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Series I - Chapter 65 - 'Occupation of the Mind'

Series I - Chapter 65 - 'Occupation of the Mind'

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Commentaries on Living

IT WAS A narrow street, fairly crowded, but without too much traffic. When a bus or a car passed, one had to go to the very edge, almost into the gutter. There were a few very small shops, and a small temple without doors. This temple was exceptionally clean, and the local people were there, though not in large numbers. At the side of one of the shops a boy was sitting on the ground making garlands and small bouquets of flowers; he must have been twelve or fourteen. The thread was in a small jar of water, and in front of him, spread in little heaps on a damp cloth, were jasmine, a few roses, marigold and other flowers. With the string in one hand he would pick up with the other an assortment of flowers, and with a quick, deft twist of the string they would be tied and a bouquet would be made. He was paying hardly any attention to what his hands were doing; his eyes would wander over to the passing people, smile in recognition of someone, come back to his hands, and wander off again. presently he was joined by another boy, and they began talking and laughing, but his hands never left off their task. By now there was quite a pile of tied flowers, but it was a little too early to sell them. The boy stopped, got up and went off, but soon returned with another boy smaller than himself, perhaps his brother. Then he resumed his pleasant work with the same ease and rapidity. Now people were coming to buy, one by one or in groups. They must have been his regular customers, for there were smiles, and a few words were exchanged. From then on he never moved from his place for over an hour. There was the fragrance of many flowers, and we smiled at each other.

The road led to a path, and the path to the house.

How we are bound to the past! But we are not bound to the past: we are the past. And what a complicated thing the past is, layer upon layer of undigested memories, both cherished and sorrowful. It pursues us day and night, and occasionally there is a breakthrough, revealing a clear light. The past is like a shadow, making things dull and weary; in that shadow, the present loses its clarity, its freshness, and tomorrow is the continuation of the shadow. The past, the present and the future are tied together by the long string of memory; the whole bundle is memory, with little fragrance. Thought moves through the present to the future and back again; like a restless animal tied to a post, it moves within its own radius, narrow or wide, but it is never free of its own shadow. This movement is the occupation of the mind with the past, the present and the future. The mind is the occupation. If the mind is not occupied, it ceases to exist; its very occupation is its existence. The occupation with insult and flattery, with God and drink, with virtue and passion, with work and expression, with storing up and giving, is all the same; it is still occupation, worry, restlessness. To be occupied with something, whether with furniture or God, is a state of pettiness, shallowness.

Occupation gives to the mind a feeling of activity, of being alive. That is why the mind stores up, or renounces; it sustains itself with occupation. The mind must be busy with something. What it is busy with is of little importance; the important thing is that it be occupied, and the better occupations have social significance. To be occupied with something is the nature of the mind, and its activity springs from this. To be occupied with God, with the State, with knowledge, is the activity of a petty mind. Occupation with something implies limitation, and the God of the mind is a petty god, however high it may place him. Without occupation, the mind is not; and the fear of not being makes the mind restless and active. This restless activity has the appearance of life, but it is not life; it leads always to death - a death which is the same activity in another form.

The dream is another occupation of the mind, a symbol of its restlessness. Dreaming is the continuation of the conscious state, the extension of what is not active during the waking hours. The activity of both the upper and the deeper mind is occupational. Such a mind can be aware of an end only as a continued beginning; it can never be aware of ending, but only of a result, and result is ever continuous. The search for a result is the search for continuity. The mind, the occupation, has no ending; and only to that which ends can there be the new, only to that which dies can there be life. The death of occupation, of the mind, is the beginning of silence, of total silence. There is no relationship between this imponderable silence and the activity of the mind. To have relationship, there must be contact, communion; but there is no contact between silence and the mind. The mind cannot commune with silence; it can have contact only with its own self-projected state which it calls silence. But this silence is not silence, it is merely another form of occupation. Occupation is not silence. There is silence only with the death of the mind's occupation with silence.

Silence is beyond the dream, beyond the occupation of the deeper mind. The deeper mind is a residue, the residue of the past, open or hidden. This residual past cannot experience silence; it can dream about it, as it often does, but the dream is not the real. The dream is often taken for the real, but the dream and the dreamer are the occupation of the mind. The mind is a total process, and not an exclusive part. The total process of activity, residual and acquiring, cannot commune with that silence which is inexhaustible.