Commentaries on Living [2]

Chapter - 49
The Way of Knowledge

THE SUN HAD set behind the mountains and the roseate glow was still on the rocky range to the east. The path led down, wandering in and out through the green valley. It was a calm evening, and there was a slight breeze among the leaves. The evening star was just visible high over the horizon, and presently it would be quite dark, for there was no moon. The trees, which had been open and welcoming, were withdrawing into themselves from the dark night. It was cool and silent among these hills and now the sky was full of stars and the mountains were clear and sharp against them. That smell peculiar to the night was filling the air, and far away a dog was barking It was a very still night, and this stillness seemed to penetrate into the rocks, the trees, into all the things about one, and the footsteps on the rough path did not disturb it.

The mind too was utterly still. After all, meditation is not a means to produce a result, to bring about a state which has been or which might be. If meditation is with intention, the desired result may be achieved, but then it is not meditation, it is only the fulfilment of desire. Desire is never satisfied, there is no end to desire. The understanding of desire, without trying to put a stop to it, or sustain it, is the beginning and the end of meditation. But there is something beyond this. It is strange how the meditator persists; he seeks to continue, he becomes the observer, the experiencer, a recollecting mechanism, the one who evaluates, accumulates, rejects. When meditation is of the meditator, it only strengthens the meditator, the experiencer. The stillness of the mind is the absence of the experiencer, of the observer who is aware that he is still. When the mind is still, there is the awakened state. You can be intently awake to many things, you can probe, seek, inquire, but these are the activities of desire, of will, of recognition and gain. That which is ever awake is neither desire nor the product of desire. Desire breeds the conflict of duality, and conflict is darkness.

Well-connected and rich, she was now on the hunt for the spiritual. She had sought out the Catholic masters and the Hindu teachers, had studied with the Sufis and dabbled in Buddhism.

"Of course," she added, "I have also looked into the occult, and now I have come to learn from you."

Does wisdom lie in the accumulation of much knowledge? If one may ask, what is it that you are seeking?

"I have gone after different things at different periods of my life and what I have sought I have generally found. I have gathered much experience, and have had a rich and varied life. I read a great deal on a variety of subjects, and have been to one of the eminent analysts, but I am still seeking."

Why are you doing all this? Why this search, whether superficial or deep?

"What a strange question to ask! If one did not seek, one would vegetate; if one did not constantly learn, life would have no meaning, one might just as well die."

Again, what are you learning? In reading what others have said about the structure and behaviour of human beings, in analysing social and cultural differences, in studying any of the various sciences or schools of philosophy, what is it that you are gathering?

"I feel that if only one had enough knowledge it would save one from strife and misery, so I gather it where I can. Knowledge is essential to understanding."

Does understanding come through knowledge? Or does knowledge prevent creative understanding? We seem to think that by accumulating facts and information, by having encyclopedic knowledge, we shall be set free from our bondages. This is simply not so. Antagonism, hatred and war have not been stopped, though we all know how destructive and wasteful they are. Knowledge is not necessarily preventive of these things; on the contrary, it may stimulate and encourage them. So is it not important to find out why we are gathering knowledge?

"I have talked to many educators who think that if knowledge can be spread sufficiently widely it will dissipate man's hatred for man and prevent the complete destruction of the world. I think this is what most serious educators are concerned with."

Though we now have so much knowledge in so many fields, it has not stopped man's brutality to man even among those of the same group, nation, or religion. Perhaps knowledge is blinding us to some other factor that is the real solution to all this chaos and misery.

"What is that?"

In what spirit are you asking that question? A verbal answer could be given, but it would only be adding more words to an already overburdened mind. For most people, knowledge is the accumulation of words or the strengthening of their prejudices and beliefs. Words, thoughts, are the framework in which the self-concept exists. This concept contracts or expands through experience and knowledge, but the hard core of the self remains, and mere knowledge or learning can never dissolve it. Revolution is the voluntary dissolution of this core, of this concept, whereas action born of self-perpetuating knowledge can only lead to greater misery and destruction.

"You suggested that there might be a different factor which is the true solution to all our miseries, and I am asking in all seriousness what that factor is. If such a factor exists and one could know and build one's whole life around it, a totally new culture might well be the outcome."

Thought can never find it, the mind can never seek it out. You want to know and build your life around it; but the `you' with its knowledge, its fears its hopes, frustrations and illusions, can never discover it; and without discovering it, merely to acquire more knowledge, more learning, will only act as a further barrier to the coming into being of that state.

"If you won't guide me to it, I shall have to seek it out for myself; and yet you imply that all search must cease."

If there were guidance, there would be no discovery. There must be freedom to discover, not guidance. Discovery is not a reward.

"I am afraid I do not understand all this."

You seek guidance in order to find; but if you are guided you are no longer free, you become a slave to the one who knows. He who asserts that he knows is already a slave to his knowledge, and he also must be free to find. Finding is from moment to moment, so knowledge becomes an impediment.

"Would you please explain a little more?"

Knowledge is always of the past. What you know is already in the past, is it not? You do not know the present or the future. The strengthening of the past is the way of knowledge. What may be uncovered may be totally new, and your knowledge, which is the accumulation of the past, cannot fathom the new, the unknown.

"Do you mean that one must get rid of all one's knowledge if one is to find God, love or whatever it is?"

The self is the past, the power to accumulate things, virtues, ideas. Thought is the outcome of this conditioning of yesterday, and with this instrument you are trying to uncover the unknowable. This is not possible. Knowledge must cease for the other to be.

"Then how is one to empty the mind of knowledge?"

There is no `how'. The practice of a method only further conditions the mind, for then you have a result, not a mind that is free from knowledge, from the self. There is no way, but only passive awareness of the truth with regard to knowledge.

Chapter - 50
Convictions -- Dreams

HOW BEAUTIFUL IS the earth with its deserts and rich fields, its forests, rivers and mountains, its untold birds and animals and human beings! There are villages filthy and diseased, where it has not rained enough for many seasons; the wells are all but dry and the cattle are skin and bones; the fields are cracked, and the ground-nut is withering away; the sugarcane is no longer planted, and the river has not flowed for several years. They beg they steal, and go hungry; they die waiting for the rains. Then there are the opulent cities with their clean streets and shiny new cars, their washed and well-dressed people, their endless shops filled with things, their libraries, universities and slums. The earth is beautiful and its soil, around the temple and in the arid desert, is sacred.

To imagine is one thing, and to perceive what is is another, but both are binding. It is easy to perceive what is, but to be free of it is another matter; for perception is clouded with judgment, with comparison, with desire. To perceive without the interference of the censor is arduous. Imagination builds the image of the self, and thought then functions within its shadows. From this self-concept grows the conflict between what is and what should be, the conflict in duality. Perception of the fact and idea about the fact, are two entirely different states, and only a mind that is not bound by opinion, by comparative values, is capable of perceiving what is true.

She had come a long distance by train and bus, and the last bit she had had to walk; but as it was a cool day, the climb was not too much.

"I have a rather pressing problem which I would like to talk over," she said. "When two people who love each other are adamant in their diametrically opposed convictions, what is to be done? Must one or the other give in? Can love bridge this separating and destructive gap?"

If there were love, would there be these fixed convictions which separate and bind?

"Perhaps not, but it has now gone beyond the state of love; the convictions have become hard, brutal, unyielding. One maybe flexible, but if the other is not, there is bound to be an explosion. Can one do anything to avoid it? One may yield temporize, but if the other is wholly intransigent, life with that person becomes impossible, there is no relationship with him. This intransigence is leading to dangerous results, but the person concerned doesn't seem to mind inviting martyrdom for his convictions. It all seems rather absurd when one considers the illusory nature of ideas; but ideas take deep root when one has nothing else. Kindliness and consideration vanish in the harsh brilliancy of ideas. The person concerned is completely convinced that his ideas, theories which he has got from reading, are going to save the world by bringing peace and plenty to all, and he considers that killing and destruction, when necessary, are justified as a means to that idealistic end. The end is all-important, and not the means; no one matters as long as that end is achieved."

To such a mind, salvation lies in the destruction of those who are not of the same conviction. Some religions have in the past thought this to be the way to God, and they still have excommunications, threats of eternal hell, and so on. This thing you are talking about is the latest religion. We seek hope in churches, in ideas, in `flying saucers', in Masters, in gurus, all of which only leads to greater misery and destruction. In oneself one has to be free from this intransigent attitude; for ideas, however great, however subtle and persuasive, are illusion, they separate and destroy. When the mind is no longer caught in the net of ideas, opinions, convictions, then there is something wholly different from the projections of the mind. The mind is not our last resort in resolving our problems; on the contrary, it is the maker of problems.”

"I know that you do not advise people, sir, but all the same, what is one to do? I have been asking myself this question for many months, and I haven't found the answer. But even now as I put that question I am beginning to see that there is no definite answer that one must live from moment to moment, taking things as they come and forgetting oneself. Then perhaps it is possible to be gentle, to forgive. But how difficult it is going to be!"

When you say `how difficult it is going to be', you have already stopped living from moment to moment with love and gentleness. The mind has projected itself into the future, creating a problem - which is the very nature of the self. The past and the future are its sustenance.

"May I ask something else? Is it possible for me to interpret my own dreams? Lately I have been dreaming a great deal and I know that these dreams are trying to tell me something, but I cannot interpret the symbols, the pictures that keep repeating themselves in my dreams. These symbols and pictures are not always the same, they vary, but fundamentally they all have the same content and significance - at least I think so, though of course I may be mistaken."

What does that word `interpret' mean with regard to dreams?

"As I explained, I have a very grave problem which has been bothering me for many months, and my dreams are all concerned with this problem. They are trying to tell me something, perhaps give me a hint of what I should do, and if I could only interpret them correctly I would know what it is they are trying to convey."

Surely, the dreamer is not separate from his dream; the dreamer is the dream. Don't you think this is important to understand?

"I don't understand what you mean. Would you please explain?"

Our consciousness is a total process, though it may have contradictions within itself. It may divide itself as the conscious and the unconscious, the hidden and the open, in it there may be opposing desires values, urges, but that consciousness is nevertheless a total, unitary process. The conscious mind may be aware of a dream, but the dream is the outcome of the activity of the whole consciousness. When the upper layer of consciousness tries to interpret a dream which is a projection of the whole consciousness, then its interpretation must be partial, incomplete, twisted. The interpreter inevitably misrepresents the symbol, the dream.

"I am sorry, but this is not clear to me."

The conscious, superficial mind is so occupied with anxiety, with trying to find a solution to its problem, that during the waking period it is never quiet. In so-called sleep, being perhaps somewhat quieter, less disturbed, it gathers an intimation of the activity of the whole consciousness. This intimation is the dream, which the anxious mind upon waking tries to interpret; but its interpretation will be incorrect, for it is concerned with immediate action and its results. The urge to interpret must cease before there can be the understanding of the whole process of consciousness. You are very anxious to find out what is the right thing to do with regard to your problem, are you not? That very anxiety is preventing the understanding of the problem and so there is a constant change of symbols behind which the content seems to be always the same. So, what now is the problem?

"Not to be afraid of whatever happens."

Can you so easily put away fear? A mere verbal statement does not do away with anxiety. But is that the problem? You may wish to do away with fear, but then the `how', the method, becomes important, and you have a new problem as well as the old one. So we move from problem to problem and are never free of them. But we are now talking of something wholly different, are we not? We are not concerned with the substitution of one problem for another.

"Then I suppose the real problem is to have a quiet mind."

Surely, that is the only issue: a still mind.

"How can I have a still mind?"

See what you are saying. You want to possess a still mind, as you would possess a dress or a house. Having a new objective, the stillness of the mind, you begin to inquire into the ways and means of getting it, so you have another problem on your hands. Just be aware of the utter necessity and importance of a still mind. Don't struggle after stillness, don't torture yourself with discipline in order to acquire it, don't cultivate or practise it. All these efforts produce a result, and that which is a result is not stillness. What is put together can be undone. Do not seek continuity of stillness. Stillness is to be experienced from moment to moment; it cannot be gathered.

Chapter - 51
Death

THE RIVER WAS very wide here, almost a mile and very deep; in midstream the waters were clear and blue, but towards the banks they were sullied, dirty and sluggish. The sun was setting behind the huge, sprawling city up the river; the smoke and the dust of the town were giving marvellous colours to the setting sun, which were reflected on the wide, dancing waters. It was a lovely evening and every blade of grass, the trees and the chattering birds, were caught in timeless beauty. Nothing was separate, broken up. The noise of a train rattling over the distant bridge was part of this complete stillness. Not far away a fisherman was singing. There were wide, cultivated strips along both banks, and during the day the green, luscious fields were smiling and inviting; but now they were dark, silent and withdrawn. On this side of the river there was a large, uncultivated space where the children of the village flew their kites and romped about in noisy enjoyment, and where the nets of the fishermen were spread out to dry. They had their primitive boats anchored there.

The village was just above higher up the bank, and generally they had singing, dancing, or some other noisy affair going on up there; but this evening, though they were all out of their huts and sitting about, the villagers were quiet and strangely thoughtful. A group of them were coming down the steep bank, carrying on a bamboo litter a dead body covered with white cloth. They passed by and I followed. Going to the river's edge, they put down the litter almost touching the water. They had brought with them fast-burning wood and heavy logs, and making of these a pyre they laid the body on it, sprinkling it with water from the river and covering it with more wood and hay. A very young man lit the pyre. There were about twenty of us, and we all gathered around. There were no women present, and the men sat on their haunches, wrapped in their white cloth, completely still. The fire was getting intensely hot, and we had to move back. A charred black leg rose out of the fire and was pushed back with a long stick; it wouldn't stay, and a heavy log was thrown on it. The bright yellow flames were reflected on the dark water, and so were the stars. The slight breeze had died down with the setting of the sun. Except for the crackling of the fire, everything was very still. Death was there, burning. Amidst all those motionless people and the living flames there was infinite space, a measureless distance, a vast aloneness. It was not something apart, separate and divided from life. The beginning was there and ever the beginning.

Presently the skull was broken and the villagers began to leave. The last one to go must have been a relative; he folded his hands, saluted, and slowly went up the bank. There was very little left now; the towering flames were quiet, and only glowing embers remained. The few bones that did not burn would be thrown into the river tomorrow morning. The immensity of death, the immediacy of it, and how near! With the burning away of that body, one also died. There was complete aloneness and yet not apartness, a loneness but not isolation. Isolation is of the mind but not of death.

Well advanced in age, with quiet manners and dignity, he had clear eyes and a quick smile. It was cold in the room and he was wrapped in a warm shawl. Speaking in English, for he had been educated abroad, he explained that he had retired from governmental work and had plenty of time on his hands. He had studied various religions and philosophies, he said but had not come this long way to discuss such matters.

The early morning sun was on the river and the waters were sparkling like thousands of jewels. There was a small golden-green bird on the veranda sunning itself, safe and quiet.

"What I have really come for," he continued, "is to ask about or perhaps to discuss the thing that most disturbs me: death. I have read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and am familiar with what our own books say on the subject. The Christian and Islamic suggestions concerning death are much too superficial. I have talked to various religious teachers here and abroad, but to me at least all their theories appear to be very unsatisfactory. I have thought a great deal about the subject and have often meditated upon it, but I don't seem to get any further. A friend of mine who heard you recently told me something of what you were saying, so I have come. To me the problem is not only the fear of death, the fear of not being, but also what happens after death. This has been a problem for man throughout the ages, and no one appears to have solved it. What do you say?"

Let us first dispose of the urge to escape from the fact of death through some form of belief, such as reincarnation or resurrection, or through easy rationalization. The mind is so eager to find a reasonable explanation of death, or a satisfying answer to this problem, that it easily slips into some kind of illusion. Of this, one has to be extremely watchful.

"But isn't that one of our greatest difficulties? We crave for some kind of assurance especially from those whom we consider to have knowledge or experience in this matter; and when we can't find such an assurance we bring into being, out of despair and hope, our own comforting beliefs and theories. So belief, the most outrageous or the most reasonable, becomes a necessity."

However gratifying an escape may be, it does not in any way bring understanding of the problem. That very flight is the cause of fear. Fear comes in the movement away from the fact, the what is. Belief, however comforting, has in it the seed of fear. One shuts oneself off from the fact of death because one doesn't want to look at it, and beliefs and theories offer an easy way out. So if the mind is to discover the extraordinary significance of death it must discard, easily, without resistance, the craving for some hopeful comfort. This is fairly obvious, don't you think?

"Aren't you asking too much? To understand death we must be in despair; isn't that what you are saying?"

Not at all, sir. Is there despair when there is not that state which we call hope? Why should we always think in opposites? Is hope the opposite of despair? If it is, then that hope holds within it the seed of despair, and such hope is tinged with fear. If there is to be understanding is it not necessary to be free of the opposites? The state of the mind is of the greatest importance. The activities of despair and hope prevent the understanding or the experiencing of death. The movement of the opposites must cease. The mind must approach the problem of death with a totally new awareness in which the familiar, the recognizing process, is absent.

"I am afraid I don't quite understand that statement. I think I vaguely grasp the significance of the mind's being free from the opposites. Though it is an enormously difficult task, I think I see the necessity of it. But what it means to be free from the recognizing process altogether eludes me."

Recognition is the process of the known, it is the outcome of the past. The mind is frightened of that with which it is not familiar. If you knew death, there would be no fear of it, no need for elaborate explanations. But you cannot know death, it is something totally new, never experienced before. What is experienced becomes the known, the past, and it is from this past, from this known that recognition takes place. As long as there is this movement from the past, the new cannot be.

"Yes, yes, I am beginning to feel that, sir."

What we are talking over together is not something to be thought about later, but to be directly experienced as we go along. This experience cannot be stored up for if it is, it becomes memory, and memory, the way of recognition, blocks the new, the unknown. Death is the unknown. The problem is not what death is and what happens thereafter, but for the mind to cleanse itself of the past, of the known. Then the living mind can enter the abode of death, it can meet death, the unknown.

"Are you suggesting that one can know death while still alive?"

Accident, disease and old age bring death, but under these circumstances it is not possible to be fully conscious. There is pain, hope or despair, the fear of isolation, and the mind, the self, is consciously or unconsciously battling against death, the inevitable. With feudal resistance against death we pass away. But is it possible - without resistance, without morbidity, without a sadistic or suicidal urge, and while fully alive, mentally vigorous - to enter the house of death? This is possible only when the mind dies to the known, to the self. So our problem is not death, but for the mind to free itself from the centuries of gathered psychological experience, from ever-mounting memory, the strengthening and refining of the self.

"But how is this to be done? How can the mind free itself from its own bondages? It seems to me that either an outside agency is necessary, or else the higher and nobler part of the mind must intervene to purify the mind of the past."

This is quite a complex issue, is it not? The outside agency may be environmental influence, or it may be something beyond the boundaries of the mind. If the outside agency is environmental influence, it is that very influence, with its traditions, beliefs and cultures, that has held the mind in bondage. If the outside agency is something beyond the mind, then thought in any form cannot touch it. Thought is the outcome of time; thought is anchored to the past, it can never be free from the past. If thought frees itself from the past, it ceases to be thought. To speculate upon what is beyond the mind is utterly vain. For the intervention of that which is beyond thought, thought which is the self must cease. Mind must be without any movement, it must be still with the stillness of no motive. Mind cannot invite it. The mind may and does divide its own field of activities as noble and ignoble, desirable and undesirable, higher and lower, but all such divisions and subdivisions are within the boundaries of the mind itself; so any movement of the mind, in any direction, is the reaction of the past, of the `me', of time. This truth is the only liberating factor, and he who does not perceive this truth will ever be in bondage, do what he may; his penances, vows, disciplines, sacrifices may have sociological and comforting significance, but they have no value in relation to truth.

Chapter - 52
Evaluation

MEDITATION IS a very important action in life; perhaps it is the action that has the greatest and deepest significance. It is a perfume that cannot easily be caught; it is not to be bought through striving and practice. A system can yield only the fruit it offers, and the system, the method, is based on envy and greed. Not to be able to meditate is not to be able to see the sunlight, the dark shadows, the sparkling waters and the tender leaf. But how few see these things! Meditation has nothing to offer; you may not come begging with folded hands. It doesn't save you from any pain. It makes things abundantly clear and simple; but to perceive this simplicity the mind must free itself, without any cause or motive, from all the things it has gathered through cause and motive. This is the whole issue in meditation. Meditation is the purgation of the known. To pursue the known in different forms is a game of self-deception, and then the meditator is the master, there is not the simple act of meditation. The meditator can act only in the field of the known; he must cease to act for the unknown to be. The unknowable doesn't invite you, and you cannot invite it. It comes and goes as the wind, and you cannot capture it and store it away for your benefit, for your use. It has no utilitarian value, but without it life is measurelessly empty.

The question is not how to meditate, what system to follow, but what is meditation? The `how' can only produce what the method offers, but the very inquiry into what is meditation will open the door to meditation. The inquiry does not lie outside of the mind, but within the movement of the mind itself. In pursuing that inquiry, what becomes all-important is to understand the seeker himself, and not what he seeks. What he seeks is the projection of his own craving, of his own compulsions, desires. When this fact is seen, all searching ceases, which in itself is enormously significant. Then the mind is no longer grasping at something beyond itself, there is no outward movement with its reaction inwards; but when seeking has entirely stopped, there is a movement of the mind which is neither outward nor inward. Seeking does not come to an end by any act of will, or by a complex process of conclusions. To stop seeking demands great understanding. The ending of search is the beginning of a still mind.

A mind that is capable of concentration is not necessarily able to meditate. Self-interest does bring about concentration, like any other interest, but such concentration implies a motive, a cause, conscious or unconscious; there is always a thing to be gained or set aside, an effort to comprehend to get to the other shore. Attention with an aim is concerned with accumulation. The attention that comes with this movement towards or away from something is the attraction of pleasure or the repulsion of pain, but meditation is that extraordinary attention in which there is no maker of effort, no end or object to be gained. Effort is part of the acquisitive process, it is the gathering of experience by the experiencer. The experiencer may concentrate, pay attention, be aware; but the craving of the experiencer for experience must wholly cease, for the experiencer is merely an accumulation of the known.

There is great bliss in meditation.

He explained that he had studied philosophy and psychology, and had read what Patanjali had to say. He considered Christian thought rather superficial and given to mere reformation, so he had gone to the East, had practiced some kind of yoga, and was fairly familiar with Hindu thought.

"I have read something of what you have been saying and I think I can follow it up to a certain point. I see the importance of not condemning, though I find it extremely difficult not to condemn; but I cannot understand at all when you say, `Do not evaluate, do not judge'. All thinking, it seems to me, is a process of evaluation. Our life, our whole outlook, is based on choice, on values, on good and bad, and so on. Without values we would just disintegrate, and surely you do not mean that. I have tried to empty my mind of all norm or value, and for me at least it is impossible."

Is there thinking without verbalization, without symbols? Are words necessary to thinking? If there were no symbols, referents, would there be what we call thinking? Is all thinking verbal, or is there thinking without words?

"I do not know, I have never considered the matter. As far as I can perceive, without images and words there would be nothing."

Shouldn't we find out the truth of this matter now, while we are here talking about it? Is it not possible to find out for oneself whether or not there is thinking without words and symbols?

"But in what way is this related to evaluation?"

The mind is made up of referents associations, images and words. Evaluation comes from this background. Words like God, love, Socialism, Communism, and so on, play an extraordinarily important part in our lives. Neurologically as well as psychologically words have significance according to the culture in which we are brought up. To a Christian certain words and symbols have enormous significance, and to a Moslem another set of words and symbols has an equally vital significance. Evaluation takes place within this area.

"Can one go beyond this area? And even if one can, why should one?"

Thinking is always conditioned; there is no such thing as freedom of thought. You may think what you like, but your thinking is and will always be limited. Evaluation is a process of thinking, of choice. If the mind is content, as it generally is, to remain within an enclosure, wide or narrow, then it is not bothered with any fundamental issue; it has its own reward. But if it would find out whether there is something beyond thought, then all evaluation must cease; the thinking process must come to an end.

"But the mind itself is part and parcel of this process of thinking, so by what effort or practice can thought be brought to an end?"

Evaluation condemnation, comparison, is the way of thought, and when you ask through what effort or method can the process of thinking be brought to an end, are you not seeking to gain something? This urge to practise a method or to make further effort is the outcome of evaluation, and is still a process of the mind. Neither by the practice of a method nor by any effort whatsoever can thought be brought to an end. Why do we make an effort?

"For the very simple reason that if we did not make an effort we would stagnate and die. Everything makes an effort, all nature struggles to survive."

Do we struggle just to survive, or do we struggle to survive within a certain psychological or ideological pattern? We want to be something; the urge of ambition, of fulfilment, of fear, shapes our struggle within the pattern of a society which has come about through the collective ambition, fulfilment and fear. We make effort to gain or to avoid. If we were concerned only with survival, then our whole outlook would be fundamentally different. Effort implies choice; choice is comparison, evaluation, condemnation. Thought is made up of these struggles and contradictions; and can such thought free itself from its own self-perpetuating barriers?

"Then there must be an outside agency, call it divine grace or what you will, that steps in and puts an end to the self-enclosing ways of the mind. Is this what you are indicating?"

How eagerly we want to achieve a satisfying state! If one may point out, sir, are you not concerned with arrival with achievement, with freeing the mind from a particular condition? The mind is caught in the prison of its own making, of its own desires and efforts, and every movement it makes, in any direction, is within the prison; but it is not aware of this, so in its pain and conflict it prays, it seeks an outside agency which will liberate it. It generally finds what it seeks, but what it has found is the outcome of its own movement. The mind is still a prisoner, only in a new prison which is more gratifying and comforting.

"But what in the name of heaven is one to do? If every movement of the mind is an extension of its own prison, then all hope must be abandoned."

Hope is another movement of thought caught in despair. Hope and despair are words that cripple the mind with their emotional content, with their seemingly opposing and contradictory urges. Is it not possible to stay in the state of despair, or any similar state, without rushing away from it to an opposite idea, or desperately clinging to the state which is called joyous hopeful, and so on? Conflict comes into being when the mind takes flight from the state called misery, pain, into another called hope, happiness. To understand the state in which one is, is not to accept it. Both acceptance and denial are within the area of evaluation.

"I am afraid I still do not grasp how thought can come to an end without some kind of action in that direction."

All action of will, of desire, of compulsive urge, is born of the mind, the mind that is evaluating, comparing, condemning. If the mind perceives the truth of this, not through argumentation, conviction, or belief, but through being simple and attentive, then thought comes to an end. The ending of thought is not sleep, a weakening of life a state of negation; it is an entirely different state.

"Our talk together has shown me that I have not thought very deeply about all this. Though I have read a great deal, I have only assimilated what others have said. I feel that for the first time I am experiencing the state of my own thinking and am perhaps able to listen to something more than mere words."

Chapter - 53
Envy and Loneliness

UNDER THE TREE that evening it was very quiet. A lizard was pushing itself up and down on a rock, still warm. The night would be chilly, and the sun would not be up again for many hours. The cattle were weary and slow coming back from the distant fields where they had laboured with their men. A deep-throated owl was hooting from the hilltop which was its home. Every evening about this time it would begin, and as it got darker the hoots would be less frequent; but occasionally, late in the night, you would hear them again. One owl would be calling to another across the valley, and their deep hooting seemed to give greater silence and beauty to the night. It was a lovely evening, and the new moon was setting behind the dark hill.

Compassion is not hard to come by when the heart is not filled with the cunning things of the mind. It is the mind with its demands and fears, its attachments and denials, its determinations and urges, that destroys love. And how difficult it is to be simple about all this! You don't need philosophies and doctrines to be gentle and kind. The efficient and the powerful of the land will organize to feed and clothe the people to provide them with shelter and medical care. This is inevitable with the rapid increase of production; it is the function of well-organized government and a balanced society. But organization does not give the generosity of the heart and hand. Generosity comes from quite a different source, a source beyond all measure. Ambition and envy destroy it as surely as fire burns. This source must be touched, but one must come to it empty handed, without prayer, without sacrifice. Books cannot teach nor can any guru lead to this source. It cannot be reached through the cultivation of virtue, though virtue is necessary, nor through capacity and obedience. When the mind is serene, without any movement, it is there. Serenity is without motive, without the urge for the more.

She was a young lady, but rather weary with pain. It was not the physical pain that bothered her so much, but pain of a different sort. The bodily pain she had been able to control through medication, but the agony of jealousy she had never been able to assuage. It had been with her, she explained, from childhood; at that age it was a childish thing, to be tolerated and smiled upon, but now it had become a disease. She was married and had two children and jealousy was destroying all relationship.

"I seem to be jealous, not only of my husband and children, but of almost anyone who has more than I have, a better gardener a prettier dress. All this may seem rather silly, but I am tortured by it. Some time ago I went to a psychoanalyst, and temporarily I was at peace; but it soon began again." Doesn't the culture in which we live encourage envy? The advertisements, the competition the comparison, the worship of success with its many activities - do not all these things sustain envy? The demand for the more is jealousy, is it not?”

"But..."

Let us consider envy itself for a few moments, and not your particular struggles with it; we shall come back to that later. Is this all right?

"Most certainly."

Envy is encouraged and respected, is it not? The competitive spirit is nourished from childhood. The idea that you must do and be better than another is repeated constantly in different ways; the example of success, the hero and his brave act, are endlessly dinned into the mind. The present culture is based on envy, on acquisitiveness. If you are not acquisitive of worldly things and instead follow some religious teacher, you are promised the right place in the hereafter. We are all brought up on this, and the desire to succeed is deeply embedded in almost everyone. Success is pursued in different ways success as an artist, as a business man, as a religious aspirant. All this is a form of envy, but it is only when envy becomes distressing, painful, that one attempts to get rid of it. As long as it is compensating and pleasurable, envy is an accepted part of one's nature. We don't see that in this very pleasure there is pain. Attachment does give pleasure, but it also breeds jealousy and pain, and it is not love. In this area of activity one lives, suffers, and dies. It is only when the pain of this self-enclosing action becomes unbearable that one struggles to break through it.

"I think I vaguely grasp all this, but what am I to do?"

Before considering what to do, let us see what the problem is. What is the problem?

"I am tortured by jealousy and I want to be free from it."

You want to be free from the pain of it; but don't you want to hold on to the peculiar pleasure that comes with possession and attachment?

"Of course I do. You don't expect me to renounce all my possessions, do you?"

We are not concerned with renunciation, but with the desire to possess. We want to possess people as well as things; we cling to beliefs as well as hopes. Why is there this desire to own things and people, this burning attachment?

"I don't know I have never thought about it. It seems natural to be envious, but it has become a poison, a violently disturbing factor in my life."

We do need certain things, food, clothing, shelter, and so on, but they are used for psychological satisfaction, which gives rise to many other problems. In the same way, psychological dependence on people breeds anxiety, jealousy and fear.

"I suppose in that sense I do depend on certain people. They are a compulsive necessity to me, and without them I would be totally lost. If I did not have my husband and children I think I would go slowly mad, or I would attach myself to somebody else. But I don't see what is wrong with attachment."

We are not saying it is right or wrong but are considering its cause and effect, are we not? We are not condemning or justifying dependence. But why is one psychologically dependent on another? Isn't that the problem, and not how to be free from the tortures of jealousy? Jealousy is merely the effect, the symptom and it would be useless to deal only with the symptom. Why is one psychologically dependent on another?

"I know I am dependent, but I haven't really thought about it. I took it for granted that everyone is dependent on another."

Of course we are physically dependent on each other and always will be which is natural and inevitable. But as long as we do not understand our psychological dependence on another, don't you think the pain of jealousy will continue? So, why is there this psychological need of another?

"I need my family because I love them. If I didn't love them I wouldn't care."
Are you saying that love and jealousy go together?

"So it seems. If I didn't love them, I certainly wouldn't be jealous."

In that case, if you are free from jealousy you have also got rid of love, haven't you? Then why do you want to be free from jealousy? You want to keep the pleasure of attachment and let the pain of it go. Is this possible?

"Why not?"

Attachment implies fear, does it not? You are afraid of what you are, or of what you will be if the other leaves you or dies, and you are attached because of this fear. As long as you are occupied with the pleasure of attachment, fear is hidden, locked away, but unfortunately it is always there; and till you are free from this fear, the tortures of jealousy will go on.

"What am I afraid of?"

The question is not what you are afraid of, but are you aware that you are afraid?

"Now that you are pointedly asking that question I suppose I am. All right, I am afraid."

Of what?

"Of being lost, insecure; of not being loved, cared for; of being lonely, alone. I think that is it: I am afraid of being lonely, of not being able to face life by myself, so I depend on my husband and children, I desperately hold on to them. There is always in me the fear of something happening to them. Sometimes my desperation takes the form of jealousy, of uncontainable fury, and so on. I am fearful lest my husband should turn to another. I am eaten up with anxiety. I assure you, I have spent many an hour in tears.

“All this contradiction and turmoil is what we call love and you are asking me if it is love. Is it love when there is attachment? I see it is not. It is ugly, completely selfish; I am thinking about myself all the time. But what am I to do?"

Condemning, calling yourself hateful, ugly, selfish, in no way diminishes the problem; on the contrary, it increases it. It is important to understand this. Condemnation or justification prevents you from looking at what lies behind fear, it is an active distraction from facing the fact of what is actually happening. When you say, "I am ugly, selfish", these words are loaded with condemnation, and you are strengthening the condemnatory characteristic which is part of the self.

"I am not sure I understand this."

By condemning or justifying an action of your child, do you understand him? You haven't the time or the inclination to explain, so to get an immediate result you say `do' or `don't; but you haven't understood the complexities of the child. Similarly, condemnation, justification, or comparison prevents the understanding of yourself. You have to understand the complexity which is you.

"Yes, yes, I grasp that."


Then go into the matter slowly, without condemning or justifying. You will find it quite arduous not to condemn or justify, because for centuries denial and assertion have been habitual. Watch your own reactions as we are talking together.

The problem, then, is not jealousy and how to be free of it, but fear. What is fear? How does it come into being?

"It is there all right, but what it is I do not know."

Fear cannot exist in isolation; it exists only in relation to something, doesn't it? There is a state which you call loneliness, and when you are conscious of that state, fear arises. So fear doesn't exist by itself. What are you actually afraid of?

"I suppose of my loneliness, as you say."

Why do you suppose? Aren't you sure?

"I hesitate to be sure about anything, but loneliness is one of my deepest problems. It has always been there in the background, but it is only now, in this talk, that I am forced to look at it directly, to see that it is there. It is an enormous void, frightening and inescapable."

Is it possible to look at that void without giving it a name, without any form of description? Merely labelling a state does not mean that we understand it; on the contrary, it is a hindrance to understanding.

"I see what you mean but I cannot help labelling it; it is practically an instantaneous reaction."

Feeling and naming are almost simultaneous, are they not? Can they be separated? Can there be a gap between a feeling and the naming of it? If this gap is really experienced, it will be found that the thinker ceases as an entity separate and distinct from thought. The verbalizing process is part of the self, the `me', the entity who is jealous and who attempts to get over his jealousy. If you really understand the truth of this, then fear ceases. Naming has a physiological as well as a psychological effect. When there is no naming, only then is it possible to be fully aware of that which is called the void of loneliness. Then the mind does not separate itself from that which is.

"I find it extremely difficult to follow all this, but I feel I have understood at least some of it, and I shall allow that understanding to unfold."

Chapter - 54
The Storm in the Mind

ALL DAY THE fog had lasted, and as it cleared towards evening a wind sprang up from the east - a dry, harsh wind, blowing down the dead leaves and drying up the land. It was a tempestuous and menacing night; the wind had increased, the house creaked, and branches were being torn from the trees. The next morning the air was so clear you could almost touch the mountains. The heat had returned with the wind; but as the wind died in the late afternoon, the fog rolled in again from the sea.

How extraordinarily beautiful and rich the earth is! There is no tiring of it. The dry river beds are full of living things: gorse, poppies, tall yellow sunflowers. On the boulders there are lizards; a brown and white ringed king snake is sunning itself, its black tongue shooting in and out, and across the ravine a dog is barking, pursuing a gopher or a rabbit.

Contentment is never the outcome of fulfilment, of achievement, or of the possession of things; it is not born of action or inaction. It comes with the fullness of what is, not in the alteration of it. That which is full does not need alteration, change. It is the incomplete which is trying to become complete that knows the turmoil of discontent and change. The ‘what is’ is the incomplete, it is not the complete. The complete is unreal, and the pursuit of the unreal is the pain of discontent which can never be healed. The very attempt to heal that pain is the search for the unreal, from which arises discontent. There is no way out of discontent. To be aware of discontent is to be aware of what is, and in the fullness of it there is a state which may be called contentment. It has no opposite.

The house overlooked the valley, and the highest peak of the distant mountains was aglow with the setting sun. Its rocky mass seemed hung from the sky and alight from within, and in the darkening room the beauty of that light was beyond all measure.

He was a youngish man, eager and searching.

"I have read several books on religion and religious practices, on meditation and the various methods advocated for attaining the highest. I was at one time drawn to Communism, but soon found that it was a retrogressive movement in spite of the many intellectuals who belonged to it. I was also attracted to Catholicism. Some of its doctrines pleased me and for a time I thought of becoming a Catholic; but one day, while talking to a very learned priest, I suddenly perceived how similar Catholicism was to the prison of Communism. During my wanderings as a sailor on a tramp ship I went to India and spent nearly a year there, and I thought of becoming a monk; but that was too withdrawn from life and too idealistically unreal. I tried living alone in order to meditate, but that too came to an end. After all these years I still seem to be utterly incapable of controlling my thoughts, and this is what I want to talk about. Of course I have other problems, sex and so on, but if I were completely the master of my thoughts I could then manage to curb my burning desires and urges."

Will the controlling of thought lead to the calming of desire, or merely to its suppression, which will in turn bring other and deeper problems?

"You are of course not advocating giving way to desire. Desire is the way of thought, and in my attempts to control thought I had hoped to subjugate my desires. Desires have either to be subjugated or sublimated, but even to sublimate them they must first be held in check. Most of the teachers insist that desires must be transcended, and they prescribe various methods to bring this about."

Apart from what others have said, what do you think? Will mere control of desire resolve the many problems of desire? Will suppression or sublimation of desire bring about the understanding of it or free you from it? Through some occupation, religious or otherwise, the mind can be disciplined every hour of the day. But an occupied mind is not a free mind, and surely it is only the free mind that can be aware of timeless creativity.

"Is there no freedom in transcending desire?"

What do you mean by transcending desire?

"For the realization of one's own happiness, and also of the highest, it is necessary not to be driven by desire, not to be caught in its turmoil and confusion. To have desire under control, some form of subjugation is essential. Instead of pursuing the trivial things of life, that very same desire can search out the sublime."

You may change the object of desire from a house to knowledge, from the low to the very highest, but it is still the activity of desire, is it not? One may not want worldly recognition, but the urge to attain heaven is still the pursuit of gain. Desire is ever seeking fulfilment, attainment, and it is this movement of desire which must be understood and not driven away or under. Without understanding the ways of desire, mere control of thought has little significance.

"But I must come back to the point from which I started. Even to understand desire, concentration is necessary, and that is my whole difficulty. I can't seem to control my thoughts. They wander all over the place tumbling over each other. There is not a single thought that is dominant and continuous among all the irrelevant thoughts."

The mind is like a machine that is working night and day, chattering, everlastingly busy whether asleep or awake. It is speedy and as restless as the sea. Another part of this intricate and complex mechanism tries to control the whole movement, and so begins the conflict between opposing desires, urges. One may be called the higher self and the other the lower self, but both are within the area of the mind. The action and reaction of the mind, of thought, are almost simultaneous and almost automatic. This whole conscious and unconscious process of accepting and denying, conforming and striving to be free, is extremely rapid. So the question is not how to control this complex mechanism, for control brings friction and only dissipates energy, but can this very swift mind slow down?

"But how?"

If it may be pointed out, sir, the issue is not the `how'. The `how' merely produces a result, an end without much significance; and after it is gained, another search for another desirable end will begin, with its misery and conflict.

"Then what is one to do?"

You are not asking the right question are you? You are not discovering for yourself the truth or falseness of the slowing down of the mind, but you are concerned with getting a result. Getting a result is comparatively easy, isn't it? Is it possible for the mind to slow down without putting on brakes?

"What do you mean by slowing down?"

When you are going very fast in a car, the nearby landscape is a blur; it is only at a walking speed that you can observe in detail the trees, the birds and the flowers. Self-knowledge comes with the slowing down of the mind, but that doesn't mean forcing the mind to be slow. Compulsion only makes for resistance, and there must be no dissipation of energy in the slowing down of the mind. This is so, isn't it?

"I think I am beginning to see that the effort one makes to control thought is wasteful, but I don't understand what else is to be done."

We haven't yet come to the question of action, have we? We are trying to see that it is important for the mind to slow down, we are not considering how to slow it down. Can the mind slowdown? And when does this happen? "I don't know, I have never thought of it before."

Have you not noticed, sir that while you are watching something the mind slows down? When you watch that car moving along the road down there, or look intently at any physical object, is not your mind functioning more slowly? Watching, observing, does slow down the mind. Looking at a picture, an image, an object, helps to quiet the mind, as does the repetition of a phrase; but then the object or the phrase becomes very important, and not the slowing down of the mind and what is discovered thereby.

"I am watching what you are explaining, and there is an awareness of the stillness of the mind."

Do we ever really watch anything, or do we interpose between the observer and the observed a screen of various prejudices, values, judgments, comparisons, condemnations?

"It is almost impossible not to have this screen. I don't think I am capable of observing in an inviolate manner."

If it may be suggested, don't block yourself by words or by a conclusion, positive or negative. Can there be observation without this screen? To put it differently, is there attention when the mind is occupied? It is only the unoccupied mind that can attend. The mind is slow, alert, when there is watchfulness, which is the attention of an unoccupied mind.

"I am beginning to experience what you are saying, sir."

Let us examine it a little further. If there is no evaluation, no screen between the observer and the observed, is there then a separation, a division between them? Is not the observer the observed?

"I am afraid I don't follow."

The diamond cannot be separated from its qualities, can it? The feeling of envy cannot be separated from the experiencer of that feeling, though an illusory division does exist which breeds conflict, and in this conflict the mind is caught. When this false separation disappears, there is a possibility of freedom, and only then is the mind still. It is only when the experiencer ceases that there is the creative movement of the real.

Chapter - 55
Control of Thought

AT ANY SPEED there was always dust, fine and penetrating, and it poured into the car. Though it was early in the morning and the sun wouldn't be up for an hour or two, there was already a dry, crisp heat which was not too unpleasant. Even at that hour there were bullock carts on the road. The drivers were asleep, but the oxen, keeping to the road, were going slowly back to their village. Sometimes there would be two or three carts, sometimes ten, and once there were twenty five a long line of them with all the drivers asleep and a single kerosene lamp on the leading cart. The car had to go off the road to pass them, raising mountains of dust, and the oxen, their bells ringing rhythmically, never swerved.

It was still rather dark after an hour of steady driving. The trees were dark, mysterious and withdrawn. The road was now paved but narrow, and every cart meant more dust, more tinkling of bells, and still more carts ahead. We were going due east, and soon there was the beginning of dawn, opaque, soft and shadowless. It was not a clear dawn, bright with sparkling dew, but one of those mornings which are rather heavy with the coming heat. Yet how beautiful it was! Far away were the mountains; they could not yet be seen, but one felt they were there, immense, cool and time free.

The road passed through every kind of village, some clean, orderly and well kept, others filthy and rotting with hopeless poverty and degradation. Men were going off to the fields, women to the well, and the children were shouting and laughing in the streets. There were miles of government farms, with tractors, fish ponds, and experimental agricultural schools. A powerful new car passed by, laden with wealthy, well fed people. The mountains were still far away, and the earth was rich. In several places the road went through a dry river bed where it was no longer a road, but the buses and carts had made a way across. The parrots, green and red, called to each other in their crazy flight; there were also smaller birds, gold and green, and the white ricebirds.

Now the road was leaving the plains and beginning to ascend. The thick vegetation in the foothills was being cleared away with bulldozers, and miles of fruit trees were being planted. The car continued to climb as the hills became mountains covered with chestnut and pine trees, the pines slender and straight and the chestnuts heavy with bloom. The view was opening now, measureless valleys stretching away below, and ahead were the snowy peaks.

At last we rounded a bend at the summit of the climb, and there stood the mountains, clear and dazzling. They were sixty miles away, with a vast blue valley between them and us. Stretching for over two hundred miles, they filled the horizon from end to end, and with a turn of the head we could see from one end to the other. It was a marvellous sight. The intervening sixty miles seemed to disappear, and there was only that strength and solitude. Those peaks, some of them rising over 25,000 feet, had divine names, for the gods lived there, and men came to them from great distances on pilgrimages, to worship and to die.

He had been educated abroad, he said and had held a good position with the government; but over twenty years ago he had made the decision to give up this position and the ways of the world in order to spend the remaining days of his life in meditation.

"I practiced various methods of meditation," he went on, "till I had complete control of my thoughts, and this has brought with it certain powers and domination over myself. However, a friend took me to one of your talks in which you answered a question on meditation, saying that as generally practiced meditation was a form of self-hypnosis, a cultivation of self-projected desires, however refined. This struck me as being so true that I sought out this conversation with you; and considering that I have given my life to meditation, I hope we can go into the matter rather deeply.”

"I would like to begin by explaining somewhat the course of my development. I realized from everything I had read that it was necessary to be completely the master of one's thoughts. This was extremely difficult for me. Concentration on official work was something wholly different from steadying the mind and harnessing the whole process of thought. According to the books, one had to have all the reins of controlled thought in one's hand. Thought could not be sharpened to penetrate into the many illusions unless it was controlled and directed; so that was my first task."

If one may ask without breaking into your narration, is control of thought the first task?

"I heard what you said in your talk about concentration, but if I may I would like as far as possible to describe my whole experience and then take up certain vital issues connected with it."

Just as you like, sir.

"From the very beginning I was dissatisfied with my occupation, and it was a comparatively easy matter to drop a promising career. I had read a great many books on meditation and contemplation, including the writings of the various mystics both here and in the West, and it seemed obvious to me that control of thought was the most important thing. This demanded considerable effort, sustained and purposive. As I progressed in meditation I had many experiences, visions of Krishna, of Christ, and of some of the Hindu saints. I became clairvoyant and began to read people's thoughts, and acquired certain other sidhis or powers. I went from experience to experience, from one vision, with its symbolic significance, to another, from despair to the highest form of bliss. I had the pride of a conqueror, of one who was the master of himself.

“Asceticism, the mastery of oneself, does give a sense of power, and it breeds vanity, strength and self-confidence. I was in the rich fullness of all that. Though I had heard of you for many years, the pride in my achievement had always prevented me from coming to listen to you; but my friend, another sannyasi, insisted that I should come, and what I heard has disturbed me. I had previously thought that I was beyond all disturbance! This briefly has been my history in meditation.”

"You said in your talk that the mind must go beyond all experience, otherwise it is imprisoned in its own projections, in its own desires and pursuits, and I was deeply surprised to find that my mind was caught up in these very things. Being conscious of this fact, how is the mind to break down the walls of the prison it has built around itself? Have these twenty years and more been wasted? Has it all been a mere wandering in illusion?"

What action should take place can presently be talked over, but let us consider, if you will, the control of thought. Is this control necessary? Is it beneficial or harmful? Various religious teachers have advocated the control of thought as the primary step, but are they right? Who is this controller? Is he not part of that very thought which he is trying to control? He may think of himself as being separate, different from thought, but is he not the outcome of thought? Surely control implies the coercive action of will to subjugate, to suppress, to dominate, to build up resistance against what is not desired. In this whole process there is vast and miserable conflict, is there not? Can any good come out of conflict?

Concentration in meditation is a form of self-centred improvement, it emphasizes action within the boundaries of the self, the ego, the `me'. Concentration is a process of narrowing down thought. A child is absorbed in its toy. The toy, the image, the symbol, the word, arrests the restless wanderings of the mind, and such absorption is called concentration. The mind is taken over by the image, by the object, external or inward. The image or the object is then all important, and not the understanding of the mind itself. Concentration on something is comparatively easy. The toy does absorb the mind but it does not free the mind to explore, to discover what is, if there is anything, beyond its own frontiers.

"What you say is so different from what one has read or been taught, yet it appears to be true and I am beginning to understand the implications of control. But how can the mind be free without discipline?"

Suppression and conformity are not the steps that lead to freedom. The first step towards freedom is the understanding of bondage. Discipline does shape behaviour and mould thought to the desired pattern, but without understanding desire, mere control or discipline perverts thought; whereas, when there is an awareness of the ways of desire, that awareness brings clarity and order. After all, sir, concentration is the way of desire. A man of business is concentrated because he wants to amass wealth or power, and when another concentrates in meditation, he also is after achievement, reward. Both are pursuing success, which yields self-confidence and the feeling of being secure. This is so, is it not?

"I follow what you are explaining, sir."

Verbal comprehension alone, which is an intellectual grasp of what is heard, has little value, don't you think? The liberating factor is never a mere verbal comprehension but the perception of the truth or the falseness of the matter. If we can understand the implications of concentration and see the false as the false, then there is freedom from the desire to achieve, to experience, to become. From this comes attention, which is wholly different from concentration. Concentration implies a dual process, a choice, an effort, does it not? There is the maker of effort and the end towards which effort is made. So concentration strengthens the `I', the self, the ego as the maker of effort, the conqueror, the virtuous one. But in attention this dual activity is not present; there is an absence of the experiencer, the one who gathers, stores and repeats. In this state of attention the conflict of achievement and the fear of failure have ceased.

"But unfortunately not all of us are blessed with that power of attention."

It is not a gift, it is not a reward, a thing to be purchased through discipline, practice, and so on. It comes into being with the understanding of desire, which is self-knowledge. This state of attention is the good, the absence of the self.

"Is all my effort and discipline of many years utterly wasted and of no value at all? Even as I ask this question I am beginning to see the truth of the matter. I see now that for over twenty years I have pursued a way that has inevitably led to a self-created prison in which I have lived, experienced and suffered. To weep over the past is self-indulgence and one must begin again with a different spirit. But what about all the visions and experiences? Are they also false, worthless?"

Is not the mind, sir, a vast storehouse of all the experiences, visions and thoughts of man? The mind is the result of many thousands of years of tradition and experience. It is capable of fantastic inventions, from the simplest to the most complex. It is capable of extraordinary delusions and of vast perceptions. The experiences and hopes, the anxieties, joys and accumulated knowledge of both the collective and the individual are all there, stored away in the deeper layers of consciousness, and one can relive the inherited or acquired experiences, visions, and so on. We are told of certain drugs that can bring clarity, a vision of the depths and the heights, that can free the mind from its turmoils, giving it great energy and insight. But must the mind travel through all these dark and hidden passages to come to the light? And when through any of these means it does come to the light, is that the light of the eternal? Or is it the light of the known, the recognized, a thing born of search, struggle hope? Must one go through this weary process to find that which is not measurable? Can we bypass all this and come upon that which may be called love? Since you have had visions, powers, experiences, what do you say, sir?

"While they lasted I naturally thought they were important and had significance; they gave me a satisfying sense of power, a certain happiness in gratifying achievement. When the various powers come they give one great confidence in oneself, a feeling of self-mastery in which there is an overwhelming pride. Now, after talking all this over, I am not at all sure that these visions, and so on, have such great meaning for me as they once had. They seem to have receded in the light of my own understanding."

Must one go through all these experiences? Are they necessary to open the door of the eternal? Can they not be bypassed? After all, what is essential is self-knowledge, which brings about a still mind. A still mind is not the product of will, of discipline, of the various practices to subjugate desire. All these practices and disciplines only strengthen the self, and virtue is then another rock on which the self can build a house of importance and respectability. The mind must be empty of the known for the unknowable to be. Without understanding the ways of the self, virtue begins to clothe itself in importance. The movement of the self, with its will and desire, its searching and accumulation, must wholly cease. Then only the timeless can come into being. It cannot be invited. The mind that seeks to invite the real through various practices, disciplines, through prayers and attitudes, can only receive its own gratifying projections, but they are not the real.

"I perceive now, after these many years of asceticism, discipline and self-mortification, that my mind is held in the prison of its own making, and that the walls of this prison must be broken down. How is one to set about it?"

The very awareness that they must go is enough. Any action to break them down sets in motion the desire to achieve, to gain, and so brings into being the conflict of the opposites the experiencer and the experience, the seeker and the sought. To see the false as the false is in itself enough, for that very perception frees the mind from the false.

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