Bombay 3rd Public Talk 3rd December 1958
In all forms of communication words, naturally, are very important. They become more so when you are dealing with abstract and rather complicated problems because each one will translate every word according to his own understanding of it. So it is very difficult when one wants to deal with the extraordinary problem of Life, with all its complexities and subtleties. Words become really significant if we can keep to their dictionary meaning and also allow ourselves to go beyond the mere definition, beyond any mere conclusion which a word may convey.
Take for example the word `freedom'. Each one will translate it according to his own particular necessity, demand, pressures and fears. If you are an ambitious man you will translate that word as something necessary in order to carry out your ambitions, fulfil your desires. To a man who is bound to certain traditions freedom is a word to be afraid of. To a man who indulges himself in all his fancies and desires that word conveys the possibility of further indulgence. So words have an extraordinary significance in our life and I do not know if you have ever realized how deep and profound the significance of the word is. The words `God', `freedom', `Communist', `American', `Hindu', `Christian', and so on, these. words influence us not only neurologically but they verbally vibrate in our being, bringing out certain reactions. I do not know if you realize all this and, if you do realize it, you will know that it is very difficult to free the mind from the word. As I want to talk over with you a very complex problem, I think we should come to it with the hesitancy and the clarification of a mind that not only understands the words and their significance but which is capable also of going beyond the word.
One can see what is happening throughout the world at the present time. Wherever there are tyrannies, freedom is denied; wherever there is the powerful organization of the church, of religion, freedom again is denied. Though they use this word `freedom', both the religious and the political organizations refuse that freedom. Also one can see that where there is overpopulation freedom must inevitably decline; and wherever there is over-organization, mass communication, freedom is denied. So seeing all this, how is an individual like you or me to interpret freedom? Living, as one has to in this world, in a society which is completely bound to organizations, in which technicians are very important, the mind becomes a slave to a certain form of technique, to a method, to certain ways. So at what level, at what depth do we translate that word `freedom'? If you walked out of your office that would not mean freedom, you would merely lose your job. If you drove on the wrong side of the road the policeman would be after you and your freedom would be curtailed. If you do what you like, or if you get rich, the State will control you. All around us there are sanctions, laws, traditions, various forms of compulsion and domination, and all these are preventing freedom.
So if, as a human being, you would understand this problem, which is a real problem, then from what depth are you enquiring? Or are you not concerned at all? I am afraid most of us are not concerned; what we are concerned with is our daily bread, our families, our little troubles, jealousies, ambitions, but we are not concerned with the wider, bigger problems. And the mere concern for the solution of the problem will not produce a remedy. You might find an immediate remedy but that will only produce other problems, as one well knows. So at what level, from what depth do you respond to the word `freedom'?
One must also realize, surely, that the word is not the thing. The word `truth' is not the truth. But for most of us the word is sufficient; we do not go beyond the word and investigate what lies behind the word. Do please consider this. The very word `Mussulman' prevents you from looking at the human being who represents that word. The nervous response and the psychological response to that word is very deep and it evokes in you all kinds of ideas, beliefs, prejudices. But if one could think very deeply, it will become obvious that one must separate the word from the actual thing. A great deal of misunderstanding in our relationships lies in the wrong significance we give to words. Therefore it is very important that you and I, as two individuals, establish right communication so that we understand each other on the same level at the same time. I do not know if you have noticed it, but when you love somebody communication between the two of you is immediate. Similarly, if we can establish such communion then I think we shall be able to explore this very complex problem. The great difficulty in establishing communication is the word, and you and I must pierce through the word and go beyond if we are to commune with each other, to share, partake in the problem which we are going to unroll, uncover, discuss.
The problem is the mind. Now, when I use the word `mind' it may mean to me something entirely different from what it means to you. You have never thought about what the mind is, you have never explored the whole content of the mind. The mind is obviously a state, a being, a fullness, a depth, a vastness, but all those words do not indicate the actual state, they are merely descriptive words and the state is not the word. I hope you are following. It is not very difficult, but you and I must be clear as we go along. So we must examine how to approach the mind. Is the mind the brain, and is the mind separate from the brain, is the mind a product of the brain? Please look at it. Please investigate with me.
We can see that the brain is the response centre for sensations. Nerves carry sensations to the brain, and the same nerves carry the impulse of both pleasure and pain. That brain, through sensations, begins to differentiate between hot and cold, pleasure and pain, and so on. From that differentiation thought arises. The process of thinking is the reaction of memory, and memory is part of the mind. I am going to explain very carefully, so please follow. I am bitten by a snake, there is a sensation which is painful, and there is the memory. So thereafter I am always frightened of snakes. Part of the brain has retained that memory, so whenever I see a snake I quiver. Or, I ask you where you live. You are familiar with the question and your response is immediate, you do not have to think about it. The nerves carry that question to the brain and the brain, having stored-up memories of where you live, responds immediately with the answer. If I ask you a question which is a little more complex, then there is a gap between the question and the answer, a time interval. In that interval the brain looks into memory and takes a little time to find the answer. So in that gap, during the time interval, the process of thinking is going on. Is that not so? I ask you what you want. You want so many things that you hesitate. Before you answer you look around, search, investigate and that investigation causes the gap because you are thinking what you want. Then I ask you a still more complicated question, and what happens? Please watch your own mind. Again the words set up the vibration of the question and the brain responds with the message: "I cannot find an immediate answer; I must look further into memory". So during that interval you are thinking rapidly and the gap between the question and the answer is much wider. And if I ask you an extremely difficult question, then, after many seconds of searching in memory, you finally say, `I do not know'. But that `I do not know' means, does it not?, that you are still looking around, expecting an answer, waiting for an answer either from yourself or from somebody else. Now there is a state of `I do not know' in which there is no looking around, no waiting for an answer; but we will come to that presently. First we must understand the process of thinking. It is a challenge and a response, is it not? If the challenge is familiar the response is immediate; if the challenge is not a familiar one, the response takes a little time and during that time you are thinking, which means that the whole mechanism is set going, not only the verbal vibrations but also memory and then you answer. That is what we are doing all the time, is it not?
Memory is stored-up experience, tradition, the accumulation of knowledge, and memory is always accumulating and always responding. You see a person whom you recognize and you respond, but if you don't know the person there is no recognition, no response. This is not a complicated thing, it is very simple, as you can observe if you watch your own mind. We can see that this so-called brain responds to many forms of sensation; and obviously it must be extraordinarily sensitive, alert, vital, strong if it is to respond to every reaction and action. Most of us do not respond with sensitivity because the brain, through worry, conflict, excesses, indulgences and so on, has been made dull. Only a little part of it functions.
So we see that the process of thinking is the response of memory which is acting all the time like a machine. So one asks: "What does freedom mean?". I hope you understand this question and that I am making myself clear. If my whole mind is the result of time, the result of tradition, of various cultures, experiences, conditionings, always having the background of the family, the race, the belief, always functioning within the field of the known, - then where is freedom? If I am moving, as I am, all the time within the limits of my own mind, which is full of memories and the product of time, how is the mind to go beyond itself? The word `freedom' to such a mind means nothing, does it?, because he only turns `freedom' into another demand, saying: "How can I be free?". Please follow this carefully and you will see. I realize, consciously or unconsciously, that mine is a very narrow life; there is perpetual anxiety, struggle, fear, misery, sorrow and so on, and so I say, I must be free, I must have peace of mind, I must escape from this limitation. This is what each one of us is demanding. Outwardly, under the various tyrannical governments there is no freedom; you are told what to do and you do it; and inwardly the same problem continues. Here, in a so-called democratic country you are more or less outwardly free - more or less - but inwardly you are a prisoner; and you are asking this question about freedom. The greater the organization of a church or of a society, and the greater the efficiency and the means of mass communication, the greater is the conflict and turmoil. So we are always in a struggle with our environment and within ourselves. Struggle is going on perpetually and there is contradiction and misery: my wife does not love me, I love someone else, there is death; I believe, I do not believe; there is ever turmoil and restlessness, as with the sea.
Have you ever watched the sea? There are certain days when the wind is quiet, there is no breath of air, and the sea reflects the stars. There is a tranquillity, a breathlessness, a sense of peace, but beneath there are deep currents, deep movements; its waters cover an enormous area and actually it is never still, it is ever moving, moving restlessly; every breath that comes shatters the quietness, the stillness. So also is the mind. We are eternally restless, and becoming aware of that we say: "Give me peace. Let me find God. I want to escape from this misery and to find out if there is an everlasting peace, bliss." That is all we want, and that is why we are in such a frightful struggle, such a tension of contradiction, one desire battling against another. Ambition breeds frustration and emptiness; and then this desire to fulfil, again brings the shadow of frustration. It is no use my merely describing our state, - we are aware of it, are we not? From the state of confusion, turmoil, misery, grief, to the state of a sense of passing joys, of occasionally looking at the sky and saying: "How beautiful, how wonderful!", and occasionally knowing the feeling of love. But it is all temporary, fleeting, it is all in a flux. So the mind says: "Is there not a permanent state of peace?", and it proceeds to invest an idea of God, of Truth, with permanence. And all the religions encourage this investiture of an idea with permanency. Every religion in the world says that there is a permanency, a bliss which you must seek, and that there is a way to it. They say there is a path from turmoil to Reality. You understand, Sir? The moment you are seeking a state which will be permanent, you must find a way to it, - a belief, a method, a system, a practice. Now to me there is neither a permanency nor a method. There is no method to discover Reality. Let us go into it and see.
I am full of fear - fear of death, fear with regard to love, fear of public opinion, fear of so many things. I am aware that I am anxious, fearful and so I say I must find a method which will help me not to be afraid. That is what we are all concerned with, is it not? So I go to someone who says there is God, there is bliss, and he tells me what to do in order to get it, and I accept that there is a method, a way, to get from here to there. I want to explore that idea, but if you really examine it you will see that it has no meaning. So you and I are going to look at it together, but you cannot look at it if you are holding on to the idea that there is a way, if you are mesmerized by a method, a system or your tradition of centuries. To throw all that off and examine the thing differently demands a great deal of energy, a great deal of vigour. We are not now examining whether there is a permanent state of bliss, we are examining the thing called `the way', the method to get from greed to non-greed, from fear to no-fear, from jealousy to non jealousy, from transiency to permanency. In other words, we want to know how to get from point to point in a specified direction. Is that not so? Now if I want to become an engineer there is a specified direction, there is a method - I have to study higher mathematics and so on and I know the way I must proceed. If I want to learn a language, I know I will have to study the first lesson to the fifteenth and so on. That is, in learning a technique I move from a point to a point and during that time interval I am learning, and at the end of a certain period I know it. That is very simple to see - that in technical things there is a movement from the known to the known. Similarly, all your religious books and teachers tell you that you can go from the point of turmoil to the point of bliss, and that there is a way from transiency to permanency. They say you must believe, practise, meditate, resist evil, exercise control in order to get from this point to that point - which means taking a specified direction to what you think you know to be bliss. In the same way as you know the state of turmoil, so there is said to be a specified direction to bliss, and to arrive there you must practise.
Now what is involved in this process? First of all, is bliss a static thing, a fixed state that does not move? You can go to your house because your house is fixed, but is bliss, reality, God, or whatever you like to call it, a static state or a moving thing, a living thing, a struggling thing that cannot be fixed? The desire to find a fixed, static state is the outcome of my turmoil, my misery, is it not?, and so out of my confusion I create a thing called `the permanent' and then say I must find a way to it.
And what do we mean by a method, a practice, a discipline? To me, every form of discipline corrodes the mind, destroys intelligence, limits thought, narrows down this extraordinary capacity of the mind. I am not asking you to accept this, but as we are trying to communicate with each other I am telling you how I see it and I hope you are looking at it also. What does the word `discipline' mean? It comes from a Latin word which means `to learn' - not to control, not to subjugate, not to compel, but to learn. You cease to learn when you compel yourself; but if you understand, for instance, that you must know all about fear, that you must not merely resist fear, control it, or find a method of escaping from it, then, in examining the fear you are learning about it. Therefore no discipline is necessary. I do not know if I am making myself clear? We say we want to know all about fear, so we have to examine it, we have to learn what is involved, at what depth the fear is. Fear must be in relation to something, it cannot exist by itself. Consciously or unconsciously I am afraid of something, so I have to examine, to explore, and in the process of learning all about the fear there is a total cessation of fear - not merely an arriving at the opposite of fear, called courage, but a total cessation of fear. But to understand that requires a great deal of thought, a great deal of enquiry.
Now I am going briefly to examine fear. First of all, I am afraid, let us say, of death. What do I mean by fear of death? After all, I do not know anything about death; I do not know if there is continuity or not; I do not know anything about the Unknown; all that my mind is used to is the process of functioning within the field of the known. So I am afraid of something which I do not know. Is that not so? You are afraid, are you not?, of the tomorrow, of losing your job, of somebody being ill in the family, of the future uncertainty, of the unknown. You know very well, do you not?, that feeling of fear, that anxiety, that gnawing sense of uncertainty, but you have never actually looked at it, have you? You have never said to yourself, `let me look at it'. Now, how does one look at fear? First of all you must separate the word from the fear, from the feeling, must you not?, because the word blocks you from looking at the state. I hope you are following all this, because if you are really interested and are looking at it you will be totally free from fear, from jealousy, from greed - the things the mind is caught in. If you go through it you will see that the mind will be completely free from all this struggle but you can only do it if you can go beyond the word. So first I must recognize that there is fear; then I must be aware that I must not escape from it into some conclusion - go to the temple, the guru, take a drink, turn on the radio, read a book. All those escapes have to stop, not from compulsion, but because you really want to learn, to understand, and you cannot learn about something if you run away from it, which is obvious. So I come to the point of no escape from fear. Then I am left only with the word `fear' to indicate the fear. And can I now separate the word from the actual state?
Now if you can do that, if you are really capable of understanding that the word is not the thing, that the word `fear' is not the fear; if you can separate it, then you will see that the feeling you have is entirely different. Then you will have approached it for the first time; for the first time you will have freed the word from the feeling. Therefore your mind is capable of discerning the feeling, of going into it, absorbing it, understanding, learning.
So the mind frees itself from the method, the `how', from this movement to a specified point. The specified point means a distance, it means time, that you will eventually get there, but life is not a fixed point, reality is not fixed, it is a living thing like the waters of a river. You cannot take a handful of water and say it is the river; the river is the whole movement from the beginning to the end. Likewise Reality cannot be held, life cannot be imprisoned and it has no direction.
So there is no method. Do what you will, practise all the idiotic things, repeat the word OM and exercise from morning to night, you will never capture this immeasurable thing. Those things only mesmerize the mind, making it dull and stupid. But if you want to learn about the mind, then you will see that the very learning brings its own subtle form of attention. Learning has no beginning and no ending; and life is that learning of the self, the `me', learning endlessly, never accumulating, never posing, never struggling. Then you will find as you do this, that the mind becomes totally empty of the known, and then there is creation.
December 3, 1958
Bombay 3rd Public Talk 3rd December 1958
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