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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)


Silence has many qualities. There is the silence between two noises, the silence between two notes and the widening silence in the interval between two thoughts. There is that peculiar, quiet, pervading silence that comes of an evening in the country; there is the silence through which you hear the bark of a dog in the distance or the whistle of a train as it comes up a steep grade; the silence in a house when everybody has gone to sleep, and its peculiar emphasis when you wake up in the middle of the night and listen to an owl hooting in the valley; and there is that silence before the owl's mate answers. There is the silence of an old deserted house, and the silence of a mountain; the silence between two human beings when they have seen the same thing, felt the same thing, and acted.

That night, particularly in that distant valley with the most ancient hills with their peculiar shaped boulders, the silence was as real as the wall you touched. And you looked out of the window at the brilliant stars. It was not a self-generated silence; it was not that the earth was quiet and the villagers were asleep, but it came from everywhere - from the distant stars, from those dark hills and from your own mind and heart. This silence seemed to cover everything from the tiniest grain of sand in the river-bed - which only knew running water when it rained - to the tall, spreading banyan tree and a slight breeze that was now beginning. There is the silence of the mind which is never touched by any noise, by any thought or by the passing wind of experience. It is this silence that is innocent, and so endless. When there is this silence of the mind action springs from it, and this action does not cause confusion or misery.

The meditation of a mind that is utterly silent is the benediction that man is ever seeking. In this silence every quality of silence is.

There is that strange silence that exists in a temple or in an empty church deep in the country, without the noise of tourists and worshippers; and the heavy silence that lies on water is part of that which is outside the silence of the mind.

The meditative mind contains all these varieties, changes and movements of silence. This silence of the mind is the true religious mind, and the silence of the gods is the silence of the earth. The meditative mind flows in this silence, and love is the way of this mind. In this silence there is bliss and laughter.

The uncle came back again, this time without the niece who had lost her husband. He was a little more carefully dressed, also more disturbed and concerned, and his face had become darker because of his seriousness and anxiety. The floor on which we were sitting was hard, and the red bougainvillaea was there, looking at us through the window. And the dove would probably come a little later. It always came about this time of the morning. It always sat on that branch in the same place, its back to the window and its head pointing south, and the cooing would come softly through the window.

"I would like to talk about immortality and the perfection of life as it evolves towards the ultimate reality. From what you said the other day, you have direct perception of what is true, and we, not knowing, only believe. We really don't know anything about the Atman at all; we are familiar only with the word. The symbol, for us, has become the real, and if you describe the symbol - which you did the other day - we get frightened. But in spite of this fear we cling to it, because we actually know nothing except what we've been taught, what the previous teachers have said, and the weight of tradition is always with us. So, first of all, I'd like to know for myself if there is this Reality which is permanent, this Reality, call it by whatever name you like - Atman or soul - which continues after death. I'm not frightened of death. I've faced the death of my wife and several of my children, but I am concerned about this Atman as a reality. Is there this permanent entity in me?"

When we speak of permanency we mean, don't we, something that continues in spite of the constant change around it, in spite of the experiences, in spite of all the anxieties, sorrows and brutalities? Something that is imperishable? First of all, how can one find out? Can it be sought out by thought, by words? Can you find the permanent through the impermanent? Can you find that which is changeless through that which is constantly changing - thought? Thought can give permanency to an idea, Atman or soul, and say, ''This is the real'',because thought breeds fear of this constant change, and out of this fear it seeks something permanent - a permanent relationship between human beings, a permanency in love. Thought itself is impermanent, is changing, so anything that it invents as permanent is, like itself, non-permanent. It can cling to a memory throughout life and call that memory permanent, and then want to know whether it will continue after death. Thought has created this thing, given it continuity, nourished it day after day and held on to it. This is the greatest illusion because thought lives in time, and what it has experienced yesterday it remembers through today and tomorrow; time is born out of this. So there is the permanency of time and the permanency which thought has given to an idea of ultimately attaining the truth. All this is the product of thought - the fear, time and achievement, the everlasting becoming.

"But who is the thinker - this thinker who has all these thoughts?"

Is there a thinker at all, or only thought which puts together the thinker? And having established him, then invents the permanent, the soul, the Atman.

"Do you mean to say that I cease to exist when I don't think?"

Has it ever happened to you, naturally, to find yourself in a state where thought is totally absent? In that state are you conscious of yourself as the thinker, the observer, the experiencer? Thought is the response of memory, and the bundle of memories is the thinker. When there is no thought is there the "me" at all, about whom we make so much fuss and noise? We are not talking of a person in amnesia, or of one who is day-dreaming or controlling thought to silence it, but of a mind that is fully awake, fully alert. If there is no thought and no word, isn't the mind in a different dimension altogether?

"Certainly there is something quite different when the self is not acting, is not asserting itself, but this need not mean that the self does not exist - just because it does not act."

Of course it exists! The "me", the ego, the bundle of memories exists. We see it existing only when it responds to a challenge, but it's there, perhaps dormant or in abeyance, waiting for the next chance to respond. A greedy man is occupied most of the time with his greed; he may have moments when it is not active, but it is always there.

"What is that living entity which expresses itself in greed?"

It is still greed. The two are not separate.

"I understand perfectly what you call the ego, the `me', its memory, its greed, its assertiveness, its demands of all kinds, but is there nothing else except this ego? In the absence of this ego do you mean to say there is oblivion?"

When the noise of those crows stops there is something: this something is the chatter of the mind - the problems, worries, conflicts, even this enquiry into what remains after death. This question can be answered only when the mind is no longer greedy or envious. Our concern is not with what there is after the ego ceases but rather with the ending of all the attributes of the ego. That is really the problem - not what reality is, or if there is something permanent, eternal - but whether the mind, which is so conditioned by the culture in which it lives and for which it is responsible - whether such a mind can free itself and discover.

"Then how am I to begin to free myself?"

You can't free yourself. You are the seed of this misery, and when you ask "how" you are asking for a method which will destroy the "you", but in the process of destroying the "you" you are creating another "you". "If I may ask another question, what then is immortality? Mortality is death, mortality is the way of Life with its sorrow and pain. Man has searched everlastingly for an immortality, a deathless state."

Again, sir, you have come back to the question of something that is timeless, which is beyond thought. What is beyond thought is innocence, and thought, do what it will, can never touch it, for thought is always old. It is innocency, like love, that is deathless, but for that to exist the mind must be free of the thousand yesterdays with their memories. And freedom is a state in which there is no hate, no violence, no brutality. Without putting away all these things how can we ask what immortality is, what love is, what truth is?