London 1st Public Talk 5th June 1962
To understand what we are going to consider this evening, and on succeeding evenings, needs a clear mind, a mind that is capable of direct perception. Understanding is not something mysterious; but it requires, I think, a mind that is capable of looking at things directly, without prejudices, without personal inclinations, without opinions. Unfortunately, most of us are so heavily conditioned that we find it very difficult to understand directly, to see what is true immediately. I want to talk about something which is not easily explainable. But one has to use words, and words introduce a difficulty because they can be twisted in so many ways; and also the word is not the thing. The word is never the thing itself, it is only a means. It is or should be like looking through an open door. But if we merely stick to words, then we cannot proceed further, especially in matters which are not technical. It is fairly easy to explain a certain technique by using the corresponding set of technical words; but here we need a mind that is free to see things as they are, a mind that is capable of examining everything without the colouration of its own conditioning.
What I want to say this evening concerns an inward revolution, a destruction of the psychological structure of society, which we are. We are in ourselves the psychological structure of society. Society, with its ambitions, its envies, its pursuit of success, isn't merely the outward show of things. Society is much more inward, it is deeply rooted in each one of us. This psychological structure of society holds us, it shapes our minds, our thoughts, our feelings, and without completely destroying it in ourselves we cannot possibly be free to discover what is true. But the destruction of this psychological structure of society, which is you and me, does not come about through effort; and I think that is one of the most difficult thing for most of us to understand.
I am not using the word `understand' in any mystical or mysterious sense. You know, when you are relaxed, when you just listen and give your mind to something totally, you understand it fairly easily and quickly. But you are so used to making effort that when I talk about living without effort you find it very difficult to understand.
The psychological structure of society is what we are, what we think, what we feel, - the envy, the ambition, the everlasting. struggle of contradiction, both conscious and unconscious - and we are caught in that. To break through it, we think we must make a great deal of effort. But effort always implies conflict, contradiction, does it not? When there is no contradiction, there is no effort: you live. But there is contradiction, brought about by the psychological structure of the society in which we live; there is a conflict, a battle going on within each one of us all the time, consciously or unconsciously; and I feel that until this whole psychological structure is completely understood and broken through, we cannot possibly live a full life or understand that which is beyond the mind.
You see, the world is becoming more and more superficial. There is increasing prosperity throughout the world. There is the welfare state, and great progress is being made in many directions; but inwardly we have remained more or less static, pursuing the same old patterns, the same beliefs. We may alter our dogmas occasionally to suit circumstances, but we are living our lives very superficially. We are always scratching on the surface and never going below. And however superficially clever we are, however much knowledge or information we may have about so many things, until we alter completely, deep down, the whole psychological structure of our being, I don't see how we can be free and so be creative.
So I would like to consider with you this evening how to bring about a revolution, a psychological revolution, without effort. I am using the word `effort' in the sense of striving, trying to achieve or become something; of a mind that is caught in contradiction, that is struggling to overcome, to discipline, to conform, to adjust, to bring about a change within itself - I am using the word `effort' to cover all that.
Now, is it possible to bring about a total revolution without effort, not only in the conscious mind but also deep down, in the unconscious? For when we make an effort to bring about a psychological revolution within ourselves, it implies pressure, influence, a motive, a direction, all of which is the result of our conditioning.
You know, one can listen in many ways. You can listen, trying to interpret what another is saying, or comparing what is said with what you already know. You can listen with all the responses of your active memory. But there is only one way of really listening, and that is to listen without the chattering of your own thought.
I don't know if you have ever tied just listening to something, pleasant or unpleasant, without projecting your own process of thinking. It is difficult to do that, it is quite an art, because we are always comparing, judging, evaluating, condemning; we never simply listen. We never really see anything, because we immediately say it is beautiful or ugly, this or that. So perhaps this evening you will just listen, without agreeing or agreeing with what is being said, without projecting your own ideas or interpretations - which doesn't mean that you are being mesmerized. On the contrary. To listen demands complete attention. But attention is not concentration. When you concentrate you focus, you exclude, and this exclusion creates a barrier to listening. I am not saying anything extraordinary. You can experiment and find this out for yourself very quickly. When you listen with ease, without exclusion, you are listening to everything, not merely to the words, and you are also aware of your own inner responses. The words are then a means of opening the door through which you look at yourself.
So if during these talks you can listen in that way, then I feel the very act of listening will bring about a deep, fundamental revolution; because in that state of complete attention you will have already broken through your conditioning.
Our conditioning, conscious and unconscious, is very deep and heavy, is it not? We are Christians, Hindus, Englishmen, Frenchmen, German, Indians, Russians; we belong to this or that church with all its dogmas, to this or that race with its burden of history. Superficially our minds are educated. The conscious mind is educated according to the culture we live in, and from that, one can perhaps disentangle oneself fairly easily. It is not too difficult to put aside being an Englishman, an Indian, a Russian, or whatever one happens to be, or to leave a particular church or religion. But it is much more difficult to uncondition the unconscious, which plays a far greater part in our life than the conscious mind. The training of the conscious mind is useful and necessary as a means or earning a livelihood, or to perform a certain function - which is what our education is mostly concerned about. We are trained to do certain things, to function more or less mechanically in a certain way. That is our superficial education. But inwardly, unconsciously, deep down, we are the result of many thousands of years of man's endeavour; we are the sum total of his struggles, his hopes, his despairs, his everlasting search for something beyond, and this piling up of experience is still going on within us. To be aware of that conditioning, and to be free of it, demands a great deal of attention.
It isn't a matter of analysis, because you cannot analyze the unconscious. I know there are specialists who attempt to do that, but I don't believe it is possible. The unconscious cannot be approached by the conscious. I will show you why. Through dreams, through hints, through symbols, through various forms of intimation, the unconscious tries to communicate with the conscious mind. These hints and intimations require interpretation, and the conscious mind interprets them according to its conditioning, its peculiar idiosyncrasies. So there is never complete contact between the two, and never complete understanding of the unconscious. It is something that we don't quite know in its entirety. And yet without understanding and being free of the unconscious, with its burden of history, the whole long story of the past, there will always be a contradiction, a conflict, a battle raging within.
So, as I said, analysis is not the way to understand the unconscious. Analysis implies an observer, an analyzer apart from the analyzed. There is a division; and where there is a division, there is no understanding.
Now, this is one of our difficulties, perhaps our major difficulty: to be free of the whole content of the unconscious. And is such a thing possible? I do not know if you have ever tried to analyze yourself - to analyze what you think, what you feel, and also the motives, the intentions behind your thou and feelings. If you have, I am sure you will have found that analysis - cannot penetrate very deeply. It goes to a certain depth, and there it stops. To penetrate very deeply, one has to put an end to this process of the analyzer continually analyzing, and begin instead just to listen, to see, to observe every thought and every feeling without saying, "This is right and that is wrong", without condemnation or justification. When you do so observe, you will find there is no contradiction and therefore no effort; and therefore there is immediate understanding.
But to go very deeply into oneself, one must obviously be free of ambition, of competition, of envy, greed. And that's a very difficult thing to do, because envy, greed and ambition are the very substance of the psychological social structure of which we are a part. Living as we are in a world made up of acquisitiveness, ambition, competition, - to be entirely free of these things and yet not be destroyed by the world is really the problem.
If one observes, one is aware of how rapidly knowledge and technology are advancing in the world. Man will soon be able to go to the moon. Computers are taking over, and we ourselves are becoming more and more like machines, more and more automatic. Many of us go to the office day after day and are thoroughly bored with what we are doing, so we seek to escape from that boredom. And religion is a marvellous escape; or we turn to various forms of sensation and to drugs in order to feel more, to see more. This is going on throughout the world. We are in perpetual conflict, not only with ourselves but with others. All our relationships are based on conflict, on possession, on acquisitiveness, on force. And when the mind is caught in such conflict, in such despair and anxiety, I don't see how one can go very far. But one has to go far. One has to destroy the whole psychological structure of society within oneself - destroy it completely. That is really the crux of our existence. Because we do lead a most superficial life; and we try to penetrate deeply by reading, by acquiring knowledge, by gaining more and more information. But all knowledge, all information is always on the surface. So the question really is: how is one to live in this world without bringing about conflict, outwardly and especially inwardly? Because the inward conflict dictates the outward conflict. Only a mind that is really free of conflict, at every level, because it has no psychological problems of any kind - only such a mind can find out if there is something beyond itself.
Essentially our problem is not how to make more money, or how to stop the hydrogen bomb, or whether to join the Common Market - such problems are not very deep. They will be shaped and controlled by economic factors, by historical events, and by the innumerable pressures of sovereign governments, of societies and religions. What matters is to be capable of abstracting oneself from all that - not by withdrawing, not by becoming a monk or a nun, but by actually understanding its whole significance. One has to find out for oneself if it is at all possible to be completely free from the psychological structure of society - which is to be free of ambition. I say it is entirely possible; but it is not easy. It is a very difficult thing to be free of ambition. Ambition implies `the more; `the more' implies time; and time means arriving, achieving. To deny time is to be free of ambition. I am not talking of chronological time - that you can't deny, for then you will miss your bus. But the psychological time which we have created for ourselves in order to become something inwardly - that you can deny. Which means, really, to die to tomorrow without despair.
You know, there are clever people, intellectuals who have examined the outward processes of man. They have examined society with its endless wars, they have examined the churches with their beliefs, dogmas, saviours; and after doing so, they are in despair. Out of despair they have contrived a philosophy of accepting the immediate, of not thinking about tomorrow but living as completely as possible in the now. I don't mean that at all. That's very easy. Any materialistic, shallow person can do it, and he doesn't have to be very clever. And that's what most of us do, unfortunately. We live for today, and today is extended into many tomorrows. I don't mean that at all. I mean to deny ambition totally and immediately; to die psychologically to the social structure so that the mind is never caught in time, in ambition, in the desire to be or not to be something.
You know, death is a marvellous thing; and to understand death requires a great deal of insight; to die to ambition naturally, without effort; to deny envy. Envy implies comparison, success, the pursuit of `the more', you have more and I have less, you have a great deal of knowledge and I am ignorant. Can one end this process totally, instantly? One can end it, one can die totally to envy, ambition, competition, only when one is capable of looking at it without any distortion. There is distortion as long as there is motive. When you want to die to ambition in order to be something else, you are still ambitious. That's not dying at all. When you renounce with a motive, it is not renunciation. And inmost renunciations have behind them this motive to be, to achieve, to arrive, to find.
So it seems to me that we are merely becoming more and more clever, better and better informed. We are brought up on words, ideas, theories, knowledge, and there is very little empty space in the mind from which something can be seen clearly. It is only the empty mind that can see clearly, not the mind that's crammed with a lot of information and knowledge, nor the mind that's incessantly active, seeking, achieving, demanding. But a mind that's empty is not just blank. To be aware of an empty mind is extraordinarily difficult. And only in that emptiness is there understanding; only in that emptiness is there creation. To come to that state of emptiness one has to deny the whole social structure - the psychological structure of ambition, prestige, power. It is comparatively easy for older people not to be ambitious, to deny power and position; but such denials are very superficial. That's why it is so important to understand the unconscious. 'To understand the unconscious, that which is hidden and which you don't know, you cannot examine it with a positive, educated, analyzing mind. If you examine the unconscious by the conscious process of analysis, you are bound to create conflict.
Do please understand this, it is not very complicated. Our approach to any deep psychological problem is always a positive one. That is, we want to get at it, we want to control or resolve the problem, so we analyze it, or we pursue a particular system in order to understand it. But you can't understand something which you don't know, by means of what you already know; you can't dictate what it should or should not be. You must approach it with empty hands; and to have empty hands, or an empty mind, is one of the most difficult things to do. Our minds are so full of the things that we have known; we are burdened with our memories, and every thought is a response of those memories. With positive thought we approach that which is not positive, the hidden, the unconscious.
Now, if, without any idea, without expecting to be told how, you can simply listen to what is being said, then I think you will find that you are able to approach the unconscious - which has such power, such an extraordinary drive, compulsion - without creating contradiction, and therefore without effort.
Sirs, you don't have to accept my word for this, and I hope you won't, for then you would make me your authority, which would be a most ugly thing to do.
There is the unknowable, something far beyond the mind, beyond all thought. But you cannot possibly approach it with all your knowledge and memories, with the scars of experience, the weight of anxiety, guilt, fear. And you cannot get rid of these things by any effort whatsoever. You can be free of them only by listening to every thought and every feeling without trying to interpret what you hear; just listen, just observe and be attentive out of emptiness. Then you can live in this world untouched by its hatred, its ugliness, its brutality. You can function as a clerk, as a bus driver, as a bank manager, or what you will, without being caught in status. But the moment you bring to that function the psychological factors of ambition, authority, power,prestige, you cannot live in this world without everlasting sorrow.
Most of us really know all this. One doesn't need at all to listen to a talk of this kind. We know well enough that this is a terrible, brutal, ugly world, where every religion, every political faction is trying to shape man's thought; where the welfare state is making us more and more comfortable, dull, stupid, because we have used conflict as a means of becoming outwardly clever, bright. But inwardly we have not changed at all; we are carrying on as we have been for centuries: fearful, anxious, guilty, seeking power, seeking sex. We are perpetuating what is animalistic, which means that we are still functioning within the psychological structure of society.
The question is how to break that structure totally, how to destroy it completely and be out of it, without going insane and without becoming a monk, a nun, or a hermit. That structure can only be broken immediately, there is no time in which to do it. Either you do it immediately, or never. I am not using the word `never' to imply hell in the religious sense; but if you cannot understand, if you cannot pay complete attention now, will you be able to pay complete attention tomorrow? If you wait until tomorrow, you will still be unable to pay complete attention.
So attention is not a matter of time. Understanding is not a process of gradual growth till you arrive at understanding. That's why it is very important to know how to listen, how to see things as they are, how to look at a fact without opinion, without judgment, without condemnation; to see the fact that you are ambitious - just to see it as a fact without saying it is right or wrong, or asking what would happen to you in this world if you were not ambitious, and so on and so on. If you can simply look at the fact without distorting it, you will find this very observation of the fact not only removes the duality of the observer and the observed, which creates conflict, but also releases a great deal of energy. And you need energy. I do not mean the energy derived from conflict. Such energy is destructive. I am talking of the energy that comes into being when you see a fact totally, completely: that you are sensual, that you are ambitious, that you are envious, that you are afraid. And you cannot see the fact in this way if you are caught in words. Words are ideas; ideas are thought. To look at a fact totally, without distortion, there must be an empty space in the mind that looks.
Please don't misunderstand the word `empty'. You know, our minds are never quiet; they are always chattering, they are always theorizing, building, destroying and picking up again. But when the mind is very still, there is no time, no space; time and space disappear. There is no tomorrow, or the next second. That stillness of mind is total attention; and that attention is all virtue. That is real virtue; there is no other virtue, no other morality. Every other form of virtue or morality is brought about by the mind, by ambition, envy, which is the psychological structure of society.
To see the fact as it is, is the ending of every problem. When the mind is completely empty of every problem, - and it can be so empty - when it has denied every problem, when it no longer gives soil to any problem, then you will find, if you have gone so deeply, that there is something far beyond, something which the mind cannot measure and no religion can capture. And, living in this chaotic, confused world, it is essential to have such a mind - a mind that is capable of looking at everything clearly, sanely, seeing every fact as it is. Only such a mind is quiet, still, and it is only to such a mind that the immeasurable can come.
June 5, 1962
London 1st Public Talk 5th June 1962
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