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Series II - Chapter 34 - ‘Listening’
THE FULL MOON was just coming up over the river; there was a haze which made her red, and smoke was rising from the many villages, for it was cold. There was not a ripple on the river, but the current was hidden, strong and deep. The swallows were flying low, and one or two wing tips touched the water, disturbing ever so little the placid surface. Up the river the evening star was just visible over a minaret in the distant, crowded town. The parrots were coming back to be near human habitation, and their flight was never straight. They would drop with a screech, pickup a grain, and fly sideways, but they were always moving forward towards a leafy tree, where they were gathering by the hundreds; then off they would fly again to a more sheltering tree, and as darkness came there would be silence. The moon was now well over the tops of the trees, and she made a silvery pathway on the still waters.
“I see the importance of listening, but I wonder if I ever really listen to what you say,” he remarked. “Somehow I have to make a great effort to listen.”
When you make an effort to listen, are you listening? Is not that very effort a distraction which prevents listening? Do you make an effort when you listen to something that gives you delight? Surely, this effort to listen is a form of compulsion. Compulsion is resistance, is it not? And resistance breeds problems, so listening becomes one of them. Listening itself is never a problem. “But to me it is. I want to listen correctly because I feel that what you are saying has deep significance, but I can’t go beyond its verbal meaning.”
If I may say so, you are not listening now to what is being said. You have made listening into a problem, and this problem is preventing you from listening. Everything we touch becomes a problem, one issue breeds many other issues. perceiving this is it possible not to breed problems at all? “That would be marvellous, but how is one to come to that happy state?”
Again, you see, the question of ‘how’, the manner of achieving a certain state, becomes still another problem. We are talking of not giving birth to problems. If it may be pointed out, you must be aware of the manner in which the mind is creating the problem. You want to achieve the state of perfect listening; in other words, you are not listening, but you want to achieve a state, and you need time and interest to gain that or any other state. The need for time and interest generates problems. You are not simply aware that you are not listening. When you are aware of it, the very fact that you are not listening has its own action; the truth of that fact acts, you do not act upon the fact. But you want to act upon it, to change it, to cultivate its opposite, to bring about a desired state, and so on. Your effort to act upon the fact breeds problems, whereas seeing the truth of the fact brings its own liberating action. You are not aware of the truth, nor do you see the false as the false, as long as your mind is occupied in anyway with effort, with comparison, with justification or condemnation.
“All this may be so, but with all the conflicts and contradictions that go on within oneself, it still seems to me that it is almost impossible to listen.”
Listening itself is a complete act; the very act of listening brings its own freedom. But are you really concerned with listening, or with altering the turmoil within? If you would listen, sir, in the sense of being aware of your conflicts and contradictions without forcing them into any particular pattern of thought, perhaps they might altogether cease. You see, we are constantly trying to be this or that, to achieve a particular state, to capture one kind of experience and avoid another, so the mind is everlastingly occupied with something; it is never still to listen to the noise of its own struggles and pains. Be simple, sir, and don’t try to become something or to capture some experience.