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Series I - Chapter 38 - 'Continuity'
THE MAN IN the opposite seat began by introducing himself, as he wanted to ask several questions. He said that he had read practically every serious book on death and the hereafter, books from ancient times as well as the modern ones. He had been a member of the Psychical Research Society, had attended many séances with excellent and reputable mediums, and had seen many manifestations which were in no way faked. Because he had gone into this question so seriously, on several occasions he himself had seen things of a super-physical nature; but of course, he added, they might have been born of his imagination, though he considers that they were not. However, in spite of the fact that he had read extensively, had talked to many people who were well informed, and had seen undeniable manifestations of those who were dead, he was still not satisfied that he had understood the truth of the matter. He had seriously debated the problem of belief and not-belief; he had friends among those who firmly believed in one's continuity after death, and also among those who denied the whole thing and held that life ended with the death of the physical body. Though he had acquired considerable knowledge and experience in physic matters, there remained in his mind an element of doubt; and as he was getting on in year she wanted to know the truth. He was not afraid of death, but the truth about it must be known.
The train had come to a stop, and just then a two-wheeled carriage was passing, drawn by a horse. On the carriage was a human corpse, wrapped in an unbleached cloth and tied to two long green bamboo poles, freshly cut. From some village it was being taken to the river to be burnt. As the carriage moved over the rough road, the body was being brutally shaken, and under its clothes the head was obviously getting the worst of it. There was only one passenger in the carriage besides the river; he must have been a near relative, for his eyes were red with much crying. The sky was the delicate blue of early spring, and children were playing and shouting in the dirt if the road. Death must have been a common sight, for everyone went of with what they were doing. Even the inquirer into death did not see the carriage and its burden.
Belief conditions experience, and experience then strengthens belief. What you belief, you experience. The mind dictates and interprets experience, invites or rejects it. The mind itself is the result of experience, and it can recognize or experience only that with witch it is familiar, which it knows, at whatever level. The mind cannot experience what is not already known. The mind and its response are of greater significance then the experience; and to rely on experience as a means of understanding truth is to be caught in ignorance and illusion. To desire to experience truth is to deny truth; for desire conditions, and belief is another cloak of desire. Knowledge, belief, conviction, conclusion and experience are hindrances to truth; they are the very structure of the self. The self cannot be if there is no cumulative effect of experience; and the fear of death is the fear of not being, of not experiencing. If there were the assurance, the certainty of experiencing, there would be no fear. Fear exists only in the relationship between the known and the unknown. The known is ever trying to capture the unknown; but it can capture only that which is already known. The unknown can never be experienced by the known; the known, the experienced must cease for the unknown to be.
The desire to experience truth must be searched out and understood; but if there is motive in the search, then truth does not come into being. Can there be search without a motive, conscious or unconscious? With a motive, is there search? If you already know what you want, if you have formulated an end, then search is a means to achieve that end, which is self-projected. Then search is for gratification, not for truth; and the means will be chosen according to the gratification. The understanding of what is needs no motive; the motive and the means prevent understanding. Search, which is choiceless awareness, is not for something; it is to be aware of the craving for an end and of the means to it. This choiceless awareness brings an understanding of what is.
It is odd how we crave for permanency, for continuity. This desire takes many forms, from the crudest to the most subtle. With the obvious forms we are well acquainted: name, shape, character, and so on. But the subtler craving is much more difficult to uncover and understand. Identity as idea, as being, as knowledge, as becoming, at whatever level, is difficult to perceive and bring to light. We only know continuity, and never non-continuity. We know the continuity of experience, of memory, of incidents, but we do not know that state in which this continuity is not. We call it death, the unknown, the mysterious, and so on, and through naming it we hope somehow to capture it - which again is the desire for continuity.
Self-consciousness is experience, the naming of experience, and so the recording of it; and this process is going on at various depths of the mind. We cling to this process of self-consciousness in spite of its passing joys, its unending conflict, confusion and misery. This is what we know; this is our existence, the continuity of our very being, the idea, the memory, the word. The idea continues, all or part of it, the idea that makes up the "me; but does this continuity bring about freedom, in which alone there is discovery and renewal?
What has continuity can never be other than that which it is, with certain modifications; but these modifications do not give it a newness. It may take on a different cloak, a different colour; but it is still the idea, the memory, the word. This centre of continuity is not a spiritual essence, for it is still within the field of thought, of memory, and so of time. It can experience only its own projection, and through its self-projected experience it gives itself further continuity. Thus, as long as it exists, it can never experience beyond itself. It must die; it must cease to give itself continuity through idea, through memory, through word. Continuity is decay, and there is life only in death. There is renewal only with the cessation of the centre; then rebirth is not continuity; then death is as life, a renewal from moment to moment. This renewal is creation.