Chapter 4: A Milestone Marked Zero
You are walking along a road.there are flowers blooming by the side of road. They are still, rooted to one spot. The slower you walk, the more you will see of them, and if you stand still you will be able to see all there is to see of them. If you are in a car driving past them at ninety miles an hour, you will not catch even a glimpse of them, and if you are flying in an airplane over them you will know nothing about them. Just suppose, if a still faster vehicle is invented in the future, then you will never know whether flowers were there or not. An airplane flying at a speed of ten thousand miles an hour will miss the flowers growing on the side of the road. Although they are standing still, you will miss them because of your great speed.
The mind runs at a tremendous speed. Up to now we don’t have airplanes or vehicles which can match the speed of the mind. Preserve us from such a vehicle, or from one which runs faster than the mind, so that our mind is left far behind as we race along! There would be great uneasiness, and great difficulty; man would find himself in great trouble. No, it will certainly not happen that an airplane can fly faster than our mind. By the time the plane had reached the moon our mind would have completed its journey to Mars. And when the airplane reached Mars, the mind by then would have entered another solar system. The mind races ahead of all airplanes, however fast their speed may be.
Yet the mind, with all its tremendous power of speed, can never reach that motionless atman. So what the Upanishads say is quite right. That which is absolutely still cannot be reached by running; it can be reached only by standing still. If the mind becomes totally quiet - absolutely still - then, and only then, will it be able to know that which is still. You also know this - that when the mind is absolutely quiet, it ceases to be. It is only there as long as it is running. Truly speaking, running is the other name of mind. To say the mind is running is a tautology. When we say the mind is running, we commit a slip of the tongue, just as we do when we say that lightning is flashing. In actual fact, that flashing is the lightning. It is not necessary to make two statements: “The lightning is flashing.” Have you ever seen lightning which does not flash? Then why bother to say so? It is using words that creates the difficulty. We separate the lightning and the flashing when we express that phenomenon in words. Then we say, “Look, the lightning is flashing!” while the flashing and the lightning are really two names for one phenomenon.
We make the same mistake when we say the mind is running. In fact, that is called the mind which is always running. Running is the mind! Then a still mind has no meaning, just as nonflashing lightning has no meaning. If someone said, “The lightning is not flashing this time,” you would say, “Then it is not there at all,” because the statement, “The lightning is not flashing,” has no meaning. When it flashes, it is there. If the mind is still, it ceases to be. A still mind becomes a no-mind.
Kabir calls this state of no-mind the state of tranquillity. When it is still, it ceases to be. Mind is present only while it is running. This is why you will never be able to keep it still. If you become still, you will find that the mind is not. The mind can never know the soul, because the soul can never be known by running, and the mind is another word for running. Therefore the atman is known on that day on which there is no mind. We can know the whole world through the mind; only the highest spiritual element remains unknown. We are able to know that highest spiritual element only when the mind is not.