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Series I - Chapter 59 - “How am I to Love?”

Series I - Chapter 59 - “How am I to Love?”

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Commentaries on Living

WE WERE HIGH up on the side of a mountain overlooking the valley, and the large stream was a silver ribbon in the sun. Here and there the sun came through the thick foliage, and there was the scent of many flowers. It was a delicious morning, and the dew was still heavy on the ground. The scented breeze was coming across the valley, bringing the distant noise of people, the sound of bells and of an occasional water-horn. In the valley the smoke was going straight up, and the breeze was not strong enough to disperse it. The column of smoke was a lovely thing to watch; it rose from the bottom of the valley and tried to reach up to the very heavens, like that ancient pine. A large black squirrel which had been scolding us gave it up at last and came down the tree to investigate further, and then, partially satisfied, went bounding away. A tiny cloud was forming, but otherwise the sky was clear, a soft, pale blue.

He had no eyes for all this. He was consumed with his immediate problem, as he had been consumed with his problems before. The problems moved and had their being around himself. He was a very rich man; he was lean and hard, but had an easy air with a ready smile. He was now looking across the valley, but the quickening beauty had not touched him; there was no softening of the face, the lines were still hard and determined.

He was still hunting, not for money, but for what he called God. He was forever talking about love and God. He had hunted far and wide, and had been to many teachers; and as he was getting on in years, the hunt was becoming more keen. He had come several times to talk over these matters, but there was always a look of cunning and calculation; he was constantly weighing how much it would cost to find his God, how expensive the journey would be. He knew that he could not take with him what he had; but could he take something else, a coin that had value where he was going? He was a hard man, and there was never a gesture of generosity either of the heart or of the hand. He was always very hesitant to give the little extra; he felt everyone must be worthy of his reward, as he had been worthy. But he was there that morning to further expose himself; for there was trouble brewing, serious disturbances were taking place in his otherwise successful life. The goddess of success was not with him altogether.

“I am beginning to realize what I am,” he said. “I have these many years subtly opposed and resisted you. You talk against the rich, you say hard things about us, and I have been angry with you; but I have been unable to hit you back, for I cannot get at you. I have tried in different ways, but I cannot lay my hands on you. But what do you want me to do? I wish to God I had never listened to you or come anywhere near you. I now have sleepless nights, and I always slept so well before; I have torturing dreams, and I rarely used to dream at all. I have been afraid of you, I have silently cursed you – but I cannot go back. What am I to do? I have no friends, as you pointed out, nor can I buy them as I used to – I am too exposed by what has happened. perhaps I can be your friend. You have offered help, and here I am. What am I to do?”

To be exposed is not easy; and has one exposed oneself? Has one opened that cupboard which one has so carefully locked, stuffing into it the things which one does not want to see? Does one want to open it and see what is there? “I do, but how am I to go about it?”

Does one really want to, or is one merely playing with the intention? Once open, however little, it cannot be closed again. The door will always remain open; day and night, its contents will be spilling out. One may try to run away, as one always does; but it will be there, waiting and watching. Does one really want to open it?

“Of course I do, that is why I have come. I must face it, for I am coming to the end of things. What am I to do?”

Open and look. To accumulate wealth one must injure, be cruel, ungenerous; there must be ruthlessness, cunning calculation, dishonesty; there must be the search for power, that egocentric action which is merely covered over by such pleasant-sounding words as responsibility, duty, efficiency, rights. “Yes, that is all true, and more. There has been no consideration of anyone; the religious pursuits have been mere cloaks of respectability. Now that I look at it, I see that everything revolved around me. I was the centre, though I pretended not to be. I see all that. But what am I to do?”

First one must recognize things for what they are. But beyond all this, how can one wipe these things away if there is no affection, no love, that flame without smoke? It is this flame alone that will wipe away the contents of the cupboard, and nothing else; no analysis, no sacrifice, no renunciation can do it. When there is this flame, then it will no longer be a sacrifice, a renunciation; then you will meet the storm without waiting for it.

“But how am I to love? I know I have no warmth for people; I have been ruthless, and they are not with me who should be with me. I am utterly alone, and how am I to know love? I am not a fool to think that I can get it by some conscious act, buy it through some sacrifice, some denial. I know I have never loved, and I see that if I had, I would not be in this situation. What am I to do? Should I give up my properties, my wealth?”

If you find the garden that you have so carefully cultivated has produced only poisonous weeds, you have to tear them out by the roots; you have to pull down the walls that have sheltered them. You may or may not do it, for you have extensive gardens, cunningly walled-in and well-guarded. You will do it only when there is no bartering; but it must be done, for to die rich is to have lived in vain. But beyond all this, there must be the flame that cleanses the mind and the heart, making all things new. That flame is not of the mind, it is not a thing to be cultivated. The show of kindliness can be made to shine, but it is not the flame; the activity called service, though beneficial and necessary, is not love; the much-practised and disciplined tolerance, the cultivated compassion of the church and temple, the gentle speech, the soft manner, the worship of the saviour, of the image, of the ideal – none of this is love.

“I have listened and observed, and I am aware that there is no love in any of these things. But my heart is empty, and how is it to be filled? What am I to do?”

Attachment denies love. Love is not to be found in suffering; though jealousy is strong, it cannot bind love. Sensation and its gratification is ever coming to an end; but love is inexhaustible. “These are mere words to me. I am starving: feed me.”

To be fed, there must be hunger. If you are hungry, you will find food. Are you hungry, or merely greedy for the taste of some other food? If you are greedy, you will find that which will gratify; but it will soon come to an end, and it will not be love.

“But what am I to do?”

You keep on repeating that question. What you are to do is not important; but it is essential to be aware of what you are doing. You are concerned with future action, and that is one way of avoiding immediate action. You do not want to act, and so you keep on asking what you are to do. You are again being cunning, deceiving yourself, and so your heart is empty. You want to fill it with the things of the mind; but love is not of the mind. Let your heart be empty. Do not fill it with words, with the actions of the mind. Let your heart be wholly empty; then only will it be filled.