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Chapter 13 - Habit makes the mind insensitive
These letters are written in a friendly spirit. They are not intended to dominate your way of thinking or to persuade you to conform to the way the writer thinks or feels. They are not propaganda. It is really a dialogue between you and the writer like two friends talking over their problems, and in good friendship there is never any sense of competition or domination. You, too, must have observed the state of the world and our society and seen that there must be a radical transformation in the way human beings live, in their relation to each other, their relation with the world as a whole, and in every way possible. We are talking to each other, both being deeply concerned not only with our own particular selves, but also with the students for whom you are wholly responsible.
The teacher is the most important person in a school, for on her or him depends the future welfare of mankind. This is not a mere verbal statement. This is an absolute and irrevocable fact. Only when the educator himself feels the dignity and the respect implicit in his work will he be aware that teaching is the highest calling, greater than that of the politician, greater than the princes of the world. The writer means every word of this, so please do not brush it aside as exaggeration or an attempt to make you feel a false importance. You and the students must flower together in goodness.
We have been pointing out the corrupting or degenerating factors of the mind. As society is disintegrating, these schools must be centres for the regeneration of the mind. Not of thought. Thought can never be regenerated, for thought is always limited; but the regeneration of the totality of the mind is possible. This possibility is not conceptual but actual when one has examined deeply the ways of the degeneration. In previous letters we have explored some of these ways.
We must now investigate the destructive nature of tradition, of habit and the repetitive ways of thought. To follow, accepting tradition, seems to give a certain security to one's life, to the outer life as well as the inner. The search for security in every possible way has been the motive, the driving power of most of our actions. The demand for psychological security overshadows that for physical security and so makes physical security uncertain. This psychological security is the basis of tradition passed on from one generation to another through words, through rituals, beliefs-whether religious, political or sociological. We seldom question the accepted norm, but when we do question we invariably fall into a trap in a new pattern. This has been our way of life: reject one thing and accept another. The new is more enticing and the old is left to the passing generation; but both generations are caught in patterns, in systems. This is the movement of tradition. The very word implies conformity, whether the tradition is modern or ancient. There is no good or bad tradition, there is only tradition, the vain repetition of ritual in all the churches, temples and mosques. They are utterly meaningless, but emotion, sentiment, romanticism, imagination lend them colour and illusion. This is the nature of superstition, and every priest in the world encourages it. This process of indulging in things that have no meaning, or investing in things that have no significance, is a waste of energy, which degenerates the mind. One has to be deeply aware of these facts. That very attention dissolves all illusions.
Then there is habit. There are no good or bad habits, only habit. Habit implies a repetitive action which arises from not being aware. One falls into habits deliberately, or is persuaded through propaganda; or, being afraid, one falls into self-protective reflexes. It is the same with pleasure. Following a routine, however effective or necessary it may be in daily life, generally leads to a mechanical way of living. One can do the same thing at the same hour every day without it becoming a habit, when there is an awareness of what is being done. Attention dispels habit. It is only when there is no attention that habits are formed. You can get up at the same time every morning and you know why you are getting up. This awareness may appear to another as a habit, good or bad, but actually for the one who is aware, is attentive, there is no habit at all. We fall into psychological habits or routine because we think it is the most comfortable way of living. When you observe closely, even with the habits formed in relationships, personal or otherwise, there is a certain quality of indolence, carelessness and disregard. All this gives a false sense of intimacy, security and leads to facile cruelty.
There is danger in every habit, the habit of smoking, repetitive action, in the employment of words, thought or behaviour. This makes the mind utterly insensitive; and the degenerating process is to find some form of illusory security such as a nation, a belief or an ideal and cling to it. All these factors are very destructive to real security. We live in a make-believe world, which has become a reality. To question this illusion is to become either a revolutionary or to embrace permissiveness. Both these are factors of degeneration.
After all, the brain with its extraordinary capacities has been conditioned from generation to generation into accepting this fallacious security, which has now become a deep-rooted habit. To break down this habit, we go through various forms of torture, multiple escapes, or throw ourselves into some idealistic utopia. It is the problem of the educator to investigate, and his creative capacity lies in observing very closely his deep-rooted conditioning and that of the student. This is a mutual process; it is not that you investigate your conditioning first and then inform the other of your discoveries. You explore together and find the truth of the matter. This demands a certain quality of patience; not the patience of time but perseverance, and the diligent care of total responsibility.