Talks in Europe 1968 Amsterdam 1st Public Talk 11th May 1968
THERE ARE MANY problems both inward and outward. The outward problems are the economic, the whole world of computers, the mechanical relationship between man and the machine. Outwardly there are the political problems, and inwardly we have many psychological problems. Inside the skin as it were, there are the problems of man's relationship to man, not only his own relationship with himself but also with his fellow human beings. We have broken up these many problems as political, economic, social and psychological. We don't seem to be able to grapple with them all as a total unit, but only separately. We treat political problems on their own level, and religious problems as something entirely different and the economic problems as different again.
So one wonders - and I'm sure you've also asked yourselves - if it is at all possible to understand all these many issues of life totally, as from one source and not broken up into many fragments. Is it at all possible for human beings to resolve all these problems, not gradually but immediately, so that the mind is completely free from all the travails, all the pressures, from the many influences, destructive as well as constructive. And is it at all possible for man to be free from all problems, so that he can live totally, in a different dimension, with a different mind and heart. I wonder if one has asked these questions of oneself and whether these problems have not one common source, if they do not stem from one central basic issue? Or are they all fragmentary issues, each to be solved separately? There is also the problem of the individual as opposed to the community, the society, the society suppressing or controlling the individual: whether there is such a thing as individuality at all, or is there only the collective, the mass? If you observe yourself, I'm quite sure you will see that what you call the individual is the world, is the other human being, is the society, the community, the culture in which you have been brought up. You are not separate at all. You are part of this whole social, economic, cultural background; so you call yourself a Dutchman or an Englishman or an Indian. That is, as an individual you are part of that whole culture, the whole tradition, inwardly. Outwardly you may have your differences but actually, deeply within the structure of thought and feeling there is no individuality, but a collective memory, a tradition, a racial residue. And one sees that the division between the individual and the community, the mass, is really utterly false. There is only a human being, whether he lives in Russia, or here, or in America or Vietnam. We are human beings. And as human beings we have these many problems.
And is it at all possible for a human being to be entirely free from all problems so that he can flower in goodness, in beauty? Can a human being, living not as an European or an Asian (it does not matter in what part of the world), can he ever be free? If he is not free, he is everlastingly a slave to machinery, to society, to all the complex problems of existence. That is one of the major problems of life, whether it is at all possible for a human being (you and me as human beings living in this world) in a very complex society, to be completely free. So that our minds can look and have a different relationship, look with clarity, with a sense of otherness.
Can a human being establish for himself his relationship with reality? That is what man has been seeking for thousands of years - the reality which you may call God or give any other name to. Man has everlastingly been seeking that. And that is one of the essential questions man has to ask himself, otherwise life has no meaning whatsoever. To go to the office, to work in a factory, to see that all mankind has food, clothes and shelter - and then what? Is all life mechanical, a routine? Can we as human beings establish for ourselves an actual relationship with reality - not imaginary, fictitious, mythical, romantic - but actual? A relationship with reality: that is one of the basic questions we must ask. Because as one observes, the world is becoming more and more mechanical. The computer is taking charge of everything. And if we do not find out for ourselves with sanity, with reason, what is our relationship to that immense thing that man has sought, to that immeasurable reality, obviously our life is empty. Though you may get plenty of water from the tap, though life can be organized extensively to live comfortably, so that each one of us has food, clothes and shelter, unless one finds that, life becomes utterly meaningless, empty. And that's one of our basic essential questions. We must ask and find out for ourselves, not depending on anyone, on no priest, on no religion, on no belief, on no leader, no guru, no teacher. Because if we depend on another we're not free; dependence breeds fear, authority.
So this is an essential question that must be asked, whether you are a Communist or a Socialist or belong to some organized religious group. We are going to ask and not find an answer - all answers are merely verbal - but just examine it, be involved in it totally. Then we may come upon that reality and establish a total relationship with it. And the other question, equally essential, is what is man's relationship to man. Whether there is any such relationship or must we live in isolation within a self-centred activity, in separateness? And when there is separateness between man and man there must be conflict, war. Yet another question is - which again man has tried to understand for thousands of years - what is love and what is death?
So these are the fundamental questions we are going to ask. We are going to ask them of ourselves and not rely upon another to tell us the answers. There is no answer from another - there is only a communion and in that communion one may find out the actual state for oneself.
Before we enter into the first question which is, what is man's relationship to reality and is there such a thing as reality, I think we must find out for ourselves what it is to listen? Because we feel overburdened with the whole complex problem of life with all its stresses and strains - with the extremely subtle, mechanical way of life bred by this complex process of analysis, the discovery of the cause and trying to overcome the cause - with the complex process of relationship, the greed, the envy, the brutality, the violence, the assertion of non-violence (which again breeds further aggression) the fears, the guilt, the whole human structure. Is it at all possible to put all that aside immediately so that the mind is completely new, untouched, so that it can look at the heavens, the skies, the stars, the trees, the light on the water, as though it were seeing the beauty of it for the first time? I think it comes - when one knows how to listen. Man has tried in so many ways to get rid of himself and his many problems. He has withdrawn into monasteries, he has committed himself to a particular course of action - political, religious, social or personal. He has tried to forget himself and identify himself with something greater as the nation - or in social work, doing good to others - or to identify himself with an idea, with an ideology, with a saviour, a master, a guru, so that he can forget this agonizing, immensely complex existence.
We have tried all that, but there may be a way to push it all aside with one breath, with one look. And there is. There is a way of looking, a way of hearing, seeing, so that all these problems no longer affect the mind, distort clarity. - how to see a tree, the sky, how to see ourselves as we actually are, without any distortion, without any fear, without translating it into some ideology. To hear the wind among the trees, to hear the voice of another, to see the danger of a life that is divided, made into fragments, to see all that, at one glance! To see it is to act and therefore to put it all aside and be a human being who is totally transformed.
And so, what we are going to discuss together during these talks is going to be hard work on your part. You are not merely listening to a series of words or ideas, because we are not indulging in words, in theories; but we are actually going to be involved. To be actually involved means work. Therefore the responsibility of this work is on you, as a human being. You might ask: `As a human being, if I change totally, if there is a complete mutation, what good will it do to society, to another man? What good will it be to drink at a fountain that quenches all thirst? What value has it in a corrupt society?' I think that is a wrong question. When you put a wrong question you inevitably get the wrong answer. When you put such a question it indicates - does it not - that you are not concerned with a human being as he is; not concerned with bringing about a transformation within the human being who is the collective, the individual, the mass, the whole world. When a human being puts that question to himself - `what can he do in a world that is so corrupt, so violent, so brutal?' - there is no answer. But if a human being brings about this transformation within himself, then that is the most important thing in life - not the result, not how it will affect another. The cloud with the light of the sun, or the flower on the roadside, is not thinking about what good it is to another; it is there, full of beauty, loveliness, and it is for man to look and see with the fullness of his heart.
So let us take, if we may, the first essential question: man's relationship to reality, if there is such a reality. To assume that there is or is not a reality, to assume either is the same. To say it is impossible that such a reality should exist, or to say it is impossible for man to come upon that reality, to make either statement is to block oneself. If you say, `I doubt if there is a reality,' you've already hindered yourself from examining, from looking, from observing. Or if you say that `there is', you've also prevented yourself from looking, from examining, from coming upon that loveliness. So to accept or to deny is to block oneself. What is necessary is freedom from both - freedom from belief that there is a God, a reality, an immeasurable something, as some saints or teachers have asserted. The moment you say `there is', it is not. The moment you say `I know', you do not know. All you can do is to be free from `believing' and `not believing', so that the mind is capable of freedom, so that it can look, observe.
So you must first examine this question, which man has asked for millennia: he has asked whether his life is only a conflict, a battlefield, misery, with an occasional flash of joy. Is all life violence, brutality? - there must be something else. And in asking this, he has caught himself up in imagination, in some fancy wrought out of his own conditioning.
So to find out if there is a thing that is imperishable, that is not to be put into words, one must first be free of all belief. That means to be free of all religious organizations. And apparently that is one of the most difficult things for man - not to have any belief in anything. But to arrive at this, not out of cynicism or out of despair, but because one can observe how through the propaganda of two thousand years in the West and perhaps five thousand years and more in the East, man has been conditioned to believe in a saviour, in ritual, dogma, a church, - to accept. And when you accept you are violent; when you obey you bring about aggression. You can see this happening when the whole world is divided, not only into nationalities but also into religious groups such as the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Muslim, each with its own dogma, with its own ritual, with its own belief, its own nonsense. When you believe you are against another belief, therefore you separate yourself and this separation breeds antagonism, though you may pretend to be tolerant; that is an intellectual feat that has no validity at all.
So a man who would find that reality (or not find it) must be completely free - psychologically deeply within himself - of the influence of the word, propaganda, the symbol. Because when you believe, there is fear behind that belief. Belief is unnecessary for a mind that is free and it is only in freedom that you can look; to examine anything - a political system, an article you read in a newspaper, or to listen to the talk that is now going on - you must be free to listen. If you are not free, you merely accept or deny. And when you do accept, what value has it? Or when you deny, what significance has it? But if you are free, that is free from prejudice, free from your own particular conclusions, dogmas, prejudices, free from your particular experiences, knowledge, then you can listen, then you can observe.
So, a mind that is not free - which means freedom from fear - is utterly incapable of coming upon this reality - if there is such a reality. Because one must have tremendous scepticism, doubt. To doubt, to question, not to accept the whole social, economic, religious structure, the established order (which is essentially disorder) means that there must be no fear within oneself. To find out for oneself there must be freedom from fear. Most human beings have never gone into this question deeply within themselves. They have never asked whether it is at all possible to be completely free of fear at all levels of our existence; at the political, economic level and also inwardly in all relationships. To find out about this corroding fear there must be no escape. You know, it is one of the most difficult things not to escape, not to avoid. One is fully aware of one's own fears, and we have developed a network of escapes, from the most simple to the most complex. When one is afraid, one wants to get rid of this fear, one wants to put it aside. And you do it by turning on the radio, taking a drink or reading a novel, or by going to church or committing yourself to a particular course of action: anything rather than face that absolute reality of fear.
To face that reality of fear, every form of escape must come to an end; not gradually but immediately. That is the whole meaning of existence: to end something immediately and not carry it over to the next day or the next minute. And that is only possible when you can see the fear, actually feel that fear completely, without any escape or without any desire to run away from it or to translate it or to get rid of it - when you actually look at it.
You know what fear does. When you are afraid of something you cannot think clearly - it becomes dark, like living in a chamber without light. I am sure most of us have experienced this fear. We have accepted it, that part of our existence which is not natural. That is the result of the society in which we live, each man seeking his own security, and so building a society which assures an outward security. This very assurance of outward security creates divisions. Those who are not secure and those who are secure, those who have and those who have not. So there is a battle, there is war and the very thing that you sought after - which is to be secure - is denied. When you have separate flags and all the confusion of different nationalities, governments, armies and the butchery that is going on, that is the result of the deep fear of human beings. We don't realize our individual human responsibility for the war that is going on in Vietnam. We are responsible for it, each one of us, not the Americans, not the Vietnamese, not the Communists, but each one of us, because our life is one of conflict, our life is a battlefield. We are Dutchmen, we are Catholics, we are Hindus, we are Muslims, we are God knows what else, living in a separate compartment, isolated, unapproachable. And naturally when there is division there must be conflict and that is what happens in human relationships, between husband and wife, between your neighbour and yourself; there is this division, this separation, this self-isolating self-interest. We all know this. And yet we accept it, we go on. We talk about non-violence and sow the seed of violence all the time. This is part of that fear.
You listen to a statement of that kind and you say, `Yes, we are afraid; you know fear consciously or unconsciously. What actually takes place when you hear this? Do listen, please, and observe yourself. What actually takes place when you hear that you are really afraid of life? Fear. What is your actual response to it as a human being? Obviously the first is, you don't know what to do with it. All we do know is how to avoid it, how to overcome it, how to suppress it, how to control it, how to forget it. But that is no answer. It is there, like a festering wound. We don't know what to do. And that is the first thing to realise - we don't know what to do with something to which we have become so accustomed. It has become part of our life, this thing called fear. And a mind that is afraid must have belief, must have every form of escape. So the first thing is to know that one is afraid and not escape.
When you listen to this, does it mean anything at all? Because as we said, a mind that is afraid can never find light. It may invent a thing called `light' out of fear, imagine a heaven or hell out of its own darkness. But fear still remains. So these two things are involved, freedom to look, to observe clearly, and yet there is no capacity to look when there is fear. Is it at all possible for human beings, living in a very complex society, to be free of fear completely at all levels of their being? We are going to find out, not through ana- lysis, not through speculation but actually come into contact with the thing called fear. I doubt very much if anyone of us has actually come into contact with it, contact in the sense of touching it. You know, to be in contact with something means to be sensuously aware, to touch, to feel it, to smell it, to taste it; only then you are in communion with it, when you are related to it. I doubt whether one is actually in contact with any fear, though you may be in contact with it after it is over.
So to understand this question of fear is to understand it not as something intellectual, verbal. To understand that a precipice is a dangerous thing is a fact, not an intellectual assumption. There it is in front of you, a deep chasm. In the same way one has to be aware of fear. And we are saying, unless the mind is totally free of fear, the uncovering of reality, the flowering of that immeasurable thing is not possible. Do what you will, go to all the churches in the world, read all the sacred books (which has no meaning whatsoever), or accept a political course of action - Communist or otherwise and reduce all life to a political state - unless man is free of this fear there is no love. So we must find out for ourselves if it is at all possible to be free.
What is fear? How does it come about? One can understand the fear of physical pain, that fire burns, disease hurts. But the avoidance of physical pain is a very complex problem too. I had pain yesterday - listen to this thing very simply - I had pain yesterday and there is a remembrance of it and I hope it will not happen again today or tomorrow. I had an experience of pleasure yesterday and I hope it will come again today and I want it again tomorrow. Pain which happened yesterday, I want to avoid today and I hope it will not come tomorrow. But the pleasure which I had yesterday, I want it today and tomorrow. There lies the origin of fear - fear brought about by thought. Thought remembers the pain which actually happened yesterday. There is a remembrance of that pain as memory, as experience, as knowledge, and out of that there is the response of thought which says: `I hope I will not have it again today or tomorrow.' Please do observe this very simple fact in yourself and you will see. I had great joy yesterday, whether it was sexual or looking at a cloud or a flower or listening to the wind among the trees, and there is a remembrance of something pleasurable and I want it repeated; thought says: `I must have it again today and tomorrow also.'
So thought is the origin of fear, thought being memory of a thousand experiences of pleasure and a thousand experiences of pain. There is that memory which is the result of many experiences and the knowledge of it all. That is the computer, the electronic brain, which we are. We are the past, the thousand memories associated with every experience, with every remembrance. And when that is challenged thought responds as pleasure and pain. Thought says: `this I must have, this must continue, this must be repeated' - whether it be sex or other forms of pleasure. Or thought says: `that was pain, it hurt tremendously, I don't want it repeated today or tomorrow'. Thought is mechanical, like the computer, the electronic brain that answers all questions more rapidly than the human brain.
Thought is old, thought is never new, thought is never free, never. The idea of freedom of thought is just a political thing. When you examine this whole process of thinking, go into it deeply, you will find for yourself that thought is the response of the memory of yesterday, or of ten thousand yesterdays. So it is very old, there is nothing new in it. Thought can never discover anything new. And so thought is the origin of fear. Then one asks, can thought come to an end? Can thought which is the very structure of our brain cells, can that whole structure of ten thousand years become quiet? You have to ask this question, you have to work at it hard, as we are doing now - I hope you are working with me. So, thought is time. Time is the interval between `what is' and `what should be'. The pain and the fear of pain - of having pain tomorrow - the interval between `what is' and `what should be' or `what may be' is the projection of thought. And so out of thought arises the thinker, the thinker who says, `this is pleasure' and `this is pain'. And the whole complex of fear begins.
11th May 1968
Talks in Europe 1968 Amsterdam 1st Public Talk 11th May 1968
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