Commentaries on Living [3]

Chapter - 52
Can God be sought through Organized Religion?

THE EVENING SUN was on the green rice fields and on the tall palms. The fields curved around the palm groves and a stream, running through the fields and the groves, caught the golden glow and became alive. The earth was very rich. It had rained a great deal, and the vegetation was thick; even the fence-posts were putting out green leaves. The sea was full of fish, and there was no starvation in the land; the people were well-fed, the cattle fat and indolent. There were children everywhere, with little on, and the sun had made them dark.

It was a lovely evening, cool after the hot, sunny day. A breeze was coming across the hills, and the waving palms gave shape and beauty to the sky. The little car was chugging up a hill, and the small child sharing the front seat had made herself comfortable. She was too shy to say a word, but she was all eyes, taking everything in. There were many people on the road, some well-covered and others almost naked. A man wearing only a string and a piece of cloth was standing in the stream near the bank. He ducked under the water several times, rubbed himself, ducked some more, and came out. Soon it was quite dark, and the headlights of the car lighted up the people and the trees.

It's strange how the mind is always occupied with its own thoughts, with watching and listening. It is never really empty; and if by chance it seems so, it's only blank, or day-dreaming. It may be occupied with wanting to be empty, but it's never empty; and being so completely full, no other movement is possible. Becoming aware of its state of constant occupation, it tries to be unoccupied empty. The method, the practice, which promises peace, becomes the new occupation of the mind. Some thought - of the office, of the family, of the future - perpetually fills the mind. It's always crowded, cluttered up with the things of its own or another's making; there is a ceaseless movement which has little significance.

An occupied mind is a petty mind, whether its occupation is with God, with envy, or with sex. Loneliness, the self-centred movement of the mind, is a deeper occupation, and this is covered over with activity. The mind is never rich in complete emptiness; there is always a corner which is active, planning, chattering, busy. The total emptiness of the mind, when even its darkest recesses are exposed, has an intensity which is not the fury of being occupied, and it is not diminished by the resistance which occupation brings. There being nothing to resist or overcome, this intensity is effortless silence. The occupied mind does not know this silence. Even those moments when it is not occupied are only breaks in the activity of its occupation, which are soon mended. This silence of emptiness is not the opposite of occupation. All opposites are within the pattern of struggle. It is not a result, an effect, for it has no motive, no cause. All cause-effect is within the sphere of self-centred activity. The self, with its occupation, can never know this intensity of silence, nor what is in it and beyond it.

Three men had come from the distant town by train and bus. One, considerably older than the other two, with a well-kept beard, was the spokesman, though the others were in no way subservient to him. Slow and deliberate in speech, he was able to quote freely from the well-established authorities. He was never impatient, and there was an air of tolerance about him. Of the two younger men, one was nearly bald, and the other had heavy hair. The balding one seemed not yet to have made up his mind about serious matters and was willing to examine what was said; but here and there definite patterns of thought could be noticed. He smiled widely as he talked, but did not gesticulate. The other was rather shy, and spoke very little.

"Is it not possible to find God through the established religious organizations?" inquired the older man.

If one may ask, why are you putting this question? Is it a serious problem in itself, or merely an opening to a serious problem? If there's a more serious problem behind it, wouldn't it be simpler to proceed directly to that?

"For the present this question is quite a serious one, at least for us. We all heard you two years ago, when last you were here, and it then seemed to us that you were far too drastic in your reasoning about organized religions. My two friends and I belong to one; but it has slowly dawned upon us that you may be right, and we want to talk it over with you seriously."

First of all, what does it mean to be serious? We are serious, in a passing way, about so many things. Since you have all taken the trouble to come here, wouldn't it be well to begin by understanding what we mean by seriousness?

"Perhaps we are not as serious as you would want us to be, but we do give as much time as possible to the search for God."

Is time spent in doing something an indication of seriousness? The business man, the office worker, the scientist, the carpenter - they all give a great deal of time to their respective occupations. You would consider them serious, would you not?

"In a way, yes. But the seriousness with which we carry on the search for God is entirely different. It's difficult to put into words."

Seriousness in the one case is outer, superficial, whereas in the other, it is inner, deeper, requiring far greater insight, and so on; is that it?

"That's more or less what he means," put in the balding one. "We devote as much time as possible to meditation, to reading the sacred books and attending religious gatherings. In short, we are very serious in our search for God."

Again, is time the factor of seriousness? Or does seriousness depend on the state of the mind?

"I don't quite understand what you mean by `the state of the mind'."

However serious a petty or immature mind may be, it is ever limited, shallow dependent, subject to influence. To be concerned with only a part of life is to be only partially serious; but the mind that is concerned with the totality of life will approach all things with serious intent. Such a mind is totally serious, earnest.

"I think you mean that we never approach life as a whole," said the older one, "and I'm afraid you're right."

The partial approach finds a partial answer, and however serious one may be, one's seriousness will always be fragmentary. Such a mind cannot find the truth of anything.

"Then how is one to have this total seriousness?"

The `how' is not at all important. There is no method or practice that can awaken this feeling - the feeling of the mind intent upon understanding the totality of its own being. We will come upon this hope, as we proceed with our talk. But you began by asking if God can be found through organized religion.

"Yes, that was our question," the balding one replied. "All we know of religion is what has been drilled into us from childhood. Throughout the centuries, organized religions have taught us to believe in this or that. Practically every saint we know of has followed the religion of his fathers and depended on the authority of its sacred books. The three of us here belong to one of the traditional religious organizations, but since listening to you, we have come to doubt - or at least, I have come to doubt - the point of belonging to any religious organization at all. This is what we would like to talk about."

What does organization imply? We organize in order to co-operate in doing something. Organization is necessary for effective action if you and I wish to do something together. We have to organize, put ourselves in right relationship, if we are to carry out effectively some political, social, or economic plan. Are religious organizations on the same or a similar footing? And what do you mean by religion?

"To me, religion is the way of life," replied the third one. "The way of life is laid down for us by our spiritual teachers and the sacred books, and the following of it in our daily life constitutes religion."

Is religion a matter of following a pattern laid down by another, however great? To follow is merely to conform, to imitate, in the hope of receiving a comforting reward; and surely that is not religion. The releasing of the individual from envy, greed and violence, from the desire for success and power, so that his mind is freed from self-contradictions, conflicts, frustrations - is not this the way of religion? And only such a mind can discover the true, the real. Such a mind is in no way influenced, it is not under any pressure, and so it is able to be still; and it is only when the mind is totally still that there is a possibility of the coming into being of that which is beyond the measure of the mind. But organized religions merely condition the mind to a particular pattern of thought.

"But we were brought up to think within the pattern with its code of morality," said the balding one. "The temple or the church, with its worship, its ceremonies, its beliefs and dogmas - to us, this has always been religion, and you are destroying it without putting anything in its place."

What is false must be put away if what is true is to be. The aloneness of the mind is essential; and the way of religion is the disentanglement of the mind from the pattern which is put together by the collective, by the past. At present the mind is caught in the collective morality, with its acquisitiveness, its ambition, its respectability and pursuit of power. The understanding of all this has its own action, which frees the mind-feeling from the collective, and then it is capable of love, compassion. Only then is there the sublime.

"But we are not yet capable of such immense understanding," said the older one. "We still need the cooperation and guidance of others to help us along in the right direction. This cooperation and guidance is provided by what we call organized religion."

Do you actually need the help of another to be free from envy, ambition? And when you do have the help of another, is there freedom? Or does freedom come only with self-knowledge? Is self-knowledge a matter of guidance, of organized help? Or are the ways of the self to be discovered from moment to moment in our daily relationships? Dependence on another, or on an organization, breeds fear, does it not?

"There may be a few who are strong enough to stand alone and combat the world, but the vast majority of us need the comforting supports of organized religion. Our lives, on the whole, are empty, dull, without much significance, and it seems better to fill this emptiness with religious beliefs, rather than to fill it with stupid amusements, or with the sophistication of worldly thoughts and desires."

In filling that emptiness with religious beliefs, you have filled it with words, haven't you?

"We are supposed to be educated people," said the balding one. "We have been to college, we have fairly good jobs, and all the rest of it. Moreover religion has always been of the deepest interest to us. But I see now that what we considered to be religion is not religion at all. On the other hand, to break out of this prison of the collective requires more energy and understanding than most of us possess; so what are we to do? If we left the religious organization to which we belong, we would feel lost, and sooner or later we would pick up another belief with which to deceive ourselves and fill our own emptiness. The attraction of the old way is strong, and we lazily follow it. But in talking all this over, certain things have become clear to me as never before; and perhaps that very clarity will produce its own action."

Chapter - 53
Asceticism and Total Being

WE WERE FLYING very high, over fifteen thousand feet. The plane was crowded, without an empty seat. people from all over the world were in it. Far below, the sea was the colour of new spring grass, delicate and enchanting. The island from which we had taken off was dark green; the black roads and the red paths, winding through the palm groves and the thick, green vegetation, were clear and sharp, and the red-roofed houses were pleasant to look upon. The sea gradually became grey-green, and then blue. Now we were above the clouds, and they hid the earth, stretching mile upon mile as far as the eye could see. Overhead the sky was pale blue vast and all-enclosing. A slight wind was behind us, and we were flying fast, better than three hundred and fifty miles an hour. Suddenly the clouds parted, and there, far below, was the barren, red earth, with but little vegetation. Its red was like the glow of a forest on fire. There was no forest, but the earth itself was aflame, not with fire, but with colour; it was intense and startling. Soon we were flying over fertile land, with villages and hamlets scattered among the green fields. The earth was now divided after man's heart, and each cultivated section was held, possessed. It was like an endless multi-coloured carpet, but each colour belonged to somebody. A river wound its way through it all, and along its banks there were trees, casting the long shadows of the morning. Far away were the mountains, stretching right across the land. It was beautiful country; there was space and age.

Beyond the noise of the propellers and the chattering of the people, and beyond its own chattering, the mind was in movement. It was a completely silent journey, not in time and space, but into itself. This inward movement was not the outward journeying of the mind within the narrow or extensive field of its own making, of its own clamorous past. It was not a journey undertaken by the mind; it was an altogether different movement. The totality of the mind, not just a part of it, the hidden as well as the open, was completely still. The recording of this fact, here, is not the fact; the fact is wholly different from the words which record it. That stillness was not in the measure of time. Becoming and being have no relationship with each other; they move in entirely different directions; the one does not lead to the other. In the stillness of being, the past as the watcher, as the experiencer, is not. There is no activity of time. It's not a remembrance that is communicating, but the actual movement itself - the movement of silence into the measureless. It's a movement that does not start from a centre, that does not go from one point to another; it has no centre, no observer. It's a journey of the total being, and the total being has no contradiction of desire. In this journey of the whole, there is no point of departure and no point of arrival. The whole mind is still, and this stillness is a movement which is not the journeying of the mind.

The drenching rain had come and gone, but there was still the sound of falling water everywhere. In the room it was very damp, and it would take several days for things to dry out. The man who had come had deep-set eyes, and a good body. He had renounced the world and its ways; and while he did not wear the robes of that renunciation, there was stamped on his face the thought of other things. He had not shaved recently, for he had been travelling, but he was freshly washed, and so were his clothes. Pleasant and friendly of manner, with expressive hands, he sat gravely silent for a considerable time, testing out the atmosphere, feeling his way. Presently he explained.

"I heard you many years ago, quite by chance, and something of what you said has always remained with me: that reality is not come by through discipline, or through any form of self-torture. Since that time I have been all over the land, seeing and hearing many things. I have rigidly disciplined myself. To overcome physical passion has not been too difficult, but other forms of desire have not been so easy to put away. I have practiced meditation every day for many years, without being able to get beyond a certain point. But what I want to discuss with you is self-discipline. Control of the body and the mind is essential - and to a great extent they have been controlled. But in talking over with a fellow-pilgrim the process of self-discipline, I have perceived the dangers of it. He has hurt himself physically in overcoming his sexual passion. One can go too far in that direction. But moderation in self-discipline is not easy. Achievement of any kind brings a sense of power. There is an exhilarating excitement in conquering others, but much more so in dominating oneself."

Asceticism has its delights, just as worldliness has.

"That is perfectly true. I know the pleasures of asceticism, and the sense of power it gives. As all ascetics and saints have always done, I have suppressed the bodily urges in order to make the mind sharp and quiescent. I have subjected the senses, and the desires that arise from them, to rigorous discipline, so that the spirit might be liberated. I have denied every form of comfort to the body, and slept in every kind of place; I have eaten any kind of food, except meat, and have fasted for days at. a time. I have meditated long hours with one-pointed endeavour; yet in spite of all this struggle and pain with its sense of power and inward joy, the mind does not seem to have gone beyond a certain point. It's as though one came up against a wall, and do what one may, it will not be broken down."

On this side of the wall are the visions, the good acts, the cultivated virtues, the worship, the prayers, the self-denial, the gods; and all these things have only the significance that the mind gives to them. The mind is still the dominant factor, is it not? And is the mind capable of going beyond its own barriers, beyond itself? Isn't that the question?

"Yes. After thirty strenuously purposeful and disciplined years devoted to meditation and complete self-denial, why has this enclosing wall not been broken down? I have talked to many other ascetics who have had the same experience. There are, of course, those who exert that one must be still more arduous in self-denial, more purposeful in meditation, and so on; but I know I can do no more. All my efforts have only led to this present state of frustration."

No amount of toil and effort can break down this seemingly impenetrable wall; but perhaps we shall be able to understand the problem if we can look at it differently. Is it possible to approach the problems of life totally, with the whole of one's being?

"I don't think I know what you mean."

Are you at any moment aware of your whole being, the totality of it? The totality is not realized by bringing together the many conflicting parts, is it? Can there be the feeling of the whole of your being - not the speculative whole, not what you think of or formulate as the whole, but the actual feeling of the whole?

"Such a feeling may be possible, but I have never experienced it."

At present, a part of the mind is trying to capture the whole, is it not? One part is struggling against another part, one desire against another desire. The hidden mind is in conflict with the open; violence is attempting to become non-violent. Frustration is followed by hope, fulfilment and another frustration. That is all we know. There is the ceaseless pursuit of fulfilment, in whose very shadow is frustration; so we never know or experience wholeness of being. The body is against feeling; feeling is against thought; thought is pursuing the what should be, the ideal. We are broken up into fragments, and by bringing the various fragments together, we hope to make the whole. Is it ever possible to do this? "But what else is there to do?"

For the moment, let's not be concerned with action; perhaps we shall come to that later. This feeling of the totality of your being, of your body, mind and heart is not the bringing together of all these fragments. You cannot make contradictory desires into a harmonious whole. To attempt to do so is an act of the mind, and the mind itself is only a part. A part cannot create the whole.

"I see this; but then what?"

Our inquiry is not to find out what to do, but to discover this feeling of the whole of one's being - actually to experience it. This feeling has its own action. When there is action without this feeling, then the problem arises of how to bridge the gulf between the fact and what should be, the ideal. Then we never feel completely, there is always a withholding; we never think totally, there is always fear; we never act freely, there is always a motive, something to be gained or avoided. Our living is always partial, never whole, and thereby we make ourselves insensitive. Through suppression of desire, through mere control of the mind, through denial of his bodily needs, the ascetic makes himself insensitive.

"Must not our desires be tamed?"

When they are tamed by suppressing them, they lose their vigour and in this process the perceptions are dulled the mind is made insensitive; though freedom is sought, one has not the energy to find it. One needs abundant energy to find truth, and this energy is dissipated through the conflict which results from suppression, conformity, compulsion. But yielding to desire also breeds self-contradiction, which again dissipates energy.

"Then how is one to conserve energy?"

The desire to conserve energy is greed. This essential energy cannot be conserved or accumulated; it comes into being with the cessation of contradiction within oneself. By its very nature, desire brings about contradiction and conflict. Desire is energy, and it has to be understood; it cannot merely be suppressed, or made to conform. Any effort to coerce or discipline desire makes for conflict, which brings with it insensitivity. All the intricate ways of desire must be known and understood. You cannot be taught and you cannot learn the ways of desire. To understand desire is to be choicelessly aware of its movements. If you destroy desire, you destroy sensitivity, as well as the intensity that is essential for the understanding of truth. "Is there not intensity when the mind is one-pointed?"

Such intensity is a hindrance to reality, because it is the result of limiting, narrowing down the mind through the action of will; and will is desire. There is an intensity which is wholly different: the strange intensity which comes with total being, that is, when one's whole being is integrated, not put together through the desire for a result.

"Will you say something more about this total being?"

It is the feeling of being whole undivided, not fragmented - an intensity in which there is no tension no pull of desire with its contradictions. It is this intensity, this deep, unpremeditated impulse, that will break down the wall which the mind has built around itself. That wall is the ego, the `me', the self. All activity of the self is separative, enclosing, and the more it struggles to break through its own barriers, the stronger those barriers become. The efforts of the self to be free only build up its own energy, its own sorrow. When the truth of this is perceived, only then is there the movement of the whole. This movement has no centre, as it has no beginning and no end; it's a movement beyond the measure of the mind - the mind that is put together through time. The understanding of the activities of the conflicting parts of the mind, which make up the self, the ego, is meditation.

"I see what I have been doing all these years. It has always been a movement from the centre - and it's this very centre that must be broken up. But how?"

There is no method, for any method or system becomes the centre. The realization of the truth that this centre must be broken up is the breaking up of it.

"My life has been an incessant struggle but now I see the possibility of ending this conflict."

Chapter - 54
The Challenge of the Present

THIS LANE WENT down to the sea from the wide, well-lit road, passing between the garden walls of many rich houses. It was quiet there, for the walls seemed to shut out the noise of the town. The lane curved in and out a great deal, and on the white walls the shadows danced when the breeze stirred in the trees. The breeze was laden with many odors: the tang of the sea, the smell of the evening meal, the perfume of jasmine, and the fumes of exhaust. Now it was coming from the sea, and there was a strange intensity. A large white flower was growing in the dark soil beside the path, and the evening was full of its fragrance. The path continued downward, and it wasn't long before it met another road which ran along the sea. A young man was sitting beside the road, and he had a dog on a leash. They were both resting. It was a large, powerful dog, sleek and well-fed. Its owner must have considered the dog more important than the man, for the man was wearing soiled clothes and had a frightened, dejected look. It was the dog who was important, not the man and the dog seemed to know it. Dogs of good breed are snobbish, anyway. Two people came along, talking and laughing, and the dog growled threateningly as they passed; but they paid no attention, for the dog was on a leash and firmly held. A small boy was carrying something very heavy, and he could only just manage it; but he was surprisingly cheerful, and he smiled as he went by.

It was now fairly quiet; no cars were passing, and there was no one on the road. Gradually the intensity grew. It was not induced by the quietness of the evening, or the starlit sky, or the dancing shadows, or the dog on a leash, or the fragrance of the passing breeze; but all these things were within that intensity. There was only intensity, simple and clear, without a cause without a god without the whisper of a promise. It was so strong that the body was momentarily incapable of any movement. All the senses had a heightened sensitivity. The mind that strange and complex thing, was drained of all thought and so was completely awake; it was a light in which there was no shadow. One's whole being was aflame with an intensity that consumed the movement of time. The symbol of time is thought, and in that flame the noise of a passing bus and the perfume of the white flower were consumed. Sound and fragrance wove into each other, but were two distinct, separate flames. Without a tremor, and without the watcher, the mind was aware of this timeless intensity; it was itself the flame, clear, intense, innocent.

He and his wife were there in the small room, whose only window gave upon a blank wall in front of which stood the brown trunk of a large tree. You saw only the massive trunk and not the spreading branches. He was a big, well-built man, and rather heavy. His smile was quick and friendly, but his keen eyes could show anger, and his tongue could be very sharp. He had evidently read a great deal, and wag now trying to go beyond knowledge. His wife was clear-eyed, with a pleasant face; she too was large, but not flabby. She took little part in the conversation, but listened with apparent interest. They had no children.

"Is it ever possible to free the mind from memory?" he began. "Is not memory the very substance of the mind - memory being the knowledge and experience of centuries? Does not every experience strengthen memory? In any case, I have never been able to understand why one should be free from the past as you seem to maintain. The past is rich with pleasant associations and remembrances. Fortunately one can often forget the unpleasant or sorrowful incidents, but the pleasant memories remain. There would be great poverty of being if all the experience and knowledge one has gained were to be put aside. It would be a poor mind indeed that had no depth of knowledge and experience. It would be a primitive mind."

If you do not feel the necessity of being free from the past, then it is not a problem, is it? Then the richness of the past, with all its sufferings and joys, will be maintained. But is the past a living thing? Or does the movement of the present give life to the past? The present, with its demanding intensity and changeful swiftness, is a constant challenge to the mind. The present and the past are always in conflict unless the mind is capable of meeting wholly the swift present. Conflict arises only when the mind, burdened with the past, the known, the experienced, responds incompletely to the challenge of the present, which is always new, changing.

"Can the mind ever respond completely to the present? It seems to me that one's mind is always coloured by the past; and is it ever possible to be wholly free of this coloration?"

Let us go into it and find out. The past is time is it not? - time as experience, knowledge; and all further experience strengthens the past.


When an event takes place in one's life and one has what we call an experience, this experience is immediately translated in terms of the past. If one has a particular religious belief that belief may bring about certain experiences which in turn strengthen the belief. The superficial mind may adjust itself to the pressures and demands of its immediate environment; but the hidden part of the mind is heavily conditioned by the past, and it is this conditioning, this background that dictates the experience. The whole movement of consciousness is the response of the past, is it not? The past is essentially static, dormant, it has no action of its own; but it comes to life when any challenge is offered to it; it responds. All thinking is the response of the past, of accumulated experience, knowledge. So all thinking is conditioned; freedom is beyond the power of thought.

"Then how is the mind ever to be free of its own limitations?"

If one may ask, why should the mind - which is itself the past, the result of time - be free? What is the motive behind your question? Why does it arise at all? Is it a theoretical or an actual problem?

"I think it is both. There is the speculative curiosity to know, as one might want to know about the structure of matter, and it's also a personal problem. It's a problem to me in the sense that there seems to be no way out of my conditioning. I may break out of one pattern of thought, but in that very process another pattern is formed. Does the breaking up of the old ever bring the new into being?"

If it is recognizable as the new, is it the new? Surely that which is recognized as the new is still the outcome of the past. Recognition is born of memory. It is only when the past ceases that the new can be.

"But is it possible for the mind to break through the curtain of the past?"

Again, why are you asking this question?

"As I said, one is curious to know; and there is also the desire to be free of certain unpleasant and painful memories."

Mere curiosity does not lead very far. And to hold on to the pleasant while trying to get rid of the unpleasant, only makes the mind dull, superficial; it does not bring freedom. The mind must be free from both, not just from the unpleasant. Enslavement to pleasant memories is obviously not freedom. The desire to hold on to what is pleasant breeds conflict in life; this conflict further conditions the mind, and such a mind can never be free. As long as the mind is caught in the stream of memory, pleasant or unpleasant; as long as it is held in the chain of cause-effect; as long as it is using the present as a passage from the past to the future, it can never be free. Freedom is then merely an idea, not an actuality. The truth of this must be seen, and then your question will have quite a different significance. "If I see the truth of it, will there be freedom?"

Speculation is vain. The truth must be seen, the actual fact that there's no freedom as long as the mind is a prisoner of the past must be experienced.

"Has a man who is free in this ultimate sense any relationship to the stream of causation and time? If not, then what is the good of this freedom? What value or significance has such a man in this world of joy and pain?"

It's strange how we nearly always think in terms of utility. Are you not asking this question from the boat adrift on the stream of time? And from there you want to know what significance a free man has for the people in the boat. Probably none at all. Most people are not interested in freedom; and when they meet a man who is free, they either make of him a deity and place him in a shrine or they put him away in stone or in words - which is to destroy him. But surely your concern is not with such a man. Your concern is with freeing the mind of the past - the mind that is you.

"When once the mind is free, then what is its responsibility?"

The word `responsibility' is not applicable to such a mind. Its very existence has an explosive action on time, on the past. It is this explosive action that is of the highest importance. The man who remains in the boat and asks for help wants it in the pattern of the past, in the field of recognition, and to this the free mind has no reply; but that explosive freedom acts on the bondage of time.

"I don't know what I can say to all this. I really came with my wife out of curiosity and I find myself becoming deeply serious. At some depth of myself I am serious, and I am discovering it for the first time. Many of my generation have turned away from the recognized religions, but deep down there is the religious feeling, with very little opportunity for it to come out. One must avail oneself of the present opportunity."

Chapter - 55
Sorrow from Self-pity

AT THIS TIME of the year, in this warm climate, it was spring. The sun was exceptionally mild, for a light wind was coming from the north where the mountains were fresh in the snow. A tree beside the road, bare a week ago, was now covered with new green leaves which sparkled in the sun. The new leaves were so tender, so delicate, so small in the vast space of the mind, of the earth and the blue sky; yet within a short time they seemed to fill the space of all thought. Further along the road there was a flowering tree which had no leaves, but only blossoms. The breeze had scattered the petals on the ground, and several children were sitting among them. They were the children of the chauffeurs and other servants. They would never go to school, they would always be the poor people of the earth; but among the fallen petals beside the tarred road, those children were part of the earth. They were startled to see a stranger sitting there with them, and they became suddenly silent; they stopped playing with the petals, and for a few seconds they were as still as statues. But their eyes were alive with curiosity, friendliness and apprehension.

In a small, sunken garden by the roadside there were quantities of bright flowers. Among the leaves of a tree in that garden a crow was shading itself from the midday sun. Its whole body was resting on the branch, the feathers covering its claws. It was calling or answering other crows, and within a period of ten minutes there were five or six different notes in its cawing. It probably had many more notes, but now it was satisfied with a few. It was very black, with a grey neck; it had extraordinary eyes which were never still, and its beak was hard and sharp. It was completely at rest and yet completely alive. It was strange how the mind was totally with that bird. It was not observing the bird, though it had taken in every detail; it was not the bird itself, for there was no identification with it. It was with the bird, with its eyes and its sharp beak, as the sea is with the fish; it was with the bird, and yet it went through and beyond it. The sharp, aggressive and frightened mind of the crow was part of the mind that spanned the seas and time. This mind was vast, limitless, beyond all measure, and yet it was aware of the slightest movement of the eyes of that black crow among the new, sparkling leaves. It was aware of the falling petals, but it had no focus of attention, no point from which to attend. Unlike space which has always something in it - a particle of dust, the earth, or the heavens - it was wholly empty, and being empty it could attend without a cause. Its attention had neither root nor branch. All energy was in that empty stillness. It was not the energy that is built up with intent, and which is soon dissipated when pressure is taken away. It was the energy of all beginning; it was life that had no time as ending.

Several people had come together, and as each one tried to state some problem, the others began to explain it and to compare it with their own trials. But sorrow is not to be compared. Comparison breeds self-pity, and then misfortune ensues. Adversity is to be met directly, not with the idea that yours is greater than another's.

They were all silent now, and presently one of them began.

"My mother has been dead for some years. Quite recently I have lost my father also, and I am full of remorse. He was a good father, and I ought to have been many things which I was not. Our ideas clashed; our respective ways of life kept us apart. He was a religious man, but my religious feeling is not so obvious. The relationship between us was often strained, but at least it was a relationship, and now that he is gone I am stricken with sorrow. My sorrow is not only remorse, but also the feeling of suddenly being left alone. I have never had this kind of sorrow before, and it is quite acute. What am I to do? How am I to get over it?"

If one may ask, do you suffer for your father, or does sorrow arise from having no longer the relationship to which you had grown accustomed?

"I don't quite understand what you mean," he replied.

Do you suffer because your father is gone, or because you feel lonely?

"All I know is that I suffer, and I want to get away from it. I really don't understand what you mean. Will you please explain?"

It is fairly simple, is it not? Either you are suffering on behalf of your father, that is, because he enjoyed living and wanted to live, and now he is gone; or you are suffering because there has been a break in a relationship that had significance for so long, and you are suddenly aware of loneliness. Now, which is it? You are suffering surely, not for your father, but because you are lonely, and your sorrow is that which comes from self-pity.

"What exactly is loneliness?"

Have you never felt lonely?

"Yes, I have often taken solitary walks. I go for long walks alone, especially on my holidays."

Isn't there a difference between the feeling of loneliness, and being alone as on a solitary walk? "If there is, then I don't think I know what loneliness means."

"I don't think we know what anything means, except verbally," someone added.

Have you never experienced for yourself the feeling of loneliness, as you might a toothache? When we talk of loneliness, are we experiencing the psychological pain of it, or merely employing a word to indicate something which we have never directly experienced? Do we really suffer, or only think we suffer?

"I want to know what loneliness is," he replied.

You mean you want a description of it. It's an experience of being completely isolated; a feeling of not being able to depend on anything, of being cut off from all relationship. The `me', the ego, the self, by its very nature, is constantly building a wall around itself; all its activity leads to isolation. Becoming aware of its isolation, it begins to identify itself with virtue, with God, with property, with a person, country, or ideology; but this identification is part of the process of isolation. In other words, we escape by every possible means from the pain of loneliness, from this feeling of isolation, and so we never directly experience it. It's like being afraid of something round the corner and never facing it, never finding out what it is, but always running away and taking refuge in somebody or something, which only breeds more fear. Have you never felt lonely in this sense of being cut off from everything completely isolated?

"I have no idea at all what you are talking about."

Then, if one may ask, do you really know what sorrow is? Are you experiencing sorrow as strongly and urgently as you would a toothache? When you have a toothache, you act; you go to the dentist. But when there is sorrow you run away from it through explanation, belief, drink, and so on. You act, but your action is not the action that frees the mind from sorrow, is it?
"I don't know what to do, and that's why I'm here."

Before you can know what to do, must you not find out what sorrow actually is? Haven't you merely formed an idea, a judgment, of what sorrow is? Surely, the running away, the evaluation, the fear, prevents you from experiencing it directly. When you are suffering from a toothache you don't form ideas and opinions about it; you just have it and you act. But here there is no action, immediate or remote, because you are really not suffering. To suffer and to understand suffering, you must look at it, you must not run away. "My father is gone beyond recall, and so I suffer. What must I do to go beyond the reaches of suffering?"

We suffer because we do not see the truth of suffering. The fact and our ideation about the fact are entirely distinct, leading in two different directions. If one may ask, are you concerned with the fact, the actuality, or merely with the idea of suffering?

"You are not answering my question, sir," he insisted. "What am I to do?"

Do you want to escape from suffering, or to be free from it? If you merely want to escape, then a pill, a belief, an explanation, an amusement may `help', with the inevitable consequences of dependence, fear, and so on. But if you wish to be free from sorrow, you must stop running away and be aware of it without judgment, without choice; you must observe it, learn about it, know all the intimate intricacies of it. Then you will not be frightened of it, and there will no longer be the poison of self-pity. With the understanding of sorrow there is freedom from it. To understand sorrow there must be the actual experiencing of it, and not the verbal fiction of sorrow.

"May I ask just one question?" put in one of the others. "In what manner should one live one's daily life?"

As though one were living for that single day, for that single hour.


If you had only one hour to live, what would you do?

"I really don't know," he replied anxiously.

Would you not arrange what is necessary outwardly, your affairs, your will, and so on? Would you not call your family and friends together and ask their forgiveness for the harm that you might have done to them, and forgive them for whatever harm they might have done to you? Would you not die completely to the things of the mind, to desires and to the world? And if it can be done for an hour then it can also be done for the days and years that may remain.

"Is such a thing really possible, sir?"

Try it and you will find out.

Chapter - 56
Insensitivity and Resistance to Noise

THE SEA WAS calm and the horizon clear. It would be an hour or two before the sun would come up behind the hills, and the waning moon set the waters dancing; it was so bright that the neighbourhood crows were up and cawing, which wakened the cocks. Presently the crows and the cocks became silent again; it was too early even for them. It was a strange silence. It was not the silence that comes after noise, or the brooding stillness before a storm. It was not a `before and after' silence. Nothing was moving, nothing stirring among the bushes was the totality of silence, with its penetrating intensity. It was not the hem of silence, but the very being of it, and wiped out all thought, all action. The mind felt this measureless silence and itself became silent - or rather it moved into silence without the resistance of its own activity. Thought was not evaluating, measuring, accepting silence, but it was itself silence. Meditation was effortless. There was no meditator, no thought pursuing an end; therefore silence was meditation. This silence had its own movement, and it was penetrating into the depths, into every corner of the mind. Silence was the mind; the mind had not become silent. Silence had planted its seed in the very heart of the mind, and though the crows and the cocks were again heralding the dawn this silence would never end. The sun wag now coming up beyond the hills; long shadows lay across the earth, and the heart would follow them all day.

The woman who lived next door was quite young, and she had three children. Her husband would return from his office in the late afternoon, and after games they would all smile over the wall. One day she came with one of her children, purely out of curiosity. She hadn't much to say, nor was there much to say. She talked of many things - of clothes, of cars, of education and drinking, of parties and club life. There was a whisper among the hills, but it disappeared before you could get to it. There was something beyond the words, but she hadn't time to listen. The child became restless and fidgety.

"I wonder why you waste your time on such people?" he inquired as he came in. "I know her, a social butterfly, good at cocktail parties, with a certain amount of taste and money. I am surprised she came to see you at all. A sheer waste of your time, but perhaps she will get something out of it. You must know that type of woman: clothes and jewels, with primary interest in herself. I really came to talk about something else, of course, but seeing her here rather upset me. Sorry to have talked about her." A youngish man with good manners and a cultured voice, he was precise, orderly and rather fussy. His father was well-known in the political field. He was married and had two children, and was earning enough to make ends meet. He could make more money easily, he said, but it wasn't worth it; he would put his children through college, and after that they would have to look after themselves. He talked about his life, the vagaries of fortune, the ups and downs of his existence.

"Living in town has become a nightmare to me," he went on. "The noise of a big city bothers me beyond all reason. The rumpus of the children in the house is bad enough, but the roar of a city, with its buses, its cars and tram-cars, the hammering that goes on in the construction of new buildings, the neighbours with their blaring radios - this whole hideous cacophony of noise is most destructive and shattering. I can't seem to adjust myself to it. It's twisting my mind, and even physically it tortures me. At night I stuff something in my ears, but even then I know the noise is there. I'm not quite a `case' yet, but I shall become one if I don't do something about it."

Why do you think noise is having such an effect on you? Are not noise and quietness related to each other? Is there noise without quietness?

"All I know is that noise in general is driving me nearly crazy."

Suppose you hear the persistent barking of a dog at night. What happens? You set in motion the mechanism of resistance, do you not? You are fighting the noise of the dog. Does resistance indicate sensitivity?

"I have many such fights, not only with the noise of dogs, but with the noise of radios, the noise of children in the house, and so on. We live on resistance, don't we?"

Do you really hear the noise, or are you only aware of the disturbance it creates in you, and which you resist?

"I don't quite follow you. Noise disturbs me, and one naturally resists the cause of one's disturbance. Is not this resistance natural? We resist almost everything that is painful or sorrowful." And at the same time that is painful or sorrowful."

And at the same time we set about cultivating the pleasurable, the beautiful; we don't resist that, we want more of it. It's only the unpleasant, the disturbing things that we resist.

"But as I said, isn't this very natural? All of us do it instinctively."

I am not saying it is abnormal; it is so, an everyday fact. But in resisting the unpleasant, the ugly, the disturbing, and accepting only what is pleasurable, do we not bring about constant conflict? And does not conflict make for dullness, insensitivity? This dual process of acceptance and opposition makes the mind self-centred in its feelings and activities, does it not?

"But what is one to do?"

Let's understand the problem, and perhaps such understanding will bring about its own action in which there is no resistance or conflict. Doesn't conflict, inner and outer, make the mind self-centred and therefore insensitive?

"I think I understand what you mean by self-centredness, but what do you mean by sensitivity?"

You are sensitive to beauty, are you not?

"That's one of the curses of my life. It's almost painful for me to see something lovely, to look at a sunset over the sea, or the smile of a child, or a beautiful work of art. It brings tears to my eyes. On the other hand, I loathe dirt, noise, and untidiness. At times I can hardly bear to go out into the streets. The contrasts tear me apart inwardly, and please believe me, I am not exaggerating."

But is there sensitivity when the mind takes delight in the beautiful and stands in horror of the ugly? We are not now considering what is beauty and what is ugliness. When there is this contrasting conflict, this heightened appreciation of the one and resistance to the other, is there sensitivity at all? Surely, wherever there is conflict, friction, there is distortion. Is there not distortion when you lean towards beauty and shrink from ugliness? In resisting noise, are you not cultivating insensitivity?

"But how is one to put up with what is hideous? One cannot tolerate a bad smell, can one?"

There is the dirt and squalor of a city street, and the beauty of a garden. Both are facts, actualities. In resting the one, do you not become insensitive to the other?

"I see what you mean; but then what?"

Be sensitive to both the facts. Have you tried listening to noise - listening to it as you would listen to music? But perhaps one never listens to anything at all. You cannot listen to what you hear if you resist it. To listen there must be attention, and where there is resistance there is no attention.

"How am I to listen with what you call attention?" How do you look at a tree, at a beautiful garden, at the sun on the water, or at a leaf fluttering in the wind?

"I don't know, I just love to look at such things."

Are you self-conscious when you look at something in that manner?


But you are when you resist what you see.

"You are asking me to listen to noise as though I loved it, aren't you? Well I don't love it, and I don't think it's ever possible to love it. You can’t love an ugly brutal character."

That is possible and it has been done. I am not suggesting that you should love noise; but is it not possible to free the mind from all resistance, from all conflict? Every form of resistance intensifies conflict, and conflict makes for insensitivity; and when the mind is insensitive, then beauty is an escape from ugliness. If beauty is merely an opposite, it is not beauty. Love is not the opposite of hate. Hate, resistance, conflict do not engender love. Love is not a self-conscious activity. It is something outside the field of the mind. Listening is an act of attention, as observing is. If you do not condemn noise, you will find it ceases to disturb the mind.

"I am beginning to understand what you mean. I shall try it as I leave this room."

Chapter - 57
The Quality of Simplicity

THE RAIN-WASHED hills were sparkling in the morning sun and the sky behind them was very blue. The valley, full of trees and streams, was high up among the hills; not too many people lived there, and it had a purity of solitude. There were a number of white buildings with thatched roofs, and many goats and cattle; but it was out of the way, and you wouldn't ordinarily come upon it unless you knew or had been told of its existence. At its entrance a dustless road went by, and as a rule no one came into this valley without some definite purpose. It was unspoiled, secluded and far away, but that morning it seemed especially pure in its solitude, and the rain had washed away the dust of many days. The rocks on the hills themselves seemed to be watching, waiting. These hills extended from east to west, and the sun rose and set among them. There was one which rose against the blue sky like a temple sculptured out of a living rock, square and splendid. A path wound its way from one end of the valley to the other, and at a certain point along this path the sculptured hill could be seen. Set further back than the other hills, it was darker, heavier, endued with great strength. By the side of the path was stream gently whispered, moving eastward towards the sun, and the wide wells were full of water which held hope for the summer and beyond. Innumerable frogs were making a loud noise all along the quiet stream, and a large snake crossed the path. It was in no hurry and moved lazily, leaving a trail in the soft damp earth. Becoming aware of the human presence, it stopped, its black, forked tongue darting in and out of its pointed mouth. Presently it resumed its journey in search of food, and disappeared among the bushes and the tall, waving grass. It was a lovely morning, and pleasant under a big mango tree which stood by an open well. The fragrance of fresh washed leaves was in the air, and the smell of the mango. The sun didn't come through the heavy leaves, and you could set there for a long time on a slab of rock which was still damp.

The valley was in solitude and so was the tree. These hills were some of the oldest on earth, and so they knew what it is to be alone and far away. Loneliness is sad with the creeping desire to be related, not to be cut off; but this sense of solitude, this aloneness was related to everything, part of all things. You were not aware that you were alone, for there was the trees, the rocks, the murmuring water. You are only aware of your loneliness, not of your solitude; and when you are aware of your solitude, you have become lonely. The hills, the streams, that man passing by, were all part of this solitude whose purity held all impurity within itself, and was not soiled by it. But impurity could not share this solitude. It is impurity that knows loneliness, that is burdened with sorrow and pain of existence. Sitting there under the tree, with large ants crossing your leg, in that measureless solitude there was the movement of timeless age. It wasn't a space-covering movement, but a movement within itself, a flame within the flame, a light within the emptiness of light. It was a movement that would never stop, for it had no beginning and no cause to end. It was a movement that had no direction, and so it covered space. There under that tree time stood still, like the hills, and this movement covered it and went beyond it; so time could never overtake this movement. The mind could never touch the hem of it; but the mind was this movement. The watcher could not race with it, for he was able only to follow his own shadow and the words that clothed it. But under that tree, in that aloneness, the watcher and his shadow were not.

The wells were full, the hills were still watching and waiting, and the birds were still flying in and out among the leaves.

A man and his wife and their friend were sitting in the sunlit room. There were no chairs, but only a straw mat on the floor, and we all sat around it. Of the two windows, one looked out on a blank, weather-beaten wall, and through the other were visible some bushes which needed watering. One was in bloom, but without sent. The husband and wife were fairly well-to-do, and they had grown-up children who were living their own lives. He was retired, and they had a little place of their own in the country. They rarely came to town, he said, but they had come especially to hear the talks and discussions. During the three weeks of the meetings there particular problem had not been touched upon, and so they were here. Their friend, and oldish, grey-headed man who was growing bald, lived in town. He was a well-known lawyer with an excellent practice.

"I know you don't approve of our profession, and sometimes I think you are right," said the lawyer. "Our profession is not what it should be; but what profession is? The three professions of lawyer, soldier and policeman are, as you say, detrimental to man and a disgrace to society - and I would include the politician. Being in it, I can't at this late date get out of it, though I have given considerable thought to the matter. But I am not here to talk about this, though I would like very much to avail myself of another opportunity to do so. I came with my friends because there problem interests me too."

"What we want to talk about is rather complex, at least as far as I can see," said the husband. "My lawyer friend and I have been interested for many years in religious matters - not in mere ritualism and conventional beliefs, but in something much more than the usual paraphernalia of religions. Speaking for myself, I may say that I have meditated for a number of years on various questions pertaining to the inner life, and I always find myself wandering about in circles. For the present I do not want to talk over the implications of meditation, but to go into the question of simplicity. I feel one must be simple, but I'm not sure I know what simplicity is. Like most people, I am a very complex being; and is it possible to become simple?" To become simple is to continue in complexity. It is not possible to become simple, but one can approach complexity with simplicity.

"But how can the mind, which is very complex, approach any problem simply?"

Being simple and becoming simple are two entirely distinct processes, each leading in a different direction. Only when the desire to become ends is there the action of being. But before we go into all that, may one ask why you feel that you must have the quality of simplicity? What is the motive behind this urge?

"I really don't know. But life is getting more and more complicated; there is greater struggle, with growing indifference and wider superficiality. Most people are living on the surface and making a lot of noise about it, and my own life is not very deep; so I feel I must become simple."

Simple in outward things, or inward?

"In both ways."

Is the outward manifestation of austerity - having few clothes, taking only one meal a day, doing without the usual comforts, and so on - an indication of simplicity?

"Outward austerity is necessary, is it not?"

We will find the truth of the falseness of that presently. Do you think it is simplicity to have a mind cluttered with beliefs, with desires and there contradictions, with envy and the pursuit of power? Is there simplicity when the mind is occupied with its own advancement in virtue? Is an occupied mind a simple mind?

"When you put it that way, it becomes obvious that it is not a simple mind. But how can one's mind be cleansed of its accumulations?"

We haven't come to that yet, have we? We see that simplicity is not a matter of outward expression, and that as long as the mind is crowded with knowledge, experiences, memories, it is not truly simple. Then what is simplicity?

"I doubt that I can give a correct definition of it. These things are very difficult to put into words."

We are not seeking a definition, are we? We will find the right words when we have the feeling of simplicity. You see, one of our difficulties is that we to find an adequate verbal expression without feeling the quality, the inwardness of the thing. Do we ever feel anything directly? Or do we feel everything through words, through concepts and definitions? Do we ever look at a tree, at the sea, at the sky, without forming words, without a remark about them?

"But how is one to feel the nature or quality of simplicity?"

Are you not preventing yourself from feeling its nature by asking for a method which will bring it about? When you are hungry and there is food before you, you do not ask "How am I to eat?" You just eat. The `how' is always a digression from the fact. The feeling of simplicity has nothing to do with your opinions, words or conclusions about that feeling.

"But the mind, with its complexities, is always interposing what it thinks it knows about simplicity."

Which prevents it from staying with the feeling. Have you ever tried to stay with the feeling?

"What do you mean by staying with the feeling?"

You stay with a feeling of pleasure, don't you? Having tasted it, you try to hold onto it, you scheme to continue with it, and so on. Now, can one stay with the feeling which the word `simplicity' represents?

"I don't think I know what the feeling is, so I can't stay with it."

Is there the feeling apart from the reactions aroused by that word `simplicity'? Is there the feeling separate from the word, the term, or are they inseparable? The feeling itself and the naming of it are almost simultaneous, aren't they? The word is always put together, made up, but the feeling is not; and it is very arduous to separate the feeling from the word.

"Is such a thing possible?"

Is it not possible to feel intensely, purely, without contamination? To feel intensely about something - about the family, about the country, about a cause - is comparatively easy. Intense feeling or enthusiasm may arise through identifying oneself with a belief or ideology, for example. Of this one knows. One may see a flock of white birds in the blue sky and almost faint with the intense feeling of such beauty, or one may recoil with horror at the cruelty of man. All such feelings are aroused by a word, by a scene, by an act, by an object. But is there not an intensity of feeling without an object? And is not that feeling incomparably great? Is it then a feeling, or something entirely different?

"I'm afraid I don't know what you are talking about sir. I hope you don't mind my telling you so." Not at all. Is there a state without cause? If there is, then can one feel it out, not verbally or theoretically, but actually be aware of that state? to be thus acutely aware, verbalization in every form, and all identification with the word, with memory, must wholly cease. Is there a state without cause? Is not love such a state?

"But love is sensual, and beyond that is the divine."

We are back in the same confusion, are we not? To divide love as this and that is worldly; from this division there is profit. To love without the verbal-moral hedge around it is the state of compassion, which is not aroused by an object. Love is action and all else is reaction. An act born of reaction only breeds conflict and sorrow.

"If I may say so, sir, this is all beyond me. Let me be simple, and then perhaps I shall understand the profound."

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