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Series II - Chapter 53 - ‘Envy And Loneliness’
UNDER THE TREE that evening it was very quiet. A lizard was pushing itself up and down on a rock, still warm. The night would be chilly, and the sun would not be up again for many hours. The cattle were weary and slow coming back from the distant fields where they had laboured with their men. A deep-throated owl was hooting from the hilltop which was its home. Every evening about this time it would begin, and as it got darker the hoots would be less frequent; but occasionally, late in the night, you would hear them again. One owl would be calling to another across the valley, and their deep hooting seemed to give greater silence and beauty to the night. It was a lovely evening, and the new moon was setting behind the dark hill.
Compassion is not hard to come by when the heart is not filled with the cunning things of the mind. It is the mind with its demands and fears, its attachments and denials, its determinations and urges, that destroys love. And how difficult it is to be simple about all this! You don’t need philosophies and doctrines to be gentle and kind. The efficient and the powerful of the land will organize to feed and clothe the people to provide them with shelter and medical care. This is inevitable with the rapid increase of production; it is the function of well organized government and a balanced society. But organization does not give the generosity of the heart and hand. Generosity comes from quite a different source, a source beyond all measure. Ambition and envy destroy it as surely as fire burns. This source must be touched, but one must come to it empty handed, without prayer, without sacrifice. Books cannot teach nor can any guru lead to this source. It cannot be reached through the cultivation of virtue, though virtue is necessary, nor through capacity and obedience. When the mind is serene, without any movement, it is there. Serenity is without motive, without the urge for the more.
She was a young lady, but rather weary with pain. It was not the physical pain that bothered her so much, but pain of a different sort. The bodily pain she had been able to control through medication, but the agony of jealousy she had never been able to assuage. It had been with her, she explained, from childhood; at that age it was a childish thing, to be tolerated and smiled upon, but now it had become a disease. She was married and had two children and jealousy was destroying all relationship.
“I seem to be jealous, not only of my husband and children, but of almost anyone who has more than I have, a better gardener a prettier dress. All this may seem rather silly, but I am tortured by it. Some time ago I went to a psychoanalyst, and temporarily I was at peace; but it soon began again.”
Doesn’t the culture in which we live encourage envy? The advertisements, the competition the comparison, the worship of success with its many activities – do not all these things sustain envy? The demand for the more is jealousy, is it not? “But...”
Let us consider envy itself for a few moments, and not your particular struggles with it; we shall come back to that later. Is this all right?
Envy is encouraged and respected, is it not? The competitive spirit is nourished from childhood. The idea that you must do and be better than another is repeated constantly in different ways; the example of success, the hero and his brave act, are endlessly dinned into the mind. The present culture is based on envy, on acquisitiveness. If you are not acquisitive of worldly things and instead follow some religious teacher, you are promised the right place in the hereafter. We are all brought up on this, and the desire to succeed is deeply embedded in almost everyone. Success is pursued in different ways success as an artist, as a business man, as a religious aspirant. All this is a form of envy, but it is only when envy becomes distressing, painful, that one attempts to get rid of it. As long as it is compensating and pleasurable, envy is an accepted part of one’s nature. We don’t see that in this very pleasure there is pain. Attachment does give pleasure, but it also breeds jealousy and pain, and it is not love. In this area of activity one lives, suffers, and dies. It is only when the pain of this self-enclosing action becomes unbearable that one struggles to break through it.
“I think I vaguely grasp all this, but what am I to do?”
Before considering what to do, let us see what the problem is. What is the problem? “I am tortured by jealousy and I want to be free from it.”
You want to be free from the pain of it; but don’t you want to hold on to the peculiar pleasure that comes with possession and attachment? “Of course I do. You don’t expect me to renounce all my possessions, do you?”
We are not concerned with renunciation, but with the desire to possess. We want to possess people as well as things, we cling to beliefs as well as hopes. Why is there this desire to own things and people, this burning attachment? “I don’t know I have never thought about it. It seems natural to be envious, but it has become a poison, a violently disturbing factor in my life.”
We do need certain things, food, clothing, shelter, and so on, but they are used for psychological satisfaction, which gives rise to many other problems. In the same way, psychological dependence on people breeds anxiety, jealousy and fear.
“I suppose in that sense I do depend on certain people. They are a compulsive necessity to me, and without them I would be totally lost. If I did not have my husband and children I think I would go slowly mad, or I would attach myself to somebody else. But I don’t see what is wrong with attachment.”
We are not saying it is right or wrong but are considering its cause and effect, are we not? We are not condemning or justifying dependence. But why is one psychologically dependent on another? Isn’t that the problem, and not how to be free from the tortures of jealousy? jealousy is merely the effect, the symptom and it would be useless to deal only with the symptom. Why is one psychologically dependent on another?
“I know I am dependent, but I haven’t really thought about it. I took it for granted that everyone is dependent on another.”
Of course we are physically dependent on each other and always will be, which is natural and inevitable. But as long as we do not understand our psychological dependence on another, don’t you think the pain of jealousy will continue? So, why is there this psychological need of another? “I need my family because I love them. If I didn’t love them I wouldn’t care.”
Are you saying that love and jealousy go together? “So it seems. If I didn’t love them, I certainly wouldn’t be jealous.”
In that case, if you are free from jealousy you have also got rid of love, haven’t you? Then why do you want to be free from jealousy? You want to keep the pleasure of attachment and let the pain of it go. Is this possible? “Why not?”
Attachment implies fear, does it not? You are afraid of what you are, or of what you will be if the other leaves you or dies, and you are attached because of this fear. As long as you are occupied with the pleasure of attachment, fear is hidden, locked away, but unfortunately it is always there; and till you are free from this fear, the tortures of jealousy will go on. “What am I afraid of?”
The question is not what you are afraid of, but are you aware that you are afraid?
“Now that you are pointedly asking that question I suppose I am. All right, I am afraid.”
Of what? “Of being lost, insecure; of not being loved, cared for; of being lonely, alone. I think that is it: I am afraid of being lonely, of not being able to face life by myself, so I depend on my husband and children, I desperately hold on to them. There is always in me the fear of something happening to them. Sometimes my desperation takes the form of jealousy, of uncontainable fury, and so on. I am fearful lest my husband should turn to another. I am eaten up with anxiety. I assure you, I have spent many an hour in tears.
All this contradiction and turmoil is what we call love, and you are asking me if it is love. Is it love when there is attachment? I see it is not. It is ugly, completely selfish; I am thinking about myself all the time. But what am I to do?”
Condemning, calling yourself hateful, ugly, selfish, in no way diminishes the problem; on the contrary, it increases it. It is important to understand this. Condemnation or justification prevents you from looking at what lies behind fear, it is an active distraction from facing the fact of what is actually happening. When you say, “I am ugly, selfish”, these words are loaded with condemnation, and you are strengthening the condemnatory characteristic which is part of the self.
“I am not sure I understand this.”
By condemning or justifying an action of your child, do you understand him? You haven’t the time or the inclination to explain, so to get an immediate result you say ‘do’ or ‘don’t; but you haven’t understood the complexities of the child. Similarly, condemnation, justification, or comparison prevents the understanding of yourself. You have to understand the complexity which is you. “Yes, yes, I grasp that.”
Then go into the matter slowly, without condemning or justifying. You will find it quite arduous not to condemn or justify, because for centuries denial and assertion have been habitual. Watch your own reactions as we are talking together.
The problem, then, is not jealousy and how to be free of it, but fear. What is fear? How does it come into being? “It is there all right, but what it is I do not know.”
Fear cannot exist in isolation, it exists only in relation to something, doesn’t it? There is a state which you call loneliness, and when you are conscious of that state, fear arises. So fear doesn’t exist by itself. What are you actually afraid of? “I suppose of my loneliness, as you say.”
Why do you suppose? Aren’t you sure? “I hesitate to be sure about anything, but loneliness is one of my deepest problems. It has always been there in the background, but it is only now, in this talk, that I am forced to look at it directly, to see that it is there. It is an enormous void, frightening and inescapable.”
Is it possible to look at that void without giving it a name, without any form of description? Merely labelling a state does not mean that we understand it; on the contrary, it is a hindrance to understanding.
“I see what you mean but I cannot help labelling it; it is practically an instantaneous reaction.”
Feeling and naming are almost simultaneous, are they not? Can they be separated? Can there be a gap between a feeling and the naming of it? If this gap is really experienced, it will be found that the thinker ceases as an entity separate and distinct from thought. The verbalizing process is part of the self, the ‘me’, the entity who is jealous and who attempts to get over his jealousy. If you really understand the truth of this, then fear ceases. Naming has a physiological as well as a psychological effect. When there is no naming, only then is it possible to be fully aware of that which is called the void of loneliness. Then the mind does not separate itself from that which is.
“I find it extremely difficult to follow all this, but I feel I have understood at least some of it, and I shall allow that understanding to unfold.”