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Chapter 17 - Can the senses be supremely active without desire coming in?
School is where one learns not only the knowledge required for daily life but also the art of living with all its complexities and subtleties. We seem to forget this, and become totally caught up in the superficiality of knowledge. Knowledge is always superficial. Learning the art of living is not considered to be necessary; living is not considered to be an art.
When one leaves school, one stops learning, and continues to live on that which one has accumulated as knowledge. We never consider that life is a whole process of learning. As one observes life, daily living is a constant change and movement, and one's mind is not quick and sensitive enough to follow its subtleties. One comes to it with ready-made reactions and fixations. Can this be prevented in these schools? This does not mean that one must have an open mind. Generally the open mind is like a sieve retaining little or nothing. It is a mind that is capable of quick perception and action that is necessary. That is why we went into the subject of insight with its immediacy of action. Insight does not leave the scar of memory. Generally, experience, as it is understood, leaves its residue as memory, and from this residue one acts. The action strengthens the residue, and so action becomes mechanical. Insight is not a mechanical activity.
Without strengthening the residue that is memory, can it be taught in the school that daily life is a constant process of learning and action in relationship? With most of us the scar of residue becomes all-important, and we lose the swift current of life.
Both the student and the educator live in a state of confusion and disorder outwardly and inwardly. One may not be aware of this fact; if one is, one quickly puts order into outward things, but one is rarely aware of inner confusion and disorder.
God is disorder. Consider the innumerable gods that man has invented, or the one god, the one saviour, and observe the confusion this has created in the world, the wars it has brought about, the innumerable divisions, the separating beliefs, symbols and images. Isn't this confusion and disorder? We have become accustomed to this; we accept it readily, for our life is so wearisome with boredom and pain that we seek comfort in the gods that thought has conjured up. This has been our way of life for thousands of years. Every civilization has invented gods, and they have been the source of great tyranny, wars and destruction. Their buildings may be extraordinarily beautiful, but inside there is darkness and the source of confusion.
Can one put aside these gods? One must if one is to consider why the human mind accepts disorder politically, religiously and economically and lives in it. What is the source of this disorder-the actuality of it, not the theological reason? Can one put aside the concepts of disorder and be free to inquire into the actual daily source of our disorder- not into what order is but disorder? We can find out what absolute order is only when we have thoroughly investigated disorder and its source. We are so eager to find out what order is, so impatient with disorder, that we are apt to suppress it, thinking thereby to bring about order. Here we are asking not only if there can be absolute order in our daily life, but also whether confusion can end. So our first concern is with disorder and its source. Is it thought? Is it contradictory desires? Is it fear and the search for security? Is it the constant demand for pleasure? Is thought one of the sources or the main reason for the disorder?
It is not merely the writer but you asking these questions. Please bear this in mind all the time. You must discover the source, not be told the source and then repeat that.
Thought, as we have pointed out, is finite, limited; and whatever is limited, however wide its activities may be, inevitably brings confusion. That which is limited is divisive and therefore destructive and confusing. We have gone sufficiently into the nature and structure of thought. To have an insight into the nature of thought is to give it its right place so that it loses its overpowering domination.
Is desire and the changing objects of desire one of the causes of our disorder? To suppress desire is to suppress all sensation, which is to paralyse the mind. We think this is the easy and quick way to end desire, but one cannot suppress it; it is much too strong, much too subtle. You cannot grasp it in your hand and twist it according to your wish, which is another desire. We have talked about desire in a previous letter. Desire can never be suppressed or transmuted or corrupted as right and wrong desire; whatever you do about it, it remains always sensation and desire,. Desire for enlightenment and desire for money are the same, though the objects vary.
Can one live without desire? Or to put it differently, can the senses be supremely active without desire coming in? There are both psychological and physical sensory activities. The body seeks warmth, food, sex; there is physical pain and so on. These sensations are natural, but when they enter into the psychological field, the trouble begins. Therein lies our confusion. It is important to understand this, especially when we are young, and to observe the physical sensations without suppression or exaggeration; to be alert, watchful that they do not seep into the psychological inner realm where they do not belong.
That is our difficulty; the whole process happens so quickly because we do not see this, have not understood it, have never really examined what actually takes place. There is immediate sensory response to challenge. This response is natural and is not under the domination of thought, of desire. Our difficulty begins when these sensory responses enter into the psychological realm. The challenge may be a woman or man or something pleasant, appetizing, or a lovely garden. The response to this is sensation, and when this sensation enters the psychological field, desire begins and thought with its images seeks the fulfilment of desire.
Our question is how to prevent the natural physical responses from entering into the psychological. Is this possible? It is possible only when you observe the nature of the challenge with great attention and carefully watch your responses. This total attention will prevent the physical responses from entering into the inner psyche.
We are concerned with desire and the understanding of it, not the brutalizing factor of suppressing, avoiding or sublimating. You cannot live without desire. When you are hungry you need food. But to understand, which is to investigate the whole activity of desire, is to give it its right place. Then it will not be a source of disorder in our daily life.