Commentaries on Living 
Chapter - 41
Cleansed of the Past
A WELL-KEPT ROAD led up to the foot of the hill, and a path continued from there. On top of the hill were the ruins of a very ancient stronghold. Thousands of years ago it was a formidable place, a fortress of gigantic rocks, of proud pillared halls with mosaic floors, of marble baths and chambers. The closer one approached this citadel, the higher and thicker its walls became, and the more vigorously it must have been defended; yet it was conquered, destroyed, and built again. The outer walls were made of enormous blocks of rock placed one on top of the other without any mortar to bind them. Within the walls there was an ancient well, many feet deep, with steps leading down to it. The steps were smooth and slippery, and the sides of the well were glistening with moisture. It was all in ruins now, but the marvellous view from the top of the hill remained. Away to the left was the sparkling sea, bordering wide open plains with hills behind them. In the near distance there were two smaller hills which in those far off days had also been fortresses, but nothing comparable to this lofty citadel that looked down on these neighbouring hills and on the plains. It was a lovely morning, with the breeze from the sea stirring the bright flowers among the ruins. These flowers were very beautiful, their colours rich and deep and they grew in extraordinary places, on rocks, in the crevices of broken walls, and in the courtyards. They had grown there, wild and free, for untold centuries, and it seemed a sacrilege to tread on them, for they crowded the path; it was their world, and we were strangers, but they did not make one feel that way.
The view from this hilltop was not breath taking, like those which are seen occasionally, and which obliterate consciousness with grandeur and silence. Here it was not like that. Here there was peaceful enchantment, gentle and expansive; here you could live timelessly, without a past and a future, for you were one with this whole rapturous world. You were not a human being, a stranger from a different land, but you were those hills, those goats, and the goatherd. You were the sky and the blossoming earth; you were not apart from it, you were of it. But you were not conscious that you were of it, any more than those flowers were. You were those smiling fields, the blue sea, and the distant train with its passengers. You didn’t exist, you who choose, compare, act and seek; you were with everything.
Someone said that it was late and we must be going, so we went down the path on the other side of the hill, and then along the road leading to the sea.
We were sitting under a tree, and he was telling how, as a young and middle aged man, he had worked in different parts of Europe throughout the two world wars. During the last one he had no home, often went hungry, and was nearly shot for something or other by this or that conquering army. He had spent sleepless and tortured nights in prison, for in his wanderings he had lost his passport, and none would believe his simple statement as to where he was born and to what country he belonged. He spoke several languages, had been an engineer, then in some sort of business, and was now painting. He now had a passport, he said with a smile, and a place to live.
”There are many like me, people who were destroyed and have come back to life again,” he went on. ”I don’t regret it, but somehow I have lost the intimate contact with life at least with what one calls life. I am fed up with armies and kings, flags and politics. They have caused as much mischief and sorrow as our official religion, which has shed more blood than any other; not even the Moslem world can compete with us in violence and horror, and now we are all at it again. I used to be very cynical, but that too has passed. I live alone, for my wife and child died during the war, and any country, as long as it is warm, is good enough for me. I don’t care much one way or the other, but I sell my paintings now and then, which keeps me going. At times it is rather difficult to make ends meet, but something always turns up, and as my wants are very simple I am not greatly bothered about money. I am a monk at heart, but outside the prison of a monastery. I am telling you all this, not just to ramble on about myself, but to give you a sketch of my background, for in talking things over with you I may get to understand something which has become very vital to me. Nothing else interests me, not even my painting.
”One day I set out for those hills with my painting things, for I had seen something over there which I wanted to paint. It was fairly early in the morning when I got to the place, and there were a few clouds in the sky. From where I was I could see across the valley to the bright sea. I was enchanted to be alone, and began to paint. I must have been painting for some time, and it was coming along beautifully, without any strain or effort when I became aware that something was taking place inside my head, if I can put it that way. I was so absorbed in my painting that for a while I did not notice what was happening to me, and then suddenly I was aware of it. I could not go on with my painting, but I sat very still.” After a moment’s pause, he continued. ”Don’t think me crazy, for I am not, but sitting there I was aware of an extraordinarily creative energy. It wasn’t I that was creative, but something in me, something that was also in those ants and in that restless squirrel. I don’t think I am explaining this very well, but surely you understand what I mean. It was not the creativeness of some Tom, Dick or Harry writing a poem, or of myself painting a silly picture; it was just creation, pure and simple, and the things produced by the mind or by the hand were on the outer fringes of this creation, with little significance. I seemed to be bathed in it; there was a sacredness about it, a benediction. If I were to put it in religious words, I would say... But I won’t. Those religious words stick in my mouth, they no longer have any meaning. It was the centre of Creation, God himself.... Again these words! But I tell you, it was holy, not the man-made holiness of churches, incense and hymns, which is all immature nonsense. This was something uncontaminated, un-thought of, and tears were rolling down my cheeks; I was being washed clean of all my past. The squirrel had stopped fretting about its next meal, and there was an astonishing silence - not the silence of the night when all things sleep, but a silence in which everything was awake.
”I must have sat there, motionless, for a very long time, for the sun was in the west; I was a little stiff, one leg had gone to sleep, and I could stand up only with difficulty. I am not exaggerating, sir, but time seemed to have stopped - or rather, there was no time. I had no watch, but several hours must have passed from the moment I put my brush down to the moment I got up. I was not hysterical, nor had I been unconscious, as some might conclude; on the contrary, I was fully alert, aware of everything that was happening around me. Picking up all my things and carefully putting them in my knapsack, I left, and in that extraordinary state I walked back to my house. All the noises of a small town did not in any way disturb that state, and it lasted for several hours after I got home. When I awoke the next morning, it was completely gone. I looked at my painting; it was good, but nothing outstanding.”
”Sorry to have talked so long,” he concluded, ”but it has been bottled up in me, and I could not have talked to anyone else. If I did, they would call in a priest, or suggest one of those analysts. Now I am not asking for an explanation, but how does this thing come into being? What are the circumstances necessary for it to be?”
You are asking this question because you want to experience it again, are you not?
”I suppose that is the motive behind my question, but...”
Please, let us go on from there. What is important is not that it happened, but that you should not go after it. Greed breeds arrogance, and what is necessary is humility. You cannot cultivate humility; if you do, it is no longer humility but another acquisition. It is important, not that you should have another such experience, but that there should be innocence, freedom from the memory of experience, good or bad, pleasant or painful.
”Good Lord, you are telling me to forget something which has become of total importance to me. You are asking the impossible. I cannot forget it, nor do I want to.”
Yes, sir, that is the difficulty. Please listen with patience and insight. What have you now? A dead memory. While it was happening it was a living thing and there was no ‘me’ to experience that living thing, no memory clinging to what had been. Your mind was then in a state of innocency, without seeking, asking, or holding; it was free. But now you are seeking and clinging to the dead past. Oh, yes, it is dead; your remembrance has destroyed it and is creating the conflict of duality, the conflict between what has been and what you hope for. Conflict is death, and you are living with darkness. This thing does happen when the self is absent; but the memory of it, the craving for more, strengthens the self and prevents the living reality.
”Then how am I to wipe away this exciting memory?”
Again, your very question indicates the desire to recapture that state, does it not? You want to wipe away the memory of that state in order to experience it further, so craving still remains, though you are willing to forget what has been. Your craving for that extraordinary state is similar to that of a man who is addicted to drink or to a drug. What is all-important is not the further experiencing of that reality, but that this craving should be understood and should voluntarily dissolve without resistance, without the action of will.
”Do you mean that the very remembering of that state, and my intense urge to experience it again, are preventing something of a similar or perhaps a different nature from happening? Must I do nothing, consciously or unconsciously, to bring it about?”
If you really understand that is so.
”You are asking an almost impossible thing, but one never knows.”
Chapter - 42
Authority and Co-operation
SHE HAD BEEN secretary to a big business executive, she explained, and had worked with him for many years. She must have been very efficient, for it showed in her bearing and in her words. Having put away some money, she had given up that job a couple of years ago because she desired to help the world. Still quite young and vigorous, she wanted to devote the rest of her years to something worthwhile, so she considered the various spiritual organizations. Before going to college she had been educated in a convent, but the things they had taught her there now seemed limited, dogmatic and authoritarian, and naturally she could not belong to such a religious institution. After studying several others, she had at last landed in one which seemed to be broader and have greater significance than most, and now she was active at the very centre of that organization, helping one of its chief workers.
”At last I have found something that gives a satisfactory explanation of the whole business of existence,” she went on. ”Of course they have their authority in the Masters, but one doesn’t have to believe in them. I happen to, but that is neither here nor there. I belong to the inner group, and as you know, we practise certain forms of meditation. Very few are now told of their initiation by the Masters, not as many as before. They are more cautious these days.”
If one may ask why are you explaining all this?
”I was present at your discussion the other afternoon when it was stated that all following is evil. I have since attended several more of these discussions, and naturally I am disturbed by all that was said. You see, working for the Masters does not necessarily mean following them. There is authority, but it is we who need authority. They do not ask obedience of us, but we give it to them or to their representatives.”
If, as you say, you took part in the discussions, don’t you think that what you are saying now is rather immature? Taking shelter in the Masters or in their representatives whose authority must be based on their own self-chosen duty and pleasure, is essentially the same as taking shelter in the authority of the church, is it not? One may be considered narrow and the other wide, but both are obviously binding. When one is confused one seeks guidance, but that which one finds will invariably be the outcome of one’s own confusion. The leader is as confused as the follower who, out of his conflict and misery, has chosen the leader. Following another, whether it be a leader, a saviour, or a Master, does not bring about clarity and happiness. Only with the understanding of confusion and the maker of it, is there freedom from conflict and misery. This seems fairly obvious, does it not?
”It may be to you, sir, but I still don’t understand. We need to work along the right lines, and those who know can and do lay down certain plans for our guidance. This does not imply blind following.”
There is no enlightened following; all following is evil. Authority corrupts, whether in high places or among the thoughtless. The thoughtless are not made thoughtful by following another, however great and noble he may be.
”I like cooperating with my friends in working for something which has worldwide significance. To work together, we need some kind of authority over us.”
Is it cooperation when there is the compelling influence, pleasant or unpleasant, of authority? Is it co-operation when you are working for a plan laid down by another? Are you not then consciously or unconsciously conforming through fear, through hope of reward, and so on? And is conformity cooperation? When there is authority over you, benevolent or tyrannical, can there be cooperation? Surely, cooperation comes into being only when there is the love of the thing for itself without the fear of punishment or failure, and without the hunger for success or recognition. Cooperation is possible only when there is freedom from envy, acquisitiveness, and from the craving for personal or collective dominance, power.
”Aren’t you much too drastic in these matters? Nothing would ever be achieved if we were to wait until we had freed ourselves from all those inward causes which are obviously evil.”
But what are you achieving now? There must be deep earnestness and inward revolution if there is to be a different world; there must be at least some who are not consciously or unconsciously perpetuating conflict and misery. Personal ambition, and ambition for the collective, must drop away, for ambition in any form prevents love.
”I am too disturbed by all that you have said, and I hope I may come back another day when I am a little more calm.”
She came back many days later.
”After I had seen you I went away by myself to think all this over objectively and clearly and I spent several sleepless nights. My friends warned me not to be too disturbed by what you said, but I was disturbed, and I had to settle certain things for myself. I have been reading some of your talks more thoughtfully, without putting up resistance, and things are becoming clear. There is no going back, and I am not dramatizing. I have resigned from the organization, with all that it means. My friends are naturally upset, and they think I will come back; but I am afraid not. I have done this because I see the truth of what has been said. We shall see what happens now.”
Chapter - 43
THE STORM HAD lasted for several days, with high winds and torrential rains. The earth was soaking up the water, and the dust of many summers was being washed from the trees. In this part of the country it hadn't really rained for several years, but now it was making up for it, at least everyone hoped so, and there was gladness in the noise of the rain and the running waters. It was still raining when we all went to bed, and the patter of rain was very strong on the roof. It had a rhythm, a dance, and there was the murmur of many streams. Then what a lovely morning it was! The clouds were gone, and the hills all around were sparkling in the early morning sun; they had all been washed clean, and there was a benediction in the air. Nothing was yet stirring, and only the high hilltops were aglow. In a few minutes the noises of the day would begin; but now there was a deep peace in the valley, though the streams were gurgling and the cock had begun to crow. All the colours had come to life; everything was so vivid, the new grass and that enormous tree which seemed to dominate the valley. There was new life with abundance, and now the gods would receive their offering, gladly and freely given; now the fields would be made rich for the coming rice, and there would be no lack of fodder for the cows and the goats, now the wells would be full and marriages could be performed with gladness. The earth was red, and there would be rejoicing.
"I am well aware of the state of my mind," he explained. "I have been to college and received a so-called education, and I have read fairly extensively. Politically I have been of the extreme left, and I am quite familiar with their literature. The party has become like any organized religion; it is what Catholicism was and continues to be, with the excommunications, the threats and deprivations. For a time I worked ambitiously in politics, hoping for a better world; but I have seen through that game, though I could have gone ahead in it. Long ago I saw that real reformation doesn't come through politics; politics and religion don't mix. I know it is the thing to say that we must bring religion into politics; but the moment we do, it is no longer religion, it becomes just nonsense. God doesn't talk to us in political terms but we make our own god in terms of our politics or economic conditioning.”
"But I haven't come to talk politics with you, and you are quite right to refuse to discuss it. I have come to talk over something that is really eating me up. The other evening you said something about mediocrity. I listened but couldn't take it in, for I was too disturbed; but as you were talking, that word `mediocrity' struck me very forcibly. I had never thought of myself as being mediocre. I am not using that word in the social sense, and as you pointed out, it has nothing to do with class and economic differences, or with birth."
Of course. Mediocrity is entirely outside the field of arbitrary social divisions.
"I see it is. You also said, if I remember rightly, that the truly religious person is the only revolutionary, and such a person is not mediocre. I am talking of the mediocrity of the mind, not of job or position. Those who are in the highest and most powerful positions, and those who have marvellously interesting occupations, may still be mediocre. I have neither an exalted position nor a particularly interesting occupation, and I am aware of the state of my own mind. It is just mediocre. I am a student of both western and eastern philosophy, and am interested in many other things, but in spite of this my mind is quite ordinary; it has some capacity for coordinated thinking, but it is still mediocre and uncreative."
Then what is the problem sir?
"First, I am really quite ashamed of the state I am in, of my own utter stupidity, and I am saying this without any self-pity. Deep down in myself, in spite of all my learning, I find that I am not creative in the most profound sense of that word. It must be possible to have that creativeness of which you spoke the other day; but how is one to set about it? Is this too blunt a question?"
Can we think of this problem very simply? What is it that makes the mind-heart mediocre? One may have encyclopedic knowledge, great capacity, and so on; but beyond all these superficial acquisitions and gifts, what makes the mind deeply stupid? Can the mind be, at any time, other than what it has always been?
"I am beginning to see that the mind, however clever, however capable, can also be stupid. It cannot be made into something else, for it will always be what it is. It may be infinitely capable of reasoning, speculation, design calculation; but however expansible, it will always remain in the same field. I have just caught the significance of your question. You are asking whether the mind, which is capable of such astonishing feats, can transcend itself by its own will and effort."
That is one of the questions that arise. If, however clever and capable, the mind is still mediocre, can it through its own volition ever go beyond itself? Mere condemnation of mediocrity, with its wide scope of eccentricities, will in no way alter the fact. And when condemnation, with all its implications, has ceased, is it possible to find out what it is that brings about the state of mediocrity? We now understand the significance of that word, so let us stick to it. Is not one of the factors of mediocrity the urge to achieve, to have a result to succeed? And when we want to become creative, we are still dealing with the matter superficially, are we not? I am this, which I want to change into that, so I ask how; but when creativeness is something to be striven after, a result to be achieved, the mind has reduced it to its own condition. This is the process that we have to understand, and not attempt to change mediocrity into something else.
"Do you mean that any effort on the part of the mind to change what it is, merely leads to the continuation of itself in another form, and so there is no change at all?"
That is so, is it not? The mind has brought about its present state through its own effort, through its desires and fears, through its hopes, joys and pains; and any attempt on its part to change that state is still in the same direction. A petty mind trying not to be, is still petty. Surely the problem is the cessation of all effort on the part of the mind to be something, in whatever direction.
"Of course. But this does not imply negation, a state of vacuity, does it?"
If one merely hears the words without catching their significance, without experimenting and experiencing, then conclusions have no validity.
"So creativeness is not to be striven after, It is not to be learnt, practiced, or brought about through any action, through any form of compulsion. I see the truth of that. If I may, I shall think aloud and slowly work this out with you. My mind, which has been ashamed of its mediocrity, is now aware of the significance of condemnation. This condemnatory attitude is brought about by the desire to change; but this very desire to change is the outcome of pettiness, so the mind is still what it was and there has been no change at all. So far I have understood."
What is the state of the mind when it is not attempting to change itself, to become something?
"It accepts what it is."
Acceptance implies that there is an entity who accepts, does it not? And is not this acceptance also a form of effort in order to gain, to experience further? So a conflict of duality is set going, which is again the same problem, for it is conflict that breeds mediocrity of mind and heart. Freedom from mediocrity is that state which comes into being when all conflict has ceased. But acceptance is merely resignation. Or has that word `acceptance' a different meaning to you?
"I can see the implications of acceptance, since you have given me an insight into its significance. But what is the state of the mind which no longer accepts or condemns?"
Why do you ask, sir? It is a thing to be discovered, not merely to be explained.
"I am not seeking an explanation or being speculative, but is it possible for the mind to be still, without any movement, and yet be unaware of its own stillness?"
To be aware of it breeds the conflict of duality, does it not?
Chapter - 44
Positive and Negative Teaching
THE PATH WAS rough and dusty, and it led down to a small town below. A few trees remained scattered on the hillside, but most of them had been cut down for firewood, and one had to climb to a good height to find rich shade. Up there the trees were no longer scrubby and mauled by man; they grew to full height, with thick branches and normal foliage. The people would cut down a branch to allow their goats to eat the leaves, and when it was bare they would reduce it to firewood. There was a scarcity of wood at the lower levels, and now they were going higher, climbing and destroying. Rains were not as plentiful as they used to be; the population was increasing, and the people had to live. There was hunger and one lived as indifferently as one died. There were no wild animals about here, and they must have gone higher up. There were a few birds scratching among the bushes, but even they looked worn out, with some feathers broken. A jay, white and black, was scolding raucously, flying from limb to limb of a solitary tree.
It was getting warm, and it would be very hot by midday. There had not been enough rain for many years. The earth was parched and cracked, the few trees were covered with brown dust, and there was not even the morning dew. The sun was relentless, day after day, month in and month out, and the doubtful rainy season was still far away. Some goats went up the hill, with a boy looking after them. He was surprised to see anyone there, but he wouldn't smile, and with a grave look he followed the goats. It was a lonely place, and there was the silence of the coming heat.
Two women came down the path carrying firewood on their heads. One was old and the other quite young, and the burdens they carried looked rather heavy. Each had balanced on her head, protected by a roll of cloth, a long bundle of dried branches tied together with a green vine, and she held it in place with one hand. Their bodies swung freely as they came down the hill with a light, running gait. They had nothing on their feet, though the path was rough. The feet seemed to find their own way, for the women never looked down; they held their heads very straight, their eyes bloodshot and distant. They were very thin, their ribs showing, and the older woman's hair was matted and un washed. The girl's hair must have been combed and oiled at one time, for there were still some clean, sparkling strands; but she too was exhausted, and there was a weariness about her. Not long ago she must have sung and played with other children but that was all over. Now, collecting wood among these hills was her life, and would be till she died, with a respite now and then with the coming of a child.
Down the path we all went. The small country town was several miles away, and there they would sell their burden for a pittance, only to begin again tomorrow. They were chatting, with long intervals of silence. Suddenly the younger one told her mother she was hungry, and the mother replied that they were born with hunger, lived with hunger, and died with hunger; that was their lot. It was the statement of a fact; in her voice there was no reproach, no anger, no hope. We continued down that stony path. There was no observer listening, pitying, and walking behind them. He was not part of them out of love and pity; he was them; he had ceased and they were. They were not the strangers he had met up the hill, they were of him; his were the hands that held the bundles; and the sweat, the exhaustion the smell, the hunger, were not theirs, to be shared and sorrowed over. Time and space had ceased. There were no thoughts in our heads, too tired to think; and if we did think, it was to sell the wood, eat, rest, and begin again. The feet on the stony path never hurt, nor the sun overhead. There were only two of us going down that accustomed hill, past that well where we drank as usual, and on across the dry bed of a remembered stream.
"I have read and listened to some of your talks," he said, "and to me, what you say appears very negative; there is in it no directive no positive way of life. This oriental outlook is most destructive, and look where it has landed the Orient. Your negative attitude, and especially your insistence that there must be freedom from all thought, is very misleading to us westerners, who are active and industrious by temperament and necessity. What you are teaching is altogether contrary to our way of life."
If one may point out, this division of people as of the West or of the East is geographic and arbitrary, is it not? It has no fundamental significance. Whether we live east or west of a certain line, whether we are brown, black, white, or yellow, we are all human beings, suffering and hoping, fearful and believing; joy and pain exist here as they exist there. Thought is not of the West or of the East, but man divides it according to his conditioning. Love is not geographic held as sacred on one continent and denied on another. The division of human beings is for economic and exploiting purposes. This does not mean that individuals are not different in temperament, and so on; there is similarity, and yet there is difference. All this is fairly obvious and psychologically factual, is it not?
"It may be to you, but our culture, our way of life, is entirely different from that of the East. Our scientific knowledge, slowly developing since the days of ancient Greece, is now immense. East and West are developing along two different lines."
Seeing the difference, we must yet be aware of the similarity. The outward expressions may and do vary, but behind these outward forms and manifestations the urges, compulsions, longings and fears are similar. Do not let us be deceived by words. Both here and there, man wants to have peace and plenty, and to find something more than material happiness. Civilizations may vary according to climate, environment, food and so on, but culture throughout the world is fundamentally the same: to be compassionate, to shun evil, to be generous not to be envious, to forgive, and so on. Without this fundamental culture, any civilization, whether here or there, will disintegrate or be destroyed. Knowledge may be acquired by the so-called backward peoples, they can very soon learn the `knowhow' of the West; they too can be warmongers, generals, lawyers, policemen, tyrants, with concentration camps and all the rest of it. But culture is an entirely different matter. The love of God and the freedom of man are not so easily come by and without these, material welfare doesn't mean much.
"You are right in that, sir, but I wish you would consider what I said about your teachings being negative. I really would like to understand them, and don't think me rude if I appear somewhat direct in my statements."
What is negative and what is positive? Most of us are used to being told what to do. The giving and following of directions is considered to be positive teaching. To be led appears to be positive, constructive, and to those who are conditioned to follow, the truth that following is evil seems negative, destructive. Truth is the negation of the false, not the opposite of the false. Truth is entirely different from the positive and the negative, and a mind which thinks in terms of the opposites can never be aware of it.
"I am afraid I do not fully understand all this. Would you please explain a little more?"
You see, sir, we are used to authority and guidance. The urge to be guided springs from the desire to be secure, to be protected, and also from the desire to be successful. This is one of our deeper urges, is it not?
"I think it is, but without protection and security, man would..."
Please let us go into the matter and not jump to conclusions. In our urge to be secure, not only as individuals, but as groups, nations and races, have we not built a world in which war, within and outside of a particular society, has become the major concern?
"I know; my son was killed in a war across the seas."
Peace is a state of mind; it is the freedom from all desire to be secure. The mind-heart that seeks security must always be in the shadow of fear. Our desire is not only for material security, but much more for inner, psychological security, and it is this desire to be inwardly secure through virtue, through belief, through a nation, that creates limiting and so conflicting groups and ideas. This desire to be secure, to reach a coveted end, breeds the acceptance of direction, the following of example, the worship of success the authority of leaders saviours, Masters, gurus, all of which is called positive teaching; but it is really thoughtlessness and imitation.
"I see that; but is it not possible to direct or be directed without making oneself or another into an authority, a saviour?"
We are trying to understand the urge to be directed, are we not?
What is this urge? Is it not the outcome of fear? Being insecure, seeing impermanency about one, there is the urge to find something secure, permanent; but this urge is the impulse of fear. Instead of understanding what fear is, we run away from it, and the very running away is fear. One takes flight into the known, the known being beliefs, rituals, patriotism, the comforting formulas of religious teachers the reassurances of priests, and so on. These in turn bring conflict between man and man, so the problem is kept going from one generation to another. If one would solve the problem, one must explore and understand the root of it. This so-called positive teaching, the what-to-think of religions, including Communism, gives continuity to fear; so positive teaching is destructive.
"I think I am beginning to see what your approach is, and I hope my perception is correct."
It is not a personal, opinionated approach; there is no personal approach to truth, any more than there is to the discovery of scientific facts. The idea that there are separate paths to truth, that truth has different aspects, is unreal; it is the speculative thought of the intolerant trying to be tolerant.
"One has to be very careful, I see, in the use of words. But I would like, if I may, to go back to a point which I raised earlier. Since most of us have been educated to think - or have been taught what to think, as you put it - , will it not bring us only more confusion when you keep on saying in different ways that all thought is conditioned and that one must go beyond all thought?"
To most of us, thinking is extraordinarily important; but is it? It has a certain importance, but thought cannot find that which is not the product of thought. Thought is the result of the known; therefore it cannot fathom the unknown, the unknowable. Is not thought desire, desire for material necessities, or for the highest spiritual goal? We are talking, not about the thought of a scientist at work in the laboratory, or the thought of an absorbed mathematician, and so on, but about thought as it operates in our daily life, in our everyday contacts and responses. To survive, we are forced to think. Thinking is a process of survival, whether of the individual or of a nation. Thinking, which is desire in both its lowest and its highest form, must ever be self-enclosing, conditioning. Whether we think of the universe, of our neighbour, of ourselves, or of God, all our thinking is limited, conditioned, is it not?
"In the sense you are using that word `thinking', I suppose it is. But does not knowledge help to break down this conditioning."
Does it? We have accumulated knowledge about so many aspects of life - medicine, war, law, science - and there is at least some knowledge of ourselves, of our own consciousness. With all this vast store of information, are we free from sorrow, war, hate? Will more knowledge free us? One may know that war is inevitable as long as the individual, the group, or the nation is ambitious, seeking power, yet one continues in the ways that lead to war. Can the centre which breeds antagonism, hate, be radically transformed through knowledge? Love is not the opposite of hate; if through knowledge hate is changed to love, then it is not love. This change brought about by thought, by will, is not love, but merely another self-protective convenience.
"I don't follow this at all, if I may say so."
Thought is the response of what has been, the response of memory, is it not? Memory is tradition, experience, and its reaction to any new experience is the outcome of the past; so experience is always strengthening the past. The mind is the result of the past, of time; thought is the product of many yesterdays. When thought seeks to change itself, trying to be or not to be this or that, it merely perpetuates itself under a different name. Being the product of the known, thought can never experience the unknown; being the result of time, it can never understand the timeless, the eternal. Thought must cease for the real to be. You see, sir, we are so afraid to lose what we think we have, that we never go into these things very deeply. We look at the surface of ourselves and repeat words and phrases that have very little significance; so we remain petty, and breed antagonism as thoughtlessly as we breed children.
"As you said, we are thoughtless in our seeming thoughtfulness. I shall come again if I may."
Chapter - 45
THE STREETS WERE crowded and the shops were full of things. It was the wealthy part of the town, but in the streets were people of every kind, rich and poor, labourers and office workers. There were men and women from all parts of the world, a few in their native costumes, but most of them dressed in western clothes. There were many cars, new and old, and on that spring morning the expensive ones sparkled with chrome and polish, and the people's faces were bright and smiling. The shops too were full of people, and very few seemed to be aware of the blue sky. The shop windows attracted them, the dresses, the shoes, the new cars, and the displays of food. Pigeons were everywhere, moving in and out among the many feet and between the endless cars. There was a book shop with all the latest books by innumerable authors. The people seemed to have never a care in the world; the war was far away, on another part of the globe. Money, food and work were plentiful, and there was a vast getting and spending. The streets were like canyons between the tall buildings, and there were no trees. It was noisy; there was the strange restlessness of people who had everything and yet nothing.
A huge church stood amidst fashionable shops, and opposite it was an equally big bank; both were imposing and apparently necessary. In the vast church a priest in surplice and stole was preaching about the One who suffered for the sake of man. The people knelt in prayer; there were candles, idols and incense. The priest intoned and the congregation responded; at last they rose and went out into the sunlit streets and into the shops with their array of things. Now it was silent in the church; only a few remained, lost in their own thoughts. The decorations, the richly coloured windows, the pulpit, the altar and the candles - everything was there to quiet man's mind.
Is God to be found in churches, or in our hearts? The urge to be comforted breeds illusion; it is this urge which creates churches, temples and mosques. We get lost in them, or in the illusion of an omnipotent State, and the real thing goes by. The unimportant becomes all-consuming. Truth, or what you will, cannot be found by the mind; thought cannot go after it; there is no path to it; it cannot be bought through worship, prayer or sacrifice. If we want comfort, consolation, we shall have it in one way or another; but with it come further pain and misery. The desire for comfort, for security, has the power to create every form of illusion. It is only when the mind is still that there is a possibility of the coming into being of the real.
There were several of us, and B. began by asking whether it is not necessary to have help if we are to understand this whole messy problem of life. Should there not be a guide, an illumined being who can show us the true path?
"Have we not sufficiently gone into all that during these many years?" asked S. "I for one am not seeking a guru or a teacher."
"If you are really not seeking help, then why are you here?" insisted B. "Do you mean to say that you have put away all desire for guidance?"
"No, I don't think I have, and I would like to explore this urge to seek guidance or help. I do not now go window-shopping, as it were, running to the various teachers, ancient and modem, as I once did; but I do need help, and I would like to know why. And will there ever be a time when I shall no longer need help?"
"Personally I would not be here if there were no help available from anyone," said M. "I have been helped on previous occasions and that is why I am here now. Even though you have pointed out the evils of following, sir, I have been helped by you, and I shall continue to come to your talks and discussions often as I can."
Are we seeking evidence of whether we are being helped or not? A doctor, the smile of a child or of a passer-by, a relationship, a leaf blown by the wind, a change of climate, even a teacher, a guru - all these things can help. There is help everywhere for a man who is alert; but many of us are asleep to everything about us except to a particular teacher or book, and that is our problem. You pay attention when I say something, do you not? But when someone else says the same thing, perhaps in different words, you become deaf. You listen to one whom you consider to be the authority, and are not alert when others speak.
"But I have found that what you say generally has significance," replied M. "So I listen to you attentively. When another says something it is often a mere platitude, a dull response - or perhaps I myself am dull. The point is, it helps me to listen to you, so why shouldn't I? Even if everyone insists that I am merely following you, I shall still come as often as I can manage it."
Why are we open to help from one particular direction, and closed to every other direction? Consciously or unconsciously you may give me your love, your compassion, you may help me to understand my problems; but why do I insist that you are the only source of help, the only saviour? Why do I build you up as my authority? I listen to you, I am attentive to everything you say, but I am indifferent or deaf to the statement of another. Why? Is this not the issue?
"You are not saying that we should not seek help," said I. "But you are asking us why we give importance to the one who helps, making of him our authority. Isn't that it?"
I am also asking why you seek help. When one seeks help, what is the urge behind it? When one consciously, deliberately sets about seeking help, that one wants, or an escape, a consolation? What is it that we are seeking?
"There are many kinds of help," said B. "From the domestic servant to the most eminent surgeon, from the high school teacher to the greatest scientist, they all give some kind of help. In any civilization help is necessary, not only the ordinary kind, but also the guidance of a spiritual teacher who has attained enlightenment and helps to bring order and peace to man."
Please let us put aside generalities and consider what guidance or help means to each one of us. Does it not mean the resolving of individual difficulties, pains, sorrows? If you are a spiritual teacher, or a doctor, I come to you in order to be shown a happy way of life, or to be cured of some disease. We seek a way of life from the enlightened man, and knowledge or information from the learned. We want to achieve, we want to be successful, we want to be happy so we look for a pattern of life which will help us to attain what we desire, sacred or profane. After trying many other things, we think of truth as the supreme goal, the ultimate peace and happiness, and we want to attain it; so we are on the lookout to find what we desire. But can desire ever make its way to reality? Does not desire for something, however noble, breed illusion? And as desire acts, does it not set up the structure of authority, imitation and fear? This is the actual psychological process, is it not? And is this help, or self-deception?
"I am having the greatest difficulty not to be persuaded by what you say!" exclaimed B. "I see the reason, the significance of it. But I know you have helped me, and am I to deny that?"
If someone has helped you and you make of him your authority, then are you not preventing all further help, not only from him, but from everything about you? Does not help lie about you everywhere? Why look in only one direction? And when you are so enclosed so bound, can any help reach you? But when you are open, there is unending help in all things, from the song of a bird to the call of a human being, from the blade of grass to the immensity of the heavens. The poison and corruption begin when you look to one person as your authority, your guide, your saviour. This is so, is it not?
"I think I understand what you are saying," said I. "But my difficulty is this. I have been a follower, a seeker of guidance for many years. When you point out the deeper significance of following, intellectually I agree with you, but there is a part of me that rebels. Now, how can I integrate this inward contradiction so that I shall no longer follow?"
Two opposing desires or impulses cannot be integrated and when you introduce a third element which is the desire for integration, you only complicate the problem, you do not resolve it. But when you see the whole significance of asking help, of following authority, whether it be the authority of another, or of your own self-imposed pattern, then that very perception puts an end to all following.
Chapter - 46
Silence of the Mind
BEYOND THE DISTANT haze were the white sands and the cool sea, but here it was insufferably hot, even under the trees and in the house. The sky was no longer blue, and the sun seemed to have absorbed every particle of moisture. The breeze from the sea had stopped, and the mountains behind, clear and close, were reflecting the burning rays of the sun. The restless dog lay panting as though its heart would burst with this intolerable heat. There would be clear, sunny days, week after week, for many months and the hills, no longer green and soft with the spring rains, were burnt brown, the earth dry and hard. But there was beauty even now in these hills, shimmering beyond the green oak trees and the golden hay, with the barren rocks of the mountains above them.
The path leading up through the hills to the high mountains was dusty, stony and rough. There were no streams, no sound of running waters. The heat was intense in these hills, but in the shade of some trees along the dry river bed it was bearable for here there was a slight breeze coming up the canyon from the valley. From this height the blue of the sea was visible many miles away. It was very quiet, even the birds were still, and a blue jay which had been noisy and quarrelsome was resting now. A brown deer was coming down the path, alert and watchful, making its way to a little pool of water in the otherwise dry bed of the stream; it moved so silently over the rocks, its large ears twitching and its great eyes watching every movement among the bushes. It drank its fill and would have lain down in the shade near the pool, but it must have been aware of the human presence it could not see, for it went uneasily down the path and disappeared. And how difficult it was to watch a coyote, a kind of wild dog among the hills! It was the same colour as the rocks, and it was doing its best not to be seen. You had to keep your eyes steadily upon it, and even then it disappeared and you could not pick it out again; you looked and looked for any movement, but there was none, perhaps it might come to the pool. Not too long ago there had been a brutal fire among these hills, and the wild things had gone away; but now some had returned. Across the path a mother quail was leading her newborn chicks, more than a dozen of them; she was softly encouraging, leading them to a thick bush. They were round, yellowish-grey balls of delicate feathers, so new to this dangerous world, but alive and enchanted. There under the bush several had climbed on top of the mother, but most of them were under her comforting wings, resting from the struggles of birth.
What is it that binds us together? It is not our needs. Neither is it commerce and great industries, nor the banks and the churches; these are just ideas and the result of ideas. Ideas do not bind us together. We may come together out of convenience, or through necessity, danger, hate, or worship, but none of these things holds us together. They must all fall away from us, so that we are alone. In this aloneness there is love, and it is love that holds us together.
A preoccupied mind is never a free mind, whether it is preoccupied with the sublime or with the trivial.
He had come from a far distant land. Though he had had polio, the paralysing disease, he was now able to walk and drive car.
"Like so many others, especially those in my condition, I have belonged to different churches and religious organizations," he said, "and none of them has given me any satisfaction; but one never stops seeking. I think I am serious, but one of my difficulties is that I am envious. Most of us are driven by ambition, greed or envy; they are relentless enemies of man, and yet one cannot seem to be without them. I have tried building various types of resistance against envy, but in spite of all my efforts I get caught up in it again and again; it is like water seeping through the roof, and before I know where I am, I find myself being more intensely envious than ever. You have probably answered this same question dozens of times, but if you have the patience I would like to ask how is one to extricate oneself from this turmoil of envy?"
You must have found that with the desire not to be envious there comes the conflict of the opposites. The desire or the will not to be this, but to be that, makes for conflict. We generally consider this conflict to be the natural process of life; but is it? This everlasting struggle between what is and what should be is considered noble, idealistic; but the desire and the attempt to be non-envious is the same as being envious, is it not? If one really understands this, then there is no battle between the opposites; the conflict of duality ceases. This is not a matter to be thought over when you get home; it is a fact to be seen immediately, and this perception is the important thing, not how to be free from envy. Freedom from envy comes, not through the conflict of it the opposite, but with the understanding of what is; but this understanding is not possible as long as the mind is concerned with changing what is.
"Isn't change necessary?"
Can there be change through an act of will? Is not will concentrated desire? Having bred envy, desire now seeks a state in which there is no envy; both states are the product of desire. Desire cannot bring about fundamental change.
"Then what will?"
Perceiving the truth of what is. As long as the mind, or desire, seeks to change itself from this to that, all change is superficial and trivial. The full significance of this fact must be felt and understood, and only then is it possible for a radical transformation to take place. As long as the mind is comparing, judging, seeking a result there is no possibility of change, but only a series of unending struggles which it calls living.
"What you say seems so true, but even as I listen to you I find myself caught in the struggle to change, to reach an end, to achieve a result."
The more one struggles against a habit, however deep its roots, the more force one gives to it. To be aware of one habit without choosing and cultivating another, is the ending of habit.
"Then I must remain silently with what is, neither accepting nor rejecting it. This is an enormous task, but I see that it is the only way if there is to be freedom.
"Now may I go on to another question? Does not the body affect the mind, and the mind in turn affect the body? I have especially noticed this in my own case. My thoughts are occupied with the memory of what I was - healthy, strong, quick of movement - and with what I hope to be, as compared with what I am now. I seem unable to accept my present state. What am I to do?"
This constant comparison of the present with the past and the future brings about pain and the deterioration of the mind, does it not? It prevents you from considering the fact of your present state. The past can never be again, and the future is unpredictable, so you have only the present. You can adequately deal with the present only when the mind is free from the burden of the past memory and the future hope. When the mind is attentive to the present, without comparison then there is a possibility of other things happening.
"What do you mean by `other things'?"
When the mind is preoccupied with its own pains, hopes and fears, there is no space for freedom from them. The self-enclosing process of thought only cripples the mind further, so the vicious circle is set going. Preoccupation makes the mind trivial, petty, shallow. A preoccupied mind is not a free mind, and preoccupation with freedom still breeds pettiness. The mind is petty when it is preoccupied with God, with the State, with virtue, or with its own body. This preoccupation with the body prevents adaptability to the present, the gaining of vitality and movement, however limited. The self, with its preoccupations, brings about its own pains and problems, which affect the body; and concern over bodily ills only further hinders the body. This does not mean that health should be neglected; but preoccupation with health, like preoccupation with truth with ideas, only entrenches the mind in its own pettiness. There is a vast difference between a preoccupied mind and an active mind. An active mind is silent, aware, choiceless.
"Consciously it is rather difficult to take all this in, but probably the unconscious is absorbing what you are saying; at least I hope so.
"I would like to ask one more question. You see, sir, there are moments when my mind is silent, but these moments are very rare. I have pondered over the problem of meditation, and have read some of the things you have said about it, but for a longtime my body was too much for me. Now that I have become more or less inured to my physical state, I feel it is important to cultivate this silence. How is one to set about it?"
Is silence to be cultivated, carefully nurtured and strengthened? And who is the cultivator? Is he different from the totality of your being? Is there silence, a still mind, when one desire dominates all others, or when it sets up resistance against them? Is there silence when the mind is disciplined, shaped, controlled? Does not all this imply a censor, a so-called higher self who controls judges, chooses? And is there such an entity? If there is, is he not the product of thought? Thought dividing itself as the high and the low, the permanent and the impermanent, is still the outcome of the past, of tradition, of time. In this division lies its own security. Thought or desire now seeks safety in silence, and so it asks for a method or a system which offers what it wants. In place of worldly things it now craves the pleasure of silence, so it breeds conflict between what is and what should be. There is no silence where there is conflict, repression, resistance.
"Should one not seek silence?"
There can be no silence as long as there is a seeker. There is the silence of a still mind only when there is no seeker, when there is no desire. Without replying, put this question to yourself: Can the whole of your being be silent? Can the totality of the mind, the conscious as well as the unconscious, be still?
Chapter - 47
THE PLANE WAS crowded. It was flying at twenty-odd thousand feet over the Atlantic and there was a thick carpet of clouds below. The sky above was intensely blue, the sun was behind us, and we were flying due west. The children had been playing, running up and down the aisle and now tired out, they were sleeping. After the long night everyone else was awake, smoking and drinking. A man in front was telling another about his business, and a woman in the seat behind was describing in a pleased voice the things she had bought and speculating on the amount of duty she would have to pay. At that altitude the flight was smooth, there wasn't a bump, though there were rough winds below us. The wings of the plane were bright in the clear sunlight and the propellers were turning over smoothly, biting into the air at fantastic speed; the wind was behind us and we were doing over three hundred miles an hour.
Two men just across the narrow aisle were talking rather loudly, and it was difficult not to overhear what they were saying. They were big men, and one had a red, weather-beaten face. He was explaining the business of killing whales, how risky it was, what profits there were in it, and how frightfully rough the seas were. Some whales weighed hundreds of tons. The mothers with calves were not supposed to be killed, nor were they permitted to kill more than a certain number of whales within a specified time. Killing these great monsters had apparently been worked out most scientifically, each group having a special job to do for which it was technically trained. The smell of the factory ship was almost unbearable, but one got used to it, as one can to almost anything. But there was lots of money in it if all went well. He began to explain the strange fascination of killing, but at that moment drinks were brought and the subject of conversation changed.
Human beings like to kill, whether it be each other, or a harmless, bright-eyed deer in the deep forest, or a tiger that has preyed upon cattle. A snake is deliberately run over on the road; a trap is set and a wolf or a coyote is caught. Well dressed, laughing people go out with their precious guns and kill birds that were lately calling to each other. A boy kills a chattering blue jay with his air gun, and the elders around him say never a word of pity, or scold him; on the contrary, they say what a good shot he is. Killing for so-called sport, for food, for one's country, for peace - there is not much difference in all this. Justification is not the answer. There is only: do not kill. In the West we think that animals exist for the sake of our stomachs, or for the pleasure of killing, or for their fur. In the East it has been taught for centuries and repeated by every parent: do not kill be pitiful, be compassionate. Here animals have no souls, so they can be killed with impunity; there animals have souls, so consider and let your heart know love. To eat animals, birds, is regarded here as a normal natural thing, sanctioned by church and advertisements; there it is not, and the thoughtful, the religious, by tradition and culture, never do. But this too is rapidly breaking down. Here we have always killed in the name of God and country, and now it is everywhere. Killing is spreading; almost overnight the ancient cultures are being swept aside, and efficiency, ruthlessness and the means of destruction are being carefully nurtured and strengthened.
Peace is not with the politician or the priest, neither is it with the lawyer or the policeman. Peace is a state of mind when there is love.
He was a man of small business, struggling but able to make ends meet.
"I haven't come to talk about my work," he said. "It gives me what I need, and as my needs are few, I get along. Not being over ambitious, I am not in the game of dog eating dog. One day, as I was passing by, I saw a crowd under the trees, and I stopped to listen to you. That was a couple of years ago and what you said set something stirring in me. I am not too well educated, but I now read your talks, and here I am. I used to be content with my life, with my thoughts, and with the few scattered beliefs which lay lightly on my mind. But ever since that Sunday morning when I wandered into this valley in my car and came by chance to hear you, I have been discontented. It is not so much with my work that I am discontented, but discontent has taken hold of my whole being. I used to pity the people who were discontented. They were so miserable, nothing satisfied them - and now I have joined their ranks. I was once satisfied with my life, with my friends, and with the things I was doing, but now I am discontented and unhappy."
If one may ask, what do you mean by that word `discontent'?
"Before that Sunday morning when I heard you, I was a contented person, and I suppose rather a bore to others; now I see how stupid I was, and I am trying to be intelligent and alert to everything about me. I want to amount to something, get somewhere, and this urge naturally makes for discontent. I used to be asleep if I may put it that way, but now I am waking up."
Are you waking up, or are you trying to put yourself to sleep again through the desire to become something? You say you were asleep, and that now you are awake; but this awakened state makes you discontented, which displeases you, gives you pain, and to escape from this pain you are attempting to become something, to follow an ideal, and so on. This imitation is putting you back to sleep again, is it not?
"But I don't want to go back to my old state, and I do want to be awake."
Isn't it very strange how the mind deceives itself? The mind doesn't like to be disturbed, it doesn't like to be shaken out of its old patterns, its comfortable habits of thought and action; being disturbed, it seeks ways and means to establish new boundaries and pastures in which it can live safely. It is this zone of safety that most of us are seeking, and it is the desire to be safe, to be secure, that puts us to sleep. Circumstances, a word, a gesture, an experience, may awaken us, disturb us, but we want to be put to sleep again. This is happening to most of us all the time and it is not an awakened state. What we have to understand are the ways in which the mind puts itself to sleep. This is so, is it not?
"But there must be a great many ways in which the mind puts itself to sleep. Is it possible to know and avoid them all?"
Several could be pointed out; but this would not solve the problem, would it?
Merely to learn the ways in which the mind puts itself to sleep is again to find a means, perhaps different, of being undisturbed, secure. The important thing is to keep awake, and not ask how to keep awake; the pursuit of the `how' is the urge to be safe.
"Then what is one to do?"
Stay with discontent without desiring to pacify it. It is the desire to be undisturbed that must be understood. This desire, which takes many forms, is the urge to escape from what is. When this urge drops away - but not through any form of compulsion, either conscious or unconscious - only then does the pain of discontent cease. Comparison of what is with what should be brings pain. The cessation of comparison is not a state of contentment; it is a state of wakefulness without the activities of the self.
"All this is rather new to me. It seems to me that you give to words quite a different significance but communication is possible only when both of us give the same meaning to the same word at the same time."
Communication is relationship, is it not?
"You jump to wider significance than I am now capable of grasping. I must go more deeply into all this, and then perhaps I shall understand."
Chapter - 48
THE ROAD CURVED in and out through the low hills, mile after endless mile. The burning rays of the afternoon sun lay on the golden hills, and there were deep shadows under the scattered trees, which spoke of their solitary existence. For miles around there was no habitation of any kind; here and there were a few lonely cattle, and only occasionally another car would appear on the smooth, well-kept road. The sky was very blue to the north and glare to the west. The country was strangely alive, though barren and isolated, and far away from human joy and pain. There were no birds, and you saw no wild animals apart from the few ground squirrels that scurried across the road. No water was visible except in one or two places where the cattle were. With the rains the hills would turn green, soft and welcoming, but now they were harsh, austere, with the beauty of great stillness.
It was a strange evening, full and intense, but as the road wove in and out among the rolling hills, time had come to an end. The sign said it was eighteen miles to the main road leading north. It would take half an hour or so to get there: time and distance. Yet at that moment, looking at that sign on the roadside, time and distance had ceased. It was not a measurable moment; it had no beginning and no end. The blue sky and the rolling, golden hills were there, vast and everlasting, but they were part of this timelessness. The eyes and the mind were watchful of the road; the dark and lonely trees were vivid and intense, and each separate blade of hay on the curving hills stood out, simple and clear. The light of that late afternoon was very still around the trees and among the hills, and the only moving thing was the car, going so fast. The silence between words was of that measureless stillness. This road would come to an end joining another, and that too would peter out somewhere; those still, dark trees would fall and their dust would be scattered and lost; tender green grass would come up with the rains, and it too would wither away.
Life and death are inseparable, and in their separation lies everlasting fear. Separation is the beginning of time; the fear of an end gives birth to the pain of a beginning. In this wheel the mind is caught and spins out the web of time. Thought is the process and the result of time and thought cannot cultivate love.
He was an actor of some repute who was making a name for himself, but he was still young enough to inquire and suffer.
"Why does one act?" he asked. "To some the stage is merely a means of livelihood, to others it offers a means for the expression of their own vanity, and to still others, playing various roles is a great stimulations. The stage also offers a marvellous escape from the realities of life. I act for all these reasons, and perhaps also because - I say this with hesitancy - I hope to do some good through the stage."
Does not acting give strength to the self, to the ego? We pose, we put on masks, and gradually the pose, the mask becomes the daily habit, covering the many selves of contradiction, greed, hate, and so on. The ideal is a pose, a mask covering the fact, the actual. Can one do good through the stage?
"Do you mean that one cannot?"
No, it is a question, not a judgment. In writing a play the author has certain ideas and intentions which he wants to put across; the actor is the medium, the mask, and the public is entertained or educated. Is this education doing good? Or is it merely conditioning the mind to a pattern, good or bad, intelligent or stupid, devised by the author?
"Good Lord, I never thought about all this. You see, I can become a fairly successful actor, and before I get lost in it completely, I am asking myself if acting is to be my way of life. It has a curious fascination of its own, sometimes very destructive, and at other times very pleasant. You can take acting seriously, but in itself it is not very serious. As I am inclined to be rather serious, I have wondered if I should make the stage my career. There is something in me that rebels against the absurd superficiality of it all, and yet I am greatly attracted to it; so I am disturbed, to put it mildly. Through all this runs the thread of seriousness.
Can another decide what should be one's way of life?
"No, but in talking the matter over with another, things sometimes become clear."
If one may point out, any activity that gives emphasis to the self, to the ego, is destructive; it brings sorrow. This is the principal issue, is it not? You said earlier that you wanted to do good; but surely the good is not possible when, consciously or unconsciously, the self is being nourished and sustained through any career or activity.
"Is not all action based on the survival of the self?"
Perhaps not always. Outwardly it may appear that an action is self-protective, but inwardly it may not be at all. What others say or think in this regard is not of great importance, but one should not deceive oneself. And self-deception is very easy in psychological matters.
"It seems to me that if I am really concerned with the abnegation of the self, I shall have to withdraw into a monastery or lead a hermit's life."
Is it necessary to lead a hermit's life in order to abnegate the self? You see, we have a concept of the selfless life, and it is this concept which prevents the understanding of a life in which the self is not. The concept is another form of the self. Without escaping to monasteries and so on, is it not possible to be passively alert to the activities of the self? This awareness may bring about a totally different activity which does not breed sorrow and misery.
"Then there are certain professions that are obviously detrimental to a sane life, and I include mine among them. I am still quite young. I can give up the stage, and after going into all this, I am pretty sure I will; but then what am I to do? I have certain talents which may ripen and be useful."
Talent may become a curse. The self may use and entrench itself in capacities, and then talent becomes the way and the glory of the self. The gifted man may offer his gifts to God, knowing the danger of them; but he is conscious of his gifts, otherwise he would not offer them, and it is this consciousness of being or having something, that must be understood. The offering up of what one is or has in order to be humble, is vanities.
"I am beginning to get a glimpse of all this, but it is still very complex."
Perhaps; but what is important is choiceless awareness of the obvious and the subtle activities of the self.