Virtue is of the Heart, Not of the Mind

Virtue is the tranquility of freedom from the craving to be, which comes from the heart and not from the mind. Virtue of the heart stems from one’s capability to understand

Published: 12th May 2015 05:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th May 2015 05:59 AM   |  A+A-

Soulful

The sea was very calm and there was hardly a ripple on the white sands. Around the wide bay, to the north, was the town, and to the south were palm trees, almost touching the water. Just visible beyond the bar were the first of the sharks, and beyond them the fishermen’s boats, a few logs tied together with stout rope. They were making for a little village south of the palm trees.

The sunset was brilliant, not where one would expect it, but in the east; it was a counter-sunset, and the clouds, massive and shapely, were lit with all the colours of the spectrum. It was really quite fantastic, and almost painful to bear. The waters caught the brilliant colours and made a path of exquisite light to the horizon.

There were a few fishermen walking back to their villages from the town, but the beach was almost deserted and silent. A single star was above the clouds.

On our way back, a woman joined us and began to talk of serious things. She said she belonged to a certain society whose members meditated and cultivated the essential virtues. From her attitude and speech it appeared that she was well grounded in self-discipline and somewhat impatient with those who were not of her mood and purpose.

Virtue is of the heart and not of the mind. When the mind cultivates virtue, it is a cunning calculation; it is self-defence, a clever adjustment to environment. Self-perfection is the very denial of virtue. Fear is of the mind and not of the heart. Fear hides itself under different forms: virtue, respectability, adjustment, service and so on. Fear will always exist in the relationships and activities of the mind. The mind is not separate from its activities; but it separates itself, thus giving itself continuity and permanence. As a child practises the piano, so the mind cunningly practises virtue to make itself more permanent and dominant in meeting life, or to attain what it considers to be the highest.

There must be vulnerability to meet life, and not the respectable wall of self-enclosing virtue. The highest cannot be attained; there is no path, no mathematically progressive growth to it. Truth must come, you cannot go to truth, and your cultivated virtue will not carry you to it. What you attain is not truth, but your own self-projected desire.

The cunning adaptability of the mind in its own self-perpetuation sustains fear. It is this fear that must be deeply understood, not how to be virtuous. A petty mind may practise virtue, but it will still remain petty. Virtue is then an escape from its own pettiness, and the virtue it gathers will also be petty. If this pettiness is not understood, how can one experience reality? How can a petty, virtuous mind be open to the immeasurable?

In comprehending the process of the mind, which is the self, virtue comes into being. Virtue is not accumulated resistance; it is the spontaneous awareness and the understanding of ‘what is’. Mind cannot understand; it may translate what is understood into action, but it is not capable of understanding. To understand, there must be the warmth of recognition and reception, which only the heart can give when the mind is silent.

But the desire for silence is the curse of achievement, with its endless conflicts and pains. The craving to be, negatively or positively, is the denial of virtue of the heart. In the struggle to be, there is resistance and denial, mortification and renunciation; but the overcoming of these is not virtue.

Virtue is the tranquility of freedom from the craving to be, and this tranquillity is of the heart, not of the mind. Through practice, compulsion, resistance, the mind may make itself quiet, but such a discipline destroys virtue of the heart, without which there is no peace, no blessing; for virtue of the heart is understanding.

 — Excerpt from  Commentaries on Living I by Jiddu Krishnamurti

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