Commentaries on Living [3]

Chapter - 42
Can Politics ever be Spiritualized?

BEYOND THE BRIDGE is the sea, blue and distant. There are yellow sands along the curving shore, and spreading palm groves. The city people come here in their cars with their well-dressed children, who shout with the joy of being released from their tight homes and barren streets.

Early in the morning, just before the sun comes out of the sea, when the dew is heavy on the ground and the stars are still visible, this place is very beautiful. You can sit here alone, with the world of intense silence all about you. The sea is restless and dark, made angry by the moon, its waves rolling in with a fury and a roar. But in spite of the deep thunder of the sea, everything is strangely quiet; there is no breeze, and the birds are still asleep. Your mind has lost its impulse to wander the face of the earth, to move among the old, familiar land-marks, to carry on a silent soliloquy. Suddenly and unexpectedly, all that tremendous energy is drawing together, gathering itself, but not to expend itself in movement. There is movement only with the experiencer, who is seeking, gaining, losing. The gathering together of this energy, free of the pressures and influences of desire, however weakened or heightened, has brought complete inward silence. Your mind is fully lighted, without any shadow, and without casting any shadow. The morning star is very clear, steady and unblinking, and there is a glow in the eastern sky. Your mind has not moved one hair's-breadth; it is not paralysed, but the light of that inward silence has itself become action, without the words and the images of the mind. Its light is without a centre, the maker of shadow; there is only-light.

The morning star is fading away, and soon a golden rim is showing beyond the stirring waters. Across the land, shadows are slowly being cast. Everything is waking up, and a soft breeze is coming from the north. You follow the path that runs by the river and joins the main road. At that hour there are very few people on it, one or two taking their morning stroll; there are almost no cars, and things are fairly quiet. The road goes through a sleepy village, where two small children are using the roadside as their toilet, laughing and talking-away, unaware of the passer-by. A goat is lying down in the middle of the road, and a car goes around it. Some distance beyond the village, you pass through a gate into a well-kept garden, where there are brilliant flowers and a square pond with many lilies in it. The shadows are now deep, but there is still dew on the grass.

He was a middle-aged man from the village, and a lawyer of sorts. He didn't work very hard, he said, for he had a little property and could give some of his time to other things. At the moment he was writing a book about social conditions in this country. He had met some of the prominent people in the government, and had taken part in the latest movement of land-reform, walking with the others from village to village. His enthusiasm was very marked when he talked about political and social reform, and the whole tone of his voice changed. It became sharp urgent, excited; his head went up, an aggressive look crept into his eyes, and his manner became exertive. Of all this he was entirely unconscious. Words and statistics came to him easily, and he seemed to gather strength as he went along. As one listened without interrupting his flow of explanations and evaluations, he suddenly realized where he was, and awkwardly stopped himself.

"I always get excited when I talk about politics and social reform; I can't help it. It's in my blood. It seems to be the same with all of us, at least in this generation: politics are in our blood. Once we have left college, our education continues chiefly through the newspapers, which for the most part are dedicated to politics. I feel that an enormous amount of good can be done through politics, and that's why I devote a great deal of my time to it. I like it, too; there's excitement in it."

As there is in drinking, in sex, in eating, in brutality, and so on. Excitement, in whatever form, gives us a sense of living, and we demand it even in religion.

"Do you think it's wrong?"

What do you think? Hate and war offer great excitement, don't they?

"Personally, I don't take politics lightly," he went on, ignoring the question; "to me it is a very serious matter, because I feel it is a marvellous instrument for bringing about essential reforms. Political action does produce results, and not in too distant a future, so there is in it a definite hope for the average man. Most religious people don't seem to realize the importance of political action, which I think is a great pity; for, as one of our leaders has said, politics must be spiritualized. You agree with this, don't you?"

A truly religious man is not concerned with politics; to him there is only action, a total religious action, and not the fragmentary activities which are called political and social.

"Are you opposed to bringing religion into politics?"

Opposition only breeds antagonism, does it not? Let us consider what we mean by religion. But first of all, what do you mean by politics?

"The whole legislative procedure: justice, planning for the welfare of the State, guaranteeing equal opportunity for all its citizens and so on. It is the function of government to rule wisely and to prevent chaos."

Surely, reform of every kind is also a function of government; it should not be left to the whims and fancies, called ideals, of strong individuals and their groups, for this leads to the fragmentation of the State. In a two-party or multiple-party system, reformers should work either through the government, or as part of the opposition. Why do we need social reformers at all?

"Without them, many reforms already achieved would never have come into being. Reformers are necessary because they prod the government. They have greater vision than the average politician and by their example they force the government to bring about needed reforms, or to modify its policy. Fasting is one of the means adopted by the saintly reformers to compel the government to follow their recommendations."

Which is a sort of blackmail, isn't it?

"Perhaps; but it does force the government to consider and even to carry out necessary reforms."

The saintly reformer may be mistaken, and often he is when he gets involved in politics. Because he has a certain influence with the public, the government may have to yield to his demands - sometimes with disastrous results, as has recently been shown. Since reform of every kind, through various forms of legislation, is essentially the function of a humane, intelligent government, why don't these politically-minded saints join the government, or create another political party? Is it that they want to play politics, and yet keep aloof from it?

"I think they want to spiritualize politics." Can politics ever be spiritualized? Politics are concerned with society, which is always in conflict with itself, always deteriorating. The interrelationship of human beings constitutes society, and that relationship is actually based on ambition, frustration, envy. Society knows no compassion. Compassion is the act of a total and integrated individual.

Now, each of these political-religious reformers asserts that his is the way to salvation, doesn't he?

"Most of them do, but there are a few who are not so assertive."

May they not all be greatly mistaken, caught in their own conditioning with strong prejudices and traditional bias? Is there not a tendency for each saintly political leader, with his group of followers, to bring about a further fragmentation and disintegration of the State?

"But isn't that a risk we must take? Can unity be brought about through mere legislation?"

Of course not. There may be a semblance of unity, the outward following of a universal pattern, social or political, but the unity of man can never be brought about through legislation, however enlightened. Where there's friendship, compassion, the organization of justice is unnecessary; and through the organization of justice, compassion does not necessarily come into being. On the contrary, it may banish compassion. But that's another matter.

As I was saying, why don't these saintly politicians join the government, or build up a party to carry out their policies? What's the need of these reformers, outside of the political field?

"They have more power outside of the parliament than they would have within it; they act as moral whips to the government. They do divide the people to some extent, it's true, but that's a necessary evil out of which good may come."

The problem is much deeper than that, isn't it? Political, economic and social reforms are obviously necessary; but unless we begin to understand the greater issue, which is the totality of man and his total action, such reforms only breed further mischief, necessitating still more reforms, in an endless chain by which man is held.

Now, are there not deeper urges which are compelling these `saintly' political leaders to act as they do? Leadership implies power, the power to influence, to guide, to dominate, and subtly or assertively, these leaders are seekers after power. Power in any form is evil, and it will inevitably lead to disaster. Most people want to be led, to be told what to do, and in their confusion they bring into being leaders who are as confused as themselves.

"But why do you say that our leaders are seeking power?" he asked rather sceptically. "They are highly respectable men of good intention and good conduct."

The respectable are the conventional; they follow tradition, wide or narrow, acknowledged or unacknowledged. The respectable always have the authority of the book, of the past. They may not consciously seek power, but power comes to them through their position, their activities, and so on; and by this power they are driven. Humility is far from them. They are leaders, they have followers. He who follows another, whether it be the greatest saint or the teacher round the corner, is essentially irreligious.

"I see what you mean, sir; but why do these people seek power?" he asked, more earnestly.
Why do you seek power? Having power over one or over thousands, gives an intense possessive pleasure, does it not? There is a pleasurable feeling of self-importance, of being in a position of authority.

"Yes, I know it quite well. I feel that pleasurable sense of authority when I am consulted about legal or political matters."

Why do we seek and try to maintain this exciting sense of power?

"It comes so naturally that it seems to be inbred in us."

Such an explanation blocks further and deeper inquiry, doesn't it? If you would find out the truth of the matter, you must not be satisfied by explanations, however plausible and gratifying.

Why do we want to be leaders? There must be recognition in order to feel important; if we are not recognized as such, importance has no meaning. Recognition is part of the whole process of leadership. Not only does the leader acquire importance, but also the follower. By asserting that he belongs to such-and-such a movement, led by so-and-so, the follower becomes somebody. Don't you find this to be true?

"I'm afraid I do."

As with the follower, so with the leader. Being insufficient in ourselves, empty, we proceed to fill that emptiness with a sense of possession, power, position, or with knowledge, gratifying ideologies, and so on; we crowd it with the things of the mind. This process of filling, of escaping, of becoming whether it be conscious or otherwise, is the net of the self; it is the ego, the `me', the entity that has identified itself with an ideology, with reform, with a certain pattern of action. In this process of becoming, which is self-fulfilment, there is always the shadow of frustration. Unless this fact is deeply understood, so that the mind is free from the act of self-fulfilment, there will ever be this evil of power, with various labels of respectability attached to it.

"If I may ask, when you yourself refused, many years ago, to continue as the head of a religious organization, had you thought all this out? You were quite young then, and how did it happen that you were able to do this?"

One has an insight, a vague feeling, of what is right, and one does it, without thinking of the consequences. Later comes the reasoned explanation; and because the act is true, the reasons will be adequate and true. But that again is a different matter. We were talking about the inner workings of leaders and followers.

The man who seeks power, or accepts power in any form, is fundamentally irreligious. He may seek power through austerity, through discipline and self-denial, which is called virtue, or through the interpretation of the sacred books; but such a man does not know the immense significance of what may be called religion.

"Then what is religion? I now see clearly that politics cannot be spiritualized, but that it has definite significance in its proper place, which includes the world of reform; and about that world I am still enthusiastic. But I am religious by nature, and I want to know from you what religion means."

You cannot know it from another; but what does it mean to you?
"I was brought up in Hinduism, and what it teaches I accept as religion."

That's what the Christian, the Buddhist, the Moslem also does; each accepts as religion the particular pattern of belief, dogma and ritual in which he happens to have been brought up. Acceptance implies choice, doesn't it? And is there a choice in the matter of religion?

"When I say that I accept what the religion I belong to teaches, I mean that it appeals to my reason. Is there anything wrong in that?"

It's not a matter of right or wrong, but let's understand what we're talking about. From childhood you have been influenced by your parents, and by society, to think in terms of a certain pattern of beliefs and dogmas. Later you may revolt against all that, and take on another pattern of what is called religion; but whether you revolt or not, your reason is based on your desire to be secure, to be `spiritually' safe, and on that urge depends your choice. After all, reason or thought is also the outcome of conditioning, of bias, prejudice, of conscious or unconscious fear, and so on. However logical and efficient one's reasoning may be, it does not lead to that which is beyond the mind. For that which is beyond the mind to come into being, the mind must be totally still.

"But are you against reason?" he demanded.

Again, it is a matter of understanding, and not of being for or against something. Although one may have the capacity to think efficiently to the very end of a problem, thought is always limited; reason is incapable of going beyond a certain point. Thought can never be free, because all thinking is the response of memory; without memory, there is no thinking. Memory, or knowledge, is mechanical; being rooted in yesterday; it's always of the past. All inquiry, reasoning or unreasoning, starts from knowledge, the what has been. As thought is not free, it cannot go far; it moves within the limits of its own conditioning, within the boundaries of its knowledge and experience. Each new experience is interpreted according to the past, and thereby strengthens the past, which is tradition, the conditioned state. So thought is not the way to the understanding of reality.

"If one is not to use one's mind, how is it possible to find out what religion is?"

In the very process of using the mind, of thinking clearly, reasoning critically and sanely, one discovers for oneself the limitation of thought. Thought, the response of the mind in human relationship, is tethered to self-interest, positive or negative; it is bound by ambition, envy, by possessiveness, fear, and so on. Only when the mind has shaken off this bondage, which is the self, is the mind free. The understanding of this bondage is self-knowledge.

"You have not yet said what religion is. To me, religion has always been belief in God, with the whole complex of dogmas, rituals, traditions and ideals that go with it."

Belief is not the way to reality. Belief and non-belief are a matter of influence, pressure, and a mind that is under pressure, open or hidden, can never fly straight. The mind must be free from influence, from inward compulsions and urges, so that it is alone un-trammelled by the past; only then can that which is timeless come into being. There is no path to it. Religion is not a matter of dogma, orthodoxy and ritual; it is not organized belief. Organized belief kills love and friendliness. Religion is the feeling of sacredness, of compassion, of love.

"Must one abandon the beliefs, the ideals, the temple - everything with which one has been brought up? To do so would be very difficult; one is afraid to stand alone. Is such a thing really possible?"

It is possible the moment you see the urgent necessity of it. But you cannot be compelled; you must see it for yourself. Beliefs and dogmas have very little value - in fact, they are actively harmful, separating man from man and breeding animosity. What matters is for the mind to free itself from envy, from ambition, from the desire for power, because these destroy compassion. To love, to be compassionate, is of the real.

"Deep down, what you say has the ring of truth. Most of us live so much on the surface, we are so immature and subject to influence, that the real thing escapes us. And one wants to reform the world! I must begin with myself; I must cleanse my own heart, and not be carried away with the thought of reforming another. Sir, I hope I may come again."

Chapter - 43
Awareness and the Cessation of Dreams

THE EASTERN SKY was more splendid than where the sun had set; there were massive clouds, fantastically shaped and seemingly lighted from within by a golden fire. Another mass of clouds was a deep, purplish blue; heavy with threat and darkness it was shot through with flashes of lightning, twisting, sharp and brilliant. Above and beyond there were other weird shapes, incredibly beautiful and aglow with every colour imaginable. But the sun had set in a limpid sky, and towards the west there was a pure orange light. Against this sky, over the tops of the other trees, a single palm was etched, clear, motionless, darkly slender. A few children were playing about, with excitement and pleasure, in a green field. They would soon be going, for it was getting dark; already, from one of the scattered houses, someone was calling, and a child replied in a high-pitched voice. Lights were beginning to appear in the windows, and a strange stillness was creeping over the land. You could feel it coming from afar, passing over and beyond you to the ends of the earth. You sat there completely motionless, your mind going with that stillness, expanding immeasurably without a centre, without a point of recognition or reference. Seated at the edge of that meadow, your body was unmoving, but very much alive. The mind was much more so; in a state of complete silence, it was nevertheless aware of the lightning and the shouting children, of the little noises among the grass and the sounding of a distant horn. It was silent in the depths where thought could not reach it, and that silence was a penetrating bliss - a word that has little meaning except for communication - which went on and on; it was not a movement in terms of time and distance, but it was without an ending. It was strangely massive, yet it could be blown away by a breath.

The path went by a large cemetery, full of naked white slabs, the aftermath of war. It was a green, well-kept garden, enclosed by a hedge and a barbed wire fence with a gate in it. Such gardens exist all over the earth for those who were loved, educated, killed and buried. The path continued on down a slope, where there were some tall old trees, with a small stream wandering among them. Crossing a rickety wooden bridge, you climbed another slope and followed the path out into the open country. It was quite dark now, but you knew your way, for you had been on that path before. The stars were brilliant, but the lightning-bearing clouds were coming nearer. It would still take some time for the storm to break, and by then you would have reached shelter.

"I wonder why I dream so much? I have some kind of dream practically every night. Sometimes my dreams are pleasant, but more often they are unpleasant, even frightening, and when I wake up in the morning I feel exhausted."

He was a youngish man, obviously worried and anxious. He had a fairly satisfactory job with the government, he explained, with good hopes for the future, and the need to earn a livelihood caused him no concern. He had capacity, and could always get a job. His wife was dead, and he had a small son whom he had left with a sister, for the boy was too full of mischief, he said, to bring him along. He was rather heavily built and slow of speech, with a matter-of-fact air about him.

"I am not much of a reader," he continued, "though I was good at my studies in college, and graduated with honours. But all that means nothing, except that it got me a promising job - in which I am not greatly interested. A few hours of hard work each day is enough to keep it going, and I have time to spare. I think I am normal, and I could get married again, but I am not strongly attracted to the opposite sex. I like games, and I lead a healthy, vigorous life. My work brings me into contact with some of the prominent politicians, but I am not interested in politics and all the beastly intrigues that go with it, and I deliberately keep out of it. One might climb high through favouritism and corruption, but I keep my job because I am proficient at it, and that's enough for me. I am telling you all this, not as gossip, but to give you an idea of the milieu I live in. I have a normal amount of ambition, but I am not driven crazy by it. I shall succeed if I don't fall ill, and if there isn't too much political wire-pulling. Apart from my work, I have a few good friends, and we often discuss serious things. So now you know more or less the whole picture."

If one may ask, what is it that you want to talk over?

"A friend took me to hear one of your evening talks, and with him I also attended a morning discussion. I was greatly moved by what I heard, and I want to pursue it. But what I am concerned with now is this nightly dreaming. My dreams are very disturbing, even the pleasant ones, and I want to get rid of them; I want to have peaceful nights. What am I to do? Or is this a silly question?"

What do you mean by dreams?

"When I am asleep, I have visions of various kinds; a series of pictures or apparitions arise in my mind. One night I may be about to fall over the edge of a precipice, and I wake up with a start; another night I may find myself in a pleasant valley, surrounded by high mountains and with a stream running through it; another night I may be having a terrific argument with my friends, or just missing a train, or playing a first-class game of tennis; or I may suddenly see the dead body of my wife, and so on. My dreams are rarely erotic, but they are often nightmares, full of fear, and sometimes they are fantastically complicated."

When you are dreaming, does it ever happen that there is an interpretation of it going on almost at the same time?

"No, I have never had such an experience; I just dream, and afterwards groan about it. I haven't read any books on psychology or the interpretation of dreams. I have talked the problem over with some of my friends, but they are not of much help, and I feel rather wary of going to an analyst. Can you tell me why I dream, and what my dreams mean?"

Do you want an interpretation of your dreams? Or do you want to understand the complex problem of dreaming?

"Isn't it necessary to interpret one's dreams?"

There may be no need to dream at all. Surely, you must discover for yourself the truth or the falseness of the whole process which we call dreaming. This discovery is far more important than to have your dreams interpreted, is it not?

"Of course. If I could perceive for myself the full significance of dreaming, it should relieve me of this nightly anxiety and unrest. But I have never really thought about these matters, and you will have to be patient with me."

We are trying to understand the problem together, so there's no impatience on either side. We are both taking the journey of exploration, which means that we must both be alert, and not held back by any prejudice or fear which we may uncover as we go along.

Your consciousness is the totality of what you think and feel, and much more. Your purposes and motives, whether hidden or open; your secret desires; the subtlety and cunning of your thought; the obscure urges and compulsions in the depth of your heart - all this is your consciousness. It is your character, your tendencies, your temperament, your fulfilments and frustrations, your hopes and fears. Regardless of whether you believe or disbelieve in God, or in the soul, the Atman, in some super-spiritual entity, the whole process of your thinking is consciousness, is it not?

"I haven't thought about this before, sir, but I can see that my consciousness is made up of all these elements."

It is also tradition, knowledge and experience; it is the past in relation to the present, which makes for character; it is the collective, the racial, the totality of man. Consciousness is the whole field of thought, desire, affection and the cultivated virtues, which are not virtue at all; it is envy, acquisitiveness, and so on. Is not all this what we call consciousness?

"I may not follow in every detail, but I get the feeling of this totality," he replied hesitantly.

Consciousness is something still more: it's the battleground of contradictory desires, the field of strife, struggle, pain, sorrow. It is also the revolt against this field, which is the search for peace, for goodness, for abiding affection. Self-consciousness arises when there is awareness of conflict and sorrow, and the desire to be rid of them; also when there is awareness of joy, and the desire for more of it. All this is the totality of consciousness; it is a vast process of memory, or the past, using the present as a passage to the future. Consciousness is time - time as both the waking and the sleeping period, the day and the night.

"But can one ever be fully aware of this totality of consciousness?"

Most of us are aware of only a small corner of it, and our lives are spent in that small corner, making a lot of noise in pushing and destroying each other, with a little friendliness and affection thrown in. Of the major part we are unaware, and so there's the conscious and the unconscious. Actually, of course, there's no division between the two; it's only that we give more attention to the one than to the other.

"That much is quite clear - too clear, in fact. The conscious mind is occupied with a thousand and one things, almost all of them rooted in self-interest."

But there's the rest of it, hidden, active, aggressive and much more dynamic than the conscious, workaday mind. This hidden part of the mind is constantly urging, influencing, controlling, but it often fails to communicate its purpose during the waking hours, because the upper layer of the mind is occupied; so it gives hints and intimations during so-called sleep. The superficial mind may revolt against this unseen influence, but it is quietly brought into line again, for the totality of consciousness is concerned with being secure, permanent; and any change is always in the direction of seeking further security, the greater permanency of itself.

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand."

After all, the mind wants to be certain in all its relationships, doesn't it? It wants to be secure in its relationship with ideas and beliefs, as well as in its relationship with people and with property. Haven't you noticed this?

"But isn't that natural?"

We are educated to think that it's natural; but is it? Surely, only the mind that's not clinging to security is free to discover that which is wholly untouched by the past. But the conscious mind starts with this urge to be secure, to be safe, to make itself permanent; and the hidden or neglected part of the mind, the unconscious, is also watchful of its own interests. The conscious mind may be forced by circumstances to reform, to change itself at least outwardly. But the unconscious, being deeply entrenched in the past, is conservative, cautious, aware of the deeper issues and of their more profound outcome; so there's a conflict between the two parts of the mind. This conflict does produce some kind of change, a modified continuity, with which most of us are concerned; but the real revolution is outside this dualistic field of consciousness.

"Where do dreams come into all this?"

We have to understand the totality of consciousness before coming to a particular part of it. The conscious mind, being occupied during its waking hours with daily events and pressures, has no time or opportunity to listen to the deeper part of itself; therefore, when the conscious mind `goes to sleep', that is, when it's fairly quiet, not worried, the unconscious can communicate, and this communication takes the form of symbols, visions, scenes. On waking you say, "I have had a dream", and you try to search out its meaning; but any interpretation of it will be biased, conditioned.

"Aren't there people who are trained to interpret dreams?"

There may be; but if you look to another for the interpretation of your dreams you have the further problem of dependence on authority, which breeds many conflicts and sorrows.

"In that case, how am I to interpret them for myself?"

Is that the right question? Irrelevant questions can only produce unimportant answers. It's not a question of how to interpret dreams, but are dreams necessary at all?

"Then how can I put a stop to these dreams of mine?" he insisted.

Dreams are a device by which one part of the mind communicates with the other. Isn't that so?

"Yes, that seems fairly obvious, now that I have understood a little better the nature of consciousness."

Cannot this communication go on all the time, during the waking period as well? Isn't it possible to be aware of your own responses when you are getting into the bus, when you are with your family, when you are talking to your boss in the office, or to your servant at home? Just to be aware of all this - to be aware of the trees and the birds, of the clouds and the children, of your own habits, responses and traditions - is to observe it without judging or comparing; and if you can be so aware, constantly watching, listening, you will find that you do not dream at all. Then your whole mind is intensely active; everything has a meaning, a significance. To such a mind, dreams are unnecessary. You will then discover that in sleep there's not only complete rest and renewal, but a state which the mind can never touch. It's not something to be remembered and returned to; it's entirely inconceivable, a total renewal which cannot be formulated.

"Can I be so aware during the whole day?" he asked earnestly. "But I must, and I will be, for I honestly see the necessity of it. Sir, I have learnt a great deal, and I hope I may come again."

Chapter - 44
What Does It Mean to Be Serious?

SITTING ON THE oxcart with a long slender stick in his hand was an old man, so thin that his bones were showing through. He had a kindly, wrinkled face, and his skin was very dark, burnt by many suns. The cart was heavy with firewood, and he was beating the oxen; you could hear the slap of his stick on their backs. They were coming from the country into the town, and it had been a long day. Driver and beasts were tired out, and they still had some distance to go. There was froth around the mouths of the oxen, and the old man seemed ready to drop; but there was stamina in that wiry old body, and the oxen would go on. As you walked beside the cart, the old man caught your eye, smiled, and stopped beating the oxen. They were his oxen, and he had been driving them for years; they knew he was fond of them, and the beating was a passing thing. He was stroking them now, and they continued to move at their ease. The old man's eyes told of infinite patience, and his mouth expressed weariness and endless toil. He wouldn't receive much money for his firewood, but it was enough to get by. They would rest along the roadside for the night, and make a start for home in the early morning. The cart would be empty, and the return journey would be easier. We went down the road together, and the oxen didn't seem to mind being touched by the stranger who was walking beside them. It was beginning to get dark, and presently the driver stopped, lit a lamp, hung it under his cart, and went on towards the noisy town.

Next morning the sun rose behind thick, dark clouds. It rained very often on this big island, and the earth was rich with green vegetation. There were immense trees everywhere, and well-kept gardens full of flowers. The people were well-fed, and the cattle plump and soft-eyed. On one tree there were dozens of orioles, with black wings and yellow bodies; they were surprisingly large birds, but their call was soft. They were hopping about from branch to branch, like flashes of golden light, and they seemed even more brilliant on a cloudy day. A magpie was calling in deep-throated tones, and the crows were making their usual raucous noise. It was comparatively cool, and walking would be pleasant. The temple was full of kneeling, praying people, and the grounds around it were clean. Beyond the temple was a sports club, where they were playing tennis. Children were everywhere, and among them walked the priests with their shaven heads and the inevitable fan. The streets were decorated, for there was going to be a religious procession the following day, when the moon would be full. Over the palm trees could be seen a great stretch of pale blue sky, which the clouds were rushing to cover. Among the people, along the noisy streets, and in the gardens of the well-to-do, there was great beauty; it was there everlastingly, but few cared to look.

The two of them, a man and a woman, had come from some distance to attend the talks. They could have been husband and wife, sister and brother, or just friends. They were gay and friendly and their eyes declared the ancient culture that lay behind them. Pleasant-voiced and rather shy out of respect, they seemed surprisingly well-read, and he knew Sanskrit. He had also travelled a bit and knew the ways of the world.

"We have both been through many things," he began. "We have followed some of the political leaders, been fellow-travellers with the Communists and known at first hand their appalling brutality, gone the rounds of the spiritual teachers, and practised certain forms of meditation. We think we are serious people, but we may be deceiving ourselves. All these things were done with serious intent, but none of them seem to have great depth, though at the time we always thought they had. Both of us are active by nature, we are not the dreamy kind but we have now come to the point when we no longer want to `get somewhere', or participate in practices and organizational activities that have very little significance. Having found in such activities nothing more than lip service and self-deception, we now want to understand what it is you are teaching. My father was somewhat familiar with your approach to life, and he used to talk to me about it, but I never got around to investigating the matter for myself, probably because I was `told' - which is perhaps a normal reaction when one is young. As it happened, a friend of ours attended your talks last year, and when he recounted to us something of what he had heard, we decided to come. I don't know where to start, and perhaps you can help us out."

Though his companion hadn't said a word, her eyes and her manner indicated that she was giving full attention to what was being said.

Since you have said that you are both serious, let us begin from there. I wonder what we mean when we talk about being serious? Most people are serious about something or other. The politician with his schemes, and in his attaining of power; the schoolboy in his desire to pass an examination; the man who is out to make money; the professional man, and the man who is dedicated to some ideology, or is caught in the net of a belief - they are all serious in their own way. The neurotic is serious, and so also is the sannyasi. What then does it mean to be serious? Please don't think I am quibbling, but if we could understand this thing, we might learn a great deal about ourselves; and after all, that is the right beginning.

"I am serious," said his companion, "in wanting to clarify my own confusion and it is for this reason that I have gone around seeking the help of those who say they can guide me towards that clarification. I have tried to forget myself in good works, in bringing some happiness to others, and in that effort I have been serious. I am also serious in my desire to find God."

Most people are serious about something. Negatively or positively, their seriousness always has an object, religious or otherwise, and upon the hope of attaining that object their seriousness depends. If for any reason the hope of attaining the object of their gratification is removed, are they still serious? One is serious in achieving, in gaining, in succeeding, in becoming; it is the end that makes one serious, the thing that one hopes to get or to avoid. So the end is important, and not the understanding of what it is to be serious. We are concerned, not with love, but with what love will do. The doing, the result, the achievement, is all-important, and not love itself, which has its own action.

"I don't quite understand how there can be seriousness unless one is serious about something," he replied. "I think I see what you mean," said his companion. "I want to find God, and it is important for me to find Him, otherwise life has no meaning; it's only a bewildering chaos, full of misery. I can understand life only through God, who is the end and the beginning of all things; He alone can guide me in this welter of contradictions, and that's why I am serious about finding Him. But you are asking, is this seriousness at all?"

Yes. The understanding of living, with all its complications, is one thing, and the search for God is another. In saying that God, the ultimate end, will give meaning to life, you have brought into being - haven't you? - Two opposing states: living and God. You are struggling to find something away from life. You are serious about achieving a goal, an end, which you call God; and is that seriousness? Perhaps there is no such thing as finding God first, and then living; it may be that God is to be found in the very understanding of this complex process called life.

We are trying to understand what we mean by seriousness. You are serious about a formulation, a self-projection, a belief, which has nothing to do with reality. You are serious about the things of the mind, and not about the mind itself, who is the maker of these things. In giving your seriousness to achieving a particular result, are you not pursuing your own gratification? That's what everyone is serious about: getting what he wants. And is that all we mean by seriousness?
"I have never before looked at it in this way," she exclaimed. "Evidently I am not really serious at all."

Don't let's jump to conclusions. We are trying to understand what it means to be serious. One can see that to pursue fulfilment in any form, however noble or stupid, is not to be really serious. The man who drinks to escape from his sorrow, the man who is after power, and the man who is seeking God, are all on the same path, though the social significance of their pursuits may differ. Are such people serious?

"If not, then I'm afraid none of us are," he replied. "I always took it for granted that I was serious in my various undertakings, but now I am beginning to see that there is an altogether different kind of seriousness. I don't think I am able to put it into words yet, but I am beginning to get the feeling of it. Will you please go on?"

"I am a bit lost in all this," put in his companion. "I thought I was understanding it, but it eludes me."

When we are serious, we are serious about something; that is so, isn't it? "Yes"

Now, is there a seriousness which is not directed towards an end and does not build up resistance?

"I don't quite follow."

"The question in itself is quite simple," he explained. "Wanting something, we set about getting it and in this effort we consider ourselves to be serious. Now, he's asking, is that really seriousness? Or is seriousness a state of mind in which end-gaining and resistance do not exist?"

"Let me see if I understand this," she replied. "As long as I am trying to get or to avoid something, I am concerned about myself. End-gaining is really self-interest; it is a form of indulgence, blatant or refined, and you are saying, sir, that indulgence is not seriousness. Yes, that is now quite clear to me. But then what is seriousness?"

Let's inquire and learn about it together. You are not being taught by me, Being taught, and being free to learn, are two entirely different things, are they not?

"Please go a little slowly. I am not very bright, but I will get it by perseverance. I am also a bit stubborn - a sober virtue, but one that can be a nuisance. I hope you will be patient with me. In what way is being taught different from being free to learn?"

In being taught, there's always the teacher, the guru who knows, and the disciple who does not know; thus a division is forever maintained between them. This is essentially an authoritarian, hierarchical outlook, in which love does not exist. Though the teacher may talk about love, and the disciple asserts his devotion, their relationship is un-spiritual, deeply immoral, leading to a great deal of confusion and suffering. This is clear, isn't it?

"Frighteningly clear," he put in. "You have abolished at one stroke the whole structure of religious authority; but I see you are right."

"But one needs guidance, and who will act as a guide?" asked his companion.

Is there any need for guidance when we are constantly learning, not from anyone in particular, but from everything as we go along? Surely, we seek guidance only when we want to be safe, secure, comfortable. If we are free to learn, we shall learn from the falling leaf, from every kind of relationship, from being aware of the activities of our own minds. But most of us are not free to learn, because we are so used to being taught; we are told what to think by books, by our parents, by society, and like a gramophone we repeat what's on the record.

"And the record is generally very badly scratched," he added. "We have played it so often. Our thinking is entirely second-hand."

Being taught has made one repetitive, mediocre. The urge to be guided, with its implications of authority, obedience, fear, lack of love, and so on, can only lead to darkness. Being free to learn is quite another matter. And there can be no freedom to learn when there's already a conclusion, an assumption; or when one's outlook is based on experience as knowledge; or when the mind is held in tradition, tethered to a belief; or when there is the desire to be secure, to achieve a particular end.

"But it's impossible to be free of all that!" she ejaculated.

You don't know if it's possible or impossible until you have tried.

"Whether one likes it or not," she insisted, "one's mind is taught; and if, as you say, a mind that's taught cannot learn, what is one to do?"

The mind can be aware of its own bondage, and in that very awareness it is learning. But first of all, is it clear to us that a mind that's blindly held in what it has been taught, is incapable of learning?

"In other words, you are saying that as long as I merely follow tradition I cannot learn anything new. Yes, that much is clear enough. But how am I to be free of tradition?"

Not so fast, please. The gatherings of the mind prevent the freedom to learn. To learn, there must be no accumulation of knowledge, no piling up of experiences as the past. Do you yourself see the truth of this? Is it a fact to you, or just something I have said, with which you may agree or disagree?

"I think I see it to be a fact," he put in. "Of course, you don't mean that we must throw away all the knowledge that science has gathered, that would be absurd, The point is, if we want to learn, we cannot assume anything."

Learning is a movement, but not from one fixed point to another and this movement is impossible if the mind is burdened with an accumulation of the past, with conclusions, traditions, beliefs. This accumulation, though it may be called the Atman, the soul, the higher self, and so on, is the `me', the ego, the self. The self and its maintenance prevent the movement of learning.

"I am beginning to understand what is meant by the movement of learning," she said slowly. "As long as I'm enclosed within my own desire for security, for comfort, for peace, there can be no movement of learning. Then how am I to be free of this desire?"

Isn't that a wrong question? There's no method by which to be free. The very urgency and importance of being able to learn will free the mind form conclusions, from the self which is put together by words, by memory. The practising of a method, the `how' and its discipline, is another form of accumulation; it never frees the mind, but only sets it going in a different pattern.
"I seem to understand something of all this," he said, "but so much is involved, I wonder if I shall ever really get to the bottom of it."

It's not as bad as all that. With the understanding of one or two central facts, the whole picture becomes clear. A mind that's taught, or desires to be guided, cannot learn. We now see this quite plainly, so let's go back to the question of seriousness, with which we started.

We saw that the mind is not serious if it has some end to be gained or avoided. Then what is seriousness? To find out, one must be aware that one's mind is turned outward or inward in order to fulfil itself, to gain or to become something. It's this awareness that sets the mind free to learn what it means to be serious; and to learning there is no end. To a mind that's learning, the heavens are open.

"I have learnt a great deal in this brief conversation," said his companion, "but shall I be able to learn further without your help?"

Do you see how you are blocking yourself? If one may say so, you are greedy for more, and this greed is preventing the movement of learning. Had you been aware of the significance of what you were feeling and saying, it would have opened the door to that movement. There is no `further' learning, but just learning as you go along. Comparison arises only when there is accumulation. To die to everything that you have learnt is to learn. This dying is not a final act: it is to die from moment to moment.

"I have seen and understood, and goodness will flower from it."

Chapter - 45
Is There Anything Permanent?

THE HOUSE STOOD on a hill overlooking the main road, and beyond the road was the dull grey sea, which never seemed to have life. It was not like the sea in other parts of the world - blue, restless, immense - but was always either brown or grey, and the horizon seemed so close. One was glad it was there, for a cool breeze generally came from it when the sun was going down. On rare occasions there would be not a breath of air, and then it was suffocatingly hot; the smell of tar would come up from the road, along with the exhaust fumes of the ceaseless traffic.

There was a small garden below the house, with many flowers, and it was a delight to the passers-by. From the overhanging bushes, yellow flowers fell on the roadside, and occasionally a pedestrian would stoop to pick up a fallen blossom. Children went by with their nurses, but most of them were not allowed to pick up the flowers; the road was dirty, and they mustn't touch dirty things!

Not far away there was a temple by a pond, and around the pond there were benches. People were always sitting on those benches, and on the brick steps leading down to the water. From an open space at the edge of the pond, four or five steps led up into the temple. The temple, the steps and the open space were kept very clean, and people removed their footwear before coming there. Each worshipper rang the bell that was hanging from the roof, placed flowers near the idol, folded his hands in prayer, and went away. It was fairly quiet there, and although you could see the traffic, the noise didn't come that far.

Every evening, after the sun had set, a young man would come and sit near the entrance of the shrine. Freshly bathed and wearing clean clothes, he looked well-educated, and was probably an office-worker of some kind. He would sit there cross-legged for an hour or more, with his back straight and his eyes closed; in his right hand, under a newly-washed cloth which was still damp, he would be holding a string of beads. His covered fingers would move from one bead to the next as his lips pronounced the words of each prayer. Apart from this, he never moved a muscle, and he would sit there, lost to the world, till it was quite dark.

There was always a vendor or two near the entrance of the temple, selling nuts, flowers and coconuts. One evening three young men came and sat there. They all appeared to be under twenty. Suddenly one of them got up and began to dance, while another beat out the rhythm on a tin. He had on only a singlet and a loincloth, and he was showing off. He danced with extraordinary agility, moving his hips and arms with easy grace. He must have watched not only the Indian dances, but also the dancing that went on at the fashionable club nearby. Quite a crowd had gathered by now, and they were encouraging him; but he needed no encouragement, and the dance was getting rather crude. All this time the man of prayers was sitting there, his body erect, with only his lips and his fingers moving. The little temple pool was reflecting the light of the stars.

We were in a small, bare room overlooking a noisy street. There was a mat on the floor, and we all sat around it. Through the open window could be seen a single palm tree on which a kite was perched, with its fierce eyes and its sharp, overhanging beak. There were three men and two women in the group that had come. The women sat on one side, opposite the men, and never spoke; but they listened attentively, and often their eyes would glisten with understanding, and a slight smile would appear on their lips. They were all quite young, and all had been to college, and now each of them had a job or a profession. They were all good friends and called each other by familiar names, and they had evidently talked over together a great many thing. One of the men had the feel of the artist about him, and it was he who began.

"I always think," he said, "that very few artists are really creative. Some of them know how to handle colour and brush; they have learnt design and are masters of detail; they know anatomy to perfection, and are astonishingly capable on canvas. Equipped with capacity and technique, and moved by a deep creative impulse, they paint. But presently they become known and established, and then something happens to them - money and flattery, probably. Creative vision is gone, but they still have their superb technique, and for the rest of their lives they juggle with it. Now it's pure abstraction, now it's double-faced women, now it's a war scene with a few lines, space and dots. That period passes, and a new period is begun: they become sculptors, ceramists, church builders, and so on. But the inward glory is lost, and they know only outward glamour. I'm not an artist, I don't even know how to hold a brush; but I have a feeling there's something enormously significant that we all miss."

"I'm a lawyer," said one of the others, "but the practice of law is to me only a means of livelihood. I know it's rotten, one has to do so many dirty things to get on, and I would give it up tomorrow were it not for family responsibilities, and one's own fear - which is a greater burden than the responsibilities. From childhood I have been attracted to religion; I almost became a sannyasi, and even now I try to meditate every morning. Most definitely I feel that the world is much with us. I am neither happy nor unhappy; I just exist. But in spite of everything, there's a deep yearning for something greater than this shoddy existence. Whatever it is, I feel it is there, but my will seems to be too weak and ineffectual to break through the mediocrity in which I live. I have tried going away, but I had to come back - because of the family, and all the rest of it. I am inwardly torn in two directions. I could escape from this conflict by losing myself in the dogmas and rituals of some church or temple, but all that seems so silly and infantile. Mere social respectability, with its immortality, means nothing to me; but I am respected in my law practice, and I would go ahead in that profession - but that's even a greater escape than the temple or the church. I have studied the books and the double talk of Communism, and its chauvinistic nonsense is a terrible thing. Everywhere I go - at home, in court, on solitary walks - this inward agony is with me, like a disease for which there's no remedy. I have come here with my friends, not to find a remedy, for I have read what you say about such things, but if possible to understand this inward fever."

"When I was a boy, I always wanted to be a doctor," said the third one, "and I'm a doctor now. I can and do make quite a bit of money; I could probably make more, but what for? I try to be very conscientious with my patients, but you know how it is. I treat the well-to-do, but I also have patients without a penny, and there are so many of them that even if I could treat a thousand a day, there would still be more. I can't give all my time to them, so I see the rich in the mornings, and the poor in the afternoons, and sometimes far into the night; and with so much work, one does tend to become somewhat callous. I try to take as much trouble with the poor as with the well-to-do but I find I am becoming less sympathetic and am losing that sensitivity which is so essential to the medical practitioner. I use all the right words and have developed a good `bedside manner', but inwardly I am drying up. The patients may not know this, but I know it all too well. I loved my patients at one time, especially the wretchedly poor; I really felt for them, with all their filth and disease. But over the years I have slowly been losing all that; my heart is becoming dry, my sympathy withering. I went away for a time in the hope that a complete change and rest would kindle the flame again; but it's no good. The fire simply isn't there, and I have only the dead ashes of memory. I attend to my patients, but my heart is empty of love. It has done me good to tell you all this - but that's only a relief, it's not the real thing. And can the real thing ever be found?"

All of us were silent. The kite had flown away and a large crow had taken its place on the palm tree. Its powerful black beak was shining in the sun.

Aren't all these problems interrelated? One has to distrust similarity; but these three problems are not essentially dissimilar, are they?

"Come to think of it," replied the lawyer, "it looks like my two friends and I are in the same boat. We are all after the same thing. We may call it by different names - love, creativity, something greater than this tawdry existence - but it's really the same thing."

"Is it?" asked the artist. "At moments I have felt the astonishing beauty and vastness of life; but those moments soon pass, and a void is left. This void has its own vitality, but it's not the same as the other. The other is beyond the measure of time, beyond all word and thought. When that otherness comes into being, it's as though one had never existed; all the pettiness of life, the tortures of daily existence, are gone, and only that state remains. I have known that state, and I must somehow revive it. I am not concerned with anything else."

"You artists," said the, doctor, "think that you are set apart from the rest of us. You are above other men; you have a special gift with special privileges; you are supposed to see more, feel more, live more intensely. But I don't think you are so very different from the engineer, or the lawyer, or the doctor, who may also live intensely. I used to suffer with my patients; I loved them, I knew what they were going through, their fears, their hopes and despairs. I felt as intensely for them as you might feel for a cloud, for a flower, for a leaf blown by the wind, or for the human face. Your intensity of feeling is not different from mine, or from that of our friend here. It is this intensity of feeling that matters, not what one feels intensely about. The artist likes to think that his particular expression of it is something far superior, nearer heaven, and I know the world holds its breath when it utters that word `artist; but you are as human as the rest of us and our intensity is as keen, alive, vibrant, as yours. I am not belittling the artist, nor am I jealous of him; I am only saying that intensity of feeling is the important thing. Of course, it may be wrongly directed, and then the result is chaos and suffering both for oneself and for others, particularly if one happens to be in a position of power. The point is, you and I are after the same thing - you in wanting to recapture what you call the beauty and vastness of life, and I in wanting to love again."

"And I also am seeking it, in wanting to break through the mediocrity of my life," added the lawyer. "This ache which I feel is similar to yours; I may not be able to put it into words, or on canvas, but it's as intense as the colour you see in that flower. I, too, long for something infinitely more than all this, something that will bring peace and fullness."

"All right, I yield; both of you are right," admitted the artist. "Vanity is sometimes stronger than reason. We are all vain in our own peculiar ways, and how it hurts to admit it! Of course we are in the same boat, as you say. We all want something beyond our petty selves, but this pettiness creeps up on us and overwhelms us."

Then what's the problem we want to talk over? Is it clear to all of us?

"I think so," replied the doctor. "I should like to put it this way. Is there a permanent state of love, of creativity, a permanent ending of sorrow? We would all agree to this statement of the question, wouldn't we?"

The others nodded in assent.

"Is there a state of love, or creative peace," went on the doctor, "which, once having been attained, will never degenerate, never be lost?"

"Yes, that's the question," agreed the artist. "There is this extraordinary height of exhilaration which comes unexpectedly, and fades away like a fragrance. Can this intensity remain, without the reaction of dull emptiness? Is there a state of inspiration which does not yield to time and mood?"

You are asking a great deal, aren't you? If necessary, we shall consider later what that state is. But first of all, is there anything permanent?

"There must be," said the lawyer. "It would be very depressing and rather frightening to discover that there's nothing permanent."

We may find that there's something much more significant than permanency. But before we go into this, do we see that there must be no conclusion, no apprehension, no wish which will project a pattern of thought? To think clearly, one must not start from a supposition, a belief, or an inner demand, must one?

"I'm afraid this is going to be exceedingly difficult," replied the artist. "I have such a clear and definite memory of the state I have experienced, that it's almost impossible to put it aside."

"Sir, what you say is perfectly true," said the doctor. "If I am to discover a new fact, or perceive the truth of something, my mind cannot be cluttered with what has been. I see how necessary it is for the mind to set aside all that it has known or experienced; but considering the nature of the mind, is such a thing possible?"

"If there must be no inner demand," said the lawyer, thinking aloud, "then I must not wish to break through my present petty condition, or think of some other state, which can only be the outcome of what has been, a projection of what I already know. But isn't this almost impossible?"

I don't think so. If I want to understand you, surely I can have no prejudices or conclusion about you.

"That is so."

If for me the all-important thing is to understand you, then this very sense of urgency overrides all my prejudices and opinions about you, doesn't it?

"There can of course be no diagnosis until after an examination of the patient," said the doctor. "But is such an approach possible in an area of human experience where there's so much self-interest?"

If there's the intensity to understand the fact, the truth, then everything is possible; and everything becomes a hindrance if this intensity is not there. That much is clear, isn't it?

"Yes, at least verbally," replied the artist. "Perhaps I shall slip into it more as we go along."

We are trying to find out if there is, or is not, a permanent state - not what we would like, but the actual fact, the truth of the matter. Everything about us, within as well as without - our relationships, our thoughts, our feelings - is impermanent, in a constant state of flux. Being aware of this, the mind craves permanency a perpetual state of peace, of love, of goodness, a security that neither time nor events can destroy; therefore it creates the soul, the Atman, and the visions of a permanent paradise. But this permanency is born of impermanence, and so it has within it the seeds of the impermanent. There is only one fact: impermanence. "We know that the cells of the body are undergoing a constant change," said the doctor. "The body itself is impermanent; the organism wears out. Nevertheless, one feels there's a state untouched by time, and it's that state one is after."

Let us not speculate, but stick to facts. Thought is aware of its own impermanent nature; the things of the mind are transient, however much one may assert that they are not. The mind itself is the result of time; it has been put together through time, and through time it can be taken apart. It can be conditioned to think that there's a permanency, and it can also be conditioned to think that there's nothing enduring. Conditioning itself is impermanent, as is observable every day. The fact is that there's impermanence. But the mind craves for permanency in all its relationships; it wants to perpetuate the family name through the son, and so on. It cannot abide the uncertainty of its own state, and so it proceeds to create certainty.

"I am aware of this fact," said the doctor. "I once knew what it meant to love my patients, and while love was there I didn't care two pins whether it was permanent or impermanent; but now that it's gone, I want it to be made enduring. The desire for permanency arises only when one has experienced impermanence."

"But is there no lasting state of what may be called creative inspiration?" asked the artist.

Perhaps we shall understand that presently. Let us first see very clearly that the mind itself is of time, and that whatever the mind puts together is impermanent. It may, in its impermanence, have had a momentary experience of something which it now calls the permanent; and having once experienced that state, it remembers and desires more of it. So, from what it has known, memory puts together and projects that which it calls the permanent; but that projection is still within the scope of the mind, which is the field of the transient.

"I realize that whatever is born of the mind must be in a constant state of flux," said the doctor. "But when love was there, it was not born of the mind."

But now it has become a thing of the mind through memory, has it not? The mind now demands that it be revived; and what is revived will be impermanent.

"That's perfectly right, sir," put in the lawyer, "I see it quite clearly. My ache is the ache of remembering the things that should not be, and longing for the things that should be. I never live in the present, but either in the past or in the future. My mind is always time-bound."

"I think I am getting this," said the artist. "The mind, with all its cunning, with its intrigues, its vanities and envies, is a whirlpool of self-contradictions. Occasionally it may catch a hint of something beyond its own noise, and what it has caught becomes a remembrance. It is with these ashes of remembrance that we live, treasuring things that are dead. I have been doing this, and what folly it is!"

Now, can the mind die to its remembrances, its experiences, to all the things it has known? Without seeking the permanent, can it die to the impermanent?

"I must understand this," said the doctor. "I have known love - you will all forgive me for using that word - and I cannot `know' it again because my mind is held by the remembrance of what has been. It is this remembrance that it wants to make permanent, the remembrance of what it has known; and remembrance, with its associations, is nothing but ashes. Out of dead ashes, no new flame can be born. Then what? please let me go on. My mind is living on memories, and the mind itself is memory, the memory of what has been; and this memory of what has been wants to be made permanent. So there is no love, but only the memory of love. But I want the real thing, not just the memory of it."

Wanting the real thing is still the urge of memory, isn't it?
"You mean I mustn't want it?"

"That's right," replied the artist. "Wanting it is a craving born of memory. You didn't want or cling to the real thing when it was there; it was simply there, like a flower. But as it faded, the craving for it began. To want it is to have the ashes of remembrance. The supreme moment which I have been longing for is not the real. My longing arises from the remembrance of something that once happened, and so I am back in the fog of memory, which I now see is darkness."

Craving is remembrance; there is no craving without the known, which is the memory of what has been and it is this craving that sustains the `me', the self, the ego. Now, can the mind die to the known - the known which is demanding to be made permanent? This is the real problem, isn't it?

"What do you mean by dying to the known?" asked the doctor.

To die to the known is to have no continuity of yesterday. That which has continuance is only memory. What has no continuity is neither permanent nor impermanent. Permanency or continuity comes into being only when there's fear of transiency. Can there be an ending of consciousness as continuity, a dying to the total feeling of becoming without gathering again in the very act of dying? There is this feeling of becoming only when there is the memory of what has been and what should be, and then the present is used as a passage between the two. Dying to the known is the complete stillness of the mind. Thought under the pressure of craving can never be still.

"I followed with understanding up to the point when you mentioned dying," said the lawyer. "Now I am confused."

Only that which has an ending can be aware of the new, of love, or the supreme. What has continuance, `permanence', is memory of the things that have been. The mind must die to the past, though the mind is put together by the past. The totality of the mind must be completely still, without any pressure, influence or movement from the past. Only then is the other possible.

"I shall have to ponder over this a great deal," said the doctor. "It will be real meditation."