Commentaries on Living [1]

Chapter - 57
‘Self-esteem’

SHE HAD COME with three of her friends; they were all earnest and had the dignity of intelligence. One was quick to grasp, another was impatient in his quickness, and the third was eager, but the eagerness was not sustained. They made a good group, for they all shared the problem of their friend, and no one offered advice or weighty opinions. They all wanted to help her do whatever she thought was the right thing, and not merely act according to tradition, public opinion or personal inclination. The difficulty was, what was the right thing to do? She herself was not sure, she felt disturbed and confused. But there was much pressure for immediate action; a decision had to be made, and she could not postpone it any longer. It was a question of freedom from a particular relationship. She wanted to be free, and she repeated this several times.

There was quietness in the room; the nervous agitation had subsided, and they were all eager to go into the problem without expecting a result, a definition of the right thing to do. The right action would emerge, naturally and fully, as the problem was exposed. The discovery of the content of the problem was important, and not the end result; for any answer would only be another conclusion, another opinion, another piece of advice, which would in no way solve the problem. The problem itself had to be understood, and not how to respond to the problem or what to do about it. The right approach to the problem was important, because the problem itself held the right action.

The waters of the river were dancing, for the sun had made on them a path of light. A white sail crossed the path, but the dance was not disturbed. It was a dance of pure delight. The trees were full of birds, scolding, preening, flying away only to come back again. Several monkeys were tearing off the tender leaves and stuffing them in their mouths; their weight bent the delicate branches into long curves, yet they held on lightly and were unafraid. With what ease they moved from branch to branch; though they jumped, it was a flow, the taking off and the landing were one movement. They would sit with their tails hanging and reach for the leaves. They were high up, and took no notice of the people passing below. As darkness approached, the parrots came by the hundred to settle down for the night among the thick leaves. One saw them come and disappear into the foliage. The new moon was just visible. Far away a train whistled as it was crossing the long bridge around the curve of the river. This river was sacred, and people came from far distances to bathe in it, that their sins might be washed away. Every river is lovely and sacred, and the beauty of this one was its wide, sweeping curve and the islands of sand between deep stretches of water; and those silent white sails that went up and down the river every day.

"I want to be free from a particular relationship," she said.

What do you mean by wanting to be free? When you say, "I want to be free," you imply that you are not free. In what way are you not free?

"I am free physically; I am free to come and go, because physically I am no longer the wife. But I want to be completely free; I do not want to have anything to do with that particular person."

In what way are you related to that person, if you are already physically free? Are you related to him in any other way?

"I do not know, but I have great resentment against him. I do not want to have anything to do with him."
You want to be free, and yet you have resentment against him? Then you are not free of him. Why have you this resentment against him?

"I have recently discovered what he is: his meanness, his real lack of love, his complete selfishness. I cannot tell you what a horror I have discovered in him. To think that I was jealous of him, that I idolized him, that I submitted to him! Finding him to be stupid and cunning when I thought him an ideal husband, loving and kind, has made me resentful of him. To think I had anything to do with him makes me feel unclean. I want to be completely free from him."

You may be physically free from him, but as long as you have resentment against him, you are not free. If you hate him, you are tied to him; if you are ashamed of him, you are still enslaved by him. Are you angry with him, or with yourself? He is what he is, and why be angry with him? Is your resentment really against him? Or, having seen what is, are you ashamed of yourself for having been associated with it? Surely, you are resentful, not of him, but of your own judgment, of your own actions. You are ashamed of yourself. Being unwilling to see this, you blame him for what he is. When you realize that your resentment against him is an escape from your own romantic idolization, then he is out of the picture. You are not ashamed of him, but of yourself for being associated with him. It is with yourself that you are angry, and not with him.

"Yes, that is so."

If you really see this, experience it as a fact, then you are free of him. He is no longer the object of your enmity. Hate binds as love does.

"But how am I to be free from my own shame, from my own stupidity? I see very clearly that he is what he is, and is not to be blamed; but how am I to be free of this shame, this resentment which has been slowly ripening in me and has come to fullness in this crisis? How am I to wipe out the past?"

Why you desire to wipe out the past is of more significance than knowing how to wipe it out. The intention with which you approach the problem is more important than knowing what to do about it. Why do you want to wipe out the memory of that association.

"I dislike the memory of all those years. It has left a very bad taste in my mouth. Is that not a good enough reason?"

Not quite, is it? Why do you want to wipe out those past memories? Surely, not because they leave a bad taste in your mouth. Even if you were able through some means to wipe out the past, you might again be caught in actions that you would be ashamed of. Merely wiping out the unpleasant memories does not solve the problem, does it?

"I thought it did; but what is the problem then? Are you not making it unnecessarily complex? It is already complex enough, at least my life is. Why add another burden to it?"

Are we adding a further burden, or are we trying to understand what is and be free of it? Please have a little patience. What is the urge that is prompting you to wipe out the past? It may be unpleasant, but why do you want to wipe it out? You have a certain idea or picture of yourself which these memories contradict, and so you want to get rid of them. You have a certain estimation of yourself, have you not?

"Of course, otherwise..."

We all place ourselves at various levels, and we are constantly falling from these heights. It is the falls we are ashamed of. Self-esteem is the cause of our shame, of our fall. It is this self-esteem that must be understood, and not the fall. If there is no pedestal on which you have put yourself, how can there be any fall? Why have you put yourself on a pedestal called self-esteem, human dignity, the ideal, and so on? If you can understand this, then there will be no shame of the past; it will have completely gone. You will be what you are without the pedestal. If the pedestal is not there, the height that makes you look down or look up, then you are what you have always avoided. It is this avoidance of what is, of what you are, that brings about confusion and antagonism, shame and resentment. You do not have to tell me or another what you are, but be aware of what you are, whatever it is, pleasant or unpleasant: live with it without justifying or resisting it. Live with it without naming it; for the very term is a condemnation or an identification. Live with it without fear, for fear prevents communion, and without communion you cannot live with it. To be in communion is to love. Without love, you cannot wipe out the past; with love, there is no past. Love, and time is not.
 

Chapter - 58
‘Fear’

SHE HAD TRAVELLED a long way, half across the world. There was a wary look about her, a guarded approach, a tentative opening that would close up at any suggestion of too deep an inquiry. She was not timid; but she was unwilling, though not consciously, to expose her inward state. Yet she wanted to talk about herself and her problems, and had come all that distance expressly to do so. She was hesitant, uncertain of her words, aloof, and at the same time eager to talk about herself. She had read many books on psychology, and while she had never been analysed, she was entirely capable of analysing herself; in fact, she said that from childhood she was used to analysing her own thoughts and feelings.

Why are you so intent upon analysing yourself?

"I do not know, but I have always done it ever since I can remember."

Is analysis a way of protecting yourself against yourself, against emotional explosions and consequent regrets?

"I am pretty sure that is why I analyse, constantly interrogate. I do not want to get caught up in all the mess about me, personal and general. It is too hideous, and I want to keep out of it. I see now that I have used analysis as a means of keeping myself intact, of not getting caught in the social and family turmoil."

Have you been able to avoid getting caught?

"I am not at all sure. I have succeeded in some directions, but in others I do not think I have. In talking about all this, I see what an extraordinary thing I have done. I have never looked at it all so clearly before."

Why are you protecting yourself so cleverly, and against what? You say, against the mess around you; but what is there in the mess against which you have to protect yourself? If it is a mess and you see it clearly as such, then you do not have to guard yourself against it. One guards oneself only when there is fear and not understanding. So what are you afraid of?

"I do not think I am afraid; I simply do not want to get entangled in the miseries of existence. I have a profession that supports me, but I want to be free of the rest of the entanglements, and I think I am."

If you are not afraid, then why do you resist entanglements? One resists something only when one does not know how to deal with it. If you know how a motor works, you are free of it; if anything goes wrong, you can put it right. We resist that which we do not understand; we resist confusion, evil, misery, only when we do not know its structure, how it is put together. You resist confusion because you are not aware of its structure, of its make-up. Why are you not aware of it?

"But I have never thought about it that way."

It is only when you are in direct relationship with the structure of confusion that you can be aware of the working of its mechanism. It is only when there is communion between two people that they understand each other; if they resist each other, there is no understanding. Communion or relationship can exist only when there is no fear.

"I see what you mean."

Then what are you afraid of?

"What do you mean by fear?"

Fear can exist only in relationship; fear cannot exist by itself, in isolation. There is no such thing as abstract fear; there is fear of the known or the unknown, fear of what one has done or what one may do; fear of the past or of the future. The relationship between what one is and what one desires to be causes fear. Fear arises when one interprets the fact of what one is in terms of reward and punishment. Fear comes with responsibility and the desire to be free from it. There is fear in the contrast between pain and pleasure. Fear exists in the conflict of the opposites. The worship of success brings the fear of failure. Fear is the process of the mind in the struggle of becoming. In becoming good, there is the fear of evil; in becoming complete, there is the fear of loneliness; in becoming great, there is the fear of being small. Comparison is not understanding; it is prompted by fear of the unknown in relation to the known. Fear is uncertainty in search of security.

The effort to become is the beginning of fear, the fear of being or not being. The mind, the residue of experience, is always in fear of the unnamed, the challenge. The mind, which is name, word, memory, can function only within the field of the known; and the unknown, which is challenge from moment to moment, is resisted or translated by the mind in terms of the known. This resistance or translation of the challenge is fear; for the mind can have no communion with the unknown. The known cannot commune with the unknown; the known must cease for the unknown to be.

The mind is the maker of fear; and when it analyses fear, seeking its cause in order to be free from it, the mind only further isolates itself and thereby increases fear. When you use analysis to resist confusion, you are increasing the power of resistance; and resistance of confusion only increases the fear of it, which hinders freedom. In communion there is freedom, but not in fear.
 

Chapter - 59
‘How Am I to Love?’

WE WERE HIGH up on the side of a mountain overlooking the valley, and the large stream was a silver ribbon in the sun. Here and there the sun came through the thick foliage, and there was the scent of many flowers. It was a delicious morning, and the dew was still heavy on the ground. The scented breeze was coming across the valley, bringing the distant noise of people, the sound of bells and of an occasional water-horn. In the valley the smoke was going straight up, and the breeze was not strong enough to disperse it. The column of smoke was a lovely thing to watch; it rose from the bottom of the valley and tried to reach up to the very heavens, like that ancient pine. A large black squirrel which had been scolding us gave it up at last and came down the tree to investigate further, and then, partially satisfied, went bounding away. A tiny cloud was forming, but otherwise the sky was clear, a soft, pale blue.

He had no eyes for all this. He was consumed with his immediate problem, as he had been consumed with his problems before. The problems moved and had their being around himself. He was a very rich man; he was lean and hard, but had an easy air with a ready smile. He was now looking across the valley, but the quickening beauty had not touched him; there was no softening of the face, the lines were still hard and determined. He was still hunting, not for money, but for what he called God. He was forever talking about love and God. He had hunted far and wide, and had been to many teachers; and as he was getting on in years, the hunt was becoming more keen. He had come several times to talk over these matters, but there was always a look of cunning and calculation; he was constantly weighing how much it would cost to find his God, how expensive the journey would be. He knew that he could not take with him what he had; but could he take something else, a coin that had value where he was going? He was a hard man, and there was never a gesture of generosity either of the heart or of the hand. He was always very hesitant to give the little extra; he felt everyone must be worthy of his reward, as he had been worthy. But he was there that morning to further expose himself; for there was trouble brewing, serious disturbances were taking place in his otherwise successful life. The goddess of success was not with him altogether.

"I am beginning to realize what I am," he said. "I have these many years subtly opposed and resisted you. You talk against the rich, you say hard things about us, and I have been angry with you; but I have been unable to hit you back, for I cannot get at you. I have tried in different ways, but I cannot lay my hands on you. But what do you want me to do? I wish to God I had never listened to you or come anywhere near you. I now have sleepless nights, and I always slept so well before; I have torturing dreams, and I rarely used to dream at all. I have been afraid of you, I have silently cursed you - but I cannot go back. What am I to do? I have no friends, as you pointed out, nor can I buy them as I used to - I am too exposed by what has happened. Perhaps I can be your friend. You have offered help, and here I am. What am I to do?"

To be exposed is not easy; and has one exposed oneself? Has one opened that cupboard which one has so carefully locked, stuffing into it the things which one does not want to see? Does one want to open it and see what is there?

"I do, but how am I to go about it?"

Does one really want to, or is one merely playing with the intention? Once open, however little, it cannot be closed again. The door will always remain open; day and night, its contents will be spilling out. One may try to run away, as one always does; but it will be there, waiting and watching. Does one really want to open it?
"Of course I do, that is why I have come. I must face it, for I am coming to the end of things. What am I to do?"

Open and look. To accumulate wealth one must injure, be cruel, ungenerous; there must be ruthlessness, cunning calculation, dishonesty; there must be the search for power, that egocentric action which is merely covered over by such pleasant-sounding words as responsibility, duty, efficiency, rights.

"Yes, that is all true, and more. There has been no consideration of anyone; the religious pursuits have been mere cloaks of respectability. Now that I look at it, I see that everything revolved around me. I was the centre, though I pretended not to be. I see all that. But what am I to do?"

First one must recognize things for what they are. But beyond all this, how can one wipe these things away if there is no affection, no love, that flame without smoke? It is this flame alone that will wipe away the contents of the cupboard, and nothing else; no analysis, no sacrifice, no renunciation can do it. When there is this flame, then it will no longer be a sacrifice, a renunciation; then you will meet the storm without waiting for it.

"But how am I to love? I know I have no warmth for people; I have been ruthless, and they are not with me who should be with me. I am utterly alone, and how am I to know love? I am not a fool to think that I can get it by some conscious act, buy it through some sacrifice, some denial. I know I have never loved, and I see that if I had, I would not be in this situation. What am I to do? Should I give up my properties, my wealth?"

If you find the garden that you have so carefully cultivated has produced only poisonous weeds, you have to tear them out by the roots; you have to pull down the walls that have sheltered them. You may or may not do it, for you have extensive gardens, cunningly walled-in and well-guarded. You will do it only when there is no bartering; but it must be done, for to die rich is to have lived in vain. But beyond all this, there must be the flame that cleanses the mind and the heart, making all things new. That flame is not of the mind, it is not a thing to be cultivated. The show of kindliness can be made to shine, but it is not the flame; the activity called service, though beneficial and necessary, is not love; the much-practised and disciplined tolerance, the cultivated compassion of the church and temple, the gentle speech, the soft manner, the worship of the saviour, of the image, of the ideal - none of this is love.

"I have listened and observed, and I am aware that there is no love in any of these things. But my heart is empty, and how is it to be filled? What am I to do?"

Attachment denies love. Love is not to be found in suffering; though jealousy is strong, it cannot bind love. Sensation and its gratification is ever coming to an end; but love is inexhaustible.

"These are mere words to me. I am starving: feed me."

To be fed, there must be hunger. If you are hungry, you will find food. Are you hungry, or merely greedy for the taste of some other food? If you are greedy, you will find that which will gratify; but it will soon come to an end, and it will not be love.

"But what am I to do?"

You keep on repeating that question. What you are to do is not important; but it is essential to be aware of what you are doing. You are concerned with future action, and that is one way of avoiding immediate action. You do not want to act, and so you keep on asking what you are to do. You are again being cunning, deceiving yourself, and so your heart is empty. You want to fill it with the things of the mind; but love is not of the mind. Let your heart be empty. Do not fill it with words, with the actions of the mind. Let your heart be wholly empty; then only will it be filled.
 

Chapter - 60
‘The Futility of Result’

THEY HAD COME from different parts of the world, and had been discussing some of the problems that confront most of us. It is good to talk things over; but mere words, clever arguments and wide knowledge do not bring freedom from aching problem. Cleverness and knowledge may and often do show their own futility, and the discovery of their futility makes the mind silent. In that silence, understanding of the problem comes; but to seek that silence is to breed another problem, another conflict. Explanations, the uncovering of cause, analytical dissections of the problem, do not in any way resolve it; for it cannot be resolved by the ways of the mind. The mind can only breed further problems, it can run away from the problem through explanations, ideals, intentions; but do what it will, the mind cannot free itself from the problem. The mind itself is the field in which problems, conflicts, grow and multiply. Thought cannot silence itself; it can put on a cloak of silence, but that is only concealment and pose. Thought can kill itself by disciplined action towards a predetermined end; but death is not silent. Death is more vociferous than life. Any movement of the mind is a hindrance to silence.

Through the open windows came a confusion of sounds: the loud talk and quarrelling in the village, an engine letting off steam, the cries of children and their free laughter, the rumble of a passing lorry, the buzzing of bees, the strident call of the crows. And amidst all this noise, a silence was creeping into the room, unsought and uninvited. Through words and arguments, through misunderstandings and struggles, that silence was spreading its wings. The quality of that silence is not the cessation of noise, of chatter and word; to include that silence, the mind must lose its capacity to expand. That silence is free from all compulsions, conformities, efforts; it is inexhaustible and so ever new, ever fresh. But the word is not that silence.

Why is it that we seek results, goals? Why is it that the mind is ever pursuing an end? And why should it not pursue an end? In coming here, are we not seeking something, some experience, some delight? We are tired and fed up with the many things that we have been playing with; we have turned away from them, and now we want a new toy to play with. We go from one thing to another, like a woman who goes window shopping, till we find something that is entirely satisfying; and then we settle down to stagnate. We are forever craving something; and having tasted many things which were mostly unsatisfactory, we now want the ultimate thing: God, truth, or what you will. We want a result, a new experience, a new sensation that will endure in spite of everything. We never see the futility of result, but only of a particular result; so we wander from one result to another, hoping always to find the one that will end all search,

The search for result, for success, is binding, limiting; it is ever coming to an end. Gaining is a process of ending. To arrive is death. Yet that is what we are seeking, is it not? We are seeking death, only we call it result, goal, purpose. We want to arrive. We are tired of this everlasting struggle, and we want to get there - "there" placed at whatever level. We do not see the wasteful destructiveness of struggle, but desire to be free of it through gaining a result. We do not see the truth of struggle, of conflict, and so we use it as a means of getting what we want, the most satisfying thing; and that which is most satisfying is determined by the intensity of our discontent. This desire for result always ends in gain; but we want a never ending result. So, what is our problem? How to be free from the craving for results, is that it?

"I think that is it. The very desire to be free is also a desire for a result, is it not?"

We shall get thoroughly entangled if we pursue that line. Is it that we cannot see the futility of result, at whatever level we may place it? Is that our problem? Let us see our problem clearly, and then perhaps we shall be able to understand it. Is it a question of seeing the futility of one result and so discarding all desire for results? If we perceive the uselessness of one escape, then all escapes are vain. Is that our problem? Surely, it is not quite that, is it? Perhaps we can approach it differently.

Is not experience a result also? If we are to be free from results, must we not also be free from experience? For is not experience an outcome, an end?

"The end of what?"

The end of experiencing. Experience is the memory of experiencing, is it not? When experiencing ends there is experience, the result. While experiencing, there is no experience; experience is but the memory of having experienced. As the state of experiencing fades, experience begins. Experience is ever hindering experiencing, living. Results, experiences, come to an end; but experiencing is inexhaustible. When the inexhaustible is hindered by memory, then the search for results begins. The mind, the result, is always seeking an end, a purpose, and that is death. Death is not when the experiencer is not. Only then is there the inexhaustible.
 

Chapter - 61
‘The Desire for Bliss’

THE SINGLE TREE on the wide green lawn was the centre of the little world which included the woods, the house and the small lake; the whole surrounding area seemed to flow towards the tree, which was high and spreading. It must have been very old, but there was a freshness about it, as though it had just come into being; there were hardly any dead branches, and its leaves were spotless, glistening in the morning sun. Because it was alone, all things seemed to come to it. Deer and pheasants, rabbits and cattle congregated in its shade, especially at midday. The symmetrical beauty of that tree gave a shape to the sky, and in the early morning light the tree appeared to be the only thing that was living. From the woods, the tree seemed far away; but from the tree, the woods, the house and even the sky seemed close - one often felt one could touch the passing clouds.

We had been seated under the tree for some time, when he came to join us. He was seriously interested in meditation, and said that he had practiced it for many years. He did not belong to any particular school of thought, and though he had read many of the Christian mystics, he was more attracted to the meditations and disciplines of the Hindu and Buddhist saints. He had realized early, he continued, the immaturity of asceticism, with its peculiar fascination and cultivation of power through abstinence, and he had from the beginning avoided all extremes. He had, however, practised discipline, an unvarying self-control, and was determined to realize that which lay through and beyond meditation. He had led what was considered to be a strict moral life, but that was only a minor incident, nor was he attracted to the ways of the world. He had once played with worldly things, but the play was over some years ago. He had a job of sorts, but that too was quite incidental.

The end of meditation is meditation itself. The search for something through and beyond meditation is end-gaining; and that which is gained is again lost. Seeking a result is the continuation of self-projection; result, however lofty, is the projection of desire. Meditation as a means to arrive, to gain, to discover, only gives strength to the meditator. The meditator is the meditation; meditation is the understanding of the meditator.

"I meditate to find ultimate reality, or to allow that reality to manifest itself. It is not exactly a result I am seeking, but that bliss which occasionally one senses. It is there; and as a thirsty man craves for water, I want that inexpressible happiness. That bliss is infinitely greater than all joy, and I pursue it as my most cherished desire."

That is, you meditate to gain what you want. To attain what you desire, you strictly discipline yourself, follow certain rules and regulations; you lay out and follow a course in order to have that which is at the end of it. You hope to achieve certain results, certain well-marked stages, depending upon your persistence of effort, and progressively experience greater and greater joy. This well-laid-out course assures you of the final result. So your meditation is a very calculated affair, is it not?

"When you put it that way, it does seem, in the superficial sense, rather absurd; but deeply, what is wrong with it? What is wrong essentially with seeking that bliss? I suppose I do want a result for all my efforts; but again, why shouldn’t one?"

This desire for bliss implies that bliss is something final, everlasting, does it not? All other results have been unsatisfactory; one has ardently pursued worldly goals and has seen their transient nature, and now one wants the everlasting state, an end that has no ending. The mind is seeking a final and imperishable refuge; so it disciplines and train itself, practises certain virtues to gain what it wants. It may once have experienced that bliss, and now it is panting after it like other pursuers of results, you are pursuing yours, only you have placed it at a different level; you may call it higher, but that is irrelevant. A result means an ending; arrival implies another effort to become. The mind is never at rest, it is always striving, always achieving, always gaining - and, of course, always in fear of losing. This process is called meditation. Can a mind which is caught in endless becoming be aware of bliss? Can a mind that has imposed discipline upon itself ever be free to receive that bliss? Through effort and struggle, through resistance and denials, the mind makes itself insensitive; and can such a mind be open and vulnerable? Through the desire for that bliss, have you not built a wall around yourself which the imponderable, the unknown, cannot penetrate? Have you not effectively shut yourself off from the new? Out of the old, you have made a path for the new; and can the new be contained in the old?

The mind can never create the new; the mind itself is a result, and all results are an outcome of the old. Results can never be new; the pursuit of a result can never be spontaneous; that which is free cannot pursue an end. The goal, the ideal, is always a projection of the mind, and surely that is not meditation. Meditation is the freeing of the meditator; in freedom alone is there discovery, sensitivity to receive. Without freedom, there can be no bliss; but freedom does not come through discipline. Discipline makes the pattern of freedom, but the pattern is not freedom. The pattern must be broken for freedom to be. The breaking of the mould is meditation. But this breaking of the mould is not a goal, a ideal. The mould is broken from moment to moment. The broken moment is the forgotten moment. It is the remembered moment that gives shape to the mould, and only then does the maker of the mould come into being, the creator of all problems, conflicts, miseries.

Meditation is freeing the mind of its own thoughts at all levels. Thought creates the thinker. The thinker is not separate from thought; they are a unitary process, and not two separate processes. The separate processes only lead to ignorance and illusion. The meditator is the meditation. Then the mind is alone, not made alone; it is silent, not made silent. Only to the alone can the causeless come, only to the alone is there bliss.
 

Chapter - 62
‘Thought and Consciousness’

ALL THINGS WERE withdrawing into themselves. The trees were enclosing themselves in their own being; the birds were folding their wings to brood over their day’s wanderings; the river had lost its glow, and the waters were no longer dancing but quiet and closed. The mountains were distant and unapproachable, and man had withdrawn into his house. Night had come, and there was the stillness of isolation. There was no communion; each thing had closed itself, set itself apart. The flower, the sound, the talk - everything was unexposed, invulnerable. There was laughter, but it was isolated and distant; the talk was muffled and from within. Only the stars were inviting, open and communicating; but they too were very far away.

Thought is always an outward response, it can never respond deeply. Thought is always the outer; thought is always an effect, and thinking is the reconciliation of effects. Thought is always superficial, though it may place itself at different levels. Thought can never penetrate the profound, the implicit. Thought cannot go beyond itself, and every attempt to do so is its own frustration.

"What do you mean by thought?"

Thought is response to any challenge; thought is not action, doing. Thought is an outcome, the result of a result; it is the result of memory. Memory is thought, and thought is the verbalization of memory. Memory is experience. The thinking process is the conscious process, the hidden as well as the open. This whole thinking process is consciousness; the waking and the sleeping, the upper and the deeper levels are all part of memory, experience. Thought is not independent. There is no independent thinking; "independent thinking" is a contradiction in terms. Thought, being a result, opposes or agrees, compares or adjusts, condemns or justifies, and therefore it can never be free. A result can never be free; it can twist about, manipulate, wander, go a certain distance, but it cannot be free from its own mooring. Thought is anchored to memory, and it can never be free to discover the truth of any problem.

"Do you mean to say that thought has no value at all?"

It has value in the reconciliation of effects, but it has no value in itself as a means to action. Action is revolution, not the reconciliation of effects. Action freed from thought, idea, belief, is never within a pattern. There can be activity within the pattern, and that activity is either violent, bloody, or the opposite; but it is not action. The opposite is not action, it is a modified continuation of activity. The opposite is still within the field of result, and in pursuing the opposite, thought is caught within the net of its own responses. Action is not the result of thought; action has no relation to thought. Thought, the result, can never create the new; the new is from moment to moment, and thought is always the old, the past, the conditioned. It has value but no freedom. All value is limitation, it binds. Thought is binding, for it is cherished.

"What relationship is there between consciousness and thought?"

Are they not the same? Is there any difference between thinking and being conscious? Thinking is a response; and is being conscious not also a response? When one is conscious of that chair, it is a response to a stimulus; and is not thought the response of memory to a challenge? It is this response that we call experience. Experiencing is challenge and response; and this experiencing, together with the naming or recording of it - this total process, at different levels, is consciousness, is it not? Experience is the result, the outcome of experiencing. The result is given a term; the term itself is a conclusion, one of the many conclusions which constitute memory. This concluding process is consciousness. The conclusion, the result, is self-consciousness. The self is memory, the many conclusions; and thought is the response of memory. Thought is always a conclusion; thinking is concluding, and therefore it can never be free.

Thought is always the superficial, the conclusion. Consciousness is the recording of the superficial. The superficial separates itself as the outer and the inner, but this separation does not make thought any the less superficial.

"But is there not something which is beyond thought, beyond time, something that is not created by the mind?"

Either you have been told about that state, have read about it, or there is the experiencing of it. The experiencing of it can never be an experience, a result; it cannot be thought about - and if it is, it is a remembrance and not experiencing. You can repeat what you have read or heard, but the word is not the thing; and the word, the very repetition, prevents the state of experiencing. That state of experiencing cannot be as long as there is thinking; thought, the result, the effect, can never know the state of experiencing.

"Then how is thought to come to an end?"

See the truth that thought, the outcome of the known, can never be in the state of experiencing. Experiencing is always the new; thinking is always of the old. See the truth of this, and truth brings freedom - freedom from thought, the result. Then there is that which is beyond consciousness, which is neither sleeping nor waking, which is nameless: it is
 

Chapter - 63
‘Self-sacrifice’

HE WAS RATHER fat and very pleased with himself. He had been to prison several times and had been beaten by the police, and now he was a well-known politician on his way to becoming a minister. He was at several of the meetings, sitting unobtrusively, one among the many; but the many were aware of him, and he was conscious of them. When he spoke, he had the authoritative voice of the platform; many of the people looked at him, and his voice came down to their level. Though he was among them, he had set himself apart; he was the big politician, known and looked up to; but the regard only went to a certain point, and no further. One was aware of all this as the discussion began, and there was that peculiar atmosphere that comes when a well-known figure is among the audience, an atmosphere of surprise and expectation, of camaraderie and suspicion, of condescending aloofness and pleasure.

He had come with a friend, and the friend began to explain who he was: the number of times he had been to prison, the beatings he had had, and the immense sacrifices he had made for the cause of the freedom of his country. He had been a wealthy man, thoroughly Europeanised, with a large house and gardens, several cars, and so on. As the friend was narrating the big man’s exploits, his voice became more and more admiring and respectful; but there was an undercurrent, a thought that seemed to say, "He may not be all that he should be, but after all, look at the sacrifices he has made, at least that is something." The big man himself talked of improvement, of hydro-electrical development, of bringing prosperity to the people, of the current threat of Communism, of vast schemes and goals. Man was forgotten, but plans and ideologies remained.

Renunciation to gain an end is barter; in it there is no living up, but only exchange. Self-sacrifice is an extension of the self. The sacrifice of the self is a refinement of the self, and however subtle the self may make itself, it is still enclosed, petty, limited. Renunciation for a cause, however great, however extensive and significant, is substitution of the cause for the self; the cause or the idea becomes the self, the "me" and the "mine." Conscious sacrifice is the expansion of the self, living up in order to gather again; conscious sacrifice is negative assertion of the self. To give up is another form of acquisition. You renounce this in order to gain that. This is put at a lower level, that at a higher level; and to gain the higher, you "give up" the lower. In this process, there is no living up, but only a gaining of greater satisfaction; and the search for greater satisfaction has no element of sacrifice. Why use a righteous-sounding word for a gratifying activity in which all indulge? You "gave up" your social position in order to gain a different kind of position, and presumably you have it now; so your sacrifice has brought you the desired reward. Some want their reward in heaven, others here and now.

"This reward has come in the course of events, but consciously I never sought reward when I first joined the movement."

The very joining of a popular or an unpopular movement is its own reward, is it not? One may not consciously join for a reward, but the inward promptings that compel one to join are complex, and without understanding them one can hardly say that one has not sought reward. Surely, what is important is to understand this urge to renounce, to sacrifice, is it not? Why do we want to give up? To answer that, must we not first find out why we are attached? It is only when we are attached that we talk about detachment; there would be no struggle to be detached if there were no attachment. There would be no renunciation if there were no possession. We possess, and then renounce in order to possess something else. This progressive renunciation is looked upon as being noble and edifying.

"Yes, that is so. If there were no possession, of course there would be no need of renunciation."

So, renunciation, self-sacrifice, is not a gesture of greatness, to be praised and copied. We possess because without possession we are not. Possessions are many and varied. One who possesses no worldly things may be attached to knowledge, to ideas; another may be attached to virtue, another to experience, another to name and fame, and so on. Without possessions, the "me" is not; the "me" is the possession, the furniture, the virtue, the name. In its fear of not being, the mind is attached to name, to furniture, to value; and it will drop these in order to be at a higher level, the higher being the more gratifying, the more permanent. The fear of uncertainty, of not being, makes for attachment, for possession. When the possession is unsatisfactory or painful, we renounce it for a more pleasurable attachment. The ultimate gratifying possession is the word God, or its substitute, the State.

"But it is a natural thing to be afraid of being nothing. You are suggesting, I take it, that one should love to be nothing."

As long as you are attempting to become something, as long as you are possessed by something, there will inevitably be conflict, confusion and increasing misery. You may think that you yourself, in your achievement and success, will not be caught in this mounting disintegration; but you cannot escape it, for you are of it. Your activities, your thoughts, the very structure of your existence is based on conflict and confusion, and therefore on the process of disintegration. As long as you are unwilling to be nothing, which in fact you are, you must inevitably breed sorrow and antagonism. The willingness to be nothing is not a matter of renunciation, of enforcement, inner or outer, but of seeing the truth of what is. Seeing the truth of what is brings freedom from the fear of insecurity, the fear which breeds attachment and leads to the illusion of detachment, renunciation. The love of what is is the beginning of wisdom. Love alone shares, it alone can commune; but renunciation and sell-sacrifice are the ways of isolation and illusion.
 

Chapter - 64
‘The Flame and the Smoke’

IT HAD BEEN warm all day and it was a trial to be out. The glare of the road and of the water, already harsh and penetrating, was made more intense by the white houses; and the earth that had been green was now bright golden and parched. The rains would not come for many months. The little stream had dried up and was now a winding ribbon of sand. Some cattle were in the shade of the trees, and the boy who was looking after them sat apart, flinging stones and singing in his loneliness. The village was some miles away, and he was by himself; he was thin and underfed, but cheerful, and his song was not too sad.

Beyond the hill was the house, and we reached it as the sun was going down. From the roof one could see the green tops of the palms, stretching in an unending wave to the yellow sands. The palms cast a yellow shade, and their green was golden. Beyond the yellow sands was the green-grey sea. White waves were crowding on to the beach, but the deep waters were quiet. The clouds over the sea were taking on colour, though the sun was setting far away from them. The evening star was just showing herself. A cool breeze had come up, but the roof was still warm. A small group had gathered, and they must have been there for some time.

"I am married and the mother of several children, but I have never felt love. I am beginning to wonder if it exists at all. We know sensations, passions, excitements and satisfying pleasures, but I wonder if we know love. We often say that we love, but there is always a withholding. Physically we may not withhold, we may give ourselves completely a gift; but even then there is a withholding. The giving is a gift of the senses, but that which alone can give is unawakened, far away. We meet and get lost in the smoke, but that is not the flame. Why is it that we have not got the flame? Why is the flame not burning without smoke? I wonder if we have become too clever, too knowing to have that perfume. I suppose I am too well read, too modern and stupidly superficial. In spite of clever talk, I suppose I am really dull."

But is it a matter of dullness? Is love a bright ideal, the unattainable which becomes attainable only if the conditions are fulfilled? Has one the time to fulfil all the conditions? We talk about beauty, write about it, paint it, dance it, preach it, but we are not beautiful, nor do we know love. We know only the words. To be open and vulnerable is to be sensitive; where there is a withholding, there is insensitivity. The vulnerable is the insecure, the free from tomorrow; the open is the implicit, the unknown. That which is open and vulnerable is beautiful; the enclosed is dull and insensitive. Dullness, like cleverness, is a form of self-protection. We open this door, but keep that one closed, for we want the fresh breeze only through a particular opening. We never go outside or open all the doors and windows at the same time. Sensitivity is not a thing you get in time. The dull can never become the sensitive; the dull is always the dull. Stupidity can never become intelligent. The attempt to become intelligent is stupid. That is one of our difficulties, is it not? We are always trying to become something - and dullness remains.

"Then what is one to do?"

Do nothing but be what you are, insensitive. To do is to avoid what is, and the avoidance of what is is the grossest form of stupidity. Whatever it does, stupidity is still stupidity. The insensitive cannot become the sensitive; all it can do is to be aware of what it is, to let the story of what it is unfold. Do not interfere with insensitivity, for that which interferes is the insensitive, the stupid. Listen, and it will tell you its story; do not translate or act, but listen without interruption or interpretation right to the end of the story. Then only will there be action. The doing is not important, but the listening is.
To give, there must be the inexhaustible. The withholding that gives is the fear of ending, and only in ending is there the inexhaustible. Giving is not ending. Giving is from the much or the little; and the much or the little is the limited, the smoke, the giving and taking. The smoke is desire as jealousy, anger, disappointment; the smoke is the fear of time; the smoke is memory, experience. There is no giving, but only extending the smoke. Withholding is inevitable, for there is nothing to give. Sharing is not giving; the consciousness of sharing or giving puts an end to communion. The smoke is not the flame but we mistake it for the flame. Be aware of the smoke, that which is without blowing away the smoke to see the flame.

"Is it possible to have that flame, or is it only for the few?"

Whether it is for the few or the many is not the point, is it? If we pursue that path it can only lead to ignorance and illusion. Our concern is with the flame. Can you have that flame, that flame without smoke? Find out; observe the smoke silently and patiently. You cannot dispel the smoke, for you are the smoke. As the smoke goes, the flame will come. This flame is inexhaustible. Everything has a beginning and an ending; it is soon exhausted, worn out. When the heart is empty of the things of the mind, and the mind is empty of thought, then is there Love. That which is empty is inexhaustible.

The battle is not between the flame and the smoke, but between the different responses within the smoke. The flame and the smoke can never be in conflict with each other. To be in conflict, they must be in relationship; and how can there be relationship between them? The one is when the other is not.
 

Chapter - 65
‘Occupation of the Mind’

IT WAS A narrow street, fairly crowded, but without too much traffic. When a bus or a car passed, one had to go to the very edge, almost into the gutter. There were a few very small shops, and a small temple without doors. This temple was exceptionally clean, and the local people were there, though not in large numbers. At the side of one of the shops a boy was sitting on the ground making garlands and small bouquets of flowers; he must have been twelve or fourteen. The thread was in a small jar of water, and in front of him, spread in little heaps on a damp cloth, were jasmine, a few roses, marigold and other flowers. With the string in one hand he would pick up with the other an assortment of flowers, and with a quick, deft twist of the string they would be tied and a bouquet would be made. He was paying hardly any attention to what his hands were doing; his eyes would wander over to the passing people, smile in recognition of someone, come back to his hands, and wander off again. Presently he was joined by another boy, and they began talking and laughing, but his hands never left off their task. By now there was quite a pile of tied flowers, but it was a little too early to sell them. The boy stopped, got up and went off, but soon returned with another boy smaller than himself, perhaps his brother. Then he resumed his pleasant work with the same ease and rapidity. Now people were coming to buy, one by one or in groups. They must have been his regular customers, for there were smiles, and a few words were exchanged. From then on he never moved from his place for over an hour. There was the fragrance of many flowers, and we smiled at each other.

The road led to a path, and the path to the house.

How we are bound to the past! But we are not bound to the past: we are the past. And what a complicated thing the past is, layer upon layer of undigested memories, both cherished and sorrowful. It pursues us day and night, and occasionally there is a breakthrough, revealing a clear light. The past is like a shadow, making things dull and weary; in that shadow, the present loses its clarity, its freshness, and tomorrow is the continuation of the shadow. The past, the present and the future are tied together by the long string of memory; the whole bundle is memory, with little fragrance. Thought moves through the present to the future and back again; like a restless animal tied to a post, it moves within its own radius, narrow or wide, but it is never free of its own shadow. This movement is the occupation of the mind with the past, the present and the future. The mind is the occupation. If the mind is not occupied, it ceases to exist; its very occupation is its existence. The occupation with insult and flattery, with God and drink, with virtue and passion, with work and expression, with storing up and giving, is all the same; it is still occupation, worry, restlessness. To be occupied with something, whether with furniture or God, is a state of pettiness, shallowness.

Occupation gives, to the mind a feeling of activity, of being alive. That is why the mind stores up, or renounces; it sustains itself with occupation. The mind must be busy with something. What it is busy with is of little importance; the important thing is that it be occupied, and the better occupations have social significance. To be occupied with something is the nature of the mind, and its activity springs from this. To be occupied with God, with the State, with knowledge, is the activity of a petty mind. Occupation with something implies limitation, and the God of the mind is a petty god, however high it may place him. Without occupation, the mind is not; and the fear of not being makes the mind restless and active. This restless activity has the appearance of life, but it is not life; it leads always to death - a death which is the same activity in another form.

The dream is another occupation of the mind, a symbol of its restlessness. Dreaming is the continuation of the conscious state, the extension of what is not active during the waking hours. The activity of both the upper and the deeper mind is occupational. Such a mind can be aware of an end only as a continued beginning; it can never be aware of ending, but only of a result, and result is ever continuous. The search for a result is the search for continuity. The mind, the occupation, has no ending; and only to that which ends can there be the new, only to that which dies can there be life. The death of occupation, of the mind, is the beginning of silence, of total silence. There is no relationship between this imponderable silence and the activity of the mind. To have relationship, there must be contact, communion; but there is no contact between silence and the mind. The mind cannot commune with silence; it can have contact only with its own self-projected state which it calls silence. But this silence is not silence, it is merely another form of occupation. Occupation is not silence. There is silence only with the death of the mind’s occupation with silence.

Silence is beyond the dream, beyond the occupation of the deeper mind. The deeper mind is a residue, the residue of the past, open or hidden. This residual past cannot experience silence; it can dream about it, as it often does, but the dream is not the real. The dream is often taken for the real, but the dream and the dreamer are the occupation of the mind. The mind is a total process, and not an exclusive part. The total process of activity, residual and acquiring, cannot commune with that silence which is inexhaustible.
 

Chapter - 66
‘Cessation of Thought’

HE WAS A scholar, well versed in the ancient literature, and made a practice of quoting from the ancients to top off his own thoughts. One wondered if he really had any thoughts independent of the books. Of course, there is no independent thought; all thought is dependent, conditioned. Thought is the verbalization of influences. To think is to be dependent; thought can never be free. But he was concerned with learning; he was burdened with knowledge and carried it highly. He began right away talking in Sanskrit, and was very surprised and even somewhat shocked to find that Sanskrit was not at all understood. He could hardly believe it. "What you say at the various meetings shows that you have either read extensively in Sanskrit, or have studied the translations of some of the great teachers," he said. When he found it was not so, and that there had not been any reading of religious, philosophical or psychological books, he was openly incredulous.

It is odd what importance we give to the printed word, to so-called sacred books. The scholars, as the laymen, are gramophones; they go on repeating, however often the records may be changed. They are concerned with knowledge, and not with experiencing. Knowledge is an impediment to experiencing. But knowledge is a safe haven, the preserve of a few; and as the ignorant are impressed by knowledge, the knower is respected and honoured. Knowledge is an addiction, as drink; knowledge does not bring understanding. Knowledge can be taught, but not wisdom; there must be freedom from knowledge for the coming of wisdom. Knowledge is not the coin for the purchase of wisdom; but the man who has entered the refuge of knowledge does not venture out, for the word feeds his thought and he is gratified with thinking. Thinking is an impediment to experiencing; and there is no wisdom without experiencing. Knowledge, idea, belief, stand in the way of wisdom.

An occupied mind is not free, spontaneous, and only in spontaneity can there be discovery. An occupied mind is self-enclosing; it is unapproachable, not vulnerable, and therein lies its security. Thought, by its very structure, is self-isolating; it cannot be made vulnerable. Thought cannot be spontaneous, it can never be free. Thought is the continuation of the past, and that which continues cannot be free. There is freedom only in ending.

An occupied mind creates what it is working on. It can turn out the bullock cart or the jet plane. We can think we are stupid, and we are stupid. We can think we are God, and we are our own conception: "I am That."

"But surely it is better to be occupied with the things of God than with the things of the world, is it not?"

What we think, we are; but it is the understanding of the process of thought that is important, and not what we think about. Whether we think about God, or about drink, is not important; each has its particular effect, but in both cases thought is occupied with its own self-projection. Ideas, ideals, goals, and so on, are all the projections or extensions of thought. To be occupied with one’s own projections, at whatever level, is to worship the self. The Self with a capital "S" is still a projection of thought. Whatever thought is occupied with, that it is; and what it is, is nothing else but thought. So it is important to understand the thought process.

Thought is response to challenge, is it not? Without challenge, there is no thought. The process of challenge and response is experience; and experience verbalized is thought. Experience is not only of the past, but also of the past in conjunction with the present; it is the conscious as well as the hidden. This residue of experience is memory, influence; and the response of memory, of the past is thought.

"But is that all there is to thought? Are there not greater depths to thought than the mere response of memory?"

Thought can and does place itself at different levels, the stupid and the profound, the noble and the base; but it is still thought, is it not? The God of thought is still of the mind, of the word. The thought of God is not God, it is merely the response of memory. Memory is long-lasting, and so may appear to be deep; but by its very structure it can never be deep. Memory may be concealed, not in immediate view, but that does not make it profound. Thought can never be profound, or anything more than what it is. Thought can give to itself greater value, but it remains thought. When the mind is occupied with its own self-projection, it has not gone beyond thought, it has only assumed a new role, a new pose; under the cloak it is still thought.

"But how can one go beyond thought?"

That is not the point, is it? One cannot go beyond thought, for the "one," the maker of effort, is the result of thought. In uncovering the thought process, which is self-knowledge, the truth of what is puts an end to the thought process. The truth of what is is not to be found in any book, ancient or modern. What is found is the word, but not truth.

"Then how is one to find truth?"

One cannot find it. The effort to find truth brings about a self-projected end; and that end is not truth. A result is not truth; result is the continuation of thought, extended or projected. Only when thought ends is there truth. There is no ending of thought through compulsion, through discipline, through any form of resistance. Listening to the story of what is brings its own liberation. It is truth that liberates, not the effort to be free.
 

Chapter - 67
‘Desire and Conflict’

IT WAS A pleasant group; most of them were eager, and there were a few who listened to refute. Listening is an art not easily come by, but in it there is beauty and great understanding. We listen with the various depths of our being, but our listening is always with a preconception or from a particular point of view. We do not listen simply; there is always the intervening screen of our own thoughts, conclusions and prejudices. We listen with pleasure or resistance, with grasping or rejection, but there is no listening. To listen there must be an inward quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention. This alert yet passive state is able to hear what is beyond the verbal conclusion. Words confuse, they are only the outward means of communication; but to commune beyond the noise of words, there must be in listening an alert passivity. Those who love may listen; but it is extremely rare to find a listener. Most of us are after results, achieving goals, we are forever overcoming and conquering, and so there is no listening. It is only in listening that one hears the song of the words.

"Is it possible to be free of all desire? Without desire, is there life? Is not desire life itself? To seek to be free of desire is to invite death, is it not?"

What is desire? When are we aware of it? When do we say we desire? Desire is not an abstraction, it exists only in relationship. Desire arises in conflict, in relationship. Without contact, there is no desire. Contact may be at any level, but without it there is no sensation, no response, no desire. We know the process of desire, the way it comes into being: perception, contact, sensation, desire. But when are we aware of desire? When do I say I have a desire? Only when there is the disturbance of pleasure or of pain. It is when there is an awareness of conflict, of disturbance, that there is the cognizance of desire. Desire is the inadequate response to challenge. The perception of a beautiful car gives rise to the disturbance of pleasure. This disturbance is the consciousness of desire; The focusing of disturbance, caused by pain or by pleasure, is self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is desire. We are conscious when there is the disturbance of inadequate response to challenge. Conflict is self-consciousness. Can there be freedom from this disturbance, from the conflict of desire?

"Do you mean freedom from the conflict of desire, or from desire itself?"

Are conflict and desire two separate states? If they are, our inquiry must lead to illusion. If there were no disturbance of pleasure or pain, of wanting, seeking, fulfilling, either negatively or positively, would there be desire? And do we want to get rid of disturbance? If we can understand this, then we may be able to grasp the significance of desire. Conflict is self-consciousness; the focusing of attention through disturbance is desire. Is it that you want to get rid of the conflicting element is desire, and keep the pleasurable element? Both pleasure and conflict are disturbing, are they not? Or do you think pleasure does not disturb?

"Pleasure is not disturbing."

Is that true? Have you never noticed the pain of pleasure? Is not the craving for pleasure ever on the increase, ever demanding more and more? Is not the craving for more as disturbing as the urgency of avoidance? Both bring about conflict. We want to keep the pleasurable desire, and avoid the painful; but if we look closely, both are disturbing. But do you want to be free from disturbance?

"If we have no desire we will die; if we have no conflict we will go to sleep."
Are you speaking from experience, or have you merely an idea about it? We are imagining what it would be like to have no conflict and so are preventing the experiencing of whatever that state is in which all conflict has ceased. Our problem is, what causes conflict? Can we not see a beautiful or an ugly thing without conflict coming into being? Can we not observe, listen without self-consciousness? Can we not live without disturbance? Can we not be without desire? Surely, we must understand the disturbance, and not seek a way of overcoming or exalting desire. Conflict must be understood, not ennobled or suppressed.

What causes conflict? Conflict arises when the response is not adequate to the challenge; and this conflict is the focusing of consciousness as the self. The self, the consciousness focused through conflict, is experience. Experience is response to a stimulus or challenge; without terming or naming, there is no experience. Naming is out of the storehouse, memory; and this naming is the process of verbalizing, the making of symbols, images, words, which strengthens memory. Consciousness, the focusing of the self through conflict, is the total process of experience, of naming, of recording.

"In this process, what is it that gives rise to conflict? Can we be free from conflict? And what is beyond conflict?"

It is naming that gives rise to conflict, is it not? You approach the challenge, at whatever level, with a record, with an idea, with a conclusion, with prejudice; that is, you name the experience. This terming gives quality to experience, the quality arising out of naming. Naming is the recording of memory. The past meets the new; challenge is met by memory, the past. The responses of the past cannot understand the living, the new, the challenge; the responses of the past are inadequate, and from this arises conflict, which is self-consciousness. Conflict ceases when there is no process of naming. You can watch in yourself how the naming is almost simultaneous with the response. The interval between response and naming is experiencing. Experiencing, in which there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced, is beyond conflict. Conflict is the focusing of the self, and with the cessation of conflict there is the ending of all thought and the beginning of the inexhaustible.
 

Chapter - 68
‘Action Without Purpose’

HE BELONGED TO various and widely different organizations, and was active in them all. He wrote and talked, collected money, organized. He was aggressive, insistent and effective. He was a very useful person, much in demand, and was forever going up and down the land. He had been through the political agitations, had gone to prison, followed the leaders, and now he was becoming an important person in his own right. He was all for the immediate carrying out of great schemes; and like all these educated people, he was versed in philosophy. He said he was a man of action, and not a contemplative; he used a Sanskrit phrase which was intended to convey a whole philosophy of action. The very assertion that he was a man of action implied that he was one of the essential elements of life - perhaps not he personally, but the type. He had classified himself and thereby blocked the understanding of himself.

Labels seem to give satisfaction. We kept the category to which we are supposed to belong as a satisfying explanation of life. We are worshippers of words and labels; we never seem to go beyond the symbol, to comprehend the worth of the symbol. By calling ourselves this or that, we ensure ourselves against further disturbance, and settle back. One of the curses of ideologies and organized beliefs is the comfort, the deadly gratification they offer. They put us to sleep, and in the sleep we dream, and the dream becomes action. How easily we are distracted! And most of us want to be distracted; most of us are tired out with incessant conflict, and distractions become a necessity, they become more important than what is. We can play with distractions, but not with what is; distractions are illusions, and there is a perverse delight in them.

What is action? What is the process of action? Why do we act? Mere activity is not action, surely; to keep busy is not action, is it? The housewife is busy, and would you call that action?

"No, of course not. She is only concerned with every day, petty affairs. A man of action is occupied with larger problems and responsibilities. Occupation with wider and deeper issues may be called action, not only political but spiritual. It demands capacity, efficiency, organized efforts a sustained drive towards a purpose. Such a man is not a contemplative, a mystic, a hermit, he is a man of action."

Occupation with wider issues you would call action. What are wider issues? Are they separate from everyday existence? Is action apart from the total process of life? Is there action when there is no integration of all the many layers of existence? Without understanding and so integrating the total process of life, is not action mere destructive activity? Man is a total process, and action must be the outcome of this totality.

"But that would imply not only inaction, but indefinite postponement. There is an urgency of action, and it is no good philosophizing about it."

We are not philosophizing, but only wondering if your so-called action is not doing infinite harm. Reform always needs further reform. Partial action is no action at all, it brings about disintegration. If you will have the patience, we can find now, not in the future, that action which is total, integrated.

Can purposive action be called action? To have a purpose, an ideal, and work towards it - is that action? When action is for a result, is it action?

"How else can you act?"

You call action that which has a result, an end in view, do you not? You plan the end, or you have an idea, a belief, and work towards it. Working towards an object, an end, a goal, factual or psychological, is what is generally called action. This process can be understood in relation to some physical fact, such as building a bridge; but is it as easily understood with regard to psychological purposes? Surely, we are talking of the psychological purpose, the ideology, the ideal, or the belief towards which you are working. Would you call action this working towards a psychological purpose?

"Action without a purpose is no action at all, it is death. Inaction is death."

Inaction is not the opposite of action, it is quite a different state, but for the moment that is irrelevant; we may discuss that later, but let us come back to our point. Working towards an end, an ideal, is generally called action, is it not? But how does the ideal come into being? Is it entirely different from what is). Is antithesis different and apart from thesis? Is the ideal of non-violence wholly other than violence? Is not the ideal self-projected? Is it not homemade? In acting towards a purpose, an ideal, you are pursuing a self-projection, are you not?

"Is the ideal a self-projection?"

You are this, and you want to become that. Surely, that is the outcome of your thought. It may not be the outcome of your own thought, but it is born of thought, is it not? Thought projects the ideal; the ideal is part of thought. The ideal is not something beyond thought; it is thought itself.

"What’s wrong with thought? Why shouldn’t thought create the ideal?"

You are this, which does not satisfy, so you want to be that. If there were an understanding of this, would that come into being? Because you do not understand this, you create that, hoping through that to understand or to escape from this. Thought creates the ideal as well as the problem; the ideal is a self-projection, and your working towards that self-projection is what you call action, action with a purpose. So your action is within the limits of your own projection, whether God or the State. This movement within your own bounds is the activity of the dog chasing its tail; and is that action?

"But is it possible to act without a purpose?"

Of course it is. If you see the truth of action with a purpose, then there is just action. Such action is the only effective action; it is the only radical revolution.

"You mean action without the self, don’t you?"

Yes, action without the idea. The idea is the self-identified with God or with the State. Such identified action only creates more conflict, more confusion and misery. But it is hard for the man of so-called action to put aside the idea. Without the ideology he feels lost, and he is; so he is not a man of action, but a man caught in his own self-projections whose activities are the glorification of himself. His activities contribute to separation, to disintegration.

"Then what is one to do?"

Understand what your activity is, and only then is there action.
 

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