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Series II - Chapter 36 - 'An Experience Of Bliss'
IT WAS A VERY hot and humid day. In the park many people were stretched out on the grass or sitting on benches in the shade of the heavy trees; they were taking cool drinks and gasping for clean, fresh air. The sky was grey, there was not the slightest breeze, and the fumes of this vast mechanized city filled the air. In the country it must have been lovely, for spring was just turning into summer. Some trees would just be putting forth their leaves, and along the road which ran beside the wide, sparkling river, every kind of flower would be out. Deep in the woods there would be that peculiar silence in which you can almost hear things being born, and the mountains, with their deep valleys, would be blue and fragrant. But here in the city...!
Imagination perverts the perception of what is; and yet how proud we are of our imagination and speculation. The speculative mind, with its intricate thoughts, is not capable of fundamental transformation; it is not a revolutionary mind. It has clothed itself with what should be and follows the pattern of its own limited and enclosing projections. The good is not in what should be, it lies in the understanding of what is. Imagination prevents the perception of what is, as does comparison. The mind must put aside all imagination and speculation for the real to be.
He was quite young, but he had a family and was a businessman of some repute. He looked very worried and miserable, and was eager to say something. "Some time ago I had a most remarkable experience, and as I have never before talked about it to anyone I wonder if I am capable of explaining it to you; I hope so, for I cannot go to anybody else. It was an experience which completely ravished my heart; but it has gone, and now I have only the empty memory of it. perhaps you can help me to get it back. I will tell you, as fully as I can, what that blessing was. I have read of these things, but they were always empty words and appealed only to my senses; but what happened to me was beyond all thought, beyond imagination and desire, and now I have lost it. Please do help me to get it back." He paused for a moment, and then continued.
"I woke up one morning very early; the city was still asleep, and its murmur had not yet begun. I felt I had to get out, so I dressed quickly and went down to the street. Even the milk truck was not yet on its rounds. It was early spring, and the sky was pale blue. I had a strong feeling that I should go to the park, a mile or so away. From the moment I came out of my front door I had a strange feeling of lightness, as though I were walking on air. The building opposite, a drab block of flats, had lost all its ugliness; the very bricks were alive and clear. Every little object which ordinarily I would never have noticed seemed to have an extraordinary quality of its own, and strangely, everything seemed to be a part of me. Nothing was separate from me; in fact, the 'me' as the observer, the perceiver, was absent, if you know what I mean. There was no 'me' separate from that tree, or from that paper in the gutter, or from the birds that were calling to each other. It was a state of consciousness that I had never known. "On the way to the park," he went on, "there is a flower shop. I have passed it hundreds of times, and I used to glance at the flowers as I went by. But on this particular morning I stopped in front of it. The plate glass window was slightly frosted with the heat and damp from inside, but this did not prevent me from seeing the many varieties of flowers. As I stood looking at them, I found myself smiling and laughing with a joy I had never before experienced. Those flowers were speaking to me, and I was speaking to them; I was among them, and they were part of me. In saying this, I may give you the impression that I was hysterical, slightly off my head; but it was not so. I had dressed very carefully, and had been aware of putting on clean things, looking at my watch, seeing the names of the shops, including that of my tailor, and reading the titles of the books in a book shop window. Everything was alive, and I loved everything. I was the scent of those flowers, but there was no 'me' to smell the flowers, if you know what I mean. There was no separation between them and me. That flower shop was fantastically alive with colours, and the beauty of it all must have been stunning, for time and its measurement had ceased. I must have stood there for over twenty minutes, but I assure you there was no sense of time. I could hardly tear myself away from those flowers. The world of struggle, pain and sorrow was there, and yet it was not. You see, in that state, words have no meaning.
Words are descriptive, separative, comparative, but in that state there were no words; 'I' was not experiencing, there was only that state, that experience. Time had stopped; there was no past, present or future. There was only - oh, I don't know how to put it into words, but it doesn't matter. There was a presence - no, not that word. It was as though the earth, with everything in it and on it, were in a state of benediction, and I, walking towards the park, were part of it. As I drew near the park I was absolutely spellbound by the beauty of those familiar trees. From the pale yellow to the almost black-green, the leaves were dancing with life; every leaf stood out separate, and the whole richness of the earth was in a single leaf. I was conscious that my heart was beating fast; I have a very good heart, but I could hardly breathe as I entered the park and I thought I was going to faint. I sat down on a bench, and tears were rolling down my cheeks. There was a silence that was utterly unbearable, but that silence was cleansing all things of pain and sorrow. As I went deeper into the park, there was music in the air. I was surprised, as there was no house nearby, and no one would have a radio in the park at that hour of the morning. The music was part of the whole thing. All the goodness, all the compassion of the world was in that park, and God was there.
"I am not a theologian, nor much of a religious person," he continued. "I have been a dozen times or so inside a church, but it has never meant anything to me. I cannot stomach all that nonsense that goes on in churches. But in that park there was Being, if one may use such a word, in whom all things lived and had their being. My legs were shaking and I was forced to sit down again, with my back against a tree. The trunk was a living thing, as I was, and I was part of that tree, part of that Being, part of the world. I must have fainted. It had all been too much for me: the vivid, living colours, the leaves, the rocks, the flowers, the incredible beauty of everything. And over all was the benediction of...
"When I came to, the sun was up. It generally takes me about twenty minutes to walk to the park, but it was nearly two hours since I had left my house. physically I seemed to have no strength to walk back; so I sat there, gathering strength and not daring to think. As I slowly walked back home, the whole of that experience was with me; it lasted two days, and faded away as suddenly as it had come. Then my torture began. I didn't go near my office for a week. I wanted that strange living experience back again, I wanted to live once again and forever in that beatific world. All this happened two years ago. I have seriously thought of giving up everything and going away into some lonely corner of the world, but I know in my heart that I cannot get it back that way. No monastery can offer me that experience, nor can any candle lit church, which only deals with death and darkness. I considered making my way to India, but that too I put aside. Then I tried a certain drug; it made things more vivid, and soon, but an opiate is not what I want. That is a cheap way of experiencing, it is a trick but not the real thing.
"So here I am," he concluded. "I would give everything, my life and all my possessions, to live again in that world. What am I to do?"
It came to you, sir, uninvited. You never sought it. As long as you are seeking it, you will never have it. The very desire to live again in that ecstatic state is preventing the new, the fresh experience of bliss. You see what has happened: you have had that experience, and now you are living with the dead memory of yesterday. What has been is preventing the new. "Do you mean to say that I must put away and forget all that has been, and carry on with my petty life, inwardly starving from day to day?"
If you do not look back and ask for more, which is quite a task, then perhaps that very thing over which you have no control may act as it will. Greed, even for the sublime, breeds sorrow; the urge for the more opens the door to time. That bliss cannot be bought through any sacrifice, through any virtue, through any drug. It is not a reward, a result. It comes when it will; do not seek it. "But was that experience real, was it of the highest?"
We want another to confirm, to make us certain of what has been, and so we find shelter in it. To be made certain or secure in that which has been, even if it were the real, is to strengthen the unreal and breed illusion. To bring over to the present what is past, pleasurable or painful is to prevent the real. Reality has no continuity. It is from moment to moment, timeless and measureless.