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Series III - Chapter 35 - ‘Attention Without Motive’
Series III - Chapter 35 - ‘Attention Without Motive’
IN THE NARROW, shady lane between two gardens, a young boy was playing a flute; it was a cheap wooden thing and he was playing a popular cinema tune, but the purity of the notes filled the space in that lane. The white walls of the houses had been washed by the recent rains, and on those walls the shadows were dancing to the music of the flute. It was a sunny morning, there were scattered white clouds in the blue sky, and a pleasant breeze was blowing from the north. Beyond the houses and the gardens was the village, with huge trees towering over the thatched huts. Under those trees, women were selling fish, a few vegetables and some fried things. Little children were playing in the narrow road, and still smaller children were using the ditch as their toilet, unmindful of the grown-ups and the passing cars. There were many goats, and their small black and white kids were cleaner and even more spirited than the children. They were so soft to the touch, and they loved being petted. passing under the barbed wire of their enclosure, they would run across the road into a small open space, nibble the grass, romp about, butt each other, jump up in the air with abandon, and then race back to their mothers. Cars slowed down to avoid them, and not one was run over. They seemed to have divine protection – only to be killed and eaten.
But the flute player was there among the green foliage, and the clear notes called one out of doors. The boy was dirty, his clothes torn and unwashed, his face aggressively sharp and complaining. No one had taught him to play the flute, and no one ever would; he had picked it up by himself, and as the cinema tune rolled out, the purity of the notes was extraordinary. It was strange for the mind to float on that purity. Moving a few paces away, it continued through the trees, over the houses and towards the sea. It movement was not in time and space, but in purity. The word ‘purity’ is not purity; the word is tied to memory, and to the association of many things. This purity was not an invention of the mind; it was not a thing put together, only to be undone, through remembrance and comparison. The flute player was there, but the mind was infinitely far away – not in distance, nor in terms of memory. It was far away within itself, clear, untouched, alone, beyond the measure of time and recognition.
The small room overlooked a tiny garden full of flowers, with a spot of lawn. There was just enough room for the five of us, and for the small boy whom one had brought along. The boy would sit quietly for a while, and then get up and walk out of the door. He wanted to play, and the grown-up conversation was beyond him; but he had a serious air. Each time he came in, he would sit next to one of the men, who turned out to be his father, and their hands would touch; and presently he fell asleep, holding on to a finger.
They were all active men, obviously capable and energetic. Their respective professions as a lawyer, a government official, an engineer and a social worker were, except for that of the last, only a means of livelihood. Their real interest lay elsewhere, and they all seemed to reflect the culture of many generations. “I am only concerned with myself,” said the lawyer, “but not in the narrow, personal sense of self-improvement. The point is, I alone can break through the barrier of centuries and set my mind free. I am willing to listen, reason, discuss, but I abominate all influence. Influence, after all, is propaganda, and propaganda is the most stupid form of compulsion. I read a great deal, but I am constantly watching myself to see that I don’t fall under the influence of the author’s thought. I have attended many of your talks and discussions, sir, and I agree with you that any form of compulsion prevents understanding. Anyone who is persuaded, consciously or unconsciously, to think along a particular line, however apparently beneficial, is bound to end up in some form of frustration, because his fulfilment is according to the way of another, and so he can never really fulfil himself at all.”
Are we not being influenced by something or other, most of the time? One may be unconscious of influence, but isn’t it always present in many subtle forms? Is not thought itself the product of influence? “The four of us have often talked this matter over,” responded the official, “and we are still not very clear about it, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, Personally, I have visited many teachers at their ashramas all over the country; but before meeting the master, I first try to meet the disciples to see how far they have merely been influenced to a better life. Some of the disciples are scandalized by this approach, and they can’t understand why I don’t want to see the guru first. They are almost entirely under the heel of authority; and the ashramas, particularly the larger ones, are sometimes very efficiently run, like any office or factory. People turn over all their property and possessions to the central authority, and then remain in the ashrama, under guidance, for the rest of their lives. You would be surprised at the kind of people one finds there, a whole cross-section of society: retired government administrators, business men who have made their pile, a professor or two, and so on. And they are all dominated by the so-called spiritual influence of the guru. It’s pathetic, but there it is!”
Is influence or compulsion restricted to the ashrama? The hero, the ideal, the political Utopia, the future as a symbol of achieving or becoming something – do not these things exert their subtle influence on each one of us? And must not the mind also be free of this kind of compulsion? “We don’t go that far,” said the social worker. “We stay wisely within certain limits, otherwise there might be utter chaos.”
To discard compulsion in one form, only to accept it in a more subtle form, seems a futile endeavour, does it not?
“We want to go step by step, systematically and thoroughly understanding one form of compulsion after another,” said the engineer.
Is such a thing ever possible? Mustn’t compulsion or influence be tackled as a whole, not bit by bit? In trying to discard one pressure after another, is there not in this very process the maintenance of that which you are trying to discard, perhaps at a different level? Can envy be got rid of little by little? Does not the very effort sustain envy? “To build anything takes time. One can’t put up a bridge all at once. Time is needed for everything – for the seed to bear fruit, and for man to mature.”
In certain things, time is obviously necessary. To perform a series of actions, or to move in space from here to there, takes time. But apart from chronology, time is a plaything of the mind, is it not? Time is used as a means to achieve, to become something, positively or negatively; time exists in comparison. The thought “I am this, and I shall become that” is the way of time. The future is the modified past, and the present becomes merely a movement or passage from the past to the future, and so is of little importance. Time as a means of achievement has tremendous influence, it exerts the pressure of centuries of tradition. Is this process of attraction and compulsion, which is both negative and positive, to be understood bit by bit, or must it be seen as a whole?
“If I may interrupt, I would like to go on with what I was saying at the beginning,” protested the lawyer. “To be influenced is not to think at all, and that’s why I am only concerned with myself – but not in a self-centred way. If I may be personal, I have read some of the things you have said about authority, and I am working on the same lines. It is for this reason that I no longer go anywhere near the various teachers. Authority – not in the civil or legal sense – is to be avoided by an intelligent man.”
Are you merely concerned with freedom from outward authority, from the influence of newspapers, books, teachers, and so on? Must you not also be free from every form of inward compulsion, from the pressures of the mind itself, not merely the surface mind, but the deep unconscious? And is this possible? “That’s one of the things I have been wanting to talk over with you. If one is somewhat aware, it’s comparatively easy to observe and be free of the imprint made on the conscious mind by passing influences and pressures from without; but the conditioning and influence of the unconscious is a problem quite difficult to understand.”
The unconscious is a result – is it not? – of innumerable influences and compulsions, both self-imposed and imposed by society. “It is most definitely influenced by the culture or society in which one has been brought up; but whether this conditioning is total, or only segmentary, I am not at all sure.” Do you want to find out? “Of course I do, that’s why I am here.”
How is one to find out? The ‘how’ is the process of inquiry, it is not the search for a method. If one is seeking a method, then inquiry has stopped. It’s fairly obvious that the mind is influenced, educated, shaped, not only by the present culture, but by centuries of culture What we are attempting to find out is whether only part of the mind, or the whole of consciousness, is thus influenced, conditioned.
“Yes, that is the question.”
What do we mean by consciousness? Motive and action; desire, fulfilment and frustration; fear and envy; tradition, racial inheritance and the experiences of the individual based upon the collective past; time as past and future – all this is the essence of consciousness the very centre of it, is it not? “Yes; and I quite perceive the vast complexity of it.”
Does one feel the nature of consciousness for oneself, or is one influenced by another’s description of it?
“To be quite honest, both; I feel the nature of my own consciousness, but it helps to have a description of it.”
How arduous it is to be free of influence! putting aside the description, can one feel out the nature of consciousness and not merely theorize about it, or indulge in explanations? It is important to do this, isn’t it? “I suppose it is,” put in the official hesitantly. The lawyer was absorbed in his own thoughts.
To feel out for oneself the nature of consciousness is an entirely different experience from recognizing its nature through a description.
“Of course it is,” replied the lawyer, back on the scene again. “One is the influence of words, and the other is the direct experiencing of what’s taking place.”
The state of direct experiencing is attention without motive. When there is the desire to achieve a result, there is experiencing with a motive, which only leads to the further conditioning of the mind. To learn, and to learn with a motive, are contradictory processes, are they not? Is one learning when there’s a motive to learn? The accumulation of knowledge, or the acquisition of technique, is not the movement of learning. Learning is a movement which is not away from or towards something; it ceases when there is the accumulation of knowledge in order to gain, to achieve, to arrive. Feeling out the nature of consciousness, learning about it, is without motive; there is no experiencing, or being taught, in order to be or not to be something. To have a motive, a cause, ever brings about pressure, compulsion.
“Are you implying, sir, that true freedom is without a cause?”
Of course. Freedom is not a reaction to bondage; when it is, then that freedom becomes another bondage. That’s why it’s very important to find out if one has a motive to be free. If one has, then the result is not freedom, but merely the opposite of what is. “Then to feel out the nature of consciousness, which is the direct experiencing of it without any motive, is already a freeing of the mind from influence. Is that it?”
Isn’t that so? Haven’t you found that a motive invites influence, coercion, conformity? For the mind to be free from pressure, pleasant or unpleasant, all motive, however subtle or noble, must wither away – but not through any form of compulsion, discipline or suppression, which will only bring about another kind of bondage. “I see,” went on the lawyer. “Consciousness is a whole complex of interrelated motives. To understand this complex, one must feel it out, learn about it, without any further motive; for all motives inevitably bring about some kind of influence, pressure. Where there’s a motive of any kind, there’s no freedom. I am beginning to understand this very clearly.”
“But is it possible to act without a motive?” asked the social worker. “It seems to me that motive is inseparable from action.”
What do you mean by action? “The village needs cleaning up, the children must be educated, the law must be enforced, reforms must be carried out, and so on. All this is action, and behind it there’s definitely some kind of motive. If action with a motive is wrong, then what’s right action?”
The Communist thinks his is the right way of life; so does the capitalist, and the so-called religious man. Governments have five or ten-year plans, and impose certain legislation to carry them out. The social reformer conceives of a way of life, which he insists upon as being right action. Every parent, every school teacher, enforces tradition and attention. There are innumerable political and religious organizations, each with its leader, and each with power, gross or subtle, to enforce what it calls right action.
“Without all this, there would be chaos, anarchy.”
We are not condemning or defending any way of life, any leader or teacher; we are trying to understand, through this maze, what right action is. All these individuals and organizations, with their proposals and counter-proposals, are trying to influence thought in this or that direction, and what is called right action by some, is considered by others to be wrong action. This is so, isn’t it? “Yes, to a certain extent,” agreed the social worker. “But though it’s obviously incomplete, fragmentary, no one thinks of political action, for example, as being either right or wrong in itself; it’s just a necessity. Then what is right action?”
Trying to bring together all these conflicting notions does not make for right action, does it? “Of course not.”
Seeing the mess the world is in, the individual reacts to it in different ways; he maintains that he must understand himself first, that he must cleanse his own being, and so on; or else he becomes a reformer, a doctrinaire, a politician seeking to influence the minds of others to conform to a particular pattern. But the individual who thus reacts to the social confusion and disorder is still part of it; his action, being really a reaction, can only bring about confusion in another form. None of this is right action. Right action, surely, is total action, it is not fragmentary or contradictory; and it is total action alone that can respond adequately to all political and social demands.
“What is this total action?”
Haven’t you to find that out for yourself? If you are told what it is, and you agree or disagree, it will only lead to another fragmentary action, won’t it? Reformatory activity within society, and activity on the part of the individual as opposed to or apart from society, is incomplete action. Total action lies beyond these two, and that total action is love.