Bombay 8th Public Talk 17th January 1960
Most of us, whatever our position in life, are in great turmoil - at least we should be, if we are not; because the various pressures of the world events and of the uncontrollable historical processes that are taking place around us, are pushing us all into a narrow groove, where the margin of freedom is growing less and less. And as each one of us is invariably seeking a way out of this. turmoil, this confusion and misery, we join various movements, either political or religious, and we follow their leaders in the hope of finding a solution for the numerous problems which burden our lives. We are confused, and in our confusion we try to find someone who will lead us out of this turmoil and misery. It seems to me that we are very reluctant to go into ourselves and examine the problem directly. We went someone to provide a solution; we want a system, a philosophy, a guru, a leader to resolve our problems and lead us to peace, to inner quietude. As that is not possible, I would like, if I may, to talk over with you this going within oneself, this unravelling of the process of self-knowledge.
We know that the scientists have conquered many problems, and that whatever is needed they are able to produce. If the scientists and the politicians would get together, they could also solve the problem of starvation, the problem of food, clothing and shelter for all, and stop the destruction of man by man. It could be done; but they are not going to do it as long as their thinking is based on nationalism, on motives of their own personal profit. And even if this far-reaching outward change were brought about, it seems to me that the problem is much deeper. The problem is not merely starvation, war, the brutality of man to man; it is the crisis in our own consciousness. Fundamentally, the problem lies within. But however intent and capable we may be, most of us are unwilling to go into ourselves very deeply. We want to change, to transform the world; but the real revolution, the total change is within, and not so much without. We find it extremely difficult to go within, and so we try to escape intellectually, or sentimentally, devotionally.
Intellectually we spin a lot of theories, we get caught up in words, in ideas. I wonder if you have noticed how eager we are to discuss theories, how quickly we get lost in words? When we play this game, we think we are being very intelligent, but it is really nothing at all; it is empty verbalism, it has no meaning. Sentimentally, emotionally, we cling to a system of belief, or live go from one system to another. We also get lost in so-called devotion to an idea, or to a leader. There is in all this a certain satisfaction, a temporary alleviation of our struggle; but sooner or later we find ourselves back in the same old position, with its many problems.
All these devices, it seems to me, are so futile; they are not solutions to our problems at all. It is only an immature mind, a mind that has not tasted love, that has not breathed deeply the perfume of sorrow - it is only such a mind that escapes into all these trivial things, which are mere entertainments. You find a guru, or you go to the temple, worship an image, which gives you temporary relief. Unfortunately. you are very easily satisfied by these temporary measures, and you try to make them permanent by setting up a habit of devotion, of following - following a guru, a political leader, or some other authority. Whether you follow politically or religiously, all following, surely, is evil; because following implies a desire for security, and the mind that seeks security is denying the impermanency of life. Life is obviously impermanent. Nothing in the world is permanent; and there is nothing permanent inwardly, inside the skin, except habit - habit of thought, habit of ideas. We are caught in these habits; and if we break one habit, we form another, which again takes on a certain permanency. So it seems to me that ii`e are always evading the central issue, which is ourselves.
In referring to ourselves, I mean, not just the egocentric entity of whom we are more or less aware every day, but the entity who is the result of society, the result of a particular culture or civilization, of climate and tradition. And unless the individual is deeply transformed, one cannot see how there can be a way out of all this chaos. I am talking of the individual who is not in opposition to the collective. At present there is only collective thought, from which our action takes place. This collective thought - whether it be that of Communism, of capitalism, of Fascism, or what you will - denies the individual; and all creation in life, all understanding, arises from the individual, not from the mass. Actually, there is no such thing as the mass, except in thought, in idea, to which we are slaves.
So, to understand this whole process of existence, it is necessary for the individual to shake himself free from the mass, from tradition. To do this, one must go into oneself - there is no other means, no other way to open the door of life. What you are, society is. Society is not different from you. Though you may have a distinctive name, some property, a private bank account, and so on, you are part of society; you are not separate from it. When you say you are a Hindu, a Communist, or whatever it may be, it means that you are part of that culture, part of that particular society, which has helped you to think in a certain way. So you are a slave to various influences; and it is necessary, surely, to understand these influences or pressures, if you are to understand yourself, who are the result of them.
You are the result, not only of your father and mother, but of a thousand yesterdays, a thousand generations; you are the result of the whole of humanity. If you don't understand this, life becomes extraordinarily boring, an endless struggle with very little significance, giving rise to the philosophy of despair, or the philosophy of being satisfied with things as they are, which is the mere acceptance of existence. All this seems so obvious.
So, you have to see the fact that you are the world, and that without a transformation in yourself, without a total revolution in the mind, in the ways of your own thinking, you cannot bring about a fundamental change in the world. Especially in an overpopulated country like this, you have to start with yourself; there has to be a revolution in the world of your relationships. Sirs, goodness flowers in your relationship with another; and without understanding that goodness, all your social reforms and innumerable outward changes are only going to lead to further misery in a very superficial existence.
So, it seems to me of the utmost importance to understand oneself; but in this matter there is a tremendous reluctance on your part, because you say, "What is there to understand about myself? I know my own reactions very well".
Now, before we enter into that, I think it is important to understand the significance of the word `verb'. The verb implies, surely, an unbroken movement, an active present; though it has a time element in it, embracing the past and the future as well as the present, the verb implies a total state, does it not? "I was", "I am", and "I will be" - if one goes into this rather deeply, one finds it to be a total state, an active present which is timeless. But most of us are caught in the "I was" and the "I will be; there is no active present. The "I was" is memory, and the "I will be" is also memory - a projection of the past through the present to the future. We say, "I have been angry, and I shall not bc angry; so there is a lag, a gap; and this gap is used as a means to a future state. For most of us the vert implies, not just one state, but three separate states: "I have been greedy", "I shall not be greedy", and the lag between them, which is the effort to become non-greedy.
Now, I think it is very important to understand that the verb implies a total action, not a broken up action. It has within it not only the overtones of what has been and of what ultimately should be but it also contains that which is happening now. But most us are unaware of what is actually happening now; we are concerned with `what has been' or the `what will be. If you observe your own mind, you will see this fact, which is an extraordinary discovery; that you are never concerned with being, but only with having been, and becoming. Unless we perceive this fact rather carefully, intelligently, and widely, we shall not be able to understand all that is implied in self-knowledge; and I think it is because most of us lack this understanding that we become so superficial in what we call our self-knowledge. I am going to play a little bit with the implication of that word `verb' - and I mean play, because unless one can play, one will never find out. Do you understand? Unless you are capable of laughter, real laughter, you don't know what sorrow is, you don't know what it is to be really serious. If you don't know how to smile, not merely with your lips, but with your whole being - with your eyes, with your mind and heart - then you don't know what it is to be simple and to take delight in the common things of life.
Surely, the verb, as well as the name of a thing, is dual. The name is never the thing. The tree, and the word `tree', are totally different. The symbol is never the fact, never the truth; but to most of us, the symbol has become more important than the tact. We never look at the tree without the word; and the word destroys our perception of the tree.
Do please listen to what I am saying, sirs. The word `crow' is not the living thing which disturbs us with its noise. But we get lost in the word, and thereby never examine the truth behind the word. So one has to separate the word, the name, from the thing; and one has also to understand the verb - which is much more complex and vital.
Take the verb `to love'. If you look at it very closely, you will see that you are not loving. All you can say is, "I have loved", or "I must love". You think in terms of what has passed, and of what is to happen, or should happen - the `before' and the `after'. You are never in the state of being, which is a living thing, the active present. This active present, which is implied by the verb, has no future, no past; and it seems to me of the utmost importance to understand this.
As I said, most of us are never in the state of being, we have always been, or we hope to be, so time as a process of becoming is a very important factor in our life. But there is an active present in which the `what has been', the `what is', and the ' what will be, are all included, they are not separate; and one has to understand this extraordinary state of being, this living, active present. Existence is not what has been, or what will be; existence is the now, in which all time is contained. And the important thing, in listening to what is being said, is to comprehend, if you can, this state of being in which all time is included - to be aware of it without effort, to capture its significance without saying, "I must understand".
Sirs, goodness is not of the past or of the future; it is a present state of which the mind must be totally unconscious. The moment you feel that you are good, you are no longer good. The man who strives to cultivate humility, is vain and stupid, because humility cannot be cultivated. Humility is a state of being; it is not a virtue to be cultivated - which is a horror. Cultivated virtue is always a horror; for when you cultivate a virtue, you have ceased to be virtuous. When you are trying to be non-violent, you are full of violence.
So, with this understanding of the verb, in which `being', `have been', and `will be' are all part of the active present, let us examine the nature of the self.
The self, the `me' is a centre of thought, a centre which is conditioned by experience, by knowledge. As the motor of the bus that brought you here, like every other complex machine, is a result of the knowledge and experience of many people, so the self is the expression of a collection of experiences, memories, and therefore it is essentially mechanical. I think this is important to understand. The self is not a spiritual entity at all; it is purely the result of habits, experiences, memories, influences, an expression of the collective tradition and all the rest of it. It is a process of thinking based on memory, on knowledge, on experience, and, therefore it is mechanical. Whatever it thinks - whether it thinks of God, or of a piece of machinery, or of a job - , it is still within the confines of its own limitations. When you talk about the higher self, the Atman, the soul, the indwelling God, and so on, it is merely a habit; you are repeating what you have been taught. The Communist has been taught not to believe in all this religious rot, so he will say there is no such thing as God, or the soul; it is all rubbish, a capitalistic invention.
So the self, the observer, the thinker, the experiencer, is not a spiritual entity; it is the mechanism of memory centralized as the `me', with its various limitations. This is a fact. But you object, because you say, "Is there not a spiritual world, something permanent beyond all this?" When, being caught in the actual fact of mechanical habit the mind speculates about something beyond, such a mind is obviously stupid. That is why it is very important to understand this mechanism of memory, of habit, which we call the self, the `me'.
Knowledge is mechanical. If you happen to be an engineer, your knowledge of engineering is something which you have acquired; and what you have acquired, learnt, becomes a habit. Whether you are an engineer, a scientist, a bureaucrat, or an office-worker, you establish a series of habits, and in those habits you are caught; your mind is held in the machinery of habit - in a habit of relationship, in a habit of thinking, in a habit of action.
Please, sirs, do watch your own minds. You are not merely listening to me, that is not important at all; but in listening to me, you are observing yourselves. And if you are in fact observing yourselves, you will see how the mind is caught in the machinery of habit. This is nothing to shudder or be anxious about, it is simply a fact; and the problem is to free the mind completely from I habit, so that it does not continue in the old pattern, or establish a new set of habits in the process of relinquishing or destroying the old. Habits, surely, imply a mind that does not want to be disturbed. As long as the mind wants to be secure - it does not matter whether it is an engineering mind, a mathematical mind, a scientific mind, a political mind, or the mind of a seeker after truth, whatever that means - , it inevitably falls into the groove of habit, and is unaware that it is running in a groove. So one has to become conscious of the fact that one's mind, because it is seeking pleasure, security, a sense of,non-disturbance, falls into a groove. just to be conscious, aware of this fact, is what matters - not how to break down a particular habit. The very desire to break down a habit, produces another habit.
Now, who is it that is aware: Who is the observer, the one who watches the operation of these habits? That is the question you will invariably ask, is it not? If you look very closely, you will see that there is no observer at all; it is merely one habit observing another habit.
Look, sirs: when you are in the very movement of an action, there is neither the observer nor the observed. When, for instance, you are very angry, in the full intensity of that feeling there is no separate entity who observes and tries to alter what is observed. Do you understand? The actual fact is that, in the moment of experience, there is neither the observer nor the thing observed.
Now, that state of experiencing, in which there is no observer and no observed, is the active present. So the question, then, is this: knowing that one's mind is caught in habit, how is one to bring about that state of awareness in which there is no observer? I do not know if I am making the problem clear. Let us approach it differently.
Where there is the observer and the observed, inevitably there is contradiction and conflict, is there not? When I observe somebody who is rich, and I want to be as rich, as comfortable, as free as he is, there is in me a conflict, a contradiction, an effort to be like that. So where there is the observer and the observed, there is a contradiction, a conflict, an effort to be or to become, which places a limitation on consciousness.
Sirs, this may sound rather difficult, but it is not. What is difficult is the word, the phrase; but the actual feeling, the actual experiencing of it, is entirely different.
Take knowledge, for instance. All knowledge is in the past. What the engineer or the scientist has learnt is in the past, Put away in his mind. What you have learnt is always in the past, which you use in the present towards a future. Now, if you observe, you will see there is a movement of knowing, which is different from knowledge. When you are in that movement, there is neither the observer nor the observed; there is only the movement of knowing. So, self-knowing is more important than self-knowledge. What you have stored up as knowledge about yourself, becomes a habit which prevents you from knowing the self as it actually is from moment to moment.
Look, sirs: I want to know myself; and the `myself' is a most extraordinary thing, if you observe it. It is never still; it is always seeking, wanting, denying, accumulating, accepting; it takes so many different forms of desire; it has so many thoughts, so many pursuits, so many frustrations, fears, hopes. The whole of that is the self, the `me' - the `me' that establishes a goal, the `me' that hopes or is in despair, the `me' that lusts after something, the `me' that loves, that feels sexual. It is a living thing, it is not static. And when the mind that is static with knowledge approaches this living thing, either it says, "I must not be like that", and tries to change it; or it says, "Yes, that is me, but what can I do about it?" This denial or acceptance, which is based on knowledge, becomes a habit. Whereas, the movement of knowing, which is the active present, is a process of discovery, of learning about oneself from moment to moment. Do you see the difference sirs?
You say, "I know my wife; but do you? What you mean is that you have an image of her based on certain ideas, on what you have learnt, observed. So what has happened? You have established this knowledge as a habit, and you say, "I know my wife". Do examine it, sirs. Can you ever say that you know a living human being, who, like yourself, is constantly undergoing a change, who is full of anxieties, fears, apprehensions, uncertainties? You can say that you know how to run a Diesel engine, or what a piston is, or how the jets work, because they are all mechanical. But you reduce all your relationships - with human beings, with nature, with ideas - to mechanical habits, because you find it very convenient to live in that state; you are far less likely to be disturbed. You say, "I know my wife" - and relegate her to the category of mechanical things. In the same way, when you say, "I know myself", it means that you have knowledge about yourself which has become a pattern or habit of thought. Whereas, if you really see the significance of the word `knowing', which implies the active present in which the past and the future are included, then there will never be either condemnation or mere acceptance of what is.
You see, I am trying to convey to you something which you have never thought about, and that is where our difficulty lies. Communication is always difficult, but more so when one is trying to say something to which very few have given any thought. Surely, you are learning something, are you not? In the very act of listening, you are learning. It is not a matter of collecting words, thinking about them later, and drawing a lesson from that in order to learn. Learning is an active process. As you are listening, you are learning; you are not accumulating knowledge.
Sirs, to learn about love, in the sense of understanding the meaning, the whole significance of it, you cannot approach it by saying, "I have had the experience of love, and I know what it is; because love is never still. The mind tries to Take love into a habit, to reduce it to a memory - and thereby destroys it. You cannot acquire knowledge about love. It is a living thing, and you can only be in it, learn about it every second, and therefore there is never a point at which you can say, "I know what love is". Such love is dead. Memories and recollections of love are ashes, they have no meaning at all.
In the same way, the mind can be in the movement of knowing about itself. In that movement there is no entity as the observer, the censor, and hence no contradiction, no effort to be or to become; therefore there is a living understanding of the mind as it is. There is no Atman, no censor who chooses, no approximation to a pattern, which creates authority. Do you understand, sirs? At one stroke you remove all that nonsense; therefore you free the mind from effort, from conflict. There is choiceless awareness. The mind is in a state of knowing, learning, being, which is the active present.
You see, sirs, our difficulty is that very few of you have really gone into this. Probably you are feeling sentimental and are being mesmerized by my words. But all this requires very precise thinking; it requires a certain clarity, great simplicity; and you can have that clarity, that simplicity, with its extraordinary vitality, only when you begin to understand that there is only a movement of knowing. All fixed knowledge about oneself is purely mechanical habit, which creates the censor, and therefore there is contradiction, conflict. Whereas, in the movement of knowing, the mind goes within itself, but not in terms of time; and this timeless movement brings about a quietness, a sense of peace. It is not the peace of imagination, nor the tranquillity of an intellectual mind that has built an ivory tower for itself, nor the quietude of a devotee who has handed himself over to some image, belief, or ideal. All such `peace' is dead, it is a form of stagnation. But if you begin to understand this living thing called the self, which is merely a centralized collection of various influences, then in that movement of knowing, which is the active present, you will find that the mind, being free of the censor, is also free of contradiction and conflict. To such a mind there comes a sense of total silence, complete peace; and it is only such a mind that is creative. Such a mind is not functioning merely from memory; it is completely empty of mechanical habit; and to such a mind there comes that which.is truth, the immeasurable. Truth never comes to a mind that is caught in its own cleverness, nor to a mind that is disciplined, desiccated, burnt up; nor does it come to the saints, to the leaders, to the merely virtuous. Truth, reality, which is the flowering of goodness, that sense of love, comes only to a mind that has entered into the understanding of itself.
January 17, 1960
Bombay 8th Public Talk 17th January 1960
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