Madras 7th Public Talk 13th December 1961
I would like this evening to talk about `death', if I may. But before we go into that, I think we should be able to approach it, not in the usually accepted traditional way. Perhaps we can come to understand it by directly experiencing it. But before we enter into it, we ought to understand, I think, `fear' - fear of old age, fear of disease and fear of loneliness, fear of the unknown. And before we explore those, we ought to understand also, I think, the question of effort.
All our life, we make effort of every kind - effort to arrive, effort to lose, effort to gain, effort to put aside, and effort to become and effort to deny. Everything we do is a process of effort, a struggle. And it seems to me that effort in any form perverts direct perception.
Is it possible to live in this acquisitive world - a world where everything is geared to struggle, where every form of competition, every form of achievement, success is encouraged - without struggle at all, without effort? And why do we make effort? If we do not make effort, what would happen? From childhood, we are trained to make effort, to compete consciously as well as unconsciously, to acquire, to gain. Why do we make effort? If we do not make effort, shall we stagnate? Is there not a way of living without effort? I think we should be able to understand this because what we arc going to discuss a little later this evening will not be fully understood, if we do not go into the question of effort. Is it possible to see something directly, to see something true and let that operate rather than we operate on that?
There is such a thing as `loneliness'. We are all very lonely. We may have many companions, friends, a family and we may go to the temple, to the church, occupy ourselves with innumerable things - our brains crowded with belief and dogma and the perpetual routine of office. And yet, beyond all these, there is a sense of loneliness and we try to escape from it in various ways, if we are at all aware of it. If we are not, then it is there waiting and on occasions it catches you up; then you turn to the radio, go to the temple, or talk, or do something to run away from this extraordinary feeling of isolation. You all know it. When you become aware of your surroundings, when you are inwardly searching, you must invariably come upon it. That is a fact and that makes us do all kinds of stupid and clever things, to run away from it.
Please, if I may, let me stop here for a minute and not continue with that particular thing, and point out that this is not a talk which you casually hear of an evening and go away to discuss the ideas - whether they are right or wrong, whether they are workable or not, whether they are practical or theoretical. I believe you are here not merely to follow what the speaker is saying but also, as you are listening, to uncover in yourself what is being said, to find out for yourself, actually experiencing, as we go along, that which is being said. And to experience something directly, one must neither reject nor accept. You cannot accept a challenge or reject a challenge; it is there whether you like it or not. You can respond inadequately to it and thereby increase suffering, confusion and misery; or you can respond to it totally and thereby wipe away the causes of misery. So, if you are merely listening to a lot of words - and there is no end to words - and if you are here merely to be entertained of an evening, then I say it will be an utter waste of your time. But if you could seriously, attentively go into the matter of what is being said, to really enquire, question, demand, then, perhaps you will find out for yourself not only what this loneliness is, but also perhaps you will be able to go even beyond.
Loneliness distorts, loneliness makes us attached, loneliness makes us compete, acquire, depend on others which you call `relationship'. And so it is important actually to go into this matter and see if we cannot wipe away this thing called `loneliness', this isolation. You can only do that if you can go into it, step by step, factually, not theoretically. And when you do that, you will find that you are aware that not only there is loneliness but also there is a great deal of fear with it. Now fear is not concerned with what actually is there, but with what might be there. Fear is the process of time. Fear is the way of thought. We know that there is such a thing as loneliness. We are afraid. We have already made up our minds or come to a conclusion that we cannot understand it, that live do not know or have the capacity to understand; therefore, live are afraid. We are not afraid if we are not directly in contact with something that may be a temporary, instantaneous reaction, but there is immediate attention to that which causes fear. You don't run away. So, similarly, when you are lonely, you have to look at it, to go into it and to understand it completely because if you don't understand it completely, you escape from it. And all the temples are filled with your gods and goddesses which have no meaning at all. All the Gitas, the rituals, the family, all relationship - these are of no avail if you don't understand this loneliness.
And, to understand loneliness, first you must understand the word `lonely'. The word is not the thing, the fact. So you must be aware of the word and not let the word frighten the approach - like the word `hate', like the word `fear', like the word `communist', like the word `God; they are just words. And to understand what is behind the word, one must be free of the word; the word must not engender, breed fear. So, if one wishes to understand what this loneliness is, one must first put aside the word; and I hope you are doing it. It is quite a difficult thing to do, to put away the word Gita, the Bible, because the Gita and the Bible have such an immense authority, such significance, such tradition which weighs you down. And that is the final authority - you cannot question it; if you question, you are irreligious. But to find out, you must tear down the Gita, the Bible, the word, every authority. You can only do that if your intent is to find out what is true, what is false - not just merely talking about words which have no meaning. So, if you can put away the word.and look at that thing called `loneliness', there is no fear, because then you are faced with the fact and not with the word which denotes the fact.
Please do this experiment with yourself as you are listening, and you will find how you are a slave to words. A mind that is a slave to words cannot go very far - like the word `Atman' or `Vedanta' or any of those words which have no meaning and which you just repeat. You have absolutely to tear everything down to find out.
You are just beginning to find out how to tear down. So, when thought is free of the word, then you can look. You can see what loneliness is, which is caused by many isolating self-centred activities. You may be married, have children, a family; and yet you are lonely. Therefore, your relationship with your family, with your neighbour, with your boss and all the rest of it, is self-centred. Because it is self-centred, there is always the fear of isolating, and the actual process of isolating yourself takes place, which ultimately results in this feeling of an extraordinary sense of loneliness. Now if you can stay with the fact, actually live with the fact that you are lonely, have cut off all avenues of escape - no more chatting, no more drink, no radio - and put away all the ugly gods the man has created, the saviours, the Masters, the gurus, then you are confronted with the fact, then you will be able to understand what it is and go through it. Then as you go through it, you come to quite a different thing - which is to be alone - , because when you have put away all those, then only is the mind free from all influence, from all tradition, from the various masks imposed by the mind upon itself through life and put away now; then only is the mind alone. And it must be alone, completely naked, stripped of all idea, of all ideals, beliefs, gods, commitments. Then you can take the journey into the unknown.
So, it is necessary to lay the foundation for enquiring into death. And also why do we make effort? Why can't we see things directly as things are? If I am stupid, dull-witted, heavy, as most of us are, insensitive, why can't I see, why can't I be aware of that fact? A dull mind does not become any brighter, sharper, cleaner, more useful by making an effort, because a dull, petty mind making an effort will still be dull and petty. But when the dull mind is aware of the fact that it is dull, when you are aware of the fact that you are dull - not the word, not because somebody has told you you are dull, but you are aware of the fact that your mind is asleep, insensitive - , then you will see that without effort, without struggle, without trying to become clever, sharp, sensitive, the very perception of the fact that the mind is dull, that very awareness begins to bring about sensitivity without your making any effort. Please listen to this. Because all your life is a dreadful struggle; from morning till night, you are fighting with somebody; all your relationships are resistance - battle, coming and going. When there is so little real life, so little joy, everything is a grief, a misery, a battle. And a mind that is in constant battle wears itself out, it is old before it begins to look around, it is already beginning to wither.
So do consider what is being said: that one can live in this world without effort - which is to look at the fact every minute of the day; at the fact and not what you think about the fact, because what you think is merely tradition, your information, your knowledge which you are trying to impose on the fact. The fact is never conditioned, but your mind is conditioned. Your mind is conditioned as Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Communist - all those stupidities that we are caught in, as a civilized people; not the villager; he is not caught in it, he is too poor a chap.
So, your mind is conditioned. With this conditioned mind that has imbibed tradition, that lives according to propaganda - either the propaganda of the Gita or the Bible or the newspaper, or of the Commissar - you try to understand the fact, and therefore create a problem out of the fact. But when you observe the fact, the fact does not create a problem, it is there. And so, a mind that is capable of observing the fact every minute, all the time, has no problem, and therefore it does not make any effort. There is no right effort and wrong effort; all effort prevents the understanding of the fact.
We are now going to enquire into `death', to question. As I pointed out the other day, you can question to try to find out an answer. Such questioning is based on reaction, because you want some kind of favourable, happy answer, because you have already some fear, or your fear has already dictated how to seek an answer. So your questioning is reaction, it is born out of reaction and therefore it is no questioning at all. There is a questioning without reaction - which is merely to question, not trying to find an answer. That very questioning opens the door through which you can find out, look, observe and listen.
So we are going to enquire into death - not to find out what the life is after death. Who cares? Do you care to continue your life, as you are now, the misery, the squalor, the quarrels, the ambition, the frustration and the enormous iniquity called morality? Do you want to continue that? So, we are going to enquire, to find out.
To enquire into a thing, you must never be satisfied, never seek a shelter. Obviously, the moment you find some satisfactory answer to your questioning, you are finished, you are no longer pursuing the enquiry, you have been sidetracked into a happy pool of contentment where you can decay happily. But to enquire means tearing down, tearing down your family, tearing down your ideas, tearing down everything to find out. And we are going to do that - I will do it, but you won't; because you have your family, because you have your ideas, so embedded that no bomb will break them up; even if there is a bomb, you take to a shelter and come back alive, to the same pattern of existence.
So we are going to enquire, not seeking an answer, because there is beauty in not seeking an answer, because then, every minute, you are living to find out what is actual, not what you think should be. So in enquiring, we must look into time. Death is time. Time is from here to there, the distance that needs time, the time to arrive, the time to gain, the time to cultivate the thing called virtue which you try to cultivate - every day, day after day, by repetition, by doing something over and over again, a habit which you call good. And that needs time.
And is habit virtue? The thing that you have cultivated day after day according to a pattern, projected by your own thought, by your race, by your family or by your guru, by society - is that virtue? Or, is virtue something entirely different? Is it not totally unrelated to time, something which you see immediately and which does not require cultivation or gradation or a gradual process of coming to be good, getting to be noble like the vain man struggling to have humility. A vain man can never have humility, do what he will. All that he can do is to die to vanity.
So, time is the time by the watch, the chronological time of yesterday, today and tomorrow, next year and so on. But there is another time, that is psychological time - "I will be", "I am going to become a big man", "I am going to have a big car, a big house", "I am going eventually to be non-violent". All that implies the psychological, inward time which is from here to there, inwardly the distance between what is and what should be.
Please go with me. I am not your authority, your guru, but just listen.
Is that time a fact at all, or is it an invention of a clever mind or a stupid mind - the idea that I will eventually reach God? Therefore many lives, therefore many races, many experiences; I cultivate slowly various virtues till I am made perfect - which all indicates the employment of time as a means of postponing the understanding of `what is', the fact. When you understand the fact that you are angry, the very understanding of the fact absolves you from time. Do enquire into this and you will see how extraordinarily simple this is and therefore of immense significance. So, the idea of employing time as a means of gaining, as a means of fulfilling, is erroneous, is a folly. You ought to have time to get home from here. You need to have time to learn a thing, to become an expert in some technique. There is mechanical time for acquiring knowledge, becoming proficient as a doctor, learning an electronic technique and so on. These are mechanical processes which need time. And there is no other time. If you see the fact of that, actually there is no time in the psychological, inward sense of that word. Then your whole outlook has undergone a tremendous mutation. Then you are not thinking in terms of arriving, achieving, becoming; psychologically, you have wiped away the whole sense of `becoming' - which is to get caught in sorrow, in misery, in confusion - all the travail of every human being. And we create time psychologically, by giving soil to the problem. Psychologically we have time because we do not know how to die to a problem - to die to a problem, not to continue it and carry it over to tomorrow. A problem is, as I said, existing only when you are not capable of looking at the fact. When you look at the fact, there is no problem, because you are dealing with something directly and therefore you eliminate time and the problem which is in time, which involves time.
So, in enquiring into, in questioning, what is death, we have to enquire surely, not what happens after, but what is death. You know very well you cannot argue with death. There is no argument. You cannot reason. It is an absolute finality. You may invent all kinds of things - that you will continue, that there is the `Atman' or the `higher self', that God will protect you; you invent a lot of theories which may or may not be facts. But it is absolutely final that you will die, whether you are young or old. Therefore, there is no question of arguing with it, you don't argue when death knocks at your door, you don't say, "Please wait a couple of days more, I have to see my family, I have to draw up my will, I have to settle my quarrel with my wife". There is no argument. But we argue with life, we cheat life, we play with life, we double-cross, we double-think, we do everything to cover up life. We can argue, we can choose, we can play around. We do not treat life as final as death. And if we do, then we have to deal with it every minute precisely, with decision - not postponement.
So, we have learnt the trick of playing, choosing, arguing, covering up, running away from life; and so we approach death with that same attitude. You can play with life, but you cannot play with death; it is there and you are gone - not that there is a life hereafter; that becomes so unimportant. And besides, those of you who believe in life hereafter, don't really mean it at all. If you meant it, you would instantly change everything of your life. Because you believe in karma, you say you will pay for it - just as you sow, so you will reap. You don't believe any of it because if you really felt it, if you are aware of the fact, you would not cover, even for one minute, the ugliness of your minds and hearts, the envies, the cruelties, the brutality; you would change, you would mutate immediately. So, your belief has no value at all.
So we have to deal with death. As I said, there is no argument. You can't argue with love, can you? Perhaps you do - which is to be jealous. Perhaps you don't love at all, you don't know what that means - because if you loved, do you know what would happen? You would have a different world, your children would be different - they would not pursue the pattern that you have set for them, the pattern of money, position, capacity, earning more and more and more, and becoming monstrously ugly, stupid. These are all what you are interested in when you talk about love - sex, children, and family. And in the family, you seek security for you in your old age; and, out of loneliness, you cling to your family, your sons, your daughters - you call that love, don't you? When you are concerned with yourself, you are frightened; and so you have no love, but you are lonely; and therefore there is fear of death.
Now to face death actually, not theoretically, you have to understand certain things. Obviously there is the death of the body. That you cannot help, unless some scientists or doctors invent a new drug which will make you last for fifty more years, to continue in the same misery, the same shallow, narrow, stupid existence, going to the office perpetually and breeding more children and educating them all in the same old pattern to carry on the filth of this civilization.
So the body will die - you have to accept that. And there is the fear of old age - getting old, forgetting, becoming blind, becoming deaf, having to have somebody to lean on; so you cling to the family, to the wife, to the husband - which you call love, which you call responsibility, duty, noble morality. Please follow this - not my words, but your own life. So the body will die. Now can't we also psychologically die to everything that we have known, because that means death, doesn't it? Don't you understand? To die to everything that you have known, to die to your family - this is very difficult for people to do because the family is such an extraordinary thing for most people; the family is their death.
So gradually we are afraid of death, the unknown, because you don`t know anything about death, you have never met it - except that you have met the body that is being carried to the burning ghat or to the grave; but you have never met death. You can meet death. And that is to die psychologically to your family, to your gods, to everything that you have gathered, to die every minute to every experience that comes and to live it and die to it - which means to live at a tremendous height, not knowing what is going to happen the next minute because you have completely wiped away fear, you are dead to everything that you have gathered; you are no longer a Hindu, you are no longer a lawyer, you no longer have a bank account, you are no longer related to anything, least of all to your family. When you cling to your family, you want them to be conditioned as you are. conditioned, you don't want them to change, you want them to have a good job, a good position, children and carry on the same pattern. So, when you die psychologically, inwardly to everything every minute of the day, then you will see that you can enter the house of death without fear. Then you know, while living, what death is, not during the last minute when you are almost unconscious, diseased, broken, unwilling.
But to live now and therefore die now, in full vigour, in clarity, means really tearing down everything that one has. built up in oneself, having no tradition, no experience, no capacity. And that is what you are going to have when you die - you have no capacity, you are left completely empty, though your thought may carry on. Thought is just words that have no meaning, a conclusion that may continue because you accept certain actions, certain vibrations, certain forces of being. Even to that you have to die; you have to die to your ideas, your experiences, your Masters, to everything.
You are afraid, not of death but of the known, of leaving the known, leaving your family, your son, your experiences, your bank account, the country which you are used to, the things that you have gathered as knowledge. And leaving. those behind - that is what frightens you, not the unknown. How can you be afraid of the unknown? Because you don't know anything of the unknown to be frightened. So one has to die to the known; that is quite an enormous task and you can only do that when you are facing the fact of what you are and not introducing opinions, judgments, evaluations, traditions, what you would like and what you would not like - putting aside all that and tearing all that down, and facing the fact of what you are. That means destroying - nobody wants to destroy. The revolutionary - the economic revolutionary, the social revolutionary - he wants to destroy buildings or the social structure as a reaction; and that action of the revolutionary produces another set of reactions, modified but in the same old pattern. But we are talking of death - not revolution - , a complete emptying of everything that one has known.
Then only, being free from the known, you can enter into the unknown - you don't have to enter then, it comes to you. Your mind then, being free of the known, will understand the unknowable. But you cannot come to it, because you don't know what the unknowable is - you only know what your Gita tells you, what your Bible or your guru or your thousand years of propaganda have told you. But that does not mean you know the unknown. You have to die to all that. Don't say, "It is not for me", "It is only the few that can do it". If you say that, that means you don't know what love is. You want love, you want sympathy, you want to understand this extraordinary thing called life and death. To understand it, to understand life which is death and death which is life, you have to tear down every psychological structure that you have built round yourself, round your family, round your security, round your hopes, desires and purposes. When the mind is completely empty of the things put together by the mind, by the brain, when there is freedom from thought, then there is the unknowable which is life, which is death, which is creation. They are not separate things. Death is not separate from life. Life is death because there is life only when you are dying, not when you continue in the same old pattern of stupid existence.
There is creation only when you destroy totally, right from the beginning to the end, destroy your Masters, your society, your commitments, all the attachments to your family, to your ideas, completely wipe them away and stand alone. You have to: that is death. Therefore it is also life. And where life is, there is creation which is destruction, which is life.
December 13, 1961
Madras 7th Public Talk 13th December 1961
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