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Commentaries on Living Series 1

Commentaries on Living Series I Chapter 39 'Self-defence'

HE WAS A well-known man, and was in a position to harm others, which he did not hesitate to do. He was cunningly shallow, devoid of generosity, and worked to his own advantage. He said he was not too keen to talk things over, but circumstances had forced him to come, and here he was. From everything he said and did not say, it was fairly clear that he was very ambitious and shaped the people about him; he was ruthless when it paid, and gentle when he wanted something. He had consideration for those above him, treated his equals with condescending tolerance, and of those below him he was utterly unaware. He never so much as glanced at the chauffeur who brought him. His money made him suspicious, and he had few friends, He talked of his children as though they were toys to amuse him, and he could not bear to be alone, he said. Someone had hurt him, and he could not retaliate because that person was beyond his reach; so he was taking it out of those he could reach. He was unable to understand why he was being unnecessarily brutal, why he wanted to hurt those whom he said he loved. As he talked, he slowly began to thaw and became almost friendly. It was the friendliness of the moment whose warmth would be shut off instantly if it were thwarted or if anything were asked of it. As nothing was being asked of him, he was free and temporarily affectionate.

The desire to do harm, to hurt another, whether by a word, by a gesture, or more deeply, is strong in most of us; it is common and frighteningly pleasant. The very desire not to be hurt makes for the hurting of others; to harm others is a way of defending oneself. This self-defence takes peculiar forms, depending on circumstances and tendencies. How easy it is to hurt another, and what gentleness is needed not to hurt! We hurt others because we ourselves are hurt, we are so bruised by our own conflicts and sorrows. The more we are inwardly tortured, the greater the urge to be outwardly violent. Inward turmoil drives us to seek outward protection; and the more one defends oneself, the greater the attack on others.

What is it that we defend, that we so carefully guard? Surely, it is the idea of ourselves, at whatever level. If we did not guard the idea, the centre of accumulation, there would be no "me" and "mine." We would then be utterly sensitive, vulnerable to the ways of our own being, the conscious as well as the hidden; but as most of us do not desire to discover the process of the "me", we resist any encroachment upon the idea of ourselves. The idea of ourselves is wholly superficial; but as most of us live on the surface, we are content with illusions.

The desire to do harm to another is a deep instinct. We accumulate resentment, which gives a peculiar vitality, a feeling of action and life; and what is accumulated must be expended through anger, insult, depreciation, obstinacy, and through their opposites. It is this accumulation of resentment that necessitates forgiveness - which becomes unnecessary if there is no storing up of the hurt.

Why do we store up flattery and insult, hurt and affection. Without this accumulation of experiences and their responses, we are not; we are nothing if we have no name, no attachment, no belief. It is the fear of being nothing that compels us to accumulate; and it is this very fear, whether conscious or unconscious, that, in spite of our accumulative activities, brings about our disintegration and destruction. If we can be aware of the truth of this fear, then it is the truth that liberates us from it, and not our purposeful determination to be free,

You are nothing. You may have your name and title, your property and bank account, you may have power and be famous; but in spite of all these safeguards, you are as nothing. You may be totally unaware of this emptiness, this nothingness, or you may simply not want to be aware of it; but it is there, do what you will to avoid it. You may try to escape from it in devious ways, through personal or collective violence, through individual or collective worship, through knowledge or amusement; but whether you are asleep or awake, it is always there. You can come upon your relationship to this nothingness and its fear only by being choicelessly aware of the escapes. You are not related to it as a separate, individual entity; you are not the observer watching it; without you, the thinker, the observer, it is not. You and nothingness are one; you and nothingness are a joint phenomenon, not two separate processes. If you, the thinker, are afraid of it and approach it as something contrary and opposed to you, then any action you may take towards it must inevitably lead to illusion and so to further conflict and misery. When there is the discovery, the experiencing of that nothingness as you, then fear - which exists only when the thinker is separate from his thoughts and so tries to establish a relationship with them - completely drops away. Only then is it possible for the mind to be still; and in this tranquillity, truth comes into being.

Commentaries on Living Series 1

Commentaries on Living Series I Chapter 39 'Self-defence'

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