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Chapter 56 - Revolt against the past brings only another conformity
One of the most important things that all of us have to understand is the tremendous weight of tradition, especially in this country [India] where it is looked upon as a most sacred thing. The word tradition means to surrender, to deliver. When one surrenders oneself to the past, the mind is shaped or conditioned by that which has been. The past then becomes tremendously important, in contrast, in opposition, to the present.
The past is cultivated through rituals, through the so-called sacred books, through religious propaganda. This conditions the mind and so limits it. In that limitation the traditionalist seeks freedom. This is like a prisoner who extends the walls of his prison; he is still in prison however large the yard he walks in. These customs that have been so carefully cultivated by past generations are handed down through the family, through literature, through environmental influences; what matters is not the culture of the mind, but rather to control the mind by patterns established in the past, which it is hoped will bring about order. That is the purpose of tradition.
Against this weight of tradition all the young generations, from Socrates down, have rebelled-the hippies, the beatniks and others, with their uniforms of long hair, beards and so on. This revolt against the past brings about only another type of conformity, and it indicates, doesn't it, a great protest against the established order of things and against the past generation which is responsible for wars, for the disorders in society, for the division of mankind into nationalities and religious groups?
Freedom from the past is not revolt against the past, but rather the understanding of how the past-tradition, custom-has shaped our minds and hearts. In studying this conditioning, which is critical awareness of oneself, in seeing oneself as a prisoner in this world of great sorrow which one has created, comes freedom. Without this freedom you cannot possibly act in the present. The active present is the only action.
Either you are going to repudiate the past completely or you are going to be swallowed up by society, which is to surrender to society, to deliver yourself over to society, with its traditions, with its wars and so on. That is, you will become the established order for your children, who will revolt against you if they are at all intelligent. The revolt of the young has been going on for thousands of years. Each generation destroys the young through wrong education and ideologies that have no value at all. To break this chain is the major purpose of education, not just to cultivate a strong memory which will function to help earn a livelihood. right education is to help the student not merely to pass examinations in technical subjects, but to understand the whole field of existence, which is your life. Not only the educator but also the student must demand this kind of education; and through questioning, through discussions, through the general assembly of the school in which the relationship between the educator and the student is not one of authority, they must see that this education is maintained.
In tradition no goodness can flower, and the continuity of tradition is not goodness.