Keeping Alive the Flame of Discontent

The time has come to turn your heart into a temple of fire. ~Rumi

Is not discontent essential in our life, to any question, to any inquiry, to probing, to finding out what is the real, what is Truth, what is essential in life? I may have this flaming discontent in college; and then I get a good job and this discontent vanishes. I am satisfied, I struggle to maintain my family, I have to earn a livelihood and so my discontent is calmed, destroyed, and I become a mediocre entity satisfied with things of life, and I am not discontent. But the flame has to be maintained from the beginning to the end, so that there is true inquiry, true probing into the problem of what discontent is. Because the mind seeks very easily a drug to make it content with virtues, with qualities, with ideas, with actions, it establishes a routine and gets caught up in it. We are quite familiar with that, but our problem is not how to calm discontent, but how to keep it smoldering, alive, vital. All our religious books, all our gurus, all political systems pacify the mind, quieten the mind, influence the mind to subside, to put aside discontent and wallow in some form of contentment.Is it not essential to be discontented in order to find what is true?

J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

One often gives a negative connotation to discontent. We are not talking here of a petty discontent born out of frustration of desires. Neither are we talking of some form of ideological revolt which tries to establish one form of thought over another existing form of thought.

We are talking here of a more fundamental discontent, which is – revolt against the entire order of existence because one does not accept the present way of living of mankind. Such a revolt, of course, is very difficult to sustain, because the entire machinery of thought and social conditioning is to snub the discontent. One risks being very alone if one does not appear respectable and compliant. As Krishnamurti says above, nor does the society want any questioning. It wants followers, the ‘yes sayers’, people who accept psychological authority.

But even if one has gone so far as to put aside all forms of psychological authority aside, there is a more subtle, albeit more pernicious form of authority. It is the “internal” authority of the thinker. The thinker tries to control thought through per-conceived ideas, schools of thought and ancient traditions of spirituality. How does one deal with this form of authority? This is not something physical which one can grasp and easily put aside. This is the authority of the past, memory and knowledge – the very instruments we use to navigate our way in life. This is what holds our lives together, give it meaning and purpose, a road map to a destination.

First of all, are we aware of this inner psychological authority?

Are we aware of the security we draw from ideologies, philosophies and paths?

Are we aware of the fear of letting this go?

Once we become aware of how all forms of knowledge dull the mind, how seeking security in paths and knowledge dull the mind, then the problem is inverted. As Krishnamurti says, “but our problem is not how to calm discontent, but how to keep it smoldering, alive, vital”  Understanding this, can I deny all past, all knowledge and all accumulated memory and just stay with the fact and flame of discontent? Can I refuse to get satisfied with any answer from within or without?

It is then that this pure flame of discontent starts burning all the false, razing to the ground all conditionings of the mind for the truth alone to be.

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