The Urgency of Questioning

It was a very quiet evening, the clouds had gone and were gathering around the setting sun. The trees made restless by the breeze were settling down for the night; they too had become quiet; the birds were coming in, taking shelter for the night among the trees that had thick foliage. There were two small owls, sitting high up on the wires, with their unblinking eyes, staring. And as usual, the hills stood alone and aloof far away from every kind of disturbance; during the day they had to put up with the noises of the valley but now they withdrew from all communication, and darkness was closing in upon them, though there was the feeble light of the moon. The moon had a halo of vaporous clouds round it; everything was preparing to go to sleep save the hills. They never slept; they were always watching, waiting, looking and communing amongst themselves, endlessly. Those two little owls on the wire made rattling noises, stones in a metal box; their rattling was far louder than their little bodies, like large fists; you would hear them in the night, going from tree to tree, their flight as silent as the big ones. They flew off the wire flying low, just above the bushes, rising again to the lower branches of the tree, and from a safe distance they would watch and soon lose interest. On the crooked pole further down was a large owl; it was brown with enormous eyes and with a sharp beak that seemed to come out between those staring eyes. It flew off with a few beats of its wings, with such a quietness and deliberation that it made you wonder at the structure and the strength of those graceful wings; it flew off into the hills and lost itself in darkness. This must be the owl, with its mate that has the deep hoot, calling to the other in the night; last night they must have gone into the other valleys beyond the hills; they would come back, for their home was in one of those northern hills where you could hear their early evening calls if you happened to pass by quietly. Beyond these hills were more fertile lands, with green, luscious rice fields.

Questioning has become merely a revolt, a reaction to what is and all reactions have little meaning. The communists revolt against the capitalists, the son against the father; the refusal to accept the social norm, to break through the economic and class bondage. Perhaps, these revolts are necessary but yet they are not very deep; instead of the old, a new pattern is repeated and in the very breaking of the old a new one is, closing in the mind and so destroying it.

The endless revolt within the prison is the questioning reaction of the immediate, and remodelling and redecorating the prison walls seems to give us such intense satisfaction that we never break through the walls. The questioning discontent is within the walls, which doesn’t get us very far; it would take you to the moon and to the neutron bombs but all this is still within the call of sorrow. But the questioning of the structure of sorrow and going beyond it is not the escape of reaction. This questioning is far more urgent than going to the moon or to the temple; it is this questioning that tears down the structure and not the building of a new and more expensive prison, with its gods and saviours, with its economists and leaders. This questioning destroys the machinery of thought and not the substitution of one by another thought, conclusion, theory. This questioning shatters authority, the authority of experience, word and the most respected evil power. This questioning, which is not born of reaction, of choice and motive, explodes the moral, respectable self-centred activity; it is this activity that is always being reformed and never smashed. This endless reformation is the endless sorrow. What has cause and motive inevitably breeds agony and despair.

We are afraid of this total destruction of the known, the ground of the self, the me and the mine; the known is better than the unknown, the known with its confusion, conflict and misery; freedom from this known may destroy what we call love, relationship, joy and so on. Freedom from the known, the explosive questioning, not of reaction, ends sorrow, and so love then is something that thought and feeling cannot measure.

Our life is so shallow and empty, petty thoughts and petty activities, woven in conflict and misery and always journeying from the known to the known, psychologically demanding security. There is no security in the known however much one may want it. Security is time and there is no psychological time; it is a myth and an illusion, breeding fear. There is nothing permanent now or in the hereafter, in the future. By right questioning and listening, the pattern moulded by thought and feeling, the pattern of the known, is shattered. Self-knowing, knowing the ways of thought and feeling, listening to every movement of thought and feeling, ends the known. The known breeds sorrow, and love is the freedom from the known.