The mountains have made me silent,’ she said. ‘I went to the Engadine and its beauty made me utterly silent. It was a tremendous experience. I wish I could hold that silence, that living, moving silence. The effect of this silence lasted for a considerable period, and now I go back to it, I try to recapture and live in it.’
Through outward stimulation one is reduced to a sensation which one calls silence and which is extremely pleasurable. The effect of beauty and grandeur is to drive away one’s daily problems and conflicts, which is a release. To remain in the mountains is probably not possible, but it is possible to seek that state of quietness through some other form of stimulation, through drink, through a person, or through an idea, which is what most of us do. Because they give us the pleasure of silence, they become dominant in our lives; they are our vested interest, a psychological necessity which we defend and for which, if necessary, we destroy each other.
There is a similarity in all stimulations: the desire to escape from ‘what is’, from our daily routine, and from a relationship that is no longer alive. You choose one kind of escape, I another, but all escape, whether in the form of an ideal, the cinema, or the church, is harmful, leading to illusion and mischief. Psychological escapes are more harmful than the obvious ones, being more subtle and complex and therefore more difficult to discover. The silence that is brought about through stimulation, the silence that is made up through disciplines, controls, resistances, positive or negative, is a result, an effect; it is dead.
There is a silence which is not a reaction, a result; a silence which is not the outcome of stimulation, of sensation. It comes into being when the process of thought is understood. Thought is the response of memory, of determined conclusions, conscious or unconscious; this memory dictates action according to pleasure and pain. So ideas control action, and hence there is conflict between action and idea. This conflict is always with us, and as it intensifies there is an urge to be free from it; but until this conflict is understood and resolved, any attempt to be free from it is an escape. As long as action is approximating to an idea, conflict is inevitable. Only when action is free from idea does conflict cease.
‘But how can action ever be free from idea? Surely, there can be no action without there being ideation first. Action follows idea, and I cannot possibly imagine any action which is not the result of idea.’ Idea is the outcome of memory; Idea is the self-protective pattern for action. In intense crisis there is direct action, freed from idea. It is against this spontaneous action that the mind has disciplined itself; ideas act as a brake on action and hence there is friction between action and ideation.
‘I find my mind wandering off to that happy experience of the Engadine. Is it an escape to relive that experience in memory?’
Obviously. The actual is your life in the present: this crowded street, your business, your immediate relationships. If these were pleasing and gratifying, the Engadine would fade away; but as the actual is confusing and painful, you turn to an experience which is over and dead. You may remember that experience, but it is finished; you give it life only through memory. It is like pumping life into a dead thing. The present being dull, shallow, we turn to the past or look to a self-projected future. To escape from the present inevitably leads to illusion. To see the present as it actually is, without condemnation or justification, is to understand ‘what is’, and then there is action which brings about a transformation in ‘what is’.
Excerpt from Commentaries on Living I by Jiddu Krishnamurti