It was early in the morning and the cheerful birds were making an awful lot of noise. The sun was just touching the treetops, and in the deep shade there were still no patches of light. A snake must recently have crossed the lawn, for there was a long, narrow clearing of the dew. The sky had not yet lost its colour, and great white clouds were gathering. Suddenly the noise of the birds stopped, then increased with warning, scolding cries as a cat came and lay down under a bush. A big hawk had caught a white-and-black bird, and was tearing at it with its sharp, curving beak. It held its prey with eager ferocity, and became threatening as two or three crows came near. The hawk’s eyes were yellow with narrow black slits and they were watching the crows and us without blinking.
‘Why shouldn’t I be exploited? I don’t mind being used for the cause, which has great significance, and I want to be completely identified with it. What they do with me is of little importance. You see, I am of no account. I can’t do much in this world, and so I am helping those who can. But I have a problem of personal attachment which distracts me from the work. It is this attachment I want to understand.’
But why should you be exploited? Are you not as important as the individual or the group that is exploiting you?
‘I don’t mind being exploited for the cause, which I consider has great beauty and worth in the world. Those with whom I work are spiritual people with high ideals, and they know better than I do what should be done.’
Why do you think they are more capable of doing good than you are? How do you know they are ‘spiritual’, to use your own word, and have wider vision? After all, when you offered your services, you must have considered this matter; or were you attracted, emotionally stirred, and so gave yourself to the work?
‘It is a beautiful cause, and I offered my services because I felt that I must help it.’
You are like those men who join the army to kill or to be killed for a noble cause. Do they know what they are doing? Do you know what you are doing? How do you know that the cause you are serving is ‘spiritual’?
‘Of course you are right. I was in the army for four years during the last war; I joined it, like many other men, out of a feeling of patriotism. I don’t think I considered then the significance of killing; it was the thing to do, we just joined. But the people I am helping now are spiritual.’
Do you know what it means to be spiritual? For one thing, to be ambitious is obviously not spiritual. And are they not ambitious?
‘I am afraid they are. I had never thought about these things, I only wanted to help something beautiful.’
Is it beautiful to be ambitious and cover it up with a lot of high-sounding words about Masters, humanity, art, brotherhood? Is it spiritual to be burdened with self-centredness which is extended to include the neighbour and the man across the waters? You are helping those who are supposed to be spiritual, not knowing what it is all about and willing to be exploited.
‘Yes, it is quite immature, isn’t it? I don’t want to be disturbed in what I am doing, and yet I have a problem; and what you are saying is even more disturbing.’
Shouldn’t you be disturbed? After all, it is only when we are disturbed, awakened, that we begin to observe and find out. We are exploited because of our own stupidity, which the clever ones use in the name of the country, of God, of some ideology. How can stupidity do good in the world even though the crafty make use of it? When the cunning exploit stupidity, they also are stupid, for they too do not know where their activities are leading. The action of the stupid, of those who are unaware of the ways of their own thought, leads inevitably to conflict, confusion and misery.
Your problem may not necessarily be a distraction. Since it is there, how can it be?
‘It is disturbing my dedicated work.’