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Series I - Chapter 78 - 'Stillness and Will'

Series I - Chapter 78 - 'Stillness and Will'

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Commentaries on Living

THERE WAS HARDLY anyone on the long, curving beach. A few fishermen were going back to their village among the tall palms. As they walked they made thread, rolling the cotton on their naked thighs and winding it on the bobbin; it was a very fine thread, and strong. Some of them walked with ease and grace, and others with dragging feet. They were ill-fed, thin, and burnt dark by the sun. A boy passed by singing, with long, cheerful strides; and the sea came rolling in. There was no strong breeze, but it was a heavy sea, with thunderous waves. The moon, almost full was just rising out of the blue-green water, and the breakers were white against the yellow sands.

How essentially simple life is, and how we complicate it! Life is complex, but we do not know how to be simple with it. Complexity must be approached simply, otherwise we shall never understand it. We know too much, and that is why life eludes us; and the too much is so little. With that little we meet the immense; and how can we measure the immeasurable? Our vanity dulls us, experience and knowledge bind us, and the waters of life pass us by. To sing with that boy, to drag wearily with those fishermen, to spin thread on one's thigh, to be those villagers and that couple in the car - to be all that, not as a trick of identity, needs love. Love is not complex, but the mind makes it so. We are too much with the mind, and the ways of love we do not know. We know the ways of desire and the will of desire, but we do not know love. Love is the flame without the smoke. We are too familiar with the smoke; it fills our heads and heats, and we see darkly. We are not simple with the beauty of the flame; we torture ourselves with it. We do not live with the flame, following swiftly wherever it may lead. We know too much, which is always little, and we make a path for love. Love eludes us, but we have the empty frame. Those who know that they do not know are the simple; they go far, for they have no burden of knowledge.

He was a sannyasi of some repute; he had the saffron robe and the distant look. He was saying that he had renounced the world many years ago and was now approaching the stage when neither this world nor the other world interested him. He had practised many austerities, driven the body hard and fast, and had extraordinary control over his breathing and nervous system. This had given him a great sense of power, though he had not sought it.

Is not this power as detrimental to understanding as the power of ambition and vanity? Greed, like fear, breeds the power of action. All sense of power, of domination, gives strength to the self, to the "me" and the "mine; and is not the self a hindrance to reality? "The lower must be suppressed or made to conform to the higher. Conflict between the various desires of the mind and the body must be stilled; in the process of control, the rider tastes power, but power is used to climb higher or go deeper. Power is harmful only when used for oneself, and not when used to clear the way for the supreme. Will is power, it is the directive; when used for personal ends it is destructive, but when used in the right direction it is beneficial. Without will, there can be no action."

Every leader uses power as a means to an end, and so does the ordinary man; but the leader says that he is using it for the good of the whole, while the everyday man is just out for himself. The goal of the dictator, of the man of power, of the leader, is the same as that of the led; they are similar, one is the expansion of the other; and both are self-projections. We condemn one and praise the other; but are not all goals the outcome of one's own prejudices, inclinations, fears and hopes? You use will, effort, power, to make way for the supreme; that supreme is fashioned out of desire, which is will. Will creates its own goal and sacrifices or suppresses everything to that end. The end is itself, only it is called the supreme, or the State, or the ideology.

"Can conflict come to an end without the power of will?"

Without understanding the ways of conflict and how it comes into being, of what value is it merely to suppress or sublimate conflict, or find a substitute for it? You may be able to suppress a disease, but it is bound to show itself again in another form. Will itself is conflict, it is the outcome of struggle; will is purposive, directed desire. Without comprehending the process of desire, merely to control it is to invite further burning, further pain. Control is evasion. You may control a child or a problem, but you have not thereby understood either. Understanding is of far greater importance than arriving at an end. The action of will is destructive, for action towards an end is self-enclosing, separating, isolating. You cannot silence conflict, desire, for the maker of the effort is himself the product of conflict, of desire. The thinker and his thoughts are the outcome of desire; and without understanding desire, which is the self placed at any level, high or low, the mind is ever caught in ignorance. The way to the supreme does not lie through will, through desire. The supreme can come into being only when the maker of effort is not. It is will that breeds conflict, the desire to become or to make way for the supreme. When the mind which is put together through desire comes to an end, not through effort, then in that stillness, which is not a goal, reality comes into being.

"But is not simplicity essential for that stillness?"

What do you mean by simplicity? Do you mean identification with simplicity, or being simple? "You cannot be simple without identifying yourself with that which is simple, externally as well as inwardly."

You become simple, is that it? You are complex, but you become simple through identification, through identifying yourself with the peasant or with the monk's robe. I am this, and I become that. But does this process of becoming lead to simplicity, or merely to the idea of simplicity? Identification with an idea called the simple is not simplicity, is it? Am I simple because I keep on asserting that I am simple, or keep on identifying myself with the pattern of simplicity? Simplicity lies in the understanding of what is, not in trying to change what is into simplicity. Can you change what is into something it is not? Can greed, whether for God, money or drink, ever become non-greed? What we identify ourselves with is always the self-projected, whether it is the supreme, the State or the family. Identification at any level is the process of the self.

Simplicity is the understanding of what is, however complex it may appear. The what is is not difficult to understand, but what prevents understanding is the distraction of comparison, of condemnation, of prejudice, whether negative or positive, and so on. It is these that make for complexity. What is is never complex in itself, it is always simple. What you are is simple to understand, but it is made complex by your approach to it; so there must be an understanding of the whole process of approach, which makes for complexity. If you do not condemn the child, then he is what he is and it is possible to act. The action of condemnation leads to complexity; the action of what is is simplicity.

Nothing is essential for stillness but stillness itself; it is its own beginning and its own end. No essential bring it about, for it is. No means can ever lead to stillness. It is only when stillness is something to be gained, achieved, that the means become essential. If stillness is to be bought, then the coin becomes important; but the coin, and that which it purchases, are not stillness. Means are noisy, violent, or subtly acquisitive, and the end is of like nature, for the end is in the means. If the beginning is silence, the end is also silence. There are no means to silence; silence is when noise is not. Noise does not come to an end through the further noise of effort, of discipline, of austerities, of will. See the truth of this, and there is silence.