Commentaries on Living 
Chapter - 32
THE SUN WOULDN'T be up for two or three hours. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the stars were shouting with joy. The heavens were enclosed by the dark outline of the encircling hills, and the night was completely still; not a dog was barking, and the villagers were not yet up. Even the deep-throated owl was silent. The window let into the room the immensity of the night, and there was that strange feeling of being totally alone - an awakened aloneness. The little stream was flowing under the stone bridge, but you had to listen for it; its gentle murmur was all but inaudible in that vast silence, which was so intense, so penetrating, that your whole being was held in it. It was not the opposite of noise; noise could be in it, but was not of it.
It was still quite dark when we set out in the car, but the morning star was over the eastern hills. The trees and bushes were intensely green in the bright glare of the headlights as the car made its way in and out among the hills. The road was empty, but you couldn't go too fast because of the many curves. There was now the beginning of a glow in the east; and although we were chatting in the car, the awakening of meditation was going on. The mind was completely motionless; it wasn't asleep, it wasn't tired but utterly still. As the sky became brighter and brighter, the mind went further and further, deeper and deeper. Though it was aware of the huge ball of golden light, and of the talk that was going on, it was alone, moving without any resistance, without any directive; it was alone, like a light in darkness. It did not know it was alone - only the word knows. It was a movement that had no end and no direction. It was happening without a cause, and it would go on without time.
The headlights had been switched off, and in that early morning light the rich, green country was enchanting. There was heavy dew, and wherever the sun's rays touched the earth, countless jewels were sparkling with every colour of the rainbow. At that hour the bare granite rocks seemed soft and yielding - an illusion which the rising sun would soon take away. The road wound on between luscious rice fields and huge ponds, full to the brim with dancing waters, which would keep the country nourished till the next rainy season. But the rains weren't over yet; and how green and alive everything was! The cattle were fat, and the faces of the people on the road shone with the cool freshness of the morning. There were now many monkeys along the road. They were not the kind with long legs and long bodies that swing with ease and grace from branch to branch, or step lightly and haughtily in the fields, watching with grave faces as you go by. These were small monkeys, with long tails and dirty green-brown fur, full of play and mischief. One of them nearly got caught under the front wheel, but it was saved by its own quickness, and by the alertness of the driver.
Now it was broad daylight, and the villagers were on the move in greater numbers. The car had to go to the side of the road to pass the slow-moving bullock carts, of which there always seemed to be so many; and the Lorries would never give way to let you go by until you had blown your horn for a minute or two. Famous temples towered over the trees, and the car sped past the birthplace of a saintly teacher.
A small group had come; one woman and several men, but only three or four took part in the discussion. They were all earnest people, and you could see that they were good friends, though they had differences of thought. The first man who spoke had a well-trimmed beard, an aquiline nose and a high forehead; his dark eyes were sharp and very serious. The second one was painfully thin; he was bald and clear-skinned, and he couldn't keep his hands off his face. The third was plump, cheerful and easy of manner; he would look at you as though taking stock, and being dissatisfied, would look again to see if his count had been right. He had shapely hands, with long fingers. Though he would laugh easily, there was about him a depth of seriousness. The fourth had a pleasant smile, and his eyes were those of a man who had read a great deal. Though he took very little part in the conversation, he was by no means asleep. All the men were probably in their forties, but the woman appeared to be much younger; she never spoke, though she was attentive to what was going on.
"We have been talking things over amongst ourselves for several months, and we want to discuss with you a problem that has been bothering us," said the first speaker. "You see some of us are meat-eaters and others are not. Personally, I have never eaten meat in my life; it's repulsive to me in any form and I can't bear the idea of killing an animal to fill my stomach. Although we have not been able to agree as to what is the right thing to do in this matter, we have all remained good friends, and shall continue as such, I hope."
"I occasionally eat meat," said the second one. "I prefer not to, but when you travel it's often difficult to maintain a balanced diet without meat, and it's much simpler to eat it. I don't like to kill animals, I am sensitive about that kind of thing, but to eat meat now and then is all right. Many strait-laced cranks on the subject of vegetarianism are more sinful than people who kill to eat."
"My son shot a pigeon the other day, and we had it for dinner," said the third speaker. "The boy was quite excited to have brought it down with his new shotgun. You ought to have seen the look in his eyes! He was both appalled and pleased; feeling guilty, he had at the same time the air of a conqueror. I told him not to feel guilty. Killing is cruel, but it is part of life, and it is not too serious as long as it is practised in moderation and kept under proper control. Eating meat is not the dreadful crime that our friend here makes it out to be. I am not too much for bloody sports, but killing to eat is not a sin against God. Why make so much fuss about it?"
"As you can see, sir," went on the first speaker, "I haven't been able to convince them that killing animals for food is barbarous; and besides, eating meat is an unhealthy thing, as anyone knows who has taken the trouble to make an impartial investigation of the facts. With me, not eating meat is a matter of principle; in my family we have been non-meat-eaters for generations. It seems to me that man must eliminate from his nature this cruelty of killing animals for food if he is to become really civilized."
"That's what he's everlastingly telling us," interrupted the second one. "He wants to `civilize' us meat-eaters, yet other forms of cruelty do not seem to cause him any concern. He is a lawyer, and he does not mind the cruelty involved in the practice of his profession. However, in spite of our disagreement on this point, we are still friends. We have discussed the whole issue dozens of times, and as we never seem to get any further, we all agreed that we should come and talk it over with you."
"There are bigger and wider issues than killing some wretched animal for food," put in the fourth one. "It's all a matter of how you look at life."
What's the problem, sirs?
"To eat meat, or not to eat it," replied the non-meat-eater. Is that the main issue, or is it part of a larger issue?
"To me, a man's willingness or unwillingness to kill animals for the satisfaction of his appetite indicates his attitude towards the larger issues of life."
If we can see that to concentrate exclusively on any part does not bring about the comprehension of the whole, then perhaps we shall not get confused over the parts. Unless we are able to perceive the whole, the part assumes greater importance than it has. There's a bigger issue involved in all this isn't there? The problem is that of killing, and not merely killing animals for food. A man is not virtuous because he doesn't eat meat, nor is he any less virtuous because he does. The god of a petty mind is also petty; his pettiness is measured by that of the mind which puts flowers at his feet. The larger issue includes the many and apparently separate problems that man has created within himself and outside of himself. Killing is really a very great and complex problem. Shall we consider it, sirs?
"I think we should," replied the fourth one. "I am keenly interested in this problem, and to approach it along a wide front appeals to me."
There are many forms of killing, are there not? There is killing by a word or a gesture, killing in fear or in anger, killing for a country or an ideology, killing for a set of economic dogmas or religious beliefs.
"How does one kill by a word or a gesture?" asked the third speaker.
Don't you know? With a word or a gesture you may kill a man's reputation; through gossip, defamation, contempt, you may wipe him out. And does not comparison kill? Don't you kill a boy by comparing him with another who is cleverer or more skilful? A man who kills out of hate or anger is regarded as a criminal and put to death. Yet the man who deliberately bombs thousands of people off the face of the earth in the name of his country is honoured, decorated; he is looked upon as a hero. Killing is spreading over the earth. For the safety or expansion of one nation, another is destroyed. Animals are killed for food, for profit, or for so-called sport; they are vivisected for the `well-being' of man. The soldier exists to kill. Extraordinary progress is being made in the technology of murdering vast numbers of people in a few seconds and at great distances. Many scientists are wholly occupied with it, and priests bless the bomber and the warship. Also, we kill a cabbage or a carrot in order to eat; we destroy a pest. Where are we to draw the line beyond which we will not kill? "It's up to each individual," replied the second one.
Is it as simple as that? If you refuse to go to war, you are either shot or sent to prison, or perhaps to a psychiatric ward. If you refuse to take part in the nationalistic game of hate, you are despised, and you may lose your job; pressure is brought to bear in various ways to force you to conform. In the paying of taxes, even in the buying of a postage stamp, you are supporting war, the killing of ever-changing enemies.
"Then what is one to do?" asked the non-meat-eater. "I am well aware that I have legally killed, in the law courts, many times; but I am a strict vegetarian, and I never kill any living creature with my own hands."
"Not even a poisonous insect?" asked the second one.
"Not if I can help it."
"Someone else does it for you."
"Sir," went on the vegetarian lawyer, "are you suggesting that we should not pay taxes or write letters?"
Again, in being concerned first with the details of action, in speculating about whether we should do this or that, we get lost in the particular without comprehending the totality of the problem. The problem needs to be considered as a whole, does it not?
"I quite see that there must be a comprehensive view of the problem, but the details are important too. We can't neglect our immediate activity, can we?"
What do you mean by "a comprehensive view of the problem"? Is it a matter of mere intellectual agreement, verbal assent, or do you actually comprehend the total problem of killing?
"To be quite honest, sir, until now I haven't paid much attention to the wider implications of the problem. I have been concerned with one particular aspect of it."
Which is like not throwing the window wide open and looking at the sky, the trees, the people, the whole movement of life, but peering instead through a narrow crack in the casement. And the mind is like that: a small, unimportant part of it is very active, while the rest is dormant. This petty activity of the mind creates its own petty problems of good and bad, its political and moral values, and so on. If we could really see the absurdity of this process, we would naturally, without any compulsion, explore the wider fields of the mind.
So the issue we are discussing is not merely the killing or the non- killing of animals, but the cruelty and hate that are ever increasing in the world and in each one of us. That is our real problem, isn't it?
"Yes," replied the fourth one emphatically. "Brutality is spreading in the world like a plague; a whole nation is destroyed by its bigger and more powerful neighbour. Cruelty, hate, is the issue, not whether or not one happens to like the taste of meat."
The cruelty, the anger, the hate that exists in ourselves is expressed in so many ways: in the exploitation of the weak by the powerful and the cunning; in the cruelty of forcing a whole people, under pain of being liquidated, to accept a certain ideological pattern of life; in the building up of nationalism and sovereign governments through intensive propaganda; in the cultivation of organized dogmas and beliefs, which are called religion, but which actually separate man from man. The ways of cruelty are many and subtle.
"Even if we spent the rest of our lives looking, we couldn't uncover all the subtle ways in which cruelty expresses itself, could we?" inquired the third one. "Then how are we to proceed?"
"It seems to me," said the first speaker, "that we are missing the central issue. Each one of us is protecting himself; we are defending our self-interests, our economic or intellectual assets, or perhaps a tradition which affords us some profit, not necessarily monetary. This self-interest in everything we touch, from politics to God, is the root of the matter."
Again, if one may ask, is that a mere verbal assertion, a logical conclusion which can be torn to shreds or cunningly defended? Or does it reflect the perception of an actual fact that has significance in our daily life of thought and action?
"You are trying to bring us to distinguish between the word and the actual fact," said the third speaker, "and I am beginning to see how important it is that we should make this distinction. Otherwise we shall be lost in words, without any action - as in fact we are."
To act there must be feeling. A feeling for the whole issue makes for total action.
"When one feels deeply about anything," said the fourth man, "one acts, and such action is not impulsive or so-called intuitive; neither is it a premeditated, calculated act. It is born out of the depth of one's being. If that act causes mischief, pain, one cheerfully pays for it; but such an act is rarely mischievous. The question is, how is one to sustain this deep feeling?" "Before we go any further," put in the third man earnestly, "let's be clear about what you are explaining, sir. One is aware of the fact that to have complete action, there must be deep feeling, in which there is a full psychological comprehension of the problem; otherwise there are merely bits of action, which never stick together. That much is clear. Then, as we were saying, the word is not the feeling; the word may evoke the feeling, but this verbal evocation does not sustain the feeling. Now, can one not enter the world of feeling directly, without the description of it, without the symbol or the word? Isn't that the next question?"
Yes, sir. We are distracted by words, by symbols; we rarely feel except through the stimulation of the term, the description. The word `God' is not God, but that word leads us to react according to our conditioning. We can find out the truth or the falseness of God only when the word `God' no longer creates in us certain habitual physiological or psychological responses. As we were saying earlier, a total feeling makes for total action - or rather, a total feeling is total action. A sensation passes away, leaving you where you were before. But this total feeling we are talking about is not a sensation, it does not depend on stimulation; it sustains itself, no artifice is needed.
"But how is this total feeling to be aroused?" insisted the first speaker.
If one may say so, you are not seeing the point. Feeling that can be aroused is a matter of stimulation; it's a sensation to be nourished through various means, by this or that method. Then the means or the method becomes all-important, not the feeling. The symbol as a means to the feeling is enshrined in a temple, in a church, and then the feeling exists only through the symbol or the word. But is total feeling to be `aroused'? Consider, sir, don't answer.
"I see what you mean," said the third one. "Total feeling is not to be aroused at all; it's there, or it's not. This leaves us in a rather hopeless state, doesn't it?"
Does it? There's a sense of hopelessness because you want to arrive somewhere, you want to get that total feeling; and since you can't, you feel rather lost. It is this desire to arrive, to achieve, to become, that creates the method, the symbol, the stimulant, through which the mind comforts and distracts itself. So let us again consider the problem of killing, cruelty, hate.
To be concerned with `humanitarian' killing is quite absurd; to abstain from eating meat while destroying your son by comparing him with another is to be cruel; to take part in the respectable killing for your country or for an ideology is to cultivate hate; to be kind to animals and cruel to your fellow man by act, word, or gesture, is to breed enmity and brutality.
"Sir, I think I understand what you have just said; but how is total feeling to come about? I ask this only as a query in the movement of search. I am not asking for a method: I see the absurdity of that. I see, too, that the desire to achieve builds its own hindrances, and that to feel hopeless, or helpless, is silly. All this is now clear."
If it is clear, not just verbally or intellectually, but with the actuality of the pain that a thorn causes in your foot, then there's compassion, love. Then you have already opened the door to this total feeling of compassion. The compassionate man knows right action, Without love, you are trying to find out what is the right thing to do, and your action only leads to greater harm and misery; it is the action of politicians and reformers. Without love, you cannot comprehend cruelty; a peace of sorts may be established through the reign of terror; but war, killing, will continue at another level of our existence.
"We haven't got compassion, sir, and that's the real source of our misery," said the first man feelingly. "We are hard inside, an ugly thing in ourselves, but we bury it under kindly words and superficial acts of generosity. We are cancerous at heart, in spite of our religious beliefs and social reforms. It's in one's own heart that an operation must take place, and then a new seed can be planted. That very operation is the life of the new seed. The operation has begun, and may the seed bear fruit."
Chapter - 33
To Be Intelligent Is to Be Simple
THE SEA WAS very blue, and the setting sun was just touching the tops of the low-lying clouds. A boy of thirteen or fourteen, in a wet cloth, was standing by a car, shivering and pretending to be dumb; he was begging, and was putting on a very good act. Having got a few coins, he was off, sprinting across the sands. The waves were coming in very gently, and they didn't completely obliterate the footprints in passing over them. The crabs were racing with the waves, and dodging one's feet; they would let themselves be caught by a wave, and by the shifting sands, but they would come up again, ready for the next wave. Seated on a few logs tied together, a man had been right out to sea, and he was now coming in with two large fish; he was dark, burnt by many suns. Coming ashore with skill and ease, he drew his raft far up onto the dry sands, out of reach of the waves. Further along there was a grove of palm trees, bending towards the sea, and beyond them the town. A steamer on the horizon stood as if motionless, and a gentle breeze was blowing from the north. It was an hour of great beauty and stillness, in which the earth and the heavens met. You could sit on the sand and watch the waves come in and go out, endlessly, and their rhythmic movement seemed to pass over the land. Your mind was alive, but not as the restless sea; it was alive, and it reached from one horizon to the other. It had no height or depth, it was neither far nor near; there was no centre from which to measure or encircle the whole. The sea, the sky and the land were all there, but there was no observer. It was vast space and measureless light. The light of the setting sun was on the trees, it bathed the village and could be seen beyond the river; but this was a light that never set, a light that was ever shining. And strangely, there were no shadows in it; you did not cast your shadow across any part of it. You were not asleep, you had not closed your eyes, for now the stars were becoming visible; but whether you closed your eyes or kept them open, the light was always there. It was not to be caught and put in a shrine.
A mother of three children, she seemed simple, quiet and unassuming, but her eyes were alive and observant; they took in many things. As she talked, her rather nervous shyness disappeared, but she remained quietly watchful. Her eldest son had been educated abroad and was now working as an electronic engineer; the second one had a good job in a textile factory, and the youngest was just finishing college. They were all good boys, she said, and you could see she was proud of them. They had lost their father some years ago, but he had seen to it that they would have a good education and be self-supporting. What little else he had, he had left to her, and she was not in need of anything, for her wants were few. At this point she stopped talking, and was evidently finding it difficult to come out with something that was on her mind. Sensing what she wanted to talk about, I hesitantly questioned her. Do you love your children?
"Of course I do," she answered quickly, glad of the opening. "Who doesn't love their children? I have brought them up with loving care, and have been occupied all these years with their comings and goings, their sorrows and joys, and with all the other things that a mother cares about. They have been very good children, and have been very good to me. They all did well in their studies, and they will make their way in life; they may not leave their mark upon the world, but after all, so few do. We are all now living together, and when they get married I shall stay, if I am wanted, with one or other of them. Of course, I have my own house too, and I am not economically dependent on them. But it is strange that you should ask me that question."
"Well, I have never before talked about myself to anyone, not even to my sister, or to my late husband, and suddenly to be asked that question seemed rather strange - though I do want to talk it over with you. It took a lot of courage to come to see you, but now I am glad I came, and that you have made it so easy for me to talk. I have always been a listener, but not in your sense of the word. I used to listen to my husband and to his business associates whenever they dropped in. I have listened to my children and to my friends. But no one ever seemed to care to listen to me, and for the most part I was silent. In listening to others, one learns, but most of what one hears is nothing that one doesn't already know. The men gossiped as much as the women, besides complaining about their jobs and their bad pay; some talked about their hoped-for promotion, others about social reform, village work or what the guru had said. I listened to them all, and never opened my heart to anybody. Some were more clever, and others more stupid than I, but in most things they were not very different from me. I enjoy music, but I listen to it with a different ear. I seem to be listening to somebody or other most of the time; but there is also something else to which I listen, something which always eludes me. May I talk about it?"
Isn't that why you are here?
"Yes, I suppose it is. You see, I am approaching forty-five, and most of those years I have been occupied with others; I have been busy with a thousand and one things, all day and every day. My husband died five years ago, and since then I have been more than occupied with the children; and now, in a strange way, I am coming upon myself all the time. With my sister-in-law I attended your talk the other day, and something stirred in my heart, something which I always knew was there. I can't express it very well, and I hope you will understand what it is I want to say."
May I help you?
"I wish you would."
It is difficult to be simple right to the end of anything, isn't it? We experience something that is simple in itself, but it soon becomes complicated; it is hard to keep it within the bounds of its original simplicity. Don't you feel this is so?
"In a way, yes. There is a simple thing in my heart, but I don't know what it all means."
You said that you loved your children. What is the meaning of that word `love'?
"I told you what it means. To love one's children is to look after them, to see that they don't get hurt, that they don't make too many mistakes; it is to help them prepare for a good job, to see them happily married, and so on."
Is that all?
"What more can a mother do?"
If one may ask, does your love for your children fill your whole life, and not just a part of it?
"No," she admitted. "I love them, but it has never filled my whole life. The relationship with my husband was different. He might have filled my life, but not the children; and now that they have grown to young men, they have their own lives to live. They love me, and I love them; but the relationship between a man and his wife is different, and they will find their fullness of life in marrying the right woman."
Have you never wanted your children to be rightly educated, so that they would help to prevent wars, and not be killed for some idea or to satisfy some politician's craving for power? Doesn't your love make you want to help them to bring about a different kind of society, a society in which hatred, antagonism, envy, will have ceased to exist?
"But what can I do about it? I myself haven't been properly educated, so how can I possibly help to create a new social order?"
Don't you feel strongly about it?
"I'm afraid not. Do we feel strongly about anything?" Then is love not something strong, vital, urgent?
"It should be, but with most of us it is not. I love my sons, and pray that nothing bad will happen to them. If it does, what can I do but shed bitter tears over it?
"If you have love, isn't it strong enough to make you act? Jealousy, like hate, is strong and it does bring about forceful, vigorous action; but jealousy is not love. Then do we really know what love is?
"I have always thought that I loved my children, even though it hasn't been the greatest thing in my life."
Is there then a greater love in your life than your love for your children?
It had not been easy to come to this point, and she felt awkward and embarrassed as we came to it. For some time she wouldn't talk and we sat there without saying a word.
"I have never really loved," she began gently. "I have never felt very deeply about anything. I used to be very jealous, and it was a very strong feeling. It bit into my heart and made me violent; I cried, made scenes, and once, God forgive me, I struck. But that's all over and gone. Sexual desire was also very strong, but with each baby it diminished, and now it has completely disappeared. My feeling for my children isn't what it should be. I have never felt anything very strongly except jealousy and sex; and that doesn't go very far, does it?"
Not very far.
"Then what is love? Attachment, jealousy, even hate, is what I used to consider to be love; and of course sexual relationship. But I see now that sexual relationship is only a very small part of a much greater thing. The greater thing I have never known, and that is why sex became so consumingly important, at least for a time. When that faded away, I thought I loved my sons; but the fact is that I have loved them, if I may use that word at all, only in a very small way; and although they are good boys, they are just like thousands of others. I suppose we are all mediocre, satisfied with petty things: with ambition, prosperity, envy. Our lives are small, whether we live in palaces or huts. This is all very clear to me now, which it has never been before; but as you must know, I am not an educated person."
Education has nothing to do with it; mediocrity is not a monopoly of the uneducated. The scholar, the scientist, the very clever, may also be mediocre. Freedom from mediocrity, from pettiness, is not a matter of class or learning.
"But I have not thought much, I have not felt much; my life has been a sorry thing."
Even when we do feel strongly, it's generally about such petty things: about personal and family security, about the flag, about some religious or political leader. Our feeling is always for or against something; it isn't like a fire that burns brightly, without smoke.
"But who is to give us that fire?"
To depend on another, to look to a guru, a leader, is to take away the aloneness, the purity of the fire; it makes for smoke.
"Then, if we are not to ask for help, we must have the fire to begin with."
Not at all. At the beginning, the fire is not there. It has to be nurtured; there must be care, a wise putting away, with understanding, of those things that dampen the fire, that destroy the clarity of the flame. Then only is there the fire that nothing can extinguish.
"But that needs intelligence, which I haven't got."
Yes you have. In seeing for yourself how little your life is, how little you love; in perceiving the nature of jealousy; in beginning to be aware of yourself in everyday relationship, there is already the movement of intelligence. Intelligence is a matter of hard work, quick perception of the subtle tricks of the mind, facing the fact, and clear thinking, without assumptions or conclusions. To kindle the fire of intelligence, and to keep it alive, demands alertness and great simplicity.
"It is kind of you to say that I have intelligence; but have I?" she insisted.
It's good to inquire, but not to assert that you have or have not. To inquire rightly is in itself the beginning of intelligence. You hinder intelligence in yourself by your own convictions, opinions, assertions and denials. Simplicity is the way of intelligence - not the mere show of simplicity in outward things and behaviour, but the simplicity of inward non-being. When you say "I know", you are on the path of non-intelligence; but when you say "I don't know", and really mean it, you have already started on the path of intelligence. When a man doesn't know, he looks, listens, inquires. `To know' is to accumulate, and he who accumulates will never know; he is not intelligent. "If I am on the path of intelligence because I am simple and don't know much..."
To think in terms of `much' is to be unintelligent. `Much' is a comparative word, and comparison is based on accumulation.
"Yes, I see that. But, as I was saying, if one is on the path of intelligence because one is simple and really doesn't know anything then intelligence would seem to be tantamount to ignorance."
Ignorance is one thing, and the state of not knowing is quite another; the two are in no way connected. You may be very learned, clever, efficient, talented, and yet be ignorant. There is ignorance when there is no self-knowledge. The ignorant man is he who is unaware of himself, who does not know his own deceits, vanities, envies, and so on. Self-knowledge is freedom. You may know all about the wonders of the earth and of the heavens, and still not be free from envy, sorrow. But when you say "I don't know", you are learning. To learn is not to accumulate, either knowledge, things or relationships. To be intelligent is to be simple; but to be simple is extraordinarily arduous.
Chapter - 34
Confusion and Convictions
THE TOPS OF the mountains beyond the lake were in dark, heavy clouds, but the shores of the lake were in the sun. It was early spring, and the sun wasn't warm. The trees were still bare, their branches naked against the blue sky; but they were beautiful in their nakedness. They could wait with patience and certainty, for the sun was upon them, and in a few weeks more they would be covered with tender green leaves. A little path by the lake turned off through the woods, which were mostly evergreens; they extended for miles, and if you went far enough along that path you came to an open meadow, with trees all around it. It was a beautiful spot, secluded and far away. A few cows were sometimes grazing in the meadow, but the tinkling of their bells never seemed to disturb the solitude or take away the feeling of distance, of loneliness and familiar seclusion. A thousand people might come to that enchanted place, and when they had left, with their noise and litter, it would have remained unspoiled, alone and friendly.
That afternoon the sun was on the meadow, and on the tall, dark trees that stood around it, carved in green, stately, without movement. With your preoccupations and inward chatter, with your mind and eyes all over the place, restlessly wondering if the rain would catch you on your way back, you felt as though you were trespassing, not wanted there; but soon you were part of it, part of that enchanted solitude. There were no birds of any kind; the air was completely still, and the tops of the trees were motionless against the blue sky. The lush green meadow was the centre of this world, and as you sat on a rock, you were part of that centre. It wasn't imagination; imagination is silly. It wasn't that you were trying to identify yourself with what was so splendidly open and beautiful; identification is vanity. It wasn't that you were trying to forget or abnegate yourself in this unspoiled solitude of nature; all self-forgetful abnegation is arrogance. It wasn't the shock or the compulsion of so much purity; all compulsion is a denial of the true. You could do nothing to make yourself, or help yourself to be, part of that wholeness. But you were part of it, part of the green meadow, the hard rock, the blue sky and the stately trees. It was so. You might remember it, but then you would not be of it; and if you went back to it, you would never find it.
Suddenly you heard the clear notes of a flute; and along the path you met the player, a mere boy. He was never going to be a professional, but there was joy in his playing. He was looking after the cows. He was too shy to talk, so he played on his flute as you went down the path together. He would have come all the way down, but it was too far, and presently he turned back; but the notes of the flute were still in the air.
They were husband and wife, without children, and comparatively young. Short and well-built, they were a strong, healthy-looking couple. She looked straight at you, but he would look at you only when you weren't looking at him. They had come once or twice before, and there was a change in them. physically they were about the same, but there was something different in their look, in the way they sat, and in the set of their heads; they had the air of people who were becoming, or had already become, important. Being out of their usual element, they were feeling a little awkward, constrained, and appeared not to be quite sure why they had come, or what to say; so they began by talking about their travels, and about other matters that were not of great interest to them under the present circumstances. "Of course," said the husband at last, "we do believe in the Masters, but at the moment we are not giving emphasis to all that. People don't understand, and make the Masters into saviours, super gurus and what you say about gurus is perfectly right. To us, the Masters are our own higher selves; they exist, not just as a matter of belief, but as an everyday occurrence in our daily living. They guide our lives; they instruct and point the way."
To what, sir, if one may ask?
"To the evolutionary and nobler processes of life. We have pictures of the Masters, but they are merely symbols, images for the mind to dwell on, in order to bring something greater into our petty lives. Otherwise life becomes tawdry, empty and very superficial. As there are leaders in the political and economic fields, so these symbols act as guides in the realm of higher thought. They are as necessary as light in darkness. We are not intolerant of other guides, other symbols; we welcome them all, for in these troubled times, man needs all the help he can get. So we are not intolerant; but you appear to be both intolerant and rather dogmatic when you deny the Masters as guides, and reject every other form of authority. Why do you insist that man must be free from authority? How could we exist in this world if there were not some kind of law and order, which after all is based on authority? Man is sorely tried, and he needs those who can help and deeply comfort him."
"Man in general. There may be exceptions, but the common man needs some kind of authority, a guide who will lead him from a sensate life to the life of the spirit. Why are you against authority?"
There are many kinds of authority, are there not? There is the authority of the State for the so-called common good. There is the authority of the church, of dogma and belief, which is called religion, to save man from evil and help him to be civilized. There is the authority of society, which is the authority of tradition, of greed, envy, ambition; and the authority of personal knowledge or experience, which is the result of our conditioning, of our education. There is also the authority of the specialist, the authority of talent, and the authority of brute force, whether of a government or an individual. Why do we seek authority?
"That's fairly obvious, isn't it? As I said, man needs something to guide himself by; being confused, he naturally seeks an authority to lead him out of his confusion."
Sir, aren't you speaking of man as though he were a being, different from yourself? Don't you also seek authority?
"Yes, I do."
"The physicist knows more than I about the structure of matter, and if I want to learn the facts in that field, I go to him. If I have a toothache, I go to a dentist. If I am inwardly confused, which often happens, I seek the guidance of the higher self, the Master, and so on. What's wrong with that?"
It is one thing to go to the dentist, or to keep to the right or the left side of the road, or to pay taxes; but is this the same as accepting authority in order to be free from sorrow? The two are entirely different, are they not? Is psychological pain to be understood and eliminated by following the authority of another?
"The psychologist or the analyst can frequently help the disordered mind to resolve its problem. Authority in such cases is obviously beneficial."
But why do you look to the authority of what you call the higher self, or the Master?
"Because I am confused."
Can a confused mind ever seek out what is true?
Do what it will, a confused mind can only find further confusion; its search for the higher self, and the response it receives, will be according to its confused state. When there's clarity, there's an end to authority.
"There are moments when my mind is clear."
You are saying, in effect, that you are not totally confused, that there is a part of you which is clear; and this supposedly clear part is what you call the higher self, the Master, and so on. I am not saying this in any derogatory manner. But can there be one part of the mind which is confused and another part which is not? Or is this just wishful thinking?
"I only know there are moments when I am not confused."
Can clarity know itself as being non-confused? Can confusion recognize clarity? If confusion recognizes clarity, then what is recognized is still part of confusion. If clarity knows itself as a state of non-confusion, then it is the result of comparison; it is comparing itself with confusion, and so it's part of confusion.
"You are telling me that I am totally confused, aren't you, sir? But that just isn't so," he insisted.
Are you aware first of confusion or of clarity?
"Isn't that like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
Not quite. When you are happy, you are not aware of it; it is only when happiness is not there that you search for it. When you are aware that you are happy, at that very moment happiness ceases. In looking to the Atman - the supra-mind, the Master, or whatever else you may name it - to clear up your confusion, you are acting from confusion; your action is the outcome of a conditioned mind, isn't it.
Being confused, you are seeking or establishing an authority so as to clear up that confusion, which only makes matters worse.
"Yes," he agreed reluctantly.
If you see the truth of this, then your only concern is with the clearing up of your confusion, and not with the establishing of authority, which has no meaning.
"But how am I to clear up my confusion?"
By really being honest in your confusion. To admit to oneself that one is totally confused is the beginning of understanding.
"But I have a position to maintain," he said impulsively.
That's just it. You have a position of leadership - and the leader is as confused as those that are led. It is the same all over the world. Out of his confusion, the follower or the disciple chooses the leader, the teacher, the guru; so confusion prevails. If you really wish to be free of confusion, then that is your primary concern, and maintaining a position has no longer any importance. But you have been playing this game of hide-and-seek with yourself for some time, haven't you, sir?
"I suppose I have."
Everyone wants to be somebody, and so we bring more confusion and sorrow upon ourselves and upon others; and yet we talk about saving the world! One must first clarify one's own mind, and not be concerned with the confusion of others.
There was a long pause. Then the wife, who had been silently listening, spoke in a rather hurt voice. "But we want to help others, and we have given our lives to it. You can't take away from us this desire, after all the good work we have done. You are too destructive, too negative. You take away, but what do you give? You may have found the truth, but we haven't; we are seekers, and we have a right to our convictions."
Her husband was looking at her rather anxiously, wondering what was going to come out, but she went right on.
"After working all these years, we have built up for ourselves a position in our organization; for the first time we have an opportunity to be leaders, and it is our duty to take it."
Do you think so?
"I most certainly do."
Then there is no problem. I am not trying to convince you of anything, or to convert you to a particular point of view. To think from a conclusion or a conviction is not to think at all; and living is then a form of death is it not?
"Without our convictions, life for us would be empty. Our convictions have made us what we are; we believe in certain things, and they have become part of our very make-up."
Whether they have validity or not? Has a belief any validity.
"We have given a great deal of consideration to our beliefs, and have found that they have truth behind them."
How do you find out the truth of a belief?
"We know whether there's an underlying truth in a belief or not," she replied vehemently.
But how do you know?
"Through our intelligence, our experience, and the test of our daily living, of course."
Your beliefs are based on your education, on your culture; they are the outcome of your background, of social, parental, religious or traditional influence, are they not?
"What's wrong with that?"
When the mind is already conditioned by a set of beliefs, how can it ever find out the truth about them? Surely, the mind must first free itself from its beliefs, and only then can the truth concerning them be perceived. It is as absurd for a Christian to scoff at the beliefs and dogmas of Hinduism, as it is for a Hindu to deride the Christian dogma which asserts that only through a certain belief can you be saved, for they are both in the same boat. To understand the truth with regard to belief, conviction, dogma, there must first be freedom from all conditioning as a Christian, a Communist, a Hindu, a Moslem, or what you will. Otherwise you are merely repeating what you have been told.
"But belief based on experience is a different matter," she asserted.
Is it? Belief projects experience and such experience then strengthens the belief. Our visions are the outcome of our conditioning, the religious as well as the non-religious. This is so, isn't it?
"Sir, what you say is too devastating," she remonstrated. "We are weak, we cannot stand on our own feet, and we need the support of our beliefs."
By insisting that you cannot stand on your own feet, you are obviously making yourself weak; and then you allow yourself to be exploited by the exploiter whom you have created.
"But we need help."
When you do not seek it, help comes. It may come from a leaf, from a smile, from the gesture of a child, or from any book. But if you make the book, the leaf, the image, all-important, then you are lost, for you are caught in the prison of your own making.
She had become quieter now, but was still worried about something. The husband too was on the point of speaking, but restrained himself. We all waited in silence, and presently she spoke.
"From everything you have said, it seems that you regard power as evil. Why? What's wrong with exercising power?"
What do you mean by power? The dominance of a State, of a group, of a guru, of a leader, of an ideology; the pressure of propaganda, through which the clever and the cunning exert their influence over the so-called mass - is this what you mean by power?
"Somewhat, yes. But there's the power to do good as well as the power to do evil."
Power in the sense of ascendancy, dominance, forceful influence over another, is evil at all times; there is no `good' power.
"But there are people who seek power for the good of their country, or in the name of God, peace or brotherhood, aren't there?"
There are, unfortunately. If one may ask, are you seeking power?
"We are," she replied defiantly. "But only in order to do good to others."
That's what they all say, from the most cruel tyrant to the so-called democratic politician, from the guru to the irritated parent.
"But we are different. Having suffered so much ourselves, we want to help others to avoid the pitfalls that we have been through. People are children, and they must be helped for their own well-being. We really mean to do good."
Do you know what is the good?
"I think most of us know what is the good: not to do harm, to be kind, to be generous, to abstain from killing, and not to be concerned about oneself."
In other words, you want to tell people to be generous of heart and hand; but does this require a vast, landed organization, with the possibility that one of you may become the head of it?
"Our becoming the head of it is only to keep the organization moving along the right lines, and not for the sake of personal power."
Is having power in an organization so very different from personal power? You both want to enjoy the prestige of it, the opportunities for travel which it affords, the feeling of being important, and so on. Why not be simple about it? Why clothe all this with respectability? Why use a lot of noble words to cover up your desire for success and the recognition of it, which is what most human beings want?
"We only want to help people," she insisted.
Is it not strange that one refuses to see things as they are?
"Sir," chimed in the husband, "I don't think you understand our situation. We are ordinary people, and we don't pretend to be anything else; we have our faults, and we honestly admit our ambition. But those whom we respect, and who have been wise in many ways, have asked us to take this position, and if we didn't take it, it would fall into far worse hands - into the hands of people who are wholly concerned with themselves. So we feel that we must accept our responsibility, though we are not really worthy of it. I sincerely hope you understand."
Is it not rather for you to understand what you are doing? You are concerned with reform, are you not?
"Who isn't? The great leaders and teachers, past and present, have always been concerned with reform. Isolated hermits, sannyasi, are of little use to society."
Reform, though necessary, is not of much significance unless the whole of man is considered. Cutting down a few dead branches does not make the tree healthy if the roots are unsound. Mere reforms always need further reform. What is necessary is a total revolution in our thinking.
"But most of us are not capable of such a revolution, and fundamental change must be brought about gradually, through the evolutionary processes. It is our aspiration to aid in this gradual change, and we have dedicated our lives to the service of man. Shouldn't you be more tolerant of human weakness?"
Tolerance is not compassion, it's a thing put together by the cunning mind. Tolerance is the reaction from intolerance; but neither the tolerant nor the intolerant will ever be compassionate. Without love, all so-called good action can only lead to further mischief and misery. A mind that's ambitious, seeking power, does not know love, and it will never be compassionate. Love is not reform, but total action.
Chapter - 35
Attention Without Motive
IN THE NARROW, shady lane between two gardens, a young boy was playing a flute; it was a cheap wooden thing and he was playing a popular cinema tune, but the purity of the notes filled the space in that lane. The white walls of the houses had been washed by the recent rains, and on those walls the shadows were dancing to the music of the flute. It was a sunny morning, there were scattered white clouds in the blue sky, and a pleasant breeze was blowing from the north. Beyond the houses and the gardens was the village, with huge trees towering over the thatched huts. Under those trees, women were selling fish, a few vegetables and some fried things. Little children were playing in the narrow road, and still smaller children were using the ditch as their toilet, unmindful of the grown-ups and the passing cars. There were many goats, and their small black and white kids were cleaner and even more spirited than the children. They were so soft to the touch, and they loved being petted. Passing under the barbed wire of their enclosure, they would run across the road into a small open space, nibble the grass, romp about, butt each other, jump up in the air with abandon and then race back to their mothers. Cars slowed down to avoid them, and not one was run over. They seemed to have divine protection - only to be killed and eaten.
But the flute player was there among the green foliage, and the clear notes called one out of doors. The boy was dirty, his clothes torn and unwashed, his face aggressively sharp and complaining. No one had taught him to play the flute, and no one ever would; he had picked it up by himself, and as the cinema tune rolled out, the purity of the notes was extraordinary. It was strange for the mind to float on that purity. Moving a few paces away, it continued through the trees, over the houses and towards the sea. It movement was not in time and space, but in purity. The word `purity' is not purity; the word is tied to memory and to the association of many things. This purity was not an invention of the mind; it was not a thing put together, only to be undone, through remembrance and comparison. The flute player was there, but the mind was infinitely far away - not in distance, nor in terms of memory. It was far away within itself, clear, untouched, alone, beyond the measure of time and recognition.
The small room overlooked a tiny garden full of flowers, with a spot of lawn. There was just enough room for the five of us, and for the small boy whom one had brought along. The boy would sit quietly for a while, and then get up and walk out of the door. He wanted to play, and the grown-up conversation was beyond him; but he had a serious air. Each time he came in, he would sit next to one of the men, who turned out to be his father, and their hands would touch; and presently he fell asleep, holding on to a finger.
They were all active men, obviously capable and energetic. Their respective professions as a lawyer, a government official, an engineer and a social worker were, except for that of the last, only a means of livelihood. Their real interest lay elsewhere, and they all seemed to reflect the culture of many generations.
"I am only concerned with myself," said the lawyer, "but not in the narrow, personal sense of self-improvement. The point is, I alone can break through the barrier of centuries and set my mind free. I am willing to listen, reason, discuss, but I abominate all influence. Influence, after all, is propaganda, and propaganda is the most stupid form of compulsion. I read a great deal, but I am constantly watching myself to see that I don't fall under the influence of the author's thought. I have attended many of your talks and discussions, sir, and I agree with you that any form of compulsion prevents understanding. Anyone who is persuaded, consciously or unconsciously, to think along a particular line, however apparently beneficial, is bound to end up in some form of frustration, because his fulfilment is according to the way of another, and so he can never really fulfil himself at all."
Are we not being influenced by something or other, most of the time? One may be unconscious of influence, but isn't it always present in many subtle forms? Is not thought itself the product of influence?
"The four of us have often talked this matter over," responded the official, "and we are still not very clear about it, otherwise we wouldn't be here. Personally, I have visited many teachers at their ashramas all over the country; but before meeting the master, I first try to meet the disciples to see how far they have merely been influenced to a better life. Some of the disciples are scandalized by this approach, and they can't understand why I don't want to see the guru first. They are almost entirely under the heel of authority; and the ashramas, particularly the larger ones, are sometimes very efficiently run, like any office or factory. People turn over all their property and possessions to the central authority, and then remain in the ashrama, under guidance, for the rest of their lives. You would be surprised at the kind of people one finds there, a whole cross-section of society: retired government administrators, business men who have made their pile, a professor or two, and so on. And they are all dominated by the so-called spiritual influence of the guru. It's pathetic, but there it is!"
Is influence or compulsion restricted to the ashrama? The hero, the ideal, the political Utopia, the future as a symbol of achieving or becoming something - do not these things exert their subtle influence on each one of us? And must not the mind also be free of this kind of compulsion?
"We don't go that far," said the social worker. "We stay wisely within certain limits; otherwise there might be utter chaos."
To discard compulsion in one form, only to accept it in a more subtle form, seems a futile endeavour, does it not?
"We want to go step by step, systematically and thoroughly understanding one form of compulsion after another," said the engineer.
Is such a thing ever possible? Mustn't compulsion or influence be tackled as a whole, not bit by bit? In trying to discard one pressure after another, is there not in this very process the maintenance of that which you are trying to discard, perhaps at a different level? Can envy be got rid of little by little? Does not the very effort sustain envy?
"To build anything takes time. One can't put up a bridge all at once. Time is needed for everything - for the seed to bear fruit, and for man to mature."
In certain things, time is obviously necessary. To perform a series of actions, or to move in space from here to there, takes time. But apart from chronology, time is a plaything of the mind, is it not? Time is used as a means to achieve, to become something, positively or negatively; time exists in comparison. The thought "I am this, and I shall become that" is the way of time. The future is the modified past, and the present becomes merely a movement or passage from the past to the future, and so is of little importance. Time as a means of achievement has tremendous influence; it exerts the pressure of centuries of tradition. Is this process of attraction and compulsion, which is both negative and positive, to be understood bit by bit, or must it be seen as a whole?
"If I may interrupt, I would like to go on with what I was saying at the beginning," protested the lawyer. "To be influenced is not to think at all, and that's why I am only concerned with myself - but not in a self-centred way. If I may be personal, I have read some of the things you have said about authority, and I am working on the same lines. It is for this reason that I no longer go anywhere near the various teachers. Authority - not in the civil or legal sense - is to be avoided by an intelligent man."
Are you merely concerned with freedom from outward authority, from the influence of newspapers, books, teachers, and so on? Must you not also be free from every form of inward compulsion, from the pressures of the mind itself, not merely the surface mind, but the deep unconscious? And is this possible?
"That's one of the things I have been wanting to talk over with you. If one is somewhat aware, it's comparatively easy to observe and be free of the imprint made on the conscious mind by passing influences and pressures from without; but the conditioning and influence of the unconscious is a problem quite difficult to understand."
The unconscious is a result - is it not? - of innumerable influences and compulsions, both self-imposed and imposed by society.
"It is most definitely influenced by the culture or society in which one has been brought up; but whether this conditioning is total, or only segmentary, I am not at all sure." Do you want to find out?
"Of course I do, that's why I am here."
How is one to find out? The `how' is the process of inquiry, it is not the search for a method. If one is seeking a method, then inquiry has stopped. It's fairly obvious that the mind is influenced, educated, shaped, not only by the present culture, but by centuries of culture. What we are attempting to find out is whether only part of the mind, or the whole of consciousness, is thus influenced, conditioned.
"Yes, that is the question."
What do we mean by consciousness? Motive and action; desire, fulfilment and frustration; fear and envy; tradition, racial inheritance and the experiences of the individual based upon the collective past; time as past and future - all this is the essence of consciousness the very centre of it, is it not?
"Yes; and I quite perceive the vast complexity of it."
Does one feel the nature of consciousness for oneself, or is one influenced by another's description of it?
"To be quite honest, both; I feel the nature of my own consciousness, but it helps to have a description of it."
How arduous it is to be free of influence! Putting aside the description, can one feel out the nature of consciousness and not merely theorize about it, or indulge in explanations? It is important to do this, isn't it?
"I suppose it is," put in the official hesitantly. The lawyer was absorbed in his own thoughts.
To feel out for oneself the nature of consciousness is an entirely different experience from recognizing its nature through a description.
"Of course it is," replied the lawyer, back on the scene again. "One is the influence of words, and the other is the direct experiencing of what's taking place."
The state of direct experiencing is attention without motive. When there is the desire to achieve a result, there is experiencing with a motive, which only leads to the further conditioning of the mind. To learn, and to learn with a motive, are contradictory processes, are they not? Is one learning when there's a motive to learn? The accumulation of knowledge, or the acquisition of technique, is not the movement of learning. Learning is a movement which is not away from or towards something; it ceases when there is the accumulation of knowledge in order to gain, to achieve, to arrive. Feeling out the nature of consciousness, learning about it, is without motive; there is no experiencing, or being taught, in order to be or not to be something. To have a motive, a cause, ever brings about pressure, compulsion.
"Are you implying, sir, that true freedom is without a cause?"
Of course. Freedom is not a reaction to bondage; when it is, then that freedom becomes another bondage. That's why it's very important to find out if one has a motive to be free. If one has, then the result is not freedom, but merely the opposite of what is.
"Then to feel out the nature of consciousness, which is the direct experiencing of it without any motive, is already a freeing of the mind from influence. Is that it?"
Isn't that so? Haven't you found that a motive invites influence, coercion, conformity? For the mind to be free from pressure, pleasant or unpleasant, all motive, however subtle or noble, must wither away - but not through any form of compulsion, discipline or suppression, which will only bring about another kind of bondage.
"I see," went on the lawyer. "Consciousness is a whole complex of interrelated motives. To understand this complex, one must feel it out, learn about it, without any further motive; for all motives inevitably bring about some kind of influence, pressure. Where there's a motive of any kind, there's no freedom. I am beginning to understand this very clearly."
"But is it possible to act without a motive?" asked the social worker.
"It seems to me that motive is inseparable from action."
What do you mean by action?
"The village needs cleaning up, the children must be educated, the law must be enforced, reforms must be carried out, and so on. All this is action, and behind it there's definitely some kind of motive. If action with a motive is wrong, then what's right action?"
The Communist thinks his is the right way of life; so does the capitalist, and the so-called religious man. Governments have five or ten-year plans, and impose certain legislation to carry them out. The social reformer conceives of a way of life, which he insists upon as being right action. Every parent, every school teacher, enforces tradition and attention. There are innumerable political and religious organizations, each with its leader, and each with power, gross or subtle, to enforce what it calls right action.
"Without all this, there would be chaos, anarchy."
We are not condemning or defending any way of life, any leader or teacher; we are trying to understand, through this maze, what right action is. All these individuals and organizations, with their proposals and counter-proposals, are trying to influence thought in this or that direction, and what is called right action by some, is considered by others to be wrong action. This is so, isn't it? "Yes, to a certain extent," agreed the social worker. "But though it's obviously incomplete, fragmentary, no one thinks of political action, for example, as being either right or wrong in itself; it's just a necessity. Then what is right action?"
Trying to bring together all these conflicting notions does not make for right action, does it?
"Of course not."
Seeing the mess the world is in, the individual reacts to it in different ways; he maintains that he must understand himself first, that he must cleanse his own being, and so on; or else he becomes a reformer, a doctrinaire, a politician seeking to influence the minds of others to conform to a particular pattern. But the individual who thus reacts to the social confusion and disorder is still part of it; his action, being really a reaction, can only bring about confusion in another form. None of this is right action. Right action, surely, is total action, it is not fragmentary or contradictory; and it is total action alone that can respond adequately to all political and social demands.
"What is this total action?"
Haven't you to find that out for yourself? If you are told what it is, and you agree or disagree, it will only lead to another fragmentary action, won't it? Reformatory activity within society, and activity on the part of the individual as opposed to or apart from society, is incomplete action. Total action lies beyond these two, and that total action is love.
Chapter - 36
The Voyage on an Uncharted Sea
THE SUN HAD just set behind the trees and the clouds, and the golden glow came through a window of the large room, which was filled with people listening to the music of an eight-stringed instrument accompanied by a small drum. Almost everyone in that audience was following the music with complete absorption, especially a girl in a bright dress, who sat like a statue, her hand keeping perfect time as it gently beat out the rhythm on her thigh. That was the only movement she made; with head erect and eyes glued on the man with the instrument, she was oblivious to everything else about her. Several others in the audience were keeping time with their hands or their heads. They were all in raptures, and the world of wars, politicians, worries, had ceased to exist.
Outside the light was fading, and the flowers that shone with bright colours only a few minutes before had disappeared in the gathering darkness. The birds were quiet now, and one of those small owls was beginning to call. Someone was shouting from a house across the way; through the trees one or two stars could be seen, and a lizard on the white garden wall was just visible as it stealthily crawled towards an insect. But the music held the audience. It was pure and subtle music, with great depth of beauty and feeling. Suddenly the stringed instrument stopped, and the little drum took over; it spoke with a clarity and precision that were really quite incredible. The hands were astonishingly gentle and swift as they struck both sides of the little drum, whose sound said more than the wild chattering of men. That drum, if asked, could send out passionate messages with vigour and emphasis; but now it was speaking quietly of many things, and the mind rode upon the waves of its sound.
When the mind is on the flight of discovery, imagination is a dangerous thing. Imagination has no place in understanding; it destroys understanding as surely as does speculation. Speculation and imagination are the enemies of attentions. But the mind was aware of this, and so there was no flight from which it had to be recalled. The mind was perfectly still - yet how rapid it was! It had moved to the ends of the earth and was back again even before it had started on its journey. It was faster than the fastest, and yet it could be slow - so slow that no detail escaped it. The music, the audience, the lizard, were only a brief movement within it. It was perfectly still, and because it was still, it was alone. Its stillness was not the stillness of death, nor was it a thing put together by thought, coerced and brought into being by the vanity of man. It was a movement beyond the measure of man, a movement which was not of time, which had no going and coming, but which was still with the unknown depths of creation.
In his late forties, and rather plump, he had been educated abroad; and quietly, in a roundabout way, he conveyed that he knew all the important people. He made his living by writing for the newspapers about serious subjects, and giving talks all over the country; and he also had some other source of income. He appeared to be well-read, and was interested in religion - as most people are, he added. "I have a guru of my own and I go to him as regularly as possible, but I am not one of those blind followers. As I travel a good bit, I have met many teachers, from the far north to the southernmost tip of the country. Some are obviously fakes, with a smattering of book knowledge cleverly disguised as their own experience. There are others who have done years of meditation, who practise various forms of yoga, and so on. A few of these are very advanced, but the majority of them are as superficial as any other set of specialists. They know their limited subject, and are satisfied with it. There are ashramas whose spiritual teachers are efficient, capable, assertive and completely autocratic, full of their own sublimated ego. I am telling you all this, not as gossip, but to indicate that I am serious in my search for truth, and that I am capable of discernment. I have attended some of your talks, when time has allowed; and while I have to write for a living, and can't give all my time to the religious life, I am entirely serious about it."
If one may ask, what significance do you give to that word `serious'?
"I do not trifle with religious matters, and I really want to lead a religious life. I set apart a certain hour of the day to meditate, and I give as much time as I can to deepening my inner life. I am very serious about it."
Most people are serious about something, are they not? They are serious about their problems, about the fulfilment of their desires, about their position in society, about their looks, their amusements, their money, and so on.
"Why do you compare me with others?" he asked, rather offended.
I am not belittling your seriousness, but each one of us is serious where his particular interests are concerned. A vain man is serious in his self-esteem; the powerful are serious about their importance and influence.
"But I am sober in my activities, and very earnest in my endeavour to lead a religious life."
Does the desire for something make for seriousness? If it does, then practically everyone is serious, from the cunning politician to the most exalted saint. The object of desire may be worldly or otherwise; but everyone is serious who is after something, isn't he?
"Surely there is a difference," he replied with some irritation, "between the seriousness of the politician or the moneymaker, and that of a religious man. The seriousness of a religious man has a quality which is wholly different."
Has it? What do you mean by a religious man?
"The man who is seeking God. The hermit or sannyasi who has renounced the world in order to find God, I would call truly serious. The seriousness of the others, including the artist and the reformer, is in a different category altogether."
Is the man who is seeking God really religious? How can he seek God if he does not know Him? And if he knows the God he seeks, what he knows is only what he has been told, or what he has read; or else it is based on his personal experience, which again is shaped by tradition, and by his own desire to find security in another world.
"Aren't you being a little too logical?"
Surely one must understand the myth-making mechanism of the mind before there can be the experiencing of that which is beyond the measure of the mind. There must be freedom from the known for the unknown to be. The unknown is not to be pursued or sought after. Is he serious, who pursues a projection of his own mind, even when that projection is called God?
"If you put it that way, none of us are serious."
We are serious in pursuing what is pleasant, satisfying.
"What's wrong with that?"
It's neither right nor wrong, but simply a matter of fact. Is this not what is actually taking place with each one of us?
"I can only speak for myself, and I do not think that I am seeking God for my own gratification. I am denying myself many things, which isn't exactly a pleasure."
You deny yourself certain things for the sake of a greater satisfaction, don't you?
"But to seek God is not a matter of gratification," he insisted.
One may see the foolishness of pursuing worldly things, or be frustrated in the effort to achieve them, or be put off by the pain and strife which such achievement involves; and so one's mind turns to other worldliness, to the pursuit of a joy or a bliss which is called God. In the very process of self-denial is its gratification. After all, you are seeking some form of permanency, aren't you?
"We all are; that's the nature of man."
So you are not seeking God, or the unknown, that which is above and beyond the transient, beyond strife and sorrow. What you are really seeking is a permanent state of undisturbed satisfaction.
"To put it so baldly sounds terrible."
But that is the actual fact, is it not? It is in the hope of attaining total gratification that we go from one teacher to another, from one religion to another, from one system to another. About that we are very serious.
"Conceded," he said without conviction.
Sir, this is not a matter of concession, or of verbal agreement. It is a fact that we are all serious in our search for contentment, deep satisfaction, however much the manner of achieving it may vary. You may discipline yourself in order to acquire power and position in this world, whereas I may rigorously practise certain methods in the hope of attaining a so-called spiritual state, but the motivation in each case is essentially the same. One pursuit may not be as socially harmful as the other, but both of us are seeking gratification, the continuation of that centre which is ever wanting to succeed, to be or become something.
"Am I really seeking to be something?"
"I don't care about being known as a writer, but I do want the ideas or principles of which I write to be accepted by the important people."
Aren't you identifying yourself with those ideas?
"I suppose I am. One tends, in spite of oneself, to use ideas as a means to fame."
That's just it sir. If we can think simply and directly about it, the situation will be clarified. Most of us are concerned, both outwardly and inwardly, with our own advancement. But to perceive the facts about oneself as they are, and not as one would like them to be, is quite arduous; it demands an unbiased perception, without the recognizing memory of right and wrong.
"You are surely not totally condemning ambition, are you?"
To examine what is, is neither to condemn nor to justify. Self-fulfilment in any form is obviously the perpetuation of this centre that is striving to be or become something. You may want to become famous through your writing, and I may want to achieve what I call God or reality, which has its own conscious or unconscious benefits. Your pursuit is called worldly, and mine is called religious or spiritual; but apart from the labels is there so very much difference between them? The aim of desire may vary but the underlying motive is the same. Ambition to fulfil, or to become something, has always within it the seed of frustration, fear and sorrow. This self-centred activity is the very nature of egotism, is it not?
"Good heavens, you are stripping me of everything: of my vanities, my desire to be famous, even of my drive to put across some worthwhile ideas. What shall I do when all this is gone?"
Your question indicates that nothing is gone, doesn't it? No one can take away from you, inwardly, what you don't want to give up. You will continue on your way to fame, which is the way of sorrow, frustration, fear.
"Sometimes I do want to chuck the whole rotten business, but the pull is strong." His tone had become anxious and earnest. "What will stop me from taking that path?"
Are you asking this question seriously?
"I think I am. Sorrow, I suppose?"
Is sorrow the way of understanding? Or does sorrow exist because there's no understanding? If you examined the whole urge to become something, and the path of fulfilment, not just intellectually, but deeply, then intelligence, understanding, would come into being and destroy the root of sorrow. But sorrow does not bring understanding.
"How is that, sir?"
Sorrow is the result of a shock, it is the temporary shaking up of a mind that has settled down, that has accepted the routine of life. Something happens - a death, the loss of a job, the questioning of a cherished belief - and the mind is disturbed. But what does a disturbed mind do? It finds a way to be undisturbed again; it takes refuge in another belief, in a more secure job, in a new relationship. Again the wave of life comes along and shatters its safeguards, but the mind soon finds still further defence; and so it goes on. This is not the way of intelligence, is it?
"Then what is the way of intelligence?"
Why are you asking another? Don't you want to find out for yourself? If I were to give you an answer, you would either refute or accept it, which again would impede intelligence, understanding.
"I see what you have said about sorrow to be perfectly true. That's exactly what we all do. But how is one to get out of this trap?"
No form of external or inward compulsion will help, will it? All compulsion, however subtle, is the outcome of ignorance; it is born of the desire for reward or the fear of punishment. To understand the whole nature of the trap is to be free of it; no person, no system, no belief, can set you free. The truth of this is the only liberating factor - but you have to see it for yourself, and not merely be persuaded. You have to take the voyage on an uncharted sea.