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Series III - Chapter 19 - ‘Where The Self Is, Love Is Not’
Series III - Chapter 19 - ‘Where The Self Is, Love Is Not’
THE ROSE BUSHES just inside the gate were covered with bright red roses, heavy with perfume, and butterflies were hovering about them. There were also marigolds and sweet peas in bloom. The garden overlooked the river, and that evening it was full of the golden light of the setting sun. Fishing boats, shaped somewhat like gondolas, were dark on the still surface of the river. The village among the trees on the opposite side was over a mile away, and yet voices came clearly across the water. From the gate there was a path leading down to the river. It joined a rough road which was used by the villagers on their way to and from the town. This road ended abruptly at the bank of a stream that flowed into the big river. It was not a sandy bank, but heavy with damp clay, and the feet sank into it. Across the stream at this point they would presently build a bamboo bridge; but now there was a clumsy barge laden with the quiet villagers who were returning from their day of trading in the town. Two men punted us across, while the villagers sat huddled in the evening cold. There was a small brazier to be lit when it got a little darker, but the moon would give them light. A little girl was carrying a basket of firewood; she had put it down while crossing the stream, and was now having difficulty in lifting it again. It was quite heavy for a little girl, but with some help she got it carefully placed on her small head, and her smile seemed to fill the universe. We all climbed the steep bank with careful steps, and soon the villagers went chattering off down the road.
Here it was open country, and the soil was very rich with the silt of many centuries. The flat, well-cultivated land, dotted with marvellous old trees, stretched out to the horizon. There were fields of sweet smelling peas, white with blossom, as well as winter wheat and other grain. On one side flowed the river, wide and curving, and overlooking the river there was a village, noisy with activity. The path here was very ancient; the Enlightened One was said to have walked on it, and the pilgrims had been using it for many centuries. It was a holy path, and there were small temples here and there along that sacred way. The mango and tamarind trees were also very old, and some were dying, having seen so much. Against the golden evening sky they were stately, their limbs dark and open. A little further along there was a grove of bamboos, yellowing with age, and in a small orchard a goat tied to a fruit tree was bleating for its kid, which was jumping and skipping all over the place. The path led on through another grove of mangoes, and beside a tranquil pond. There was a breathless stillness, and everything knew the blessed hour. The earth and everything upon it became holy. It was not that the mind was aware of this peace as something outside of itself, something to be remembered and communicated, but there was a total absence of any movement of the mind. There was only the immeasurable.
He was a youngish man, in his early forties he said; and though he had faced audiences and spoken with great confidence, he was still rather shy. Like so many others of his generation, he had played with politics, with religion, and with social reform. He was given to writing poetry, and could put colour on canvas. Several of the prominent leaders were his friends, and he could have gone far in politics; but he had chosen otherwise and was content to keep his light covered in a distant mountain town.
“I have been wanting to see you for many years. You may not remember it, but I was once on the same boat with you going to Europe before the second world war. My father was very interested in your teachings, but I drifted away into politics and other things. My desire to talk to you again finally became so persistent that it could not be put off any longer. I want to expose my heart – something I have never done to anyone else, for it isn’t easy to discuss oneself with others. For some time I have been attending your talks and discussions in different places, but recently I have had a strong urge to see you privately, because I have come to an impasse.”
Of what kind? “I don’t seem to be able to ‘break through’. I have done some meditation, not the kind that mesmerizes you, but trying to be aware of my own thinking, and so on. In this process I invariably fall asleep. I suppose it is because I am lazy, easygoing. I have fasted, and I have tried various diets, but this lethargy persists.”
Is it due to laziness, or to something else? Is there a deep, inward frustration? Has your mind been made dull, insensitive, by the events of your life? If one may ask, is it that love is not there?
“I don’t know sir; I have vaguely thought about these matters, but have never been able to pin anything down. perhaps I have been smothered by too many good and evil things. In a way, life has been too easy for me, with family, money, certain capacities, and so on. Nothing has been very difficult, and that may be the trouble. This general feeling of being at ease and having the capacity to find my way out of almost any situation may have made me soft.”
Is that it? Is that not just a description of superficial happenings? If those things had affected you deeply, you would have led a different kind of life, you would have followed the easy course. But you have not, so there must be a different process at work that is making your mind sluggish and inept. “Then what is it? I am not bothered by sex; I have indulged in it, but it has never been a passion with me to the extent that I became a slave to it. It began with love and ended in disappointment, but not in frustration. Of that I am pretty sure. I neither condemn nor pursue sex. It’s not a problem to me, anyway.”
Has this indifference destroyed sensitivity? After all, love is vulnerable, and a mind that has built defence against life ceases to love. “I don’t think I have built a defence against sex; but love is not necessarily sex, and I really do not know if I love at all.”
You see, our minds are so carefully cultivated that we fill the heart with the things of the mind. We give most of our time and energy to the earning of a livelihood, to the gathering of knowledge, to the fire of belief, to patriotism and the worship of the State, to the activities of social reform, to the pursuit of ideals and virtues, and to the many other things with which the mind keeps itself occupied; so the heart is made empty, and the mind becomes rich in its cunningness. This does make for insensitivity, doesn’t it?
“It is true that we over-cultivate the mind. We worship knowledge, and the man of intellect is honoured, but few of us love in the sense you are talking about. Speaking for myself, I honestly do not know if I have any love at all. I don’t kill to eat. I like nature. I like to go into the woods and feel their silence and beauty; I like to sleep under the open skies. But does all this indicate that I love?”
Sensitivity to nature is part of love; but it isn’t love, is it? To be gentle and kind, to do good works, asking nothing in return, is part of love; but it isn’t love, is it? “Then what is love?”
Love is all these parts, but much more. The totality of love is not within the measure of the mind; and to know that totality, the mind must be empty of its occupations however noble or self-centred. To ask how to empty the mind, or how not to be self-centred, is to pursue a method; and the pursuit of a method is another occupation of the mind.
“But is it possible to empty the mind without some kind of effort?”
All effort, the ‘right’ as well as the ‘wrong’, sustains the centre, the core of achievement, the self. Where the self is, love is not. But we were talking of the lethargy of the mind, of its insensitivity. Have you not read a great deal? And may not knowledge be part of this process of insensitivity? “I am not a scholar, but I read a lot, and I like to browse in libraries. I respect knowledge, and I don’t quite see why you think that knowledge necessarily makes for insensitivity.”
What do we mean by knowledge? Our life is largely a repetition of what we have been taught, is it not? We may add to our learning, but the repetitive process continues and strengthens the habit of accumulating. What do you know except what you have read or been told, or what you have experienced? That which you experience now is shaped by what you have experienced before. Further experience is what has been experienced already, only enlarged or modified, and so the repetitive process is maintained. Repetition of the good or the bad, of the noble or the trivial, obviously makes for insensitivity, because the mind is moving only within the field of the known. May not this be why your mind is dull?
“But I can’t put away all that I know, all that I have accumulated as knowledge.”
You are this knowledge, you are the things that you have accumulated; you are the gramophone record that is ever repeating what is impressed on it. You are the song, the noise, the chatter of society, of your culture. Is there an uncorrupted ‘you’, apart from all this chatter? This self-centre is now anxious to free itself from the things it has gathered; but the effort it makes to be free is still part of the accumulative process. You have a new record to play, with new words, but your mind is still dull, insensitive.
“I see that perfectly; you have described very well my state of mind. I have learnt, in my time, the jargons of various ideologies, both religious and political; but, as you point out, my mind has in essence remained the same. I am now very clearly aware of this; and I am also aware that this whole process makes the mind superficially alert clever and outwardly pliable, while below the surface it is still that same old self-centre which is the ‘me’.”
Are you aware of all this as a fact, or do you know it only through another’s description? If it is not your own discovery, something that you have found out for yourself, then it is still only the word and not the fact that is important. “I don’t quite follow this. please go slowly, sir, and explain it again.”
Do you know anything, or do you only recognize? Recognition is a process of association, memory, which is knowledge. That is true, isn’t it?
“I think I see what you mean. I know that bird is a parrot only because I have been told so. Through association, memory which is knowledge, there is recognition, and then I say: ‘It is a parrot’.”
The word ‘parrot’ has blocked you from looking at the bird, the thing that flies. We almost never look at the fact, but at the word or the symbol that stands for the fact. The fact recedes and the word, the symbol, becomes all-important. Now, can you look at the fact, whatever it may be, dissociated from the word, the symbol? “It seems to me that perception of the fact, and awareness of the word representing the fact, occur in the mind at the same time.”
Can the mind separate the fact from the word? “I don’t think it can.”
Perhaps we are making this more difficult than it is. That object is called a tree; the word and the object are two separate things, are they not? “Actually it is so; but, as you say we always look at the object through the word.”
Can you separate the object from the word? The word ‘love’ is not the feeling, the fact of love.
“But, in a way, the word is a fact too, isn’t it?”
In a way, yes. Words exist to communicate and also to remember, to fix in the mind a fleeting experience, a thought, a feeling; so the mind itself is the word, the experience, it is the memory of the fact in terms of pleasure and pain, good and bad. This whole process takes place within the field of time, the field of the known; and any revolution within that field is no revolution at all, but only a modification of what has been.
“If I understand you correctly, you are saying that I have made my mind dull, lethargic, insensitive, through traditional or repetitive thinking, of which self-discipline is a part. To bring the repetitive process to an end, the gramophone record, which is the self must be broken; and it can be broken only by seeing the fact, and not through effort. Effort, you say, only keeps the recording machine wound up, so in that there is no hope. Then what?”
See the fact, the what is, and let that fact operate; don’t you operate on the fact – the ‘you’ being the repetitive mechanism, with its opinions, judgments, knowledge. “I will try,” he said earnestly.
To try is to oil the repetitive mechanism, not to put an end to it. “Sir, you are taking everything away from one, and nothing is left. But that may be the new thing.”