Commentaries on Living Series 1
Commentaries on Living Series I Chapter 84 'Suffering'
A LARGE DEAD animal was floating down the river. On it there were several vultures, tearing away at the carcass; they would fight off the other vultures till they had their fill, and only then would they fly away. The others waited on the trees, on the banks, or hovered overhead. The sun had just risen, and there was heavy dew on the grass. The green fields on the other side of the river were misty, and the voices of the peasants carried so dearly across the water. It was a lovely morning, fresh and new. A baby monkey was playing around the mother among the branches. It would race along a branch, leap to the next one and race back again, or jump up and down near the mother. She was bored by these antics, and would come down the tree and go up another. When We began to climb down, the baby would run and cling to her, getting on her back or swinging under her. It had such a small face, with eyes that were full of play and frightened mischief.
How frightened we are of the new, of the unknown! We like to remain enclosed in our daily habits, routines, quarrels and anxieties. We like to think in the same old way, take the same road, see the same faces and have the same worries. We dislike to meet strangers, and when we do we are aloof and distraught. And how frightened we are to encounter an unfamiliar animal 1. We move within the walls of our own thought; and when we do venture out, it is still within the extension of those walls. We have never an ending, but always nourish the continuous. We carry from day to day the burden of yesterday; our life is one long, continuous movements and our minds are dull and insensitive.
He could hardly stop weeping. It was not controlled or retrained weeping, but a sobbing that shook his whole body. He was a youngish man, alert with eyes that had seen visions. He was unable to speak for some time; and when at last he did, his voice shook and he would burst into great sobs, unashamed and free. Presently he said:
"I haven't wept at all since the day of my wife's death. I don't know what made me cry like that, but it has been a relief. I have wept before, with her when she was alive, and then weeping was as cleansing as laughter; but since her death everything has changed. I used to paint, but now I can't touch the brushes or look at the things I have done. For the last six months I also have seemed to be dead. We had no children, but she was expecting one; and now she is gone. Even now I can hardly realize it, for we did everything together. She was so beautiful and so good, and what shall I do now? I am sorry to have burst out like that, and GOD knows what made me do it; but I know it is good to have cried. It will never be the same again, though; something has gone out or my life. The other day I picked up the brushes, and they were strangers to me. Before, I didn't even know I held a brush in my hand; but now it has weight, it is cumbersome. I have often walked to the river, wanting never to come back; but I always did. I couldn't see people, as her face was always there. I sleep, drink and eat with her, but I know it can never be the same again. I have reasoned about it all, tried to rationalize the event and understand it; but I know she is not there. I dream of her night after night; but I cannot sleep all the time, though I have tried. I dare not touch her things, and the very smell of them drives me almost crazy. I have tried to forget, but do what I will, it can never be the same again. I used to listen to the birds, but now I want to destroy everything. I can't go on like this. I haven't seen any of our friends since then, and without her they mean nothing to me. What am I to do?"
We were silent for a long time.
Love that turns to sorrow and to hate is not love. Do we know what love is? Is it love that, when thwarted, becomes fury? Is there love when there is gain and loss?
"In loving her, all those things ceased to exist. I was completely oblivious of them all, oblivious even of myself. I knew such love, and I still have that love for her; but now I am aware of other things also, of myself, of my sorrow, of the days of my misery."
How quickly love turns to hate, to jealousy, to sorrow ! How deeply we are lost in the smoke, and how distant is that which was so close! Now we are aware of other things, which have suddenly become so much more important. We are now aware that we are lonely, without a companion, without the smile and the familiar sharp word; we are aware of ourselves now, and not only of the other. The other was everything, and we nothing; now the other is not, and we are that which is. The other is a dream, and the reality is what we are. Was the other ever real, or a dream of our own creation, clothed with the beauty of our own joy which soon fades? The fading is death, and life is what we are. Death cannot always cover life, however much we may desire it; life is stronger than death. The what is is stronger than what is not. How we love death, and not life! The denial of life is so pleasant, so forgetting. When the other is, we are not; when the other is, we are free, uninhibited; the other is the flower, the neighbour, the scent, the remembrance. We all want the other, we are all identified with the other; the other is important, and not ourselves. The other is the dream of ourselves; and upon waking, we are what is. The what is is deathless, but we want to put an end to what is. The desire to end gives birth to the continuous, and what is continuous can never know the deathless.
"I know I cannot go on living like this, a half-death. I am not at all sure that I understand what you are saying. I am too dazed to take anything in."
Do you not often find that, though you are not giving your full attention to what is being said or to what you are reading, there has nevertheless been a listening, perhaps unconsciously, and that something has penetrated in spite of yourself? Though you have not deliberately looked at those trees, yet the image of them suddenly comes up in every detail - have you never found that happening? Of course you are dazed from the recent shock; but in spite of that, as you come out of it, what we are saying now will be remembered and then it may be of some help. But what is important to realize is this: when you come out of the shock, the suffering will be more intense, and your desire will be to escape, to run away from your own misery. There are only too many people who will help you to escape; they will offer every plausible explanation, conclusions which they or others have arrived at, every kind of rationalization; or you yourself will find some form of withdrawal, pleasant or unpleasant, to drown your misery. Till now you have been too close to the event, but as the days go by you will crave for some kind of consolation: religion, cynicism, social activity, or some ideology. But escapes of any kind, whether God or drink, only prevent the understanding of sorrow.
Sorrow has to be understood and not ignored. To ignore it is to give continuity to suffering; to ignore it is to escape from suffering. To understand suffering needs an operational, experimental approach. To experiment is not to seek a definite result. If you seek a definite result, experiment is not possible. If you know what you want, the going after it is not experimentation. If you seek to get over suffering, which is to condemn it, then you do not understand its whole process; when you try to overcome suffering, your only concern is to avoid it. To understand suffering, there must be no positive action of the mind to justify or to overcome it: the mind must be entirely passive, silently watchful, so that it can follow without hesitation the unfolding of sorrow. Mind cannot follow the story of sorrow if it is tethered to any hope, conclusion or remembrance. To follow the swift movement of what is, the mind must be free; freedom is not to be had at the end, it must be there at the very beginning.
"What is the meaning of all this sorrow?"
Is not sorrow the indication of conflict, the conflict of pain and pleasure? Is not sorrow the intimation of ignorance? Ignorance is not lack of information about facts; ignorance is unawareness of the total process of oneself. There must be suffering as long as there is no understanding of the ways of the self; and the ways of the self are to be discovered only in the action of relationship.
"But my relationship has come to an end."
There is no end to relationship. There may be the end of a particular relationship; but relationship can never end. To be is to be related, and nothing can live in isolation. Though we try to isolate ourselves through a particular relationship, such isolation will inevitably breed sorrow. Sorrow is the process of isolation.
"Can life ever be what it has been?"
Can the joy of yesterday ever be repeated today? The desire for repetition arises only when there is no joy today; when today is empty, we look to the past or to the future. The desire for repetition is desire for continuity, and in continuity there is never the new. There is happiness, not in the past or in the future, but only in the movement of the present.
Commentaries on Living Series 1
Commentaries on Living Series I Chapter 84 'Suffering'
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