New Delhi 1959
New Delhi 10th Public Talk 11th March 1959
This is the last talk of the present series, and if I may I would like to talk about ignorance, experience, and the mind which is in the state of creation.
But before we go into all that, I think it is very important to understand the relationship between you and the speaker; because if that relationship is not clearly understood, even after these several talks, it will lead to a great deal of confusion. The speaker is not important at all, he is merely the voice, the telephone; but what is said, when one is in the process of learning, has an immense significance. If you give importance to the speaker as a teacher, you are merely creating a following and thereby you are destroying yourself as well as what is being said. Both the follower and the teacher are a detriment to the process of learning; and when one is intent on learning, there is neither the teacher nor the follower.
I think it is also important to understand that I am not talking to you as an individual who is opposed to society, or as one who belongs to this or that group. To me there is only the human being, whether he lives in India, in America, in Russia, in Germany, or anywhere else. So I am not talking to you as an Indian with a particular system of beliefs, but together we are endeavouring to find out what this whole process of living is all about.
This is our earth, it is not the Englishman's or the Russian's, the American's or the Indian's; it is the earth on which we live, you and I. It does not belong to the Communist or the capitalist, the Christian or the Hindu. It is our earth, to be lived on extensively, widely and deeply; but that living is denied when you are a nationalist, when you belong to a party or an organized religion. Please believe me, these are the very things that are destroying human beings. Nationalism is a curse. To call oneself a Hindu or a Christian is also a curse, because it divides us. We are human beings, not members of a sect or functionaries in a system. But the politician, the man who is committed to a conclusion or a system in which he has a vested interest, will exploit each one of us through our nationalism, through our vanity and emotionalism, just as the priest exploits us in the name of so-called religion.
But in considering these things together, I think it is very important for each one of us to understand that hearing is one thing, and listening, which brings action, is quite another. You may superficially agree when you hear it said that nationalism, with all its emotionalism and vested interest, leads to exploitation and the setting of man against man; but to really free your mind from the pettiness of nationalism is another matter. To be free, not only from nationalism, but also from all the conclusions of organized religions and political systems, is essential if the mind is to be young, fresh, innocent, that is, in a state of revolution; and it is only such a mind that can create a new world - not the politicians, who are dead, nor the priests, who are caught in their own religious systems.
So, fortunately or unfortunately for yourself, you have heard something which is true; and if you merely hear it and are not actively disturbed so that your mind begins to free itself from all the things which are making it narrow and crooked, then the truth you have heard will become a poison. Surely, truth becomes a poison if it is heard and does not act in the mind like the festering of a wound. But to discover for oneself what is true and what is false and to see the truth in the false, is to let that truth operate and bring forth its own action.
It is obviously of the greatest importance that as individual human beings we understand for ourselves this whole process of living. Living is not just a matter of function and status, and if we are content to be mere functionaries with a certain status, we become mechanical, and then life passes us by. It seems to me that if one does not really participate in life, take to one's heart the fullness of life, then the mind becomes petty, narrow, full of the dogmatic beliefs which are now destroying human beings.
If that is clear let us inquire into the question of ignorance. What is ignorance, what is knowledge, and what is wisdom? Surely, all knowledge is within the field of time, and a mind that pursues knowledge is bound by time, limited to the field of the known. The things one knows, the facts one has gathered, the technique one has acquired, whether it be bridge-building, accounting, or what you will - it is all within the field of the known.
Now, knowledge is always operating in human relationships, is it not? I know you, and you know me; I know how to write, how to talk, how to do this or that, all of which is born of memory - memory which has been acquired, stimulated, educated. The mind functions from this background of memory which is called knowledge. Knowledge may be indefinitely extended, it may be made wide, deep, certain, encyclopaedic in its scope, but while socially useful, it is still within the field of ignorance. Knowledge does not wipe away ignorance. No amount of your reading the Gita, or any other books, will wipe away ignorance.
So, what is ignorance? A man may be very erudite, he may be skilful in the laboratory, or efficient as a bureaucrat, or a great builder of dams and bridges; but if he does not understand himself, he is essentially ignorant. If I am unaware of the way I think, the way I feel, if I do not see my own unconscious motives and hidden demands, if I do not know why I believe, why I am afraid, what are the sources of my ambition and frustrations, if I do not discover and understand all that is within myself, then however high I may build the superstructure of knowledge, it will inevitably become the means of destruction.
Ignorance is the state of a mind that has no comprehension of itself. You may quote the Gita, the Bible, the Koran, or whatever book you hold sacred, but if you don't know yourself the quotations will have no meaning. The clearing away of ignorance lies in the understanding of oneself - not the higher self, not the Paramatman and all the rest of the superstructure which the mind has built in order to escape from its own pettiness, but the self which is operating every day and which is torn by ambition, frustration, jealousy, envy, hate, fear. It is surely the understanding of this whole process from moment to moment that brings about that state of mind which may be called wisdom. So wisdom has nothing whatever to do with knowledge. Knowledge and ignorance go together, one flows into the other; and ignorance is strengthened by experience.
Please do listen to what is being said, and don't brush it aside. Just listen, even if you don't quite understand. You may understand the word, the phrase the symbol; but the word, the phrase, the symbol is not the real. If you realize this, then perhaps you will begin very hesitantly to feel your way into the meaning behind the words, which is to inquire into yourself. And after all, that is the function of this meeting - not to impose on the mind any idea or belief, but to help us to think out together the fundamental problems of life.
So you as a human being, and I as a human being, are learning. I am not, as you know, a saint or a teacher sitting here on the platform and telling you what to do, because there is no authority when we are both learning. Learning ceases when there is acceptance of authority. What is important is to listen with a mind that is inquiring, a mind that wants to discover what is true and what is false. But most of us listen with an opinion, with a belief. When we approach a fact, we have opinions about the fact, and therefore the fact never operates on the mind. So may I suggest that you listen to find out for yourself what is true and what is false. Do not wait for someone else to tell you, because no one else can.
As I was saying, ignorance is strengthened by experience, because experience is cumulative, additive. Experience is essential at one level as function; but experience which is cumulative in the sense that it strengthens the mind in its centre of self-interest, only furthers ignorance, and that ignorance becomes what we call knowledge.
If you watch the operation of your own mind, you will see that it is always translating the new in terms of the old, that is, in terms of previous experience, which in turn is the result of your particular culture, of your beliefs, of your education, of your conditioning. So experience is never a liberating factor. Experience only strengthens the centre of ignorance. You may have a vision of Christ or Krishna, for example, but that experience is the result, is it not?, of your background as a Christian or a Hindu; and the experience further strengthens the background, the conditioning, the belief. So experience is obviously not a means of liberating, freeing the mind. After all, experiencing is a process of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, denial and acceptance. That is all we know. That process of experiencing is going on all the time, and without understanding it, the mind will never come to that state in which it is fully active, but in which there is no experiencing.
I do not know if you have ever noticed that the mind is capable of perceiving without experiencing. When you suddenly see a lovely tree expanding into the sky, what happens? You experience it, that is, you name it, you say "What a beautiful tree; I must admire it". That is what most people do, consciously or unconsciously, when they see a beautiful thing; they experience it. But if you just perceive a sunset, a lovely flower, or the splendour in the grass, there is no experiencing. It is not that you identify yourself with what is seen, but it is a state in which there is neither the observer nor the observed, a state of pure perception without interpretation, without the recall of memory. That is the liberating factor, for it frees the mind from the past.
In function, experience is necessary. I am not a mechanic if I have no experience with machines. I am not a gardener if I do not know the soil. Experience teaches me about the things I have to do in discharging a certain function. But experience is destructive, it is a deteriorating factor when it becomes a tradition in terms of which everything is translated. That is what is happening the world over, and particularly here in India where everything is bound by tradition and you are a big man if you can write a commentary on the Gita.
So experience is destructive when it becomes merely an additive process. no please listen to this. A traditional mind is a dead mind; it is limited to the field of the known, which is the field-of function and status. It is only the mind that is in a state of attention, in a state of perception, which means that it is not experiencing or translating in terms of the old - it is only such a mind that is fresh, young, innocent, and therefore creative.
In knowledge there is ignorance, and experience is binding; but the understanding of oneself - which is to know the whole process of oneself, the unconscious as w.ell as the conscious, the hidden as well as the open - frees the mind, it makes the mind fresh, young. The young mind is always moving, changing, deciding, it is always approaching the frontier of itself and breaking through. But the mind that has experienced and is acquiring further experience, though this is valuable at a certain functionary level, is never a fresh mind, it is never eager, new. The Communist mind, or the capitalist mind, or the mind that thinks in terms of a sovereign political state - how can such a mind be young? How can it make decisions that are new, decisions not based on old ideas?
Without understanding oneself, without uncovering and fully comprehending the hidden ways of one's thought and desire, the hidden want, there will always be hate, pride, fear. So let us look at this hidden want.
I do not know if you have ever gone deeply within yourself. To do that, surely, you must put aside all explanations, all conclusions about yourself, all the knowledge you have acquired about the self. Only a free mind is capable of inquiring, not a mind that is tethered to some conclusion, belief, or dogma.
If you have ever inquired very deeply into yourself, you are bound to have come upon that state which we call loneliness, a sense of complete isolation, of not being related. As a human being, you must at some time have felt that desperate, agonizing, despairing sense of isolation, from which consciously or unconsciously we are always running away. In our flight from the reality of that extraordinary sense of loneliness, we are driven, are we not?, By a deep urge that is everlastingly seeking fulfilment through books, through music, through work and activity, through position, power, prestige.
If at any time you have felt that sense of utter loneliness; or if you have ever consciously, deliberately allowed yourself to be aware of it, you will know that you immediately want to run away, to escape from it. You go to the temple, worship a God, plunge into perpetual activity, talk everlastingly, explain things away, or turn on the radio. We all do this, as we well know if we are at all conscious of ourselves.
Now, to realize that escape in any form will never satisfy this deep urge for self-fulfilment, to see that it is insatiable, a bottomless pit, you must be aware of it totally, which means that you must see the truth that escapes have no reality. You may escape through God or through drink, hut they are both the same; one is not more sacred than the other. You have to understand this hidden urge and go beyond it: and you cannot understand and go beyond it if you have not tasted that extraordinary loneliness, that darkness which has no way out, no hope. Hope comes into being when there is despair. A mind is in despair only because it is frustrated in its hope. To understand this deep urge, this hidden want, you must perceive it totally, as you might perceive a tree or a lovely flower. Then you can go beyond it; and once beyond it, you will find there is a complete aloneness which is entirely different from being lonely. But you cannot discover that state of complete aloneness without understanding the deep urge to fulfil yourself, to escape from loneliness. All this may sound unusual, unreal, and perhaps you will say, "What has this got to do with our daily living?" I think it is intimately related to your daily living, because your daily living is a misery of frustration; there is an everlasting striving to be, to become something, which is the real outcome of this deep urge, this hidden want. On the surface you may practise discipline, control your mind, do your puja, meditate, go to the temple, read the Gita, talk about peace, or what you will, but it is all nonsense as long as you do not understand the hidden want that is driving you.
So that state of aloneness is essential, because our minds are worn out with constant effort. What is your life? You are constantly trying to be this and not to be that, striving everlastingly to become famous, to get a better job, to be more efficient; you are making endless effort, are you not? I wonder if you have ever noticed what a miserable existence we have, always striving to be something, to be good, to be non-violent, ceaselessly talking about peace while indulging in political emotionalism and preparing for war. Our life is one of strife, turmoil, travail, and a mind in that condition can never be fresh, young, new. Surely, seeing all this, one must have asked oneself whether such effort is necessary to live in this world. There may be a different way of living altogether, a way of living without effort - not at the lowest level, like a cow, nor like a human being who is forever doing what he likes, but at the highest level, a level where there is no effort.
But you cannot say-`How am I to realize that state of mind in which there is no effort?' because the very desire to acquire that state is another form of attachment; and all attachment is to things that are dying, or dead. You are attached to the dead, not to the living. You are attached, not to your wife who is a living human being, but to the wife of pleasurable memory. You cannot be attached to the living moving river; you are attached to the pleasure of having seen that river, which is a memory, a dead thing.
There is a way of living which is completely effortless. Please, sirs, I am not asking you to accept this. It has nothing to do with acceptance or denial. You simply don't know it. All you know is effort, strife; you are perpetually driving yourself to be or not to be something, and your aggressive pursuit of your own ambitions, with its tensions and contradictions, is the outcome of this hidden want. You cannot remove this hidden want by mesmerizing yourself. You have to look at it; and you cannot look at it as long as you are escaping. You can look at it only when you come to it completely without fear because it is the fact. Don't dictate what the fact should be; let the fact tell you what it is. Most of us come to the fact with an opinion about the fact, with knowledge, with belief, which is an immature, a childish thing to do. You must come to the fact with innocency, with a fullness of heart, which is humility. Then the fact will tell you what it is.
This hidden want is extraordinarily deep and subtle; but if you are able to look at it without any opinion, without any fear, then you will discover that you can go beyond its darkness to a state in which the mind is totally alone and therefore no longer the result of influence. This aloneness is the state of attention.
As I said the other day, attention and concentration are two different things. In this aloneness, which is the state of attention, there is no shadow of concentration. Being alone, uninfluenced, not caught in opinion, the mind is completely attentive; it is motionless, silent, utterly still. But you cannot make the mind still. You can mesmerize the mind by repeating certain phrases, or quiet it by prayer, but that is not stillness, that is death. It is like putting the mind in a straight-jacket to hold it still - and therefore the mind decays.
What is essential is to understand this deep, hidden want, which is always changing - and that is the beauty of it. You think you have understood it, only to find that it has moved somewhere else. So one has to pursue this hidden want down all the dark corridors of the mind. Then there comes that aloneness which is attention, and which is really a motionless state. I am not using that word `motionless' in opposition to activity. A mind that is motionless, still, is not a dead mind. It is an active mind, it is activity itself, because it is still,and only such a mind is creative - not the mind which paints dances, or writes books. That is merely the outward expression of a mind which may not be creative at all. A mind may have the gift of writing, it may catch an occasional vision of something and express it in a poem or on canvas; but creativity of the mind is entirely different. The mind that is in a state of creation is really perfectly still; and only such a mind can receive the immeasurable. To know the real, the imperishable, the measureless, the mind must be silent, in a state of complete humility; and the mind has no humility as long as there is the deep, hidden want.
March 11, 1959.
New Delhi 1959
New Delhi 10th Public Talk 11th March 1959
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