By Dada Gavand
The last few months had been an incredible time of psychological turmoil and inner revolt. I had abandoned my family, home and security. Then I arrived at this unknown and solitary place. Occasionally, I would reflect on the recent upheaval and all that led up to it. The memories of that upheaval often nagged at me.
Now I was in this little hut, still without a clue as to what I was going to do or how I would carry out my new life of solitude. I had no guide or point of reference, no way to find the right approach or to set a definite goal, with no instructor or plan. The only thing I knew was that my old way of living was too mundane and superficial and no longer held any meaning for me. It was over and finished. But I felt unsure about what would come next, how I would live and act. No interest remained in any ideology or theology, as I understood these to be wishful, intellectual dogmas. I saw the limitations of philosophy and religion, and such theories held no fascination. I had no attachment to any ancient doctrine, teacher or tradition. With no newspaper or radio available, I lived free from all those influences.
Desires and dreams I knew to be largely the outcome of cultural conditioning. All such pursuits had lost their allure and catch. I observed how the mind plays with those dreams and excitements. Through endless pursuits and sensations, using thought, the mind keeps one's energy engaged.
Now it felt as if all the wishful ways of my mind, with its usual movements and pursuits, were sensing their own end. Although my mind drew a blank in terms of dreams and plans, it was not dull or dead in any way. It did not become lethargic. On the contrary, the mind began to watch rigorously, and its pondering continued, but without a goal in view. The vibrancy and strong urge of inquiry operated, but not tied to any thinking, planning, or imagining. Instead an intense search within went on, a constant internal vigil. This was clearly a goal-less inquiry without any objective or direction.
My mind had lost its impulse to create hope, as the fictitious nature of thought began to unfold. All the escapist flights of my mind were seeing their own futility. There being no movement of thought, wanting, expecting, planning, etc., I had to face whatever happened at every moment. This brought a state of acceptance. With clarity of perception, I accepted every situation as it came along, and did not put up any struggle. The desiring mind began to slow down and hesitatingly came to its end.
I began to feel intense aloneness. In fact it took enormous courage and vigilance to live alone, with no escape from looking at oneself, facing what is. Finally one has to accept oneself as whatever one is.
Gradually, I began to sense a new intensity, a fresh surge of vibrancy without thought. I felt openness, a kind of quietude and space, but not like a deadness or void. The absence of thought/idea activity is not the negation of energy. Rather, it is only the elimination of thought as the dominant and compulsive drive. I could sense that the energy remained intact, active and alert — in fact it became more vibrant than before. The mind energy became more free, unburdened from fervent thoughts of past and future. and thus was very much in the present.
At that point the flight of my mind outside had diminished. The usual thought-mind was quiet yet sensitively alert. In that interval of quietude without thought, the unconscious layers had an opportunity to surface.
I arrived at this hut as a young man, healthy and vigorous, so to a certain extent there still existed a movement of subtle emotional activity and submerged feelings. The fact that I had left my house and my people, especially my mother. hung heavily upon me. The idea that I had abandoned my loved ones began to torment me terribly.
Although I had willingly and purposefully left them, some part of me remained attached to my family. I remembered and thought very much about my mother and brother, wondering how the family would fare without me. I got worried that my mother might become extremely unhappy over my leaving home, that she might suffer emotionally as a result. A part of my mind somehow kept trying to generate fear in relation to my mother.
Then I remembered my brother, thinking he also would suffer difficult times because of my absence. He did not know much about business, yet I felt he was capable and just the right age to learn. Still my mind continued to generate thoughts and concerns about him too. I recognized a subtle fear lurking behind these hidden thoughts and projections.
For the first time, I sensed the element of fear in myself, having always assumed myself to be a fearless person and not timid in any way. I had gone through some experiences which were proof of my fearlessness, both when hunting animals and also during the Indian Independence movement in 1944. Taking an active part in the freedom struggle had been a very risky and dangerous move. The police were after me! For hunting, too, fearlessness is necessary. From a very young age I used to go out with a gun and take on any hunting challenge, even attacking a wild boar when it came charging at me. Boars are really very terrifying creatures. I had once even attempted to shoot a tiger at night, hiding on a ‘machan’ or a special platform in a tree.
Many incidents in my life were adventurous and actually quite hazardous. Some of these actions required courage, and I knew that I had responded bravely. Ever since boyhood I acted boldly. In the sport of cricket, as captain of the team, I used to take up challenges as well as throw some to the other side. I never thought of myself as fearful or timid by any measure. So I assumed no fear existed in me.
When I went to that solitary mountain place, I suddenly became alone. There in that total aloneness I began to see fears coming out of somewhere in me. They arose about several things. 'What if someone robs me?' I started feeling afraid of getting sick due to my poor diet. 'If I become sick, nobody will look after me. What will happen then? I might even die here, all alone'. My mind suddenly started imagining all sorts of fearful things.
However there was no basis in reality for any of this. Thoughts were being generated from within my own mind. By producing thoughts of fear, my mind was prompting me to leave that area and go to some other better place that would be more comfortable and safe. But I saw that all of this came from some hidden part of my own mind. The fear and its source were hiding inside my own self, whereas nothing fearful actually existed outside in reality.
Despite knowing this, that there was nothing to fear, I saw how the fears grew stronger every day. This perplexing situation made me become more and more conscious of them, recognizing that fears existed somewhere inside me only. Now they were finally getting a chance to come out. With nobody to talk to about this, nobody to console me, no teacher to ask what to do, I had to be with myself and face myself squarely. No matter what thdughts arose, pleasant or unpleasant, it was not possible for me to escape, so I confronted the interior — my mind — in toto. As my inquiry was honest, I could not act in any other way or escape from myself.
In that confrontation with my mind I began to watch myself piercingly like a hawk. That watching of fear and all the other movements of subtle thoughts became my main occupation. In solitude I faced and watched everything in myself to understand the working and content of my internal apparatus. I had to unearth and understand all the hidden aspects of a self that had never been known to me before.
The drive of the mind in the outer world had gradually diminished and finally ended. It no longer provoked me to be busy externally with activity. Thought-mind remained quiet on that level, so now that which was hidden got a chance to show up. As if a lid had been removed, all the submerged material started surfacing. As I watched, more and more fears began to show up. I wondered at them because I had never been aware that they were even a part of me. Why were they there, and in what way had they been affecting me? I had to acknowledge that they had been hidden all this time, deep down in some part of my mind.
Along with the thoughts of fear, sex also became an important issue. Sexual thoughts and urges began to show up slowly. These, too, I had to face, watch and know There was no scope for acting on them. I finally reached a point where these thoughts became very strong, obsessive and nagging.
Again that made me wonder why these particular thoughts came so intensely and insistently. I knew that I was not interested in sex. I had experienced how it is a shock to the whole nervous system and brain and only wastes vital energy. Knowing this, I wondered why now this particular drive of thought-emotion tried to take possession of me. Strong desires with their subtle movements tormented me. Where was this compulsion arising from, and where had all of this been hiding? I had to keep myself alert and acutely aware to see it all at every moment. I was surprised to see how the mind continuously creates these strong images and desires entirely on its own.
Finally, I began to question the actual validity of all these thoughts. Was there any reality to that constant stream of thought? I questioned the purpose and even the substance of these subtle promptings of my mind. Something from inside came up, such as a thought of danger or a sexual fantasy or whatever other thought, creating a psychological need or reason for me to act upon it.
All of this I just dispassionately watched. I observed that these unnecessary, mundane and sundry thoughts and emotions emerged on their own, having their own complex play, independent of reality. The concerns about my family members had no basis. I knew I had no real reason to worry, because they would be all right. To worry from such a far-off distance had no meaning. My mind knew these facts intellectually, but still an undercurrent of apprehension regarding my family persisted. Fear was unnecessary, but still it came up and persisted independently, on its own!
Usually, in regular life, whenever there is any idea, any emotion, any urge, any movement of thought, we act on it. We take it to be factual, with its own logic and validity. Yet I realized that whatever my mind may generate, think or imagine may not be at all real. And it certainly doesn't require that I should act on every arising impulse.
Instead of taking thoughts seriously or automatically acting on any of them, I started wondering and questioning: ‘why and how are these thoughts coming now? Is there any validity to this activity of thinking continually?
Fear and sex were predominant thoughts at that time, along with some intense feelings for my mother. These urges had never been strong in me in the past, so I started wondering why they now came suddenly and so aggressively. In this I began to see the play of imagination and mental cravings, how the mind sends out an idea that demands an action. All these mental projections surfaced one by one, being played out in front of me. I saw it as a kind of drama in mental space, but absolutely without roots in reality.
The realization came that the human mind is a creature of impulse, capriciously creating thoughts, which then compel us to act on them.
This drama lasted for several days and nights. I endured this unusual situation with patience, observant and keenly aware of each thought as it came, but without taking any action or ever getting carried away by them. This battle raged within and without, day and night. All of my mind's outer pursuits and cravings had come to an end. Now, in the absence of outer activities, I was confronted totally with my inner activity — the hidden self.
All the turbulent content stuffed deep inside started coming out. I tried to watch everything objectively and face it without any distraction or escape. Of course the first impulse was to leave the but and go elsewhere to be free of this internal chaos. Even the priest of the nearby temple had asked me to stay close to the temple. ‘Maybe I should go there instead, to be safe,’ I mused.
But if I had gone there amidst other people, I would not have been alone or able to face myself squarely and totally. The urgency of not letting the mind start to play its subtle games and tricks now became an overriding necessity. Was something in me trying to induce me to give up? I simply had to understand the domineering mind and its ceaseless thrust and movement of thought. This required a confrontation with the totality of my psychological structure.
From Intelligence Beyond Thought. Copyright 2006 Dada Gavand. Used by permission.