Madras 8th Public Talk 16th December 1959
This is the last talk of the present series.
I think it would be marvellous if, without words, one could convey what one really feels about the whole problem of existence. Besides the superficial necessity of having a job and all the rest of it, there are the deep, inward urges, the demands, the contradictory states of being, both conscious and unconscious; and I wonder if it is not possible to go beyond them all, be- yond the frontiers which the mind has imposed upon itself, beyond the narrow limits of one's own heart, and to live there - to act, to think and to feel from that state while carrying on one's everyday activities. I think it can be done - not merely the communication of it, but the fact of it. Surely, we can break through the limitations which the mind has placed upon itself; because, after all, we have only one problem. As the tree with its many roots, its many branches and leaves, is a totality, so we have only one basic problem. And if, by some miracle, by some grace, by some way of looking at the clouds of an evening, the mind could become extraordinarily sensitive to every movement of thought, of feeling - if it could do that, not theoretically but actually, then I think we would have solved our problem.
As I said, there is essentially only one problem: the problem of `me and my urges', from which all our other problems arise. Our real problems are not how to land on the moon, or how to fire off a rocket to Venus; they are very intimate, but unfortunately we do not seem to know how to deal with them. I am not at all sure that we are even aware of our real problem. To know love, to feel the beauty of nature, to worship something beyond the creations of man - I think all this is denied to us if we do not understand our immediate problems.
So I would like, if I may, to think aloud with you on this question of whether the mind can break through its own frontiers, go beyond its own limitations: because our lives are obviously very shallow. You may have all the wealth that the earth can give you; you may be very erudite; you may have read many books and be able to quote very learnedly all the established authorities, past and present; or you may be very simple, just living and struggling from day to day, with all the little pleasures and sorrows of family life. Whatever one is, surely it is of the utmost importance to find out in what manner the barriers which the mind has created for itself, can be swept away. That, it seems to me, is our fundamental problem. Through so-called education, through tradition, through various forms of social, moral and religious conditioning, the mind is limited, caught up in a moving vortex of environmental influences. And is it possible for the mind to break away from all this conditioning; so that it can live with joy, perceiving the beauty of things, feeling this extraordinary sense of immeasurable life?
I think it is possible, but I do not think it is a gradual process. It is not through evolution, through time, that the breaking away takes place. It is done instantly, or never. The perception of truth does not come at the end of many years. There is no tomorrow in understanding. Either the mind understands immediately, or not at all. It is very difficult for the mind to see this, because most of us are so accustomed to thinking in terms of tomorrow. We say: "Give me time, let me have more experience, and eventually I shall understand". But have you not noticed that understanding always comes in a flash - never through calculation, through time, never through exercise and slow development? The mind which relies on this idea of gradual comprehension is essentially lazy. Don't ask: "How is a lazy mind to be made alert, vital, active?" There is no `how'. However much a stupid mind may try to become clever, it will still be stupid. A petty mind does not cease to be petty by worshipping the god it has invented. Time is not going to reveal the truth, the beauty of anything. What really brings understanding is the state of attention - just to be attentive, even for one second, with one's whole being, without calculation, without premeditation. If you and I can be totally attentive on the instant, then I think there is an instantaneous comprehension, a total understanding.
But it is very difficult to give one's total attention to something, is it not? I do not know if you have ever tried to look at a flower with your whole being, or to be completely aware of the ways of your own mind. If you have done that, you will know with what clarity total attention brings into focus any problem. But to give such attention to anything is not easy, because our minds are very respectable, they are crippled with words and symbols, with ideas about what should be and what should not be.
I am talking about attention; and I wonder if you are paying attention - not just to what is being said, because that is of secondary importance, but are you attentive in the sense of being fully aware of the impediments, the blockages that your mind has created for itself? If you can be aware of these bondages - just aware of them, without saying "What shall I do about them?" - you will find that they begin to break up; and then comes a state of attention in which there is no choice, no wandering off, because there is no longer a centre from which to wander. That state of attention is goodness, it is the only virtue. There is no other virtue.
So, we realize that our minds are very limited. We have reduced the earth and the heavens, the vast movement of life, to a little corner called the `me', the self, with its everlasting struggle to be or not to be. In what way can this mind, which is so small, so petty, so self-centred, break through the frontiers, the limitations which it has placed upon itself? As I said, it is only through attention, in which there is no choice, that the truth is seen; and it is Truth that breaks the bondage, that sweeps away the limitations - not your effort, not your meditation, not your practices, your disciplines, your controls.
To be in this state of attention requires, surely, a knowledge of the `me' and its ways. I must know myself; my mind must know the movement of every emotion, every thought. But knowledge is a peculiar thing. Knowledge is cumulative, it is ever in the past. In the present there is only knowing. Knowledge always colours knowing. We are concerned with knowing, and not with knowledge, because knowledge about oneself distorts the knowing of oneself. I hope I am mal;ing myself clear. I think there is a difference between knowing myself all the time, and knowledge about myself. When self-knowledge is an accumulation of information which I have gathered about myself, it prevents the understanding of myself.
Look here, sirs. The self, the `me' is restless, it is always wandering never still. It is like a roaring river, making a tremendous noise as it rushes down the valley. It is a living, moving thing; and how can one have knowledge about something which is constantly changing, never the same? The self is always in movement; it is never still, never quiet for a moment. When the mind has observed it, it is already gone. I do not know if you have ever tried to look at yourself, to pin down your mind to any one thing. If you do that, the thinE you have pinned down is constantly before you - and so you have come to the end of self-knowledge. Am I conveying something? Am I explaining myself?
Knowledge is always destructive to knowing. The knowing of oneself is never cumulative; it does not culminate in a point from which you judge the fact of what is the `me'. You see, we accumulate knowledge, and from there we judge - and that is our difficulty. Having accumulated knowledge through experience, through learning, through reading and all the rest of it, from that background we think, we function. We take up a position in knowledge, and from there we say, "I know all about the self. It is greedy, stupid, everlastingly wanting to bc superior" - whatever it is. So there is nothing more to know, The moment you take up a position in knowledge, your knowledge is very superficial. But if there is no accumulation of knowledge upon which the mind rests, then there is only the movement of knowing; and then the mind becomes extraordinarily swift in its perceptions.
So it is self-knowing that is important, and not self-knowledge. Knowing the movement of thought, knowing the movement of feeling without accumulation - and therefore with never a moment of judgment, of condemnation - is very important; because the moment there is accumulation, there is a thinker. The accumulation of knowledge gives a position to the mind, a centre from which to think; it gives rise to an observer who judges, condemns, identifies, and all the rest of it. But when there is self-knowing, there is neither the observer nor the observed; there is only a state of attention, of watching, learning.
Surely sirs, a mind that has accumulated knowledge can never learn. If the mind is to learn, it must not have the burden of knowledge, the burden of what it has accumulated. It must be fresh, innocent, free of the past. The accumulation of knowledge gives birth to the `me; but knowing can never do that because knowing is learning, and a mind that is constantly learning can have no resting place. If you really perceive the truth of this, not tomorrow, but now, then you will find there is only a state of attention, of learning with never a moment of accumulation; and then the problems which most of us now have are completely gone. But this is not a trick by which to resolve your problems, nor is it a lesson for you to learn.
You see, a society such as ours - whether Indian, Russian, American, or what you will - is acquisitive, not only in the pursuit of material things, but also in terms of competing, gaining, arriving, fulfilling. This society has so shaped our ways of thinking that we cannot free ourselves from the concept of a goal, an end. We are always thinking in terms of getting somewhere, of achieving inward peace, and so on. Our approach is always acquisitive. Physically we have to acquire to some extent; we must obviously provide ourselves with food, clothing and shelter. But the mind uses these things as a means of further acquisition - I am talking about acquisition in the psychological sense. Just as the mind makes use of the physical necessities to acquire prestige and power, so through knowledge it establishes itself in a position of psychological certainty. Knowledge gives us a sense of security, does it not? From our background of experience, of accumulated knowledge about ourselves, we think and live, and this process creates a state of duality - what I am, and what I think I should be. There is therefore a contradiction, a constant battle between the two. But if one observes this process comprehensively, if one understands it, really feels its significance, then one will find that the mind is spontaneously good, alert, loving; it is always learning and never acquiring. Then self-knowledge has quite a different meaning, for it is no longer an accumulation of knowledge about oneself. Knowledge about oneself is small, petty, limiting; but knowing oneself is infinite, there is no end to it. So our problem is to abandon the ways of habit, of custom, of tradition, on the instant, and to be born anew.
Sirs, one of our difficulties in all this is the problem of communion, or communication. I want to tell you something, and in the very telling it is perverted by the expression, the word that is used. What I would like to communicate to you, or to commune with you about, is very simple: total self-abandonment on the instant. That is all - not what happens after self-abandonment, or the system that will bring it about. There is no system, because the moment you practise a system you are obviously strengthening the self. Cannot the mind suddenly drop the anchors it has put down into the various patterns of existence? Some evening when the sun was just going down, when the green rice fields were sparkling, when there was a lone passer-by and the birds were on the wing, it must have happened to you that there was all at once an extraordinary peace in the world. There was no `you' watching, feeling, thinking, for you were that beauty, that peace, that infinite state of being. Such a thing must have happened to you, if you have ever looked into the face of the world, into the vastness of the sky. How does it happen? When suddenly there is no worry when you are no longer thinking that you love someone, or wonder someone loves you, and you are in that state of love, that state of beauty - what has happened? The green tree, the blue sky, the dancing waters of the sea, the whole beauty of the earth - all this has driven out the ugly, petty little self, and for an instant you are all that. This is surely the state of self-abandonment without calculation,
To feel this sense of abandonment, you need passion. You cannot be sensitive if you are not passionate. Do not be afraid of that word `passion'. Most religious books, most gurus, swamis, leaders, and all the rest of them, say "Don't have passion". But if you have no passion, how can you be sensitive to the ugly, to the beautiful, to the whispering leaves, to the sunset, to a smile, to a cry? How can you be sensitive without a sense of passion in which there is abandonment? Sirs, please listen to me, and do not ask how to acquire passion. I know you are all passionate enough in getting a good job, or hating some poor chap, or being jealous of someone; but I am talking of something entirely different: a passion that loves. Love is a state in which there is no `me; love is a state in which there is no condemnation, no saying that sex is right or wrong, that this is good and something else is bad. Love is none of these contradictory things. Contradiction does not exist in love. And how can one love if one is not passionate? Without passion, how can one be sensitive? To be sensitive is to feel your neighbour sitting next to you; it is to see the ugliness of the town with its squalor, its filth, its poverty, and to see the beauty of the river, the sea, the sky. If you are not passionate, how can you be sensitive to all that? How can you feel a smile, a tear? Love, I assure you, is passion. And without love, do what you will - follow this guru or that, read all the sacred books, become the greatest reformer, study Marx and have a revolution - it will be of no value; because when the heart is empty, without passion, without this extraordinary simplicity, there can be no self-abandonment.
Surely, the mind has abandoned itself and its moorings only when there is no desire for security. A mind that is seeking security can never know what love is. Self-abandonment is not the state of the devotee before his idol or his mental image. What we are talking about is as different from that as light is from darkness. Self-abandonment can come about only when you do not cultivate it, and when there is self-knowing. Do please listen and feel your way into this.
When the mind has understood the significance of knowledge, only then is there self-knowing; and self-knowing implies self-abandonment. You have ceased to rest on any experience as a centre from which to observe, to judge, to weigh; therefore the mind has already plunged into the movement of self-abandonment. In that abandonment there is sensitivity. But the mind which is enclosed in its habits of eating, of thinking, in its habit of never looking at anything - such a mind obviously cannot be sensitive, cannot be loving. In the very abandonment of its own limitations, the mind becomes sensitive and therefore innocent. And only the innocent mind knows what love is - not the calculating mind, not the mind that has divided love into the carnal and the spiritual. In that state there is passion; and without passion, reality will not come near you. It is only the enfeebled mind that invites reality; it is only the dull, grasping mind that pursues truth, God. But the mind that knows passion in love - to such a mind the nameless comes.
December 16, 1959.
Madras 8th Public Talk 16th December 1959
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