Poona 1st Public Talk 7th September 1958
I think it would be well if we could establish a true relationship between the speaker and the audience, otherwise there may be a great deal of misunderstanding and misjudgment. Obviously the speaker has something to say, and you have come to listen. What he has to say may have very little value, or it may have significance if one is capable of listening with quiet attention.
It is important to know how to listen. Most of us do not listen; we come either with a tendency to resist or to refute what is being said, or we compare it with what we have previously heard, or learnt from books. In this process, obviously, there is no listening, because when you are thinking of what somebody else has said on a subject your mind is merely going back to various memories - merely trying to compare what is being said with what you have already heard or read. So please, if I may suggest, do follow what is being said.
There are so many terrible things taking place in the world, so much misery and confusion, such decadence, corruption and evil; and I feel that if one is at all earnest, intent on understanding these human problems, one must approach the matter with a certain serious purpose. What I am going to say may be entirely different from what you know or believe - and I think it will be. I am saying this, not from any sense of conceit or over-confidence, but because most of us, when anything unfamiliar is said, are apt to reject it off hand or to ridicule it. This is especially so with the experts, those who are specialists in some department - the scientists, technicians, lecturers, professors, and so on. They are particularly apt to discard a new approach to our many problems because they divide life into departments and think only in terms of their specialized field. Life's problems are not going to be solved by the specialists. If a man is an economist he tends to think that all the problems of life will be solved by some economic system which will bring about equality of opportunity for achievement, for gain, and to him every other form of thought, of investigation, of search, seems of secondary importance or not worth while.
So, considering all these things, it would be nice, I think, if we could, at least for this hour, listen with a sense of humility, with an attitude of trying to find out what the speaker intends to convey. Afterwards you can question it, discuss it, refute it, or brush it aside. But first, surely, if there is to be any form of communication, there must be a certain understanding, a common ground established between speaker and listener. Listening is very difficult; it is an art. I am sure you have never really listened to anybody because your mind is always occupied, thinking of other things, is it not so? You never actually listen to your wife, to your children, to your neighbour, because your mind is caught up in its own fears and anxieties, in the innumerable preoccupations that arise in the mind and prevent full communication. If you observe yourself you will see how extraordinarily difficult it is to listen to anything, especially to a speaker who is going to say things which you will not like, or which you do not immediately understand, or which seem contradictory. Such things are apt to produce a great deal of confusion, and so you tend to brush them all aside.
So it is necessary to listen with a sense of humility. Humility is entirely different from being humble. Humbleness can be achieved, gathered, cultivated by one who is already full of vanity and arrogance; but humility is not a quality to be acquired, it is a state of being. You are, or you are not, in a state of humility, and we shall discuss all this presently as we go into our many problems in the talks which are to follow. But I am suggesting now that if one wants to learn, to understand what another says, there must be that humility which listens, which does not either accept or reject, but inquires. To inquire there must be that state of humility, because if you already know, you cease to inquire. If you take a position of agreeing or denying, you put an end to inquiry. Inquiry is only possible when there is a certain freedom of the mind, freedom to go into what is being said, to inquire, to find out. So it is essential that we should listen with a sense of freedom and humility, for only then shall we be able to communicate with each other.
I am not here to instruct you what to do or what not to do, but together we are going to inquire into our many problems. Therefore the thinking should not be one-sided, with you merely receiving. We shall be endeavouring, you and I, to inquire into the whole problem of human existence, into the whole process of living, of death, of meditation, of conflict, of human relationships. All that we are going into. But first it is essential that the mind that wishes to inquire be somewhat pliable and free, not rigid, not prejudiced, not prone to take a stand from which it is unwilling to move.
Surely it behoves us to make this inquiry, seeing that there is so much conflict and misery, such fearful economic stresses and strains, so much starvation and degradation. Obviously a change is necessary, a radical change. A fundamental revolution is necessary because things cannot go on as they are. Of course if we are earning sufficient money, if we are clever enough to get through life without too much conflict and are concerned only with ourselves, then we do not mind if things go on as they are. But if we are at all inquiring, serious, we must surely try to find out, must we not?, how to bring about a change. Because religions obviously mean very little; they only offer an escape. You may go to a guru or a priest, repeat mantrams or prayers, follow some doctrine or ritual, but they are all avenues of escape. They will not solve your problems - and they have not done so. The problems still exist, and it is no good running away from them. Whether you go to the temple, or retire to the Himalayas to become a sannyasi, it is still a running away.
Throughout the world it is the same problem. Religions have failed, and education also. Passing a lot of examinations and putting the alphabet after your name has not solved your problems. No system, educational, economic, political, religious or philosophical, has solved our problems - which is obvious, because we are still in conflict. There is appalling poverty, confusion, strife between man and man, group and group, race and race. Neither the Communist nor any other social or economic revolution has solved this problem, or ever will. Because man is a total entity, he has to be taken as a totality - not partially, at different layers of his existence. The specialist is only concerned with a particular layer - the politician merely with governing, the economist merely with money values, the religionist with his own creed, and so on. Apparently nobody considers the human problem as a whole and tackles it, not partially, but wholly. The religious person says, "Give up the world if you really want to solve the problem; but the world is inside oneself. The tears, the innumerable struggles and fears, they are all inside. Or the social reformer says, "Forget yourself and do good", and you may work to forget yourself; but the problem is still there. All the various specialists offer their own remedies, but no one apparently is concerned with the total transformation of man himself. All they offer is various forms of thinking. If you leave one religion and go to another, you only change your mode of thinking. No one seems to be concerned with the quality of thought, with the quality of the mind that thinks. The problem is enormous, as you and I know fairly well - we have only to observe as we pass down the street, as we get on the bus, as we talk to a friend or to a politician or to a religious person. We can watch this whole process of degradation going on, every form of decline and corruption, a mounting confusion; and surely we can hope to solve it only when the mind is capable of thinking of the problem in a totally different way. There must be a revolution in the mind itself, not merely a change at some partial level of human existence; and with that revolution in our thinking, with that radical transformation of the mind, we can approach the problem wholly. The problem is constantly changing, is it not? The problem is not static, but we approach it with a mind that is already conditioned, that has already taken a stand and accepted certain sanctions, edicts, values. So while the problem is a living thing, changing, vital, we approach it with a dead mind, and so the conflict increases and the confusion worsens.
So there must be a revolution in thinking, a revolution in the mind itself, and not in what the mind thinks about. There is surely a vast difference between the two. We are mostly concerned with what the mind thinks about. The Communist is concerned with conditioning the mind to think what it is told, and the so-called religious person is concerned with the same thing. Most of us are concerned with thinking only the thoughts which we already know and have accepted, and these thoughts further condition the mind, obviously. Every thought that you have - as an economist, as a specialist, as a believer in God or a non-believer, as a man who pursues virtue or does not - shapes the mind. Your thinking depends upon your conditioning, how you have been brought up, what the pressures of your environment are - religion, society, family, tradition. So if we are at all serious we shall not be concerned with substituting one thought for another, or with sublimating thought to some other level. We must be concerned with the radical transformation of the capacity to think, not merely with the choice of what to think. That is where the revolution should take place, and not at any particular layer of human existence. I hope I am making this point clear. If not, we shall discuss it as we go along. A revolution in the way of thinking is essential - not the choice of what to think, or the pursuit of right thought, but a revolution in the capacity itself, in the mind itself. Unless there is a radical change in the mind, you can have no answer to your problems. Do what you will, read any books, follow any authority, any guru, you will never solve your problems unless there is a radical transformation of the mind itself.
What is happening now? You are either a Hindu, a Moslem, a Buddhist, a Catholic, an American, a Russian, or some kind of specialist, and so on; and you approach life with your particular pattern of thinking. The Communist wants to solve the problems of life in his way, the Catholic, the Hindu, the Buddhist, in his; so there is ever contention, conflict, bitterness, anxiety, war, which is obviously not the way to solve our human problems. So long as you remain whatever you are, you are not going to solve any fundamental problem. And if you as a student, specialize to be a scientist hoping science is going to solve everything, it is not going to, I assure you. You may be able to go up into the sky, produce various forms of sputniks, but our problems of human existence are still there - how you treat your wife, how I treat you and you treat me, our ambitions, our greeds, our frustrations, whether there is God, what happens after death, what is meditation, what is virtue, what is the true religious life. Surely all these are our problems, and now we approach them as specialists, as persons conditioned with various hopes, desires, beliefs, and so we never solve them. Therefore there must be a revolution in the mind. This revolution is not a matter of mere agreement, it is not a matter of conviction, it is not a matter of belief: it must take place. It cannot take place if you believe that there must be a revolution in the mind. That is merely a concept, an ideal, which is worthless. You know there is a vast difference between the word and the verb. The word has very little meaning except as a means of communication, and all thoughts, plans, ideals, concepts, theories, speculations, and the pursuit of them are at the verbal level. If you merely live at the verbal level it does not bring about a fundamentally new way of thinking. What does bring it about is `the verb', `being' - not in relation to an idea, but action itself. Perhaps this is a little bit difficult, but please just listen to it even if only for intellectual amusement. You see, most of us are caught in words, with slogans, ideas, phrases, concepts. These are entirely different from `the verb' - which is not action related to an idea but a state of being, acting. Because the moment you really understand something - which is not just agreeing or being convinced or submitting to pressure, for all these are related to `the word' and do not bring understanding - , you act. When there is an understanding which is `the verb' then there is an `acting' which is a state of being. If you think about it a little you will see the difference between the two, the verb and the word, the doing and the thought of doing, the word love and loving. Now most of us are caught in the thought that we should love, as a noble, ideological, perfect thing; that is merely the word. The verb is `loving', unrelated to any action; it is a state of being, of loving. This is only by the way, to demonstrate how our minds operate.
Our minds function in words, in concepts, in ideals, in what should be; and it is there that the revolution must take place. The mind must be in a state of being, in a state of verb, if one can so put it - not in the state of the word but in the state of the verb. You can see the difference, can you not? To bring into being that state of the verb is the revolution. If you think about it you will see the extraordinary meaning of it, what significance it has - the being and the thought of being.
So our concern then, if we are at all serious, is to bring about a revolution in the mind. I have more or less described, given a significance to that word `revolution' before, and also what we mean by a serious person. Let us examine for a minute or two that word `serious'. What is serious? And what does that word mean? Are you serious? Is the man who gives up the world and takes the yellow robe serious? Is the man who becomes a social reformer serious? The man who pursues God, is he serious? The man who mesmerizes himself by listening to songs and all the rest of it, is he serious? And the man who completely identifies himself with an idea or who says: "I have taken a vow and I am going to stick to it for the rest of my life", is he serious? Or the man who immolates himself, who identifies himself with a country, is he serious?
So looking at all the various forms of so-called seriousness, including the insane man who thinks he is sane, are all these people serious? Are all these people really devoted to what they are doing? Surely, that is the test, is it not? Devotion is earnestness; and earnestness is devoid of enthusiasm. The man who is enthusiastic is not earnest; he is just enthused for the time being - as a balloon that is blown up, pops and makes a lot of noise. So any one of these who is not concerned with the search for the true in what he is pursuing, such a person is not serious. This is not a mere definition, but if you will examine it you will see the significance of what is being said.
Surely devotion is not to something, to a God, to a guru, to a picture or some figure. Such devotion is obviously an escape, a running away, trying to forget yourself in something. Whether it is to the country, the State, a picture or to some idea, such devotion is merely a flight, an escape from the facts of existence. Devotion is something entirely different. Devotion is the capacity to enquire persistently into the ways of the mind, because without understanding the mind, whatever you do - whatever you think, or pursue, whatever your ideals, your authorities - has no meaning at all. That is, without understanding yourself, what you do and what you think, or trying to alter what you do and what you think, has little meaning. You understand this, do you not? Without knowing myself, how do I know what I think is true, how can I know of Truth, how can I know of God, whether there is God or there is not? Without knowing myself, what right have I to seek to reform another, or tell another what to do? And would I, even if I knew myself, tell another what to do?
So, without knowing oneself there can be no radical change, therefore no radical action, and therefore no radical transformation in the mind. By knowing oneself I do not mean some super-self, the Paramatman, the soul - which are merely things you have been told about. To me, without knowing oneself totally, these are all false, they have no reality. After all, if you do not know what you think and why you think, from what source your thought springs and from what background your action comes, whether you believe in God or not has no meaning. Because you have been brought up as Hindus, you believe in God; because your society, your neighbour, your tradition says `believe' - you believe. But go to Russia and they will say what nonsense it all is, they will brush you off as stupid and regard your action as insane. Whereas he, the Russian, is conditioned also, conditioned to believe that there is no God, to believe that the State is the only right thing to follow. He is conditioned, as you are conditioned. So when you say you believe in God it has no meaning. Please see how important it is to understand this. Because if you are really seeking God you must put away all these things, you must put away all your gurus, your knowledge, your tradition, and not follow or accept any authority. That means an inward revolution. And it is only such a man, who thinks clearly, who knows his own conditioning, his entire being - not only the conscious but the unconscious, the totality of his thought - it is only such a man who can enquire if there is or is not truth, God, or whatever name you like to give it. But that means hard work, and nobody wants to work hard, whether at home or in the office or in search of truth; and so we are inefficient, corrupt; and we want to understand truth without work.
Understanding yourself means - not the super-self, the Atman, the super-consciousness and all that - but understanding the ways of your own reactions, understanding yourself as you are, what you think, why you think, why you do certain things and say certain words. To understand is to be conscious, to be aware of what you are. You will find that it is extraordinarily difficult because most of us are unwilling to understand ourselves. We would rather believe, be told, pushed, persuaded, driven politically, economically or environmentally. But to watch yourself in all your relationships whether with your servant, your wife, your husband, or others, to watch yourself when you get into a bus, to be aware when you look at nature, at the trees, the clouds, to watch all your own reactions and to be aware, - that, Sirs, is real meditation. Then you can go very far. Then you will not create for yourself any illusions.
So there must be the understanding of oneself and in that there is the revolution. I cannot understand myself if I do not examine myself. When you are angry - at the moment of anger you are not aware of yourself - watch yourself, look at it, and find out why you are angry. Go into it, go into the whole process of anger. I am only taking that as an example. It requires a great deal of thought, penetration, but that is real devotion - not the phoney devotion to a guru from whom you are going to get some return; that is just a bargain. Real devotion is to enquire into why you are angry, into the source of your anger, and to understand.
To understand something, surely, there must be neither acceptance nor condemnation. There are many of you here who have heard me for a number of years, unfortunately, because therefore you say: "I know what he is going to say about this", and so you close your ears. But to find out the whole significance of why one accepts or condemns requires a constant renewal of listening, of understanding. It is not a matter of listening to me only, but of listening to yourself to find out why you condemn, why you have shut yourself off or why you have accepted. I have said this for a number of years, that if you want to understand something there must be neither condemnation nor acceptance, but rather you must look at it. There are many who have heard me for ten or twenty years and who say: "I agree with you; but they have not done anything about it. They are at the state of `the word' and not at the state of `the verb'. The verb is the doing, not the thought of doing.
So to understand why I accept or reject, why I condemn or compare, requires a great deal of penetration into oneself. After all, why do you accept authority? Why do you accept authority at any level - political, economic, social, religious - the authority of the book or the authority of your own experience? Why do you accept, and why do you reject? Why do you reject Communism, Socialism, Capitalism or whatever it may be? Don't you see that unless you really know what it is, - that drive, that push, the influence which is making you accept or reject, causing you to compare, to justify, identify or deny - you are merely the tool of authority. The man who follows, the man who leads, the man who has ideals, does not know love. The man who follows, how can he know love? He is just following, and the following is enslavement to `the word'. And the man who is a leader, who says: "I know and you don't know. I am right and you are wrong", - how can he love? He may identify himself with his country, with an idea, with a reform and he may lead a most exemplary life of denial and simplicity, but he is full of authority, full of his own knowledge, experience, ideas, and how can such a man know love? Nor can the idealist, because he is always thinking of `what should be'. So, without knowing yourself, what you do and what you think have no reality; your Gods have no reality, nor your village-reforms which you are doing for various reasons, many of which may be childish, immature, merely respectable.
So in order to bring about a fundamental change in the ways of one's thinking one must begin with self-knowledge, knowledge of oneself, of the ways of one's own thinking, not with so-called knowledge about God. Knowledge about God is all unreal, false, unless you know yourself. So the religious person is the man who begins with the understanding of himself, not with the leading of a particular life in accordance with some tradition or some book. Surely it is essential to know yourself, to know how to think clearly, without bias, without prejudice, without fear, and therefore to act without fear, - which means character. Character is not for the person who merely obeys the law - either the law of society or his own law - but for the person who thinks clearly and whose thought is produced through self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is the knowledge of why you are angry, why you are ambitious, ruthless, sexual, and all the other things which are to be discovered. You have to know about yourself, and the knowing is quite different from merely bringing about a change in the known. I can know why I am angry; we can all know. It is fairly easy, if you know the A B C of psychology, to know why you are greedy, ambitious, rude, cruel, brutal. But knowing about it and actually understanding it are entirely different. The very process of understanding brings about a change. Because when you understand yourself there is clarity of thinking, and in that clarity there is character. Character is not produced by following an ideal and sticking to that ideal; that is merely obstinacy. Character implies clarity, and there is no clarity so long as you do not know yourself; and you cannot know yourself if you are not fully aware of yourself. And in understanding oneself, as we have said, there must be no acceptance or justification of what you are, no excuses, no saying: "I am like this because of my environment", or "I know I am conditioned because I live in a little province and so my mind is provincial", and so on.
To see all this, to be aware of it, to know it, to go into it and see the significance of it, requires devotion, endeavour, hard work. Then only can the mind bring about within itself a revolution which will answer all the problems of our life. When you know the source of your problems and the causes of your problems, and when you know that their solution is within your own understanding, then you see that you need not follow anybody; then you have no guru, no authority, no book, no tradition, because you are a light unto yourself. These are not words. I am saying all this because it is so. But you cannot accept it because I say so, for then you become merely a follower, which is an evil thing to be, whether politically or religiously. Whereas, if you begin to understand yourself, to go into yourself profoundly, - which requires a great deal of attention, a great deal of devotion - then only will you be able to solve the many problems which confront each one of us.
September 7, 1958
Poona 1st Public Talk 7th September 1958
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