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Commentaries on Living Series 1

Commentaries on Living Series I Chapter 34 'Sincerity'

THERE WAS A little patch of green lawn, with brilliant flowers along its borders. It was beautifully kept and a great deal of care was given to it, for the sun did its best to burn the lawn and wither the flowers. Beyond this delicious garden, past many houses, was the blue sea, sparkling in the sun, and on it was a white sail. The room overlooked the garden, the houses and the tree tops, and from its window, in the early morning and early evening, the sea was pleasant to look upon. During the day its waters became bright and hard; but there was always a sail, even at high noon. The sun would go down into the sea, making a bright red path; there would be no twilight. The evening star would hover over the horizon, and disappear. The slip of the young moon would capture the evening, but she too would disappear into the restless sea, and darkness would be upon the waters.

He spoke at length of God, of his morning and evening prayers, of his fasts, his vows, his burning desires. He expressed himself very clearly and definitely, there was no hesitation for the right word; his mind was well trained, for his profession demanded it. He was a bright-eyed and alert man, though there was a certain rigidity about him. Obstinacy of purpose and absence of pliability were shown in the way he held his body. He was obviously driven by an extraordinarily powerful will, and though he smiled easily his will was ever on the alert, watchful and dominant. He was very regular in his daily life, and he broke his established habits only by sanction of the will. Without will, he said, there could be no virtue; will was essential to break down evil. The battle between good and evil was everlasting, and will alone held evil at bay. He had a gentle side too, for he would look at the lawn and the gay flowers, and smile; but he never let his mind wander beyond the pattern of will and its action. Though he sedulously avoided harsh words, anger and any show of impatience, his will made him strangely violent. If beauty fitted into the pattern of his purpose, he would accept it; but there always lurked the fear of sensuality, whose ache he tried to contain. He was well read and urbane, and his will went with him like his shadow.

Sincerity can never be simple; sincerity is the breeding ground of the will, and will cannot uncover the ways of the self. Self-knowledge is not the product of will; self-knowledge comes into being through awareness of the moment-by moment responses to the movement of life. Will shuts off these spontaneous responses, which alone reveal the structure of the self. Will is the very essence of desire; and to the understanding of desire, will becomes a hindrance. Will in any form, whether of the upper mind or of the deep-rooted desires, can never be passive; and it is only in passivity, in alert silence, that truth can be. Conflict is always between desires, at whatever level the desires may be placed. The strengthening of one desire in opposition to the others only breeds further resistance, and this resistance is will. Understanding can never come through resistance. What is important is to understand desire, and not to overcome one desire by another.

The desire to achieve, to gain is the basis of sincerity; and this urge, however, superficial or deep, makes for conformity, which is the beginning of fear. Fear limits self-knowledge to the experienced, and so there is no possibility of transcending the experienced. Thus limited, self-knowledge only cultivates wider and deeper self-consciousness, the "me" becoming more and more at different levels and at different periods; so conflict and pain continue. You may deliberately forget or lose yourself in some activity, in cultivating a garden or an ideology, in whipping up in a whole people the raging fervour for war; but you are now the country, the idea, the activity, the god. The greater the identification, the more your conflict and pain are covered over, and so the everlasting struggle to be identified with something. This desire to be one with a chosen object brings the conflict of sincerity, which utterly denies simplicity. You may put ashes on your head, or wear a simple cloth, or wander as a beggar; but this is not simplicity.

Simplicity and sincerity can never be companions. He who is identified with something, at whatever level, may be sincere, but he is not simple. The will to be is the very antithesis of simplicity. Simplicity comes into being with freedom from the acquisitive drive of the desire to achieve. Achievement is identification, and identification is will. Simplicity is the alert, passive awareness in which the experiencer is not recording the experience. Self-analysis prevents this negative awareness; in analysis there is always a motive - to be free, to understand, to gain - and this desire only emphasizes self-consciousness. Likewise, introspective conclusions arrest self-knowledge.

Commentaries on Living Series 1

Commentaries on Living Series I Chapter 34 'Sincerity'

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ancient Chinese treatise by Sun Tzu

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