Madras 3rd Public Talk 23rd December 1964
We will continue with what we were talking about the other day. We were saying that learning is far more important than the acquisition of knowledge. Learning is an art. The electronic brain and the computers can acquire knowledge, can give every kind of information; and these machines, however clever, however well-informed, cannot learn. It is only the human mind that can learn. We make quite a distinction between the act of learning and the process of knowledge. The process of knowledge is: gathering through experience, through various forms of impressions, through the impacts of society and of every form of influence; this gathering leaves a residue as knowledge; and with that knowledge, with that background, we function. Otherwise, without that knowledge, without all the technological knowledge that we have acquired through these many centuries, we cannot possibly function, we cannot know where we live, what to do. But the act of learning is a constant movement. The moment you have learnt, it becomes knowledge, and from that knowledge you function. And, therefore, it is always functioning in the present through the past.
Whereas learning is an action or a movement always in the present, without conformity to the past. I think one should understand this rather clearly, because otherwise it will lead us to all kinds of confusion when the speaker is going to go into wider things. Because learning is not listening with one's knowledge. If you listen with knowledge, with what you have learnt, then actually you are not listening, you are interpreting, you are comparing, judging, evaluating, conforming to a certain pattern which has been established. Whereas the act of listening is entirely different. There you are listening with complete attention in which there is no sense of conformity to a pattern, no comparison, evaluation or interpretation; you are listening. You are listening to those crows - they are making a lot of noise; it is their bed-time. But if you listen with irritation, because you want to listen to what the speaker is saying, if you resist the noise of those crows, then you are not giving complete attention; your mind is divided. Therefore, the act of listening is the act of learning.
One has to learn so much about life, for life is a movement in relationship. And that relationship is action. We have to learn - not to accumulate knowledge from this movement which we call life, and then live according to that knowledge, which is conformity. To conform is to adjust, to fit into a mould, to adjust oneself to the various impressions, demands, pressures of a particular society. Life is meant to be lived, to be understood. One has to learn about life; and one ceases to learn, the moment one argues with life, comes to life with the past, with one's conditioning as knowledge.
So, there is a difference between acquiring knowledge and the act of learning. You must have knowledge; otherwise you will not know where you live, you will forget your name and so on. So at one level knowledge is imperative; but when that knowledge is used to understand life - which is a movement, which is a thing that is living, moving, dynamic, every moment changing - , when you cannot move with life, then you are living in the past and trying to comprehend the extraordinary thing called life. And to understand life, you have to learn every minute about it and never come to it having learnt.
The life that most of us lead in society is to conform - that is, to adjust our thinking, our feeling, our ways of life, to a pattern, to a particular sanction or mould of a civilized society - a society that is always moving slowly, evolving according to certain patterns. And we are trained from childhood to conform - conform to the pattern, adjust ourselves to the environment in which we live. And in this process there is never learning. We may revolt from conformity but that revolt is never freedom. And it is only the mind that is learning, never accumulating - it is only such a mind that moves with the constant flow of life.
And society is the relationship between human beings, the interaction between human beings. It has established certain patterns to which, from childhood, we are made to conform, adjust, and in this conformity we can never be free. Society establishes a certain authority, certain patterns of behaviour, of conduct, of law. It never helps man to be free; on the contrary society makes man conform, respect, cultivate the virtues of that particular society, fit into a pattern. And society never wants him to be free; it does not educate him to be free. All religions are part of society, invented by man for his own particular security, psychologically. Religions as they are now organized, have their dogmas, their rituals; they are ridden with authority and divisions. So religions too do not want man to be free - which is a fairly obvious thing.
So, the problem is, is it not?, that there must be order in society. You must have order; otherwise you cannot live - order being efficiency, order being that every citizen co-operates, does his utmost to fulfil his function without status. That is order - not what society has created, which we call order, which is status. Function gives him status; function gives him prestige, power, position. And in the battle of this competitive society, there are laws to hold the man in order.
So the problem is: there must be conformity - that is to keep to the right side of the road when you are driving - and also there must be freedom; otherwise society has no meaning. Society does not give man freedom; it may help him to revolt - and any school boy can revolt! To help man to be free and understand this whole problem of conformity; to help him to conform and yet not be a slave to society; to conform to the norm, to the pattern, to adjust himself to society and yet maintain that extraordinary sense of freedom - that demands a great deal of intelligence. Man is not free, even though he has lived two million years. Unless man is free, there will be no end to sorrow, there will be no end to the anxiety, to the misery, to the appalling poverty of one's own mind and heart.
And society is not at all concerned about this freedom, through which alone man can discover for himself a new way of living - not according to a pattern, not according to a belief, not according to knowledge; but from moment to moment, flowing with life. But, if man is not free, in the deep sense of that word, not in the sense free to do what he likes - which is too simple and idiotic - but to be free from the society which has imposed on him certain conditions, which has moulded his mind, then he can live for another two million years or more, and he will not be free from sorrow, from the ache of loneliness, from the bitterness of life, from all the various anxieties that he is heir to.
So, the problem is: Is it possible for man to conform and yet be free of society? Man must conform, must adjust himself: he must keep to the right side of the road for the safety of others, if he is riding; he must buy a stamp to post a letter; he must pay the tax if he has money; and so on. But conformity, for most of us, is much deeper: we conform psychologically, and that is where the mischief of society begins. And as long as man is not free of society, not free of the pattern which society has established for him to follow, then he is merely moral - moral in the sense he is orderly in the social sense, but disorderly in the virtuous sense. A man who follows the morality of a particular society, is immoral, because that only establishes him more and more, makes him more and more a slave to, the pattern; he becomes more and more respectable and, therefore, more and more mediocre.
A man who is learning, is understanding, as he lives, the whole function of society, which is: to establish right relationship between man and man, to help him to co-operate, not with an idea, not with a pattern, not with authority, but to co-operate out of affection, out of love, out of intelligence. He is also understanding the heightened sensitivity of intelligence. And intelligence is only that heightened sensitivity which has nothing whatsoever to do with experience, with knowledge, because knowledge and experience dull the mind. You know, you may pass a tree every day of your life. If you have no appreciation of the extraordinary shape of a branch, or of a leaf, or of the nakedness of the tree in the winter, or of the beauty of the sunset, or if you are not in total communion with the squalor, with the evening sunset, or with the reflection of the palm tree on the water, then, such a mind is a dull mind, however moral, however respectable, however conforming to society it may be. And such a mind can never be free. And it is only the mind that learns as it lives, every day, every minute, in the movement of life, of relationship which is action - it is only such a mind that can be free. The mind must be free - free from conflict, free from the self-contradiction that exists in man. The self-contradiction that exists in man produces everlasting conflict within himself and with his neighbour; and this conflict is called moral, because this conflict helps the human being to conform to the pattern which society has established
So conformity and desire have to be understood. Desire is unfulfilled appetite. That is what desire is - an appetite which has not been given full rein. And society says: Hold it, suppress it, guide it, control it, sublimate it! The religious side of society says: Do various forms of discipline; suppress in order to find God; be a celibate; go to a monastery; do everything, but control your desires! And, thereby one establishes within the psyche, within one's own being, this contradiction, this dual existence - desire which wants to fulfil, which is battling, boiling, longing; on the other hand the sanction of religion, of society, which says. "You must hold, control, suppress, sublimate". So there is a contradiction; and also society says, "You must conform".
Now, what is desire? And what gives continuity to desire? Please follow this. Otherwise you will misunderstand it totally; you will say, "The speaker is encouraging appetite, asking people to indulge in their desires, in their impulses, in their longings". You will anyhow indulge, whether you listen or do not listen; you will surreptitiously, secretly, fulfil your desires in spite of your society, and therefore increase your contradiction, increase your frustration!
So we are going to learn by enquiring into this whole matter of desire. Desire means the urge to fulfil appetites of various kinds, that demand action - the longing for sex, or to become a great man; the desire to possess a car, or to possess a house. We are going to go into that. What is desire? If you are asking, "What is desire?", it would be very difficult for you to answer. Desire is not desire for something. We are not talking about desire for something; but about desire itself: how it arises and what gives it continuity. Do you understand? We are not talking about the fulfilment of desire in various forms; but we are talking about the nature, the meaning of desire itself, and what gives it the continuity that keeps it on endlessly. I have fulfilled there and I have moved from one fulfilment to another fulfilment, to another demand, to another appetite, endlessly.
Sirs, may I request you not to take notes because you are not at school. You are listening, not listening to take notes. You are listening to find out for yourself as you are sitting there. To find out is to expose yourself to yourself, to find out what your desire is, how it arises, the nature of it, the meaning of it, and what gives it continuity. But if you are taking notes, you cannot listen and at the same time take notes. To listen you have to give your complete attention. If you love something, you listen - don't you? If you love your child, your wife - probably you don't love; therefore you don't know what it is to listen - , if you love somebody, if you love that tree, that bird intensely, you would listen; you would listen to the whisper, to the wind, to every movement of the leaf and the flutter of the leaf. If you love your child, you would watch all his moods, his temperament, his naughtiness, his playfulness, the joy, the curiosity, the brightness. So to learn is to love - not tomorrow, not, having taken the notes, to go back and study the notes. Love is always in the present; it is not a memory; it is not the photograph which you have in your room and which you look at occasionally - that is not love; that is the dead memory of things that have been. You can only listen endlessly. And to listen endlessly, there has to be that affection, that flame that destroys the past.
So, what is desire? You see a beautiful house or a nice car or a man in power, position; and you wish you had that house, you were that man in position, or you were riding amid applause. How does that desire arise? First, there is the visual perception - the seeing of the house. The "you" comes much later. The seeing of the house, that is visual attraction, the attraction of a line, the beauty of a car, the colour and then that perception.
Please follow this. You are doing it, not I. I am giving words, explaining, but you are doing. We are sharing the thing together. You are not merely listening to what the speaker is saying; therefore you are observing your own movement of thought as desire. There is no division between thought and seeing; they are one movement. Between thought and desire, there is no separate thing - which we will go into presently.
So there is the seeing, the perceiving, which creates sensation; then there is the touching; and then the desire - the desire to possess - to give to that sensation continuity. This is very simple. I see a beautiful woman or a man. Then there is the pleasure of seeing, and the pleasure demands continuity. So I think; there is thought born out of it. And the more thought thinks about that pleasure, there is continuity of that pleasure or of that pain. Then, where there is that continuity, the "I" comes in - I want, I don't want. This is what we all do, all day, sleeping or waking.
So, one sees how desire arises. Perception, contact, sensation; then giving to that sensation continuity; and that continuity to sensation is desire. There is nothing mysterious about desire. Now the desire becomes very complicated when there is a contradiction, not in the desire itself but in the object through which it is going to fulfil. Right? I want to be a very rich man - that is, my desire says that I must be very rich, because I see people with property, a car and all the rest of it. Desire says: I must have, I must fulfil. And also there is a part of me which is conditioned by society and which says, "To find God, to live a noble life, to be a sannyasi, you must give that up". And so there is a contradiction - which means I must conform to society through competing, through battling with my neighbour to get on the top of the heap; and also society says that, to find whatever it calls "God", I must deny that. So, it tells me that, on the one hand, I must be a sanyasi - a respectable sannyasi always! - and, on the other hand, I must also be a respectable citizen: which is to compete; and competition means killing my neighbour, not physically but by doing everything to destroy him, to get his position or go beyond it.
So, in me, there is a contradiction created by society, because desire wants to fulfil itself through so many things - to be famous; to find God; to live happily; to live amidst a sense of great beauty, loveliness and perfume, with a moment which is without the past, without regret, without anxiety; to live with a sense of great ecstasy; to live with beauty endlessly, with joy. Desire wants to fulfil itself in every direction; the objects of fulfilment are very attractive, but each object contradicts the other.
So we live, conforming, battling, fulfilling and being frustrated. That is our life. And to find God, the so-called religious people, the saints, the popes, the monks, the nuns, the social-service people, the so-called religious people say, "You must suppress; you must sublimate. you must identify yourself with God so that desire disappears; when you see a woman, turn your back on her; don't be sensitive to anything, to life; don't hear music, don't see a tree; above all, don't see woman! And so that is the life of the mediocre man who is a slave to society!
Without understanding - understanding, not suppressing - desire, man will never be free of conformity or of fear. You know what happens when you suppress something? Your heart is dull! Have you seen the sannyasis, the monks, the nuns, the people who escape from life? How frigid, how hard, virtuous, saintly they are, living in tight discipline! They will talk everlastingly about love; and inwardly they are boiling; their desires never fulfilled or never understood; they are dead beings in a cloak of virtue!
What we are saying is something entirely different. Life is both challenge and response, and response means reaction. To react is to respond quickly to the beauty of a tree, to the sound of an instrument, to a lovely voice across the river; otherwise you are dead to respond. And if that response is pleasurable, you want more; if it is painful, you want to escape. So, when you suppress, sublimate, identify the desire with something extraordinarily noble, such identification, such suppression, such control, such denial, makes the mind dull and the heart insensitive.
So, one has to find out, learn, about desire - learn, not what to do about it, not how to throttle it. And one of the most unfortunate things that has happened to this country is the innumerable saints it has had, who have said, "Suppress desire, suffocate it, destroy it". That is why you never look at a tree; that is why, to you, love is sex. You admit the squalor, the poverty, the disgrace, because you are conforming to the pattern set by these saints who have never gone beyond their own conditioning.
So one must understand desire. To understand something is not an intellectual process or a verbal process. To understand something you must come to it with freshness, with an eagerness, with affection. Do you understand? If I want to understand you, I must come - not with my prejudice, not with my opinions, not with my things which I have gathered: I must come to you fresh. And to be fresh there must be a quality of deep sympathy and affection - not in some distant future, but now. Because you are burning with desire - not only to be rich, but to arrive at heaven, to come to that state of bliss. Unless one understands desire, one will always be in conflict, in frustration, in anxiety.
We see how desire arises, which is quite simple. And then we have to find out what gives continuity to desire. That is the really important question - not how desire arises. We know how desire arises. I see something beautiful, I want it. I see something ugly, painful; that reminds me of all kinds of things; I put it away. One becomes aware of the arising of desire; but one has never gone into - at least most of us have not gone into - the question of what gives it continuity and what brings, in that continuity, contradiction. If there was no contradiction - which is the battle between the good and the bad, between the pain and the pleasure, between fulfilment and frustration - if there was not this contradiction in desire and continuity in desire, if there was an understanding of that, then desire would have quite a different meaning. Then desire would become a thing of flame, would have a quality of an urgency, a beauty, a tremendous response - not a thing to be frightened of to be destroyed, to be suffocated, to be denied.
So what gives desire continuity? You are listening to the horn of that car; it is stuck. It is making a noise, you do not like it. You wish it would stop, but your mind is there. And when that has stopped just now, you feel the relief! And what has given that irritation? What has brought about that irritation between that continuous noise and the act of listening to the speaker? What has brought about this irritation? The desire to listen quietly. You want to listen to the speaker and that noise is irritating, interrupting. There, it is painful, you don't want it, you don't like it. But, if you saw a beautiful house, a beautiful woman, or a handsome man, or a lovely tree, then the sight of that has awakened a desire, and you want that desire to continue! Please observe your own processes. You are not merely listening to the speaker. The speaker is not at all important; what is important is to understand your own desire and how it brings about conformity, contradiction and agony - the despair of desire.
So you see desire has continuity through thought. That is, there is the perception of a house, the sensation; that sensation, thought thinks about and gives it a continuity which becomes a desire. And that desire identifies itself with the thought, which says, "It is me; that, I want". Please follow all this, step by step. It is very simple and clear. So thought gives continuity to desire. And without understanding the whole machinery of thinking, merely to suppress desire - it does not matter who tells you - is infantile, is immature.
So we have to go into that question of thought as a process of time - time as duration, time as existence, the existence of desire. Because it is desire that accumulates the pattern as memory, to which we conform. So conformity, desire, thought and time are interrelated. Without understanding the one you cannot possibly understand the rest. That is why we began by talking about conformity, how we conform endlessly, not only because we are so frightened to bring disorder in ourselves, but because of society which has made disorder disrespectable and so on.
So there is conformity, and there is this desire which says, "I must conform". And to that desire time gives a continuity, which is thought. So they are all extraordinarily interrelated. And if you don't understand them, you will not be able to go any further. And we have to go very much further. Because life is a movement, and to follow that movement, you must have energy - an energy which knows no conformity; an energy which has never touched conflict; an energy which is not the product of thought with all its resistances, contradictions; an energy which is not the slave of time: time, which is gradualness, "I will get it".
So unless it understands this whole movement of desire as conformity, as thought, as time, the mind cannot see itself. And it is only the free mind that is the religious mind. And it is only the religious mind that can solve all our problems - not the politicians, not the leaders, not the dictators, not any political or economical solution. It is only the religious mind that has understood this whole process and therefore has understood conflict, that can release that energy which is spotless. And it is only that energy that can reach the Highest.
December 23, 1964
Madras 3rd Public Talk 23rd December 1964
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