Commentaries on Living 
Chapter - 37
Aloneness beyond Loneliness
THE MOON WAS just coming out of the sea into a valley of clouds. The waters were still blue, and Orion was faintly visible in the pale silver sky. The white waves were all along the shore, and the fishermen's huts, square, neat and dark against the white sands, were close to the water. The walls of these huts were made of bamboo, and the roofs were thatched with palm leaves laid one on top of another, sloping downward so that the heavy rains couldn't come inside. Completely round and full, the moon was making a path of light on the moving waters, and it was huge - you couldn't have held it in your arms. Rising above the valley of clouds, it had the heavens to itself. The sound of the sea was unceasing, and yet there was a great silence.
You never remain with any feeling, pure and simple, but always surround it with the paraphernalia of words. The word distorts it; thought, whirling round it, throws it into shadow; overpower it with mountainous fears and longings. You never remain with a feeling, and with nothing else: with hate, or with that strange feeling of beauty. When the feeling of hate arises, you say how bad it is; there is the compulsion, the struggle to overcome it, the turmoil of thought about it. You want to remain with love; but you break it up, calling it personal or impersonal; you cover it with words, giving it the ordinary meaning, or saying that it is universal; you explain how to feel it, how to maintain it, why it fades away; you think of someone whom you love, or who loves you. There is every kind of verbal movement.
Try remaining with the feeling of hate, with the feeling of envy, jealousy, with the venom of ambition; for after all, that's what you have in daily life, though you may want to live with love, or with the word `love'. Since you have the feeling of hate, of wanting to hurt somebody with a gesture or a burning word, see if you can stay with that feeling. Can you? Have you ever tried? Try to remain with a feeling, and see what happens. You will find it amazingly difficult. Your mind will not leave the feeling alone; it comes rushing in with its remembrances, its associations, its do's and don'ts, its everlasting chatter. pick up a piece of shell. Can you look at it, wonder at its delicate beauty, without saying how pretty it is, or what animal made it? Can you look without the movement of the mind? Can you live with the feeling behind the word, without the feeling that the word builds up? If you can, then you will discover an extraordinary thing, a movement beyond the measure of time, a spring that knows no summer.
She was a small, elderly lady, with white hair and a face that was heavily lined, for she had borne many children; but there was nothing weak or feeble about her, and her smile conveyed the depth of her feeling. Her hands were wrinkled but strong, and they had evidently prepared many vegetables, for the right thumb and forefinger were covered with tiny cuts, which had become darkened. But they were fine hands - hands that had worked hard and wiped away many tears. She spoke quietly and hesitantly, with the voice of one who had suffered much; and she was very orthodox, for she belonged to an ancient caste that held itself high, and whose tradition it was to have no dealings with other groups, either through marriage or through commerce. They were people who were supposed to cultivate the intellect as a means to something other than the mere acquisition of things.
For a while neither of us spoke; she was gathering herself, and was not sure how to begin. She looked around the room, and seemed to approve of its bareness. There wasn't even a chair, or a flower, except for the one that could be seen just outside the window. "I am now seventy-five," she began, "and you could be my son. How proud I would be of such a son! It would be a blessing. But most of us have no such happiness. We produce children who grow up and become men of the world, trying to be great in their little work. Though they may occupy high positions, they have no greatness in them. One of my sons is in the capital, and he has a great deal of power, but I know his heart as only a mother can. Speaking for myself, I don't want anything from anybody; I don't want more money, or a bigger house. I mean to live a simple life to the very end. My children laugh at my orthodoxy, but I mean to continue in it. They smoke, drink and often eat meat, thinking nothing of it. Though I love them, I will not eat with them, for they have become unclean; and why should I, in my old age, pander to all their nonsense? They want to marry out of caste, and they don't perform the religious rites, or practise meditation, as their father did. He was a religious man, but..." She stopped talking, and considered what she was going to say.
"I didn't come here to talk about my family," she continued, "but I am glad to have said what I did. My sons will go their way, and I cannot hold them, though it saddens me to see what they are coming to. They are losing and not gaining, even though they have money and position. When their names appear in the papers, as often happens, they show me the papers proudly; but they will be like the common run of men, and the quality of our forefathers is fast disappearing. They are all becoming merchants, selling their talents, and I can't do anything to stem the tide. But that's enough about my children."
Again she stopped talking, and this time it was going to be more difficult to speak of what was in her heart. With lowered head she was thinking how to put the words together, but they wouldn't come. She refused to be helped, and was not embarrassed to remain silent for a time. Presently she began.
"It's difficult to speak of things that are very deep, isn't it? One can talk of matters that do not lie too deeply, but it requires a certain confidence in oneself and in the listener to broach a problem, the very existence of which one has hardly admitted even to oneself for fear of awakening the echo of darker things that have been asleep for so long. In this case it isn't that I don't trust the listener," she added quickly. "I have more than confidence in you. But to put certain feelings into words is not easy, especially when one has never before expressed them in words. The feelings are familiar, but the words to describe them are not. Words are terrible things, aren't they? But I know you are not impatient, and I shall go at my own pace.
"You know how young people marry in this country, not by their own choice. My husband and I were married in that way many years ago. He was not a kindly man; he had a quick temper and was given to sharp words. Once he beat me; but I became used to many things in the course of my married life. Though as a child I used to play with my brothers and sisters, I spent a great deal of time by myself, and I always felt apart, alone. In living with my husband, that feeling was pushed into the background; there were so many things to do. I was kept very busy with housekeeping, and with the joy and the pain of bearing and raising children. Nevertheless, the feeling of being alone would still creep over me, and I would want to think about it, but there wasn't time; so it would pass off like a wave, and I would go on with what I had to do.
"When the children had grown up, been educated, and were out on their own - though one of my sons still lives with me - my husband and I lived quietly until he died five years ago. Since his death, this feeling of being alone has come over me more often; it has gradually increased until now, and I am fully immersed in it. I have tried to get away from it by doing puja, by talking to some friend, but it's always there; and it's an agony, a fearsome thing. My son has a radio, but I can't escape from this feeling through such means, and I don't like all that noise. I go to the temple; but this sense of being utterly alone is with me on the way, while I am there, and coming back. I am not exaggerating, but only describing the thing as it is." She paused for a moment, and then continued.
"The other day my son brought me along to your talk. I couldn't follow all that you were saying, but you mentioned something about aloneness and the purity of it; so perhaps you will understand." There were tears in her eyes.
To find out if there is something deeper, something beyond the feeling that comes upon you, and in which you are caught, you must first understand this feeling, must you not?
"Will this agonizing feeling of being alone lead me to God?" she inquired anxiously.
What do you mean by being alone?
"It is difficult to put that feeling into words, but I will try. It is a fear that comes when one feels oneself to be completely alone, entirely by oneself, utterly cut off from everything. Though my husband and children were there, this wave would come upon me, and I would feel myself to be like a dead tree in a wasted land: lonely, unloved and unloving. The agony of it was much more intense than that of bearing a child. It was fearful and breathtaking; I didn't belong to anyone; there was a sense of complete isolation. You understand, don't you?"
Most people have this feeling of loneliness, this sense of isolation, with its fear, only they smother it, run away from it, get themselves lost in some form of activity, religious or otherwise. The activity in which they indulge is their escape, they can get lost in it, and that's why they defend it so aggressively.
"But I have tried my best to run away from this feeling of isolation, with its fear, and I haven't been able to. Going to the temple doesn't help; and even if it did, one can't be there all the time, any more than one can spend one's life performing rituals."
Not to have found an escape may be your salvation. In their fear of being lonely, of feeling cut off, some take to drink, others take drugs, while many turn to politics, or find some other way of escape. So you see, you are fortunate in not having found a means of avoiding this thing. Those who avoid it do a great deal of mischief in the world; they are really harmful people, for they give importance to things that are not of the highest significance. Often, being very clever and capable, such people mislead others by their devotion to the activity which is their escape; if it isn't religion, it's politics or social reform - anything to get away from themselves. They may seem to be selfless, but they are actually still concerned with themselves, only in a different way. They become leaders, or the followers of some teacher; they always belong to something, or practise some method, or pursue an ideal. They are never just themselves; they are not human beings, but labels. So you see how fortunate you are not to have found an escape.
"You mean it's dangerous to escape?" she asked somewhat bewildered.
Isn't it? A deep wound must be examined, treated, healed; it's no good covering it up, or refusing to look at it.
"That's true. And this feeling of isolation is such a wound?"
It's something you don't understand, and in that sense it's like a disease that will keep on recurring; so it's meaningless to run away from it. You have tried running away, but it keeps on overtaking you, doesn't it?
"It does. Then you are glad that I haven't found an escape?"
Aren't you? - Which is much more important.
"I think I understand what you have explained, and I am relieved that there's some hope."
Now let's both examine the wound. To examine something, you mustn't be afraid of the thing you're going to see, must you? If you are afraid, you won't look; you will turn your head away. When you had babies, you looked at them as soon as possible after they were born. You weren't concerned with whether they were ugly or beautiful; you looked at them with love, didn't you?
"That's exactly what I did. I looked at each new baby with love, with care, and pressed it to my heart."
In the same way, with affection, we must examine this feeling of being cut off, this sense of isolation, of loneliness, mustn't we? If we are fearful, anxious, we shall be incapable of examining it at all.
"Yes, I see the difficulty. I haven't really looked at it before, because I was fearful of what I might see. But now I think I can look."
Surely, this ache of loneliness is only the final exaggeration of what we all feel in a minor way every day, isn't it? Every day you are isolating yourself, cutting yourself off, aren't you?
"How?" she asked, rather horrified.
In so many ways. You belong to a certain family, to a special caste; they are your children, your grandchildren; it is your belief, your God, your property; you are more virtuous than somebody else; you know, and another does not. All this is a way of cutting yourself off, a way of isolation isn't it?
"But we are brought up that way, and one has to live. We can't cut ourselves off from society, can we?"
Is this not what you are actually doing? In this relationship called society, every human being is cutting himself off from another by his position, by his ambition, by his desire for fame, power, and so on; but he has to live in this brutal relationship with other men like himself, so the whole thing is glossed over and made respectable by pleasant-sounding words. In everyday life, each one is devoted to his own interests, though it may be in the name of the country, in the name of peace, or God, and so the isolating process goes on. One becomes aware of this whole process in the form of intense loneliness, a feeling of complete isolation. Thought, which has been giving all importance to itself, isolating itself as the `me', the ego, has finally come to the point of realizing that it's held in the prison of its own making.
"I'm afraid all this is a bit difficult to follow at my age, and I'm not too well-educated either."
This has nothing to do with being educated. It needs thinking through, that's all. You feel lonely, isolated, and if you could, you would run away from that feeling; but fortunately for yourself, you have been unable to find a means of doing so. Since you have found no way out, you are now in a position to look at that from which you have been trying to escape; but you can't look if you are afraid of it, can you?
"I see that."
Doesn't your difficulty lie in the fact that the word itself makes trouble?
"I don't understand what you mean."
You have associated certain words with this feeling that comes over you, words like `loneliness', `isolation', `fear', `being cut off'. Isn't that so?
Now, just as your son's name doesn't prevent you from perceiving and understanding his real qualities and make-up, so you must not let such words as `isolation', `loneliness', `fear', `being cut off', interfere with your examination of the feeling they have come to represent.
"I see what you mean. I have always looked at my children in that direct way."
And when you look at this feeling in the same direct way, what happens? Don't you find that the feeling itself isn't frightening, but only what you think about the feeling? It is the mind, thought, that brings fear to the feeling, isn't it?
"Yes that's right; at this moment I understand that very well. But will I be capable of understanding it when I leave here, and you are not there to explain?"
Of course. It is like seeing a cobra. Having once seen it, you can never mistake it; you don't have to depend on anybody to tell you what a cobra is. Similarly, when once you have understood this feeling, that understanding is always with you; when once you have learned to look, you have the capacity to see. But one must go through and beyond this feeling, for there is much more to be discovered. There is an aloneness which is not this loneliness, this sense of isolation. That state of aloneness is not a remembrance or a recognition; it is untouched by the mind, by the word, by society, by tradition. It is a benediction.
"In this one hour I have learned more than in all my seventy - five years. May that benediction be with you and with me."
Chapter - 38
Why Did You Dissolve Your Order of the Star?
BATHED IN THE light of the evening sun a fisherman came swinging down the road with a smile on his face. He wore a piece of cloth attached to a string around his waist, but was otherwise completely naked. He had a magnificent body, and you could see that he was very proud of it. A car went by, driven by a chauffeur, and the lady inside was all dressed up. She must have been going to some party. She had jewels round her neck and in her ears, and there were flowers in her dark hair. The chauffeur was doing all the driving, and she was absorbed in herself. She didn't even look at the fisherman, nor was she aware of anything else about her; but the fisherman looked at the car as it went by, to see if he was noticed. He was walking quite fast, with a long easy stride, never slackening his pace; but as each car passed he turned his head. Just before reaching the village he took a newly-made road of bright red earth, which in the last rays of the setting sun was redder than ever. passing through a palm grove and along a canal, where there were some light barges loaded with fire-wood, the fisherman crossed a bridge and took a narrow path that led to the river.
It was very quiet by the river, for there were no houses nearby, and the noise of traffic didn't come that far. Land crabs had made large round holes in the damp mud, and a few cattle were about. The breeze was playing with the palms, and they were stately in their movement; they were all dancing, as if to music.
Meditation is not for the meditator. The meditator can think, reason, build up or tear down, but he will never know meditation; and without meditation, his life is as empty as the shell by the sea. Something can be put in that emptiness, but it is not meditation. Meditation is not an act whose worth can be weighed in the market place; it has its own action, which cannot be measured. The meditator knows only the action of the market place, with its noise of exchange; and through this noise, the noiseless action of meditation can never be found. The action of cause becoming effect, and effect becoming cause, is an everlasting chain that binds the meditator. Such action, being within the walls of his own prison, is not meditation. The meditator can never know meditation which is just beyond his walls. It's only the walls that the meditator himself has built, high or low, thick or thin, that divide him from meditation.
He was a young man, just out of college and full of high spirits. Moved by an urge to do good, he had recently joined some movement in order to be more effective, and would like to have devoted his whole life to it; but unfortunately his father was an invalid, and he had to support his parents. He saw the drawbacks of the movement as well as its merits, but the good outweighed the bad. He was not married, he said, and would never be. His smile was friendly, and he was eager to express himself.
"The other day I was present at your talk, in which you were saying that truth cannot be organized, and that no organization can lead one to truth. You were very definite about it, but to me your explanation was not altogether satisfactory, and I want to talk it over with you. I know that you were once the head of a large organization, the Order of the Star, which you dissolved, and if I may ask, was this because of a personal whim, or was it motivated by a principle?"
Neither. If there is a cause for action is it action? If you renounce because of a principle, an idea, a conclusion, is it renunciation? If you give up one thing for the sake of something greater, or for some person, is that giving up?
"Reason doesn't play a part in giving up anything; is that what you mean?"
Reason can make one behave in this manner or in that; but what reason has put together, reason can undo. If reason is the criterion of action, then the mind can never be free to act. Reason, however subtle and logical, is a process of thinking, and thinking is ever influenced, conditioned by personal fancy, by desire, or by an idea, a conclusion, whether imposed or self-induced.
"If it wasn't reason, principle or personal desire that made you do it, then was it something outside of yourself, a superior or divine agency?"
No. But perhaps it will be clear if we can approach it differently. What is your problem?
"You said that truth cannot be organized, and that no organization can lead man to truth. The organization to which I belong maintain that man can be led to truth through certain principles of action, through right personal endeavour giving oneself to good works, and so on. My problem is, am I on the right path?"
Do you think there's a path to truth?
"If I didn't think there were, I wouldn't belong to this organization. According to our leaders, this organization is based on truth; it's dedicated to the well-being of all, and it will help the villager as well as people who are highly educated and who hold responsible positions. However, when I heard you the other day, I was disturbed, and so took the first opportunity to come to see you. I hope you understand my difficulty."
Let's go into the matter slowly, step by step. First, is there a path to truth? A path implies going from one fixed point to another. As a living entity, you are changing, reshaping, pushing, questioning yourself, hoping to find a permanent, immutable truth. Isn't that so?
"Yes. I want to find truth, or God, in order to do good," he answered eagerly.
Surely, there's nothing permanent about you except what you think is permanent; but your thinking is also transient, is it not? And has truth a fixed place, without any movement?
"I don't know. One sees so much poverty, so much misery and confusion in the world, and in one's desire to do good, one accepts a leader or a philosophy that offers some hope. Otherwise life would be terrible."
All decent people want to do good, but most of us don't think the problem through. We say that we cannot think it through for ourselves, or that the leaders know better. But do they? Look at the various political leaders, the so-called religious leaders and the leaders of social and economic reform. They all have schemes, each saying that his scheme is the way to salvation, to the eradication of poverty, and so on; and individuals like you, who want to act in the face of all this misery and chaos, get caught in the net of propaganda and dogmatic assertions. Haven't you noticed that this very action breeds further misery and chaos?
Truth has no fixed abode; it's a living thing, more alive, more dynamic than anything the mind can think of, so there can be no path to it.
"I think I see that, sir. But are you against all organizations?"
It would obviously be silly to be `against' the postal or other similar organizations. But you are not referring to such organizations, are you?
"No. I am talking about churches, spiritual groups, religious societies, and so on. The organization to which I belong embrace all religions, and anyone who is concerned with the physical and spiritual improvement of man may be a member. Of course, such organizations always have their leaders who say they know the truth, or who lead saintly lives."
Can truth be organized, with a president and secretary, or with high priests and interpreters?
"If I understand you correctly, it looks as though it can't be. Then why do these saintly leaders say that their organizations are necessary?"
It doesn't matter what the leaders say, for they are as blind as their followers, otherwise they wouldn't be leaders. What do you think, apart from your leaders? Are such organizations necessary?
"They may not be strictly necessary, but one does find comfort in belonging to such an organization, and in working with others of the same mind."
That's right. And there is also a sense of security in being told what to do, is there not? The leader knows, and you, the follower, do not; so under his direction you feel you can do the right thing. To have an authority over you, someone to guide you, is very comforting, especially when on all sides there is so much chaos and misery. That is why you become, not exactly a slave, but a follower, carrying out the plan laid down by the leader. It is you, the human being who have made all this mess in the world, but you are not important; only the plan is important. But the plan is mechanical; it needs human beings to make it operate; therefore you become useful to the plan.
Then there are the priests, with their divine authority to save your soul, and from childhood you are conditioned by them to think in a certain way. Again, you as a human being are not important; it is not your freedom, not your love, that matters, but your soul, which has to be saved in accordance with the dogmas of a particular church or sect.
"I see the truth of this, all right, as you explain it. Then what is important in the midst of all this confusion?"
The important thing is to free your mind of envy, hate and violence; and for that you don't need an organization, do you? So-called religious organizations never liberate the mind; they only make it conform to a certain creed or belief.
"I need to change; there must be love in me, I must cease to be envious, and then I shall always act rightly. I won't have to be told what right action is. I see now that this is the only thing that matters, not what organization I belong to."
One may follow what is generally considered to be right action, or be told what right action is; but that does not bring about love, does it.
"No it quite obviously does not; one is merely pursuing a pattern created by the mind. Again, I see this very clearly, sir, and I now understand why you dissolved the organization of which you were the head. One has to be a light unto oneself; following the light of another, other only leads one into darkness."
Chapter - 39
What is Love?
THE LITTLE GIRL next door was ill, and she had been crying, off and on, all day long, and far into the night. This had been going on for some time, and the poor mother was worn out. There was a small plant in the window which she used to water every evening, but for the past few days it had been neglected. The mother was alone in the house, except for a rather helpless and inefficient servant, and she seemed somewhat lost, for the child's illness was evidently serious. The doctor had driven up several times in his big car, and the mother became sadder and sadder.
A banana-plant in the garden was irrigated by the kitchen water, and the soil around it was always damp. Its leaves were dark green, and there was one very large leaf, two or three feet across and much more in length, which had so far not been torn by the winds, like the other leaves. It would sway very gently in the breeze, and it was touched only by the western sun. It was a wonderful thing to see the yellow flowers in descending circles on a long, drooping stem. These flowers would soon be young bananas and the stem would become quite thick, for there might be dozens of them, rich, green and heavy. Now and then a shiny black bumblebee would go in among the yellow flowers, and several black and white butterflies would come and flutter about them. There seemed to be such an abundance of life in that banana-plant, especially with the sun upon it, and with its large leaves stirring in the breeze. The little girl often used to play around it, and she was so full of fun and smiles. Sometimes we would walk together a short distance down the lane as the mother watched, and then she would go running back. We couldn't understand each other, for our words were different, but that didn't stop her from talking; so we talked.
One afternoon the mother beckoned me in. The little girl was skin and bones; she smiled weakly, then closed her eyes in utter exhaustion. She was sleeping fitfully. Through the open window came the noise of other children, shouting and playing. The mother was speechless and bereft of all tears. She wouldn't sit down, but stood by the little cot, and there was despair and longing in the air. Just then the doctor came in, and I left, with a silent promise to return.
The sun was setting behind the trees, and the huge clouds above it were brilliantly golden. There were the usual crows, and a parrot came screeching in and clung to the edge of a hole in a large, dead tree, with its tail pressed against the trunk; it hesitated, seeing a human being so close, but an instant later disappeared into the hole. There were a few villagers on the road, and a car went by, loaded with young people. A week-old calf was tied to a fence post, with its mother grazing nearby. A woman was coming down the road with a brightly-polished brass vessel on her head, and another on her hip; she was carrying water from the well. She used to go by every evening; and that evening especially, against the setting sun, she was the earth itself in motion.
Two young men had come from the town nearby. The bus had brought them to the corner, and they had walked the rest of the way. They worked in an office, they said, and so couldn't come any earlier. They had put on fresh clothes, which the old bus hadn't soiled, and they came in smiling but rather shyly, their manner hesitantly respectful. Once seated, they soon forgot their shyness, but they still weren't quite sure how to put their thoughts into words.
What sort of work do you do?
"We are both employed in the same office; I am a stenographer, and my friend keeps accounts. Neither of us has been to college, because we couldn't afford it, and neither of us is married. We don't get much pay, but as we have no family responsibilities, it's enough for our needs. If either of us ever gets married, it will be quite another matter."
"We are not very well-educated," added the second one, "and though we read a certain amount of serious literature, our reading isn't intensive. We spend a great deal of time together, and on holidays we go back to our families. There are very few in the office who are interested in serious things. A mutual friend brought us to your talk the other day, and we asked if we could see you. May I ask a question, sir?"
"What is love?"
Do you want a definition of it? Don't you know what that word means?
"There are so many ideas about what love should be, that it's all rather confusing," said the first one.
What sort of ideas?
"That love shouldn't be passionate, lustful; that one should love one's neighbour as oneself; that one should love one's father and mother; that love should be the impersonal love of God, and so on. Every man gives an opinion according to his fancy."
Apart from the opinions of others, what do you think? Have you opinions about love too?
"It's difficult to put into words what one feels," replied the second one. "I think love must be universal; one must love all, without prejudice. It's, prejudice that destroys love; it's class consciousness that creates barriers and divides people. The sacred books say that we must love one another, and not be personal or limited in our love, but sometimes we find this very difficult."
"To love God is to love all," added the first one. "There's only divine love; the rest is carnal, personal. This physical love prevents divine love; and without divine love, all other love is mere barter and exchange. Love is not sensation. Sexual sensation must be checked, disciplined; that's why I'm against birth control. Physical passion is destructive; through chastity lies the way to God."
Before we go further, don't you think we ought to find out if all these opinions have any validity? Is not one opinion as good as another? Regardless of who holds it, is not opinion a form of prejudice, a bias created by one's temperament, one's experience, and the way one happens to have been brought up? "Do you think it is wrong to hold an opinion?" asked the second one.
To say that it is wrong or right would merely be another opinion, wouldn't it? But if one begins to observe and understand how opinions are formed, then perhaps one may be able to perceive the actual significance of opinion, judgment, agreement.
"Would you kindly explain?"
Thought is the result of influence, isn't it? Your thinking and your opinions are dictated by the way you have been brought up. You say, "This is right, and that is wrong", according to the moral pattern of your particular conditioning. We are not for the moment concerned with what is true beyond all influence, or whether there is such truth. We are trying to see the significance of opinions, beliefs, assertions, whether they be collective or personal. Opinion, belief, agreement or disagreement, are responses according to one's background narrow or wide. Isn't that so?
"Yes, but is that wrong?"
Again, if you say it's right or wrong, you are still in the field of opinions. Truth is not a matter of opinion; a fact does not depend on agreement or belief. You and I may agree to call this object a watch, but by any other name it would still be what it is. Your belief or opinion is something that has been given to you by the society in which you live. In revolting against it, as a reaction, you may form a different opinion, another belief; but you are still on the same level, aren't you?
"I am sorry, sir, but I don't understand what you are getting at," replied the second one.
You have certain ideas and opinions about love, haven't you?
How did you get them?
"I have read what the saints and the great religious teachers have said about love, and having thought it over, I have formed my own conclusions."
Which are shaped by your likes and dislikes, are they not? You like or you don't like what others have said about love, and you decide which statement is right and which is wrong according to your own predilection. Isn't this what you do?
"I choose that which I consider to be true."
On what is your choice based? "On my own knowledge and discernment."
What do you mean by knowledge? I'm not trying to trip or corner you, but together we are trying to understand why one has opinions, ideas, conclusions about love. If once we understand this, we can go very much more deeply into the matter. So, what do you mean by knowledge?
"By knowledge I mean what I have learnt from the teachings of the sacred books."
"Knowledge embraces also the techniques of modern science, and all the information that has been gathered by man from ancient days up to the present time," added the other.
So knowledge is a process of accumulation, is it not? It is the cultivation of memory. The knowledge that we have accumulated as scientists, musicians, type-setters, scholars, engineers, makes us technical in various departments of life. When we have to build a bridge, we think as engineers, and this knowledge is part of the tradition, part of the background, or conditioning, that influences all our thinking. Living, which includes the capacity to build a bridge, is a total action, not a separate, partial activity; yet our thinking about life, about love, is shaped by opinions, conclusions, tradition. If you were brought up in a culture which maintained that love is only physical, and that divine love is all nonsense, you would, in the same way, repeat what you had been taught, wouldn't you?
"Not always," replied the second one. "I admit it's rare, but some of us do rebel and think for ourselves."
Thought may rebel against the established pattern, but this very revolt is generally the outcome of another pattern; the mind is still caught in the process of knowledge, tradition. It is like rebelling within the walls of a prison for more conveniences, better food, and so on.
So your mind is conditioned by opinions, tradition, knowledge, and by your ideas about love, which make you act in a certain way. That is clear, isn't it?
"Yes, sir, that is clear enough," answered the first one. "But then what is love?"
If you want a definition, you can look in any dictionary; but the words which define love are not love, are they? Merely to seek an explanation of what love is, is still to be caught in words, in opinions, which are accepted or rejected according to your conditioning. "Aren't you making it impossible to inquire into what love is?" asked the second one.
Is it possible to inquire through a series of opinions, conclusions? To inquire rightly, thought must be freed from conclusion, from the security of knowledge, tradition. The mind may free itself from one series of conclusions, and form another, which is again only a modified continuity of the old.
Now, isn't thought itself a movement from one result to another, from one influence to another? Do you see what I mean?
"I'm not at all sure that I do," said the first one.
"I don't understand it at all," said the second.
Perhaps you will, as we go along. Let me put it this way: is thinking the instrument of inquiry? Will thinking help one to understand what love is?
"How am I to find out what love is if I'm not allowed to think?" asked the second one rather sharply.
Please be a little more patient. You have thought about love, haven't you?
"Yes. My friend and I have thought a great deal about it."
If one may ask, what do you mean when you say you have thought about love?
"I have read about it, discussed it with my friends, and drawn my own conclusions."
Has it helped you to find out what love is? You have read, exchanged opinions with each other, and come to certain conclusions about love, all of which is called thinking. You have positively or negatively described what love is, sometimes adding to, and sometimes taking away from, what you have previously learnt. Isn't that so?
"Yes, that's exactly what we have been doing, and our thinking has helped to clarify our minds."
Has it? Or have you become more and more entrenched in an opinion? Surely, what you call clarification is a process of coming to a definite verbal or intellectual conclusion.
"That's right; we are not as confused as we were."
In other words, one or two ideas stand out clearly in this jumble of teachings and contradictory opinions about love. Isn't that it?
"Yes; the more we have gone over this whole question of what love is, the clearer it has become." Is it love that has become clear, or what you think about it?
Let us go a little further into this, shall we? A certain ingenious mechanism is called a watch because we have all agreed to use this word to indicate that particular thing; but the word `watch' is obviously not the mechanism itself. Similarly, there is a feeling or a state which we have all agreed to call love; but the word is not the actual feeling, is it? And the word `love' means so many different things. At one time you use it to describe a sexual feeling, at another time you talk about divine or impersonal love, or you assert what love should or should not be, and so on.
"If I may interrupt, sir, could it be that all these feelings are just varying forms of the same thing?" asked the first one.
How does it appear to you?
"I'm not sure. There are moments when love seems to be one thing, but at other moments it appears to be something quite different. It's all very confusing. One doesn't know where one is."
That's just it. We want to be sure of love, to peg it down, so that it won't elude us; we reach conclusion, make agreements about it; we call it by various names, with their special meanings; we talk about `my love', just as we talk about `my property', `my family', `my virtue', and we hope to lock it safely away, so that we can turn to other things and make sure of them too; but somehow it's always slipping away when we least expect it.
"I don't quite follow all this," said the second one, rather puzzled.
As we have seen, the feeling itself is different from what the books say about it; the feeling is not the description, it is not the word. That much is clear, isn't it?
Now, can you separate the feeling from the word, and from your preconceptions of what it should and should not be?
"What do you mean, `separate'?" asked the first one.
There is the feeling, and the word or words which describe that feeling, either approvingly or disapprovingly. Can you separate the feeling from the verbal description of it? It's comparatively easy to separate an objective thing, like this watch, from the word which describes it; but to dissociate the feeling itself from the word `love', with all its implications, is far more arduous and requires a great deal of attention. "What good will that do?" asked the second one.
We always want to get a result in return for doing something. This desire for a result, which is another form of conclusion-seeking, prevents understanding. When you ask, "What good will it do me if I dissociate the feeling from the word `love'?", you are thinking of a result; therefore you are not really inquiring to find out what that feeling is, are you?
"I do want to find out, but I also want to know what will be the outcome of dissociating the feeling from the word. Isn't this perfectly natural?"
Perhaps; but if you want to understand, you will have to give your attention, and there's no attention when one part of your mind is concerned with results, and the other with understanding. In this way you get neither, and so you become more and more confused, bitter and miserable. If we don't dissociate the word, which is memory and all its reactions, from the feeling, then that word destroys the feeling; and then the word, or memory, is the ash without the fire. Isn't this what has happened to you both? You have so entangled yourselves in a net of words, of speculations, that the feeling itself, which is the only thing that has deep and vital significance, is lost.
"I am beginning to see what you mean," said the first one slowly. "We are not simple; we don't discover anything for ourselves, but just repeat what we have been told. Even when we revolt, we form new conclusions, which again have to be broken down. We really don't know what love is, but merely have opinions about it. Is that it?"
Don't you think so? Surely, to know love, truth, God, there must be no opinions, no beliefs, no speculations with regard to it. If you have an opinion about a fact, the opinion becomes important, not the fact. If you want to know the truth or the falseness of the fact, then you must not live in the word, in the intellect. You may have a lot of knowledge, information, about the fact, but the actual fact is entirely different. Put away the book, the description, the tradition, the authority, and take the journey of self-discovery. Love, and don't be caught in opinions and ideas about what love is or should be. When you love, everything will come right. Love has its own action. Love and you will know the blessings of it. Keep away from the authority who tells you what love is and what it is not. No authority knows; and he who knows cannot tell. Love, and there is understanding.
Chapter - 40
Seeking and the State of Search
THE HEAVENS OPENED, and there was rain; it covered the earth. It came down in sheets, flooding the roads and visibly filling the lily-pond. The trees bent down under the weight of it. The crows were soaked and could hardly fly, and many little birds took shelter under the veranda roof. Suddenly, from nowhere, came the frogs, large and small. Those with long legs made prodigious jumps with the greatest ease. Some were brown, some had green stripes, while others were almost entirely green, and they all had bright eyes, black, round and large. When you took one in your hand, it remained there, its beady eyes looking at you; and when you put it down again, it still didn't move, but sat as though glued to the spot. The rain was still coming down; everywhere there were running streams, and the water on the path was now ankle-deep. There was no wind, but just heavy rain. In a few seconds all your clothes were soaked, and they clung to your body uncomfortably; but it was warm, and you really didn't mind getting completely wet. You looked down to keep the water out of your eyes; but the heavy drops were painful on your scalp, and you would soon have to go in. A pale purple lily, with a bright golden heart, was being torn by the force of the rain; it couldn't stand much more of such heavy beating. A green snake as thick as your finger was clinging to a branch; you could hardly see it, for it was almost the colour of the leaves, only a brighter green, with a chemical artificiality about it. It had no eyelids, and its black eyes were exposed. It didn't move as you approached, but you could feel it was uncomfortable with you so close. It was of a harmless variety, about eighteen inches long, plump and amazingly supple. Even when you moved away, it still remained motionless and watchful, and from a short distance you couldn't see it at all.
The leaves of the banana-plants were being torn to shreds, the flowers were being knocked off, and it still went on raining as furiously as ever. The delicate white jasmines were on the ground, and they were quickly becoming the colour of the earth; in death they still had their goodly perfume, but only when you came near them; a little further away there was only the smell of the rain and of penetrating dampness. A bedraggled crow had taken refuge on the veranda; thoroughly soaked, its wings were touching the floor, and the bluish-white skin was showing. It couldn't fly, and it looked at you asking you not to come near. Its sharp, black beak was the only thing hard and powerful about it; everything else was soft and weak. The roar of the sea could not be heard above the patter of the rain on the roof, on the leaves, and on the fan-shaped palm. But you could feel that this noise was slowly coming to an end. Already it was raining less heavily, and you could hear the frogs croaking. Other noises became audible: voices calling, a dog barking, a car coming down the road. Everything was becoming normal again. You were of the earth, of the leaves, of the dying lily, and you too were washed clean.
He was an old man, known for his generous nature, and for his hard work. Lean and austere, he went about the country by rail, bus or on foot, talking on religious matters, and there was about him the dignity of thought and meditation. He had a beard, clean and well-trimmed, and long hair. His hands were long and thin, and he had a pleasant, friendly smile.
"Though I do not wear the saffron robe, I am a sannyasi, and have been all over the land, talking to many people and questioning the religious teachers everywhere. As you see, I am an old man, my beard is white, but I have tried to keep my heart young and my head clear. I left home at the age of fifteen in search of God." He smiled gently at past remembrances. "That was many years ago; and though I have read, worshipped, meditated, I have not found God. I have listened attentively to the most famous of the saintly leaders, who incessantly talk of God - listened to them, not once, but many times; I have watched their work, their social reform, not patronizingly, but with openness of heart to see their goodness. I am neither tolerant nor intolerant. I have prayed with the crowd, and I have prayed inwardly, quietly, in solitude. As a young man, I wanted to become a social reformer, and I willingly turned my hand to good works; but I found that good works have significance only within the great whole, which is God, and while I see that social reform is necessary, it is not my all-consuming interest.
"It was not with a dry heart that I listened to these `leaders of the people', as they are called," he went on; "but their God is not the God I am seeking. Their God is action; they preach, exhort, fast, organize political meetings; they serve as the heads of committees, write articles, edit papers, and mingle with the great of the land. They are active, but they know not silence. I have sought God with them, but have not found Him. Long before the names of these men began to appear in the papers, I was seeking God alone, in caves and in the open spaces; but I have not found Him.
"Now I am an old man, and I have only a few years left. Shall I find Him? Or is He non-existent? I don't want an opinion, or the cunning arguments of a polished mind. I must know. I have listened to you many times, in the north as well as in the south, and you do not speak of God as others do, nor are you in the religious-political arena. You explain what God is not, but you do not say what He is - which is as it should be. But you give no way to Him, and that is hard to understand. I have known of you from your very young days, and I often used to wonder how it would all turn out. If it had turned out otherwise, I wouldn't be here. This is not a compliment. I want to know the truth before I leave this world."
He sat quietly, his eyes closed. There was not about him the harshness of doubt, nor the brutality of cynicism, nor the intolerance which tries to be tolerant. He was a man who had come to the end of his seeking, and still wanted to know.
There was a strange silence in the room.
Sir, is there humility when we seek? Seeking is never born of humility, is it?
"Then is it born of arrogance?"
Isn't it? The desire to achieve, to arrive, is part of the pride which conceals itself in seeking. A way must be found to bring about the efficient and equitable distribution of man's physical necessities; and it will be found, because technology will force us to find it, now or tomorrow. But apart from seeking the physical well-being of man, why do we seek at all?
"I have sought ever since my childhood because this world has very little meaning; its significance can be seen with the naked eye. I don't say it's an illusion, as some do. This world is as real as pain and sorrow. Illusion exists only in the mind, and the power to create illusion can come to an end. The mind can be cleansed of its impurities by the breath of compassion; but the cleansing of the mind is not the finding of God. I have sought Him, but have found Him not." This daily living is a transitory thing, and one seeks permanency; or in the midst of all this madness, one hopes for something rational, sane; or one is after some kind of personal immortality; or one is pursuing fulfilment in something infinitely greater than the enrichment of passing desire. Now, all this seeking is a form of arrogance, is it not? And how are you to know reality? Will you be able to recognize it, fathom it? Is it within the measure of the mind?
"Will God come to us without our seeking Him?"
Seeking is confined to the area of thought; all seeking and finding is within the borders of the mind, is it not? The mind can imagine, speculate, can hear the noise of its own chattering, but it cannot find that which is outside of itself. Its seeking is limited to the space of its own measuring.
"Then have I only been measuring, and not really seeking?"
Seeking is always measuring, sir. There's no seeking if the mind ceases to measure, compare.
"Are you telling me that my years of seeking have been in vain?"
It's not for another to say. But the movement of the mind that sets out on the journey of seeking is ever within the wide or narrow confines of itself.
"I have sought to silence the mind, but in that too there has been no finality."
A mind that has been made silent is not a silent mind. It's a dead mind. Anything that has been brought to a finality by force has to be conquered again and again; there's no end to it. Only that which has an ending is beyond the reach of time.
"Is not silence to be sought? Surely, a mind that wanders must be checked and brought under control."
Can silence be sought? Is it a thing to be cultivated and gathered? To seek silence of the mind, one must already know what it is. And do we know what that silence is? We may know it through the description of another; but can it be described? Knowing is only a verbal condition, a process of recognition; and what is recognized is not silence, which is always new.
"I have known the silence of the mountains and the caves, and I have put away all thoughts save the thought of silence; but the silence of the mind I have never known. You have wisely said that speculation is empty. But there must be a state of silence; and how is that state to come into being?"
Is there a method for the coming into being of that which is not the product of imagination of that which is not put together by the mind?
"No, I suppose there isn't. The only silence I have experienced is that which arises when my mind is completely under control; but you say this is not silence. I have tutored my mind to obedience, and have pleased it only under watchful care; it has been trained and made sharp through study, through argumentation, through meditation and deep thought; but the silence of which you speak has not come within the field of my experience. How is that silence to be experienced? What am I to do?"
Sir, the experiencer must cease for silence to be. The experiencer is always seeking more experiences; he wants to have new sensations, or to repeat old ones; he craves to fulfil himself, to be or become something. The experiencer is the motive-maker; and as long as there's a motive, however subtle, there's only the buying of silence; but it's not silence.
"Then how is silence to happen? Is it an accident of life? Is it a gift?"
Let's consider together the whole issue. We are always seeking something, and we use that word `seeking' so easily. The fact that we are seeking is all-important, and not what is being sought. What one seeks is the projection of one's own desire. Seeking is not the state of search; it is a reaction, a process of denial and assertion with regard to an idea made by the mind. To seek the proverbial needle in a haystack, there must already be knowledge of the needle. Similarly, to seek God, happiness, silence, or what you will, is already to have known, formulated or imagined it. Seeking, as it's called, is always for something known. Finding is recognizing, and recognition is based on previous knowledge. This process of seeking is not the state of search. The mind that's seeking is waiting, expecting, desiring, and what it finds is recognizable, therefore already known. Seeking is the action of the past. But the state of search is entirely different, it's in no way similar to seeking; and it's not a reaction, the opposite of seeking. The two are not related in any way.
"Then what is the state of search?"
It cannot be described, but it is possible to be in that state if there is an understanding of what seeking is. We seek, out of discontent, unhappiness, fear, do we not? Seeking is a network of activities in which there's no freedom. This network has to be understood.
"What do you mean by understanding?" Is not understanding a state of mind in which knowledge, memory, or recognition, is not immediately functioning? To understand, the mind must be still; the activities of knowledge must be in abeyance. This stillness of the mind takes place spontaneously when the teacher or the parent really wants to understand the child. When there's the intention to understand, there is attention without the distraction of the desire to attend. Then the mind is not disciplined, controlled, pulled together and made to be still. Its stillness is natural when there's the intention to understand. No effort, no conflict, is involved in understanding. With the understanding of the full significance of seeking, the state of search comes into being. It cannot be sought and found.
"As I have listened to you explaining, there has been a close watching of the mind. I now see the truth of what is called seeking, and I perceive that it is possible not to seek; yet the state of search is not."
Why say it is not, or it is? Being aware of the truth and the falseness of seeking, the mind is no longer caught in the machinery of seeking. There's a feeling of being unburdened, a sense of relief. The mind is still; it's no longer making effort striving after something; but it's not asleep, nor is it waiting, expecting. It's simply quiet, awake. Isn't that so, sir?
"Please do not call me `sir'. I am the one being instructed. What you say appears to be true."
This awakened mind is the state of search. It's no longer seeking from a motive; there's no objective to be gained. The mind has not been made still; there's no pressure on it to be still, and so it's still. Its stillness is not that of a leaf which is ready to dance with the next breeze; it's not a plaything of desire.
"There's awareness of a movement in that stillness."
Is this awareness not silence? We are describing, but not as the experiencer would describe. The experiencer is brought into being through many causes; he is an effect, who in turn becomes the cause of still another effect. The experiencer is both cause and effect in a never-ending series of causes and effects. To perceive the truth of this sets the mind free. There is no freedom within the network of cause-effect. Freedom is not being free from the net, but freedom is when the net is not. Freedom from something is not freedom; it's only a reaction, the opposite of bondage. Freedom is when bondage is understood. Truth is not something permanent, fixed therefore it cannot be sought; truth is a living thing, it is the state of search. "That state of search is God. There is no end to be gained and held. The seeking without finding which has gone on all these years has not brought bitterness to the heart, nor is there regret over these spent years. We are taught, we do not learn, and therein lies our misery. Understanding abolishes time and age; it sweeps away the difference between the teacher and the taught. I understand and feel greatly. We shall meet again."
Chapter - 41
Why do the Scriptures condemn Desire?
IT WAS ONE of those huge, sprawling towns that are devouring the country, and to get beyond it we had to go for seemingly endless miles along shoddy streets, past factories, slums and railway sheds, through exclusive residential suburbs, until at last we saw the beginnings of the open country, where the skies were wide and the trees were tall and free. It was a beautiful day, clear and not too warm, for it had been raining recently - one of those soft, gentle rains that go deep into the earth. Suddenly, as the road crested a hill, we came upon the river, glistening in the sun as it wandered away among the green fields towards the distant sea. There were only a few boats on the river, clumsily built, with square, black sails. Many miles higher up there was a bridge for both trains and daily traffic, but at this point there was just a pontoon bridge, on which the traffic moved only one way at a time, and we saw a line of lorries, bullock carts and motor cars, and two camels, waiting their turn to cross over. We didn't want to enter that lengthening queue, for it might be a long wait so we took another road back, leaving the river to make its way through hills and meadows, past many a village, to the open sea.
The sky overhead was intensely blue, and the horizon was filled with enormous white clouds, with the morning sun upon them. They were fantastic in shape, and they remained motionless and distant. You couldn't get near them, even if you drove towards them for miles. By the side of the road the grass was young and green. The coming summer would burn it brown, and the country would lose its green freshness; but now everything was made new, and there was joy in the land. The road was quite rough, with potholes all over-it, and though the driver avoided as many as he could, we bounced up and down, our heads almost touching the roof; but the motor was running beautifully, and there was no rattle in the car.
One's mind was aware of the stately trees, the rocky hills, the villagers, the wide blue skies, but it was also in meditation. Not a thought was disturbing it. There was no flutter of memory, no effort to hold or to resist, nor was there anything in the future to be gained. The mind was taking everything in, it was quicker than the eye, and it didn't keep what it perceived; the happening passed through it, as the breeze passes among the branches of a tree. One heard the conversation behind one, and saw the bullock cart and the approaching lorry, yet the mind was completely still; and the movement within that stillness was the impulse of a new beginning, a new birth. But the new beginning would never be old; it would never know yesterday and tomorrow. The mind was not experiencing the new: it was itself the new. It had no continuity, and so no death; it was new, not made new. The fire was not from the embers of yesterday.
He had brought his friend, he said, so that with his help he could be better to formulate his points. They were both rather reserved, and not given to many words, but they said they knew Sanskrit and some scripture. Probably in their forties, they were slim and healthy looking with good heads and thoughtful eyes.
"Why do the Scriptures condemn desire?" began the taller one. "Practically every teacher of old seems to have condemned it, especially sexual desire, saying that it must be controlled, subjugated. They evidently regarded desire as a hindrance to the higher life. The Buddha talked of desire as the cause of all sorrow and preached the ending of it. Shankara, in his complex philosophy, said that desire and the sexual urge were to be suppressed, and all the other religious teachers have more or less maintained the same attitude. Some of the Christian saints castigated their bodies and tortured themselves in various ways, while others held that one's body, like the ass or the horse must be well-treated but controlled. We have not read very much, but as far as we are familiar with it, all religious literature seems to insist that desire must be disciplined, subjugated, sublimated, and so on. We are just beginners in the religious life, but somehow we feel there's something missing in all this, a flower with perfume. We may be entirely wrong, and we are not pitting ourselves against the great teachers, but we would like, if we may, to talk things over with you. As far as we can make out from our reading, you have never said that desire must be suppressed or sublimated, but that it must be understood with an awareness in which there's no condemnation or justification. Though you have explained this in different ways, we find it difficult to grasp the whole meaning of it, and our talking it over with you will be of considerable help to us."
What exactly is the problem you want to discuss?
"Desire is natural, is it not, sir?" asked the other. "Desire for food, desire for sleep, desire for some degree of comfort, sexual desire the desire for truth - in all these forms, desire is perfectly natural, and why are we told that it must be eliminated?"
Putting aside what you have been told, can we inquire into the truth and the falseness of desire? What do you mean by desire? Not the dictionary definition, but what is the significance, the content of desire? And what importance do you give to it?
"I have many desires," replied the taller one, "and these desires change in their value and importance from time to time. There are permanent as well as passing desires. A desire which I have one day may, by the very next day, be gone, or have become intensified. Even if I no longer have sexual desire, I may still want power; I may have passed beyond the sexual phase, but my desire for power remains constant."
That is so. Childish wants become mature desires with age, with habit, with repetition. The object of desire may change as we grow older, but desire remains. Fulfilment and the pain of frustration are always within the area of desire, are they not?
Now, is there desire if there's no object of desire? Are desire and its object inseparable? Do I know desire only because of the object? Let us find out.
I see a new fountain-pen, and because mine is not as good, I want the new one; so a process of desire is set going, a chain of reactions, till I get, or fail to get, what I want. An object catches the eye, and then there comes a feeling of wanting or not wanting. At what point in this process does the `I' come in?
"That's a good question."
Does the `I' exist before the feeling of wanting, or does it arise with that feeling? You see some object, such as a new type of fountain-pen, and a number of reactions are set going which are perfectly normal; but with them comes the desire to possess the object, and then begins another set of reactions which bring into being the `I' who says, "I must have it". So the `I' is put together by the feeling or desire which arises through the natural response of seeing. Without seeing, sensing desiring, is there an `I' as a separate, isolated entity? Or does this whole process of seeing, having a sensation, desiring, constitute the `I'?
"Do you mean to say, sir, that the `I' is not there first? Isn't it the `I' who perceives and then desires?" asked the shorter one.
What do you say? Doesn't the `I' separate himself only in the process of perceiving and desiring? Before this process begins, is there an `I' as a separate entity?
"It is difficult to think of the `I' as merely the result of a certain physio-psychological process, for this sounds very materialistic, and it goes against our tradition and all our habits of thought, which say that the `I', the watcher, is there first, and not that he has been `put together'. But in spite of tradition and the sacred books, and my own wavering inclination to believe them, I see what you say to be a fact."
It's not what another may say that makes for perception of a fact, but your own direct observation and clarity of thinking; isn't that so?
"Of course," replied the taller one. "I may at first mistake a piece of rope for a snake, but the moment I see the thing clearly, there's no mistaking, no wishful thinking about it."
If that point is clear, shall we get on with the question of suppressing or sublimating desire? Now, what's the problem?
"Desire is always there, sometimes burning furiously, and sometimes dormant but ready to spring to life; and the problem is, what's one to do with it? When desire is dormant, my whole being is fairly quiet, but when it's awake, I am very disturbed; I become restless, feverishly active, till that particular desire is satisfied. I then become relatively calm - only to have desire begin all over again, perhaps with a different object. It's like water under pressure, and however high you build the dam; it's forever seeping through the cracks, going round the end, or spilling over the top. I have all but tortured myself, trying to go beyond desire, but at the end of my best efforts, desire is still there, smiling or frowning. How am I to be free of it?"
Are you trying to suppress, sublimate desire? Do you want to tame it, drug it, make it respectable? Apart from the books, ideals and gurus, what do you feel about desire? What is your impulse? What do you think?
"Desire is natural, isn't it, sir?" asked the shorter one. What do you mean by natural?
"Hunger, sex, wanting comfort and security - all this is desire and it seems so healthily sane and normal. After all, we are built like that."
If it is so normal, why are you bothered by it?
"The trouble is, there's not just one desire, but many contradictory desires, all pulling in different directions; I am torn apart inside. Two or three desires are dominant, and they override the conflicting lesser ones; but even among the major desires, there's a contradiction. It's this contradiction, with its strains and tensions, that causes suffering."
And to overcome this suffering, you are told you must control, suppress, or sublimate desire. Isn't that so? If the fulfilment of desire brought only pleasure and no suffering, you would go merrily along with it, wouldn't you?
"Obviously," put in the taller one. "But there's always some pain and fear as well, and this is what we want to eliminate."
Yes, everyone does, and that is why the whole design and background of our thinking is to continue with the pleasures while avoiding the pain of desire. Isn't this what you also are striving after?
"I'm afraid it is."
This struggle between the pleasures of desire and the suffering which also comes with it is the conflict of duality. There's nothing very puzzling about it. Desire seeks fulfilment, and the shadow of fulfilment is frustration. We don't admit that, so we all pursue fulfilment, hoping never to be frustrated; but the two are inseparable.
"Is it never possible to have fulfilment without the pain of frustration?"
Don't you know? Haven't you experienced the brief pleasure of fulfilment, and isn't it invariably followed by anxiety, pain?
"I have noticed that, but one tries in one way or another to keep ahead of the pain."
And have you succeeded?
"Not yet, but one always hopes to."
How to guard against such suffering is your chief concern throughout life; so you begin to discipline desire; you say, "This is the right desire, and the other is wrong, immoral." You cultivate the ideal desire, the what should be, while caught in the what should not be. The what should not be is the actual fact, and the what should be has no reality except as an imaginary symbol. This is so, isn't it? "But however imaginary, aren't ideals necessary?" asked the shorter one. "They help us to get rid of the suffering."
Do they? Have your ideals helped you to be free from suffering, or have they merely helped you to carry on with the pleasure while ideally saying to yourself that you shouldn't? So the pain and the pleasure of desire continue. Actually, you don't want to be free of either; you want to drift with the pain and the pleasure of desire, meanwhile talking about ideals and all that stuff.
"You are perfectly right, sir," he admitted.
Let's proceed from there. Desire is not to be divided as pleasurable and painful, or as right and wrong desire. There's only desire, which appears under different forms, with different objectives. Unless you understand this, you will merely be struggling to overcome the contradictions which are the very nature of desire.
"Is there then a central desire which must be overcome, a desire from which all other desires spring?" asked the taller one.
Do you mean the desire for security?
"I was thinking of that; but there is also the desire for sex, and for so many other things."
Is there one central desire from which other desires spring like so many children, or does desire merely change its object of fulfilment from time to time, from immaturity to maturity? There's the desire to possess, to be passionate, to succeed, to be secure both inwardly and outwardly, and so on. Desire weaves through thought and action, through the so-called spiritual as well as the mundane life, does it not?
They were silent for some time.
"We can't think any further," said the shorter one. "We are stumped."
If you suppress desire, it comes up again in another form, doesn't it? To control desire is to narrow it down and be self-centred; to discipline it is to build a wall of resistance, which is always being broken down - unless, of course, you become neurotic, fixed in one pattern of desire. To sublimate desire is an act of will; but will is essentially the concentration of desire, and when one form of desire dominates another, you are back again in your old pattern of struggle.
Control, discipline, sublimation, suppression - it all involves effort of some kind, and such effort is still within the field of duality, of `right' and `wrong' desire. Laziness may be overcome by an act of will, but the pettiness of the mind remains. A petty mind can be very active, and it generally is, thereby causing mischief and misery for itself and others. So, however much a petty mind may struggle to overcome desire, it will continue to be a petty mind. All this is clear, isn't it?
They looked at each other.
"I think so," replied the taller one. "But please go a little slower, sir, and don't cram every sentence with ideas."
Like steam, desire is energy, is it not? And as steam can be directed to run every kind of machinery, either beneficial or destructive, so desire can be dissipated, or it can be used for understanding without there being any user of that astonishing energy. If there's a user of it, whether it be the one or the many, the individual or the collective, which is tradition, then the trouble begins; then there's the closed circle of pain and pleasure.
"If neither the individual nor the collective is to use that energy, then who is to use it?"
Isn't that a wrong question you're asking? A wrong question will have a wrong answer, but a right one may open the door to understanding. There's only energy; there's no question of who will use it. It's not that energy, but the user of it, who sustains confusion and the contradiction of pain and pleasure. The user, as the one and as the many, says, "This is right and that is wrong, this is good and that is bad", thereby perpetuating the conflict of duality. He is the real mischief maker, the author of sorrow. Can the user of that energy called desire cease to be? Can the watcher not be an operator, a separate entity embodying this or that tradition, and be that energy itself?
"Isn't that very difficult?"
It's the only problem, and not how to control, discipline, or sublimate desire. When you begin to understand this, desire has quite a different significance; it is then the purity of creation, the movement of truth. But merely to repeat that desire is the supreme, and so on, is not only useless, it is definitely harmful, because it acts as a soporific, a drag to quiet the petty mind.
"But how is the user of desire to come to an end?"
If the question "How?" reflects the search for a method, then the user of desire will merely be put together in another form. What`s important is the ending of the user, not how to put an end to the user. There is no `how'. There is only understanding, the impulse that will shatter the old.