The vultures were on the usual tree, and the train was rattling across the bridge, and the river flowed on – here it was very wide, very quiet and very deep. Early that morning you could smell the water from a distance; high on the bank overlooking the river you could smell it – the freshness, the cleanliness of it in the morning air. The day had not yet spoilt it. The parrots were screeching across the window, going to the fields, and later they would return to the tamarind. The crows, by the dozen, were crossing the river, high in the air, and they would come down on the trees and among the fields across the river. It was a clear morning of winter, cold but bright, and there was not a cloud in the sky. As you watched the light of the early morning sun on the river, meditation was going on. The very light was part of that meditation when you looked at the bright dancing water in the quiet morning – not with a mind that was translating it into some meaning, but with eyes that saw the light and nothing else.
Light, like sound, is an extraordinary thing. There is the light that painters try to put on a canvas; there is the light that cameras capture; there is the light of a single lamp in a dark night, or the light that is on the face of another, the light that lies behind the eyes. The light that the eyes see is not the light on the water; that light is so different, so vast that it cannot enter into the narrow field of the eye. That light, like sound, moved endlessly – outward and inward – like the tide of the sea. And if you kept very still, you went with it, not in imagination or sensuously; you went with it unknowingly, without the measure of time.
The beauty of that light, like love, is not to be touched, not to be put into a word. But there it was – in the shade, in the open, in the house, on the window across the way, and in the laughter of those children. Without that light what you see is of so little importance, for the light is everything; and the light of meditation was on the water. It would be there in the evening again, during the night, and when the sun rose over the trees, making the river golden. Meditation is that light in the mind which lights the way for action; and without that light there is no love.
He was a big man, clean-shaven, and his head was shaven too. We sat on the floor in that little room overlooking the river. The floor was cold, for it was winter. He had the dignity of a man who possesses little and who is not greatly frightened of what people say.
‘I want to know God. I know it’s not the fashionable thing nowadays. The students, the coming generation with their revolts, with their political activities, with their reasonable and unreasonable demands, scoff at all religion. And they are quite right too, for look what the priests have done with it! Naturally the younger generation do not want anything of it. To them, what the temples and churches stand for is the exploitation of man. They distrust completely the hierarchical priestly outlook – with the saviours, the ceremonies, and all that nonsense. I agree with them. I have helped some of them to revolt against it all. But I still want to know God. I have been a communist but I left the party long ago, for the communists, too, have their gods, their dogmas and theoreticians. I was really a very ardent communist, for at the beginning they promised something – a great, a real revolution. But now they have all the things the Capitalists have; they have gone the way of the world. I have dabbled in social reform and have been active in politics, but I have left all that behind because I don’t see that man will ever be free of his despair and anxiety and fear through science and technology. Perhaps there’s only one way. I’m not in any way superstitious and I don’t think I have any fear of life. I have been through it all and, as you see, I have still many years before me. I want to know what God is. I have asked some of the wandering monks, and those who everlastingly say, God is, you have only to look, and those who become mysterious and offer some method. I am wary of all those traps. So here I am, for I feel I must find out.’
We sat in silence for some time. The parrots were passing the window, screeching, and the light was on their bright green wings and their red beaks.
Do you think you can find out? Do you think that by seeking you will come upon it? Do you think you can experience it? Do you think that the measure of your mind is going to come upon the measureless? How are you going to find out? How will you know? How will you be able to recognise it?
‘I really don’t know,’ he replied. ‘But I will know when it is the real.’
You mean you will know it by your mind, by your heart, by your intelligence?
‘No. The knowing is not dependent on any of these. I know very well the danger of the senses. I am aware how easily illusions are created.’
To know is to experience, isn’t it? To experience is to recognise, and recognition is memory and association. If what you mean by ‘knowing’ is the result of a past incident, a memory, a thing that has happened before, then it is the knowing of what has happened. Can you know what is happening, what is actually taking place? Or, can you only know it a moment afterwards, when it is over? What is actually happening is out of time; knowing is always in time. You look at the happening with the eyes of time, which names it, translates it, and records it. This is what is called knowing, both analytically and through instant recognition. Into this field of knowing you want to bring that which is on the other side of the hill, or behind that tree. And you insist that you must know, that you must experience it and hold it. Can you hold those sweeping waters in your mind or in your hand? What you hold is the word and what your eyes have seen, and this seeing put into words, and the memory of those words. But the memory is not that water – and never will be.
‘All right,’ he said, ‘then how shall I come upon it? I have in my long and studious life found that nothing is going to save man – no institution, no social pattern, nothing, so I’ve stopped reading. But man must be saved, he must come out of this somehow, and my urgent demand to find God is the cry out of a great anxiety for man. This violence that is spreading is consuming man. I know all the arguments for and against it. Once I had hope, but now I am stripped of all hope. I am really completely at the end of my tether. I am not asking this question out of despair or to renew hope. I just can’t see any light. So I have come to ask this one question: Can you help me to uncover reality – if there is a reality?’
Again we were silent for some time. And the cooing of pigeons came into the room.
‘I see what you mean. I’ve never before been so utterly silent. The question is there, outside of this silence, and when I look out of this silence at the question, it recedes. So you mean that it is only in this silence, in this complete and unpremeditated silence, that there is the measureless?’
Another train was rattling across the bridge.
This invites all the foolishness and the hysteria of mysticism – a vague, inarticulate sentiment which breeds illusion. No, sir, this is not what we mean. It’s hard work to put away all illusions – the political, the religious, the illusion of the future. We never discover anything for ourselves. We think we do, and that is one of the greatest illusions, which is thought. It is hard work to see clearly into this mess, into the insanity which man has woven around himself. You need a very, very sane mind to see, and to be free. These two, seeing and freedom, are absolutely necessary. Freedom from the urge to see, freedom from the hope that man always gives to science, to technology and to religious discoveries. This hope breeds illusion. To see this is freedom, and when there is freedom you do not invite. Then the mind itself has become the measureless.