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Series II - Chapter 35 - ‘The Fire Of Discontent’
IT HAD BEEN raining quite heavily for several days, and the streams were swollen and noisy. Brown and dirty, they came from every gully and joined a wider stream that ran through the middle of the valley, and this in turn joined the river that went down to the sea some miles away. The river was high and fast-flowing, winding through orchards and open country. Even in summer the river was never dry, though all the streams that fed it showed their barren rocks and dry sands. Now the river was flowing faster than a man could walk, and on both banks people were watching the muddy waters. It was not often that the river was so high. The people were excited, their eyes sparkled, for the fast-moving waters were a delight. The town near the sea might suffer, the river might overflow its banks inundating the fields and the groves and damaging the houses; but here, under the lonely bridge, the brown waters were singing. A few people were fishing, but they could not have caught much, for the current was too strong, carrying with it the debris of all the neighbouring streams. It began to rain again, yet the people stayed to watch and to take delight in simple things.
“I have always been a seeker,” she said. “I have read, oh, so many books on many subjects. I was a Catholic, but left that church to join another; leaving that too, I joined a religious society. I have recently been reading oriental philosophy, the teachings of the Buddha, and added to all this, I have had myself psychoanalysed; but even that hasn’t stopped me from seeking, and now here I am talking to you. I nearly went to India in search of a Master, but circumstances prevented me from going.”
She went on to say that she was married and had a couple of children, bright and intelligent, who were in college; she wasn’t worried about them, they could look after themselves. Social interests meant nothing any more. She had been seriously trying to meditate but got nowhere, and her mind was as silly and vagrant as before. “What you say about meditation and prayer is so different from what I have read and thought, that it has greatly puzzled me” she added. “But through all this wearisome confusion, I really want to find truth and understand its mystery.”
Do you think that by seeking truth you will find it? May it not be that the so-called seeker can never find truth? You have never fathomed this urge to seek, have you? Yet you keep on seeking going from one thing to another in the hope of finding what you want, which you call truth and make a mystery of. “But what’s wrong with going after what I want? I have always gone after what I wanted, and more often than not I have got it.”
That may be; but do you think that you can collect truth as you would money or paintings? Do you think it is another ornament for one’s vanity? Or must the mind that is acquisitive wholly cease for the other to be?
“I suppose I am too eager to find it.”
Not at all. You will find what you seek in your eagerness, but it will not be the real. “Then what am I supposed to do, just lie down and vegetate?”
You are jumping to conclusions, are you not? Is it not important to find out why you are seeking? “Oh, I know why I am seeking. I am thoroughly discontented with everything, even with the things I have found. The pain of discontent returns again and again; I think I have got hold of something, but it soon fades away and once again the pain of discontent overwhelms me. I have tried in every way I can think of to overcome it, but somehow it is too strong within me, and I must find something – truth, or whatever it is – that will give me peace and contentment.”
Should you not be thankful that you have not succeeded in smothering this fire of discontent? To overcome discontent has been your problem, has it not? You have sought contentment, and fortunately you have not found it; to find it is to stagnate, vegetate. “I suppose that is really what I am seeking: an escape from this gnawing discontent.”
Most people are discontented, are they not? But they find satisfaction in the easy things of life whether it is mountain climbing or the fulfilment of some ambition. The restlessness of discontent is superficially turned into achievements that gratify. If we are shaken in our contentment, we soon find ways to overcome the pain of discontent, so we live on the surface and never fathom the depths of discontent.
“How is one to go below the surface of discontent?”
Your question indicates that you still desire to escape from discontent, does it not? To live with that pain, without trying to escape from it or to alter it, is to penetrate the depths of discontent. As long as we are trying to get somewhere, or to be something, there must be the pain of conflict, and having caused the pain, we then want to escape from it; and we do escape into every kind of activity. To be integrated with discontent, to remain with and be part of discontent, without the observer forcing it into grooves of satisfaction or accepting it as inevitable, is to allow that which has no opposite, no second, to come into being.
“I follow what you are saying, but I have fought discontent for so many years that it is now very difficult for me to be part of it.”
The more you fight a habit, the more life you give to it. Habit is a dead thing, do not fight it, do not resist it; but with the perception of the truth of discontent, the past will have lost its significance. Though painful, it is a marvellous thing to be discontented without smothering that flame with knowledge, with tradition, with hope, with achievement. We get lost in the mystery of man’s achievement in the mystery of the church, or of the jet plane. Again, this is superficial, empty, leading to destruction and misery. There is a mystery that is beyond the capacities and powers of the mind. You cannot seek it out or invite it; it must come without your asking, and with it comes a benediction for man.