The mountains looked down on the endless blue sea, stretching out for miles. The hills were almost barren, sunburned, with small bushes, and in their folds there were trees, sunburned and fire-burned, but they were still there, flourishing and very quiet. There was one tree especially, an enormous old oak, that seemed to dominate all the hills around it. And on the top of another hill there was a dead tree, burnt by fire; there it stood naked, grey, without a single leaf. When you looked at those mountains, at their beauty and their lines against the blue sky, this tree alone was seen to hold the sky. It had many branches, all dead, and it would never feel the spring again. Yet it was intensely alive with grace and beauty; you felt you were part of it, alone with nothing to lean on, without time. It seemed it would be there forever, like that big oak in the valley too. One was living and the other was dead, and both were the only things that mattered among these hills, sunburnt, scorched by the fire, waiting for the winter rains. You saw the whole of life, including your own life, in those two trees – one living, one dead. And love lay in between, sheltered, unseen, undemanding.
Under the house lived a mother with four of her young. The day we arrived they were there on the veranda, the mother racoon with her four babies. They were immediately friendly – with their sharp black eyes and soft paws – demanding to be fed and at the same time nervous. The mother was aloof. The next evening they were there again and they took their food from your hands and you felt their soft paws; they were ready to be tamed, to be petted. And you wondered at their beauty and their movement. In a few days, they would be all over you, and you felt the immensity of life in them.
It was a lovely clear day, and every little tree and bush stood out clearly against the bright sun. The man had come from the valley, up the hill to the house which overlooked a gully and, beyond it, a whole range of mountains. There were a few pines near the house and tall bamboo.
He was a young man full of hope, and the brutality of civilization had not yet touched him. What he wanted was to sit quiet, to be silent, made silent not only by the hills but also by the quietness of his own urgency.
‘What part do I play in this world? What is my relationship to the whole existing order? What is the meaning of this endless conflict? I have a love; we sleep together. And yet that is not the end. All this seems like a distant dream, fading and coming back, throbbing one moment, meaningless the next. I have seen some of my friends taking drugs. They have become stupid, dull-witted. Perhaps I too, even without drugs, will be made dull by the routine of life and the ache of my own loneliness. I don’t count among these many millions of people. I shall go the way the others have gone, never coming upon a jewel that is incorruptible, that can never be stolen away, that can never tarnish. So I thought I’d come up here and talk to you, if you have the time. I’m not asking for any answers to my questions. I am perturbed: though I am young I am already discouraged. I see the old, hopeless generation around me with their bitterness, cruelty, hypocrisy, compromise and prudence. They have nothing to give and, strangely enough, I don’t want anything from them. I don’t know what I want, but I do know that I must live a life that is very rich, that is full of meaning. I certainly don’t want to enter some office and gradually become somebody in that shapeless, meaningless existence. I sometimes cry to myself at the loneliness and the beauty of the distant stars.’
We sat quietly for some time, and the pine and the bamboo were caught in the breeze.
The lark and the eagle in their flight leave no mark; the scientist leaves a mark, as do all specialists. You can follow them step by step and add more steps to what they have found and accumulated; and you know, more or less, where their accumulation is leading. But truth is not like that; it is really a pathless land; it may be at the next curve of the road, or a thousand miles away. You have to keep going and then you will find it beside you. But if you stop and trace out a way for another to follow, or a design for your own way of life, it will never come near you.
‘Is this poetic, or actual?’
What do you think? For us everything must be cut and dried so that we can do something practical with it, build something with it, worship it. You can bring a stick into the house, put it on a shelf, put a flower before it every day, and after some days the stick will have a great deal of meaning. The mind can give meaning to anything, but the meaning it gives is meaningless. When one asks what is the purpose of life, it’s like worshipping that stick. The terrible thing is that the mind is always inventing new purposes, new meanings, new delights, and always destroying them. It is never quiet. A mind that is rich in its quietness never looks beyond what is. One must be both the eagle and the scientist, knowing well that the two can never meet. This doesn’t mean that they are two separate things. Both are necessary. But when the scientist wants to become the eagle, and when the eagle leaves its footprints, there is misery in the world.
You are quite young. Don’t ever lose your innocency and the vulnerability that it brings. That is the only treasure that man can have, and must have.
‘Is this vulnerability the be-all and end-all of existence? Is it the only priceless jewel that can be discovered?’
You can’t be vulnerable without innocency, and though you have a thousand experiences, a thousand smiles and tears, if you don’t die to them, how can the mind be innocent? It is only the innocent mind – in spite of its thousand experiences – that can see what truth is. And it is only truth that makes the mind vulnerable – that is, free.
‘You say you can’t see truth without being innocent, and you can’t be innocent without seeing truth. This is a vicious circle, isn’t it?’
Innocency can be only with the death of yesterday. But we never die to yesterday. We always have a remnant, a tattered part of yesterday remaining, and it is this that keeps the mind anchored, held by time. So time is the enemy of innocency. One must die every day to everything that the mind has captured and holds on to. Otherwise there is no freedom. In freedom there is vulnerability. It is not the one thing after the other – it is all one movement, both the coming and the going. It is really the fullness of heart that is innocent.