Commentaries on Living 
Chapter - 27
Reform, Revolution and the Search for God
THE RIVER THAT morning was grey, like molten lead. The sun rose out of the sleeping woods, big, with burning radiance, but the clouds just over the horizon soon hid it; and all day long the sun and the clouds were at war with each other for final victory. Generally there were fisherman on the river, in their gondola-shaped boats; but that morning they were absent, and the river was alone. The bloated carcass of some large animal came floating by, and several vultures were on it, screeching and tearing at the flesh. Others wanted their share, but they were driven off with huge, flapping wings, till those already on the body had had their fill. The crows, furiously cawing, tried to get in between the larger, clumsier birds, but they had no chance. Except for this noise and flutter around the dead body, the wide, curving river was peaceful. The village on the other bank had been awake for an hour or two. The villagers were shouting to each other, and their strong voices came clearly over the water. That shouting had something pleasant about it; it was warm and friendly. A voice would call from across the river, rolling along in the clear air, and another would answer it from somewhere up-stream, or from the opposite bank. None of this seemed to disturb the quietness of the morning, in which there was a sense of great, abiding peace.
The car went along a rough, neglected road, raising a cloud of dust which settled on the trees and on the few villagers who were making their way to and from the filthy, sprawling town. School children also used that road, but they didn't seem to mind the dust; they were too engrossed in their laughter and their play. Entering the main road, the car passed through the town, crossed the railway, and soon was again in the clean, open country. It was beautiful here; there were cows and goats in the green fields and under the huge, old trees and it was as though you had never seen them before. Passing through the town, with its filth and squalor, seemed to have taken away the beauty of the earth; but now it was given back to you again, and you were surprised to see the goodness of the earth, and of the things of the earth. There were camels, big and well-fed, each carrying a great bundle of jute. They never hurried, but kept a steady gait, with their heads held straight up in the air; and on top of each bundle sat a man, urging the awkward beast forward. With a shock of astonishment you saw on that road two huge, slow-swinging elephants, gaily covered with gold-embroidered red cloth, their tusks decorated with silver bands. They were being taken to some religious affair, and were dressed for the occasion; but they were stopped, and there was a conversation. Their huge bulk towered above you; but they were gentle, all enmity and anger were gone. You stroked their rough skin; the tip of a trunk touched your palm softly, curiously, and moved away. The man shouted to get them going again, and the earth seemed to move with them. A small, two-wheeled carriage came along, drawn by a thin, worn-out horse; it had no top, and was carrying a dead human body, wrapped in white cloth. The body was loosely tied to the floor of the un-sprung vehicle, and as the horse trotted along over the uneven road, both driver and corpse were bouncing up and down.
The plane from the north had arrived, and the passengers were alighting to take the half-hour rest before starting again. Three were politicians, and by the look of them, they must have been very important people - cabinet ministers, it was said. They came down the cement walk like a ship passing through a narrow channel, all-powerful and altogether above the common herd. The other passengers kept several paces behind them. Everybody knew who they were; if anybody didn't, he was soon told, and the crowd became silent, watching the big men in their glory. But the earth was still green, a dog was barking, and on the horizon were the snow-covered mountains, an astonishing sight to behold.
A small group had gathered in that large, bare room, but only four of them spoke, and somehow these four seemed to speak for them all. It was not a prearranged thing, but it happened quite naturally, and the others were evidently glad that it was so. One of the four, a large man with an assured air, was given to quick and easy statements. The second was not quite so big physically, but he had sharp eyes and a certain ease of manner. The other two were smaller men; but all of them must have been well-read, and words came easily to them. They appeared to be in their forties, and they had all seen something of life, they said, working at the various things in which they were interested.
"I want to talk about frustration," said the large man. "It's the curse of my generation. We all seem to be frustrated in one way or another, and some of us become bitter and cynical, always criticizing others and eager to tear them down. Thousands have been liquidated in political purges; but we should remember that we can also kill others by word and gesture. personally, I am not cynical, though I have given a great part of my life to social work and the improvement of society. Like so many other people, I have played with Communism, and have found nothing in it; if anything, it's a retrogressive movement, and is certainly not of the future. I have been in the government, and somehow it hasn't meant much to me. I have read fairly widely, but reading doesn't make one's heart any lighter. Though I am quick at argument, my intellect says one thing, and my heart says another. I have been at war with myself for years, and there seems to be no way out of this inner conflict. I am a mass of contradictions, and inwardly I am slowly dying... I didn't mean to talk about all this but somehow I am talking. Why do we inwardly die and wither away? It's not only happening to me, but also to the great of the land."
What do you mean by dying, withering away? "One may hold a responsible position, one may work hard and come to the top, but inwardly one is dead. If you told the so-called great among us - those whose names appear every day in the papers over a report of their doings and speeches - that they are essentially dull and stupid, they would be horrified; but like the rest of us, they too are withering away, inwardly deteriorating. Why? We lead moral, respectable lives, yet behind the eyes there's no flame. Some of us are not out for ourselves - at least I don't think so - and yet our inner life is ebbing away; whether we know it or not, and whether we live in ministerial houses or in the bare rooms of devoted workers, spiritually we have one foot in the grave. Why?"
May it not be that we are choked by our conceits, by the pride of success and achievement, by the things that have great value for the mind? When the mind is weighed down by the things it has gathered, the heart withers. Isn't it very strange that everybody wants to climb the ladder of success and recognition?
"We are brought up on it. And I suppose that as long as one is climbing the ladder, or sitting at the top of it, frustration is inevitable. But how is one to get over this sense of frustration?"
Very simply, by not climbing. If you see the ladder and know where it leads, if you understand its deeper implications and do not set foot even on its first rung, you can never be frustrated.
"But I can't just sit still and decay!"
You are decaying now, in the midst of your ceaseless activity; and if like the self-disciplining hermit, you merely sit still while inwardly burning with desire, with all the fears of ambition and envy, you will continue to wither away. Isn't it true, sir, that decay comes with respectability? This does not mean that one must become disreputable. But you are very virtuous, are you not?
"I try to be."
The virtue of society leads to death. To be conscious of one's virtue is to die respectably. Outwardly and inwardly you are conforming to the rules of social morality, aren't you?
"Unless most of us did, the whole structure of society would crumble. Are you preaching moral anarchy?"
Am I? Social morality is mere respectability. Ambition, greed, the conceit of achievement and its recognition, the brutality of power and position, killing in the name of an ideology or a country - this is the morality of society. "Nevertheless, our social and religious leaders do preach against at least some of these things."
The fact is one thing, and preaching is another. To kill for an ideology or a country is very respectable, and the killer, the general who organizes mass murder, is highly regarded and decorated. The man of power has the important place in the land. The preacher and the preached-at are in the same boat, are they not?
"All of us are in the same boat," put in the second one, "and we are struggling to do something about it."
If you see that the boat has many holes and is sinking fast, won't you jump out?
"The boat is not as bad as all that. We must patch it up, and everybody should lend a hand. If everybody did, the boat would stay afloat on the river of life."
You are a social worker, are you not?
"Yes, sir, I am, and I have had the privilege of being closely associated with some of our greatest reformers. I believe that reform, not revolution, is the only way out of this chaos. Look what the Russian revolution has come to! No, sir, the really great men have always been reformers."
What do you mean by reform?
"To reform is gradually to improve the social and economic conditions of the people through the various schemes that we have formulated; it is to lessen poverty, to remove superstition, to get rid of class divisions, and so on."
Such reformation is always within the existing social pattern. A different group of people may come out on top, new legislation may be enacted, there may be the nationalization of certain industries, and all the rest of it; but it is always within the present framework of society. That is what's called reform, isn't it?
"If you object to that, then you can only be advocating revolution; and we all know that the great revolution following the first world war has since proved itself to be a retrogressive movement, as my friend pointed out, guilty of every kind of horror and suppression. Industrially the Communists may advance, they may equal or surpass other nations; but man doesn't live by bread alone, and we certainly don't want to follow that pattern."
A revolution within the pattern, within the framework of society, is no revolution at all; it may be progressive or retrogressive, but like reform, it is only a modified continuation of what has been. However good and necessary the reform, it can only bring about a superficial change, which will again require further reform. There is no end to this process, because society is ever disintegrating within the pattern of its own existence.
"Do you then maintain, sir, that all reform, however beneficial, is just so much patchwork, and that no amount of reform can bring about a total transformation of society?"
Total transformation can never take place within the pattern of any society, whether that society be tyrannical or so-called democratic.
"Is not a democratic society more significant and worthwhile than a police or tyrannical State?"
"Then what do you mean by the pattern of society?"
The pattern of society is human relationship based on ambition, envy, on the personal or collective desire for power, on the hierarchical attitude, on ideologies, dogmas, beliefs. Such a society may and generally does profess to believe in love, in goodness; but it is always ready to kill, to go to war. Within the pattern, change is no change at all, however revolutionary it may appear. When the patient needs a major operation, it's foolish merely to alleviate the symptoms.
"But who's to be the surgeon?"
You have to operate on yourself, and not rely on another, however good a specialist you may think him to be. You have to step out of the pattern of society, the pattern of greed, of acquisitiveness, of conflict.
"Will my stepping out of the pattern affect society?"
First step out of it, and see what happens. To stay within the pattern and ask what will happen if you step out of it is a form of escape, a perverted and useless inquiry.
"Unlike these two gentlemen," said the third one in a mild and pleasant voice, "I know none of the eminent people; I move in a different circle altogether. I have never thought of becoming famous, but have remained in the background, anonymously doing my part. I gave up my wife, put away the joys of having a home and children, and devoted myself completely to the work of liberating our country. I did all this most earnestly and with great diligence. I sought no power for myself; I only wanted our country to be free, to grow into a holy nation, to have again the glory and the grace that was India. But I have seen all the things that have been going on; I have watched the conceit, the pomp, the corruption, the favouritism, and have heard the double talk of the various politicians, including the leaders of the party to which I belonged. I didn't sacrifice my life, my pleasures, my wife, my money, in order that corrupt men might rule the land. I eschewed power for the good of the country - only to see these ambitious politicians rise to positions of power. I now realize that I have spent vainly the best years of my life, and I feel like committing suicide."
The others were silent, appalled by what had been said; for they were all politicians, in fact and at heart.
Sir, most people do give a perverted twist to their lives, and perhaps discover it too late, or never at all. If they attain position and power, they do damage in the name of the country; they become mischief makers in the name of peace, or of God. Conceit and ambition rule the land everywhere, with varying degrees of barbarity and ruthlessness. Political activity is concerned with only a very small part of life; it has its importance, but when it usurps the whole field of existence, as it is doing now, it becomes monstrous, corrupting thought and action. We glorify and respect the man in power, the leader, because in us there is the same craving for power and position, the same desire to control and to dictate. It is every individual who brings into being the leader; it is out of every man's confusion, envy, ambition, that the leader is made, and to follow the leader is to follow one's own demands, urges and frustrations. The leader and the follower are both responsible for the sorrow and the confusion of man.
"I recognize the truth of what you are saying, though it is hard for me to acknowledge it. And now, after all these years, I really do not know what to do. I have wept with the tears of my heart, but what's the good of all that? I cannot undo what is done. I have encouraged thousands, by word and action, to accept and to follow. Many of them are like me, though not in my extreme plight; they have changed their allegiance from one leader to another, from one party to another, from one set of catch-words to another. But I am out of it all, and I don't want to go near any of the leaders again. I have striven in vain all these years; the garden I so carefully cultivated has turned to rubble and stone. My wife is dead, and I have no companion. I see now that I have followed man-made gods: the State, the authority of the leader and the subtle vanities of one's own importance. I have been blind and foolish."
But if you really perceive that all you have worked for is foolish and vain, that it only leads to further misery, then there is already the beginning of clarity. When your intention is to go north, and you discover that you have actually been moving south, that very discovery is a turning to the north. Isn't that so?
"It's not quite as simple as that. I see now that the path I have been following leads only to the misery and destruction of man; but I do not know any other path to take."
There is no path to that which is beyond all the paths that men have made and trodden. To find that pathless reality, you have to see the truth in the false, or the false as the false. If you perceive that the path you have trodden is false - not in comparison with something else, not through the judgment of disappointment, nor through the evaluation of social morality, but false in itself - then that very perception of the false is awareness of the true. You do not have to follow the true: the true sets you free from the false.
"But I still feel impelled to take my own life and end it all."
The desire to end it all is the outcome of bitterness, of deep frustration. If the path you were following, even though utterly false in itself, had led to that which you had thought of as the goal; if, in a word, you had been successful, there would have been no sense of frustration, no bitter disappointment. Until you met with this final frustration, you never questioned what you were doing, you never inquired to find out if it were true or false in itself. If you had, things might have been very different. You were swept along by the current of self-fulfilment; and now it has left you isolated frustrated, disappointed.
"I think I see what you mean. You are saying that any form of self-fulfilment - in the State, in good works, in some utopian dream - must inevitably lead to frustration, to this barren state of mind. I am now aware of that very clearly."
The rich flowering of goodness in the mind - which is very different from being `good' in order to achieve an end, or to become something - is in itself right action. Love is its own action, its own eternity.
"Though it is late," said the fourth one, "may I ask a question? Will belief in God help one to find Him?"
To find truth, or God, there must be neither belief nor disbelief. The believer is as the non-believer; neither will find the truth, for their thought is shaped by their education, by their environment, by their culture, and by their own hopes and fears, joys and sorrows. A mind that is not free from all these conditioning influences can never find the truth, do what it will.
"Then to seek God is not important?"
How can a mind that is fearful, envious, acquisitive, discover that which is beyond itself? It will find only its own projections, the images, beliefs and conclusions in which it is caught. To find out what is true, or what is false, the mind must be free. To seek God without understanding oneself has very little meaning. Search with a motive is no search at all.
"Can there ever be search without a motive?"
When there's a motive for search, the end of the search is already known. Being unhappy, you seek happiness; therefore you have ceased to seek, for you think you already know what happiness is.
"Then is search an illusion?"
One among many. When the mind has no motive, when it is free and not urged on by any craving, when it is totally still, then truth is. You do not have to seek it; you cannot pursue or invite it. It must come.
Chapter - 28
The Noisy Child and the Silent Mind
THE CLOUDS HAD been coming through the wide gap in the mountains all day; piling themselves up against the western hills, they remained dark and threatening over the valley, and it would probably rain towards evening. The red earth was dry, but the trees and the wild bushes were green, for it had rained some weeks before. Many small streams wandered through the valley, but they would never reach the sea, for the people used the water to irrigate their rice fields. Some of these fields were cultivated and under water, ready to be planted, but most of them were already green with the sprouting rice. That green was incredible; it wasn't the green of well-watered mountain slopes, nor the green of well-kept lawns, nor the green of spring, nor the green of tender shoots among the older leaves of an orange tree. It was an altogether different green; it was the green of the Nile, of the olive, of verdigris, a blending of all these and more. There was in it a touch of the artificial, of the chemical; and in the morning, when the sun was just over the eastern hills, that green had the splendour and richness of the oldest parts of the earth. It was hard to believe that such a green could exist in this valley, known to so few, where only the villagers lived. To them it was a daily sight, a thing they had toiled for, knee-deep in water; and now, after long preparation and care, there were these fields of incredible green. The rain would help and the dark clouds held a promise.
Everywhere there was the darkness of the coming night, and of the low-hanging clouds; but a single ray of the setting sun touched the smooth side of a great rock on the hills towards the east, and it stood out in the gathering gloom. A group of villagers passed, talking loudly and driving their cattle before them. A goat had wandered off, and a little boy was making noises to call it back; it paid no attention, so he ran after it, angrily throwing stones, till at last it returned to the fold. It was now quite dark, but you could still see the edge of the path, and a white flower on a bush. An owl called from somewhere nearby, and another answered it from across the valleys. The deep tone of their call vibrated inside of you, and you stopped to listens A few drops of rain fell. Presently it began in earnest, and there was the goodly smell of rain on dry earth.
It was a clean, pleasant room, with a red mat on the floor. There were no flowers in the room, but there was no need of them. Outside there was the green earth; in the blue sky a single cloud was wandering by, and a bird was calling.
There were three of them, a woman and two men. One of the men had come from far up in the mountains, where he spent his life in solitude and contemplation. The other two were teachers from a school in one of the nearby towns. They had come by bus, as it was too far to bicycle. The bus was crowded, and the road was bad; but it was worth it, they said, for they had several things to talk over. They were both quite young, and said that they would soon be married. They explained how absurdly little they were paid, and said that it was going to be difficult to make ends meet, as prices were going up; but they seemed pleasant and happy, and enthusiastic about their work. The man from the mountains listened and was silent.
"Among many other problems," began the lady teacher, "is that of noise. There is often so much noise in a school for younger children, that at times it becomes almost unbearable; you can hardly hear yourself speak. Of course, you can punish them, force them to be quiet; but it seems so natural for them to shout and let off steam."
"But you have to forbid noise in certain places, such as the classroom and the dining hall, otherwise life would be impossible," replied the other teachers. "You can't allow shouting and chattering all day long; there must be periods when all noise is stopped. Children have to be taught that there are others in this world besides themselves. Consideration of others is as important as arithmetic. I agree it is no good just forcing them to keep quiet through the threat of punishment; but on the other hand, reasonably talking things over with them doesn't seem to stop their constant yelling."
"Noise-making is part of life at that age," went on his companion, "and it's unnatural for them to be silent in that stupid manner. But to be quiet is also part of existence, and though they don't seem to care for it at all, we have somehow to help them to be quiet when quietness is called for. In silence one hears more and sees more; that's why it's important for them to know silence."
"I agree that they should be silent at certain times," said the other teacher, "but how are we to teach them to be silent? It would be absurd to see rows of children compelled to sit in silence; it would be a most unnatural, inhuman thing."
Perhaps we can approach the problem differently. When are you irritated by a noise? A dog begins barking in the night; it wakes you, and you may or may not be able to do something about it. But it's only when there's a resistance to noise that it becomes a tiresome thing, a pain, an irritant.
"It's more than an irritant when it lasts all day long," remonstrated the male teachers. "It gets on your nerves, until you want to shout too."
If it may be suggested, let us for the present put aside the noise of the children, and consider noise itself and its effect on each one of us. If necessary, we will consider the children and their noise later on.
Now, when are you aware of a noise, in the disturbing sense? Surely, only when you resist it; and you resist it only when it's unpleasant.
"That is so," he admitted "I welcome the pleasurable sounds of music; but the horrible yelling of the children I resist, and not always very happily."
This resistance to noise increases the disturbance it makes. And that's what we do in our daily life: keeping the beautiful, we reject the ugly; resisting evil, we cultivate the good; eschewing hate, we think of love, and so on. There's always within us this self-contradiction, this conflict of the opposites; and such conflict leads nowhere. Isn't that so?
"Self-contradiction is not a pleasant state," replied the lady teacher. "I know it all too well; and I suppose it's also quite useless."
To be only partly sensitive is to be paralysed. To be open to beauty and resist ugliness is to have no sensitivity; to welcome silence and reject noise is not to be whole. To be sensitive is to be aware of both silence and noise, neither pursuing the one nor resisting the other; it is to be without self-contradiction, to be whole.
"But in what way does this help the children?" asked the male teacher.
When are the children silent?
"When they are interested, absorbed in something. Then there's perfect peace."
"It is not only then that they are silent," added his companion quickly. "When one is really quiet within oneself, the children somehow catch that feeling, and they also become quiet; they look at one rather awed, wondering what has happened. Haven't you noticed it?"
"Of course I have," he replied.
So that may be the answer. But we are so rarely silent; though we may not be talking, the mind goes right on chattering, carrying on a silent conversation, arguing with itself, imagining, recalling the past or speculating about the future. It is restless noisy, always struggling with something, is it not?
"I had never thought of that," said the male teacher. "In that inward sense, one's mind is of course as noisy as the children themselves."
We are noisy in other ways too, are we not?
"Are we?" asked his companion. "When?"
When we are emotionally stirred up: at a political meeting, at a festive board, when we are angry, when we are thwarted, and so on.
"Yes, yes, that is so," she agreed. "When I am really excited, at games and so on, I do often find myself shouting, inwardly if not outwardly. Good Lord, there isn't much difference between us and the children, is there? And their noise is probably far more innocent than the noise we adults make."
Do we know what silence is? "I am silent when I am absorbed in my work," the male teacher replied. "I am unaware of everything that's happening about me."
So is the child when he is absorbed in a toy; but is that silence?
"No," put in the solitary man from the hills. "There is silence only when one has complete control of the mind, when thought is dominated and there's no distraction. Noise, which is the chattering of the mind, must be suppressed for the mind to be still and silent."
Is silence the opposite of noise? Suppression of the chattering mind indicates control in the sense of resistance, does it not? And is silence the result of resistance, control? If it is, is it silence?
"I don't quite understand what you mean, sir. How can there be silence unless the mind's chattering is stopped, its wanderings brought under control? The mind is like a wild horse that must be tamed."
As one of these teachers said earlier, it is no good forcing a child to be quiet. If you do, he may be quiet for a few minutes, but he will soon again begin making a noise. And is a child really quiet when you force him to be? Outwardly he may sit still through fear, or through hope of reward, but inwardly he is seething, waiting for a chance to resume his noisy chatter. This is so, isn't it?
"But the mind is different. There is the higher part of the mind which must dominate and guide the lower."
The teacher may also regard himself as a higher entity who must guide or shape the child's mind. The similarity is fairly obvious, isn't it?
"Indeed it is," said the lady teacher. "But we still don't know what to do about the noisy child."
Let's not consider what to do until we have fully understood the problem. This gentleman has said that the mind is different from a child; but if you observe them both, you will see that they are not so very different. There's a great similarity between the child and the mind. Suppression of either only tends to increase the urge to make noise, to chatter; there is an inward building up of tension which must and does find release in various ways. It's like a boiler building up a head of steam; it must have an outlet, or it will burst.
"I don't want to argue," went on the man of the hills, "but how is the mind to stop its noisy chattering if not through control?"
The mind may be stilled, and have transcendental experiences, through years of control, of suppression, of practising a system of yoga; or, by taking a modern drug, the same results may sometimes be achieved overnight. However you may achieve them the results depend on a method, and a method - perhaps the drug also - is the way of resistance, suppression, is it not? Now, is silence the suppression of noise?
"It is," asserted the solitary man.
Is love, then, the suppression of hate?
"That's what we ordinarily think," put in the lady teacher, "but when one looks at the actual fact, one sees the absurdity of that way of thinking. If silence is merely the suppression of noise, then it's still related to noise, and such `silence' is noisy, it's not silence at all."
"I don't quite understand this," said the man from the hills. "We all know what noise is, and if we eliminate it, we shall know what silence is."
Sir, instead of talking theoretically, let's make an experiment right now. Let's go slowly and hesitantly, step by step, and see if we can directly experience and understand the actual functioning of the mind.
"That would be greatly beneficial."
If I ask you a simple question, like `Where do you live?', your reply is immediate, is it not?
"Because I know the answer, it is quite familiar to me."
So the thinking process takes only a second, it is over in a flash; but a more complex question requires a longer time to answer; there's a certain hesitancy. Is this hesitancy silence?
"I don't know."
A gap of time exists between a complex question and your response to it, because your mind is looking into the records of memory to find an answer. This time-gap is not silence, is it? In this interval there is going on an inquiry, a groping, a seeking out. It's an activity, a movement into the past; but it's not silence.
"I see that. Any movement of the mind, whether into the past or into the future, is obviously not silence."
Now, let's go a little further. To a question whose answer you cannot find in the records of memory, what is your reply?
"I can only say that I don't know."
And what then is the state of your mind?
"It's a state of eager suspense," put in the lady teacher.
In that suspense you are waiting for an answer, aren't you? So there's still a movement an expectancy in the gap between two chatterings, between the question and the final answer. This expectancy is not silence, is it?
"I am beginning to see what you are getting at," replied the solitary one. "I perceive that neither this waiting for an answer nor the scrutiny of past things is silence. Then what is silence?"
If all movement of the mind is noise, then is silence the opposite of that noise? Is love the opposite of hate? Or is silence a state totally unrelated to noise, to chatter, to hate?
"I don't know."
Please consider what you are saying. When you say you don't know, what's the state of your mind?
"I'm afraid I'm again waiting for an answer, expecting you to tell me what silence is."
In other words, you are expecting a verbal description of silence; and any description of silence must be related to noise; so it's part of noise, isn't it?
"I really don't understand this, sir."
A question sets the machine of memory going, which is a thinking process. If the question is very familiar, the machine answers instantaneously. If the question is more complex, the machine takes a longer time to reply; it has to grope among the records of memory to find the answer. And when a question is asked whose answer is not on the record the machine says, `I don't know'. Surely, this whole process the mechanism of noise. However outwardly silent, the mind is in operation all the time, isn't it?
"Yes," he replied eagerly.
Now, is silence merely the stopping of this mechanism? Or is silence totally apart from the mechanism, be it stopped or working?
"Are you saying, sir, that love is wholly apart from hate, whether hate is there or not?" asked the lady teacher.
Isn't it? Into the fabric of hate, love can never be woven. If it is, then it's not love. It may have all the appearance of love, but it's not; it's something entirely different. This is really important to understand.
An ambitious man can never know peace; ambition must cease entirely, and only then will there be peace. When a politician talks of peace, it is merely double talk, for to be a politician is to be at heart ambitious, violent.
The understanding of what is true and what is false is its own action, and such action will be efficient, effective `practical'. But most of us are so caught up in action, in doing or organizing something or in carrying out some plan, that to be concerned with what is true and what is false seems complex and unnecessary. That is why all our action inevitably leads to mischief and misery.
The mere absence of hate is not love. To tame hate, to force it to be still, is not to love. Silence is not the outcome of noise, it is not a reaction whose cause is noise. The `silence' that grows from noise has its roots in noise. Silence is a state totally outside the machinery of the mind; the mind cannot conceive of it, and the mind's attempts to reach silence are still part of noise. Silence is in no way related to noise. Noise must totally cease for silence to be.
When there is silence in the teacher, it will help the children to be silent.
Chapter - 29
Where there is Attention, Reality is
THE CLOUDS WERE against the hills, hiding them and the mountains beyond. It had been raining all day, a soft drizzle which didn't wash away the earth, and there was in the air the pleasant smell of the jasmine and the rose. The grain was ripening in the fields; among the rocks, where the goats fed, were low bushes, with here and there a gnarled old tree. There was a spring high up on the hillside that was always flowing, summer and winter, and the water made a pleasant sound as it ran down the hill, past a grove of trees, and disappeared among the open fields beyond the village. A small bridge of cut stone was being built over the stream by the villagers, under the supervision of a local engineer. He was a friendly old man, and they worked in a leisurely manner when he was about. But when he was not there, only one or two carried on; the rest of them, putting down their tools and their baskets, sat around and talked.
Along the path by the stream came a villager with a dozen donkeys. They were returning from the nearby town with empty sacks. These donkeys had thin, graceful legs, and they were trotting along quite fast, pausing now and then to nibble the green grass on each side of the path. They were going home, and had not to be driven. All along the path there were little plots of cultivated land, and a gentle breeze wag stirring among the young corn. In a small house, a woman with a clear voice was singing; it brought tears to your eyes, not from some nostalgic remembrance, but from the sheer beauty of the sound. You sat under a tree, and the earth and the heavens entered your being. Beyond the song and the red earth was the silence, the total silence, in which all life is in movement. There were now fireflies among the trees and bushes, and in the gathering darkness they were bright and clear; the amount of light they gave was surprising. On a dark rock, the soft, flashing light of a single firefly held the light of the world.
He was young and very earnest, with clear, sharp eyes. Although in his thirties, he was not yet married; but sex and marriage were not a serious problem, he added. A well-built man, he had vigour in his gestures and in his walk. He was not given to much reading, but he had read a certain number of serious books, and had thought about things. Employed in some governmental office, he said his pay was good enough. He liked outdoor games, especially tennis, at which he was evidently quite good. He didn't care for cinemas, and had but few friends. It was his practice, he explained, to meditate morning and evening for about an hour; and after hearing the previous evening's talk, he had decided to come along to discuss the meaning and significance of meditation. As a boy, he often used to go with his father into a small room to meditate; he could bring himself to stay there for only ten minutes or so, and his father didn't seem to mind. That room had a single picture on the wall, and no member of the family went into it except for the purpose of meditation. While his father had neither encouraged nor discouraged him in the matter, and had never told him how to meditate, or what it was all about, somehow, ever since he was a boy, he had liked to meditate. While he was in college, it had been difficult for him to keep regular hours; but later, once he got a job, he had meditated for an hour every morning and every evening, and now he wouldn't miss those two hours of meditation for anything in the world.
"I have come, sir, not to argue, or to defend anything, but to learn. Although I have read about the various types of meditation for different temperaments, and have evolved a way of controlling my thoughts I am not foolish enough to imagine that what I am doing is really meditation. However, if I am not mistaken, most authorities on meditation do advocate control of thought; that seems to be the essence of it. I have also practised a little yoga as a means of quieting the mind: special breathing exercises, repeating certain words and chants, and so on. All this is merely by way of introducing myself, and it may not be important. The point is, I am really interested in practising meditation, it has become vital to me, and I want to know more about it."
Meditation has significance only when there's an understanding of the meditator. In practising what you call meditation, the meditator is apart from the meditation, isn't he? Why is there this difference, this gap between them? Is it inevitable, or must the gap be bridged? Without really understanding the truth or the falseness of this apparent division, the results of so-called meditation are similar to those which can be brought about by any tranquillizer that is taken to quiet the mind. If one's purpose is to bring thought under domination, then any system or drug that produces the desired effect will do.
"But you wipe away at one stroke all the yogic exercises, the traditional systems of meditation that have been practised and advocated through the centuries by the many saints and ascetics. How can they all be wrong?"
Why shouldn't they all be wrong? Why this gullibility? Is not a tempered scepticism helpful in understanding this whole problem of meditation? You accept because you are eager for results, for success; you want to `arrive'. To understand what meditation is, there must be questioning, inquiry; and mere acceptance destroys inquiry. You have to see for yourself the false as the false and the truth in the false and the truth as the truth; for none can instruct you concerning it. Meditation is the way of life, it is part of daily existence, and the fullness and beauty of life can only be understood through meditation. Without understanding the whole complexity of life, and the everyday reactions from moment to moment, meditation becomes a process of self-hypnosis. Meditation of the heart is the understanding of daily problems. You can't go very far if you don't begin very near.
"I can understand that. One cannot climb the mountain without first going through the valley. I have endeavoured in my daily life to remove the obvious barriers, like greed, envy, and so on, and somewhat to my own surprise I have managed to put aside the things of the world. I quite see and appreciate that a right foundation must be laid, otherwise no building can stand. But meditation isn't merely a matter of taming the burning desires and passions. The passions must be subjugated, brought under control; but surely, sir, meditation is something more than this, isn't it? I am not quoting any authority, but I do feel that meditation is something far greater than merely laying the right foundation."
That may be; but at the very beginning is the totality. It is not that one must first lay the right foundation, and then build, or first be free from envy, and then `arrive'. In the very beginning is the ending. There's no distance to be covered, no climbing, no point of arrival. Meditation itself is timeless, it's not a way of arriving at a timeless state. It is, without a beginning and without an ending. But these are mere words, and they will remain as such as long as you don't inquire into and understand for yourself the truth and the falseness of the meditator.
"Why is that so important?"
The meditator is the censor, the watcher, the maker of `right' and `wrong' effort. He's the centre, and from there he weaves the net of thought; but thought itself has made him; thought has brought about this gap between the thinker and the thought. Unless this division ceases, so-called meditation only strengthens the centre, the experiencer who thinks of himself as apart from the experience. The experiencer always craving more experience; each experience strengthens the accumulation of past experiences, which in turn dictates, shapes the present experience. Thus the mind is ever conditioning itself. So experience and knowledge are not the liberating factors that they are supposed to be.
"I'm afraid I don't understand all this," he said, rather bewildered.
The mind is free only when it is no longer conditioned by its own experiences, by knowledge, by vanity, envy; and meditation is the freeing of the mind from all these things, from all self-centred activities and influences.
"I realize that the mind must be free from all self-centred activities, but I do not quite follow what you mean by influences."
Your mind is the result of influence, isn't it? From childhood your mind is influenced by the food you eat, by the climate you live in, by your parents, by the books you read, by the cultural environment in which you are educated, and so on. You are taught what to believe and what not to believe; your mind is a result of time, which is memory, knowledge. All experiencing is a process of interpreting in terms of the past, of the known, and so there's no freedom from the known; there is only a modified continuity of what has been. The mind is free only when this continuity comes to an end.
"But how does one know that one's mind is free?"
This very desire to be certain, to be secure, is the beginning of bondage. It's only when the mind is not caught in the net of certainty, and is not seeking certainty, that it is in a state of discovery.
"The mind does want to be certain about everything, and I see now how this desire can be a hindrance."
What is important is to die to everything that one has accumulated, for this accumulation is the self, the ego, the `me'. Without the ending of this accumulation there is the continuity of the desire to be certain, as there is the continuation of the past.
"Meditation, I am beginning to see, is not simple. Just to control thought is comparatively easy, and to worship an image, or to repeat certain words and chants, is merely to put the mind to sleep; but real meditation seems to be much more complex and arduous than I ever imagined."
It is really not complex, though it may be arduous. You see, we don't start with the actual, with the fact, with what we are thinking, doing, desiring; we start with assumptions or with ideals, which are not actualities and so we are led astray. To start with facts, and not with assumptions, we need close attention; and every form of thinking not originating from the actual is a distraction. That's why it is so important to understand what is actually taking place both within and around one.
"Are not visions actualities?"
Are they? Let's find out. If you are a Christian, your visions follow a certain pattern; if you are a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Moslem, they follow a different pattern. You see Christ or Krishna, according to your conditioning; your education, the culture in which you have been brought up, determines your visions. Which is the actuality: the vision, or the mind which has been shaped in a certain mould? The vision is the projection of the particular tradition which happens to form the background of the mind. This conditioning, not the vision which it projects, is the actuality, the fact. To understand the fact is simple; but it is made difficult by our likes and dislikes, by of the fact, by the opinions or judgments we have about the fact. To be free of these various forms of evaluation is to understand the actual, the what is. "You are saying that we never look at a fact directly, but always through our prejudices and memories, through our traditions and our experiences based upon these traditions. To use your word, we are never aware of ourselves as we actually are. Again, I see that you are right, sir. The fact is the one thing that matters."
Let us look at the whole problem differently. What is attention? When are you attentive? And do you ever really pay attention to anything?
"I pay attention when I am interested in something."
Is interest attention? When you are interested in something, what's actually happening to the mind? You are evidently interested in watching those cattle go by; what is this interest?
"I am attracted by their movement, their colour, their form, against the green background."
Is there attention in this interest?
"I think there is."
A child is absorbed in a toy. Would you call that attention?
The toy absorbs the interest of the child, it takes over his mind, and he's quiet, no longer restless; but take away the toy, and he again becomes restless, he cries, and so on. Toys become important because they keep him quiet. It is the same with grown-ups. Take away their toys - activity, belief, ambition, the desire for power, the worshipping of gods or of the state, the championing of a cause - and they too become restless, lost, confused; so the toys of the grown-ups also become important. Is there attention when the toy absorbs the mind? The toy is a distraction, is it not? The toy becomes all-important, and not the mind which is taken over by the toy. To understand what attention is, we must be concerned with the mind, not with the toys of the mind.
"Our toys, as you call them, hold the mind's interest."
The toy which holds the mind's interest may be the Master, a picture, or any other image made by the hand or by the mind; and this holding of the mind's interest by a toy is called concentration. Is such concentration attention? When you are concentrated in this manner and the mind is absorbed in a toy, is there attention? Is not such concentration a narrowing down of the mind? And is this attention?
"As I have practised concentration, it is a struggle to keep the mind fixed upon a particular point to the exclusion of all other thoughts, all distractions." Is there attention when there is resistance against distractions? Surely, distractions arise only when the mind has lost interest in the toy; and then there's a conflict, isn't there?
"Certainly, there's a conflict to overcome the distractions."
Can you pay attention when there's a conflict going on in the mind?
"I am beginning to see what you are driving at, sir. Please proceed."
When the toy absorbs the mind, there's no attention; neither is there attention when the mind is struggling to concentrate by excluding distractions. As long as there's an object of attention, is there attention?
"Aren't you saying the same thing, only using the word `object' instead of `toy'?"
The object, or toy, may be external; but there are also inward toys, are there not?
"Yes, sir, you have enumerated some of them. I am aware of this."
A more complex toy is motive. Is there attention when there's a motive to be attentive?
"What do you mean by a motive?"
A compulsion to action; an urge towards self-improvement, based on fear, greed, ambition; a cause that drives you to seek; suffering that makes you want to escape, and so on. Is there attention when some hidden motive is in operation?
"When I am compelled to be attentive by pain or pleasure, by fear or the hope of reward, then there's no attention. Yes, I see what you mean. This is very clear, sir, and I am following you."
So there's no attention when we approach anything in that manner. And does not the word, the name, interfere with attention? For example, do we ever look at the moon without verbalization, or does the word `moon' always interfere with our looking? Do we ever listen to anything with attention, or do our thoughts, our interpretations, and so on, interfere with our listening? Do we ever really pay attention to anything? Surely attention has no motive, no object, no toy; no struggle, no verbalization. This is true attention, is it not? Where there is attention, reality is.
"But it's impossible to pay such full attention to anything!" he exclaimed. "If one could, there wouldn't be any problems."
Every other form of `attention' only increases the problems, doesn't it? "I see that it does, but what is one to do?"
When you see that any concentration on toys, any action based on motive, whatever it be, only furthers mischief and misery, then in this seeing of the false there's the perception of the true; and truth has its own action. All this is meditation.
"If I may say so, sir, I have rightly listened, and have really understood many of the things you have explained. What is understood will have its own effect, without my interfering with its I hope I may come again."
Chapter - 30
Self-interest Decays the Mind
WINDING FROM ONE side of the valley to the other, the path crossed over a small bridge where the swiftly-running water was brown from the recent rains. Turning north, it led on over gentle slopes to a secluded village. That village and its people were very poor. The dogs were mangy, and they would bark from a distance never venturing near, their tails down, their heads held high, ready to run. Many goats were scattered about on the hillside, bleating, and eating the wild bushes. It was beautiful country, green, with blue hills. The bare granite projecting from the tops of the hills had been washed by the rains of countless centuries. These hills were not high, but they were very old, and against the blue sky they had a fantastic beauty, that strange loveliness of measureless time. They were like the temples that man builds to resemble them, in his longing to reach the heavens. But that evening, with the setting sun on them, these hills seemed very close. Far to the south a storm was gathering, and the lightning among the clouds gave a strange feeling to the land. The storm would break during the night; but the hills had stood through the storms of untold ages, and they would always be there, beyond all the toil and sorrow of man.
The villagers were returning to their homes, weary after a day's work in the fields. Soon you would see smoke rising from their huts as they prepared the evening meal. It wouldn't be much; and the children, waiting for their meal, would smile as you went by. They were large-eyed and shy of strangers, but they were friendly. Two little girls held small babies on their hips while their mothers were cooking; the babies would slip down, and get jerked up onto the hips again. Though only ten or twelve years old, these little girls were already used to holding babies; and they both smiled. The evening breeze was among the trees, and the cattle were being brought in for the night.
On that path there was now no other person, not even a lonely villagers. The earth seemed suddenly empty, strangely quiet. The new, young moon was just over the dark hills. The breeze had stopped, not a leaf was stirring; everything was still, and the mind was completely alone. It wasn't lonely, isolated, enclosed within its own thought, but alone, untouched, uncontaminated. It wasn't aloof and distant, apart from the things of the earth. It was alone, and yet with everything; because it was alone, everything was of it. That which is separate knows itself as being separated; but this aloneness knew no separation, no division. The trees, the stream, the villager calling in the distance, were all within this aloneness. It was not an identification with man, with the earth, for all identification had utterly vanished. In this aloneness, the sense of the passing of time had ceased.
There were three of them, a father, his son and friends. The father must have been in his late fifties, the son in his thirties, and the friend was of uncertain age. The two older men were bald, but the son still had plenty of hair. He had a well-shaped head, a rather short nose and wide-set eyes. His lips were restless, though he sat quietly enough. The father had seated himself behind his son and the friend, saying that he would take part in the talk if necessary, but otherwise would just watch and listen. A sparrow came to the open window and flew away again, frightened by so many people in the room. It knew that room, and would often perch on the window-sill, chirping softly, without fear.
"Though my father may not take part in the conversation," the son began, "he wants to be in on it, for the problem is one that concerns us all. My mother would have come had she not been feeling so unwell, and she is looking forward to the report we shall make to her. We have read some of the things you have said and my father particularly has followed your talks from afar; but it is only within the last year or so that I have myself taken a real interest in what you are saying. Until recently, politics have absorbed the greater part of my interest and enthusiasm; but I have begun to see the immaturity of politics. The religious life is only for the maturing mind, and not for politicians and lawyers. I have been a fairly successful lawyer, but am a lawyer no longer, as I want to spend the remaining years of my life in something vastly more significant and worth whiles I am speaking also for my friend, who wanted to accompany us when he heard we were coming here. You see, sir, our problem is the fact that we are all growing old. Even I, though still comparatively young, am coming to that period of life when time seems to fly, when one's days seem so short and death so near. Death, for the moment at least, is not a problem; but old age is."
What do you mean by old age? Are you referring to the aging of the physical organism, or of the mind?
"The aging of the body is of course inevitable, it wears out through use and disease. But need the mind age and deteriorate?"
To think speculatively is futile and a waste of time. Is the deterioration of the mind a supposition, or an actual fact?
"It is a fact, sir. I am aware that my mind is growing old, tired; slow deterioration is taking place."
Is this not also a problem with the young, though they may still be unaware of it? Their minds are even now set in a mould; their thought is already enclosed within a narrow pattern. But what do you mean when you say that your mind is growing old?
"It is not as pliable, as alert as sensitive as it used to be. Its awareness is shrinking; its responses to the many challenges of life are increasingly from the storage of the past. It's deteriorating, functioning more and more within the limits of its own setting."
Then what makes the mind deteriorate? It is self-protectiveness and resistance to change, is it not? Each one has a vested interest which he is consciously or unconsciously protecting, watching over, and not allowing anything to disturb.
"Do you mean a vested interest in property?"
Not only in property, but in relationships of every kind. Nothing can exist in isolation. Life is relationship; and the mind has a vested interest in its relationship to people, to ideas, and to things. This self-interest, and the refusal to bring about a fundamental revolution within itself, is the beginning of the mind's deterioration. Most minds are conservative, they resist changes. Even the so-called revolutionary mind is conservative, for once it has gained its revolutionary success, it also resists change; the revolution itself becomes its vested interest. Even though the mind, whether it be conservative or so-called revolutionary, may permit certain modifications on the fringes of its activities, it resists all change at the centre. Circumstances may compel it to yield, to adapt itself, with pain or with ease, to a different pattern; but the centre remains hard, and it's this centre that causes the deterioration of the minds.
"What do you mean by the centre?"
Don't you know? Are you seeking a description of it?
"No, sir, but through the description I may touch it, get the feeling of it."
"Sir," put in the father, "we may intellectually be aware of that centre, but actually most of us have never come face to face with it. I have myself seen it cunningly and subtly described in various books, but I have never really confronted it; and when you ask if we know it, I for one can only say that I don't. I only know the descriptions of it."
"It is again our vested interest," added the friend, "our deep-rooted desire for security, that prevents us from knowing that centre. I don't know my own son, though I have lived with him from infancy, and I know even less that which is much closer than my son. To know it one must look at it, observe it, listen to it, but I never do. I am always in a hurry; and when occasionally I do look at it, I am at odds with it."
We are talking of the ageing, the deteriorating mind. The mind is ever building the pattern of its own certainty, the security of its own interests; the words, the form, the expression may vary from time to time, from culture to culture, but the centre of self-interest remains. It is this centre that causes the mind to deteriorate, however outwardly alert and active it may be. This centre is not a fixed point, but various points within the mind, and so it's the mind itself. Improvement of the mind, or moving from one centre to another, does not banish these centres; discipline, suppression or sublimation of one centre only establishes another in its place.
Now, what do we mean when we say we are alive?
"Ordinarily," replied the son, "we consider ourselves alive when we talk, when we laugh, when there's sensation, when there's thought, activity, conflict, joy."
So what we call living is acceptance or `revolt' within the social pattern; it's a movement within the cage of the mind. Our life is an endless series of pains and pleasures, fears and frustrations, wanting and graspings; and when we do consider the mind's deterioration, and ask whether it's possible to put an end to it, our inquiry is also within the cage of the mind. Is this living?
"I'm afraid we know no other life," said the father. "As we grow older, pleasures shrink while sorrows seem to increase; and if one is at all thoughtful, one is aware that one's mind is gradually deteriorating. The body inevitably grows old and knows decay; but how is one to prevent this aging of the mind?"
We lead a thoughtless life, and towards the end of it we begin to wonder why the mind decays, and how to arrest the process. Surely, what matters is how we live our days, not only when we are young, but also in middle life, and during the declining years. The right kind of life demands of us far more intelligence than any vocation for earning a livelihood. Right thinking is essential for right living.
"What do you mean by right thinking?" asked the friend.
There's a vast difference, surely, between right thinking and right thought. Right thinking is constant awareness; right thought, on the other hand, is either conformity to a pattern set by society, or a reaction against society. Right thought is static, it is a process of grouping together certain concepts, called ideals, and following them. Right thought inevitably builds up the authoritarian, hierarchical outlook and engenders respectability; whereas right thinking is awareness of the whole process of conformity, imitation acceptance, revolt. Right thinking, unlike right thought, is not a thing to be achieved; it arises spontaneously with self-knowledge, which is the perception of the ways of the self. Right thinking cannot be learnt from books, or from another; it comes through the mind's awareness of itself in the action of relationship. But there can be no understanding of this action as long as the mind justifies or condemns it. So, right thinking eliminates conflict and self-contradiction, which are the fundamental causes of the mind's deterioration.
"Is not conflict an essential part of life?" asked the son. "If we did not struggle, we would merely vegetate."
We think we are alive when we are caught up in the conflict of ambition, when we are driven by the compulsion of envy, when desire pushes us into action; but all this only leads to greater misery and confusion. Conflict increases self-centred activity, but the understanding of conflict comes about through right thinking.
"Unfortunately this process of struggle and misery, with some joy, is the only life we know," said the father. "There are intimations of another kind of life, but they are few and far between. To go beyond this mess and find that other life is ever the object of our search."
To search for what is beyond the actual is to be caught in illusion. Everyday existence, with its ambitions, envies, and so on, must be understood; but to understand it demands awareness right thinking. There's no right thinking when thought starts with an assumption, a bias. Setting out with a conclusion, or looking for a preconceived answer, puts an end to right thinking; in fact, there is then no thinking at all. So, right thinking is the foundation of righteousness.
"It seems to me," put in the son, "that at least one of the factors in this whole problem of the mind's deterioration is the question of right occupation."
What do you mean by right occupation?
"I have noticed, sir, that those who become wholly absorbed in some activity or profession soon forget themselves; they are too busy to think about themselves, which is a good thing."
But isn't such absorption an escape from oneself? And to escape from oneself is wrong occupation; it is corrupting, it breeds enmity, division, and so on. Right occupation comes through the right kind of education, and with the understanding of oneself. Haven't you noticed that whatever the activity or profession, the self consciously or unconsciously uses it as a means for its own gratification, for the fulfilment of its ambition, or for the achievement of success in terms of power?
"That is so, unfortunately. We seem to use everything we touch for our own advancement."
It is this self-interest, this constant self-advancement, that makes the mind petty; and though its activity be extensive, though it be occupied with politics science, art, research, or what you will, there is a narrowing down of thinking, a shallowness that brings about deterioration, decay. Only when there's understanding of the totality of the mind, the unconscious as well as the conscious, is there a possibility of the mind's regeneration.
"Worldliness is the curse of the modern generation," said the father. "It is carried away by the things of the world, and does not give thought to serious things."
This generation is like other generations. Worldly things are not merely refrigerators, silk shirts, airplanes, television sets, and so on; they include ideals, the seeking of power, whether personal or collective, and the desire to be secure, either in this world or the next. All this corrupts the mind and brings about its decay. The problem of deterioration is to be understood at the beginning, in one's youth, not at the period of physical decline.
"Does that mean there's no hope for us?"
Not at all. It's more arduous to stop the mind's deterioration at our age, that's all. To bring about a radical change in the ways of our life, there must be expanding awareness, and a great depth of feeling which is love. With love everything is possible.
Chapter - 31
The Importance of Chance
The large black ants had made a path through the grass, across a stretch of sand, over a pile of rubble and through the gap in an ancient wall. A little beyond the wall was a hole which was their home. There was an extraordinary coming and going on that path, an incessant bustle in both directions. Each ant would hesitate a second as it went by another; their heads would touch, and on they would go again. There must have been thousands of them. Only when the sun was directly overhead was that path deserted, and then all activity would be centred around their nest near the wall; they were excavating, each ant bringing out a grain of sand, a pebble or a bit of earth. When you gently knocked on the ground nearby, there was a general scramble. They would pour out of the hole, looking for the aggressor; but soon they would settle down and resume their work. As soon as the sun was on its westerly course and the evening breeze blew pleasantly cool from the mountains, they would march out again on their path, populating the silent world of the grass, the sand and the rubble. They went along that path for quite a distance, hunting, and they would find so many things: the leg of a grasshopper, a dead frog, the remains of a bird, a half-eaten lizard or some grain. Everything was attacked with fury; what couldn't be carried away was eaten on the spot, or taken home in pieces. Only rain stopped their constant activity, and with the last drops they were out again. If you put your finger on their path, they would feel all around the tip, and a few would climb up it, only to come down again.
The ancient wall had a life of its own. Near the top there were holes in which bright green parrots, with curving red beaks, had made their nests. They were a shy lot, and didn't like you to come too near. Screeching and clinging to the crumbling red bricks, they would wait to see what you were going to do. If you didn't come any nearer, they would wriggle into the holes, leaving only their pale green tail feathers sticking out; there would then be another wriggle, the feathers would disappear, and their red beaks and shapely green heads would be showing. They were settling down for the night.
The wall enclosed an ancient tomb whose dome, catching the last rays of the setting sun, glowed as if someone had turned on a light from within. The whole structure was well-built and splendidly proportioned; it had not a line that could jar you, and it stood out against the evening sky, seemingly freed from the earth. All things were intensely alive, and all things - the ancient tomb, the crumbling red bricks, the green parrots, the busy ants, the whistle of a distant train, the silence and the stars - were merged into the totality of life. It was a benediction.
Although it was late, they had wanted to come, so we all went into the room. Lanterns had to be lit, and in the hurry one was broken, but the remaining two gave enough light for us to see each other as we sat in a circle on the floor. One of those who had come was a clerk in some office; he was small and nervous, and his hands were never still. Another must have had a little more money, for he owned a shop and had the air of a man who was making his way in the world. Heavily built and rather fat, he was inclined to easy laughter, but was now serious. The third visitor was an old man, and being retired, he explained, he had more time to study the Scriptures and perform puja, a religious ceremony. The fourth was an artist with long hair, who watched with a steady eye every movement, every gesture we made; he wasn't going to miss anything. We were all silent for a while. Through the open window one or two stars could be seen, and the strong perfume of jasmine came into the room.
"I would like to sit quietly like this for a longer period," said the merchant. "It's a blessing to feel this quality of silence, it has a healing effect; but I don't want to waste time explaining my immediate feelings, and I suppose I had better get on with what I came to talk about. I have had a very strenuous life, more so than most people; and while I am not by any means a rich man, I am now comfortably well off. I have always tried to lead a religious life. I haven't been too covetous, I have been charitable, and I haven't deceived others unnecessarily; but when you are in business, you have sometimes to avoid telling the exact truth. I could have made a great deal more money, but I denied myself that pleasure. I amuse myself in simple ways but on the whole I have led a serious life; it could have been better, but it really hasn't been bad. I am married, and have two children. Briefly, sir, that's my personal history. I have read some of your books and attended your discourses, and I have come here to be instructed in how to lead a more deeply religious life. But I must let the other gentlemen talk."
"My work is a rather tiresome routine, but I am not qualified for any other job," said the clerk. "My own needs are few, and I am not married; but I have to support my parents, and I am also helping my younger brother through college. I am not at all religious in the orthodox sense, but the religious life appeals to me very strongly. I am often tempted to give up everything and become a sannyasi, but a sense of responsibility to my parents and my brother makes me hesitate. I have meditated every day for many years, and since hearing your explanation of what real meditation is, I have tried to follow it; but it's very difficult, at least for me, and I can't seem to get into the way of it. Also, my position as a clerk, which requires me to work all day long at something in which I have not the slightest interest, is hardly conducive to higher thought. But I deeply crave to find the truth, if it's ever possible for me to do so, and while I am young I want to set a right course for the rest of my life; so here I am."
"For my part," said the old man, "I am fairly familiar with the Scriptures, and since retiring as a government official several years ago, my time is my own. I have no responsibilities; all my children are grown up and married, so I am free to meditate, to read, and to talk of serious things. I have always been interested in the religious life. From time to time I have listened attentively to one or other of the various teachers, but I have never been satisfied. In some cases their teachings are utterly childish, while others are dogmatic, orthodox and merely explanatory. I have recently been attending some of your talks and discussions. I follow a great deal of what you say, but there are certain points with which I cannot agree - or rather, which I don't understand. Agreement, as you have explained, can exist with regard to opinions, conclusions, ideas, but there can be no `agreement' with regard to truth; either one sees it, or one does not. Specifically, I would like further clarification on the ending of thought."
"I am an artist, but not yet a very good one," said the man with the long hair. "I hope one day to go to Europe to study art; here we have mediocre teachers. To me, beauty in any form is an expression of reality; it's an aspect of the divine. Before I start to paint I meditate, like the ancients, on the deeper beauty of life. I try to drink at the spring of all beauty, to catch a glimpse of the sublime, and only then do I begin my day's painting. Sometimes it comes through, but more often it doesn't; however hard I try, nothing seems to happen, and whole days, even weeks, are wasted. I have also tried fasting, along with various exercises, both physical and intellectual, hoping to awaken the creative feeling; but all to no avail. Everything else is secondary to that feeling, without which one cannot be a true artist, and I will go to the ends of the earth to find it. That is why I have come here."
All of us sat quietly for a time, each with his own thoughts.
Are your several problems different, or are they similar, though they may appear to be different? Is it not possible that there is one basic issue underlying them all?
"I am not sure that my problem is in any way related to that of the artist," said the merchant. "He is after inspiration, the creative feeling, but I want to lead a more deeply spiritual life."
"That's precisely what I want to do too," replied the artist, "only I have expressed it differently."
We like to think that our particular problem is exclusive, that our sorrow is entirely different from that of others; we want to remain separate at all costs. But sorrow is sorrow, whether it is yours or mine. If we don't understand this, we cannot proceed; we shall feel cheated, disappointed, frustrated. Surely, all of us here are after the same thing; the problem of each is essentially the problem of all. If we really feel the truth of this, then we have already gone a long way in our understanding, and we can inquire together; we can help each other, listen to and learn from each other. Then the authority of a teacher has no meaning, it becomes silly. Your problem is the problem of another; your sorrow is the sorrow of another. Love is not exclusive. If this is clear, sirs, let us proceed.
"I think we all now see that our problems are not unrelated," replied the old man, and the others nodded in approval.
Then what is our common problem? Please don't answer immediately, but let us consider.
Is it not, sirs, that there must be a fundamental transformation in oneself? Without this transformation, inspiration is always transitory, and there is a constant struggle to recapture it; without this transformation, any effort to lead a spiritual life can only be very superficial, a matter of rituals, of the bell and the book; without this transformation, meditation becomes a means of escape, a form of self-hypnosis.
"That is so," said the old man. "Without a deep inward change, all effort to be religious or spiritual is a mere scratching on the surface."
"I am entirely one with you, sir," added the man from the office.
"I do feel that there must be a fundamental change in me, otherwise I shall go on like this for the rest of my life, groping, asking and doubting. But how is one to bring about this change?"
"I also can see that there must be an explosive change within myself if that which I am groping after is to come into being," said the artist. "A radical transformation in oneself is obviously essential. But, as that gentleman has already asked, how is such a change to be brought about?"
Let us give our minds and hearts to the discovery of the manner of its happening. What is important, surely, is to feel the urgent necessity of changing fundamentally, and not merely be persuaded by the words of another that you ought to change. An exciting description may stimulate you to feel that you must change, but such a feeling is very superficial, and it will pass away when the stimulant is gone. But if you yourself see the importance of change, if you feel, without any form of compulsion, without any motivation or influence that radical transformation is essential, then this very feeling is the action of transformation.
"But how is one to have this feeling?" asked the merchant.
What do you mean by the word `how'?
"Since I have not got this feeling for change, how can I cultivate it?" Can you cultivate this feeling? Must it not arise spontaneously from your own direct perception of the utter necessity for a radical transformation? The feeling creates its own means of action. By logical reasoning you may come to the conclusion that a fundamental change is necessary, but such intellectual or verbal comprehension does not bring about the action of change.
"Why not?" asked the old man.
Is not intellectual or verbal comprehension a superficial response? You hear, you reason, but your whole being does not enter into it. Your surface mind may agree that a change is necessary, but the totality of your mind is not giving its complete attention; it's divided in itself.
"Do you mean, sir, that the action of change takes place only when there's total attention?" asked the artist.
Let's consider it. One part of the mind is convinced that this fundamental change is necessary, but the rest of the mind is unconcerned; it may be in abeyance, or asleep, or actively opposed to such a change. When this happens, there's a contradiction within the mind, one part wanting change, and the other being indifferent or opposed to change. The resulting conflict, in which that part of the mind which wants change is trying to overcome the recalcitrant part, is called discipline, sublimation, suppression; it is also called following the ideal. An attempt is being made to build a bridge over the gap of self-contradiction. There is the ideal, the intellectual or verbal comprehension that there must be a fundamental transformation and the vague but actual feeling of not wanting to be bothered, the desire to let things go on as they are the fear of change, of insecurity. So there's a division in the mind; and the pursuit of the ideal is an attempt to bring together the two contradictory parts, which is an impossibility. We pursue the ideal because it doesn't demand immediate action; the ideal is an accepted and respected postponement.
"Then is trying to change oneself always a form of postponement?" asked the man from the office.
Isn't it? Haven't you noticed that when you say, "I will try to change," you have no intention of changing at all? You either change, or you don't; trying to change has actually very little significance. pursuing the ideal, attempting to change, compelling the two contradictory parts of the mind to come together by the action of the will, practising a method or a discipline to achieve such a unification, and so on - all this is useless and wasteful effort which actually prevents any fundamental transformation of the centre, the self, the ego.
"I think I understand what you are conveying," said the artist. "We are playing around with the idea of change, but never changing. Change requires drastic, unified action."
Yes; and unified or integrated action cannot take place as long as there's a conflict between opposing parts of the mind.
"I see that, I really do!" exclaimed the man from the office. "No amount of idealism, of logical reasoning, no convictions or conclusions, can bring about the change we are talking about. But then what will?"
Are you not, by that very question, preventing yourself from discovering the action of change? We are so eager for results that we do not pause between what we have just discovered to be true or false, and the uncovering of another fact. We hasten forward without fully understanding what we have already found.
We have seen that reasoning and logical conclusions will not bring about this change, this fundamental transformation of the centre. But before we ask ourselves what factor will bring it about, we must be fully aware of the tricks that the mind uses to convince itself that change is gradual and must be effected through the pursuit of ideals, and so on. Having seen the truth or the falseness of that whole process, we can proceed to ask ourselves what is the factor necessary for this radical change.
Now, what is it that makes you move, act?
"Any strong feeling. Intense anger makes me act; I may afterwards regret it, but the feeling explodes into action."
That is, your whole being is in it; you forget or disregard danger, you are lost to your own safety, security. The very feeling is action; there is no gap between the feeling and the act. The gap is created by the so-called reasoning process, a weighing of the pros and the cons according to one's convictions, prejudices, fears, and so on. Action is then political, it is stripped of spontaneity, of all humanity. The men who are seeking power, whether for themselves, their group or their country, act in this manner, and such action only breeds further misery and confusion.
"Actually," went on the man from the office, "even a strong feeling for fundamental change is soon erased by self-protective reasoning, by thinking what would happen if such a change took place in one, and so on."
The feeling is then hedged about by ideas, by words, is it not? There is a contradictory reaction, born of the desire not to be disturbed. If that is the case, then continue in your old way; don't deceive yourself by following the ideal, by saying that you are trying to change, and all the rest of it. Be simple with the fact that you don't want to change. The realization of this truth is in itself sufficient.
"But I do want to change."
Then change; but don't talk unfeelingly about the necessity of changing. It has no meaning.
"At my age," said the old man, "I have nothing to lose in the outward sense; but to give up the old ideas and conclusions is quite another matter. I now see at least one thing: that there can be no fundamental change without an awakening of the feeling for it. Reasoning is necessary, but it's not the instrument of action. To know is not necessarily to act."
But the action of feeling is also the action of knowing, the two are not separate; they are separate only when reason, knowledge, conclusion or belief induces action.
"I am beginning to see this very clearly, and my knowledge of the Scriptures, as a basis for action, is already losing its grip on my mind."
Action based on authority is no action at all; it is mere imitation, repetition.
"And most of us are caught in that process. But one can break away from it. I have understood a great deal this evening."
"So have I," said the artist. "To me, this discussion has been highly stimulating, and I don't think the stimulation will admit of any reaction. I have seen something very clearly, and I am going to pursue it, not knowing where it will lead."
"My life has been respectable," said the merchant, "and respectability is not conducive to change, especially of the fundamental kind we have been talking about. I have cultivated very earnestly the idealistic desire to change, and to lead a more genuinely religious life; but I now see that meditation upon life and the ways of change is far more essential."
"May I add yet another word?" asked the old man. "Meditation is not upon life; it is itself the way of life."