Madras 4th Public Talk 2nd December 1959
It must be very difficult to live in goodness, to be humble, to have no anger, not to be envious, not to be acquisitive. To make us somewhat civilized, to keep us within the margin of decency, there are all the various religious sanctions, the taboos, the fears, the promise of heaven and the threat of hell; and to change without any of these influences, without any compulsion, without reward or punishment - which is to bring about, through comprehension, a radical transformation within the mind - seems to be extraordinarily difficult. To change is apparently one of the most arduous things to do - if we ever change at all. This is not said in any spirit of cynicism. But without understanding the whole process of change, we seek various systems of discipline by which to control or shape the mind. We suppress what we feel should be cast off, and thereby hope to sublimate or transcend it.
That is the case with most of us, is it not? When we are angry, we try to suppress our anger; we seek a solution, a way out of it. We never go into the problem and understand it totally, completely - yet this may be the only way of resolving the problem of anger, or any other problem that creates conflict in the mind. We live with conflict throughout our lives; from childhood till we die, we are in eternal conflict, both within and without. We are used to exerting will, making an effort to suppress or control ourselves; we practise various methods of discipline, meditation; we read the sacred books, and all that sort of thing, hoping to escape from the things which create conflict in our lives. To keep us within the bounds of respectable behaviour, there are the various religious sanctions, and the moral codes of public opinion, and we try to live in accordance with all that.
So our existence is really a state of contradiction, in which there is a constant effort to be this and not to be that. We are everlastingly trying to become something, to avoid something, to repress, conform, adjust. If you observe yourselves - as one must if one is at all intelligent - you will know that this process goes on in us from day to day, year in and year out until we die. We are making a constant effort to conform, to adjust, to comply, to imitate; this is our life, and from this pattern we hardly ever break away. There is no cessation of that which causes in us a contradiction. We never totally free ourselves from anger, greed, envy, jealousy, although we are forever struggling against these things.
Now, I would like, if I may, to talk about this effort to change, and about what is implied in change. I would like to go into it by thinking aloud and talking it over with you; because I feel that there must be a fundamental change in the quality of the mind itself, and that the mere outward adjustments of a cunning mind seeking its own profit, will lead us nowhere. Such a mind can never really know the quality of peace. It cannot possibly be aware without choice, or be in that state of creative reality.
If one is to go very deeply into this question of change, one must approach it, I think, by understanding what consciousness is - not the consciousness which the books describe, and about which many people have certain theories, conclusions, but the consciousness operating in oneself. That is surely the only point from which one can start. One cannot assume anything, one cannot start with any theory, conviction, or conclusion. I think we must proceed very simply, and not bring in what Shankara and other people have said about consciousness. It is only then that we shall be able to go into this problem as two human beings who are attempting to uncover the ways of our own thinking, to understand our conflicts and why we do certain things.
In trying to understand what we call consciousness, I think we must be aware of certain things. We are not analyzing, we are merely observing - which is quite different from the analytical process, which has a purposive intent, for by its means you hope to get somewhere. So our examination of consciousness is not a process of analysis intended for self-improvement. To me, the desire to improve oneself is a horror; it is a most childish, immature way of thinking. It makes living into a profession; it is on the same level with struggling to get ahead in science, in business, in mathematics, or what you will. We are here not analyzing or trying to improve the self. We are trying to observe the self, to understand this consciousness which is the `me' in everyday action, in everyday thought and feeling - the desires, the passions, the angers, the brutalities, the cruelties and fears. It is to discover the ways of the `me' that we are here, not in order to improve the `me'. There is no improvement of the `me'. It is only the mediocre mind that says, "I must be much more clever, much more intelligent, much more erudite". However much a petty mind tries to improve itself, it will always be petty.
So please understand from what point of view we are approaching this thing called consciousness. If we do not understand in what manner to look at consciousness, we invariably try to change or control it, and this effort further limits consciousness. It is the very nature of such effort to create a centre as the `me' from which to control consciousness. I do not know if you have noticed that the moment you make an effort, you have already an objective, and this objective limits your vision.
Please come with me in looking at this problem. Do not say, "Is not effort necessary? Is not our very existence - with its pains, pleasures, conflicts, contradictions - a process of effort?" We know all that; you do not have to tell me that, and I do not have to tell you. But I am trying to point out to you something totally different, and that is why you must approach it a little cautiously, hesitantly.
As I was saying, if we do not understand the nature of effort, all action is limiting. Effort creates its own frontiers, its own objectives, its own limitations. Effort has the time-binding quality. You say, "I must meditate, I must make an effort to control my mind". That very effort to control puts a limit on your mind. Do watch this, do think it out with me. To live with effort is evil; to me it is an abomination, if I may use a strong word. And if you observe, you will realize that from childhood on we are conditioned to make an effort. In our so-called education, in all the work we do, we struggle to improve ourselves, to become something. Everything we undertake is based on effort; and the more effort we make, the duller the mind becomes.
So there can be a radical change only when there is the cessation of effort. Most of us are conditioned to make an effort in order to produce the change, and that is why there is no real change at all. Such effort merely produces a modification, with its own limitations.
Please do not accept my word for it, or reject what is being said. It is for you to find out if what I am saying is true. Your whole conditioning is based on the assumption that effort is necessary; but now somebody comes along and says "Look, that assumption is all wrong". How are you going to find out for yourself what is true? What I am saying may be entirely false, without any reality behind it; it may be born of the idiosyncrasies of a man who is having an easy life and therefore does not want to make any effort. You may think, "It is all very well for you to talk as you do, but we are born with various limitations, and in varying degrees of poverty, and we must make an effort, otherwise we shall be crushed. Besides, our Shastras all tell us to make an effort, to discipline, control, shape our minds."
So, how will you find out whether what is being said is true? You are used to conflict, it is part of your tradition; you are used to discipline, to control, to adjustment. Public opinion is tremendously important to you. What somebody else says is your god - whether it be Shankara, or your neighbour. Do watch your own minds as I am talking; observe how you think. With that mentality, how are you going to find out if what is being said is true or false? To find out, surely, you have to question your own ways of thinking, and not just question what is being said. You obviously cannot find out what is true and what is false, with a mind which from childhood has been taught to conform, to imitate, to follow. So you have to begin by inquiring into the state of your own mind. You have to look into your own consciousness and see why you follow, why you imitate, why you conform. Surely, that is the beginning of any inquiry into consciousness. In such inquiry, there is no analysis, no purposive intent. You are observing to find out if it is possible for the mind to function, to live, to act every day without effort. You see, sirs, a mind that is in a constant state of contradiction, effort, is wearing itself out. It is never fresh, innocent. And surely, you need a fresh mind, an innocent mind, a good, clear mind to perceive the truth or the falseness of anything.
We are inquiring into this thing called consciousness, which should be a total entity, a fully integrated state. But there is a part of consciousness which is in darkness, and a part which is in light - not the spiritual light of Brahma, of Jesus, and all that nonsense which you have been conditioned to believe in. The part which is in light is the superficial mind that goes to the office, that quarrels, that wants a better job - the mind that functions every day. Then there is the hidden mind, the unconscious mind, with its motives, its desires, its intimations of a struggle that is going on below the level of the superficial mind. The whole of that is consciousness. To understand this consciousness, you cannot refer to the books, to what Shankara and others have said about consciousness. If you do, you are lost, because you are not aware of what you are, and you merely quote the statements of others. Any fool can quote; and the more foolish he is, the more he quotes. To quote is to stop thinking, to stop inquiring, and therefore the mind becomes dull, insensitive.
I know, sirs, that in listening to me you may say "It is a good harangue". You do not realize what quoting does to your minds, how dull it makes you. I was talking the other day with a man who was very erudite, who could quote any of the Scriptures, whether from the East or from the West, from the North or from the South. But he was totally incapable of thinking for himself. So please do stop quoting, and think for yourselves; find out what your own thoughts and feelings are. When you quote, you are relying on the authority of another, which is a very easy escape from looking at your own minds and perceiving yourselves as you actually are.
Now you and I, as two human beings, can see that consciousness is everything we think, feel, smell, desire - all the sensations, and behind the sensations, the desires of wanting and not wanting. We cannot go into too many details, but we can see that all of this makes up the totality of consciousness. In this consciousness, there is contradiction; though at certain moments live may know a state free of contradiction, it is merely a reaction.
Let us approach it differently. There is the conscious, and the unconscious mind. I am not using these words in any special psychoanalytical way; I am just using them as you and I use them in everyday conversation. There is the conscious mind, the mind that is educated in modern society, with all its demands, compulsions, hopes and fears. If I am born a communist, I generally continue to be a communist. My conscious mind, having been educated in communism, continues to function within that pattern, just as a Catholic, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, functions within his particular pattern. It is the conscious mind that acquires a technique - the technique of how to run a motor, or of how to get rid of your unwanted desires. It is the conscious mind that learns from a guru how to imitate virtue, what to do in order to be `spiritual', how to suppress this and cultivate that. It is the conscious mind that acquires knowledge, that adjusts at the superficial level.
Then there is the so-called unconscious. What is the unconscious? How are you going to find out for yourself, and not merely quote the psychologist, the expert, the analyst? The unconscious mind is obviously something which most of us have not looked into. And are we capable of looking into it? The only instrument we have for looking into something, is the conscious mind, which is learning, acquiring knowledge, and which is always positive in its approach; and can such a mind inquire into the unconscious? I do not know if I am making myself clear. Probably I am not.
I want to know why I am envious - I am taking that as an example. Why am I envious? The conscious mind can understand and explain why it is envious. When it does, it also creates the opposite and says "I must not be envious". So there is conflict, an effort to be this and not to be that. But envy implies competition, comparison; it implies wanting to be something - to be the prime minister, to be the most famous scholar, to be the biggest lawyer in town, and so on. So envy is very deeply rooted; it is not a thing that can be pushed aside by saying "I must not be envious. " Now, to inquire into envy, to follow its deep roots, requires a mind that is not positive at all. I do not know if you see that. With most of us, the conscious mind has only two approaches: the positive, or its opposite, the so-called negative. Either it wants, or it does not want. It wants to get rid of envy, or else it wants to keep envy and enjoy it. It says, "Envy has its pain and pleasure; I will try to remove the pain, but keep the pleasure of envy". Thus it approaches envy positively, or so-called negatively. But to find the roots of envy requires quite a different state of mind altogether. If envy were a shallow plant, one could simply pull it out and throw it away. But the plant has become a tree with deep roots, it covers the whole of modern civilization; and so the problem continues.
To inquire into envy, to go down into the unconscious where its deep roots are hidden, you require, not the conscious mind that has been educated, but quite a different mentality, an entirely different state of mind. You do not know the unconscious except through intimations and hints, through dreams and certain moments of clarity; and the unconscious is surely not explorable by the conscious mind. When the conscious mind does try to explore or examine it, there is always the observer watching the observed. That is all the conscious mind can do. It can watch as an observer, as an experiencer, as a thinker, apart from the observed, the experienced, the thought. This is still a positive process, though it may appear to be negative. The positive process has a negative which is still part of itself.
What we are trying to do, as I said at the beginning of the talk, is to understand effort, and to find out if it is possible for the mind to be totally free of effort - free to function integrally, with joy, with delight, without effort.
So what is the conscious mind to do? There are dreams, hints, intimations from the unconscious; but when the conscious mind tries to interpret them, it is still within the field of the positive, with its opposite, the so-called negative. To understand something of which it knows nothing, except vaguely, the conscious mind must surely be completely silent - if I may use that word. I hope you understand what I mean. The silent mind is not dormant, it is not sluggishly asleep. The conscious mind must be in abeyance, which is to be in that state of attention where there is no positive or negative response.
Look here, sirs, I am trying to tell you something. It is something of which you do not know, except that you have heard of it, or read about it in books. You have never felt the beauty of it in your hearts, in your minds. What is the state of a mind that listens? Obviously, an interpretative mind cannot listen. When you interpret what you hear according to your knowledge, you are not listening. In order to explore, to find out, your mind must be in a truly negative state - which is not the opposite of being positive, but a wholly different thing. It is the total absence of the positive, with its negative. Your conscious mind must be open, without any purpose, to the intimations of the unconscious; it must be in that state of attention which is really a total negation.
I am sorry if you do not understand all this, but I hope you will. I think every human being can live with dignity, with a sense of freedom, in the state of effortlessness; and it is only in this state of living without effort that there can be creativeness, the perception of reality. The conscious mind must be capable of total attention, which is total negation - and that is the totally positive state. But I won't go into all that now. When the conscious mind is totally attentive, it can look into the unconscious, which is something that it does not know. The unconscious, surely, is the racial inheritance, the traditional values which have been given to you for untold ages. Though you may be ultramodern in the techniques you have learnt, in the unconscious you are still a Brahmin, a Vaisya, a Hindu, a Catholic, or whatever, because for centuries it has been dinned into your racial unconscious. The unconscious is the accumulated experience, not only of the individual, but also of the family, the race. It is the result of man's effort to be, to become, to grow, to survive. So consciousness, which is the outcome of effort, is limited. As I said at the beginning, where there is effort, there is an objective; where there is effort, there is a limitation on attention and on action. To do good in the wrong direction, is to do evil. Do you understand? For centuries we have done `good' in the wrong direction by assuming that we must be this, we must not be that, and so on, which only creates further conflict.
So the mind has been trained for centuries to suppress, to discipline itself in an effort to overcome its own limitations; and though it may invent the idea of the soul, the Atman, the higher self, it is still within the confines of its own thought, within the limits of its own endeavour; therefore, what it calls reality is only a projection of its own delusion. With most of us, this is the actual state of the mind. And how is such a mind to be free? That is the next question.
I recognize that my mind is the result of time, of effort; and I see that effort creates bondage, places a limitation on the extent of consciousness. How is the mind to be free of this limitation? I am not asking `how' in order to find a method by which to free the mind. To ask for a method is a most immature way of thinking, and that is not my purpose. I am asking `how' only to inquire if there is a way out of this bondage of the mind; and it may be that there is no way out at all.
So you are left with the problem. Is there a possibility of freeing the mind totally? This problem, like every other human problem, has no answer. Do you understand, sirs? Here is a problem which, if one really goes into it, is found to be tremendously complex, and it would be silly on my part to say "This is the answer". Therefore you are left with the problem. But if you have deeply followed all that has been said, the problem is no longer a problem, because you will already have perceived the totality of it; and a mind that perceives the totality of any problem, is free of the problem.
You may say this is a very dirty trick I am playing on you - giving you the problem, and not showing you a way out. I say there is no way out. But the problem itself is resolved if you see the totality of it. The state of love is entirely different from the feeling that we call love. For most of us, love is a contradiction, full of jealousy, envy, possession, acquisitiveness, despair - you know all that rattling of the mind. But if one hears the noise, if one sees all the implications of so-called love, then the problem itself is resolved. What is required is perception, and not this constant trying to find an answer to the problem.
So, effort always limits the mind. If you see the truth of that, it is enough. That very perception will operate; you do not have to do a thing. To see the truth of something, is the liberating factor. It is only when you do not see the truth of any problem that you ask "What am I to do?" If you see how your mind has been conditioned for centuries, and how that conditioning from the past is projecting itself through the present into the future; if you see how your mind is a slave to time, to environment, to the various beliefs which it has inherited and acquired; if you see how you are constantly adding to your conditioning through experience born of that very conditioning - if you see all this very clearly, then liberation comes without your seeking it, and life is then something entirely different.
December 2, 1959.
Madras 4th Public Talk 2nd December 1959
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