The clouds were gone,
and the hills all around were sparkling in the evening sun. It had
rained a few hours ago and they had all been washed clean. Everything
was vivid, the new grass, the hills, and the green carpet of trees
which you could see from above. There was a small lake in the midst
of that green carpet. Animals, mostly cows, elephants and horses
used to come there to quench their thirst. In the old days, travelers
and armies passed by the lake on their way to the distant cities.
We were sitting
on the edge of a cliff. "What do you mean when you
say that the word is not the thing? JK also says that very
often in his talks"
A few monkeys, some of them babies, were playing on the tree
below, jumping from one branch to another. A solitary eagle
was flying at some distance with hardly a flutter of the wings.
What do you think it means?
"That the word is not the actual thing?"
That's quite simple, isn't it?
"Yes, but its not quite clear. At one level I seem to
understand, but I can't see it totally"
A word is a label,
a name given to something for the purpose of communicating.
If I see that rock, and want to tell you that I have seen a rock,
then we both must know what the word 'rock" refers to. So,
the word "rock" is used to communicate that thing. Word,
language, is an invention of man for the purpose of communication.
All words, language,
and everything that has been written is man-made. When you hear
the word "rock" it produces in you an image of what it
refers to. There is a certain content in that word, your knowledge
of that word and the image you have in mind of it. So, the word
produces in you a form, a design, a content. Now, the word "rock"
- R-O-C-K is not the actual rock with its shape, color, structure
and so on, right? The word is not the actual thing it refers to.
The word is meant to indicate something but the word itself is not
the thing which it indicates. "That's quite obvious"
Right. That was an example of something very objective. Now, let
us take the example of something for which there is no objective
reference. Like the words: love, truth, God, etc. Now, each of these
words for each one of us has a different significance. You have
your own image and the other has his own image, significance, given
to that word as per his conditioning. Each word for each one of
us is loaded with content. It is very much possible that we both
are thinking of totally different things even when we use the same
a big role in our lives and they have become extraordinarily
important for us. Our mind is a network of words. All thinking
is in words, which also includes the image, the symbol. We
delight in the sensations they produce. It is these sensations
that have become so important for us. Words are satisfying
because their sounds reawaken forgotten sensations. The word
is the essence of the past, of what has been - of what has
previously been identified and given a name.
Words are usually
condemnatory or appreciative in their meaning. Suppose, if I
want to look at this thing that has been given the name "greed",
then, right away, by naming it as greed, I have condemned it, isn't
it? And if there is no word, then is there greed? Or is there something
else, the feeling, which so far I had been identifying as greed,
based on my past experience and identification? Is there greed when
there is not the word "greed" with all its associations
and past remembrances?
We name, not only to communicate, but also to strengthen experience.
I have felt this thing which I have called fear. Now the next
time, when something happens, immediately the word pops in and introduces
the whole content that is associated with it. So, the word, which
is the past, blocks the perception of what is actually happening
now. The word "fear" and the past memory associated with
it creates fear. If I say that I am jealous, then the very verbalization
of that fact, or of that feeling, has already conditioned it. Right?
Therefore I cannot see anything further in it. So there must be
a learning about the usage of words. One must not be caught in words,
and there must be a realization that the word, the description,
is not the described or the thing. The word brings in the condemnation,
appreciation, or the previous knowledge regarding the thing. It
becomes a conclusion. The word is the conditioning, the conclusion.
And if you already have a conclusion, a fixed idea about something,
then you are no longer looking at it, right? Is this getting too
much? "Go on. I'm listening."
The word also includes: the image, the knowledge, the symbol, the
idea I have about a certain thing. And when I look at the thing
with all that, then I'm really not looking. What I look at is merely
the image I have of that thing. The word is looking and what it
looks at is its own content. So, the observer is the observed -
as in a mirror. So, the question is: can the mind be free from word,
from all verbalization, from all image and content? Then there is
an actual perception of what is. Then you are no longer caught in
the maya of words.
In other words, can you look at those clouds, those hills, those
trees without naming them, without the word? Can you look at the
movement of that bird flying in space without any movement of thought,
without any verbalization? Then see what takes place.
"But that is impossible. How can I look at it without verbalizing?
As soon as I look at it, my mind tells me that it's a bird. How
can I separate the word from the form? The word is the form for
If you understand very deeply that the word is not the thing, never
the actual, then you can. Let us not say that it's impossible for
the very word "impossible" blocks observation. In fact,
let us not say whether it is possible or impossible but just experiment,
just look, without any motive. If you do that, you might find something
different taking place. When you look at that thing you have called
"hill", without the word, the knowledge you have about
it, then it becomes extraordinarily alive. It becomes a living thing
and the mind is no longer caught in a static image of it. The word
interferes with the observation of what actually is. The word is
"I don't know what you're talking about. What you're saying
seems too far-fetched, too philosophical. I don't think it is practically
applicable." And we moved on.
Writer: Ashutosh Ghildiyal is a salaried professional
based in Mumbai, India. He was born in Lucknow in 1984, where he
completed his schooling. He completed his graduate studies in New
Delhi and his post-graduate education in Mumbai. He is the author
of To Think or Not to Think and Other stories (Book), various blogs,
articles and short stories. Email: [email protected]