New Delhi 1959
New Delhi 8th Public Talk 4th March 1959
May I suggest that we talk this evening about the mind in meditation. which is a most complex and subtle problem. If one does not know what meditation is, true meditation, I think one misses everything in life. It is like being in a prison where you see only the wall opposite you and know only the limitation, the pain, the sorrow and all the petty little things that make up your life of confinement. So it seems to me that meditation is a very direct and intimate problem for each one of us, because it requires the approach of a mind in meditation to understand the whole movement of life.
But to share this investigation into the mind in meditation, is quite a difficult problem in itself. Sharing implies interest, does it not?, on the part of the people who are listening; it means observing and partaking in the thing we are talking about. If I say to you "Look at that flower, how beautiful it is!", you can share the beauty of the flower only if your mind is at rest and therefore in a state of observation. To put it differently, your own mind must be capable of meeting the other mind on the same level at the same time, otherwise there is no sharing of that experience. We cannot share something in which I am interested and you are not. I may point out, describe, explain, but there is no sharing unless you meet me on the same level of observation and with the same intensiveness, the same feelings of the heart.
This is not a rhetorical statement, it is an everyday fact. You may say to your friend "Do look at that marvellous sunset!", but if your friend is not interested in the beauty of the sunset, you cannot share it with him. Similarly, the sharing of any problem with your wife, with your husband, with your neighbour, requires a communion in which there is a mutual and immediate perception of the same thing.
Now, let us see if we can together feel the importance of meditation, and also perceive the beauty, the implications, the subtleties of it. To begin with, that word `meditation' has a very special significance for you, has it not? You immediately think of sitting in a certain posture, breathing in a certain way, forcing the mind to concentrate on something, and so on. But to me that is not meditation at all. To me meditation is entirely different; and if you and I are to share this inquiry into what is meditation, you will obviously have to put aside your prejudices, your conditioned thinking about meditation. That is true, I think, whether we discuss politics, or a particular system of economics, or our relationship with each other. Such a talk, such a discussion or exchange, to be of any value, must be a process of sharing; but there is no sharing if either of us starts from a conclusion, from a fixed point of view. If you are given to a particular form of so-called meditation, and the other is not, there can obviously be no sharing. You must let go of your prejudices and experiences, and he must also let go of his, so that both of you can look into the problem and find out together what is meditation.
If you and I are to share and understand this problem, which is a very subtle and complex one, it is essential that you not be mesmerized by what I am saying. If you merely accept or reject it, or interpret it in your own way, instead of trying to find out what lies beyond the explanation, then there is no sharing, no real communion. So it is very important to approach this problem intelligently.
Now, don't let us seek a definition of intelligence. A specialist may be very clever in his chosen field, whether it be electronics, mathematics, science, economics, or what you will; but as long as he looks at life from that narrow, limited point of view, he is obviously not intelligent. To be intelligent, the mind must be capable of dealing with the whole of life, and not just with a certain part of it.
Being an economist, a scientist, a businessman, a housewife, this or that, you may reject all this and say: "What has meditation got to do with my life? Meditation is all right for the sannyasi, for the man who has renounced the world, but my function requires that I live in the world like any ordinary man; so what has meditation got to do with me?" If that is one's approach, then one is merely perpetuating one's own dullness, one's own insensitivity, one's own lack of intelligence. We are talking about human beings, not just about their various functions. I hope you see the difference. Whatever may be the specialized function of a particular human being, we are talking about the total human being himself. But if you regard life merely as a matter of function and cling to your particular status in that function, then you will obviously never meet the whole problem of existence. And it is the capacity to meet this problem totally that constitutes the very essence of intelligence.
It seems to me that it is only a mind in meditation that can affect fundamentally all our actions, our whole way of living. Meditation is not reserved for some hermit in the Himalayas, nor for a monk or a nun in a monastery; and when it is, it becomes an escape from life, a denial of the reality of living. Whereas, if you and I as two human beings, not as specialists, could find out what it means for the mind to be in the state of meditation, then perhaps that very perception would directly affect our actions and our whole way of life in confronting the many complex problems of modern existence.
Now, what is meditation, and what is the state of the mind that is capable of meditating? Who is the meditator, and what is it that he meditates about? There is the meditator and the meditation, is there not? And surely, without understanding the meditator, there can be no meditation. A man may be able to sit in what he calls profound meditation, but if his mind is petty, conditioned, limited, his meditation will have no meaning at all. It will be a form of self-hypnosis - which is what most of us call meditation. So, before asking how to meditate, or what system of meditation to follow, it is very important, isn't it?, to understand the meditator.
Let me put it in a different way. A superficial mind may be capable of quoting word for word various scriptures, but it does not thereby cease to be superficial. It may sit entranced by the object of its devotion, it may repeat mantra, it may try to fathom reality, or seek God; but being in its very nature a shallow mind, its so-called meditation will be equally shallow. When a petty mind thinks about God, its God is also petty. When a confused mind thinks about clarity, its clarity is only further confusion.
So it is very important to find out, first of all, what meditation means to the entity that wants to meditate. In what most of us call meditation, there is, is there not?, the thinker, the meditator who wishes to meditate in order to find peace, bliss, reality. The meditator says "If I am to find that reality, that bliss, that peace which I am seek- ing, I must discipline my mind", so he takes, inwardly or outwardly, a posture of meditation. But the mind is still petty, still confused, still narrow, prejudiced, jealous, vain, stupid; and such a mind, in seeking or inventing a system of meditation, will only be further limited along the lines of its own narrow conditioning.
That is why I say it is very important to begin by understanding the meditator. A monk in a monastery may spend hours in contemplation, in prayer, he may gaze endlessly upon the object of his devotion, whether made by the hand or by the mind; but such a mind is obviously committed, conditioned, it is seeking salvation according to its own limitations, and though it may meditate till Doomsday, it will never find reality. It can only imagine that it has found reality, and live in that comforting illusion - which is what most of us want. We want to build castles in the air, find a refuge where we shall never be disturbed, where our petty minds will never be shaken.
So, without understanding the mind that is meditating, meditation. becomes merely a process of self-hypnosis. By repeating the word `OM', or any other word, by reciting a mantra, or running through the alphabet a sufficient number of times, you can create a rhythm of sound which will mesmerize your mind, and a mesmerized mind becomes very quiet; but that quietness is still within the field of your own pettiness. Unless one deeply understands the thinker, the meditator, there is always a division, a gap between the meditator and that upon which he meditates, and this gap he is everlastingly struggling to bridge.
What matters, then, is to perceive one's own mind in operation - not as an observer, not as an entity who is looking at the mind, but for the mind to be aware of its own movement. I do not know if I am making myself clear.
When you look at something, there is always the observer, is there not? When you look at a flower, you are the observer, and there is the flower. The thinker is apart from the thought, the experiencer is separate from the experienced. If you watch yourself you will see there is always this division of the observer and the observed, the `I' and the `not-I', the experiencer and the thing that is experienced.
Now, one of the problems of meditation is how to eliminate this gap which separates the experiencer from the experienced, because as long as this gap exists there will be conflict - not only the conflict of the opposites, but also the conflict of a mind that is everlastingly struggling to achieve an end, to arrive at a goal. So how is one to bring about that extraordinary state of mind in which there is only experiencing and not an experiencer?
Sirs, what happens when you sit very quietly and try to do some kind of meditation? Your mind wanders all over the place, does it not? You think of your shoe, of your neighbour, of your job, of what you are going to eat, of what Shankara, or.the Buddha, or the Christ has said, and so on. Your mind drifts off, and you try to bring it back to a particular focus or central issue. This effort on the part of the thinker to control his thoughts is called concentration. So there is always a contradiction between the thinker and his wandering thoughts, which he tries everlastingly to pull in and force along a particular groove. And if you do succeed in forcing all your thoughts into a chosen pattern, you think you have achieved a marvellous state. But that is obviously not meditation, it is not the awakening of perception. That is merely learning the technique of concentration, which any schoolboy can do. Concentration is a process of exclusion, resistance, suppression; it is a form of compulsion. The schoolboy who forces himself to read his book when he really wants to look out of the window, or go out and play, is said to be concentrating; and that is exactly what you do. You compel your mind to concentrate, and so begins the contradiction between the observer and the observed, the thinker and the thought, which is a state of endless conflict. Becoming aware of this conflict in yourself, you say you must get rid of it, and so you seek a system of meditation - a procedure with which we are all very familiar, especially in India where almost everyone practises some system of meditation.
Now, what does the practising of a system of meditation imply? Let us think it out together. It implies, does it not?, that through a method, a practice, a system, you will arrive at a certain point which you call peace, or liberation, or bliss. You want to realize God, and you practise a system to bring about that realization. But no system can ever lead you to what you say you want, because your mind is crippled by the system. From the sannyasi downward and from you upwards, this is actually what is taking place.
Any system implies a movement from the known to the known, and the known is always fixed. When you say "I want to reach peace", the thing you are striving after is a projection of what you think peace should be; therefore, like your house, it is fixed, it cannot move away, and a path or a system may lead you to it. But reality is a living thing, it is not fixed, it has no abode, and therefore no system can lead you to it. If you once really perceive the truth of this, you are free of all the gurus, of all the teachers, of all the books - and that is a tremendous liberation.
So our problem is, is it not? to experience the fact that the thinker and the thought are one, that the observer is the observed; and if yon have ever tried it, you will know that this is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. It does not mean identifying oneself with the observed. Do you understand, sirs? You can identify yourself with an individual. You can identify yourself with the image in the temple, to which you do Puja and feel a tremendous emotion which you call devotion. But such identification still maintains the one who identifies himself with something. We are talking of an entirely different state in which there is no identification, no recognition, no experiencer apart from the experienced who creates contradiction by trying to identify himself with the experienced. There is no experiencer at all, but only experiencing.
You may identify yourself with the object of your devotion, but there is still a duality. You think of yourself as an Indian because you have identified yourself with a coloured section of the map called India - which the politicians have exploited, and which you also would like to exploit. But the fact is that this, like every other form of identification, maintains the entity who has identified himself with something.
If you see this fact, then the next question is, is it possible for the mind to bring about a state in which there is only experiencing without the experiencer?
Let me put it differently. Every minute of the day the mind is receiving impressions. It is like a sensitive photographic film upon which every incident, every influence, every experience, every movement of thought is leaving an imprint. Whether we are conscious of it or not, that is what is actually taking place. Burdened with these imprints of past experiences, the mind meets the new in terms of the old. In other words, there is always the past meeting the present and creating the future.
Now, can the mind receive impressions and not be marked by them? Do you understand, sirs? Let me put it very simply. You are insulted, or flattered, and this has left a mark on your mind; that is, the insult or the flattery has taken root in the soil of the mind. Now, have you ever experimented to see if you can receive insult and flattery so that afterwards your mind is completely unmarked by them? Innumerable experiences, piled one upon another, are leaving their chaotic and contradictory impressions on the mind, like scratches on the surface of memory, And can the mind experience anew, without these scratches? I say it can; and that only then is there the coming into being of a state in which there is thinking without the thinker, experiencing without the experiencer, and therefore never a contradiction.
If you observe your own mind in what you call meditation, you will see that there is always a division, a contradiction between the thinker and the thought. As long as there is a thinker apart from thought, meditation is merely a ceaseless effort to overcome this contradiction.
I hope all this is not too abstract and too difficult; but even if it is, please listen. Although you may not fully understand what is being said, the very act of listening is like planting a seed in the dark soil. If the seed is vital, and if the soil is rich, it will produce a shoot; you don't have to do a thing bout it. Similarly, if you can just listen and let the seed fall in the womb of the mind, it will germinate, it will flourish and bring about an action which is unconsciously true.
Another problem in meditation is that of concentration and attention. Concentration implies, as I pointed out earlier, a restriction, a limitation; it is a narrowing, exclusive process. When the schoolboy concentrates he excludes the desire to look out of the window and says "This is an awful book, but I must read it in order to pass the examination". That is essentially what we all do when we concentrate. There is resistance, a narrowing down of the mind to a certain focus, which is called concentration.
Now, attention is altogether different. Attention has no frontier. Please follow this closely. A mind in the state of attention is not limited by the frontier of recognition. Attention is a state in which there is complete awareness of everything that is taking place within and about one, without the border or frontier of recognition which exists in concentration.
Sirs, for God's sake, do listen to what I am saying, experience what I am talking about. Don't take notes. Would you take notes if someone were telling you he loves you? (Laughter). You laugh, but you don't see the tragedy of it. The difficulty with most of us is that we want to remember, we want to have the recognition of what has been said, and we store it away in memory, or put it down in a notebook, so that we can think about it tomorrow. But when someone is saying he loves you, do you take notes? Do you look the other way? It is the same thing here, otherwise these meetings are useless. Empty words have no meaning at all. So listen to what is being said, and if you can, experience it - but not as an experiencer.
I was pointing out the difference between concentration and attention. In concentration there is no attention, but in attention there is concentration. In attention there are no borders to the mind. When you are in the state of attention, you hear what is being said, you hear the coughing, you see one man scratching his head, another yawning, another taking notes, and you are aware of your own reactions. You listen, you see, you are aware; there is an attention in which there is no effort.
Effort exists only when there is concentration, which is opposed to attention. In the state of attention, your whole being is attentive, not just one part of your mind. The moment your mind says "I must have that", there is concentration, which means that you are no longer in the state of attention. Concentration arises with the craving to have or to be something, which is a state of contradiction.
Just see the truth of this. In attention there is a total being, whereas in concentration there is not; it is a form of becoming. A man who is becoming must have authority; he lives in a state of contradiction. But when there is simple awareness, an effortless attention without an end to be realized, then you will find that the mind has no frontier of recognition. Such a mind can concentrate, but its concentration is not exclusion. Don't say "How am I to get that state of attention?" It is not a thing you can `get'. Just see the truth of this: that in the state of attention the mind has no border; there is no recognition of an end to be gained or achieved. Such a mind can concentrate, and that concentration is not exclusion. This is one of the things to be discovered by a mind in meditation.
Then there is the problem of the many contradictory thoughts that arise in the mind. The mind is vagrant, restless, flying endlessly from one thing to another. That is the lot of most people, is it not?
Now, why does the mind do this? Surely, the mind does it because in its very essence it is lazy. A mind that is vagrant, crowded with thoughts, a mind that goes from one thing to another like a butterfly, is a lazy mind; and when a lazy mind tries to control its wandering thoughts, it merely becomes dull, stupid.
Whereas, if the mind is aware of its own movement, if it sees all its thoughts as they arise one after another, and if it can take any one thought, good or bad, that comes along, and pursue that thought to the very end, then you will find that the mind becomes extraordinarily active. It is this activity of the mind that puts an end to the vagrancy of thought - but not through control, or by force. Such a mind is tremendously active, but its activity is not that of a politician, or an electrician, or a man who quotes books; it is an activity without a centre. The mind that is driven by ambition, that is chasing its own fulfilment, is not active in this sense at all. But if you can take one thought and go into it fully, ravishingly, delightfully, with your whole being, you will find that your mind becomes extraordinarily active; and there must be this precision of the mind.
Our next problem is that the mind is the result of time, the result of the known. All that you have experienced, your memories, your conditioning, everything that to you is recognizable, is within the field of the known, is it not? The mind thinks from the known to the known; its movement is always within the field of the known. And it is of the utmost importance for the mind to free itself from the known, otherwise it cannot enter into the unknown. A mind that is bound by the known is incapable of experiencing that state in which there is complete stillness without deterioration. It is only when the mind has understood the known at the unconscious as well as at the conscious level, when it has understood and therefore freed itself from the desires, the ambitions, the hates, the flatteries, the pleasures, everything that it has collected - it is only then, in this liberation from the known, that the unknown comes into being. You cannot invite the unknown. If you do, what you experience will again be the result of the known; it will not be the real.
So the mind in meditation is in a state of awareness without the centre of recognition, and therefore without a circumference; it is attention without a frontier. The mind in meditation is that which has freed itself without effort from the known. The known has fallen away as a leaf drops from the tree, and so the mind is motionless, in a state of silence; and such a mind alone can receive the immeasurable, the unknown.
March 4, 1959.
New Delhi 1959
New Delhi 8th Public Talk 4th March 1959
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