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Series II - Chapter 46 - ‘Silence Of The Mind’
BEYOND THE DISTANT haze were the white sands and the cool sea, but here it was insufferably hot, even under the trees and in the house. The sky was no longer blue, and the sun seemed to have absorbed every particle of moisture. The breeze from the sea had stopped, and the mountains behind, clear and close, were reflecting the burning rays of the sun. The restless dog lay panting as though its heart would burst with this intolerable heat. There would be clear, sunny days, week after week, for many months and the hills, no longer green and soft with the spring rains, were burnt brown, the earth dry and hard. But there was beauty even now in these hills, shimmering beyond the green oak trees and the golden hay, with the barren rocks of the mountains above them.
The path leading up through the hills to the high mountains was dusty, stony and rough. There were no streams, no sound of running waters. The heat was intense in these hills, but in the shade of some trees along the dry river bed it was bearable for here there was a slight breeze coming up the canyon from the valley. From this height the blue of the sea was visible many miles away. It was very quiet, even the birds were still, and a blue jay which had been noisy and quarrelsome was resting now. A brown deer was coming down the path, alert and watchful, making its way to a little pool of water in the otherwise dry bed of the stream; it moved so silently over the rocks, its large ears twitching and its great eyes watching every movement among the bushes. It drank its fill and would have lain down in the shade near the pool, but it must have been aware of the human presence it could not see, for it went uneasily down the path and disappeared. And how difficult it was to watch a coyote, a kind of wild dog among the hills! It was the same colour as the rocks, and it was doing its best not to be seen. You had to keep your eyes steadily upon it, and even then it disappeared and you could not pick it out again; you looked and looked for any movement, but there was none, perhaps it might come to the pool. Not too long ago there had been a brutal fire among these hills, and the wild things had gone away; but now some had returned. Across the path a mother quail was leading her newborn chicks, more than a dozen of them; she was softly encouraging, leading them to a thick bush. They were round, yellowish-grey balls of delicate feathers, so new to this dangerous world, but alive and enchanted. There under the bush several had climbed on top of the mother, but most of them were under her comforting wings, resting from the struggles of birth.
What is it that binds us together? It is not our needs. Neither is it commerce and great industries, nor the banks and the churches; these are just ideas and the result of ideas. Ideas do not bind us together. We may come together out of convenience, or through necessity, danger, hate, or worship, but none of these things holds us together. They must all fall away from us, so that we are alone. In this aloneness there is love, and it is love that holds us together.
A preoccupied mind is never a free mind, whether it is preoccupied with the sublime or with the trivial.
He had come from a far distant land. Though he had had polio, the paralysing disease, he was now able to walk and drive car. “Like so many others, especially those in my condition, I have belonged to different churches and religious organizations,” he said, “and none of them has given me any satisfaction; but one never stops seeking. I think I am serious, but one of my difficulties is that I am envious. Most of us are driven by ambition, greed or envy; they are relentless enemies of man, and yet one cannot seem to be without them. I have tried building various types of resistance against envy, but in spite of all my efforts I get caught up in it again and again; it is like water seeping through the roof, and before I know where I am, I find myself being more intensely envious than ever. You have probably answered this same question dozens of times, but if you have the patience I would like to ask how is one to extricate oneself from this turmoil of envy?”
You must have found that with the desire not to be envious there comes the conflict of the opposites. The desire or the will not to be this, but to be that, makes for conflict. We generally consider this conflict to be the natural process of life; but is it? This everlasting struggle between what is and what should be is considered noble, idealistic; but the desire and the attempt to be non-envious is the same as being envious, is it not? If one really understands this, then there is no battle between the opposites; the conflict of duality ceases. This is not a matter to be thought over when you get home; it is a fact to be seen immediately, and this perception is the important thing, not how to be free from envy. Freedom from envy comes, not through the conflict of it the opposite, but with the understanding of what is; but this understanding is not possible as long as the mind is concerned with changing what is.
“Isn’t change necessary?”
Can there be change through an act of will? Is not will concentrated desire? Having bred envy, desire now seeks a state in which there is no envy; both states are the product of desire. Desire cannot bring about fundamental change. “Then what will?”
Perceiving the truth of what is. As long as the mind, or desire, seeks to change itself from this to that, all change is superficial and trivial. The full significance of this fact must be felt and understood, and only then is it possible for a radical transformation to take place. As long as the mind is comparing, judging, seeking a result there is no possibility of change, but only a series of unending struggles which it calls living.
“What you say seems so true, but even as I listen to you I find myself caught in the struggle to change, to reach an end, to achieve a result.”
The more one struggles against a habit, however deep its roots, the more force one gives to it. To be aware of one habit with out choosing and cultivating another, is the ending of habit. “Then I must remain silently with what is, neither accepting nor rejecting it. This is an enormous task, but I see that it is the only way if there is to be freedom.
“Now may I go on to another question? Does not the body affect the mind, and the mind in turn affect the body? I have especially noticed this in my own case. My thoughts are occupied with the memory of what I was – healthy, strong, quick of movement – and with what I hope to be, as compared with what I am now. I seem unable to accept my present state. What am I to do?”
This constant comparison of the present with the past and the future brings about pain and the deterioration of the mind, does it not? It prevents you from considering the fact of your present state. The past can never be again, and the future is unpredictable, so you have only the present. You can adequately deal with the present only when the mind is free from the burden of the past memory and the future hope. When the mind is attentive to the present, without comparison then there is a possibility of other things happening.
“What do you mean by ‘other things’?”
When the mind is preoccupied with its own pains, hopes and fears, there is no space for freedom from them. The self-enclosing process of thought only cripples the mind further, so the vicious circle is set going. Preoccupation makes the mind trivial, petty, shallow. A preoccupied mind is not a free mind, and preoccupation with freedom still breeds pettiness. The mind is petty when it is preoccupied with God, with the State, with virtue, or with its own body. This preoccupation with the body prevents adaptability to the present, the gaining of vitality and movement, however limited. The self, with its preoccupations, brings about its own pains and problems, which affect the body; and concern over bodily ills only further hinders the body. This does not mean that health should be neglected; but preoccupation with health, like preoccupation with truth with ideas, only entrenches the mind in its own pettiness. There is a vast difference between a preoccupied mind and an active mind. An active mind is silent, aware, choiceless.
“Consciously it is rather difficult to take all this in, but probably the unconscious is absorbing what you are saying; at least I hope so. “I would like to ask one more question. You see, sir, there are moments when my mind is silent, but these moments are very rare. I have pondered over the problem of meditation, and have read some of the things you have said about it, but for a long time my body was too much for me. Now that I have become more or less inured to my physical state, I feel it is important to cultivate this silence. How is one to set about it?”
Is silence to be cultivated, carefully nurtured and strengthened? And who is the cultivator? Is he different from the totality of your being? Is there silence, a still mind, when one desire dominates all others, or when it sets up resistance against them? Is there silence when the mind is disciplined, shaped, controlled? Does not all this imply a censor, a so-called higher self who controls judges, chooses? And is there such an entity? If there is, is he not the product of thought? Thought dividing itself as the high and the low, the permanent and the impermanent, is still the outcome of the past, of tradition, of time. In this division lies its own security. Thought or desire now seeks safety in silence, and so it asks for a method or a system which offers what it wants. In place of worldly things it now craves the pleasure of silence, so it breeds conflict between what is and what should be. There is no silence where there is conflict, repression, resistance.
“Should one not seek silence?”
There can be no silence as long as there is a seeker. There is the silence of a still mind only when there is no seeker, when there is no desire. Without replying, put this question to yourself: Can the whole of your being be silent? Can the totality of the mind, the conscious as well as the unconscious, be still?