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Series III - Chapter 51 - ‘Time, Habit And Ideals’
Series III - Chapter 51 - ‘Time, Habit And Ideals’
THERE HAD BEEN heavy rains, several inches a day for over a week, and the river was running very high. It was already over its banks, and some of the villages were flooded. The fields were under water, and the cattle had to be moved to higher ground. A few more inches and it would be over the bridge, and then there would really be trouble; but just as it was reaching the danger point, the rains stopped and the river began to go down. Some monkeys who had taken refuge in the trees were isolated, and they would have to remain there for a day or so.
Early one morning, when the waters had subsided, we set out across the open country, which was flat almost up to the foot of the mountains. The road went past village after village, and past farms equipped with modern machines. It was spring, and along the road the fruit trees were in bloom. The car was running smoothly. There was the purr of the motor, and the hum of rubber tires on the road; and yet there was an extraordinary silence everywhere, among the trees, on the river, and over the planted earth.
The mind is silent only with the abundance of energy, when there is that attention in which all contradiction the pulling of desire in different directions, has ceased. The struggle of desire to be silent does not make for silence. Silence is not to be bought through any form of compulsion; it is not the reward of suppression or even sublimation. But the mind that is not silent is never free; and it is only to the silent mind that the heavens are opened. The bliss which the mind seeks is not found through its seeking, nor does it lie in faith. Only the silent mind can receive that blessing which is not of church or belief. For the mind to be silent, all its contradictory corners must come together and be fused in the flame of understanding. The silent mind is not a reflective mind. To reflect, there must be the watcher and the watched, The experiencer heavy with the past. In the silent mind there is no centre from which to become, to be, or to think. All desire is contradiction, for every centre of desire is opposed to another centre. The silence of the total mind is meditation.
He was a youngish man, with a large head, clear eyes and capable-looking hands. He spoke with ease and self-assurance, and he had brought along his wife, a dignified lady who evidently wasn’t going to say anything. She had probably come under his persuasion, and preferred to listen. “I have always been interested in religious matters,” he said, “and early in the morning, before the children are up and the household bustle begins, I spend a considerable period of time in the practice of meditation. I find meditation very helpful in gaining control of the mind and in cultivating certain necessary virtues. I heard your discourse on meditation a few days ago, but as I am new to your teachings, I was not quite able to follow it. But that’s not what I came to talk about. I came to talk about time – time as a means to the realization of the Supreme. As far as I can see, time is necessary for the cultivation of those qualities and sensibilities of mind which are essential, if enlightenment is to be attained. This is so, isn’t it?”
If one begins by assuming certain things, is it then possible to seek out the truth of the matter? Do not conclusions prevent clarity of thought? “I have always taken it for granted that time is necessary to attain liberation. This is what most of the religious books maintain, and I have never questioned it. One gathers that individuals here and there have realized that exalted state instantaneously; but they are only the few, the very few. The rest of us must have time, short or long, in which to prepare the mind to receive that bliss. But I quite see what you mean when you say that to think clearly, the mind must be free of conclusions.”
And it is extremely arduous to be free of them, is it not?
Now, what do we mean by time? There is time by the clock, time as the past, the present and the future. There is time as memory, time as distance journeying from here to there, and time as achievement, the process of becoming something. All this is what we mean by time. And is it ever possible for the mind to be free of time, to go beyond its limitations? Let’s begin with chronological time. Can one ever be free of time in the factual, chronological sense?
“Not if one wants to catch a train! To be sanely active in this world, and to maintain some kind of order, chronological time is essential.”
Then there is time as memory, habit, tradition; and time as effort to achieve, to fulfil, to become. It obviously takes time to learn a profession, or acquire a technique. But is time also necessary for the realization of the Supreme? “It seems to me that it is.”
What is it that is achieving, realizing?
“I suppose it’s what you call the ‘me’.”
Which is a bundle of memories and associations, both conscious and unconscious. It’s the entity who enjoys and suffers, who has practiced virtues, acquired knowledge, gathered experience, the entity who has known fulfilment and frustration, and who thinks there is the soul, the Atman, the Higher Self. This entity, this ‘me’, this ego, is the product of time. Its very substance is time. It thinks in time, functions in time and builds itself up in time. This ‘me’, which is memory, thinks that through time it will reach the Supreme. But its ‘Supreme’ is something it has formulated, and is therefore also within the field of time, is it not?
“The way you unfold it, it does seem that the maker of effort and the end for which he is striving are equally within the sphere of time.”
Through time you can achieve only that which time has created. Thought is the response of memory, and thought can realize only that which thought has put together. “Are you saying, sir, that the mind must be free from memory, and from the desire to achieve to realize?”
We shall come to that presently. If we may, let us approach the problem differently. Take violence, for example, and the ideal of non-violence. It’s said that the ideal of non-violence is a deterrent to violence. But is it? Let’s say I am violent, and my ideal is not to be violent. There is an interval, a gap between what I actually am, and what I should be, the ideal. To cover this intervening distance takes time; the ideal is to be achieved gradually, and during this interval of the gradual approach I have the opportunity to indulge in the pleasure of violence. The ideal is the opposite of what I am, and all opposites contain the seeds of their own opposites. The ideal is a projection of thought, which is memory, and the practising of the ideal is a self-centred activity, just as violence is. It has been said for centuries, and we go on repeating, that time is necessary to be free from violence; but it’s a mere habit, and there’s no wisdom behind it. We are still violent. So time is not the factor of freedom; the ideal of non-violence does not free the mind from violence. And cannot violence just cease – not tomorrow or ten years hence?
“Do you mean instantaneously?”
When you use that word, aren’t you still thinking or feeling in terms of time? Can violence cease, that’s all, not in any given moment? “Is such a thing possible?”
Only with the understanding of time. We are used to ideals, we are in the habit of resisting, suppressing, sublimating, substituting, all of which involves effort and struggle through time. The mind thinks in habits; it is conditioned to gradualism, and has come to regard time as a means of achieving freedom from violence. With the understanding of the falseness of that whole process, the truth of violence is seen, and this is the liberating factor, not the ideal, or time.
“I think I understand what you are saying, or rather, I feel the truth of it. But isn’t it very difficult to free the mind from habit?”
It is difficult only when you fight habit. Take the habit of smoking. To fight that habit is to give it life. Habit is mechanical, and to resist it is only to feed the machine give more power to it. But if you consider the mind and observe the formation of its habits, then with the understanding of the larger issue, the lesser becomes insignificant and drops away. “Why does the mind form habits?”
Be aware of the ways of your own mind, and you will discover why. The mind forms habits in order to be secure, safe, certain, undisturbed, in order to have continuity. Memory is habit. To speak a particular language is a process of memory, habit; but what is expressed in the language, a series of thoughts and feelings, is also habitual, based on what you have been told, on tradition, and so on. The mind moves from the known to the known, from one certainty to another; so there’s never freedom from the known.
This brings us back to what we started with. It’s assumed that time is necessary for the realization of the Supreme. But what thought can think about is still within the field of time. The mind cannot possibly formulate the unknown. It can speculate about the unknown, but its speculation is not the unknown. “Then the problem arises, how is one to realize the Supreme?”
Not by any method. To practise a method is to cultivate another set of time-binding memories; but realization is possible only when the mind is no longer in bondage to time.
“Can the mind free itself from its self-created bondage? Is not an outside agency necessary?”
When you look to an outside agency, you are back again in your conditioning, in your conclusions. Our only concern is with the question, “Can the mind free itself from its self-created bondage?” All other questions are irrelevant and prevent the mind from attending to that one question. There is no attention when there’s a motive, the pressure to achieve, to realize; that is, when the mind is seeking a result, an end. The mind will discover the solution of this problem, not through arguments, opinions, convictions or beliefs, but through the very intensity of the question itself.