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Series II - Chapter 18 - ‘Karma’
SILENCE IS NOT to be cultivated, it is not to be deliberately brought about; it is not to be sought out, thought of, or meditated upon. The deliberate cultivation of silence is as the enjoyment of some longed for pleasure; the desire to silence the mind is but the pursuit of sensation. Such silence is only a form of resistance, an isolation which leads to decay. Silence that is bought is a thing of the market in which there is the noise of activity. Silence comes with the absence of desire. Desire is swift, cunning and deep. Remembrance shuts off the sweep of silence, and a mind that is caught in experience cannot be silent. Time, the movement of yesterday flowing into today and tomorrow, is not silence. With the cessation of this movement there is silence, and only then can that which is unnameable come into being.
“I have come to talk over karma with you. Of course I have certain opinions about it, but I would like to know yours.”
Opinion is not truth; we must put aside opinions to find truth. There are innumerable opinions, but truth is not of this or of that group. For the understanding of truth, all ideas, conclusions, opinions, must drop away as the withered leaves fall from a tree. Truth is not to be found in books, in knowledge, inexperience. If you are seeking opinions, you will find none here. “But we can talk about karma and try to understand its significance, can we not.”
That, of course, is quite a different matter. To understand, opinions and conclusions must cease. “Why do you insist upon that?”
Can you understand anything if you have already made up your mind about it, or if you repeat the conclusions of another? To find the truth of this matter, must we not come to it afresh, with a mind that is not clouded by prejudice? Which is more important, to be free from conclusions, prejudices, or to speculate about some abstraction? Is it not more important to find the truth than to squabble about what truth is? An opinion as to what truth is, is not truth. Is it not important to discover the truth concerning karma? To see the false as the false is to begin to understand it, is it not? How can we see either the true or the false if our minds are entrenched in tradition, in words and explanations? If the mind is tethered to a belief, how can it go far? To journey far, the mind must be free. Freedom is not something to be gained at the end of long endeavour, it must be at the very beginning of the journey.
“I want to find out what karma means to you.”
Sir, let us take the journey of discovery together. Merely to repeat the words of another has no deep significance. It is like playing a gramophone record. Repetition or imitation does not bring about freedom. What do you mean by karma? “It is a Sanskrit word meaning to do, to be, to act, and so on. Karma is action, and action is the outcome of the past. Action cannot be without the conditioning of the background. Through a series of experiences, through conditioning and knowledge, the background of tradition is built up, not only during the present life of the individual and the group, but throughout many incarnations. The constant action and interaction between the background, which is the ‘me’, and society, life, is karma; and karma binds the mind, the ‘me’. What I have done in my past life, or only yesterday, holds and shapes me, giving pain or pleasure in the present. There is group or collective karma, as well as that of the individual. Both the group and the individual are held in the chain of cause and effect. There will be sorrow or joy, punishment or reward, according to what I have done in the past.”
You say action is the outcome of the past. Such action is not action at all, but only a reaction, is it not? The conditioning the background, reacts to stimuli; this reaction is the response of memory, which is not action, but karma. For the present we are not concerned with what action is. Karma is the reaction which arises from certain causes and produces certain results. Karma is this chain of cause and effect. Essentially, the process of time is karma, is it not? As long as there is a past, there must be the present and the future. Today and tomorrow are the effects of yesterday; yesterday in conjunction with today makes tomorrow. Karma, as generally understood, is a process of compensation.
“As you say, karma is a process of time, and mind is the result of time. Only the fortunate few can escape from the clutches of time; the rest of us are bound to time. What we have done in the past, good or evil, determines what we are in the present.”
Is the background, the past, a static state? Is it not undergoing constant modification? You are not the same today as you were yesterday; both physiologically and psychologically there is a constant change going on, is there not? “Of course.”
So the mind is not a fixed state. Our thoughts are transient, constantly changing; they are the response of the background. If I have been brought up in a certain class of society in a definite culture, I will respond to challenge, to stimuli, according to my conditioning. With most of us, this conditioning is so deep- rooted that response is almost always according to the pattern. Our thoughts are the response of the background. We are the background; that conditioning is not separate or dissimilar from us. With the changing of the background our thoughts also change.
“But surely the thinker is wholly different from the background, is he not?”
Is he? Is not the thinker the result of his thoughts? Is he not composed of his thoughts? Is there a separate entity, a thinker apart from his thoughts? Has not thought created the thinker, given him permanence amidst the impermanence of thoughts? The thinker is the refuge of thought, and the thinker places himself at different levels of permanency. “I see this is so, but it is rather a shock to me to realize the tricks that thought is playing upon itself.”
Thought is the response of the background, of memory; memory is knowledge, the result of experience. This memory, through further experience and response, gets tougher, larger, sharper, more efficient. One form of conditioning can be substituted for another, but it is still conditioning. The response of this conditioning is karma, is it not? The response of memory is called action, but it is only reaction; this ‘action’ breeds further reaction, and so there is a chain of so-called cause and effect. But is not the cause also the effect? Neither cause nor effect is static. Today is the result of yesterday and today is the cause of tomorrow; what was the cause becomes the effect, and the effect the cause. One flows into the other. There is no moment when the cause is not also the effect. Only the specialized is fixed in its cause and so in its effect. The acorn cannot become anything but an oak tree. In specialization there is death; but man is not a specialized entity, he can be what he will. He can break through his conditioning – and he must, if he would discover the real. You must cease to be a so-called Brahmin to realize God.
Karma is the process of time, the past moving through the present to the future; this chain is the way of thought. Thought is the result of time, and there can be that which is immeasurable, timeless, only when the process of thought has ceased. Stillness of the mind cannot be induced, it cannot be brought about through any practice or discipline. If the mind is made still, then whatever comes into it is only a self-projection, the response of memory. With the understanding of its conditioning, with the choiceless awareness of its own responses as thought and feeling, tranquillity comes to the mind. This breaking of the chain of karma is not a matter of time; for through time, the timeless is not.
Karma must be understood as a total process not merely as something of the past. The past is time, which is also the present and the future. Time is memory, the word, the idea. When the word, the name, the association, the experience, is not, then only is the mind still, not merely in the upper layers, but completely, integrally.