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Series III - Chapter 2 - 'Self-Knowledge Or Self-Hypnosis?'

Series III - Chapter 2 - 'Self-Knowledge Or Self-Hypnosis?'

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Commentaries on Living

IT HAD RAINED all night and most of the morning, and now the sun was going down behind dark, heavy clouds. There was no colour in the sky, but the perfume of the rain-soaked earth filled the air. The frogs had croaked all night long with persistency and rhythm, but with the dawn they became silent. The tree trunks were dark with the long rain, and the leaves washed clean of the summer's dust, would be rich and green again in a few more days. The lawns too would be greener, the bushes would soon be flowering, and there would be rejoicing. How welcome was the rain after the hot, dusty days! The mountains beyond the hills seemed not too far away and the breeze blowing from them was cool and pure. There would be more work, more food, and starvation would be a thing of the past.

One of those large brown eagles was making wide circles in the sky, floating on the breeze without a beat of its wings. Hundreds of people on bicycles were going home after a long day in the office. A few talked as they rode, but most of them were silent and evidently tired out. A large group had stopped, with their bicycles resting against their bodies, and were animatedly discussing some issue, while nearby a policeman wearily watched them, On the corner a big new building was going up. The road was full of brown puddles, and the passing cars splashed one with dirty water which left dark marks on one's clothing. A cyclist stopped, bought from a vendor one cigarette, and was on his way again.

A boy came along carrying on his head an old kerosene tin, half-filled with some liquid. He must have been working around that new building which was under construction. He had bright eyes and an extraordinarily cheerful face; he was thin but strongly built, and his skin was very dark, burnt by the sun. He wore a shirt and a loincloth, both the colour of the earth brown with long usage. His head was well-shaped, and there was a certain arrogance in his walk - a boy doing a man's work. As he left the crowd behind he began to sing, and suddenly the whole atmosphere changed. His voice was ordinary, a boyish voice, lusty and raucous; but the song had rhythm, and he would probably have kept time with his hands, had not one hand been holding the kerosene tin on top of his head. He was aware that someone was walking behind him, but was too cheerful to be shy, and he was obviously not in any way concerned with the peculiar change that had come about in the atmosphere. There was a blessing in the air, a love that covered everything, a gentleness that was simple, without calculation, a goodness that was ever flowering.

Abruptly the boy stopped singing and turned towards a dilapidated hut that stood some distance back from the road. It would soon be raining again.

The visitor said he had held a government position that was good as far as it went, and as he had had a first-class education both at home and abroad, he could have climbed quite high. He was married, he said, and had a couple of children. Life was fairly enjoyable, for success was assured; he owned the house they were living in, and he had put aside money for the education of his children. He knew Sanskrit, and was familiar with the religious tradition. Things were going along pleasantly enough, he said; but one morning he awoke very early, had his bath, and sat down for meditation before his family or the neighbours were up. Though he had had a restful sleep, he couldn't meditate; and suddenly he felt an overwhelming urge to spend the rest of his life in meditation. There was no hesitancy or doubt about it; he would devote his remaining years to finding whatever there was to be found through meditation, and he told his wife, and his two boys, who were at college, that he was going to become a sannyasi. His colleagues were surprised by his decision, but accepted his resignation; and in a few days he had left his home, never to return.

That was twenty-five years ago, he went on. He disciplined himself rigorously, but he found it difficult after a life of ease, and it took him a long time to master completely his thoughts and the passions that were in him. Finally, however, he began to have visions of the Buddha, of Christ and Krishna visions whose beauty was enthralling, and for days he would live as if in a trance, ever widening the boundaries of his mind and heart, utterly absorbed in that love which is devotion to the Supreme. Everything about him - the villagers, the animals, the trees, the grass - was intensely alive, brilliant in its vitality and loveliness. It had taken him all these years to touch the hem of the Infinite, he said, and it was amazing that he had survived it all.

"I have a number of disciples and followers, as is inevitable in this country," he went on "and one of them suggested to me that I attend a talk which was to be given by you in this town, where I happened to be for a few days. More to please him than to listen to the speaker, I went to the talk, and I was greatly impressed by what was said in reply to a question on meditation. It was stated that without self-knowledge, which in itself is meditation all meditation is a process of self-hypnosis, a projection of one's own thought and desire. I have been thinking about all this, and have now come to talk things over with you.

"I see that what you say is perfectly true, and it's a great shock to me to perceive that I have been caught in the images or projections of my own mind. I now realize very profoundly what my meditation has been. For twenty-five years I have been held in a beautiful garden of my own making; the personages, the visions were the outcome of my particular culture and of the things I have desired, studied and absorbed. I now understand the significance of what I have been doing, and I am more than appalled at having wasted so many precious years."

We remained silent for some time. "What am I to do now?" he presently continued. "Is there any way out of the prison I have built for myself? I can see that what I have come to in my meditation is a dead-end, though only a few days ago it seemed so full of glorious significance. However much I would like to, I can't go back to all that self-delusion and self-stimulation. I want to tear through these veils of illusion and come upon that which is not put together by the mind. You have no idea what I have been through during the last two days! The structure which I had so carefully and painfully built up over a period of twenty-five years has no meaning any more, and it seems to me that I shall have to start all over again. From where am I to start?"

May it not be that there is no restarting at all, but only the perception of the false as the false which is the beginning of understanding? If one were to start again, one might be caught in another illusion, perhaps in a different manner. What blinds us is the desire to achieve an end, a result; but if we perceived that the result we desire is still within the self-centred field, then there would be no thought of achievement. Seeing the false as the false, and the true as the true, is wisdom.

"But do I really see that what I have been doing for the last twenty-five years is false? Am I aware of all the implications of what I have regarded as meditation?"

The craving for experience is the beginning of illusion. As you now realize, your visions were but the projections of your background, of your conditioning, and it is these projections that you have experienced. Surely this is not meditation. The beginning of meditation is the understanding of the background, of the self, and without this understanding, what is called meditation, however pleasurable or painful, is merely a form of self-hypnosis. You have practised self-control, mastered thought, and concentrated on the furthering of experience. This is a self-centred occupation, it is not meditation; and to perceive that it is not meditation is the beginning of meditation. To see the truth in the false sets the mind free from the false. Freedom from the false does not come about through the desire to achieve it; it comes when the mind is no longer concerned with success with the attainment of an end. There must be the cessation of all search, and only then is there a possibility of the coming into being of that which is nameless.

"I do not want to deceive myself again."

Self-deception exists when there is any form of craving or attachment: attachment to a prejudice, to an experience, to a system of thought. Consciously or unconsciously, the experiencer is always seeking greater, deeper, wider experience; and as long as the experiencer exists, there must be delusion in one form or another. "All this involves time and patience, doesn't it?"

Time and patience may be necessary for the achievement of a goal. An ambitious man, worldly or otherwise, needs time to gain his end. Mind is the product of time, as all thought is its result; and thought working to free itself from time only strengthens its enslavement to time. Time exists only when there is a psychological gap between what is and what should be, which is called the ideal, the end. To be aware of the falseness of this whole manner of thinking is to be free from it - which does not demand any effort, any practice. Understanding is immediate, it is not of time.

"The meditation I have indulged in can have meaning only when it is seen to be false, and I think I see it to be false. But..."

Please don't ask the inevitable question as to what there will be in its place, and so on. When the false has dropped away, there is freedom for that which is not false to come into being. You cannot seek the true through the false; the false is not a steppingstone to the true. The false must cease wholly, not in comparison to the true. There is no comparison between the false and the true; violence and love cannot be compared. Violence must cease for love to be. The cessation of violence is not a matter of time. The perception of the false as the false is the ending of the false. Let the mind be empty, and not filled with the things of the mind. Then there is only meditation, and not a meditator who is meditating.

"I have been occupied with the meditator, the seeker, the enjoyer, the experiencer, which is myself. I have lived in a pleasant garden of my own creation, and have been a prisoner therein. I now see the falseness of all that - dimly, but I see it."