The small stream was flowing very gently beside the path that wound round the rice fields, and it was crowded with lotuses; they were dark violet with golden hearts, and they were clear of the water. Their scent remained close to them, and they were very beautiful. The sky was overcast; it was beginning to drizzle, and there was thunder among the clouds. The lightning was still far away, but it was coming towards the tree under which we were sheltering. It began to rain heavily, and the lotus leaves were collecting drops of water; when the drops became too large, they slipped off the leaves, only to form again. The lightning was now above the tree, and the cattle were frightened and straining at their ropes. A black calf, wet and shivering, was calling piteously; it broke its rope and ran towards a nearby hut. The lotuses were closing themselves tightly, shutting their hearts against the gathering darkness; one would have had to tear the violet petals to get at the golden hearts. They would remain tightly closed till the coming of the sun. Even in their sleep there were beautiful. The lightning was moving towards the town; it was now quite dark, and one could just hear the murmur of the stream. The path led past the village to the road which took us back to the noisy town.
He was a young man, in his twenties; he was well fed, had travelled a little and been to college. He was nervous and there was anxiety in his eyes. It was late, but he wanted to talk; he wanted someone to explore his mind for him. He exposed himself very simply, without any hesitation or pretension. His problem was clear, but not to him; he went groping about.
We do not listen and discover ‘what is’; we foist our ideas and opinions on another, trying to force the other into the frame of our thought. Our own thoughts and judgements are so much more important to us than to find out ‘what is’. The ‘what is’ is always simple; it is we who are complex. We make the simple, the ‘what is’, complex, and we get lost in it. We listen only to the increasing noise of our own confusion. To listen, we must be free. It is not that there must be no distractions, for thinking itself is a form of distraction. We must be free to be silent, and only then is it possible to hear.
He was saying that just as he was going off to sleep he would sit up with a start of naked fear. Then the room would lose its proportions; the walls would go flat, there would be no roof, and the floor would disappear. He would be frightened and sweating. This had been going on for many years.
What are you frightened of?
‘I don’t know; but when I wake up with fear, I go to my sister, or to my father and mother, and talk with them for some time to calm myself, and then go off to sleep. They understand, but I am in my twenties, and it is getting rather silly.’
Are you anxious about the future?
‘Yes, somewhat. Though we have money, I am still rather anxious about it.’
‘I want to marry and provide comfort for my future wife.’
Why be anxious about the future? You are quite young, and you can work and give her what is necessary. Why be so preoccupied with this? Are you afraid of losing your social position?
‘Partly. We have a car, some property and reputation. Naturally I don’t want to lose all this, which may be the cause of my fear. But it isn’t quite this. It is the fear of not being. When I wake up with fear, I feel I am lost, that I am nobody, that I am falling to pieces.’
After all, a new government may come in and you may lose your property, your holdings; but you are quite young, and you can always work. Millions are losing their worldly goods, and you too may have to face that. Besides, the things of the world are to be shared and not to be exclusively possessed. At your age, why be so conservative, so afraid of losing?
‘You see, I want to marry a particular girl, and I am anxious that nothing should stop it. Nothing is likely to stop it, but I miss her and she misses me, and this may be another cause of my fear.’
Is that the cause of your fear? You say that nothing out of the ordinary is likely to happen to prevent your marrying her, so why this fear?
‘Yes, it is true that we can marry whenever we decide to, so that cannot be the cause of my fear, at least not now. I think I am really frightened of not being, of losing my identity, my name.’
Even if you did not care about your name, but had your property and so on, would you not still be afraid?
What do we mean by identity? It is to be identified with a name, with property, with a person, with ideas; it is to be associated with something, to be recognised as this or that, to be labelled as belonging to a particular group or country and so on. You are afraid of losing your label, is that it?
‘Yes. Otherwise, what am I? Yes, that is it.’