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Commentaries on Living Series 2

Commentaries on Living Series II Chapter 16 'The Pursuit of Power'

THE COW WAS in labour, and the two or three people who regularly attended to her milking, feeding and cleaning were with her now. She was watching them, and if one went away for any reason, she would gently call. At this critical time she wanted all her friends about her; they had come and she was content, but she was labouring heavily. The little calf was born and it was a beauty, a heifer. The mother got up and went round and round her new baby, nudging her gently from time to time; she was so joyous that she would push us aside. She kept this up for a long time till she finally got tired. We held the baby to suckle, but the mother was too excited. At last she calmed down, and then she wouldn't let us go. One of the ladies sat on the ground, and the new mother lay down and put her head in her lap. She had suddenly lost interest in her calf, and her friends were more to her now. It had been very cold, but at last the sun was coming up behind the hills, and it was getting warmer.

He was a member of the government and was shyly aware of his importance. He talked of his responsibility to his people; he explained how his party was superior to and could do things better than the opposition, how they were trying to put an end to corruption and the black market, but how difficult it was to find incorruptible and yet efficient people, and how easy it was for outsiders to criticize and blame the government for the things that were not being done. He went on to say that when people reached his age they should take things more easily; but most people were greedy for power, even the inefficient. Deep down we were all unhappy and out for ourselves, though some of us were clever at hiding our unhappiness and our craving for power. Why was there this urge to power?

What do we mean by power? Every individual and group is after power: power for oneself, for the party, or the ideology. The party and the ideology are an extension of oneself. The ascetic seeks power through abnegation, and so does the mother through her child. There is the power of efficiency with its ruthlessness, and the power of the machine in the hands of a few; there is the domination of one individual by another, the exploitation of the stupid by the clever, the power of money, the power of name and word, and the power of mind over matter. We all want some kind of power, whether over ourselves or over others. This urge to power brings a kind of happiness, a gratification that is not too transient. The power of renunciation is as the power of wealth. It is the craving for gratification for happiness, that drives us to seek power. And how easily we are satisfied! The ease of achieving some form of satisfaction blinds us. All gratifications blinding. Why do we seek this power? "I suppose primarily because it gives us physical comforts, a social position, and respectability along recognized channels."

Is the craving for power at only one level of our being? Do we not seek it inwardly as well as outwardly? Why? Why do we worship authority, whether of a book, of a person, of the State, or of a belief? Why is there this urge to cling to a person or to an idea? It was once the authority of the priest that held us, and now it is the authority of the expert, the specialist. Have you not noticed how you treat a man with a title, a man of position, the powerful executive? power in some form seems to dominate our lives: the power of one over many, the using of one by another, or mutual use.

"What do you mean by using another?"

This is fairly simple, is it not? We use each other for mutual gratification. The present structure of society, which is our relationship with each other, is based on need and usage. You need votes to get you into power; you use people to get what you want, and they need what you promise. The woman needs the man, and the man the woman. Our present relationship is based on need and use. Such a relationship is inherently violent, and that is why the very basis of our society is violence. As long as the social structure is based on mutual need and use, it is bound to be violent and disruptive; as long as I use another for my personal gratification, or for the fulfilment of an ideology with which I am identified, there can only be fear, distrust and opposition. Relationship is then a process of self-isolation and disintegration. This is all painfully obvious in the life of the individual and in world affairs.

"But it is impossible to live without mutual need!"

I need the postman, but if I use him to satisfy some inner urge, then the social need becomes a psychological necessity and our relationship has undergone a radical change. It is this psychological need and usage of another that makes for violence and misery. Psychological need creates the search for power, and power is used for gratification at different levels of our being. The man who is ambitious for himself or for his party, or who wants to achieve an ideal, is obviously a disintegrating factor in society. "Is not ambition inevitable?"

It is inevitable only as long as there is no fundamental transformation in the individual. Why should we accept it as inevitable? Is the cruelty of man to man inevitable? Don't you want to put an end to it? Does not accepting it as inevitable indicate utter thoughtlessness?

"If you are not cruel to others, someone else will be cruel to you, so you have to be on top."

To be on top is what every individual, every group, every ideology is trying to do, and so sustaining cruelty, violence. There can be creation only in peace; and how can there be peace if there is mutual usage? To talk of peace is utter nonsense as long as our relationship with the one or with the many is based on need and use. The need and use of another must inevitably lead to power and dominance. The power of an idea and the power of the sword are similar; both are destructive. Idea and belief set man against man, just as the sword does. Idea and belief are the very antithesis of love.

"Then why are we consciously or unconsciously consumed with this desire for power?"

Is not the pursuit of power one of the recognized and respectable escapes from ourselves, from what is? Everyone tries to escape from his own insufficiency, from his inner poverty, loneliness, isolation. The actual is unpleasant, but the escape is glamourous and inviting. Consider what would happen if you were about to be stripped of your power, your position, your hard earned wealth. You would resist it, would you not? You consider yourself essential to the welfare of society, so you would resist with violence, or with rational and cunning argumentation. If you were able voluntarily to set aside all your many acquisitions at different levels, you would be as nothing, would you not?

"I suppose I would - which is very depressing. Of course I don't want to be as nothing."

So you have all the outer show without the inner substance, the incorruptible inward treasure. You want your outward show, and so does another, and from this conflict arise hate and fear, violence and decay. You with your ideology are as insufficient as the opposition, and so you are destroying each other in the name of peace, sufficiency, adequate employment, or in the name of God. As almost everyone craves to be on top, we have built a society of violence, conflict and enmity.

"But how is one to eradicate all this?"

By not being ambitious, greedy for power, for name, for position; by being what you are, simple and a nobody. Negative thinking is the highest form of intelligence.

"But the cruelty and violence of the world cannot be stopped by my individual effort. And would it not take infinite time for all individuals to change?"

The other is you. This question springs from the desire to avoid your own immediate transformation, does it not? You are saying, in effect, "What is the good of my changing if everyone else does not change?" One must begin near to go far. But you really do not want to change; you want things to go on as they are, especially if you are on top, and so you say it will take infinite time to transform the world through individual transformation. The world is you; you are the problem; the problem is not separate from you; the world is the projection of yourself. The world cannot be transformed till you are. Happiness is in transformation and not in acquisition.

"But I am moderately happy. Of course there are many things in myself which I don't like, but I haven't the time or the inclination to go after them."

Only a happy man can bring about a new social order; but he is not happy who is identified with an ideology or a belief, or who is lost in any social or individual activity. Happiness is not an end in itself. It comes with the understanding of what is. Only when the mind is free from its own projections can there be happiness. Happiness that is bought is merely gratification; happiness through action, through power, is only sensation; and as sensation soon withers, there is craving for more and more. As long as the more is a means to happiness, the end is always dissatisfaction, conflict and misery. Happiness is not a remembrance; it is that state which comes into being with truth, ever new, never continuous.

Commentaries on Living Series 2

Commentaries on Living Series II Chapter 16 'The Pursuit of Power'

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