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Series II - Chapter 7 - ‘Discipline’
WE HAD DRIVEN through heavy traffic, and presently we turned off the main road into a sheltered lane. Leaving the car, we followed a path that wove through palm groves and along a field of green ripening rice. How lovely was that long, curving rice field, bordered by the tall palms! It was a cool evening, and a breeze was stirring among the trees with their heavy foliage. Unexpectedly, round a bend, there was a lake. It was long, narrow and deep, and on both sides of it the palms stood so close together as to be almost impenetrable. The breeze was playing with the water, and there was murmuring along the shore. Some boys were bathing, naked, unashamed and free. Their bodies were glistening and beautiful, well formed, slender and supple. They would swim out into the middle of the lake, then come back and start again. The path led on past a village, and on the way back the full moon made deep shadows; the boys had gone, the moonlight was upon the waters, and the palms were like white columns in the shadowy dark.
He had come from some distance, and was eager to find out how to subdue the mind. He said that he had deliberately withdrawn from the world and was living very simply with some relatives, devoting his time to the overcoming of the mind. He had practiced a certain discipline for a number of years, but his mind was still not under control; it was always ready to wander off, like an animal on a leash. He had starved himself, but that did not help; he had experimented with his diet, and that had helped a little, but there was never any peace. His mind was forever throwing up images, conjuring up past scenes, sensations and incidents; or it would think of how it would be quiet tomorrow. But tomorrow never came, and the whole process became quite nightmarish. On very rare occasions the mind was quiet, but the quietness soon became a memory, a thing of the past.
What is overcome must be conquered again and again. Suppression is a form of overcoming, as are substitution and sublimation. To desire to conquer is to give birth to further conflict. Why do you want to conquer, to calm the mind? “I have always been interested in religious matters; I have studied various religions, and they all say that to know God the mind must be still. Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to find God, the pervading beauty of the world, the beauty of the rice field and the dirty village. I had a very promising career, had been abroad and all that kind of thing; but one morning I just walked out to find that stillness. I heard what you said about it the other day, and so I have come.”
To find God, you try to subdue the mind. But is calmness of mind a way to God? Is calmness the coin which will open the gates of heaven? You want to buy your way to God to truth, or what name you will. Can you buy the eternal through virtue, through renunciation, through mortification? We think that if we do certain things, practice virtue, pursue chastity, withdraw from the world, we shall be able to measure the measureless; so it’s just a bargain, isn’t it? Your ‘virtue’ is a means to an end.
“But discipline is necessary to curb the mind, otherwise there is no peace. I have just not disciplined it sufficiently; it’s my fault, not the fault of the discipline.”
Discipline is a means to an end. But the end is the unknown. Truth is the unknown, it cannot be known; if it is known, it is not truth. If you can measure the immeasurable, then it is not. Our measurement is the word, and the word is not the real. Discipline is the means; but the means and the end are not two dissimilar things, are they? Surely, the end and the means are one; the means is the end, the only end; there is no goal apart from the means. Violence as a means to peace is only the perpetuation of violence The means is all that matters, and not the end; the end is determined by the means; the end is not separate, away from the means.
“I will listen and try to understand what you are saying. When I don’t, I will ask.”
You use discipline, control, as a means to gain tranquillity, do you not? Discipline implies conformity to a pattern; you control in order to be this or that. Is not discipline, in its very nature, violence? It may give you pleasure to discipline yourself, but is not that very pleasure a form of resistance which only breeds further conflict? Is not the practice of discipline the cultivation of defence? And what is defended is always attacked. Does not discipline imply the suppression of what is in order to achieve a desired end? Suppression, substitution and sublimation only increase effort and bring about further conflict. You may succeed in suppressing a disease, but it will continue to appear in different forms until it is eradicated. Discipline is the suppression, the overcoming of what is. Discipline is a form of violence; so through a ’wrong’ means we hope to gain the ‘right’ end. Through resistance, how can there be the free, the true? Freedom is at the beginning, not at the end; the goal is the first step the means is the end. The first step must be free, and not the last. Discipline implies compulsion, subtle or brutal, outward or self-imposed; and where there is compulsion, there is fear. Fear, compulsion, is used as a means to an end, the end being love.
Can there be love through fear? Love is when there is no fear at any level. “But without some kind of compulsion, some kind of conformity, how can the mind function at all?”
The very activity of the mind is a barrier to its own understanding. Have you never noticed that there is understanding only when the mind, as thought, is not functioning? Understanding comes with the ending of the thought process, in the interval between two thoughts. You say the mind must be still, and yet you desire it to function. If we can be simple in watchfulness, we shall understand; but our approach is so complex that it prevents understanding. Surely, we are not concerned with discipline, control, suppression, resistance, but with the process and the ending of thought itself. What do we mean when we say that the mind wanders? Simply that thought is everlastingly enticed from one attraction to another, from one association to another, and is inconstant agitation. Is it possible for thought to come to an end?
“That is exactly my problem. I want to end thought. I can see now the futility of discipline; I really see the falseness, the stupidity of it, and I won’t pursue that line any more. But how can I end thought?”
Again, listen without prejudice, without interposing any conclusions, either your own or those of another; listen to understand and not merely to refute or accept. You ask how you can put an end to thought. Now, are you, the thinker, an entity separate from your thoughts? Are you entirely dissimilar from your thoughts? Are you not your own thoughts? Thought may place the thinker at a very high level and give a name to him, separate him from itself; yet the thinker is still within the process of thought, is he not? There is only thought, and thought creates the thinker; thought gives form to the thinker as a permanent, separate entity. Thought sees itself to be impermanent, in constant flux, so it breeds the thinker as a permanent entity apart and dissimilar from itself. Then the thinker operates on thought; the thinker says, “I must put an end to thought”. But there is only the process of thinking, there is no thinker apart from thought. The experiencing of this truth is vital, it is not a mere repetition of phrases. There are only thoughts, and not a thinker who thinks thoughts.
“But how did thought arise originally?”
Through perception, contact, sensation, desire and identification; ‘I want’, ‘I don’t want’, and so on. That is fairly simple, is it not? Our problem is, how can thought end? Any form of compulsion, conscious or unconscious, is utterly futile, for it implies a controller, one who disciplines; and such an entity, as we see, is nonexistent. Discipline is a process of condemnation, comparison, or justification; and when it is clearly seen that there is no separate entity as the thinker, the one who disciplines, then there are only thoughts, the process of thinking. Thinking is the response of memory, of experience, of the past. This again must be perceived, not on the verbal level, but there must be an experiencing of it. then only is there passive watchfulness in which the thinker is not, an awareness in which thought is entirely absent. The mind, the totality of experience, the self-consciousness which is ever in the past, is quiet only when it is not projecting itself; and this projection is the desire to become.
The mind is empty only when thought is not. Thought cannot come to an end save through passive watchfulness of every thought. In this awareness there is no watcher and no censor; without the censor, there is only experiencing. In experiencing there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced. The experienced is the thought, which gives birth to the thinker. Only when the mind is experiencing is there stillness, the silence which is not made up, put together; and only in that tranquillity can the real come into being. Reality is not of time and is not measurable.