Bombay 6th Public Talk 14th December 1958
I wonder why one gives importance to thought? To us, thinking has become very important and significant. The more subtle, the more cunning, the more complicated it is, the more we give it importance, and I am wondering if thought has any deep fundamental significance at all. Do we live by thought? Do we conduct our life by thought? Does ideation - the ideal - play any deep significant part in our life or do we think casually, are our ideas superficial, our thoughts not very deep? And can thought go very deep, or is it always superficial? I think it will be very interesting if we can go into this whole problem and find out if a religious life is dependent on thought. By a religious life I do not mean going to the temple, the church, the dogmas, beliefs, rituals and all the rest of it. All those are obviously social conveniences and of very little meaning. But is thought conducive to a truly religious life? Does thought unfold the beauty, the depth of a really deep religious feeling? Is thought the instrument for the discovery of what is true? If not, then what part does thought play in all our seeking?
If we could, you and I, really think this out, slowly, deeply, then perhaps we would be able to discover the true significance of life and not give that enormous importance to thought. Perhaps we shall also be able to find out that there is no right or wrong thinking, but that thought itself is very superficial.
Thought is really a reaction, is it not? - a reaction to any given problem whether it be a problem of mathematics, physics, or a problem of relationship. What we call `thinking' is always a reaction between the problem, the challenge, and the response, is it not? And thinking, as one sees if one looks, is the collected experiences stored as memory and responding to any challenge. The whole of one's background of experience, of knowledge gathered and accumulated through everyday experience, becomes the immense reservoir of memory, and that memory responds, either in a verbal manner or in an emotional manner or intellectually.
I hope you are listening to me not as to a talk or discourse but as though you and I were two people together, talking over the problem and trying to find out the true significance and worth of thought.
To me, thought is not the instrument of real discovery; thought is not the instrument which explores, that is capable of discovering or examining. And if you and I are going to understand each other, to communicate, commune with each other about the significance of thought, we must both be capable of looking, without accepting or rejecting, without defending or taking anything for granted. What you and I are going to do is to examine thought not verbally or intellectually but looking at it as a fact. I do not know if you have ever looked at a fact without clouding that fact with an opinion? I feel that if we can look at this complicated thing called `thought', neither giving our opinion nor expressing our prejudices by saying it is necessary or not necessary, but by merely observing it, we shall be able to explore the whole content of thought, the whole machinery of thought.
Thinking, surely, is superficial; it is the response of memory, the collected experiences, the conditioning, and according to that conditioning, which is our background, thought responds to any challenge. Thought is always bound to this collected experience, and the question is, can thinking ever be free? Because it is only in freedom that one can observe, it is only in freedom that one can discover. it is only in a state of spontaneity, where there is no compulsion, no immediate demand, no pressure of social influence, that real discovery is possible. Surely, to observe what you are thinking, why you think, and the source and motive of your thought, there must be a certain sense of spontaneity, of freedom, because any influence whatsoever gives a twist to observation. With all thinking, if there is any compulsion or pressure thought becomes crooked.
So can thought ever set man free, set the mind free, and is freedom the essential necessity if one is to discover what is true? There are two different types of freedom - the freedom from something or the freedom to fulfil, to be something; and there is freedom, just freedom. Most of us just want to be free from something - free from time or free from a relative, or else we want to be free to be fulfilled, to express ourselves. All our ideas of freedom are limited to those two - the freedom from something or the freedom to be something. Now both are reactions, are they not? Both are the result of thought, the outcome of some form of inward or outward compulsion. Thought is caught in that process; thought seeks freedom from tyranny, freedom from a corrupt government, freedom from a particular relationship, freedom from a feeling of anxiety; and in freeing oneself, one hopes to be able to fulfil oneself in something else. So we always think in terms of freedom from, or freedom to be, to fulfil. And it seems to be that thinking of freedom only in those two categories is very superficial.
So, is there a freedom which is not merely a reaction, in which there is neither a movement from nor a movement to be? And can such a freedom be captured, engendered as an idea by thought? Because if you are merely free from something you are not really free, and if you are free in the sense of being fulfilled, in that there is always anxiety, fear, frustration and sorrow. Can thought free the mind so that sorrow and anxiety have ceased altogether? Surely, as with love, real goodness is not cultivated by thought; it is a state of being, but that state cannot be brought about by the mind which says to itself, `I must be good'. So, can one find out, by searching through the various channels of thought, what freedom is? Can thought uncover the true significance of life, unfold Reality? Or must thought be totally suspended for Reality to be?
Let me put it differently. You are seeking something, are you not? if you are a so-called religious person you are seeking what you call God, or else you are seeking more money, more happiness, or you want to be good; you are seeing the expression of your ambition. Everyone is seeking something.
Now what do we mean by seeking? To seek implies that you know what it is you are seeking. When you say you are seeking peace of mind, it must mean either that you have already experienced it and want it back, or you are projecting a verbal idea which is not an actuality but a thing created by thought. So search implies that you have already known or experienced what you seek. You cannot seek something which you do not know. When you say you are seeking God, it means you already know what God is or else your conditioning has projected the idea that there is a God. So, thinking compels you to seek that which thought itself has projected. Thought, which is superficial, thought, the result of many experiences which have been gathered and which form your background - from that thought you project an idea and then you seek it! And in your search for God you have visions, you have experiences which only strengthen the search and urge you on to follow the projections of your background. So, searching is still the motion of thought. One is in conflict, in turmoil, and in order to escape from that turmoil thought begins to project an idea that there must be peace, that there must be permanent bliss, and then it proceeds to seek it. This is actually what is taking place in each one of us. One does not understand this miserable existence, this everlasting chaos and one wants to escape to a permanent state of bliss. Now that state is projected by the mind, and having projected it thought says: "I must find help to get to it". And so follows the methods, the system, the practice. Thought creates the problem and then tries to escape from the problem through various systems in order to reach the projected idea of a permanent state. So, thought pursues its own projection, its own shadow.
Now, the question is, really, can the mind suspend thinking and face everyday experience from a different quality of mind? This does not mean to forget or neglect collected memory, collected experience. Technicians, bridge-builders, scientists, clerks and so on are, of course, needed, but is it possible, realizing that thinking is not the solution to our problems, to suspend thought and observe the problem? I do not know if you have ever tried really to look at a problem without the agitation, the turmoil, the restlessness of thought? Thinking creates a series of motions of restlessness, of anxiety, of demand for a solution, and have you ever tried to sink thought, to suspend thinking and just observe the problem? Please try it, Sirs, as I am talking. Listen so that you can look at the problem without the agitation of thought.
You have many problems - problems of relationship, of family, problems of your work, your responsibilities, problems of your social, environmental or political life - whether they are immediate, pressing or remote. Take any one of those problems and look at it. You have always looked at it, have you not?, with a certain agitation of thought which says: "I must solve it; what am I to do; is this right or is that; is this respectable or not possible?", and so on and on. And with this restless thought you examine the problem, and obviously whatever solution you find through that restlessness, is not a true answer and only creates more problems. That is what is actually taking place with each one of us. So can you look at the problem suspending your thought? Thought is the result of collected experiences and their memories respond to the problem; but, can you suspend thought so that for the moment your mind is not under pressure, not under the weight of a thousand yesterdays? It is not merely a matter of saying: "I will not think". That is impossible. But if you see the truth that an agitated mind that is merely responding according to its conditioning, its background, its accumulated experiences cannot resolve or understand the problem - if you see the truth of that fact totally, then you understand that thought is not the instrument which will resolve our problems.
Let me put it differently. It seems that whatever man can do, an appropriate electronic machine can do also. It is being discovered, and will be perfected in a decade or two, that what a human mind can do, the machine can do also and quite efficiently. It will probably compose, write poems, translate books, and so on. And chemically they are making drugs to give comfort, peace, freedom from worry, tranquillization. So you understand, Sirs, what is going to happen? Is the machine to take over your work and probably do it better, and is the drug to give you peace or mind. If there are certain drugs you can take to make your mind extraordinarily quiet so that you won't have to go through disciplines, controls, breathing exercises and all those tricks. So the petty mind, the shallow mind, the limited mind which only thinks an inch from itself, will have no more worries, it will have peace. But such a mind is still petty, its frontiers are recognizable and all its thoughts are shallow. Though it is very quiet through taking pills, it has not broken down its own limitations, has it? A petty mind thinking about God, going from one graven image to another, uttering a lot of words, murmuring a lot of prayers, is still a petty mind. And that is the case with most of us.
So how can thought, which is always superficial, always petty, always limited, how can that thought be suspended so that there is no frontier at all, so that there is freedom - but not the freedom from something or the freedom to be something? I hope you understand the question?
You see, one can forever improve oneself - one can think a little more, apply oneself to self-improvement, be more kind, more generous, this or that, but it is always within the field of the self, the `me'. It is the `me' that is achieving, becoming, and that `me' is always recognizable as a collection of experiences, memories. And the problem is how to resolve, to break down, the frontiers of the `me'. When I say `how', I do not imply a method but an enquiry. Because all methods involve the functioning of thought, the control of thought, the substitution of one thought for another. So when you merely have methods, systems, disciplines, there is no enquiry.
Seeing all this, that thought is the result of memory, of collected experience which is very limited, and that the seeking of Reality, God, Truth, Perfection, Beauty is really the projection of thought - in conflict with the present and going towards an idea of the future - and seeing that the pursuit of the future creates time; seeing all this, surely it is obvious that thought must be suspended. There must be something, surely, which thought cannot capture and put into memory, something totally new, completely unknowable, unrecognizable? And how are you, with the restlessness of your thought, to understand that state?
Is understanding a matter of time? Will you understand this tomorrow, by thinking about it? You know how, if you have a problem, thought investigates it, analyzes it, tears it to pieces, goes into it as much as it can, and still has no answer, because it is always with the anxiety of the problem. Then it gives it up, lays it in abeyance, and because thought has dissociated itself from the problem so that the problem is no longer pressing on the mind, consciously or unconsciously, then the answer comes. It must have happened to you.
So can we not see through this whole business of thinking? You know how you worship the intellectual man who is full of knowledge, which is nothing but words and ideas, but who is still living on the superficial level. Have you observed how instinctively you are attracted to a man who says, `I know'? So, seeing all this, the question is, can thought be suspended? If you have understood the problem, then as I begin to explore it further, you will be able to follow.
There is the problem of death, the problem of God, of virtue, of relationship; there is the problem of the conflict we are in, the job, the lack of money; there is the problem of poverty, starvation, and the whole misery of despair and hope. You cannot solve these problems one by one; it is impossible. You have to solve them totally, as a whole thing, not little by little; otherwise you will never solve them. Because in solving one problem as though it were dissociated from the others you merely create another problem. No problem is separate, isolated. Every problem is related to another problem, superficially or deeply, so you have to comprehend it totally. And thought can never comprehend it totally because thought is partial, is fragmentary. So how is the mind to solve the problem? You cannot solve it as though it were isolated; you cannot find a solution through an intellectual abstraction; you cannot solve it through accumulated memories; you cannot solve it by escaping to the temple, or to alcohol, or to sex or anything else. It must be comprehended totally, understood totally, and this can happen only when there is the suspension of thought. When the mind is motionless and still, the reflection of the problem on the mind is entirely different. When the lake is very quiet you can see the depth of it, you can see every fish, every weed, every flutter; similarly when the mind is completely motionless one can see very, very clearly. This can only take place when there is a suspension of thought, not in order to resolve the problem, but to see its significance, its fragmentary nature; and then thought of itself becomes quiet, motionless, not only at the conscious level but profoundly.
That is why self-knowledge is essential, why it is essential to learn about yourself. And you cannot learn about yourself if you do not look, or if you look with a mind that is full of accumulated knowledge. To learn, you must be free. Then you can look at the problem not merely from the surface; then every issue, every challenge is responded to from a depth which thought cannot reach.
A motionless mind, a still mind, is not decayed, dead, corrupt as is the mind which has been made still by a drug, by breathing or by any system of self-hypnosis. It is a mind that is fully alive; every untrodden region of itself is lighted up, and from that centre of light it responds, - and it does not create a shadow.
December 14, 1958
Bombay 6th Public Talk 14th December 1958
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