Ashutosh Ghildiyal asked:
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 word.
Words play 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 and 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. And that name, that wordÂ is loaded with content, images and emotions. This takes place through time.
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 me.”
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 the conditioning.
“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.