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Series II - Chapter 54 - ‘The Storm In The Mind’
ALL DAY THE fog had lasted, and as it cleared towards evening a wind sprang up from the east – a dry, harsh wind, blowing down the dead leaves and drying up the land. It was a tempestuous and menacing night; the wind had increased, the house creaked, and branches were being torn from the trees. The next morning the air was so clear you could almost touch the mountains. The heat had returned with the wind; but as the wind died in the late afternoon, the fog rolled in again from the sea.
How extraordinarily beautiful and rich the earth is! There is no tiring of it. The dry river beds are full of living things: gorse, poppies, tall yellow sunflowers. On the boulders there are lizards; a brown and white ringed king snake is sunning itself, its black tongue shooting in and out, and across the ravine a dog is barking, pursuing a gopher or a rabbit.
Contentment is never the outcome of fulfilment, of achievement, or of the possession of things; it is not born of action or inaction. It comes with the fullness of what is, not in the alteration of it. That which is full does not need alteration, change. It is the incomplete which is trying to become complete that knows the turmoil of discontent and change. The what is is the incomplete, it is not the complete. The complete is unreal, and the pursuit of the unreal is the pain of discontent which can never be healed. The very attempt to heal that pain is the search for the unreal, from which arises discontent. There is no way out of discontent. To be aware of discontent is to be aware of what is, and in the fullness of it there is a state which may be called contentment. It has no opposite.
The house overlooked the valley, and the highest peak of the distant mountains was aglow with the setting sun. Its rocky mass seemed hung from the sky and alight from within, and in the darkening room the beauty of that light was beyond all measure.
He was a youngish man, eager and searching. “I have read several books on religion and religious practices, on meditation and the various methods advocated for attaining the highest. I was at one time drawn to Communism, but soon found that it was a retrogressive movement in spite of the many intellectuals who belonged to it. I was also attracted to Catholicism. Some of its doctrines pleased me and for a time I thought of becoming a Catholic; but one day, while talking to a very learned priest, I suddenly perceived how similar Catholicism was to the prison of Communism. During my wanderings as a sailor on a tramp ship I went to India and spent nearly a year there, and I thought of becoming a monk; but that was too withdrawn from life and too idealistically unreal. I tried living alone in order to meditate, but that too came to an end. After all these years I still seem to be utterly incapable of controlling my thoughts, and this is what I want to talk about. Of course I have other problems, sex and so on, but if I were completely the master of my thoughts I could then manage to curb my burning desires and urges.”
Will the controlling of thought lead to the calming of desire, or merely to its suppression, which will in turn bring other and deeper problems? “You are of course not advocating giving way to desire. Desire is the way of thought, and in my attempts to control thought I had hoped to subjugate my desires. Desires have either to be subjugated or sublimated, but even to sublimate them they must first be held in check. Most of the teachers insist that desires must be transcended, and they prescribe various methods to bring this about.”
Apart from what others have said, what do you think? Will mere control of desire resolve the many problems of desire? Will suppression or sublimation of desire bring about the understanding of it or free you from it? Through some occupation, religious or otherwise, the mind can be disciplined every hour of the day. But an occupied mind is not a free mind, and surely it is only the free mind that can be aware of timeless creativity.
“Is there no freedom in transcending desire?”
What do you mean by transcending desire? “For the realization of one’s own happiness, and also of the highest, it is necessary not to be driven by desire, not to be caught in its turmoil and confusion. To have desire under control, some form of subjugation is essential. Instead of pursuing the trivial things of life, that very same desire can search out the sublime.”
You may change the object of desire from a house to knowledge, from the low to the very highest, but it is still the activity of desire, is it not? One may not want worldly recognition, but the urge to attain heaven is still the pursuit of gain. Desire is ever seeking fulfilment, attainment, and it is this movement of desire which must be understood and not driven away or under. Without understanding the ways of desire, mere control of thought has little significance.
“But I must come back to the point from which I started. Even to understand desire, concentration is necessary, and that is my whole difficulty. I can’t seem to control my thoughts. They wander all over the place tumbling over each other. There is not a single thought that is dominant and continuous among all the irrelevant thoughts.”
The mind is like a machine that is working night and day, chattering, everlastingly busy whether asleep or awake. It is speedy and as restless as the sea. Another part of this intricate and complex mechanism tries to control the whole movement, and so begins the conflict between opposing desires, urges. One may be called the higher self and the other the lower self, but both are within the area of the mind. The action and reaction of the mind, of thought, are almost simultaneous and almost automatic. This whole conscious and unconscious process of accepting and denying, conforming and striving to be free, is extremely rapid. So the question is not how to control this complex mechanism, for control brings friction and only dissipates energy, but can this very swift mind slow down?
If it may be pointed out, sir, the issue is not the ‘how’. The ‘how’ merely produces a result, an end without much significance; and after it is gained, another search for another desirable end will begin, with its misery and conflict. “Then what is one to do?”
You are not asking the right question are you? You are not discovering for yourself the truth or falseness of the slowing down of the mind, but you are concerned with getting a result. Getting a result is comparatively easy, isn’t it? Is it possible for the mind to slow down without putting on brakes?
“What do you mean by slowing down?”
When you are going very fast in a car, the nearby landscape is a blur; it is only at a walking speed that you can observe in detail the trees, the birds and the flowers. Self-knowledge comes with the slowing down of the mind, but that doesn’t mean forcing the mind to be slow. Compulsion only makes for resistance, and there must be no dissipation of energy in the slowing down of the mind. This is so, isn’t it?
“I think I am beginning to see that the effort one makes to control thought is wasteful, but I don’t understand what else is to be done.”
We haven’t yet come to the question of action, have we? We are trying to see that it is important for the mind to slow down, we are not considering how to slow it down. Can the mind slowdown? And when does this happen? “I don’t know, I have never thought of it before.”
Have you not noticed, sir that while you are watching something the mind slows down? When you watch that car moving along the road down there, or look intently at any physical object, is not your mind functioning more slowly? Watching, observing, does slow down the mind. Looking at a picture, an image, an object, helps to quiet the mind, as does the repetition of a phrase; but then the object or the phrase becomes very important, and not the slowing down of the mind and what is discovered thereby.
“I am watching what you are explaining, and there is an awareness of the stillness of the mind.”
Do we ever really watch anything, or do we interpose between the observer and the observed a screen of various prejudices, values, judgments, comparisons, condemnations? “It is almost impossible not to have this screen. I don’t think I am capable of observing in an inviolate manner.”
If it may be suggested, don’t block yourself by words or by a conclusion, positive or negative. Can there be observation without this screen? To put it differently, is there attention when the mind is occupied? It is only the unoccupied mind that can attend. The mind is slow, alert, when there is watchfulness, which is the attention of an unoccupied mind.
“I am beginning to experience what you are saying, sir.”
Let us examine it a little further. If there is no evaluation, no screen between the observer and the observed, is there then a separation, a division between them? Is not the observer the observed? “I am afraid I don’t follow.”
The diamond cannot be separated from its qualities, can it? The feeling of envy cannot be separated from the experiencer of that feeling, though an illusory division does exist which breeds conflict, and in this conflict the mind is caught. When this false separation disappears, there is a possibility of freedom, and only then is the mind still. It is only when the experiencer ceases that there is the creative movement of the real.