THE FIRST AND LAST FREEDOM CHAPTER 19 'SELF-CENTRED ACTIVITY'
Most of us, I think, are aware that every form of persuasion, every kind of inducement, has been offered us to resist self-centred activities. Religions, through promises, through fear of hell, through every form of condemnation have tried in different ways to dissuade man from this constant activity that is born from the centre of the 'me'. These having failed, political organizations have taken over. There again, persuasion; there again the ultimate utopian hope. Every form of legislation from the very limited to the extreme, including concentration camps, has been used and enforced against any form of resistance. Yet we go on in our self-centred activity, which is the only kind of action we seem to know. If we think about it at all, we try to modify; if we are aware of it, we try to change the course of it; but fundamentally, deeply, there is no transformation, there is no radical cessation of that activity. The thoughtful are aware of this; they are also aware that when that activity from the centre ceases, only then can there be happiness. Most of us take it for granted that self-centred activity is natural and that the consequential action, which is inevitable, can only be modified, shaped and controlled. Now those who are a little more serious, more earnest, not sincere - because sincerity is the way of self-deception - must find out whether, being aware of this extraordinary total process of self-centred activity, one can go beyond.
To understand what this self-centred activity is, one must obviously examine it, look at it, be aware of the entire process. If one can be aware of it, then there is the possibility of its dissolution; but to be aware of it requires a certain understanding, a certain intention to face the thing as it is and not to interpret, not to modify, not to condemn it. We have to be aware of what we are doing, of all the activity which springs from that self-centred state; we must be conscious of if it. One of our primary difficulties is that the moment we are conscious of that activity, we want to shape it, we want to control it, we want to condemn it or we want to modify it, so we are seldom able to look at it directly. When we do, very few of us are capable of knowing what to do.
We realize that self-centred activities are detrimental, are destructive, and that every form of identification - such as with a country, with a particular group, with a particular desire, the search for a result here or hereafter, the glorification of an idea, the pursuit of an example, the pursuit of virtue and so on - is essentially the activity of a self-centred person. All our relationships, with nature, with people, with ideas, are the outcome of that activity. Knowing all this, what is one to do? All such activity must voluntarily come to an end - not self-imposed, not influenced, not guided.
Most of us are aware that this self-centred activity creates mischief and chaos but we are only aware of it in certain directions. Either we observe it in others and are ignorant of our own activities or being aware, in relationship with others, of our own self-centred activity we want to transform, we want to find a substitute, we want to go beyond. Before we can deal with it we must know how this process comes into being, must we not? In order to understand something, we must be capable of looking at it; and to look at it we must know its various activities at different levels, conscious as well as unconscious - the conscious directives, and also the self-centred movements of our unconscious motives and intentions.
I am only conscious of this activity of the 'me' when I am opposing, when consciousness is thwarted, when the 'me' is desirous of achieving a result, am I not? Or I am conscious of that centre when pleasure comes to an end and I want to have more of it; then there is resistance and a purposive shaping of the mind to a particular end which will give me a delight, a satisfaction; I am aware of myself and my activities when I am pursuing virtue consciously. Surely a man who pursues virtue consciously is unvirtuous. Humility cannot be pursued, and that is the beauty of humility.
This self-centred process is the result of time, is it not? So long as this centre of activity exists in any direction, conscious or unconscious, there is the movement of time and I am conscious of the past and the present in conjunction with the future. The self-centred activity of the 'me' is a time process. It is memory that gives continuity to the activity of the centre, which is the 'me'. If you watch yourself and are aware of this centre of activity, you will see that it is only the process of time, of memory, of experiencing and translating every experience according to a memory; you will also see that self-activity is recognition, which is also the process of the mind.
Can the mind be free from all this? It may be possible at rare moments; it may happen to most of us when we do an unconscious, unintentional, unpurposive act; but is it possible for the mind ever to be completely free from self-centred activity? That is a very important question to put to ourselves, because in the very putting of it, you will find the answer. If you are aware of the total process of this self-centred activity, fully cognizant of its activities at different levels of your consciousness, then surely you have to ask yourselves if it is possible for that activity to come to an end. Is it possible not to think in terms of time, not to think in terms of what I shall be, what I have been, what I am ? For from such thought the whole process of self-centred activity begins; there, also, begins the determination to become, the determination to choose and to avoid, which are all a process of time. We see in that process infinite mischief, misery, confusion, distortion, deterioration.
Surely the process of time is not revolutionary. In the process of time there is no transformation; there is only a continuity and no ending, there is nothing but recognition. It is only when you have complete cessation of the time process, of the activity of the self, that there is a revolution, a transformation, the coming into being of the new.
Being aware of this whole total process of the 'me' in its activity, what is the mind to do? It is only with renewal, it is only with revolution - not through evolution, not through the 'me' becoming, but through the 'me' completely coming to an end - that there is the new. The time process cannot bring the new; time is not the way of creation.
I do not know if any of you have had a moment of creativity. I am not talking of putting some vision into action; I mean that moment of creation when there is no recognition. At that moment, there is that extraordinary state in which the 'me', as an activity through recognition, has ceased. If we are aware, we shall see that in that state there is no experiencer who remembers, translates, recognizes and then identifies; there is no thought process, which is of time. In that state of creation, of creativity of the new, which is timeless, there is no action of the 'me' at all.
Our question surely is: Is it possible for the mind to be in that state, not momentarily, not at rare moments, but - I would rather not use the words 'everlasting' or 'for ever', because that would imply time - but to be in that state without regard to time? Surely that is an important discovery to be made by each one of us, because that is the door to love; all other doors are activities of the self Where there is action of the self, there is no love. Love is not of time. You cannot practise love. If you do, then it is a self-conscious activity of the 'me' which hopes through loving to gain a result.
Love is not of time; you cannot come upon it through any conscious effort, through any discipline, through identification, which is all of the process of time. The mind, knowing only the process of time, cannot recognize love. Love is the only thing that is eternally new. Since most of us have cultivated the mind, which is the result of time, we do not know what love is. We talk about love; we say we love people, that we love our children, our wife, our neighbour, that we love nature; but the moment we are conscious that we love, self-activity has come into being; therefore it ceases to be love.
This total process of the mind is to be understood only through relationship - relationship with nature, with people, with our own projections, with everything about us. Life is nothing but relationship. Though we may attempt to isolate ourselves from relationship, we cannot exist without it. Though relationship is painful we cannot run away, by means of isolation, by becoming a hermit and so on. All these methods are indications of the activity of the self. Seeing this whole picture, being aware of the whole process of time as consciousness, without any choice, without any determined, purposive intention, without the desire for any result, you will see that this process of time comes to an end voluntarily - not induced, not as a result of desire. It is only when that process comes to an end that love is, which is eternally new.
We do not have to seek truth. Truth is not something far away. It is the truth about the mind, truth about its activities from moment to moment. If we are aware of this moment-to-moment truth, of this whole process of time, that awareness releases consciousness or the energy which is intelligence, love. So long as the mind uses consciousness as self-activity, time comes into being with all its miseries, with all its conflicts, with all its mischief, its purposive deceptions; and it is only when the mind, understanding this total process, ceases, that love can be.