Commentaries on Living 
Chapter - 24
Time and Continuity
THE EVENING LIGHT was on the water, and the dark trees were against the setting sun. A crowded bus went by, followed by a big car with smart people in it. A child passed rolling a hoop. A woman with a heavy load stopped to adjust it, then continued on her weary way. A boy on a bicycle saluted someone, and was intent on getting home. Several women walked by, and a man stopped, lit a cigarette, threw the match in the water, looked around, and went on. No one seemed to notice the colours on the water and the dark trees against the sky. A girl came along carrying a baby, talking and pointing to the darkening waters to amuse and distract it. Lights were appearing in the houses, and the evening star was beginning to sail the heavens.
There is a sadness of which we are so little aware. We know the ache and sorrow of personal strife and confusion; we know utility and the misery of frustration; we know the fullness of joy and its transiency. We know our own sorrow, but we are not aware of the sadness of the other. How can we be when we are enclosed in our own misfortunes and trials? When our hearts are weary and dull, how can we feel the weariness of another? Sadness is so exclusive, isolating and destructive. How quickly the smile fades! Everything seems to end in sorrow, the ultimate isolation.
She was very well read, capable and direct. She had studied sciences and religion, and had carefully followed modern psychology. Though still quite young, she had been married - with the usual miseries of marriage she added. Now she was footloose and eager to find something more than the usual conditioning, to feel her way beyond the limits of the mind. Her studies had opened her mind to possibilities beyond the conscious and the collective gatherings of the past. She had attended several of the talks and discussions, she explained, and had felt that a source common to all the great teachers was active; she had listened with care and had understood a great deal, and had now come to discuss the inexhaustible and the problem of time.
"What is the source beyond time, that state of being which is not within the reasoning of the mind? What is the timeless, that creativity of which you have spoken?"
Is it possible to be aware of the timeless? What is the test of knowing or being aware of it? How would you recognize it? By what would you measure it?
"We can only judge by its effects."
But judging is of time; and are the effects of the timeless to be judged by the measurement of time? If we can understand what we mean by time, perhaps it may be possible for the timeless to be; but is it possible to discuss what that timeless is? Even if both of us are aware of it, can we talk about it? We may talk about it, but our experience will not be the timeless. It can never be talked about or communicated except through the means of time; but the word is not the thing, and through time the timeless obviously cannot be understood. Timelessness is a state which comes only when time is not. So let us rather consider what we mean by time.
"There are different kinds of time: time as growth, time as distance, time as movement."
Time is chronological and also psychological. Time as growth is the small becoming the large, the bullock cart evolving into the jet plane, the baby becoming the man. The heavens are filled with growth, and so is the earth. This is an obvious fact, and it would be stupid to deny it. Time as distance is more complex.
"It is known that a human being can be in two different places at the same time - at one place for several hours and at another for a few minutes during the same period."
Thought can and does wander far afield while the thinker remains in one place.
"I am not referring to that phenomenon. A person, a physical entity, has been known to be in two widely separated places simultaneously. However our point is time."
Yesterday using today as a passage to tomorrow the past flowing through the present to the future, is one movement of time, not three separate movements. We know time as chronological and psychological, growth and becoming. There is the growth of the seed into the tree, and there is the process of psychological becoming. Growth is fairly clear, so let us put that aside for the time being. Psychological becoming implies time. I am this and I shall become that, using time as a passage, as a means; the what has been is becoming the what will be. We are very familiar with this process. So thought is time, the thought that has been and the thought that will be, the what is and the ideal. Thought is the product of time, and without the thinking process, time is not. The mind is the maker of time, it is time.
"That is obviously true. Mind is the maker and user of time. Without the mind-process, time is not. But is it possible to go beyond the mind? Is there a state which is not of thought?"
Let us together discover whether there is such a state or not. Is love thought? We may think of someone we love; when the other is absent, we think of him, or we have an image, a photograph of him. The separation makes for thought.
"Do you mean that when there is oneness, thought ceases and there is only love?"
Oneness implies duality, but that is not the point. Is love a thought process? Thought is of time; and is love time-binding? Thought is bound by time, and you are asking if it is possible to be free from the binding quality of time.
"It must be, otherwise there could be no creation. Creation is possible only when the process of continuity ceases. Creation is the new, the new vision, the new invention, the new discovery, the new formulation, not the continuity of the old."
Continuity is death to creation.
"But how is it possible to put an end to continuity?"
What do we mean by continuity? What makes for continuity? What is it that joins moment to moment, as the thread joins the beads in a necklace? The moment is the new, but the new is absorbed into the old and so the chain of continuity is formed. Is there ever the new or only recognition of the new by the old? If the old recognizes the new, is it the new? The old can recognize only its own projection; it may call it the new, but it is not. The new is not recognizable; it is a state of non-recognition, non-association. The old gives itself continuity through its own projections; it can never know the new. The new may be translated into the old, but the new cannot be with the old. The experiencing of the new is the absence of the old. The experience and its expression is thought, idea; thought translates the new in terms of the old. It is the old that gives continuity; the old is memory, the word, which is time.
"How is it possible to put an end to memory?"
Is it possible? The entity that desires to put an end to memory is himself the forger of memory; he is not apart from memory. That is so is it not?
"Yes, the maker of effort is born of memory, of thought; thought is the outcome of the past, conscious or unconscious. Then what is one to do?"
Please listen and you will do naturally, without effort, what is essential. Desire is thought; desire forges the chain of memory. Desire is effort, the action of will. Accumulation is the way of desire; to accumulate is to continue. Gathering experience knowledge, power or things, makes for continuity and to deny these is to continue negatively. Positive and negative continuance are similar. The gathering centre is desire, the desire for the more or the less. This centre is the self, placed at different levels according to one's conditioning. Any activity of this centre only brings about the further continuity of itself. Any move is time-binding; it prevents creation. The timeless is not with the time-binding quality of memory. The limitless is not to be measured by memory, by experience. There is the un-nameable only when experience, knowledge, has wholly ceased. Truth alone frees the mind from its own bondage.
Chapter - 25
The Family and The Desire for Security
WHAT AN UGLY thing it is to be satisfied! Contentment is one thing and satisfaction another. Satisfaction makes the mind dull and the heart weary; it leads to superstition and sluggishness, and the edge of sensitivity is lost. It is those who are seeking gratification and those who have it that bring confusion and misery; it is they who breed the smelly village and the noisy town. They build temples for the graven image and perform satisfying rituals; they foster class segregation and war; they are forever multiplying the means of gratification; money, politics, power and religious organizations are their ways. They burden the earth with the irrespectability and its lamentations.
But contentment is another matter. It is arduous to be content. Contentment cannot be searched out in secret places; it is not to be pursued, as pleasure is; it is not to be acquired; it cannot be bought at the price of renunciation; it has no price at all; it is not reached by any means; it is not to be meditated upon and gathered. The pursuit of contentment is only the search for greater satisfaction. Contentment is the complete understanding of what is from moment to moment; it is the highest form of negative understanding. Gratification knows frustration and success, but contentment knows no opposites with their empty conflict. Contentment is above and beyond the opposites; it is not a synthesis, for it has no relation to conflict. Conflict can only produce more conflict, it breeds further illusion and misery. With contentment comes action that is not contradictory. Contentment of the heart frees the mind from its activities of confusion and distraction. Contentment is a movement that is not of time.
She explained that she had taken her master's degree in science, with honours, had taught, and had done some social work. In the short time since her graduation she had travelled about the country doing various things: teaching mathematics in one place, doing social work in another, helping her mother, and organizing for a society to which she belonged. She was not in politics, because she considered it the pursuit of personal ambition and a stupid waste of time. She had seen through all that, and was now about to be married.
Have you made up your own mind whom to marry, or are your parents arranging the matter?
"Probably my parents. Perhaps it is better that way."
Why, if I may ask?
"In other countries the boy and girl fall in love with each other; it may be all right at the beginning, but soon there is contention and misery, the quarrelling and making up, the tedium of pleasure and the routine of life. The arranged marriage in this country ends the same way, the fun goes out of it, so there isn't much to choose between the two systems. They are both pretty terrible, but what is one to do? After all, one must marry, one can't remain single all one's life. It is all very sad, but at least the husband gives a certain security and children are a joy; one can't have one without the other."
But what happens to all the years that you spent in acquiring your master's degree?
"I suppose one will play with it, but children and the household work will take most of one's time."
Then what good has your so-called education done? Why spend so much time, money and effort to end up in the kitchen? Don't you want to do any kind of teaching or social work after your marriage?
"Only when there is time. Unless one is well-to-do, it is impossible to have servants and all the rest of it. I am afraid all those days will be over once I get married - and I want to get married. Are you against marriage?"
Do you regard marriage as an institution to establish a family? Is not the family a unit in opposition to society? Is it not a centre from which all activity radiates, an exclusive relationship that dominates every other form of relationship? Is it not a self-enclosing activity that brings about division, separation the high and the low, the powerful and the weak? The family as a system appears to resist the whole; each family opposes other families, other groups. Is not the family with its property one of the causes of war?
"If you are opposed to the family, then you must be for the collectivization of men and women in which their children belong to the State."
Please don't jump to conclusions. To think in terms of formulas and systems only brings about opposition and contention. You have your system, and another his; the two systems fight it out, each seeking to liquidate the other but the problem still remains.
"But if you are against the family, then what are you for?"
Why put the question that way? If there is a problem, is it not stupid to take sides according to one's prejudice? Is it not better to understand the problem than to breed opposition and enmity, thereby multiplying our problems?
The family as it is now is a unit of limited relationship, self-enclosing and exclusive. Reformers and so-called revolutionaries have tried to do away with this exclusive family spirit which breeds every kind of antisocial activity; but it is a centre of stability as opposed to insecurity, and the present social structure throughout the world cannot exist without this security. The family is not a mere economic unit and any effort to solve the issue on that level must obviously fail. The desire for security is not only economic, but much more profound and complex. If man destroys the family, he will find other forms of security through the State, through the collective, through belief and so on, which will in turn breed their own problems. We must understand the desire for inward, psychological security and not merely replace one pattern of security with another.
So the problem is not the family, but the desire to be secure. Is not the desire for security, at any level, exclusive? This spirit of exclusiveness shows itself as the family, as property, as the State, the religion, and so on. Does not this desire for inward security build up outward forms of security which are always exclusive? The very desire to be secure destroys security. Exclusion, separation, must inevitably bring about disintegration; nationalism, class-antagonism and war, are its symptoms. The family as a means of inward security is a source of disorder and social catastrophe.
"Then how is one to live, if not as a family?"
Is it not odd how the mind is always looking for a pattern, a blueprint? Our education is in formulas and conclusions. The `how' is the demand for a formula, but formulas cannot resolve the problem. Please understand the truth of this. It is only when we do not seek inward security that we can live outwardly secure. As long as the family is a centre of security, there will be social disintegration; as long as the family is used as a means to a self-protective end, there must be conflict and misery. Please do not look puzzled, it is fairly simple. As long as I use you or another for my inner, psychological security, I must be exclusive; I am all-important, I have the greatest significance; it is my family, my property. The relationship of utility is based on violence; the family as a means of mutual inward security makes for conflict and confusion.
"I understand intellectually what you say but is it possible to live without this inward desire to be secure?"
To understand intellectually is not to understand at all. You mean you hear the words and grasp their meaning, and that is all; but this will not produce action. Using another as a means of satisfaction and security is not love. Love is never security; love is a state in which there is no desire to be secure; it is a state of vulnerability; it is the only state in which exclusiveness, enmity and hate are impossible. In that state a family may come into being, but it will not be exclusive, self-enclosing.
"But we do not know such love. How is one..?"
It is good to be aware of the ways of one's own thinking. The inward desire for security expresses itself outwardly through exclusion and violence, and as long as its process is not fully understood there can be no love. Love is not another refuge in the search for security. The desire for security must wholly cease for love to be. Love is not something that can be brought about through compulsion. Any form of compulsion, at any level, is the very denial of love. A revolutionary with an ideology is not a revolutionary at all; he only offers a substitute, a different kind of security, a new hope; and hope is death. Love alone can bring about a radical revolution or transformation in relationship; and love is not a thing of the mind. Thought can plan and formulate magnificent structures of hope, but thought will only lead to further conflict, confusion and misery. Love is when the cunning, self-enclosing mind is not.
Chapter - 26
"MEDITATION IS OF the greatest importance to me; I have been meditating very regularly twice a day for more than twenty-five years. At the beginning it was all very difficult, I had no control over my thoughts and there were far too many distractions; but I gradually cut them out pretty thoroughly. More and more I gave my time and energy to the final end. I have been to various teachers and have followed several different systems of meditation, but somehow I was never satisfied with any of them - perhaps `satisfaction' is not the right word. They all led to a certain point, depending on the particular system, and I found myself becoming a mere result of the system, which was not the final end. But from all these experimentations I have learned to master my thoughts completely, and my emotions also are entirely under control. I have practiced deep breathing to quiet the body and the mind. I have repeated the sacred word and fasted for long periods; morally I have been upright, and worldly things have no attraction for me. But after all these years of struggle and effort, of discipline and denial, there is not the peace, the bliss of which the Great Ones speak. On rare occasions there have been enlightening moments of deep ecstasy, the intuitive promise of greater things; but I seem unable to pierce the illusion of my own mind, and I am endlessly caught in it. A cloud of confusing despair is descending upon me and there is increasing sorrow."
We were sitting on the bank of a wide river, close to the water. The town was up the river, some distance away. A boy was singing on the other bank. The sun was setting behind us and there were heavy shadows on the water. It was a beautiful still evening with masses of clouds towards the east, and the deep river seemed hardly to be flowing. To all this expanding beauty he was completely oblivious; he was wholly absorbed in his problem. We were silent, and he had closed his eyes; his stern face was calm, but inwardly there was an intense struggle going on. A flock of birds settled down at the water's edge; their cries must have carried across the river, for presently another flock came from the other shore and joined them. There was a timeless silence covering the earth.
During all these years, have you ever stopped striving after the final end? Do not will and effort make up the `I', and can the process of time lead to the eternal?
"I have never consciously stopped striving after that for which my heart, my whole being longs. I dare not stop; if I did, I would fall back, I would deteriorate. It is the very nature of all things to struggle ever upwards, and without will and effort there would be stagnation; without this purposive striving, I could never go beyond and above myself."
Can the `I' ever free itself from its own bondage and illusions? Must not the `I' cease for the nameless to be? And does not this constant striving after the final end only strengthen the self, however concentrated its desire may be? You struggle after the final end, and another pursues worldly things; your effort may be more ennobling, but it is still the desire to gain, is it not?
"I have overcome all passion, all desire, except this one, which is more than desire; it is the only thing for which I live."
Then you must die to this too, as you are dead to other longings and desires. Through all these years of struggle and constant limitation, you have strengthened yourself in this one purpose, but it is still within the field of the `I'. And you want to experience the un-nameable - that is your longing, is it not?
"Of course. Beyond a shadow of doubt I want to know the final end, I want to experience God."
The experiencer is ever being conditioned by his experience. If the experiencer is aware that he is experiencing, then the experience is the outcome of his self-projected desires. If you know you are experiencing God, then that God is the projection of your hopes and illusions. There is no freedom for the experiencer, he is forever caught in his own experiences; he is the maker of time and he can never experience the eternal.
"Do you mean to say that that which I have diligently built up, with considerable effort and through wise choice, must be destroyed? And must I be the instrument of its destruction?"
Can the `I' positively set about abnegating itself? If it does, its motive, its intention is to gain that which is not to be possessed. Whatever its activity, however noble its aim, any effort on the part of the `I' is still within the field of its own memories, idiosyncrasies and projections, whether conscious or unconscious. The `I' may divide itself into the organic `I', and the `non-I' or transcendental self; but this dualistic separation is an illusion in which the mind is caught. Whatever may be the movement of the mind, of the `I', it can never free itself; it may go from level to level, from stupid to more intelligent choice, but its movement will always be within the sphere of its own making.
"You seem to cut off all hope. What is one to do?"
You must be completely denuded, without the weight of the past or the enticement of a hopeful future - which does not mean despair. If you are in despair, there is no emptiness, no nakedness. You cannot `do' anything. You can and must be still, without any hope, longing, or desire; but you cannot determine to be still, suppressing all noise, for in that very effort there is noise. Silence is not the opposite of noise.
"But in my present state, what is to be done?"
If it may be pointed out, you are so eager to get on, so impatient to have some positive direction, that you are not really listening.
The evening star was reflected in the peaceful river.
* * *
Early next morning he came back. The sun was just showing itself above the treetops, and there was a mist over the river. A boat with wide sails, heavily laden with firewood, was lazily floating down the river; except for the one at the rudder, the men were all asleep on different parts of the boat. It was very still, and the daily human activities along the river had not yet begun.
"In spite of my outward impatience and anxiety, inwardly I must have been alert to what you were saying yesterday, for when I woke up this morning there was a certain sense of freedom and a clarity that comes with understanding. I did my usual morning meditation for an hour before sunrise, and I am not at all sure that my mind isn't caught in a number of widening illusions. May we proceed from where we left off?"
We cannot begin exactly where we left off, but we can look at our problem afresh. The outward and inward mind is ceaselessly active receiving impressions; caught in its memories and reactions; it is an aggregate of many desires and conflicts. It functions only within the field of time, and in that field there is contradiction, the opposition of will or desire, which is effort. This psychological activity of the `I', of the `me' and the `mine', must cease, for such activity causes problems and brings about various forms of agitation and disorder. But any effort to stop this activity only makes for greater activity and agitation.
"That is true, I have noticed it. The more one tries to make the mind still, the more resistance there is, and one's effort is spent in overcoming this resistance; so it becomes a vicious and unbreakable circle."
If you are aware of the viciousness of this circle and realize that you cannot break it, then with this realization the censor, the observer, ceases to be.
"That seems to be the most difficult thing to do: to suppress the observer. I have tried, but so far I have never been able to succeed. How is one to do it?"
Are you not still thinking in terms of the `I' and the `non-I'? Are you not maintaining this dualism within the mind by word, by the constant repetition of experience and habit? After all, the thinker and his thought are not two different processes, but we make them so in order to attain a desired end. The censor comes into being with desire. Our problem is not how to suppress the censor, but to understand desire.
"There must be an entity which is capable of understanding, a state which is apart from ignorance."
The entity which says, `I understand' is still within the field of the mind; it is still the observer, the censor, is it not?
"Of course it is; but I do not see how this observer can be eradicated. And can it be?"
Let us see. We were saying that it is essential to understand desire. Desire can and does divide itself into pleasure and pain, wisdom and ignorance; one desire opposes another, the more profitable conflicts with the less profitable, and so on. Though for various reasons it may separate itself, desire is in fact an invisible process, is it not?
"This is a difficult thing to grasp. I am so used to opposing one desire by another, to suppressing and transforming desire, that I cannot as yet be fully aware of desire as a single, unitary process; but now that you have pointed it out, I am beginning to feel that it is so."
Desire may break itself up into many opposing and conflicting urges, but it is still desire. These many urges go to make up the `I', with its memories, anxieties, fears, and so on, and the entire activity of this `I' is within the field of desire; it has no other field of activity. That is so, is it not?
"Please go on. I am listening with my whole being, trying to go beyond the words, deeply and without effort."
Our problem, then, is this: is it possible for the activity of desire to come to an end voluntarily, freely, without any form of compulsion? It is only when this happens that the mind can be still. If you are aware of this as a fact, does not the activity of desire come to an end?
"Only for a very brief period; then once again the habitual activity begins. How can this be stopped? But as I ask, I see the absurdity of asking!"
You see how greedy we are; we want ever more and more. The demand for the cessation of the `I' becomes the new activity of the `I; but it is not new, it is merely another form of desire. Only when the mind is spontaneously still can the other, that which is not of the mind, come into being.
Chapter - 27
The Nature of Desire
IT WAS A calm evening, but many white sails were on the lake. In the far distance a snow-covered peak hung as though suspended from the skies. The evening breeze from the north-east was not yet blowing, but there were ripples on the water towards the north and more boats were putting out. The water was very blue and the skies were very clear. It was a wide lake, but on sunny days the towns could be seen on the other side. In this little bay, secluded and forgotten, it was very peaceful; there were no tourists, and the steamboat that went round the lake never came here. Nearby was a village of fishermen; and as the weather promised to be clear, there would be small boats, with lanterns, fishing late into the night. In the enchantment of evening they were preparing their nets and their boats. The valleys were in deep shadow, but the mountains still held the sun.
We had been walking for some time and we sat down by the path, for he had come to talk things over.
"As far back as I can remember, I have had endless conflict, mostly within myself, though sometimes it manifests outwardly. I am not greatly worried by any outward conflict, as I have learnt to adjust myself to circumstances. This adjustment has been painful, however, for I am not easily persuaded or dominated. Life has been difficult, but I am efficient enough to make a good living. But all this is not my problem. What I cannot understand is this inward conflict which I am unable to control. I often wake up in the middle of the night from violent dreams, and I never seem to have a moment's respite from my conflict; it goes on beneath the everyday occupations, and frequently explodes in my more intimate relationships."
What do you mean by conflict? What is the nature of it?
"Outwardly I am a fairly busy man, and my work demands concentration and attention. When my mind is thus occupied, my inward conflicts are forgotten; but as soon as there is a lull in my work, I am back in my conflicts. These conflicts are of varying nature and at different levels. I want to be successful in my work, to be at the top of my profession, with plenty of money and all the rest of it, and I know I can be. At another level, I am aware of the stupidity of my ambition. I love the good things of life, and opposed to that, I want to lead a simple, almost an ascetic existence. I hate a number of people, and yet I want to forget and forgive. I can go on giving you instances, but I am sure you can understand the nature of my conflicts. Instinctively I am a peaceful person, yet anger is easy for me. I am very healthy - which may be a misfortune, at least in my case. Outwardly I give the appearance of being calm and steady, but I am agitated and confused by my inward conflicts. I am well over thirty, and I really want to break through the confusion of my own desires. You see, another of my difficulties is that I find it almost impossible to talk these things over with anybody. This is the first time in many years that I have opened up a little. I am not secretive, but I hate to talk about myself and I could not possibly do so with any psychologist. Knowing all this, can you tell me whether it is possible for me to have some kind of inward serenity?"
Instead of trying to do away with conflict, let us see if we can understand this agglomeration of desire. Our problem is to see the nature of desire, and not merely to overcome conflict; for it is desire that causes conflict. Desire is stimulated by association and remembrance; memory is part of desire. The recollection of the pleasant and the unpleasant nourishes desire and breaks it up into opposing and conflicting desires. The mind identifies itself with the pleasant as opposed to the unpleasant; through the choice of pain and pleasure the mind separates desire, dividing it into different categories of pursuits and values.
"Though there are many conflicting and opposing desires, all desires are one. Is that it?"
That is so, is it not? And it is really important to understand this, otherwise the conflict between opposing desires is endless. The dualism of desire, which the mind has brought about, is an illusion. There is no dualism in desire, but merely different types of desire. There is dualism only between time and eternity. Our concern is to see the unreality of the dualism of desire. Desire does divide itself into want and non-want, but the avoidance of the one and the pursuit of the other is still desire. There is no escape from conflict through any of the opposites of desire, for desire itself breeds its own opposition.
"I see rather vaguely that what you say is a fact, but it is also a fact that I am still torn between many desires."
It is a fact that all desire is one and the same, and we cannot alter that fact, twist it to suit our convenience and pleasure, or use it as an instrument to free ourselves from the conflicts of desire; but if we see it to be true then it has the power to set the mind free from breeding illusion. So we must be aware of desire breaking itself up into separate and conflicting parts. We are these opposing and conflicting desires we are the whole bundle of them, each pulling in a different direction.
"Yes, but what can we do about it?"
Without first catching a glimpse of desire as a single unit, whatever we may or may not do will be of very little significance, for desire only multiplies desire and the mind is trapped in this conflict. There is freedom from conflict only when desire, which makes up the `I' with its remembrances and recognitions, comes to an end.
"When you say that conflict ceases only with the cessation of desire, does this imply an end to one's active life?"
It may or it may not. It is foolish on our part to speculate about what kind of life it will be without desire.
"You surely do not mean that organic wants must cease."
Organic wants are moulded and expanded by psychological desires; we are talking of these desires.
"Can we go more deeply into the functioning of these inner cravings?"
Desires are both open and hidden, conscious and concealed. The concealed are of far greater significance than the obvious; but we cannot become familiar with the deeper if the superficial are not understood and tamed. It is not that the conscious desires must be suppressed, sublimated, or moulded to any pattern, but they must be observed and quieted. With the calming of superficial agitation, there is a possibility that the deeper desires, motives and intentions will come to the surface.
"How is one to quiet the surface agitation? I see the importance of what you are saying, but I do not quite see how to approach the problem, how to experiment with it."
The experimenter is not separate from that with which he is experimenting. The truth of this must be seen. You who are experimenting with your desires are not an entity apart from those desires, are you? The `I' who says, `I will suppress this desire and go after that', is himself the outcome of all desire, is he not?
"One can feel that it is so, but actually to realize it, is quite another matter."
If as each desire arises there is an awareness of this truth, then there is freedom from the illusion of the experimenter as a separate entity unrelated to desire. As long as the `I' exerts itself to be free from desire, it is only strengthening desire in another direction and so perpetuating conflict. If there is an awareness of this fact from moment to moment, the will of the censor ceases; and when the experiencer is the experience, then you will find that desire with its many varying conflicts comes to an end.
"Will all this help one to a calmer and fuller life?"
Certainly not at the beginning. It is sure to arouse more disturbances, and deeper adjustments may have to be made; but the deeper and wider one goes into this complex problem of desire and conflict, the simpler it becomes.
Chapter - 28
The Purpose of Life
THE ROAD IN front of the house went down to the sea, weaving its way past many small shops, great flats, garages, temples, and a dusty, neglected garden. When it reached the sea, the road became a big thoroughfare, with taxis, rattling buses, and all the noise of a modem city. Leading off this thoroughfare there was a peaceful, sheltered avenue overhung with huge rain-trees, but in the morning and evening it was busy with cars on their way to a smart club, with its golf course and lovely gardens. As I walked along this avenue there were various types of beggars lying on the pavement; they were not noisy, and did not even stretch out their hands to the passer-by. A girl about ten years old was lying with her head on a tin can, resting with wide open eyes; she was dirty, with matted hair, but she smiled as I smiled at her. Further along, a little girl, hardly three, came forward with outstretched hand and an enchanting smile. The mother was watching from behind a nearby tree. I took the outstretched hand and we walked together for a few paces, returning her to her mother. As I had no coin, I returned with one the next day, but the little girl would not take it, she wanted to play; so we played, and the coin was given to the mother. Whenever I walked along that avenue the little girl was always there, with a shy smile and bright eyes.
Opposite the entrance to the fashionable club a beggar was seated on the ground; he was covered with a filthy gunnysack, and his matted hair was full of dust. Some days, as I went by, he would be lying down, his head in the dust, his naked body covered with the gunnysack; on other days he would be sitting up, perfectly still, looking without seeing, with the massive rain-tree over him. One evening there was gaiety at the club; it was all lit up, and sparkling cars full of laughing people were driving in, tooting their horns. From the clubhouse came light music loud and air filling. Many policemen were at the entrance, where a large crowd had gathered to watch the smartly-dressed and well fed people pass by in their cars. The beggar had turned his back on all this. One man was offering him something to eat and another a cigarette; but he silently refused both without making a movement. He was slowly dying, day by day, and the people passed by.
Those rain-trees were massive against the darkening sky, and of fantastic shape. They had very small leaves, but their branches seemed huge, and they had a strange majesty and aloofness in that overcrowded city of noise and pain. But the sea was there, everlastingly in motion, restless and infinite. There were white sails, mere specks in that infinitude, and on the dancing waters the moon made a path of silver. The rich beauty of the earth, the distant stars, and deathless humanity. Immeasurable vastness seemed to cover all things.
He was a youngish man, and had come from the other side of the country, a tiresome journey. He had taken a vow not to marry till he had found the meaning and purpose of life. Determined and aggressive, he worked in some office from which he had taken leave for a certain period to try to find the answer to his search. He had a busy and argumentative mind, and was so taken up with his own and other people's answers that he would hardly listen. His words could not come fast enough, and he quoted endlessly what the philosophers and teachers had said concerning the purpose of life. He was tormented and deeply anxious.
"Without knowing the purpose of life, my very existence has no meaning, and all my action is destructive. I earn a livelihood just to carry on; I suffer, and death awaits me. This is the way of life but what is the purpose of it all? I do not know. I have been to the learned, and to the various gurus; some say one thing, some another. What do you say?"
Are you asking in order to compare what is said here with what has been said elsewhere?
"Yes. Then I can choose, and my choice will depend on what I consider to be true."
Do you think that the understanding of what is true is a matter of personal opinion and dependent on choice? Through choice will you discover what is true?
"How else can one find the real if not through discrimination, through choice? I shall listen to you very carefully, and if what you say appeals to me, I shall reject what the others have said and pattern my life after the goal you have set. I am most earnest in my desire to find out what is the true purpose of life."
Sir, before going any further, is it not important to ask yourself if you are capable of seeking out the true? This is suggested with respect, and not in a derogatory spirit. Is truth a matter of opinion, of pleasure, of gratification? You say that you will accept what appeals to you, which means that you are not interested in truth, but are after that which you find most gratifying. You are prepared to go through pain, through compulsion, in order to gain that which in the end is pleasurable. You are seeking pleasure, not truth. Truth must be something beyond like and dislike, must it not? Humility must be the beginning of all search.
"That is why I have come to you, sir. I am really seeking; I look to the teachers to tell me what is true, and I shall follow them in a humble and contrite spirit."
To follow is to deny humility. You follow because you desire to succeed, to gain an end. An ambitious man however subtle and hidden his ambition, is never humble. To pursue authority and set it up as a guide is to destroy insight, understanding. The pursuit of an ideal prevents humility, for the ideal is the glorification of the self, the ego. How can he who in different ways gives importance to the `me', ever be humble? Without humility, reality can never be.
"But my whole concern in coming here is to find out what is the true purpose of life."
If one may be permitted to say so, you are just caught up in an idea, and it is becoming a fixation. This is something of which one has to be constantly watchful. Wanting to know the true purpose of life, you have read many philosophers and sought out many teachers. Some say this, some say that, and you want to know the truth. Now, do you want to know the truth of what they say, or the truth of your own inquiry?
"When you ask a straight question like that, I feel rather hesitant in my reply. There are people who have studied and experienced more than I ever can, and it would be absurd conceit on my part to discard what they say, which may help me to uncover the significance of life. But each one speaks according to his own experience and understanding, and they sometimes contradict each other. The Marxists say one thing, and the religious people say something quite different. Please help me to find the truth in all this."
To see the false as the false, and the truth in the false, and the true as the true, is not easy. To perceive clearly, there must be freedom from desire, which twists and conditions the mind. You are so eager to find the true significance of life that your very eagerness becomes a hindrance to the understanding of your own inquiry. You want to know the truth of what you have read and of what your teachers have said, do you not?
"Yes, most definitely."
Then you must be able to find out for yourself what is true in all these statements. Your mind must be capable of direct perception; if it is not, it will be lost in the jungle of ideas, opinions and beliefs. If your mind has not the capacity to see what is true, you will be like a driven leaf. So what is important is not the conclusions and assertions of others, whoever they be, but for you to have insight into what is true. Is this not most essential?
"I think it is, but how am I going to have this gift?"
Understanding is not a gift reserved for the few, but it comes to those who are earnest in their self-knowledge. Comparison does not bring about understanding; comparison is another form of distraction, as judgment is evasion. For the truth to be, the mind must be without comparison, without evaluation. When the mind is comparing, evaluating, it is not quiet, it is occupied. An occupied mind is incapable of clear and simple perception.
"Does it mean, then, that I must strip myself of all the values that I have built up, the knowledge that I have gathered?"
Must not the mind be free to discover? Does knowledge, information - the conclusions and experiences of oneself and others, this vast accumulated burden of memory - bring freedom? Is there freedom as long as there is the censor who is judging, condemning, comparing? The mind is never quiet if it is always acquiring and calculating; and must not the mind be still for truth to be?
"I see that, but aren't you asking too much of a simple and ignorant mind like mine?"
Are you simple and ignorant? If you really were, it would be a great delight to begin with true inquiry; but unfortunately you are not. Wisdom and truth come to a man who truly says, "I am ignorant I do not know". The simple, the innocent, not those who are burdened with knowledge, will see the light, for they are humble.
"I want only one thing, to know the true purpose of life, and you shower me with things that are beyond me. Can you not please tell me in simple words what is the true significance of life?"
Sir, you must begin very near to go far. You want the immense without seeing what is close by. You want to know the significance of life. Life has no beginning and no end; it is both death and life; it is the green leaf, and the withered leaf that is driven by the wind; it is love and its immeasurable beauty, the sorrow of solitude and the bliss of aloneness. It cannot be measured, nor can the mind discover it.
Chapter - 29
Valuing an Experience
ON THE HOT rock in the burning sun the village women were spreading the paddy that had been kept in the storehouse. They had carried large bundles of it to the flat, sloping rock, and the two oxen that were tied to the tree would presently tread on the paddy to release the grain. The valley was far from any town, and the huge tamarind trees gave deep shadows. Through the valley a dusty road made its way to the village and beyond. Cattle and innumerable goats covered the hillsides. The rice fields were deep in water, and the white rice birds flew with lazy wings from one field to another; they seemed without fear, but they were shy and would not let one get near them. The mango trees were beginning to bloom, and the river made a cheerful noise with its clear running water. It was a pleasant land, and yet poverty hung over it like a plague. Voluntary poverty is one thing, but compulsory poverty is quite another. The villagers were poor and diseased, and although there was now a medical dispensary and food was distributed, the damage wrought by centuries of privation could not be wiped away in a few years. Starvation is not the problem of one community or of one country, but of the whole world.
With the setting sun, a gentle breeze came from the east, and from the hills came strength. These hills were not high, but high enough to give to the air a soft coolness, so different from the plains. The stars seemed to hang down very close to the hills, and occasionally one would hear the cough of a leopard. That evening the light behind the darkening hills seemed to give greater meaning and beauty to all the things about one. As one sat on the bridge, the villagers going by on their way home suddenly stopped talking, and only resumed their conversation as they disappeared into the darkness. The visions that the mind can conjure up are so empty and dull; but when the mind does not build out of its own materials - memory and time - , there is that without name.
A bullock cart, with a hurricane lamp burning, was coming up the road; slowly every part of the steel-bound wheel touched the hard ground. The driver was asleep, but the oxen knew their way home; they went by, and then they too were swallowed up in the darkness. It was intensely still now. The evening star was on the hill, but soon she would drop from sight. In the distance an owl was calling, and all about one the insect world of the night was alive and busy; yet the stillness was not broken. It held everything in it, the stars, the lonely owl, the myriad insects. If one listened to it, one lost it; but if one were of it, it welcomed one. The watcher can never be of this stillness; he is an outsider looking in, but he is not of it. The observer only experiences, he is never the experience, the thing itself.
He had travelled all over the world, knew several languages, and had been a professor and a diplomat. In his youth he had been at Oxford, and having made his way through life rather strenuously, he had retired before the usual age. He was familiar with Western music, but liked the music of his own country best. He had studied the different religions, and had been particularly impressed with Buddhism; but after all, he added, stripped of their superstitions, dogmas and rituals, they all essentially said the same thing. Some of the rituals had beauty in them, but finance and romance had taken over most religions, and he himself was free of all rituals and dogmatic accretions. He had played around with thought-transference and hypnosis, and was acquainted with clairvoyance, but he had never looked upon them as an end in themselves. One could develop extended faculties of observation, greater control over matter, and so on, but all this seemed to him rather primitive and obvious. He had taken certain drugs, including the very latest, which for the time being had given him an intensity of perception and experience beyond the superficial sensations; but he had not given great importance to these experiences, for they did not in any way reveal the significance of that which he felt was beyond all ephemeral things.
"I have tried various forms of meditation," he said, "and for a whole year I withdrew from all activity to be by myself and meditate. At different times I have read what you say about meditation, and was greatly struck by it. Right through from boyhood the very word `meditation', or its Sanskrit equivalent, has had a very strange effect upon me I have always found an extraordinary beauty and delight in meditation, and it is one of the few things that I have really enjoyed in life - if one may use such a word with regard to so profound a thing as meditation. That enjoyment has not gone from me, but has deepened and widened through the years, and what you said about meditation has opened new heavens to me. I don't want to ask you anything more about meditation, because I have read almost everything that you have so far said about it but I would like to talk over with you, if I may, an event that happened quite recently." He paused for a moment, and then went on.
"From what I have told you, you can see that I am not the kind of person to create symbolic images and worship them. I have scrupulously avoided any identification with self-projected religious concepts or figures. One has read or heard that some of the saints - or at least some of those whom people have called saints - have had visions of Krishna, Christ, the Mother as Kali, the Virgin Mary, and so on. I can see how easily one could hypnotize oneself through a belief and evoke some vision which might radically alter the conduct of one's life. But I do not wish to be under any delusion; and having said all this, I want to describe something that took place a few weeks ago.
"A group of us had been meeting fairly often to talk things over seriously, and one evening we were discussing rather heatedly the remarkable similarity between Communism and Catholicism, when suddenly there appeared in the room a seated figure, with yellow robe and shaven head. I was quite startled. I rubbed my eyes and looked at the faces of my friends. They were completely oblivious of the figure, and were so occupied with their discussion that they did not notice my silence. I shook my head coughed, and again rubbed my eyes, but the figure was still there. I cannot convey to you what a beautiful face it had; its beauty was not merely of form, but of something infinitely greater. I could not take my eyes off that face; and as it was getting to be too much for me, and not wanting my friends to notice my silence and my astonished absorption, I got up and went out on the veranda. The night air was fresh and cold. I walked up and down, and presently went in again. They were still talking; but the atmosphere of the room had changed, and the figure was still where it had been before, seated on the floor, with its extraordinary head cleanly shaven. I could not go on with what we had been discussing, and presently all of us left. As I walked home the figure went before me. That was several weeks ago, and it has still not left me though it has lost that forceful immanence. When I close my eyes, it is there, and something very strange has happened to me. But before I go into that, what is this experience? Is it a self-projection from the unconscious past, without my cognizance and conscious volition, or is it something wholly independent of me, without any relation to my consciousness? I have thought a great deal about the matter and I have not been able to find the truth of it."
Now that you have had this experience, do you value it? Is it important to you, if one may ask, and do you hold on to it?
"In a way, I suppose I do, if I am to answer honestly. It has given me a creative release - not that I write poems or paint, but this experience has brought about a deep sense of freedom and peace. I value it because it has caused a profound transformation in myself. It is, indeed, vitally important to me, and I would not lose it at any price."
Are you not afraid of losing it? Do you consciously pursue that figure, or is it an ever living thing?
"I suppose I am apprehensive of losing it, for I do constantly dwell on that figure and am always using it to bring about a desired state. I had never before thought of it in this way, but now that you ask, I see what I am doing."
Is it a living figure, or the memory of a thing that has come and gone?
"I am almost afraid to answer that question. Please do not think me sentimental, but this experience has meant a very great deal to me. Although I came here to talk the matter over with you and see the truth of it, I now feel rather hesitant and unwilling to inquire into it; but I must. Sometimes it is a living figure, but more often it is the recollection of a past experience."
You see how important it is to be aware of what is and not be caught in what one would like it to be. It is easy to create an illusion and live in it. Let us go patiently into the matter. Living in the past, however pleasant, however edifying, prevents the experiencing of what is. The what is is ever new, and the mind finds it extremely arduous and difficult not to live in the thousand yesterdays. Because you are clinging to that memory the living experience is denied. The past has an ending, and the living is the eternal. The memory of that figure is enchanting you, inspiring you, giving you a sense of release; it is the dead that is giving life to the living. Most of us never know what it is to live because we are living with the dead.
May I point out, sir, that apprehension of losing something very precious has crept in. Fear has arisen in you. Out of that one experience you have brought into being several problems: acquisitiveness, fear, the burden of experience, and the emptiness of your own being. If the mind can free itself from all acquisitive urges, experiencing will have quite a different significance, and then fear totally disappears. Fear is a shadow, and not a thing in itself.
"I am really beginning to see what I have been doing. I am not excusing myself, but as the experience was intense, so has been the desire to hold on to it. How difficult it is not to be caught in a deep emotional experience! The memory of an experience is as invitingly forceful as the experience itself."
It is most difficult to differentiate between experiencing and memory is it not? When does experiencing become memory, a thing of the past? Wherein does the subtle difference lie? Is it a matter of time? Time is not when experiencing is. Every experience becomes a movement into the past; the present, the state of experiencing, is imperceptibly flowing into the past. Every living experience, a second later, has become a memory, a thing of the past. This is the process we all know, and it seems to be inevitable. But is it?
"I am following very keenly what you are unfolding, and I am more than delighted that you are talking of this, because I am aware of myself only as a series of memories, at whatever level of my being. I am memory. Is it possible to be, to exist in the state of experiencing? That is what you are asking is it not?"
Words have subtle meanings to all of us, and if for a moment we can go beyond these references and their reactions, perhaps we shall get at the truth. With most of us, experiencing is always becoming memory. Why? Is it not the constant activity of the mind to take in or absorb, and to push away or deny? Does it not hold on to what is pleasurable, edifying significant, and try to eliminate all that is not useful to itself? And can it ever be without this process? Surely, that is a vain question, as we shall find out in the very asking of it.
Now let us go further. This positive or negative accumulation, this evaluating process of the mind, becomes the censor, the watcher, the experiencer, the thinker, the ego. At the moment of experiencing, the experiencer is not; but the experiencer comes into being when choice begins, that is, when the living is over and there is the beginning of accumulation. The acquisitive urge blots out the living, the experiencing, making of it a thing of the past, of memory. As long as there is the observer, the experiencer, there must inevitably be acquisitiveness, the gathering-in process; as long as there is a separate entity who is watching and choosing experience is always a process of becoming. Being or experiencing is, when the separate entity is not.
"How is the separate entity to cease?"
Why are you asking that question? The `how' is a new way to acquire. We are now concerned with acquisitiveness, and not with how to attain freedom from it. Freedom from something is no freedom at all; it is a reaction, a resistance, which only breeds further opposition.
But let us go back to your original question. Was the figure self-projected, or did it come into being uninfluenced by you? Was it independent of you? Consciousness is a complicated affair, and it would be foolish to give a definite answer, would it not? But one can see that recognition is based on a conditioning of the mind. You had studied Buddhism, and as you said, it had impressed you more than any other religion, so the conditioning process had taken place. That conditioning may have projected the figure, even though the conscious mind was occupied with a wholly different matter. Also, your mind being made acute and sensitive by the way of your life, and by the discussion you were having with your friends perhaps you `saw' thought clothed in a Buddhist form, as another might `see' it in a Christian form. But whether it was self-projected or otherwise, is not of vital importance, is it?
"Perhaps not, but it has shown me a great deal."
Has it? It did not reveal to you the working of your own mind, and you became a prisoner to that experience. All experience has significance when with it there comes self-knowledge which is the only releasing or integrating factor; but without self-knowledge, experience is a burden leading to every kind of illusion.
Chapter - 30
This Problem of Love
A SMALL DUCK was coming up the wide canal like a ship under sail, alone and full of quacking importance. The canal wound in and out through the town. There were no other ducks in sight, but this one made enough noise for many ducks. The few who heard him paid no attention, but that didn't matter to the duck. He wasn't frightened, but he felt himself to be a very prominent person on that canal; he owned it. Beyond the town the countryside was pleasant with green pastures and fat black and white cows. There were masses of clouds on the horizon and the skies seemed low, close to the earth, with that light which only this part of the world seems to have. The land was as flat as one's palm, and the road climbed only to pass over the bridges that crossed the high canals. It was a lovely evening; the sun was setting over the North Sea, and the clouds took on the colouring of the setting sun.
Great streaks of light, blue and rose, shot across the sky.
She was the wife of a well-known man who was very high up in the government, almost at the top, but not quite. Well-dressed and quiet in manner, she had that peculiar atmosphere of power and wealth, the assurance of one long accustomed to being obeyed and getting things done. From one or two things she said, it was evident that her husband had the brains and she the drive. Together they had risen high, but just when much greater power and position were almost theirs, he had fallen desperately ill. At this point in her narrative she could hardly continue, and tears rolled down her cheeks. She had come in with smiling assurance, but it had rapidly disappeared. Sitting back, she was silent for a time, and then continued.
"I have read some of your talks and have attended one or two of them. While I was listening to you, what you said meant a great deal. But these things quickly escape one, and now that I am really in great trouble I thought I would come and see you. I am sure you understand what has happened. My husband is fatally ill, and all the things we lived and worked for are falling to pieces. The party and its work will go on, but... Though there are nurses and doctors, I have been looking after him myself, and for months I have had very little sleep. I can't bear to lose him though the doctors say there is little chance of his recovery. I have thought and thought about all this, and I am almost sick with anxiety. We have no children, as you know, and we have meant a great deal to each other. And now..."
Do you really want to talk seriously and go into things?
"I feel so desperate and confused, I don't believe I am capable of serious thinking; but I must come to some kind of clarity within myself."
Do you love your husband, or do you love the things which came about through him?
"I love..." She was too shocked to continue.
Please do not think the question brutal, but you will have to find the true answer to it, otherwise sorrow will always be there. In uncovering the truth of that question there may be the discovery of what love is.
"In my present state I cannot think it all out."
But has not this problem of love passed through your mind?
"Once, perhaps, but I quickly got away from it. I always had so much to do before he was ill; and now, of course, all thinking is pain. Did I love him because of the position and power that went with him, or did I simply love him? I am already talking of him as though he were not! I really don't know in what way I love him. At present I am too confused, and my brain refuses to work. If I may, I would like to come back another time, perhaps after I have accepted the inevitable."
If I may point out, acceptance is also a form of death.
* * *
Several months passed before we met again. The papers had been full of his death, and now he too was forgotten. His death had left marks on her face, and soon bitterness and resentment were showing themselves in her talk.
"I haven't talked to anyone about all these things," she explained. "I just withdrew from all my past activities and buried myself in the country. It has been terrible, and I hope you won't mind if I just talk a little. All my life I have been tremendously ambitious, and before marrying I indulged in good works of every kind. Soon after I married, and largely because of my husband, I left all the petty wrangling of good works and plunged into politics with my whole heart. It was a much wider field of struggle and I enjoyed every minute of it, the ups and the downs, the intrigues and the jealousies. My husband was brilliant in his quiet way, and with my driving ambition we were always moving up. As we had no children, all my time and thought were given over to furthering my husband. We worked together splendidly, complementing each other in an extraordinary way. Everything was going as we had planned, but I always had a gnawing fear that it was all going too well. Then one day, two years ago, when my husband was being examined for some minor trouble, the doctor said there was a growth which must be examined immediately. It was malignant. For a time we were able to keep the whole thing a dead secret; but six months ago it all began again, and it has been a pretty terrible ordeal. When I last came to see you I was too distressed and miserable to think, but perhaps I can now look at things with a little more clarity. Your question disturbed me more than I can tell you. You may remember that you asked me if I loved my husband, or the things that went with him. I have thought a great deal about it; but is it not too complex a problem to be answered by oneself?"
Perhaps; but unless one finds out what love is, there will always be pain and sad disappointments. And it is difficult to discover where love ends and confusion begins, is it not?
"You are asking if my love for my husband was unmixed with my love for position and power. Did I love my husband because he gave me the means for the fulfilment of my ambition? It is partly this, and also the love of the man. Love is a mixture of so many things."
Is it love when there is complete identification with another? And is not this identification a roundabout way of giving importance to oneself? Is it love when there is the sorrow of loneliness, the pain of being deprived of the things that seemingly gave significance to life? To be cut off from the ways of self-fulfilment, from the things that the self has lived on, is the denial of self-importance, and this brings about disenchantment, bitterness, the misery of isolation. And is this misery love?
"You are trying to tell me, are you not, that I did not love my husband at all? I am really appalled at myself when you put it that way. And there is no other way to put it, is there? I had never thought about all this, and only when the blow struck was there any real sorrow in my life. Of course, to have had no children was a great disappointment, but it was tempered by the fact that I had my husband and the work. I suppose they became my children. There is a fearful finality about death. Suddenly I find myself alone, without anything to work for, put aside and forgotten. I now realize the truth of what you say; but if you had said these things to me three or four years ago, I would not have listened to you. I wonder if I have been listening to you even now, or merely seeking out reasons to justify myself! May I come and talk to you again?"
Chapter - 31
What Is the True Function of a Teacher?
THE BANYANS and the tamarinds dominated the small valley, which was green and alive after the rains. In the open the sun was strong and biting, but in the shade it was pleasantly cool. The shadows were deep, and the old trees were shapely against the blue sky. There was an astonishing number of birds in that valley, birds of many different kinds, and they would come to these trees and so quickly disappear in them. There would probably be no more rain for several months but now the countryside lay green and peaceful, the wells were full, and there was hope in the land. The corrupting towns were far beyond the hills, but the nearby villages were filthy and the people were starving. The government only promised, and the villagers seemed to care so little. There was beauty and gladness all about them, but they had no eyes for it nor for their own inward riches. Amidst so much loveliness the people were dull and empty.
He was a teacher with little pay and a large family, but he was interested in education. He said he had a difficult time making ends meet, but he managed somehow, and poverty was not a disturbing factor. Though food was not in abundance, they had enough to eat, and as his children were being educated freely in the school where he was teaching, they could scrape along. He was proficient in his subject and taught other subjects too, which he said any teacher could do who was at all intelligent. He again stressed his deep interest in education.
"What is the function of a teacher?" he asked.
Is he merely a giver of information, a transmitter of knowledge?
"He has to be at least that. In any given society, boys and girls must be prepared to earn a livelihood, depending on their capacities, and so on. It is part of the function of a teacher to impart knowledge to the student so that he may have a job when the time comes, and may also, perhaps, help to bring about a better social structure. The student must be prepared to face life."
That is so, sir, but aren't we trying to find out what is the function of a teacher? Is it merely to prepare the student for a successful career? Has the teacher no greater and wider significance?
"Of course he has. For one thing, he can be an example. By the way of his life, by his conduct, attitude and outlook, he can influence and inspire the student."
Is it the function of a teacher to be an example to the student? Are there not already enough examples, heroes, leaders, without adding another to the long list? Is example the way of education? Is it not the function of education to help the student to be free, to be creative? And is there freedom in imitation, in conformity, whether outward or inward? When the student is encouraged to follow an example, is not fear sustained in a deep and subtle form? If the teacher becomes an example, does not that very example mould and twist the life of the student, and are you not then encouraging the everlasting conflict between what he is and what he should be? Is it not the function of a teacher to help the student to understand what he is?
"But the teacher must guide the student towards a better and nobler life."
To guide, you must know; but do you? What do you know? You know only what you have learnt through the screen of your prejudices, which is your conditioning as a Hindu, a Christian, or a Communist; and this form of guidance only leads to greater misery and bloodshed, as is being shown throughout the world. Is it not the function of a teacher to help the student to free himself intelligently from all these conditioning influences so that he will be able to meet life deeply and fully, without fear, without aggressive discontent? Discontent is part of intelligence, but not the easy pacification of discontent. Acquisitive discontent is soon pacified, for it pursues the well-worn pattern of acquisitive action. Is it not the function of a teacher to dispel the gratifying illusion of guides, examples and leaders?
"Then at least the teacher can inspire the student to greater things."
Again, are you not approaching the problem wrongly, sir? If you as a teacher infuse thought and feeling into the student, are you not making him psychologically dependent on you? When you act as his inspiration, when he looks up to you as he would to a leader or to an ideal, surely he is depending on you. Does not dependence breed fear? And does not fear cripple intelligence?
"But if the teacher is not to be either an inspirer, an example, or a guide, then what in heaven's name is his true function?"
The moment you are none of those things what are you? What is your relationship with the student? Did you previously have any relationship with the student at all? Your relationship with him was based on an idea of what was good for him, that he ought to be this or that. You were the teacher and he was the pupil; you acted upon him, you influenced him according to your particular conditioning so, consciously or unconsciously you moulded him in your own image. But if you cease to act upon him, then he becomes important in himself, which means that you have to understand him and not demand that he should understand you or your ideals, which are phony anyway. Then you have to deal with what is and not with what should be.
Surely, when the teacher regards each student as a unique individual and therefore not to be compared with any other, he is then not concerned with system or method. His sole concern is with `helping' the student to understand the conditioning influences about him and within himself, so that he can face intelligently without fear, the complex process of living and not add more problems to the already existing mess.
"Are you not asking of the teacher a task that is far beyond him?"
If you are incapable of this, then why be a teacher? Your question has meaning only if teaching is a mere career to you, a job like any other, for I feel that nothing is impossible for the true educator.