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Series II - Chapter 39 - 'Meditation--Effort--Consciousness'
THE SEA WAS beyond the mountains to the east of the valley, and through the centre of the valley a river made its way leisurely to the sea. The river flowed full all the year round, and it was beautiful even where it passed by the town, which was quite large. The townspeople used the river for everything - for fishing for bathing, for drinking water, for sewage disposal, and the wastes of a factory went into it. But the river threw off all the filth of man, and its waters were once again clear and blue soon after it had passed his habitations.
A wide road went along the river to the west, leading up to tea plantations in the mountains; it curved in and out, some- times losing the river, but most of the time in sight of it. As the road climbed, following the river, the plantations became bigger, and here and there were factories to dry and process the tea. Soon the estates became vast, and the river was noisy with water falls. In the morning one would see brightly-dressed women, their bodies bent, their skin turned dark by the blazing sun, picking the delicate leaves of the tea bushes. It all had to be picked before a certain time in the morning and carried to the nearest factory before the sun became too hot. At that altitude the sun was strong and painfully penetrating, and though they were used to it, some of the women had their heads covered with part of the cloth they wore. They were gay, fast and skilful in their work, and soon that particular task would be over for the day; but most of them were wives and mothers, and they would still have to cook and look after the children. They had a union, and the planters treated them decently, for it would be disastrous to have a strike and allow the tender leaves to grow to their normal size.
The road continued up and up, and the air became quite cold. At eight thousand feet there were no more tea plantations, but men were working the soil and cultivating many things to be sent down to the towns along the sea. From that altitude the view over the forests and plains was magnificent, with the river, silver now, dominating everything. Going back another way, the road wound through green, sparkling rice fields and deep woods. There were many palms and mangoes, and flowers were everywhere. The people were cheerful, and along the roadside they were setting out many things, from trinkets to luscious fruit. They were lazy and easygoing, and seemed to have enough to eat, unlike those in the lowland, where life was hard, meagre and crowded.
He was a sannyasi, a monk, but not of any particular order, and he spoke of himself as of a third person. While still young he had renounced the world and its ways and had wandered all over the country, staying with some of the well known religious teachers, talking with them and following their peculiar disciplines and rituals. He had fasted for many a day, lived in solitude among the mountains, and done most of the things that sannyasis are supposed to do. He had damaged himself physically through excessive ascetic practices, and although that was long ago, his body still suffered from it. Then one day he had decided to abandon all these practices, rituals and disciplines as being vain and without much significance, and had gone off into some faraway mountain village, where he had spent many years in deep contemplation. The usual thing had happened, he said with a smile, and he in his turn had become well known and had had a large following of disciples to whom he taught simple things. He had read the ancient Sanskrit literature, and now that too he had put away. Although it was necessary to describe briefly what his life had been, he added, that was not the thing for which he had come.
"Above all virtue, sacrifice, and the action of dispassionate help, is meditation," he stated. "Without meditation, knowledge and action become a wearisome burden with very little meaning; but few know what meditation is. If you are willing, we must talk this over. In meditation it has been the experience of the speaker to reach different states of consciousness; he has had the experiences that all aspiring human beings sooner or later go through, the visions embodying Krishna, Christ, Buddha. They are the outcome of one's own thought and education, and of what maybe called one's culture. There are visions, experiences and powers of many different varieties. Unfortunately, most seekers are caught in the net of their own thought and desire, even some of the greatest exponents of truth. Having the power of healing and the gift of words, they become prisoners to their own capacities and experiences. The speaker himself has passed through these experiences and dangers, and to the best of his ability has understood and gone beyond them - at least, let us hope so. What then is meditation?"
Surely, in considering meditation, effort and the maker of effort must be understood. Good effort leads to one thing, and bad to another, but both are binding, are they not? "It is said that you have not read the Upanishads or any of the sacred literature, but you sound like one who has read and knows."
It is true that I have read none of those things, but that is not important. Good effort and wrong effort are both binding, and it is this bondage that must be understood and broken. Meditation is the breaking of all bondage; it is a state of freedom, but not from anything. Freedom from something is only the cultivation of resistance. To be conscious of being free is not freedom. Consciousness is the experiencing of freedom or of bondage, and that consciousness is the experiencer, the maker of effort. Meditation is the breaking down of the experiencer, which cannot be done consciously. If the experiencer is broken down consciously, then there is a strengthening of the will, which is also a part of consciousness. Our problem, then, is concerned with the whole process of consciousness, and not with one part of it, small or great, dominant or subservient.
"What you say seems to be true. The ways of consciousness are profound, deceptive and contradictory. It is only through dispassionate observation and careful study that this tangle can be unravelled and order can prevail."
But, sir, the unraveller is still there; one may call him the higher self, the atman, and so on, but he is still part of consciousness, the maker of effort who is everlastingly trying to get somewhere. Effort is desire. One desire can be overcome by a greater desire, and that desire by still another, and so on endlessly. Desire breeds deception, illusion, contradiction, and the visions of hope. The all-conquering desire for the ultimate, or the will to reach that which is nameless, is still the way of consciousness, of the experiencer of good and bad, the experiencer who is waiting, watching, hoping. Consciousness is not of one particular level, it is the totality of our being.
"What has been heard so far is excellent and true; but if one may inquire, what is it that will bring peace, stillness to this consciousness?"
Nothing. Surely, the mind is ever seeking a result, a way to some achievement. Mind is an instrument that has been put to- gather, it is the fabric of time, and it can only think in terms of result, of achievement, of something to be gained or avoided. "That is so. It is being stated that as long as the mind is active, choosing, seeking, experiencing, there must be the maker of effort who creates his own image, calling it by different names, and this is the net in which thought is caught."
Thought itself is the maker of the net; thought is the net. Thought is binding; thought can only lead to the vast expanse of time, the field in which knowledge action virtue, have importance. However refined or simplified, thinking cannot breakdown all thought. Consciousness as the experiencer, the observer, the chooser, the censor, the will, must come to an end, voluntarily and happily, without any hope of reward. The seeker ceases. This is meditation. Silence of the mind cannot be brought about through the action of will. There is silence when will ceases. This is meditation. Reality cannot be sought; it is when the seeker is not. Mind is time, and thought cannot uncover the measureless.