Will you not heal my son? He is nearly blind. I have seen a few doctors, and they can do nothing. They advise me to take him to Europe or America, but I am not a rich man and I cannot afford it. He is our only child, and my wife is heart-stricken.’
He was a petty official, poor but educated, and like all of his group he knew Sanskrit and its literature. He kept on saying that it was the boy’s karma that he should suffer, and theirs too. What had they done to deserve this punishment? What evil had they committed, in a previous life or in this one? There must be a cause for this calamity, hidden in some past action.
There may be an immediate cause for this blindness the physicians have not discovered; some inherited disease may have brought it about. If the doctors cannot discover the physical cause, why do you seek a metaphysical one?
‘By seeking the cause I may be better able to understand the effect.’
Do you understand anything knowing its cause? Does that bring understanding? When you say that you will understand the effect knowing the cause, you mean that you will take comfort in knowing how this thing has come about, do you not?
‘Of course, that is why I want to know what past action has produced this blindness. It will certainly be most comforting.’
Then you want comfort, not understanding.
‘But are they not the same thing? To understand is to find comfort. What is the good of understanding if there is no joy in it?’
Understanding a fact may cause disturbance, it does not necessarily bring joy. You want comfort, and that is what you are seeking. You are disturbed by the fact of your son’s ailment, and you want to be pacified. This you call understanding. You start out to be comforted; your intention is to find a way to quiet your disturbance, call it the search for the cause. Your chief concern is to be put to sleep, to be undisturbed, and you are seeking a way to do it. We put ourselves to sleep through various ways: God, rituals, ideals, drink. We want to escape from disturbance, and one is this search for the cause.
‘Why shouldn’t one seek freedom from disturbance, avoid suffering?’
Through avoidance, is there freedom from suffering? You may shut the door on some ugly thing, on some fear; but it is still there behind the door, is it not? What is suppressed, resisted, is not understood, is it? You may suppress or discipline your child, but that does not yield understanding. You are seeking the cause in order to avoid disturbance; with that intention you look, and you will find what you seek. There is a possibility of being free of suffering only when one observes its process, when one is aware of every phase of it, cognisant of its whole structure. To avoid suffering is to strengthen it. The explanation of the cause is not understanding of it. Through explanation you are not freed from suffering; it is still there, covered over with words, conclusions, either your own or those of another. The study of explanations is not the study of wisdom; when explanations cease, then wisdom possible. You anxiously seek explanations which will put you to sleep, and you find them; but explanation is not truth. Truth comes when there is observation without conclusions, explanations, words. The observer is built of words, the self is made of explanations, conclusions, condemnations, justifications. There is communion with the observed when the observer is not; only then is there understanding, freedom from the problem.
‘I think I see this; but is there not such a thing as karma?’
What do you mean by that word?
‘Present circumstances are the result of previous actions, immediate or long removed. This process of cause and effect, with all its ramifications, is more or less what is meant by karma.’
That is only an explanation, but let us go beyond the words. Is there a fixed cause producing a fixed effect? When cause and effect are fixed, is there not death? Anything static, rigid, specialised, must die. The specialised animals soon come to an end. Man is the unspecialised, and so there is a possibility of his continued existence. That which is pliable endures; that which is not pliable is broken. The acorn cannot become anything but an oak tree; the cause and the effect are in the acorn. But man is not so completely enclosed; hence, if he does not destroy himself through various ways, he can survive. Are cause and effect fixed? When you use the word and between cause and effect, does it not imply that both are stationary? But is cause ever stationary? Is effect always unchangeable? Cause-effect is a continuous process, is it not? Today is the result of yesterday, and tomorrow the result of today; what was cause becomes effect, and what was effect becomes cause. It is a chain-process. One thing flows into another. It is a constant movement. There are many factors that bring about this cause-effect-cause movement.
Explanations, conclusions, are stationary, whether they are of the right or of the left, or of the organised belief called religion. When you try to cover the living with explanations, there is death to the living, and that is what most of us desire; we want to be put to sleep by word, by idea, by thought. Rationalisation is merely another way to quiet the disturbed state; but the very desire to be put to sleep brings disturbance, and so thought is caught in a net of its own making.