Madras 8th Public Talk 16th November 1958
It seems to me that most of us are so desirous of being intellectually clever, getting to be so technically trained - which is all a cultivation of the mechanical habit of the mind - that religion plays a very superficial part in our lives. But however clever, however erudite, however capable in the expression of his ideas a man may be, he is never really satisfied with his own cleverness and he invariably turns to something he thinks is deeper; he begins to enquire, to search because his intellect obviously does not satisfy him wholly. So he turns to religion. Either he becomes a Catholic, where he finds safety, where his intellect can no longer tear things apart or he turns to some form of Buddhism or Hinduism or what you will. This is what is actually happening right throughout the world. Religion, being thought of as something mysterious and having a quality of `otherness' about it, the intellectual seeks to take shelter in that `otherness' and is satisfied by the belief. And for the rest of us who are not highly intellectual, though we may be very clever verbally, which perhaps is the same thing, religion implies tradition or a revivalism, attending certain ceremonies, going to churches, going to temples, and so on. Being able to quote a lot of platitudes which really have no meaning, gives us a feeling of religiosity. But surely Reality, Truth, or whatever it be, is not to be caught through any of these methods nor by a petty mind, however clever it is. Because a petty mind, whatever its activities, whatever its Gods, whatever its virtues, visions, formulas, conceptions and speculations, must invariably remain petty, small, narrow, limited. I think that is fairly obvious though one may not admit it to oneself. Actually it is a fact that a small mind cannot see beyond the limits of its own frontiers; it cannot go beyond the frontiers of recognition.
So, living within the field of recognition, - which I will go into presently - our Gods, our realities are always within the time limitation, always something to be achieved through various forms of discipline, control, suppression or sublimation. I do not know if you have noticed how your own mind operates. If you have you are bound to have observed how extraordinarily limited the mind is. You may be a technical expert, a high-ranking executive, a bank manager or a clerk, but behind the facade of technical knowledge there is a vast field of discontent. And this discontent soon takes the form of seeking to become very religious, sanctimonious or tearful; and such a mind being petty, small, narrow, limited, obviously its expression, its search for God, for Truth is very, very limited. If you ask the savage or the primitive man what God is, he will express it in very limited, narrow terms, such as the worship of the elements. And if you go higher in the scale of so-called civilization, culture you will find man's Gods are equally limited, based on what he has been told or what his little field of search has revealed. So the petty mind always functions within the field of its own recognition. Is not that so with most of us? Our virtues are standardized, our norms are defined, our activities respectable, our whole outlook is limited to the recognized and the respected. If you watch your own mind - and I am not insulting you by saying you have a petty mind - you will see that it functions only within the frontiers of recognition, that which you can recognize. It expresses simplicity in terms of the loincloth; its passions, affections, hates, its drive and power are always recognizable, associated with what is considered respectable by the majority. Is it not so? If you watch yourself you will see that you are always functioning within the field, the frontiers, the barriers of recognition and so always within the realm of time. Our Gods, our virtues, our loves, struggles, aspiration and goodness are all very limited and narrow.
Now most of us are unwilling to see that. We either blame society or our education or say that circumstances have forced us to be as we are and we refuse to acknowledge honestly to ourselves that our own mind is petty. But a mind that functions only within the field of time, that is, the yesterday, today and tomorrow is obviously a petty mind. Whether the `yesterday' travels backwards indefinitely or the `tomorrow' travels forward indefinitely or the `to-day' be limited to the present, - it is all within the field of time and therefore very narrow. The man who wants to become the manager, the boss, the whole process of seeking power, the ambition, however seemingly noble, extensive, ideological, - all this is within the field of time and therefore petty.
Please do listen to all this and not merely hear it intellectually and casually agree or disagree or rationalize it away. Because if you actually listen, you will see the workings of your own mind like the ticking of a clock; you can hear it, see it, observe it if you are sensitive enough to feel the motion, the action of your own mind. It is a fact, whether one acknowledges it to oneself or not, that we try to modify ourselves, recreate society, bring about some revival or pursue some new set of ideas but always within that recognizable field of the mind. Our Masters, our gurus, our visions are all recognizable and therefore there is nothing new. That which you recognize can never be new. Whatever you recognize you have already known. And that which is known has already been established in the past, which is memory, which is of time, and therefore it is the old.
So, the very serious man who really wants to understand this whole problem of existence, must obviously put the question to himself as to how to break this barrier, which is not only of the conscious mind but of the hidden, deeper layers of consciousness which again, if examined very deeply, is still within the field of time and recognition. I am using the word `recognition' in its very simplest form. I recognize you because I have met you previously, otherwise, obviously, I would not know you. I am using the word in that sense.
To the petty mind, - even though it be intellectual and therefore functioning more cleverly within the field of recognition - to the petty mind there is nothing new. It functions always within the known, even though it calls it the future. All the social workers, the reformers, the seekers of a Utopia, the Communists, anti-Communists, Socialists, Capitalists, they are all working within the field of recognition, in the field of the norm they have established, which is always based on time. So none of them can bring about a true revolution. A fundamental revolution means something totally new, and we need such a revolution because all other forms of revolution - economic, social or religious - have failed. They are all really only the antithesis of what has been, a reaction from what has been.
So, seeing this extraordinary process the mind in ourselves, and in the intellectual people, in the visionaries, in the social workers, and in the so-called saints, we must have asked ourselves how to break this narrow, petty, traditional mind. The scientific mind is also a traditional mind and functions in the field of recognition. The scientist is not going to bring about a revolution; he will invent new methods or ways of living but they will only create new circumstances to which the mind must adjust itself, and therefore it is not a revolution. You can use refrigerators, fly in a jet or go to the moon, but the mind is still petty, narrow.
Seeing all this and being aware of this whole process, how is the mind to break through, break right away from the pettiness? I do not know if you have ever asked yourself that question. And when you do, how do you reply, what is your response? If you are not too bored with the question, if you really want to find an answer as you want to find food when you are hungry, then how do you go about it? Surely, to break anything, to bring about radical action there must be passion. Feeling strongly about something brings its own action, does it not? If I felt strongly about the squalor in the streets, the dirt, if I felt urgently, intensely about it, I would do something. I would create an organization which will do something about it. I would not sit down and intellectually rationalize the squalor and leave it to somebody else to tackle. If one feels something deeply one acts, does one not? But unfortunately we have disciplined our feelings. We have been told for centuries that desire is wrong, that it leads to sorrow, that one must be free of desire and then one will find God; a dead God, generally. Whatever it is you find, obviously a dead mind will find nothing worth finding. It is only a living mind that will find.
For centuries people have said: destroy, control, shape, subjugate desire; and society - which after all is only the interaction between individuals - has helped to maintain and sustain the suppression of all feelings. You dare not have strong feelings because if you have a very strong feeling you may do something vital, you may be a dangerous entity, a dangerous citizen. So you begin to suppress, control, shape your feelings to the edicts of society or else you try to sublimate, that is, try to find some way of escaping from the violent tortures of strong feeling. This is what we do, is it not? So, gradually we destroy all feeling except the very, very superficial feelings of a little sex, earning a livelihood for the family, for the very narrow circle, and so on. So our minds, which are petty, reduce all feelings to the same level, and yet without passion - I use that word because, though you may not like it, I think it is the right word - without passion you cannot do anything vital.
What does that word passion mean? I would like to go into it because I think it is very important. Most people, here and elsewhere, though they are frightfully active superficially - creating new mills, more dams, more scientific inventions - if you observe you will find that all over the world most people are dead. It is only the dying that are corruptible, not the living. And being dead - though not altogether dead, obviously - how is one to revive? We still have a flicker of some emotion, a flicker of an aspiration, a spark of ambition, but it is so very small. You all want to take the next step on the ladder of success, and how are you to break out of such narrowness and be made anew? That is the problem, is it not? I do not know if you have thought about it at all. Legislation will not help. Obviously there is going to be more legislation, more planning, more State welfare from the womb to the tomb, and in that process the mind will become more and more trapped. So seeing all this, what is one to do?
Obviously there must be passion and the question is how to revive that passion. Do not let us misunderstand each other. I mean passion in every sense, not merely sexual passion which is a very small thing. And most of us are satisfied with that because every other passion has been destroyed - in the office, in the factory, through following a certain job, routine, learning techniques - so there is no passion left; there is no creative sense of urgency and release. Therefore sex becomes important to us and there we get lost in petty passion which becomes an enormous problem to the narrow, virtuous mind or else it soon becomes a habit and dies. I am using the word passion as a total thing. A passionate man who feels strongly is not satisfied merely with some little job - whether it be the job of a Prime Minister or of a cook, or what you will. A mind that is passionate is enquiring, searching, looking, asking, demanding, not merely trying to find for its discontent some object in which it can fulfil itself and go to sleep. A passionate mind is groping, seeking, breaking through, not accepting any tradition; it is not a decided mind, not a mind that has arrived but it is a young mind that is ever arriving.
Now, how is such a mind to come into being? It must happen. Obviously, a petty mind cannot work at it. A petty mind trying to become passionate will merely reduce everything to its own pettiness. It must happen; and it can only happen when the mind sees its own pettiness and yet does not try to do anything about it. Am I making myself clear? Probably not. But as I said earlier, any activity of a petty mind, a small mind, a restricted mind, however eager it is, will still be petty, and surely that is obvious. A small mind, though it can go to the moon, though it can acquire a technique, though it can cleverly argue and defend, is still a small mind; whatever its activities are, it is a small mind. So when that small mind says, `I must be passionate in order to do something worth while', obviously its passion will be very petty, will it not? - like getting angry about some petty injustice or thinking that the whole world is changing because of some petty little reform done in a petty little village by a petty little mind. If the little mind sees all that, then the very perception that it is small is enough; then its whole activity undergoes a change.
Look, Sirs, so long as I do not acknowledge that I am blind, everything I do is disastrous. But if suddenly, being blind, I acknowledge it, what happens? I develop totally new tendencies, new ways of perception, do I not? My touch becomes much more sensitive; I apprehend anything that is very close to me; a totally new set of reactions is set going; all my consciousness becomes astonishingly sensitive and acute. And most of us are blind, asleep, petty, narrow, and if we could only acknowledge it, not merely intellectually, verbally, but actually see it - without falling into despair which again is the process of the small mind that ever climbs towards hope and drops back into despair - then we would see that a totally new set of reactions comes into being. And do you see what happens then? That recognition brings into being humility. Not the humbleness of a mind which says, `I see I am petty and I wish I were big' - that is merely the extension of vanity. I am talking of the mind that actually sees that all its actions are petty, and immediately there is a sense of humility. Humility is not a thing to be cultivated. A mind that cultivates humility merely makes itself humble; it is like a cloak it puts on and behind the cloak there is vanity.
So when I recognize that my mind is small and that whatever it does will still be small, when I know that, when I feel it, when I perceive the significance of what is being said now, then my mind is humility. And that is essential for then begins real learning. Because the mind that has learnt cannot learn. How can a mind which is burdened with learning, how can a mind which has accumulated knowledge be free to climb the mountain? It can climb only when it has unburdened itself; and the moment the mind unburdens itself of what it has learnt, it is learning.
So the very perception of the pettiness of one's own mind which works and functions only within the field of recognition, that very perception is a breaking-through and at that very instant there is humility and therefore the action of learning. And you cannot learn if there is no passion, and there can only be passion when there is complete self-abandonment. I hope you follow this. You cannot be passionate if you do not abandon yourself, obviously. That is, if there is not complete self-forgetfulness, complete self-abandonment, complete self-abnegation of this time element, which is the self, then there is no passion. The very essence of humility is self-abandonment. So in this sense of humility there is the passion to learn, not to accumulate learning - that is nothing, that is merely to be an encyclopaedia - but the passion to find out, to enquire, to search, to understand, and such passion can only come when the `me' is absent. You do have such passion when you are vitally interested in something; you totally forget yourself when you love somebody. And I do not mean the love that knows jealousy, the love that knows hate, the love that is occupied with itself, the stupid sense of sympathy that wants to do good. Love never wants to do good. Love never wants to reform. It is a thing that is eternal and you cannot capture it within the net of time.
So there cannot be humility if there is no passion to learn, and passion does not come into being unless there is self-abandonment. When there is self-abandonment there is simplicity, there is austerity - not the cultivated austerity of the mind that says, `must only have one meal a day, only possess two loin-cloths', and makes a public exhibition of itself. And you will see that the simplicity of self-abandonment is extraordinarily rich. In the so-called simplicity of fasting prayer, discipline and controlled austerity there is no richness, there is no beauty, there is no sensitivity. But to the mind that knows passion through self-abandonment, there is a simplicity of enormous, boundless, endless riches. Such a mind is infinitely sensitive and such a mind is a creative mind; it is free from conflict. And there is no self-abandonment, with all its beauty and riches, unless there is self-knowledge. If you do not know yourself - if you do not know what you think, what you feel, what your ideas are, what the sources of your motives are, why you think this and why you do that - if you do not know how your mind operates, obviously you cannot abandon yourself. You may chip off one or two pieces, cut out the things you do not like from this total consciousness, but that is not self-knowledge. To understand yourself you must be aware of the way you talk, your gestures, your approach to another, your fears and ambitions, your joys and fleeting loves. To know all that - not as an accumulation of knowledge, but to see it as it actually happens every day and watch it - in that total awareness there is self-abandonment. Then only there is passion.
Sirs, you cannot come to Truth empty-handed. Truth will not come to you if you have suppressed all your feelings, all your emotions, if you have tamed them all, made them respectable. Nor must you be a sinner. Perhaps the sinner is nearer because he is active, he has feelings. You must be extraordinarily rich in your emptiness. Now you are rich only in the dead ashes of virtue, of struggle, in your little aspirations, ambitions and frustrations, yet, laden with all of that you want to find God. You cannot, obviously. Only to the mind that is completely empty, that is not seeking, not demanding, not asking, only to such a mind Reality comes - not the reality of the Upanishads, the Gita or the Bible, none of that. Those are words, platitudes, they have only the meaning which your little mind gives them. One must empty the mind of all thought, for thought is of time; one must empty the mind of all knowledge of the yesterday, of all experience, so that the mind is made fresh, new, young, innocent and yet totally empty. It is only the empty mind, which is void, that can be filled.
But that means hard work. It is hard work to realize that one's mind is petty, small. It is hard work to observe this fact, to face it, to grapple with it, not trying to escape from it. It is much harder work than going to your office, or passing an examination because it demands constant alertness, constant awareness, watching every minute to see your petty little actions. And most of us are unwilling to work hard, and therefore the Bible or the Gita gives a very good escape and we think that by quoting them we become very religious; or else we take up social work and escape there. None of these things will bring Reality. It is the mind which has abandoned its pursuits that is rich in its emptiness and therefore quiet; only such a mind knows silence without the recognition of silence, and only to such a mind the Immeasurable comes.
November 16, 1958
Madras 8th Public Talk 16th November 1958
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