The heavens opened and there was rain; it covered the earth. It came down in sheets, flooding the roads and visibly filling the lily pond. The trees bent down under the weight of it. The crows were soaked and could hardly fly, and many little birds took shelter under the veranda roof. Suddenly, from nowhere, came the frogs, large and small. Those with long legs made prodigious jumps with the greatest ease. Some were brown, some had green stripes, while others were almost entirely green, and they all had bright eyes, black, round and large. When you took one in your hand, it remained there, its beady eyes looking at you; and when you put it down again, it still didn’t move, but sat as though glued to the spot. The rain was still coming down; everywhere there were running streams, and the water on the path was now ankle-deep. There was no wind, but just heavy rain. In a few seconds, all your clothes were soaked, and they clung to your body uncomfortably; but it was warm, and you really didn’t mind getting completely wet. You looked down to keep the water out of your eyes, but the heavy drops were painful on your scalp, and you would soon have to go in. A pale purple lily, with a bright golden heart, was being torn by the force of the rain; it couldn’t stand much more of such heavy beating. A green snake as thick as your finger was clinging to a branch; you could hardly see it, for it was almost the colour of the leaves, only a brighter green, with a chemical artificiality about it. It had no eyelids, and its black eyes were exposed. It didn’t move as you approached, but you could feel it was uncomfortable with you so close. It was of a harmless variety, about eighteen inches long, plump and amazingly supple. Even when you moved away, it still remained motionless and watchful, and from a short distance you couldn’t see it at all.
The leaves of the banana plants were being torn to shreds, the flowers were being knocked off, and it still went on raining as furiously as ever. The delicate white jasmines were on the ground, and they were quickly becoming the colour of the earth; in death they still had their goodly perfume, but only when you came near them; a little further away there was only the smell of the rain and of penetrating dampness. A bedraggled crow had taken refuge on the veranda; thoroughly soaked, its wings were touching the floor, and the bluish-white skin was showing. It couldn’t fly, and it looked at you asking you not to come near. Its sharp, black beak was the only thing hard and powerful about it; everything else was soft and weak. The roar of the sea could not be heard above the patter of the rain on the roof, on the leaves, and on the fan-shaped palm. But you could feel that this noise was slowly coming to an end. Already it was raining less heavily, and you could hear the frogs croaking. Other noises became audible: voices calling, a dog barking, a car coming down the road. Everything was becoming normal again. You were of the earth, of the leaves, of the dying lily, and you too were washed clean.
He was an old man, known for his generous nature, and for his hard work. Lean and austere, he went about the country by rail, bus or on foot, talking on religious matters, and there was about him the dignity of thought and meditation. He had a beard, clean and well-trimmed, and long hair. His hands were long and thin, and he had a pleasant, friendly smile.
‘Though I do not wear the saffron robe, I am a sannyasi, and have been all over the land, talking to many people and questioning the religious teachers everywhere. As you see, I am an old man, my beard is white, but I have tried to keep my heart young and my head clear. I left home at the age of fifteen in search of God.’ He smiled gently at past remembrances.
‘That was many years ago; and though I have read, worshipped, meditated, I have not found God. I have listened attentively to the most famous of the saintly leaders, who incessantly talk of God – listened to them, not once, but many times; I have watched their work, their social reform, not patronizingly, but with openness of heart to see their goodness. I am neither tolerant nor intolerant. I have prayed with the crowd, and I have prayed inwardly, quietly, in solitude. As a young man, I wanted to become a social reformer, and I willingly turned my hand to good works; but I found that good works have significance only within the great whole, which is God, and while I see that social reform is necessary, it is not my all-consuming interest.
‘It was not with a dry heart that I listened to these “leaders of the people”, as they are called,’ he went on, ‘but their God is not the God I am seeking. Their God is action; they preach, exhort, fast, organize political meetings; they serve as the heads of committees, write articles, edit papers, and mingle with the great of the land. They are active, but they know not silence. I have sought God with them, but have not found Him. Long before the names of these men began to appear in the papers, I was seeking God alone, in caves and in the open spaces; but I have not found Him.
‘Now I am an old man, and I have only a few years left. Shall I find Him? Or is He non-existent? I don’t want an opinion, or the cunning arguments of a polished mind. I must know. I have listened to you many times, in the north as well as in the south, and you do not speak of God as others do, nor are you in the religious-political arena. You explain what God is not, but you do not say what He is – which is as it should be. But you give no way to Him, and that is hard to understand. I have known of you from your very young days, and I often used to wonder how it would all turn out. If it had turned out otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. This is not a compliment. I want to know the truth before I leave this world.’
He sat quietly, his eyes closed. There was not about him the harshness of doubt, nor the brutality of cynicism, nor the intolerance which tries to be tolerant. He was a man who had come to the end of his seeking, and still wanted to know. There was a strange silence in the room. Sir, is there humility when we seek? Seeking is never born of humility, is it?
‘Then is it born of arrogance?’
Isn’t it? The desire to achieve, to arrive, is part of the pride which conceals itself in seeking. A way must be found to bring about the efficient and equitable distribution of man’s physical necessities; and it will be found, because technology will force us to find it, now or tomorrow. But apart from seeking the physical well-being of man, why do we seek at all?
‘I have sought ever since my childhood because this world has very little meaning; its significance can be seen with the naked eye. I don’t say it’s an illusion, as some do. This world is as real as pain and sorrow. Illusion exists only in the mind, and the power to create illusion can come to an end. The mind can be cleansed of its impurities by the breath of compassion; but the cleansing of the mind is not the finding of God. I have sought Him, but have found Him not.’
This daily living is a transitory thing, and one seeks permanency; or in the midst of all this madness, one hopes for something rational, sane; or one is after some kind of personal immortality; or one is pursuing fulfilment in something infinitely greater than the enrichment of passing desire. Now, all this seeking is a form of arrogance, is it not? And how are you to know reality? Will you be able to recognize it, fathom it? Is it within the measure of the mind?
‘Will God come to us without our seeking Him?’
Seeking is confined to the area of thought; all seeking and finding is within the borders of the mind, is it not? The mind can imagine, speculate, can hear the noise of its own chattering, but it cannot find that which is outside of itself. Its seeking is limited to the space of its own measuring.
‘Then have I only been measuring, and not really seeking?’
Seeking is always measuring, sir. There’s no seeking if the mind ceases to measure, compare.
‘Are you telling me that my years of seeking have been in vain?’
It’s not for another to say. But the movement of the mind that sets out on the journey of seeking is ever within the wide or narrow confines of itself.
‘I have sought to silence the mind, but in that too there has been no finality.’
A mind that has been made silent is not a silent mind. It’s a dead mind. Anything that has been brought to a finality by force has to be conquered again and again; there’s no end to it. Only that which has an ending is beyond the reach of time.
‘Is not silence to be sought? Surely, a mind that wanders must be checked and brought under control.’
Can silence be sought? Is it a thing to be cultivated and gathered? To seek silence of the mind, one must already know what it is. And do we know what that silence is? We may know it through the description of another; but can it be described? Knowing is only a verbal condition, a process of recognition; and what is recognized is not silence, which is always new.
‘I have known the silence of the mountains and the caves, and I have put away all thoughts save the thought of silence; but the silence of the mind I have never known. You have wisely said that speculation is empty. But there must be a state of silence; and how is that state to come into being?’
Is there a method for the coming into being of that which is not the product of imagination of that which is not put together by the mind?
‘No, I suppose there isn’t. The only silence I have experienced is that which arises when my mind is completely under control; but you say this is not silence. I have tutored my mind to obedience, and have pleased it only under watchful care; it has been trained and made sharp through study, through argumentation, through meditation and deep thought; but the silence of which you speak has not come within the field of my experience. How is that silence to be experienced? What am I to do?’
Sir, the experiencer must cease for silence to be. The experiencer is always seeking more experiences; he wants to have new sensations, or to repeat old ones; he craves to fulfil himself, to be or become something. The experiencer is the motive-maker; and as long as there’s a motive, however subtle, there’s only the buying of silence; but it’s not silence.
‘Then how is silence to happen? Is it an accident of life? Is it a gift?’
Let’s consider together the whole issue. We are always seeking something, and we use that word ‘seeking’ so easily. The fact that we are seeking is all-important, and not what is being sought. What one seeks is the projection of one’s own desire. Seeking is not the state of search; it is a reaction, a process of denial and assertion with regard to an idea made by the mind. To seek the proverbial needle in a haystack, there must already be knowledge of the needle. Similarly, to seek God, happiness, silence, or what you will, is already to have known, formulated or imagined it. Seeking, as it’s called, is always for something known. Finding is recognizing, and recognition is based on previous knowledge. This process of seeking is not the state of search. The mind that’s seeking is waiting, expecting, desiring, and what it finds is recognizable, therefore already known. Seeking is the action of the past. But the state of search is entirely different, it’s in no way similar to seeking; and it’s not a reaction, the opposite of seeking. The two are not related in any way.
‘Then what is the state of search?’
It cannot be described, but it is possible to be in that state if there is an understanding of what seeking is. We seek, out of discontent, unhappiness, fear, do we not? Seeking is a network of activities in which there’s no freedom. This network has to be understood.
‘What do you mean by understanding?’
Is not understanding a state of mind in which knowledge, memory, or recognition, is not immediately functioning? To understand, the mind must be still; the activities of knowledge must be in abeyance. This stillness of the mind takes place spontaneously when the teacher or the parent really wants to understand the child. When there’s the intention to understand, there is attention without the distraction of the desire to attend. Then the mind is not disciplined, controlled, pulled together and made to be still. Its stillness is natural when there’s the intention to understand. No effort, no conflict, is involved in understanding. With the understanding of the full significance of seeking, the state of search comes into being. It cannot be sought and found.
‘As I have listened to you explaining, there has been a close watching of the mind. I now see the truth of what is called seeking, and I perceive that it is possible not to seek; yet the state of search is not.’
Why say it is not, or it is? Being aware of the truth and the falseness of seeking, the mind is no longer caught in the machinery of seeking. There’s a feeling of being unburdened, a sense of relief. The mind is still; it’s no longer making effort striving after something; but it’s not asleep, nor is it waiting, expecting. It’s simply quiet, awake. Isn’t that so, sir?
‘Please do not call me “sir”. I am the one being instructed. What you say appears to be true.’
This awakened mind is the state of search. It’s no longer seeking from a motive; there’s no objective to be gained. The mind has not been made still; there’s no pressure on it to be still, and so it’s still. Its stillness is not that of a leaf which is ready to dance with the next breeze; it’s not a plaything of desire.
‘There’s awareness of a movement in that stillness.’
Is this awareness not silence? We are describing, but not as the experiencer would describe. The experiencer is brought into being through many causes; he is an effect, who in turn becomes the cause of still another effect. The experiencer is both cause and effect in a never-ending series of causes and effects. To perceive the truth of this sets the mind free. There is no freedom within the network of cause-effect. Freedom is not being free from the net, but freedom is when the net is not. Freedom from something is not freedom; it’s only a reaction, the opposite of bondage. Freedom is when bondage is understood. Truth is not something permanent, fixed therefore it cannot be sought; truth is a living thing, it is the state of search.
‘That state of search is God. There is no end to be gained and held. The seeking without finding which has gone on all these years has not brought bitterness to the heart, nor is there regret over these spent years. We are taught, we do not learn, and therein lies our misery. Understanding abolishes time and age, it sweeps away the difference between the teacher and the taught. I understand and feel greatly. We shall meet again.’