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Part II - Chapter 7 - Conversation with parents and teachers

Part II - Chapter 7 - Conversation with parents and teachers

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Beginnings of Learning

YOU LEAVE THE sea behind and go inland. This sea always seemed to be rough with huge waves. It is not blue but rather dark brown with strong currents. It looked like a dangerous sea. A river flowed into it in the rainy season, but after the monsoon the sea washed up so much sand that the little river was closed in. You left it and went inland passing many villages, bullock carts and three of the most sacred temples, and after a long while, crossing many hills you entered the valley and felt again its peculiar fascination.

The search for truth is such a false affair, as though by searching for it, asking others the way to it, reading about it in books, trying this or that system, you will be able to find it. To find it is if it were something there, fixed, motionless, and all you need do is recognise it, grasp it, and say you have found it.

It isn't far away: there is no path to it. It is not something you can capture, hold, treasure and verbally convey to another. Search implies a seeker and in that there is division, the everlasting fragmentation that man has made within himself and in all his activities. It is not that there must be an end to seeking but rather the beginning of learning. Learning is far more important than finding. To find one must have lost. Losing and recognising is the pattern of search. One cannot experience truth. It does not give the satisfaction of achievement. It does not give one anything at all. It cannot be understood if the 'you' is still active.

No one can teach you about it so you need not follow anybody. All that one can do is to understand by careful observation the intricate movement of thought: how thought divides itself, how it creates its own opposites and thereby brings contradiction and conflict. Thought is so restless and in its restlessness it will attach itself to anything it thinks is essential, permanent, completely satisfying, and truth becomes its final attachment of satisfaction. You can never invite truth by any means. It is not an end; but it is there when the visual observation is very clear and when there is the perception of understanding. Understanding can take place only when there is complete freedom from all one's conditioning. It is this conditioning that is prejudice. So do not bother about truth but rather let the mind be aware of its own prison. Freedom is not in the prison. The beauty of emptiness is freedom.

On the same veranda, with the scent of the jasmine and the red flower of the tall tree, there was a group of boys and girls. They had shining faces and seemed extraordinarily cheerful. One of them asked, "Sir, do you ever get hurt?"

You mean physically? "Not quite, Sir. I don't know how to put it into words, but you feel inside that people can harm you, wound you, make you feel miserable. Someone says something and you shrink away. This is what I mean by hurt. We are all hurting each other in this way. Some do it deliberately, others without knowing it. Why do we get hurt? It is so unpleasant."

Physical hurt is one thing and the other is much more complex. If you are physically hurt, you know what to do. You go to the doctor and he will do something about it. But if the memory of that hurt remains, then you are always nervous and apprehensive and this builds up a form of fear. There remains the memory of the past hurt which you don't want repeated. This is fairly understandable and can either become neurotic or be sanely dealt with without too much bother. But the other inward hurt needs very careful examination. One has to learn a great deal about it.

First of all, why do we get hurt at all? From childhood this seems to be a major factor in our lives: not to be hurt, not to be wounded by another, by a word, by a gesture, by a look, by any experience. Why do we get hurt? Is it because we are sensitive, or is it because we have an image of ourselves which must be protected, which we feel is important for our very existence, an image without which we feel lost, confused? There are these two things: the image and sensitivity. Do you understand what we mean by being sensitive, both physically and inwardly? If you are sensitive and rather shy, you withdraw into yourself, build a wall around yourself in order not to be hurt. You do this, don't you? Once you have been hurt by a word or by a criticism, and that has wounded you, you proceed to build a wall of resistance. You don't want to be hurt any more. You may have an image, an idea about yourself, that you are important, that you are clever, that your family is better than other families, that you play games better than somebody else. You have this image about yourself, don't you? And when the importance of that image is questioned or shaken or broken into fragments, you feel very hurt. There is self-pity, anxiety, fear. And the next time you build a stronger image, more affirmative, aggressive and so on. You see that nobody disturbs you, which again is building a wall against any encroachment. So the fact is that both the one who is sensitive and the image-maker bring about the walls of resistance. Do you know what happens when you build a wall around yourself? It is like building a very high wall around your house. You don't see your neighbours, you don't get enough sunlight, you live in a very small space with all the members of your family. And not having enough space, you begin to get on each other's nerves, you quarrel, become violent, wanting to get away and revolt. And if you have enough money and enough energy you build another house for yourself with another wall around it and so it goes on. Resistance implies lack of space and it is one of the factors of violence.

"But," asked one of them, "mustn't one protect oneself?"

Against what? Naturally you must protect yourself against disease, against the rains and the sun; but when you say mustn't one protect oneself, are you not asking to build a wall against being hurt? It may be your brother or your mother against whom you build the wall, thinking to protect yourself, but ultimately this leads to your own destruction and the destruction of light and space. "But," asked one of the girls with studious eyes and long plaited hair, "what am I to do when I am hurt? I know I'm hurt. I get hurt so often. What am I to do? You say I mustn't build a wall of resistance but I can't live with so many wounds."

Do you understand, if one may ask, why you are hurt? And also when you get hurt? Do look at that leaf or that flower. It is very delicate and the beauty of it is in its very delicacy. It is terribly vulnerable and yet it lives. And you who so often are wounded, have you asked when and why you get hurt? Why do you get hurt - when somebody says something you don't like, when somebody is aggressive, violent towards you. Then why are you hurt? If you get hurt and build a wall around yourself, which is to withdraw, then you live in a very small space within yourself. In that small space there is no light or freedom and you will get more and more hurt. So the question is, can you live freely and happily without being hurt, without building walls of resistance. This is the important question, isn't it? Not how to strengthen the walls or what to do when you have a wall round your little space. So there are two things involved in this: the memory of the hurt and the prevention of future hurts. If that memory continues and you add to it fresh memories of hurts, then your wall becomes stronger and higher, the space and the light become smaller and duller, and there is great misery, mounting self-pity and bitterness. If you see very clearly the danger of it, the uselessness, the pity of it, then the past memories will wither away. But you must see it as you would see the danger of a cobra. Then you know it is a deadly danger and you go nowhere near it. In the same way do you see the danger of past memories with their hurts, with their walls of self-defence? Do you actually see it as you see that flower? If you do then it inevitably disappears.

So you know what to do with past hurts. Then how will you prevent future hurts? Not by building walls. That is clear, isn't it? If you do, you will get more and more hurt. Please listen to this question carefully. Knowing that you may be hurt, how will you prevent this hurt taking place? If somebody tells you that you are not clever or beautiful, you get hurt, or angry, which is another form of resistance. Now what can you do? You saw very clearly how the past hurts go away without any effort; you saw because you listened and gave your attention. Now when someone says something unpleasant to you, be attentive; listen very carefully. Attention will prevent the mark of hurt. Do you understand what we mean by attention?

"You mean, Sir, concentration, don't you?"

Not quite. Concentration is a form of resistance, is a form of exclusion, a shutting out, a retreat. But attention is something quite different. In concentration there is a centre from which the action of observation takes place. Where there is a centre, the radius of its observation is very limited. Where there is no centre, observation is vast, clear. This is attention.

"I'm afraid we don't understand this at all, Sir."

Look out at those hills, see the light on them, see those trees, hear the bullock cart going by; see the yellow leaves, the dried river bed, and that crow sitting on the branch. Look at all of this. If you look from a centre, with its prejudice, with its fear, with its like and dislike, then you don't see the vast expanse of this earth. Then your eyes are clouded, then you become myopic and your eyesight becomes twisted. Can you look at all this, the beauty of the valley, the sky, without a centre? Then that is attention. Then listen with attention and without the centre, to another's criticism, insult, anger, prejudice. Because there is no centre in that attention there is no possibility of being hurt. But where there is a centre there is inevitable hurt. Then life becomes one scream of fear.