Letter 11

From the book "Letters to a young friend"

Dignity is a very rare thing. An office or a position of respect gives dignity. It is like putting on a coat. The coat, the costume, the post gives dignity. A title or a position gives dignity. But strip man of these things, and very few have that quality of dignity that comes with inward freedom of being as nothing. Being something is what man craves for, and that something gives him a position in society which it respects. Put a man into a category of some kind-clever, rich, a saint, a physicist; but if he cannot be put into a category that society recognizes, he is an odd person. Dignity cannot be assumed, be cultivated, and to be conscious of being dignified is to be conscious of oneself, which is to be petty, small. To be nothing is to be free of that very idea. Being, not of or in a particular state, is true dignity. It cannot be taken away, it always is.

To allow the free flow of life, without any residue being left, is real awareness. The human mind is like a sieve which hold some things and lets others go. What it holds is the size of its own desires; and desires, however profound, vast, noble, are small, are petty, for desire is a thing of the mind. Not to retain, but to have the freedom of life to flow without restraint, without choice, is complete awareness. We are always choosing or holding, choosing the things that have significance and everlastingly holding on to them. This we call experience, and the multiplication of experiences we call the richness of life. The richness of life is the freedom from the accumulation of experience. The experience that remains, that is held, prevents that state in which the known is not. The known is not the treasure, but the mind clings to it and thereby destroys or defiles the unknown.

Life is a strange business. Happy is the man who is nothing.

We are, more of us at least, creatures of moods and a variety of moods. Few of us escape from it. With some, it is caused by the bodily condition, with others it is a mental state. We like this up and down state, we think this movement of moods is part of existence. Or one just drifts from one mood to another. But there are few who are not caught in this movement, who are free from the battle of becoming, so that inwardly there is a steadiness, not of the will, a steadiness that is not cultivated, nor the steadiness of concentrated interest, nor the product of any one of these activities. It comes soon upon one only when the action of will ceases.

Money does spoil people. There is a peculiar arrogance of the rich. With very few exceptions, in every country, the rich have that peculiar atmosphere of being able to twist anything, even the Gods, and they can buy their Gods. Riches is not only of wealth, but the capacity of being able to do things. Capacity gives man an odd sense of freedom. He also feels he is above others, he is different. All this gives him a sense of superiority; he sits back and watches other people squirming; he is obvious to his own ignorance, the darkness of his own mind. Money and capacity offer a very good escape from this darkness. After all, escape is a form of resistance, which breeds its own problems. Life is a strange business. Happy is the man who is nothing.

“ Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem. „
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