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The past can never be put aside. There is a watching of the past as it goes by, but not occupation with the past. So the mind is free to observe and not to choose. Where there is choice in this movement of the river of memory, there is occupation, and the moment the mind is occupied. it is caught in the past: and when the mind is occupied with the past, it is incapable of seeing something real, true, new, original, uncontaminated.
A mind that is occupied with the past - the past is the whole consciousness that says, 'this is good; 'that is right; 'this is bad; 'this is mine; 'this is not mine' - can never know the Real. But the mind unoccupied can receive that which is not known, which is the Unknown. This is not an extraordinary state of some yogi, some saint. Just observe your own mind; how direct and simple it is. See how your mind is occupied. And the answer, with what the mind is occupied, will give you the understanding of the past, and therefore the freedom from the past.
You cannot brush the past aside. It is there. What matters is the occupation of the mind - the mind that is concerned with the past as good or evil, that says, 'I must have this' or 'I must not have this', that has good memory to hold on to and bad memory to let go. The mind that is watching the thing go by, without choice, is the free mind that is free from the past. The past is still floating by; you cannot set it aside; you cannot forget the way to your home. But the occupation of the mind with the past - in that there is no freedom. The occupation creates the past; and the mind is perpetually, everlastingly, occupied with good words, with virtue, with sacrifice, with the search for God, with happiness; such a mind is never free. The past is there, it is a shadow constantly threatening, constantly encouraging and depressing. So, what is important is to find out how the mind is occupied, with what thought, with what memory, with what intention, with what purpose.
Bombay 8th Public Talk 4th March 1953 Read full text