It was a lovely garden, with sunken lawns and old shady trees. The house was large, with spacious rooms, airy and well proportioned. The trees gave shelter to many birds and squirrels, and to the fountain came birds of every size, sometimes eagles, but mostly crows, sparrows and noisy parrots.
The house and garden were secluded, the more so as they were enclosed within high, white walls. It was pleasant within those walls, and beyond them was the noise of the road and the village. The road passed the gates, and a few yards along that road was the village, on the outskirts of a large town. The village was foul, with open gutters along its main, narrow lane. The houses were thatched, the front steps decorated, and children were playing in the lane.
Some weavers had stretched out long strands of grey coloured threads to make cloth, and a group of children were watching them at work. It was a cheerful scene, bright, noisy and smelly. The villagers were freshly washed, and they had very little on for the climate was warm. Towards evening some of them got drunk and became loud and rough.
It was only a thin wall that separated the lovely garden from the pulsating village. To deny ugliness and to hold to beauty is to be insensitive. The cultivation of the opposite must ever narrow the mind and limit the heart.
Virtue is not an opposite; and if it has an opposite, it ceases to be virtue. To be aware of the beauty of that village is to be sensitive to the green, flowering garden.
We want to be aware only of beauty, and we shut ourselves off from that which is not beautiful. This suppression merely breeds insensitivity, it does not bring about the appreciation of beauty. The good is not in the garden, away from the village, but in the sensitivity that lies beyond both. To deny or to identify leads to narrowness, which is to be insensitive.
Sensitivity is not a thing to be carefully nurtured by the mind, which can only divide and dominate. There is good and evil; but to pursue the one and to avoid the other does not lead to that sensitivity which is essential for the being of reality.
Reality is not the opposite of illusion, of the false, and if you try to approach it as an opposite it will never come into being. Reality can be only when the opposites cease. To condemn or identify breeds the conflict of the opposites, and conflict only engenders further conflict.
A fact approached unemotionally, without denying or justifying, does not bring about conflict. A fact in itself has no opposite; it has an opposite only when there is a pleasurable or defensive attitude. It is this attitude that builds the walls of insensitivity and destroys action.
If we prefer to remain in the garden, there is a resistance to the village; and where there is resistance there can be no action, either in the garden or towards the village. There may be activity, but not action. Activity is based on an idea, and an action is not. Ideas have opposites, and movement within the opposites is mere activity, however prolonged or modified. Activity can never be liberating.
Activity has a past and a future, but an action doesn’t. An Action is always in the present.
Reform is activity, not an action, and what is reformed needs further reform. Reformation is inaction, an activity born as an opposite. Action is from moment to moment, and, oddly enough, it has no inherent contradiction; but activity, though it may appear to be without a break, is full of contradiction. The activity of revolution is riddled with contradictions and so can never liberate.
Conflict, choice, can never be a liberating factor. If there is choice, there is activity and not action; for choice is based on idea. Mind can indulge in activity, but it cannot act. Action springs from quite a different source.
The moon came up over the village, making shadows across the garden.
Excerpt from Commentaries on Living I