Poona 4th Public Talk 17th September 1958
I would like, if I may, to discuss this afternoon something which may be rather difficult and which I think needs a great deal of understanding and penetration. For most of us everyday living is so oppressive, so demanding and insistent that whether we are labourers or clerks, professors or what you will, nearly all of our time is taken up with our occupation and we have very little time in which to think about the wider and fuller implications of living. It seems to me that though one may feel serious, though one may feel dedicated, though one may have some insight into things, nevertheless some time must be given to the whole process of the understanding of the mind - the mind which is not only the reactions, the functioning in association, in memory, but also the mind that is and must be empty and function from that emptiness. It is going to be difficult because inevitably you will translate what is being said into terms of your own experience, your own knowledge, your own tradition, thereby nullifying what you hear. If I say something totally new which you are not able to understand immediately, the mind will translate it into terms of the old. It is like putting new wine into old bottles. We hear something for the first time and immediately the mind sets going its activity of associating, and translates what is being said in terms of its own background, and thereby destroys that which it is hearing.
So it seems to me that it is very important to listen and not to turn to tradition because tradition will not help to bring about clarity. Tradition invariably perpetuates respectability and the respectable mind is far from reality; not that the disrespectable mind is any nearer reality. The respectable mind functions in the field of tradition, whether the tradition be ancient or modern, Communist, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever it is; which really means that the mind has given itself over to what it has heard, or read or been told, and is living according to the sanctions, ideas and experiences of others. If you are to experience anything new you must set all that aside, surely, and that is where our difficulty lies. The mind is so stubborn in its demand for certainty that it insists on walking always on the path of safety where there can be no adventure, no risk, no evaluation, no observation or experiencing. So the mind gradually falls into a framework of tradition and thereby ceases to experience anything other than what it has been conditioned to. But that is not an original experience and it is only the original experience that really unburdens the mind of its conditioning and enables you to see something for yourself. To see something for yourself will break down the limitations of the mind. Even some flower by the wayside, if you really see it, can do an extraordinary thing to you. It breaks up the pettiness, the habitual grooves of the mind if you can see something original, experience something original.
If you are at all aware of your own thinking, of your own ways of acting you will find that you have very little, if anything at all, original. The young mind is the deciding mind, the young mind is the mind which is enquiring, searching, looking, experiencing. The traditional mind is the old mind; it is a dead mind even though it can quote all the Vedas, repeat pages from the sacred books. As a race we are very old and so we have been brought up in this tradition and we repeat, repeat, and there is nothing original, you have nothing of your own, nothing that is creative. If you are at all creative it is merely in the scientific field, in the laboratory, and there is not that inner creative state of being which alone can experience something new, something which will solve the problems of the world. But unfortunately this country as well as other countries are burdened with the old mind, and it is extraordinarily difficult to break through tradition and not to think in terms of what Shankara, Buddha, Christ or your own favourite guru round the corner has told you. To put away all this, requires a great deal of understanding of why the mind seeks authority, tradition. Obviously it wants to be secure; but the mind that is secure can never experience newly; it can only repeat, and the repetition is not experiencing. So beware of the persons who quote the Gita or anything else; they destroy your capacity to be creative. The creative individual is a danger to society and so society holds and destroys the individual who is beginning to awaken, to be discontented, searching, experiencing. Authority in any form is evil, and I am using that word without any condemnation. As a cobra is poisonous so authority is poisonous. You may laugh, but your laughter is an indication that you are brushing it off; you do not really see the poisonous nature of authority. Authority leads you to security, safety; at least you think it does, but it does not; it destroys you. So for me, as I am talking about all this, there is only the teaching and not the teacher. The speaker is not at all important; and the teaching is only important if you understand and experience; but if you merely repeat, or compare, then it is dead. So please remove the person from the teaching so that you can penetrate into what is being said without being influenced. Then you remove all authority and are face to face with the fact of whether it is true or false. But if you introduce the person and his so-called achievement with the looks, gestures and tradition, then you pervert the teaching. If you really get that one thing - that what is important is what is said and not who says it - then you would see what an extraordinary thing happens to your mind. Then you would find that you would like to see what the truth of the teaching is and whether it is false or real. That requires real, dispassionate, critical observation, examination.
What I want to discuss is something which through my description you can experience. The description is not the real but only your experience can be the real. So do not take what you listen to as the real and your experiencing as the unreal.
Now action and reason both bind, because action without reason is incomplete and reason without action is incomplete; and both action and reason, without the understanding of the process of the mind, bind. Is it not so? I may be able to reason most logically, cleverly as any lawyer, but if the background from which my reasoning springs is never touched upon, enquired into, broken into, I am bound by my background. And a man who acts without reason through various mysteries, illusions, delusions and hallucinations, such a man obviously is also bound and creates mischief. So action and reason both bind unless there is understanding of the ways of the mind. In this world we have to live, which is to act and to reason, but the more clever you are at reasoning and acting the more mischief you do, unless you first understand the whole background of your being, your tendencies, ways of thinking, and conditioning. This seems all so obvious. Most of us are concerned with action and we want to do things; we cannot sit still or retire into the hills; we feel we have to act, to reform, to bring about a different world, a different state of being, a revolution. And we think that can be brought about by logical, careful reasoning, through the dialectical approach and all that business. But a really radical revolution has to be brought about by the individual, not by the mass because there is no such thing as the mass. The individual has to understand the whole process of the mind, which means your own mind, not mine. You are not listening to understand me, you are listening to understand yourself, and the understanding of yourself - in which there is both action and reasoning - is meditation. Let us go into it.
First of all, in meditation there is no such thing as distraction. Distraction belongs to concentration. You know how all the so-called religious people throughout the world concentrate; whether they live in monasteries, in caves, go to the temple or sit by themselves quietly of a morning, to them concentration is very important. But concentration is destructive. Concentration implies distraction, which is the wandering away of the mind. Please watch your own mind. I do not know if you have ever concentrated for any length of time, but if you have you will know what happens. Your mind narrows down, focuses, cutting out every other thought, desire, influence and is completely absorbed in something. Let us go into that and examine the state of absorption. You must have seen a boy absorbed by a toy; the toy is exciting,. new, mechanical, complicated, and he is completely absorbed by it. Is that concentration? Yes, because the toy absorbs his whole being and he is concentrated on it. There the toy is important. With you, the book, the word, the mantram, the toy of a master, a picture, an image is important and you hope it will absorb you; and if it does not, you absorb the idea and live in that. Either the image absorbs you or you absorb the image and live accordingly. If you can be completely absorbed in an idea, legend, myth and get into some meditative illusion, then you think you have realized truth. But a mind so absorbed in one thing is incapable of seeing the real. Such a mind is a destructive mind; it destroys itself. You begin to see things which are not there, which is hallucination, or you see things which are really there but translate them to suit your own desires, which is delusion.
So if one observes the dangers of concentration one will see that there is quite a different process of attention which is not concentration. You can never learn through concentration; you can always learn through attention. Attention is never a narrowing down; on the contrary it is extensive. A mind that is merely concentrating on what you will, is not in a state of meditation. There are people who have given twenty years to meditation and they have come to a point beyond which they cannot go, because what they have meditated upon has become their barrier, their prison; and they cannot break through. They see visions, God, this and that, and are very popular as great saints. But what they see is their own projection, their own thought crystallizing, taking shape, in which they are caught, and we think that is a marvellous thing. It is the most stupid thing, and I am using that word in its dictionary meaning and not in a condemnatory sense.
Can you not see it, experience the truth of it, that concentration is destructive to the mind? The mind is a moving thing, vital, extensive with tremendous energy; it is the reservoir of that creativeness of which you have no idea; it can penetrate into the most complex and unknown thing; it can go into the unconscious and discover that which is most extraordinary. And yet you force it to a narrow point because you think that that is God, the real thing, and thereby you destroy it. Look at all the saints and sannyasis and what they have done to this poor unfortunate country! They have disciplined their desires, controlled their minds, suppressed every form of beauty and therefore they have no passion, the living quality, the living fountain of reality.
So if you see the truth of this, - that concentration is destructive, is like building a barrier, a wall round yourself - then what will you do? Then you must enquire whether there is a different kind of attention, must you not? But first one must really see that concentration cannot free the mind; on the contrary it imprisons the mind. Even the school boy knows that to learn you must be awake and listening. To learn is not just to repeat from some beastly book to pass an examination. Learning is the sense of understanding, enquiring searching, for which your mind must be extraordinarily quick, fluid, with the capacity of insight.
So a mind that has the power of concentration, that says it has complete control over thought, is a stupid mind. If that is so, then you must find a way of enquiring which is not merely through concentration. Concentration implies distraction, does it not? The mind takes up a position and says everything else is a distraction. It says I must think about this and exclude everything else. Now to me there is no such thing as distraction because there is no central position which the mind takes and then says: I will pursue this and not that. So let us remove both the word and the condemnatory feeling of distraction. Please experience what I am saying. Remove that word distraction not merely verbally but emotionally, inwardly. Then you will see what happens to your mind. To us at present there is concentration and distraction, a concentrated outlook and a wandering off. So you see we have created a duality, and therefore a conflict. You spend your life battling between the chosen thought and the distractions, and when you can get an hour when you are completely held by an idea you feel you have achieved something. But if you remove this idea of distraction altogether then you will find that your mind is in a state of reaction - in a state of association which you call "wandering". That is the fact, and you have removed the element of conflict. Then you are free to deal with the wanderings; you can enquire as to why the mind wanders and not merely try to stop it, to control it.
Then, since you have removed the word, the feeling of being distracted, what is now operating is a mind that is attentive to the wandering, to reaction. Is that not so? I have taken away the feeling of distraction and now my mind is very alert to every movement of thought, because it has not taken up a position in which it calls every movement of thought a distraction. I hope you are experiencing as I am talking. So your mind then is in a state of attention, not trying to learn something or to reject, control or suppress.
Let us enquire into that word `attention'. But I hope it is clear so far. We are trying to understand what meditation is - not how to meditate. If you learn various systems of meditation that is not meditation; you are just learning a technique. Now I say there is an attention which can become concentrated, but concentration cannot become attentive. So it is important to discover what attention is, and this will help also the student who wants to learn, if he goes into it very deeply. The question now is, can a concentrated mind learn? Have you ever observed the state of your mind when it learns? I am saying something new, something new is being said and you are learning about it. We have seen that concentration is destructive, so what is the state of the mind that is learning? It is attentive without compulsion; it is attentive without conformity, without any form of influence, without manipulation, without seeking a reward or avoiding punishment. Are you noticing your own mind? So a mind that learns is an attentive mind in which these other influences do not exist. In that state of attention you learn. That is the only state in which you can truly experience; not in any other state. Now you and I have established, or rather understood, what it means to be attentive, to have that attention in which there is no form of compulsion; so you are attending without effort, are you not?, because you are learning. I am not mesmerizing you. I am not trying to put something over you. You want to find out, you want to learn and I am forcing you to learn. That is a different matter. We are enquiring into that state of mind which learns and we realize that that state of mind is attention.
Please go into it and you will see that that state has no border, there is no frontier. Does that mean anything to you? Please do not agree with me because it is not a matter of agreement; it is a matter of direct experience. In concentration or absorption - as a devotee is absorbed in whatever he pursues - in that state there is a demarcation. Have you not noticed? When you are concentrating you can almost feel the borders of the mind. All your faculties - emotional, mental, verbal, - everything is focused on a certain point, and when there is a focus and no expansion, there is a frontier. A mind which is attentive, which knows what attention really is - which I have described - has no frontier. The mind can come to such a state. Do you understand, Sirs? That is an important discovery for you; it is an experience.
I will put it in different words. Our mind is the mechanism of recognition; it is the machine, the record of recognition. You recognize the tree, the light, the temple, the man, the woman, the bird; you know your thoughts, your tendencies, the insults you have received, the hurts you have felt, - all these memories are the records of recognition' are they not? So our minds are the process, the mechanism of recognition and we are always trying to expand this recognition - to know more, to experience more, to read more. This acquisition is all within the field of recognition. Essentially recognition is the centre of the self, not the illusory super-self but the self which is ambitious, vicious, unkind, brutal, which is trying to become a great man, or a saint, or which just wants to be a nobody. It is that centre which is expanding through recognition. So the mind can know the frontiers of its recognition. Do you know that, Sirs? Please do not agree, because you do not know it. You have never played with it; you have never gone into it. But if you go into it, you will find that you can enlarge the process of recognition, widen the field, the frontier, keep on widening, widening. It is like the conception of the family, the group, the race, the national and the international feeling - all essentially the same, but vastly expanding.
Now if one understands and experiences the state of attention, then you will find that the mind can go beyond the frontiers of recognition. To put it again differently, the mind functions within the frontiers of the known. I know Poona, Bombay, London, New York; I know my family, my virtues, my tendencies; I know what I want; I know my tradition, that there is God or that there is no God; my memory is all this. So my memory functions in the field of the known. You can enlarge that field and know more and more, indefinitely, which is the endless activity of the clever mind, the erudite mind, the scholarly mind, the mind which knows so much. It has a centre from which it goes to the frontier and comes back. It moves in waves but always within the field of the known, and when one talks about the Unknown, the Unknowable, the Unthinkable, this centre moves to the frontier and tries to peep over the boundary by speculation, but it is anchored to the known. All its Gods are known. Your sacred books have told about it, some poor gentleman experienced it thousands of years ago, and you repeat it and hope to experience it. So you have a centre which is hoping to reach something which you think exists; that is, your mind projects what it knows into the future. But however distant thought may go, it is still within the field of the known.
So seeing all this, - the ways, the tricks, the subtleties, the cunning processes of thought - how is the mind to break through it all, not taking centuries, many lives, but as a hungry man who wants food immediately. You cannot say to him, let Socialism come and you will have food; he wants food now. Likewise the mind must see that in the field of the known there is no answer. The mind can go up to the frontier of the known, the recognizable, which includes the unknown which it has projected, but it cannot break through. Nor does it want to break through; most people do not want to, because the Unknown is too dangerous. It is like entering the uncharted seas, you fear you may get drowned. So you say, I had better remain here and bring the whole world into my narrow heart. So how is the mind to break through?
This is real meditation. You understand, Sirs? It was meditation from the moment I began to enquire into tradition and understood putting away tradition because it is the desire for security; then putting away all the teachers, but understanding the teaching; then removing all authority and looking at insecurity; then understanding concentration and its destructiveness; and then discovering, experiencing, a state of mind which is attentive.
Such a mind is not a talkative mind. The attentive mind is not a chattering mind. If you see the beauty of it, if you really experience it, then you can watch your own mind operating. Then the mind watches itself as it functions in tradition and up to the frontiers of the known.
So the enquiry, from when we began till now, is a process of meditation. Meditation is not how to have peace of mind, how to be silent, how to achieve. Those are all immature, childish pursuits. You can take a drug and make your mind absolutely quiet. You can do all kinds of tricks and have peace of mind, but such a mind is still petty, small, narrow. So this whole process, this whole awakening of the mind to itself is meditation. Any enquiry into the unknown is speculation, and a speculative mind is not an attentive mind. The philosophers, the erudite ones, the theoreticians, the people who say God is this or that, just spin words. So a mind that is attentive has not the virtue of respectability. It has virtue, but not a virtue you can recognize. Its virtue cannot be held, as you cannot hold the wind in your fist. Virtue cannot be held in your mind as a possession, and that is the beauty of it. The moment you are conscious that you are virtuous, you cease to be so; and the mind that ceases to be attentive is no longer a virtuous mind. And an attentive mind which is not absorbed by any toy, or belief, or idea, such a mind is an empty mind. You look surprised, Sirs, and that is because you have not really followed the whole of this enquiry; if you had followed it, which means experienced it, you would see that your mind is empty. Let me put it the other way round.
Now the mind is occupied with thoughts, wandering thoughts, thoughts that come and go ceaselessly, or the particular thoughts which the mind pursues. Is it not so? Either thoughts wander through the mind like a breeze through the house or the mind pursues thoughts. Now I have opened the door on to the attentive mind but you have to walk through to it. You cannot find it by searching in the mind. The attentive mind is empty - which is not being empty-headed, blank. Only the empty cup is useful, not the cup which is full. A mind that is purged of all those things that we have been talking about, a mind in which there is no conflict, such a mind being empty can either receive the Unknown, or it can remain empty and function from there. If one goes through all this and enquires, experiences, that is the real religious evolution, the only thing that is going to do anything worth while in this world; not the Communist, the Socialist or any form of revolution. The real evolution is in the mind, and that state of real emptiness is the creative state because that which is empty has no frontiers; it has neither depth nor height. It is this creativity of the mind in the individual that is going to create a new world, and that is the only solution, the only salvation.
September 17 1958
Poona 4th Public Talk 17th September 1958
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