but I have never painted. On my walks I used to get some ideas, but now even that has gone."

Why don't you try to put something on paper? It doesn't matter how stupid it is; you don't have to show it to anyone. Why don't you try writing something? But to go back. Do you want to find out what has brought on this dullness, or do you want to remain as you are?

"I would like to go away somewhere by myself, renounce everything and find some happiness."

Is that what you want to do? Then why don't you do it? Are you hesitating on account of your wife?

"I am no good to my wife as I am; I am just a wash-out."

Do you think you will find happiness by withdrawing from life, by isolating yourself? Haven't you sufficiently isolated yourself now? To renounce in order to find is no renunciation at all; it is only a cunning bargain, an exchange, a calculated move to gain something. You give up this in order to get that. Renunciation with an end in view is only a surrender to further gain. But can you have happiness through isolation, through dissociation? Is not life association, contact, communion? You may withdraw from one association to find happiness in another, but you cannot completely withdraw from all contact. Even in complete isolation you are in contact with your thoughts, with yourself. Suicide is the complete form of isolation.

"Of course I don't want to commit suicide. I want to live, but I don't want to continue as I am."

Are you sure you don't want to go on as you are? You see, it is fairly clear that there is something which is making you dull, and you want to run away from it into further isolation. To run away from what is, is to isolate oneself. You want to isolate yourself, perhaps temporarily, hoping for happiness. But you have already isolated yourself, and pretty thoroughly; further isolation, which you call renunciation, is only a further withdrawal from life. And can you have happiness through deeper and deeper self-isolation? The nature of the self is to isolate itself its very quality is exclusiveness. To be exclusive is to renounce in order to gain. The more you withdraw from association, the greater the conflict, resistance. Nothing can exist in isolation. However painful relationship may be, it has to be patiently and thoroughly understood. Conflict makes for dullness. Effort to become something only brings problems, conscious or unconscious. You cannot be dull without some cause, for, as you say, you were once alert and keen. You haven't always been dull. What has brought about this change?

"You seem to know, and won't you please tell him?"

I could, but what good would that be? He would either accept or reject it according to his mood and pleasure; but is it not important that he himself should find out? Is it not essential for him to uncover the whole process and see the truth of it? Truth is something that cannot be told to another. He must be able to receive it, and none can prepare him for it. This is not indifference on my part; but he must come to it openly, freely and unexpectedly.

What is making you dull? Shouldn't you know it for yourself? Conflict, resistance, makes for dullness. We think that through struggle we shall understand through competition we shall be made bright. Struggle certainly makes for sharpness, but what is sharp is soon made blunt; what is in constant use soon wears out. We accept conflict as inevitable, and build our structure of thought and action upon this inevitability. But is conflict inevitable? Is there not a different way of living? There is if we can understand the process and significance of conflict.
Again, why have you made yourself dull?

"Have I made myself dull?"

Can anything make you dull unless you are willing to be made dull? This willingness may be conscious or hidden. Why have you allowed yourself to be made dull? Is there a deep-seated conflict in you?

"If there is, I am totally unaware of it."

But don't you want to know? Don't you want to understand it?

"I am beginning to see what you are driving at," she put in, "but I may not be able to tell my husband the cause of his dullness because I am not quite sure of it myself."

You may or may not see the way this dullness has come upon him; but would you be really helping him if verbally you were to point it out? Is it not essential that he discovers it for himself? Please see the importance of this, and then you will not be impatient or anxious. One can help another, but he alone must undertake the journey of discovery. Life is not easy; it is very complex, but we must approach it simply. We are the problem; the problem is not what we call life. We can understand the problem, which is ourselves, only if we know how to approach it. The approach is all important, and not the problem.

"But what are we to do?"

You must have listened to all that has been said; if you have, then you will see that truth alone brings freedom. Please don't worry, but let the seed take root.

After some weeks they both came back. There was hope in their eyes and a smile upon their lips.

Chapter - 18
Karma

SILENCE IS NOT to be cultivated, it is not to be deliberately brought about; it is not to be sought out, thought of, or meditated upon. The deliberate cultivation of silence is as the enjoyment of some longed for pleasure; the desire to silence the mind is but the pursuit of sensation. Such silence is only a form of resistance, an isolation which leads to decay. Silence that is bought is a thing of the market in which there is the noise of activity. Silence comes with the absence of desire. Desire is swift, cunning and deep. Remembrance shuts off the sweep of silence, and a mind that is caught in experience cannot be silent. Time, the movement of yesterday flowing into today and tomorrow, is not silence. With the cessation of this movement there is silence, and only then can that which is unnameable come into being.

"I have come to talk over karma with you. Of course I have certain opinions about it, but I would like to know yours."

Opinion is not truth; we must put aside opinions to find truth. There are innumerable opinions, but truth is not of this or of that group. For the understanding of truth, all ideas, conclusions, opinions, must drop away as the withered leaves fall from a tree. Truth is not to be found in books, in knowledge, in experience. If you are seeking opinions, you will find none here.

"But we can talk about karma and try to understand its significance, can we not."

That, of course, is quite a different matter. To understand, opinions and conclusions must cease.

"Why do you insist upon that?"

Can you understand anything if you have already made up your mind about it, or if you repeat the conclusions of another? To find the truth of this matter, must we not come to it afresh, with a mind that is not clouded by prejudice? Which is more important, to be free from conclusions, prejudices, or to speculate about some abstraction? Is it not more important to find the truth than to squabble about what truth is? An opinion as to what truth is, is not truth. Is it not important to discover the truth concerning karma? To see the false as the false is to begin to understand it, is it not? How can we see either the true or the false if our minds are entrenched in tradition, in words and explanations? If the mind is tethered to a belief, how can it go far? To journey far, the mind must be free. Freedom is not something to be gained at the end of long endeavour, it must be at the very beginning of the journey.

"I want to find out what karma means to you."

Sir, let us take the journey of discovery together. Merely to repeat the words of another has no deep significance. It is like playing a gramophone record. Repetition or imitation does not bring about freedom. What do you mean by karma?

"It is a Sanskrit word meaning to do, to be, to act, and so on. Karma is action, and action is the outcome of the past. Action cannot be without the conditioning of the background. Through a series of experiences, through conditioning and knowledge, the background of tradition is built up, not only during the present life of the individual and the group, but throughout many incarnations. The constant action and interaction between the background, which is the `me', and society, life, is karma; and karma binds the mind, the `me'. What I have done in my past life, or only yesterday, holds and shapes me, giving pain or pleasure in the present. There is group or collective karma, as well as that of the individual. Both the group and the individual are held in the chain of cause and effect. There will be sorrow or joy, punishment or reward, according to what I have done in the past."

You say action is the outcome of the past. Such action is not action at all, but only a reaction, is it not? The conditioning the background, reacts to stimuli; this reaction is the response of memory, which is not action, but karma. For the present we are not concerned with what action is. Karma is the reaction which arises from certain causes and produces certain results. Karma is this chain of cause and effect. Essentially, the process of time is karma, is it not? As long as there is a past, there must be the present and the future. Today and tomorrow are the effects of yesterday; yesterday in conjunction with today makes tomorrow. Karma, as generally understood, is a process of compensation.

"As you say, karma is a process of time, and mind is the result of time. Only the fortunate few can escape from the clutches of time; the rest of us are bound to time. What we have done in the past, good or evil, determines what we are in the present."

Is the background, the past, a static state? Is it not undergoing constant modification? You are not the same today as you were yesterday; both physiologically and psychologically there is a constant change going on, is there not?

"Of course."

So the mind is not a fixed state. Our thoughts are transient, constantly changing; they are the response of the background. If I have been brought up in a certain class of society in a definite culture, I will respond to challenge, to stimuli, according to my conditioning. With most of us, this conditioning is so deep-rooted that response is almost always according to the pattern. Our thoughts are the response of the background. We are the background; that conditioning is not separate or dissimilar from us. With the changing of the background our thoughts also change.

"But surely the thinker is wholly different from the background, is he not?"

Is he? Is not the thinker the result of his thoughts? Is he not composed of his thoughts? Is there a separate entity, a thinker apart from his thoughts? Has not thought created the thinker, given him permanence amidst the impermanence of thoughts? The thinker is the refuge of thought, and the thinker places himself at different levels of permanency.

"I see this is so, but it is rather a shock to me to realize the tricks that thought is playing upon itself."

Thought is the response of the background, of memory; memory is knowledge, the result of experience. This memory, through further experience and response, gets tougher, larger, sharper, more efficient. One form of conditioning can be substituted for another, but it is still conditioning. The response of this conditioning is karma, is it not? The response of memory is called action, but it is only reaction; this `action' breeds further reaction, and so there is a chain of so-called cause and effect. But is not the cause also the effect? Neither cause nor effect is static. Today is the result of yesterday and today is the cause of tomorrow; what was the cause becomes the effect, and the effect the cause. One flows into the other. There is no moment when the cause is not also the effect. Only the specialized is fixed in its cause and so in its effect. The acorn cannot become anything but an oak tree. In specialization there is death; but man is not a specialized entity, he can be what he will. He can break through his conditioning - and he must, if he would discover the real. You must cease to be a so-called Brahmin to realize God.

Karma is the process of time, the past moving through the present to the future; this chain is the way of thought. Thought is the result of time, and there can be that which is immeasurable, timeless, only when the process of thought has ceased. Stillness of the mind cannot be induced; it cannot be brought about through any practice or discipline. If the mind is made still, then whatever comes into it is only a self-projection, the response of memory. With the understanding of its conditioning, with the choiceless awareness of its own responses as thought and feeling, tranquillity comes to the mind. This breaking of the chain of karma is not a matter of time; for through time, the timeless is not.

Karma must be understood as a total process not merely as something of the past. The past is time, which is also the present and the future. Time is memory, the word, the idea. When the word, the name, the association, the experience, is not, then only is the mind still, not merely in the upper layers, but completely, integrally.

Chapter - 19
The Individual and the Ideal

"OUR LIFE HERE in India is more or less shattered; we want to make something of it again, but we don't know where to begin. I can see the importance of mass action, and also its dangers. I have pursued the ideal of non-violence, but there has been bloodshed and misery. Since the Partition, this country has had blood on its hands, and now we are building up the armed forces. We talk of non-violence and yet prepare for war. I am as confused as the political leaders. In prison I used to read a great deal, but it has not helped me to clarify my own position."

"Can we take one thing at a time and somewhat go into it? First, you lay a great deal of emphasis on the individual; but is not collective action necessary?"

The individual is essentially the collective, and society is the creation of the individual. The individual and society are interrelated, are they not? They are not separate. The individual builds the structure of society, and society or environment shapes the individual. Though environment conditions the individual, he can always free himself, break away from his background. The individual is the maker of the very environment to which he becomes a slave; but he has also the power to break away from it and create an environment that will not dull his mind or spirit. The individual is important only in the sense that he has the capacity to free himself from his conditioning and understand reality. Individuality that is merely ruthless in its own conditioning builds a society whose foundations are based on violence and antagonism. The individual exists only in relationship, otherwise he is not; and it is the lack of understanding of this relationship that is breeding conflict and confusion. If the individual does not understand his relationship to people, to property, and to ideas or beliefs, merely to impose upon him a collective or any other pattern only defeats its own end. To bring about the imposition of a new pattern will require so-called mass action; but the new pattern is the invention of a few individuals, and the mass is mesmerized by the latest slogans, the promises of a new Utopia. The mass is the same as before, only now it has new rulers, new phrases, new priests, new doctrines. This mass is made up of you and me, it is composed of individuals; the mass is fictitious, it is a convenient term for the exploiter and the politician to play with. The many are pushed into action, into war, and so on, by the few; and the few represent the desires and urges of the many. It is the transformation of the individual that is of the highest importance, but not in terms of any pattern. Patterns always condition, and a conditioned entity is always in conflict within himself and so with society. It is comparatively easy to substitute a new pattern of conditioning for the old; but for the individual to free himself from all conditioning is quite another matter.

"This requires careful and detailed thought, but I think I am beginning to understand it. You lay emphasis on the individual, but not as a separate and antagonistic force within society.

"Now the second point. I have always worked for an ideal, and I don't understand your denial of it. Would you mind going into this problem?"

Our present morality is based on the past or the future on the traditional or the what ought to be. The what ought to be is the ideal in opposition to what has been, the future in conflict with the past. Non-violence is the ideal, the what should be; and the what has been is violence. The what has been projects the what should be; the ideal is homemade, it is projected by its own opposite, the actual. The antithesis is an extension of the thesis; the opposite contains the element of its own opposite. Being violent, the mind projects its opposite, the ideal of non-violence. It is said that the ideal helps to overcome its own opposite; but does it? Is not the ideal an avoidance, an escape from the what has been, or from what is? The conflict between the actual and the ideal is obviously a means of postponing the understanding of the actual, and this conflict only introduces another problem which helps to cover up the immediate problem. The ideal is a marvellous and respectable escape from the actual. The ideal of non-violence, like the collective Utopia, is fictitious; the ideal, the what should be, helps us to cover up and avoid what is. The pursuit of the ideal is the search for reward. You may shun the worldly rewards as being stupid and barbarous, which they are; but your pursuit of the ideal is the search for reward at a different level, which is also stupid. The ideal is a compensation, a fictitious state which the mind has conjured up. Being violent, separative and out for itself, the mind projects the gratifying compensation, the fiction which it calls the ideal, the Utopia, the future, and vainly pursues it. That very pursuit is conflict, but it is also a pleasurable postponement of the actual. The ideal, the what should be, does not help in understanding what is; on the contrary, it prevents understanding.

"Do you mean to say that our leaders and teachers have been wrong in advocating and maintaining the ideal?"

What do you think?

"If I understand correctly what you say..."

Please, it is not a matter of understanding what another may say, but of finding out what is true. Truth is not opinion; truth is not dependent on any leader or teacher. The weighing of opinions only prevents the perception of truth. Either the ideal is a homemade fiction which contains its own opposite, or it is not. There are no two ways about it. This does not depend on any teacher; you must perceive the truth of it for yourself.

"If the ideal is fictitious, it revolutionizes all my thinking. Do you mean to say that our pursuit of the ideal is utterly futile?"

It is a vain struggle, a gratifying self-deception is it not?

"This is very disturbing, but I am forced to admit that it is. We have taken so many things for granted that we have never allowed ourselves to observe closely what is in our hand. We have deceived ourselves, and what you point out upsets completely the structure of my thought and action. It will revolutionize education, our whole way of living and working. I think I see the implications of a mind that is free from the ideal, from the what should be. To such a mind, action has a significance quite different from that which we give it now. Compensatory action is not action at all, but only a reaction - and we boast of action! But without the ideal, how is one to deal with the actual, or with the what has been?"

The understanding of the actual is possible only when the ideal, the what should be, is erased from the mind; that is only when the false is seen as the false. The what should be is also the what should not be. As long as the mind approaches the actual with either positive or negative compensation, there can be no understanding of the actual. To understand the actual you must be indirect communion with it; your relationship with it cannot be through the screen of the ideal, or through the screen of the past, of tradition, of experience. To be free from the wrong approach is the only problem. This means, really, the understanding of conditioning, which is the mind. The problem is the mind itself, and not the problems it breeds; the resolution of the problems bred by the mind is merely the reconciliation of effects, and that only leads to further confusion and illusion.

"How is one to understand the mind?"

The way of the mind is the way of life - not the ideal life, but the actual life of sorrow and pleasure, of deception and clarity, of conceit and the pose of humility. To understand the mind is to be aware of desire and fear.

"Please, this is getting a bit too much for me. How am I to understand my mind?"

To know the mind, must you not be aware of its activities? The mind is only experience, not just the immediate but also the accumulated. The mind is the past in response to the present, which makes for the future. The total process of the mind has to be understood.

"Where am I to begin?"

From the only beginning: relationship. Relationship is life; to be is to be related. Only in the mirror of relationship is the mind to be understood, and you have to begin to see yourself in that mirror.

"Do you mean in my relationship with my wife with my neighbour, and so on? Is that not a very limited process?"

What may appear to be small, limited, if approached rightly, reveals the fathomless. It is like a funnel, the narrow opens into the wide. When observed with passive watchfulness, the limited reveals the limitless. After all, at its source the river is small, hardly worth noticing.

"So I must begin with myself and my immediate relationships."

Surely. Relationship is never narrow or small. With the one or with the many, relationship is a complex process, and you can approach it pettily, or freely and openly. Again, the approach is dependent on the state of the mind. If you do not begin with yourself, where else will you begin? Even if you begin with some peripheral activity, you are in relationship with it, the mind is the centre of it. Whether you begin near or far, you are there. Without understanding yourself, whatever you do will inevitably bring about confusion and sorrow. The beginning is the ending.

"I have wandered far afield, I have seen and done many things, I have suffered and laughed like so many others, and yet I have had to come back to myself. I am like that sannyasi who set out in search of truth. He spent many years going from teacher to teacher, and each pointed out a different way. At last he wearily returned to his home, and in his own house was the jewel! I see how foolish we are, searching the universe for that bliss which is to be found only in our own hearts when the mind is purged of its activities. You are perfectly right. I begin from where I started. I begin with what I am."

Chapter - 20
To Be Vulnerable Is to Live, to Withdraw Is to Die

THE HURRICANE HAD destroyed the crops, and the seawater was over the land. The train was crawling along, and on both sides of the line the trees were down, the houses roofless, and the fields utterly deserted. The storm had done a great deal of damage for miles around; living things were destroyed, and the barren earth was open to the sky.

We are never alone; we are surrounded by people and by our own thoughts. Even when the people are distant, we see things through the screen of our thoughts. There is no moment, or it is very rare, when thought is not. We do not know what it is to be alone, to be free of all association, of all continuity, of all word and image. We are lonely, but we do not know what it is to be alone. The ache of loneliness fills our hearts, and the mind covers it with fear. Loneliness, that deep isolation, is the dark shadow of our life. We do everything we can to run away from it, we plunge down every avenue of escape we know, but it pursues us and we are never without it. Isolation is the way of our life; we rarely fuse with another, for in ourselves we are broken, torn and unhealed. In ourselves we are not whole complete, and the fusion with another is possible only when there is integration within. We are afraid of solitude, for it opens the door to our insufficiency, the poverty of our own being; but it is solitude that heals the deepening wound of loneliness. To walk alone, unimpeded by thought, by the trail of our desires, is to go beyond the reaches of the mind. It is the mind that isolates, separates and cuts off communion. The mind cannot be made whole; it cannot make itself complete, for that very effort is a process of isolation, it is part of the loneliness that nothing can cover. The mind is the product of the many, and what is put together can never be alone. Aloneness is not the result of thought. Only when thought is utterly still is there the flight of the alone to the alone.

The house was well back from the road, and the garden had an abundance of flowers. It was a cool morning, and the sky was very blue; the morning sun was pleasant, and in the shaded, sunken garden the noise of the traffic, the call of the vendors, and the trotting of horses on the road, all seemed very distant. A goat had wandered into the garden; with its short tail wiggling, it nibbled at the flowers till the gardener came and chased it away.

She was saying that she felt very disturbed, but did not want to be disturbed; she wanted to avoid the painful state of uncertainty. Why was she so apprehensive of being disturbed?

What do you mean by being disturbed? And why be apprehensive about it?

"I want to be quiet, to be left alone. I feel disturbed even with you. Though I have seen you only two or three times, the fear of being disturbed by you is coming heavily upon me. I want to find out why I have this fear of being inwardly uncertain. I want to be quiet and at peace with myself, but I am always being disturbed by something or other. Till recently I had managed to be more or less at peace with myself; but a friend brought me along to one of your talks, and now I am strangely upset. I thought you would strengthen me in my peace, but instead you have almost shattered it. I didn't want to come here, as I knew I would make a fool of myself; but still, here I am."

Why are you so insistent that you should be at peace? Why are you making it into a problem? The very demand to be at peace is conflict, is it not? If I may ask, what is it you want? If you want to be left alone, undisturbed and at peace, then why allow yourself to be shaken? It is quite feasible to shut all the doors and windows of one's being, to isolate oneself and live in seclusion. That is what most people want. Some deliberately cultivate isolation, and others, by their desires and activities, both hidden and open, bring about this exclusion. The sincere ones become self-righteous with their ideals and virtues, which are only a defence; and those who are thoughtless drift into isolation through economic pressure and social influences. Most of us are seeking to build walls around ourselves so as to be invulnerable, but unfortunately there is always an opening through which life creeps in.

"I have generally managed to ward off most of the disturbances, but during the past week or two, because of you, I have been more disturbed than ever. Please tell me why I am disturbed. What is the cause of it?"

Why do you want to know the cause of it? Obviously, by knowing the cause you hope to eradicate the effect. You really do not want to know why you are disturbed, do you? You only want to avoid disturbance.

"I just want to be left alone, undisturbed and at peace; and why am I constantly disturbed?"

You have been defending yourself all your life have you not? What you are really interested in is to find out how to stop up all the openings, and not how to live without fear, without dependence. From what you have said and left unsaid, it is obvious that you have tried to make your life secure against any kind of inward disturbance; you have withdrawn from any relationship that might cause pain. You have managed fairly well to safeguard yourself against all shock, to live behind closed doors and windows. Some are successful in doing this, and if pushed far enough its ultimate end is the asylum; others fail and become cynical, bitter; and still others make themselves rich in things or in knowledge, which is their safeguard. Most people, including the so-called religious, desire abiding peace, a state in which all conflict has come to an end. Then there are those who praise conflict as the only real expression of life, and conflict is their shield against life.

Can you ever have peace by seeking security behind the walls of your fears and hopes? All your life you have withdrawn, because you want to be safe within the walls of a limited relationship which you can dominate. Is this not your problem? Since you depend, you want to possess that upon which you depend. You are afraid of and therefore avoid any relationship which you cannot dominate. Isn't that it?

"That is rather a brutal way of putting it, but perhaps that is it."

If you could dominate the cause of your present disturbance, you would be at peace; but since you cannot, you are very concerned. We all want to dominate when we do not understand; we want to possess or be possessed when there is fear of ourselves. Uncertainty of ourselves makes for a feeling of superiority, exclusion and isolation.

If I may ask, of what are you afraid? Are you afraid of being alone, of being left out, of being made uncertain?

"You see, all my life I have lived for others, or so I thought. I have upheld an ideal and been praised for my efficiency in doing the kind of work which is considered good; I have lived a life of self-denial, without security without children, without a home. My sisters are well-married and socially prominent, and my older brothers are high government officials. When I visit them, I feel I have wasted my life. I have become bitter, and I deeply regret all the things that I haven't had. I now dislike the work I was doing, it no longer brings me any happiness, and I have abandoned it to others. I have turned my back upon it all. As you point out, I have become hard in my self-defence. I have anchored myself in a younger brother who is not well off and who considers himself a seeker of God. I have tried to make myself inwardly secure, but it has been a long and painful struggle. It is this younger brother who brought me to one of your talks, and the house which I had been so carefully building began to tumble down. I wish to God I had never come to hear you, but I cannot rebuild it, I cannot go through all that suffering and anxiety again. You have no idea what it has been like for me to see my brothers and sisters with position, prestige, and money. But I won't go into all that. I have cut myself off from them, and I rarely see them. As you say, I have gradually shut the door upon all relationships except one or two; but as misfortune would have it, you came to this town, and now everything is wide open again, all the old wounds have come to life, and I am deeply miserable. What am I to do?"

The more we defend, the more we are attacked; the more we seek security, the less of it there is; the more we want peace, the greater is our conflict; the more we ask, the less we have. You have tried to make yourself invulnerable, shockproof; you have made yourself inwardly unapproachable except to one or two, and have closed all the doors to life. It is slow suicide. Now, why have you done all this? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Don't you want to know? You have come either to find a way to close all the doors, or to discover how to be open, vulnerable to life. Which is it you want - not as a choice, but as a natural, spontaneous thing?

"Of course I see now that it is really impossible to shut all the doors, for there is always an opening. I realize what I have been doing; I see that my own fear of uncertainty has made for dependence and domination. Obviously I could not dominate every situation, however much I might like to, and that is why I limited my contacts to one or two which I could dominate and hold. I see all that. But how am I to be open again, free and without this fear of inward uncertainty?"

Do you see the necessity of being open and vulnerable? If you do not see the truth of that then you will again surreptitiously build walls around yourself. To see the truth in the false is the beginning of wisdom; to see the false as the false is the highest comprehension. To see that what you have been doing all these years can only lead to further strife and sorrow - actually to experience the truth of it, which is not mere verbal acceptance - will put an end to that activity. You cannot voluntarily make yourself open; the action of will cannot make you vulnerable. The very desire to be vulnerable creates resistance. Only by understanding the false as the false is there freedom from it. Be passively watchful of your habitual responses; simply be aware of them without resistance; passively watch them as you would watch a child, without the pleasure or distaste of identification. Passive watchfulness itself is freedom from defence, from closing the door. To be vulnerable is to live, and to withdraw is to die.

Chapter - 21
Despair and Hope

THE LITTLE DRUM was beating out a gay rhythm and presently it was joined by a reed instrument; together they filled the air. The drum dominated, but it followed the reed. The latter would stop, but the little drum would go on sharp and clear, until it was again joined by the song of the reed. The dawn was still far away and the birds were quiet but the music filled the silence. There was a wedding going on in the little village. During the previous evening there had been much gaiety; the songs and laughter had gone on late into the night, and now the parties were being awakened by music. Presently the naked branches began to show against the pale sky; the stars were disappearing one by one, and the music had come to an end. There were the shouts and calling of children, and noisy quarrelling around the only water tap in the village. The sun was still below the horizon, but the day had begun.

To love is to experience all things, but to experience without love is to live in vain. Love is vulnerable, but to experience without this vulnerability is to strengthen desire. Desire is not love and desire cannot hold love. Desire is soon spent and in its spending is sorrow. Desire cannot be stopped; the ending of desire by will, by any means that the mind can devise, leads to decay and misery. Only love can tame desire, and love is not of the mind. The mind as the observer must cease for love to be. Love is not a thing that can be planned and cultivated; it cannot be bought through sacrifice or through worship. There is no means to love. The search for a means must come to an end for love to be. The spontaneous shall know the beauty of love, but to pursue it ends freedom. To the free alone is there love, but freedom never directs, never holds. Love is its own eternity.

She spoke easily, and words came naturally to her, though still young, there was sadness about her; she smiled with distant remembrance and her smile was strained. She had been married but had no children, and her husband had recently died. It was not one of those arranged marriages, nor one of mutual desire. She did not want to use the word `love', for it was in every book and on every tongue; but their relationship had been something extraordinary. From the day they were married till the day of his death, there had never been so much as a cross word or a gesture of impatience nor were they ever separated from each other, even for a day. A fusion had taken place between them, and everything else - children, money, work, society - had become of secondary importance. This fusion was not romantic sentimentalism or a thing imagined after his death, but it had been a reality from the very first. Their joy had not been of desire, but of something that went beyond and above the physical. Then suddenly, a couple of months ago, he was killed in an accident. The bus took a curve too fast, and that was that.

"Now I am in despair; I have tried to commit suicide, but somehow I can't. To forget, to be numb I have done everything short of throwing myself into the river, and I haven't had a good night's sleep these two months. I am in complete darkness; it is a crisis beyond my control which I cannot understand, and I am lost."

She covered her face with her hands. Presently she continued.

"It is not a despair that can be remedied or wiped away. With his death, all hope has come to an end. People have said I will forget and remarry, or do something else. Even if I could forget, the flame has gone out; it cannot be replaced, nor do I want to find a substitute for it. We live and die with hope but I have none. I have no hope, therefore I am not bitter; I am in despair and darkness, and I do not want light. My life is a living death, and I do not want anyone's sympathy, love, or pity. I want to remain in my darkness, without feeling, without remembering."

Is that why you have come, to be made more dull, to be confirmed in your despair? Is that what you want? If it is, then you will have what you desire. Desire is as pliable and as swift as the mind; it will adjust itself to anything, mould itself to any circumstances, build walls that will keep out light. Its very despair is its delight. Desire creates the image it will worship. If you desire to live in darkness, you will succeed. Is this why you have come, to be strengthened in your own desire?

"You see, a friend of mine told me about you, and I came impulsively. If I had stopped to think, probably I wouldn't have come. I have always acted rather impulsively, and it has never led me into mischief. If you ask me why I have come, all I can say is that I don't know. I suppose we all want some kind of hope; one cannot live in darkness forever."

What is fused cannot be pulled apart; what is integrated cannot be destroyed; if the fusion is there, death cannot separate. Integration is not with another, but with and in oneself. The fusion of the different entities in oneself is completeness with the other; but completeness with the other is incompleteness in oneself. Fusion with the other is still incompleteness. The integrated entity is not made whole by another; because he is complete, there is completeness in all his relationships. What is incomplete cannot be made complete in relationship. It is illusion to think we are made complete by another.

"I was made complete by him. I knew the beauty and the joy of it."

But it has come to an end. There is always an ending to that which is incomplete. The fusion with the other is always breakable; it is always ceasing to be. Integration must begin within oneself, and only then is fusion indestructible. The way of integration is the process of negative thinking which is the highest comprehension. Are you seeking integration?

"I don't know what I am seeking, but I would like to understand hope, because hope seems to play an important part in our life. When he was alive, I never thought of the future, I never thought of hope or happiness; tomorrow did not exist as far as I was concerned. I just lived, without a care."

Because you were happy. But now unhappiness, discontent, is creating the future, the hope - or its opposite, despair and hopelessness. It is strange, is it not? When one is happy, time is nonexistent, yesterday and tomorrow are wholly absent; one has no thought for the past or the future. But unhappiness makes for hope and despair.

"We are born with hope and we take it with us to death."

Yes, that is just what we do; or rather, we are born in misery, and hope takes us to death. What do you mean by hope?

"Hope is tomorrow, the future, the longing for happiness for the betterment of today, for the advancement of oneself; it is the desire to have a nicer home, a better piano or radio; it is the dream of social improvement, a happier world, and so on."

Is hope only in the future? Is there not hope also in the what has been, in the hold of the past? Hope is in both the forward and the backward movement of thought. Hope is the process of time, is it not? Hope is the desire for the continuation of that which has been pleasant, of that which can be improved, made better; and its opposite is hopelessness, despair. We swing between hope and despair. We say that we live because there is hope; and hope is in the past, or, more frequently, in the future. The future is the hope of every politician, of every reformer and revolutionary, of every seeker after virtue and what we call God. We say that we live by hope; but do we? Is it living when the future or the past dominates us? Is living a movement of the past to the future? When there is concern for tomorrow, are you living? It is because tomorrow has become so important that there is hopelessness, despair. If the future is all important and you live for it and by it, then the past is the means of despair. For the hope of tomorrow, you sacrifice today; but happiness is ever in the now. It is the unhappy who fill their lives with concern for tomorrow, which they call hope. To live happily is to live without hope. The man of hope is not a happy man, he knows despair. The state of hopelessness projects hope or resentment, despair or the bright future.

"But are you saying that we must live without hope?"

Is there not a state which is neither hope nor hopelessness, a state which is bliss? After all, when you considered yourself happy, you had no hope, had you?

"I see what you mean. I had no hope because he was beside me and I was happy to live from day to day. But now he is gone, and... We are free of hope only when we are happy. It is when we are unhappy, disease ridden, oppressed, exploited, that tomorrow becomes important; and if tomorrow is impossible, we are in complete darkness, in despair. But how is one to remain in the state of happiness?"

First see the truth of hope and hopelessness. Just see how you have been held by the false, by the illusion of hope, and then by despair. Be passively watchful of this process - which is not as easy as it sounds. You ask how to remain in the state of happiness. Is not this very question based essentially on hope? You wish to regain what you have lost, or through some means to possess it again. This question indicates the desire to gain, to become, to arrive, does it not? When you have an objective, an end in view, there is hope; so again you are caught in your own unhappiness. The way of hope is the way of the future, but happiness is never a matter of time. When there was happiness, you never asked how to continue in it; if you had asked, you would have already tasted unhappiness.

"You mean this whole problem arises only when one is in conflict, in misery. But when one is miserable one wants to get out of it which is natural."

The desire to find a way out only brings another problem. By not understanding the one problem, you introduce many others. Your problem is unhappiness, and to understand it there must be freedom from all other problems. Unhappiness is the only problem you have; don't become confused by introducing the further problem of how to get out of it. The mind is seeking a hope, an answer to the problem, a way out. See the falseness of this escape, and then you will be directly confronted with the problem. It is this direct relationship with the problem that brings a crisis, which we are all the time avoiding; but it is only in the fullness and intensity of the crisis that the problem comes to an end.

"Ever since the fatal accident I have felt that I must get lost in my own despair, nourish my own hopelessness; but somehow it has been too much for me. Now I see that I must face it without fear, and without the feeling of disloyalty to him. You see, I felt deep down that I would in some way be disloyal to him if I continued to be happy; but now the burden is already lifting, and I sense a happiness which is not of time."

Chapter - 22
The Mind and the Known

THE DAILY PATTERN of life was repeating itself around the only water tap in the village; the water was running slowly, and a group of women were awaiting their turn. Three of them were noisily and bitterly quarrelling; they were completely absorbed in their anger and paid not the slightest attention to anyone else, nor was anyone paying attention to them. It must have been a ritual. Like all rituals, it was stimulating, and these women were enjoying the stimulation. An old woman helped a young one to lift a big, brightly polished brass pot onto her head. She had a little pad of cloth to bear the weight of the pot, which she held lightly with one hand. Her walk was superb, and she had great dignity. A little girl came quietly, slipped her pot under the tap, and carried it away without saying a word. Other women came and went, but the quarrel went on, and it seemed as though it would never end. Suddenly the three stopped filled their vessels with water, and went away as though nothing had happened. By now the sun was getting strong, and smoke was rising above the thatched roofs of the village. The day's first meal was being cooked. How suddenly peaceful it was! Except for the crows, almost everything was quiet. Once the vociferous quarrel was over, one could hear the roar of the sea beyond the houses, the gardens and the palm groves.

We carry on like machines with our tiresome daily routine. How eagerly the mind accepts a pattern of existence, and how tenaciously it clings to it! As by a driven nail, the mind is held together by idea, and around the idea it lives and has its being. The mind is never free, pliable, for it is always anchored; it moves within the radius, narrow or wide, of its own centre. From its centre it dare not wander; and when it does, it is lost in fear. Fear is not of the unknown, but of the loss of the known. The unknown does not incite fear, but dependence on the known does. Fear is always with desire, the desire for the more or for the less. The mind, with its incessant weaving of patterns, is the maker of time; and with time there is fear, hope and death. Hope leads to death.

He said he was a revolutionary; he wanted to blast every social structure and start all over again. He had eagerly worked for the extreme left, for the proletarian revolution, and that too had failed. Look what had happened in the country where that revolution was so gloriously accomplished! Dictatorship, with its police and its army, had inevitably bred new class distinctions, and all within a few years; what had been a glorious promise had come to nothing. He wanted a deeper and wider revolution to be started all over again, taking care to avoid all the pitfalls of the former revolution.

What do you mean by revolution?

"A complete change of the present social structure, with or without bloodshed, according to a clear-cut plan. To be effective, it must be well thought out, organized in every detail and scrupulously executed. Such a revolution is the only hope, there is no other way out of this chaos."

But won't you have the same results again - compulsion and its officers?

"It may at first result in that, but we will break through it. There will always be a separate and united group outside the government to watch over and guide it."

You want a revolution according to a pattern, and your hope is in tomorrow, for which you are willing to sacrifice yourself and others. Can there be a fundamental revolution if it is based on idea? Ideas inevitably breed further ideas, further resistance and suppression. Belief engenders antagonism; one belief gives rise to many, and there are hostility and conflict. Uniformity of belief is not peace. Idea or opinion invariably creates opposition, which those in power must always seek to suppress. A revolution based on idea brings into being a counter-revolution, and the revolutionary spends his life fighting other revolutionaries, the better organized liquidating the weaker. You will be repeating the same pattern, will you not? Would it be possible to talk over the deeper significance of revolution?

"It would have little value unless it led to a definite end. A new society must be built, and revolution according to a plan is the only way to achieve it. I don't think I will change my views, but let us see what you have to say. What you will say has probably already been said by Buddha, Christ, and other religious teachers, and where has it got us? Two thousand years and more of preaching about being good, and look at the mess the capitalists have made!"

A society based on idea, shaped according to a particular pattern, breeds violence and is in a constant state of disintegration. A patterned society functions only within the frame of its self-projected belief. Society, the group, can never be in a state of revolution; only the individual can. But if he is revolutionary according to a plan, a well-authenticated conclusion, he is merely conforming to a self-projected ideal or hope. He is carrying out his own conditioned responses, modified perhaps, but limited all the same. A limited revolution is no revolution at all; like reform, it is retrogression. A revolution based on deduction and conclusions, is but a modified continuity of the old pattern. For a fundamental and lasting revolution we must understand the mind and idea.

"What do you mean by idea? Do you mean knowledge?"

Idea is the projection of the mind; idea is the outcome of experience, and experience is knowledge. Experience is always interpreted according to the conscious or unconscious conditioning of the mind. The mind is experience, the mind is idea; the mind is not separate from the quality of thought. Knowledge, accumulated and accumulating, is the process of the mind. Mind is experience, memory, idea, it is the total process of response. Till we understand the working of the mind of consciousness, there cannot be a fundamental transformation of man and his relationships, which constitute society.

"Are you suggesting that the mind as knowledge is the real enemy of revolution, and that the mind can never produce the new plan, the new State? If you mean that because the mind is still linked with the past it can never comprehend the new, and that whatever it may plan or create is the outcome of the old, then how can there ever be any change at all?"

Let us see. Mind is held in a pattern; its very existence is the frame within which it works and moves. The pattern is of the past or the future, it is despair and hope, confusion and Utopia, the what has been and the what should be. With this we are all familiar. You want to break the old pattern and substitute a `new' one, the new being the modified old. You call it the new for your own purposes and manoeuvres, but it is still the old. The so-called new has its roots in the old: greed, envy, violence, hatred, power, exclusion. Embedded in these, you want to produce a new world. It is impossible. You may deceive yourself and others, but unless the old pattern is broken completely there cannot be a radical transformation. You may play around with it, but you are not the hope of the world. The breaking of the pattern, both the old and the so-called new, is of the utmost importance if order is to come out of this chaos. That is why it is essential to understand the ways of the mind. The mind functions only within the field of the known, of experience whether conscious or unconscious, collective or superficial. Can there be action without a pattern? Until now we have known action only in relation to a pattern, and such action is always an approximation to what has been or what should be. Action so far has been an adjustment to hope and fear, to the past or to the future.

"If action is not a movement of the past to the future, or between the past and the future then what other action can there possibly be? You are not inviting us to inaction, are you?"

It would be a better world if each one of us were aware of true inaction, which is not the opposite of action. But that is another matter. Is it possible for the mind to be without a pattern, to be free of this backward and forward swing of desire? It is definitely possible. Such action is living in the now. To live is to be without hope, without the care of tomorrow; it is not hopelessness or indifference. But we are not living; we are always pursuing death, the past or the future. Living is the greatest revolution. Living has no pattern, but death has: the past or the future, the what has been or the Utopia. You are living for the Utopia, and so you are inviting death and not life.

"That is all very well, but it leads us nowhere. Where is your revolution? Where is action? Where is there a new manner of living?"

Not in death but in life. You are pursuing the ideal, the hope, and this pursuit you call action, revolution. Your ideal, your hope is the projection of the mind away from what is. The mind, being the result of the past, is bringing out of itself a pattern for the new and this you call revolution. Your new life is the same old one in different clothes. The past and the future do not hold life; they have the remembrance of life and the hope of life, but they are not the living. The action of the mind is not living. The mind can act only within the frame of death, and revolution based on death is only more darkness, more destruction and misery.

"You leave me utterly empty, almost naked. It may be spiritually good for me, there is a lightness of heart and mind, but it is not so helpful in terms of collective revolutionary action."

Chapter - 23
Conformity and Freedom

THE STORM BEGAN early in the morning with thunder and lightning, and now it was raining very steadily; it had not stopped all day, and the red earth was soaking it up. The cattle were taking shelter under a large tree, where there was also a small white temple. The base of the tree was enormous, and the surrounding field was bright green. There was a railway line on the other side of the field, and the trains would labour up the slight incline, giving a triumphant hoot at the top. When one walked along the railway line one would occasionally come upon a large cobra, with beautiful markings, cut in two by a recent train. The birds would soon get at the dead pieces, and in a short time there wouldn't be a sign of the snake.

To live alone needs great intelligence; to live alone and yet be pliable is arduous. To live alone, without the walls of self-enclosing gratifications, needs extreme alertness; for a solitary life encourages sluggishness, habits that are comforting and hard to break. A single life encourages isolation, and only the wise can live alone without harm to themselves and to others. Wisdom is alone, but a lonely path does not lead to wisdom. Isolation is death, and wisdom is not found in withdrawal. There is no path to wisdom, for all paths are separative, exclusive. In their very nature, paths can only lead to isolation, though these isolations are called unity, the whole, the one, and so on. A path is an exclusive process; the means is exclusive, and the end is as the means. The means is not separate from the goal, the what should be. Wisdom comes with the understanding of one's relationship with the field, with the passer-by, with the fleeting thought. To withdraw, to isolate oneself in order to find, is to put an end to discovery. Relationship leads to an aloneness that is not of isolation. There must be an aloneness, not of the enclosing mind, but of freedom. The complete is the alone, and incompleteness seeks the way of isolation.

She had been a writer, and her books had quite a wide circulation. She said she had managed to come to India only after many years. When she first started out she had no idea where she would end up; but now, after all this time, her destination had become clear. Her husband and her whole family were interested in religious matters, not casually but quite seriously; nevertheless she had made up her mind to leave them all, and had come in the hope of finding some peace. She hadn't known a soul in this country when she came, and it was very hard the first year. She went first to a certain ashrama or retreat about which she had read. The guru there was a mild old man who had had certain religious experiences on which he now lived, and who constantly repeated some Sanskrit saying which his disciples understood. She was welcomed at this retreat, and she found it easy to adjust herself to its rules. She remained there for several months, but found no peace, so one day she announced her departure. The disciples were horrified that she could even think of leaving such a master of wisdom; but she left. Then she went to an ashrama among the mountains and stayed there for some time, happily at first, for it was beautiful with trees, streams, and wild life. The discipline was rather rigorous, which she didn't mind; but again the living were the dead. The disciples were worshipping dead knowledge, dead tradition, a dead teacher. When she left they also were shocked, and threatened her with spiritual darkness. She then went to a very well-known retreat where they repeated various religious assertions and regularly practiced prescribed meditations; but gradually she found that she was being entrapped and destroyed. Neither the teacher nor the disciples wanted freedom, though they talked about it. They were all concerned with maintaining the centre, with holding the disciples in the name of the guru. Again she broke away and went elsewhere; again the same story with a slightly different pattern.

"I assure you, I have been to most of the serious ashramas, and they all want to hold one, to grind one down to fit the pattern of thought which they call truth. Why do they all want one to conform to a particular discipline, to the mode of life laid down by the teacher? Why is it that they never give freedom but only promise freedom?"

Conformity is gratifying; it assures security to the disciple, and gives power to the disciple as well as to the teacher. Through conformity there is the strengthening of authority, secular or religious; and conformity makes for dullness, which they call peace. If one wants to avoid suffering through some form of resistance, why not pursue that path, though it involves a certain amount of pain? Conformity anaesthetizes the mind to conflict. We want to be made dull, insensitive; we try to shut off the ugly, and thereby we also make ourselves dull to the beautiful. Conformity to the authority of the dead or the living gives intense satisfaction. The teacher knows and you don't know. It would be foolish for you to try to find out anything for yourself when your comforting teacher already knows; so you become his slave, and slavery is better than confusion. The teacher and the disciple thrive on mutual exploitation. You really don't go to an ashrama for freedom, do you? You go there to be comforted, to live a life of enclosing discipline and belief, to worship and in turn be worshipped - all of which is called the search for truth. They cannot offer freedom, for it would be their own undoing. Freedom cannot be found in any retreat, in any system or belief, nor through the conformity and fear called discipline. Disciplines cannot offer freedom; they may promise, but hope is not freedom. Imitations a means to freedom is the very denial of freedom, for the means is the end; copy makes for more copy, not for freedom. But we like to deceive ourselves, and that is why compulsion or the promise of reward exists in different and subtle forms. Hope is the denial of life.

"I am now avoiding all ashramas like the very plague. I went to them for peace and I was given compulsions, authoritarian doctrines and vain promises. How eagerly we accept the guru promise! How blind we are! At last, after these many years, I am completely denuded of any desire to pursue their promised rewards. Physically I am worn out, as you can see; for very foolishly I really did try their formulas. At one of these places, where the teacher is on the rise and very popular, when I told them that I was coming to see you, they threw up their hands, and some had tears in their eyes. That was the last straw! I have come here because I want to talk over something that is gripping my heart. I hinted at it to one of the teachers, and his reply was that I must control my thought. It is this. The ache of solitude is more than I can bear; not the physical solitude, which is welcome, but the deep inner pain of being alone. What am I to do about it? How am I to regard this void?"

When you ask the way, you become a follower. Because there is this ache of solitude, you want help, and the very demand for guidance opens the door to compulsion, imitation and fear. The `how' is not at all important, so let us understand the nature of this pain rather than try to overcome it, avoid it, or go beyond it. Till there is complete understanding of this ache of solitude, there can be no peace, no rest, but only incessant struggle; and whether we are aware of it or not, most of us are violently or subtly trying to escape from its fear. This ache is only in relation to the past, and not in relation to what is. What is has to be discovered, not verbally, theoretically, but directly experienced. How can there be discovery of what actually is if you approach it with a sense of pain or fear? To understand it must you not come to it freely, denuded of past knowledge concerning it?

Must you not come with a fresh mind, unclouded by memories, by habitual responses? Please do not ask how the mind is to be free to see the new, but listen to the truth of it. Truth alone liberates, and not your desire to be free. The very desire and effort to be free is a hindrance to liberation.

To understand the new, must not the mind, with all its conclusions, safeguards, cease its activities? Must it not be still, without seeking a way of escape from this solitude, a remedy for it? Must not the ache of solitude be observed, with its movement of despair and hope? Is it not this very movement that makes for solitude and its fear? Is not the very activity of the mind a process of isolation, resistance? Is not every form of relationship the mind a way of separation, withdrawal? Is not experience itself a process of self-isolation? So the problem is not the ache of solitude, but the mind which projects the problem. The understanding of the mind is the beginning of freedom. Freedom is not something in the future, it is the very first step. The activity of the mind can be understood only in the process of response to every kind of stimulation. Stimulation and response are relationship at all levels. Accumulation in any form, as knowledge, as experience, as belief, prevents freedom; and it is only when there is freedom that truth can be.

"But is not effort necessary the effort to understand?"

Do we understand anything through struggle, through conflict? Does not understanding come when the mind is utterly still, when the action of effort has ceased? The mind that is made still is not a tranquil mind; it is a dead, insensitive mind. When desire is, the beauty of silence is not.

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