Madras 1st Public Talk 31st December 1978 'The Art of Learning'
First of all I would like to point out, if I may, that this is not a propaganda, not a new set of ideas, a new set of beliefs, or setting oneself as a guru; but together we are going to talk over our many problems. The implications in talking over together are that as there are so many of you one cannot possibly communicate with each one, but if we are able to think together, not agreeing or disagreeing, but able to think clearly, objectively, sanely, and that implies that you are not prejudiced, that you don't start out with a lot of opinions, judgements, opposing arguments. We are not dealing with arguments, or with opinions. We are trying, actually doing, trying to find out a way of life in which we understand the total complexity of our lives.
So if I may point out that to think together implies, does it not, that you approach the problems, that you approach without any previous conclusions, previous ideas, or beliefs. We are thinking together. And that implies that you must exercise your brains and not go to sleep, not accept.
First of all we must look at the problems that surround us, both outwardly and inwardly. We must first examine clearly what the outward things are, what is going on in the world. Because we have to think globally, not provincially, not with a class mind or a sectarian mind, believing in one thing and contradicting what you believe by your actions and so on. So we are together examining, clearly if we can, what is happening in the world, outside us, not only environmentally but politically, religiously, ecologically. Because if you don't examine from the outside accurately, as far as one can, it is very difficult to examine oneself accurately. You must begin with the outer and come inwards - like a tide that goes out and comes in. It is the same movement, the world outside us is not different from us. But at least we can clearly observe what is happening around us. And we have at least a criteria from which we can work inwardly. I hope that is clear.
First we are together going to examine what is happening around us in every possible way, if we can, with the fact which we have. And we have not many facts because we are dealing with politicians, with so-called rulers, right throughout the world. And they are governing us. And if you observe each in country, a group of people are concerned about their own little area. This is obvious. And if you further examine, not only they are concerned with their own little area of a vast field, which is the world, but also that little area is broken up, fragmented more and more and more. So there is fragmentation going on in the world - nationally, religiously, politically, economically. Breaking up. It is so obvious in this country, and in the rest of the world.
So there is fragmentation, not only politically but also within oneself. We are broken up human beings, we are not whole. That's clear. And each nation is fighting the other nation - the Hindu, the Muslim and so on and so on. And one has relied, one has hoped that politics will save man. And it has not saved man. On the contrary it has brought about much more suffering through wars, through division. One has hoped through science man would break through. And that also has failed, economically and so on. We have relied on politics for the saving of man; we have relied on religions for the saving of man; we have relied on science, which is the accumulation of knowledge in action, we have relied on that, and none of these have helped man. They may have given man a little corner somewhere or other but it has been a constant struggle. It is obvious.
And we have also seen that no organization of any kind, whether of the left, the right, or the centre, the communist, the socialist, no organization of any kind is going to save man. Right? I hope you will see that. Even small communities are not going to save man, because it is a world problem, a global problem, and it must be dealt with globally, with a global mind, not with a little sectarian, parochial, narrow little mind.
So organizations have failed. Institutions have failed. The gurus multiplying like so many - what shall we say - mushrooms all over the world, and they are not going to save man. On the contrary; they make their own little whirlpool, little noise, little - you know what they are doing so I don't have to tell you all that. So what is going to save man, because we are now, when you observe what is happening in the world - preparation for war, four hundred thousand million dollars are spent on armaments every year by all the governments. All the governments put together are spending four hundred thousand million dollars every year. That is totally insane. Right?
So when you see all this, what is man to do? You understand my question? What are you to do? Where shall we start with the reformation of man? We have tried every way to resolve these problems. We have had principles, extraordinary ideals, great theories, volumes of sacred books - so-called sacred books, no book is sacred, including the Gita, Upanishads or the Bible, or even the Koran.
So we have tried everything to resolve our problems - the Mao people in China, Lenin and his group in Russia, the Capitalists, the Socialists, the Liberals, every way we have tried. So in looking at all this, with all their divisions and fragmentations, with their confusion, and every human being against another human being, one guru against another guru, my guru is better than yours, he is more peaceful than yours, he knows and you don't know, and so on and on and on. I hope you realize how serious all this is.
So this is not a gathering of an evening which you casually attend and forget. We are gathered for a serious purpose. And that serious quality depends on you, whether you are being challenged, whether you accept the challenge, or you just pass it by. Various cultures have failed, including the culture of this country. So when you observe all these outward signs of violence, terrorism, brutality, enormous cruelty and torture, and politicians fighting for power, and so on, when you see all this, and you are challenged: what is a human being to do? What are you to do? Where do you begin? Because man, human beings like you and me, we are now facing a great crisis of humanity. I do not know if you realize it. And we must respond to that crisis which is a challenge accurately.
So realizing all this, who is going to save man? You understand my question? Who is going to save you, to save you from your confusion, from your conflict, from your suffering, from your constant contradictions, from your envy, from your petty nationalism, from the gurus which you have accepted with their authority? So when you observe this surely there is only one answer. Since organizations have no value any more, since leaders cannot help us, since no book is going to give freedom to each one of us, so one can only begin with oneself. Right? I hope we are in communication with each other. Communication implies sharing; sharing in our thinking, in our feeling, in observing what is going on, and demanding of ourselves the highest capacity to act correctly. So from the outward we are moving inward. It is the same movement, the world is not different from us. We have made this miserable world. We have made it. No gods, no external agency, we human beings have created this society in which we live, with all its corruption, with all its malignant superstitions, with all its absurd gods. We have made this. The national class divisions. Please see all this.
So we must begin with ourselves. Right? Nobody on earth, or in heaven, is going to save us. No book, no guru, no system, no method, no leader, no hero, no prince. Right? We have to begin with ourselves and see if we can transform ourselves, if we can change radically from the very root of our being so that we have a free mind, not a mind that is broken up, corrupt, fearful, anxious, greedy, in sorrow. So is that possible? You understand my question? Right sir? Am I making this clear? Is the speaker making this clear?
So to go very far you must begin very near. 'Very near' is you. That's why we are asking: what is the quality of your thought, what is the quality of your mind that is willing, seeing what is happening, demanding that it must change the society in which we live, a different kind of education, different kinds of global government, and so on and so on. So are we as human beings, you, willing or desirous, or deeply serious to find out, to investigate the whole human structure, psychological and religious, to see if it is possible for every human being who is good enough to listen to all this, whether he can investigate into himself. You understand sirs? Right?
So I am asking: what is the state of your mind, your consciousness that is serious enough to investigate? You understand my question? Are you serious? Or you want to spend a pleasant evening under a tree - not that it is not beautiful after the rains, the clear sky, but do you know for yourself the state of your own existence, your daily existence, the way you think, what you feel, whether you are greedy, envious and all the rest of it, the whole human structure. Are you aware of it? Do you know what you think? And why you think? Do you know your feelings, your prejudices, your anxieties, your fears, which is our life, our daily life? Your relationship with another, intimate or otherwise, what that relationship is, whether it is superficial or deeply real? Or is it merely sexual, sensory, or in your relationship there is affection, care, tenderness, love?
So we are asking whether you are aware of your own daily life with all its complexities. And it is only from there one can start, not with some belief, with some ideal, with some conclusions - belief in Brahman, or god, or Jesus, or something or other. Those are all illusions. So one is asking - please listen - one is asking if your mind is caught in an illusion. If it is, you cannot possibly bring about a radical change in yourself because you are the world, you are not different from the rest of humanity because you suffer, and the people living ten thousand miles away suffer. They are afraid as you are afraid. They seek security and find very little both in the world and psychologically, there is very little security. They want happiness, they are unhappy. They are gullible, like you. So you are essentially similar to another human being. It is not an intellectual concept, to argue about, it is a fact. You may be brown, or black, or white, or pink, but apart from racial division every human being throughout the world goes through what you go through psychologically, and physically. Isn't that so? You are afraid of death, and so are the others. You believe in reincarnation because that gives comfort, others have their own theories about afterlife. It is exactly like every other human being in the world. So you are essentially the world.
But the realization of it is not an intellectual affair. It is not an idea, however good or bad. Unless you feel it with all your blood and brain and guts that you are the world, therefore to bring about a change in the world you have to change radically. Right? Can we start from there? Which means, is one aware, know one's thoughts, one's feelings, one's beliefs, one's ideals, one's corruption, one's fears, pleasures and all that, do you know all that? If you do, or if you don't, one has to investigate why we live as we are living, why we accept to live this way. Do you understand my questions?
So we are together, and I mean together, we are together going to examine, explore, into ourselves. And this isn't a group therapy, which is an abomination, exposing each other's faults, and hoping thereby to clear up something. We are going to talk over together, examine the quality of our minds, the quality of our hearts, the quality of our brain. To examine you must be free to look. Right sirs? Free to look into yourself. That means there must be no conclusion. Right? There must be no sense of authority. There must be no person who will tell you how to look because then you look according to him. There must be no guide. You must be free to listen to yourself, to observe yourself, and learn as you observe, and act as you observe.
So we have this problem first: to know what actually is going on, what is happening now in your minds and hearts, in your daily life. And to be able to listen to your own mutterings, your own fears, your own miseries, to listen to it. And to observe in your relationship with another the reactions, because that is the only guide. Your reactions with another, how you have respect for those who are above you, or have better position, status, power, and those below you whom you kick. Right? You see that in this country, this total lack of care, respect for human beings. So you have to find out for yourself by thinking over together as we are doing now, how to observe yourself. Not what to think, but how to think. Not my way of thinking, or your way of thinking, or the professor, or the guru, or the specialist, but thinking together without any prejudice, without any opinion. Otherwise you cannot think together. Right? Do we see this? Do we see that you have an opinion and I have an opinion, our thinking is distorted. Right? So is it possible to think without opinions? Please go into it with me, I am going to go slowly into it. Is it possible to observe without any conclusions? Is it possible to listen purely without any distortion? So we are going to go into that slowly step by step.
It's a nice evening, it's nice to sit under the trees and talk about serious things, not to forget to look at the leaves, the branches and the blue sky that is beyond, and to see the sunset and the beauty of the colour, the clouds with their light on it, and also to see ourselves exactly as we are. You can't change the clouds, you can't change the sunset. So to look at yourself without the desire to change. Because the very desire to change is born out of a motive either of greed, or to better oneself in order to meet some principle, or ideal. So can you observe yourself without a single movement of thought? You understand my question?
So first let's find out what it means to listen. Don't say, I have heard that before from you. There are many people here who unfortunately come year after year without changing. It becomes a game. They are not serious. But even though they have been here very often and heard the speaker please forget what he has said previously, totally forget all that he has said, and begin again. You know when you look at a flower day after day the flower is never the same - is it? The beauty of the flower varies from day to day. In the same way those of you who have listened to the speaker for many, many, many years, listen to it as though you were listening to it for the first time. Then you are learning, not memorizing, but you are learning about yourself. Without learning about yourself you have no basis for a correct action, for right response, for objective comprehension.
So first we are going to find out together. I am not telling you what to do, but together we are going to find out what it means to listen. Do we ever listen to anybody? Are you listening to what I am saying now? Are you? If you are honest, are you listening? Or your mind is so occupied with other things. Or you are here because the speaker has a reputation, and you are searching what he is going to say. So all these movements prevent actual listening. Right? Because it is very important to learn the art of listening. Because if you learn that art, not memorize it, because if you merely memorize how to listen then you are not listening. So what does it mean to listen, not only to the world outside of you, but also to listen to one's own deep mutterings, the deep anxieties, fears and pleasures. What does it mean to listen? There is a listening with the ear, and also there is a listening without the operation of the nervous reactions. Do you follow what I am saying? Are we somewhat together in this? Am I speaking Greek, or Chinese, or are we understanding each other? Because it is very important to find out what it means to listen, to observe. Because we are going to observe without any distortion the actual movement of ourselves. And so to observe, to listen is a great art. And we are learning that art together. I am not your teacher. And I really mean it. I am not your authority. But as two friends talking over together their problems, their fears, their anxieties, and each friend talks about his own problems, and together they approach, they resolve the problems. So we are doing the same. Not that the speaker has resolved - he has - but we are trying to communicate, so we are sharing together.
So first, what does it mean to listen? To listen to a statement, to listen to the noise of that crow, to listen to that honking of that car, to listen to your own thought, to your own feelings. And to listen implies no interference of thought. Because the moment thought intervenes by saying, it is good or bad, I don't like that noise, I do like that noise, you are not listening. Please do it now as you are there and I am explaining it, do it now, not when you go home, then it is too late, then you haven't heard.
So the speaker is going to make many, many statements and you have to find out for yourself whether they are true or false. But if you listen with what you have learnt from books, from authority, from this or from your experience, then you are blocking yourself from actually listening to what the other person has to say. Do you understand the responsibility on your part: to listen to the world and to your own anxiety, insecurity, uncertainty, sorrow? We will go into it step by step into the whole of fear, sorrow, pain, anxiety, the whole of human existence, we will go into it. But first we must learn how to listen to all this.
Then comes also how to observe, what it means to observe. You are observing me, the speaker, how do you observer me? Examine that very simple fact: you are sitting there, the speaker is here, you are watching, you are seeing him. Are you actually seeing him, or you have images about him, conclusions, ideas? So conclusions, reputation, image prevent you from actually looking at the person. Right? Do you understand this very simple fact? If you say, he is a socialist, you don't look at him. If you say, oh, he is communist, the label prevents you from observing him. Then if you say, he is a Muslim, it is finished, for a Hindu.
So can you observe - please listen - can you observe without a single movement of your prejudice? That prejudice is put together by thought. If I want to know you I must forget all my labels, whether I like you or not, this or that, and just look at you. By observing I learn. That's the beginning of wisdom, to observe, not from books. That's one thing. Listening, observing and learning.
What does it mean to learn? From the age of five or six we go to school. There we learn facts. We learn a great deal of information and store it up in the brain as memory. Right? Right sirs? Memory stored up, and with that memory we act: to have a career, a job, money; and so we accumulate knowledge both biological, physics, mathematics and so on, and gather all that information from past researches, from all the people who have gathered information, they have handed it down to us, from generation to generation, and that is stored up in the brain. And that's what we call learning. Learning, gathering information, gathering what other people have said, about god, about heaven, about how you should live, how you should not live, what is right and so on. Gathered all that, and stored up in our brains. And that's called knowledge. That's one way of learning. Right?
There is also another way of learning: to go out and act and from that action learn, which becomes knowledge. So we are always acting from knowledge, and knowledge is always the past, that which has been. Right? That's what is called learning. Learning from other people's experience, from your own experience, from the habits, the customs, tradition handed down from generation to generation, it is stored up in the brain. Our brains are very, very, very old. And that is generally called learning. So we are acting with knowledge, which is the past. Right? Please see this because we are going to investigate into what is learning.
There is another way of learning which is not the accumulation of knowledge, which I am going to explain presently. But first we must understand very clearly where knowledge is absolutely essential - to drive a car, to do anything, speak a language, to know where your house is. So knowledge is essential. But knowledge is always in the past. So we are living in the past. Right?
And there is another way of learning which is not the accumulation of knowledge. Will you kindly listen to what I have to say? Listen, don't agree or disagree, don't accept or deny, just listen as you would listen to that bird. As I said, as the speaker said just now, we only know one method of learning, which is to accumulate knowledge. And from that knowledge operate, function, to have a job, to have a house, and so on and so on and so on. That knowledge becomes dangerous in relationship. Do you understand? If knowledge, which is remembrance, becomes important in human relationship with each other, that very knowledge divides people. We will go into it. Just listen to it.
We are saying there is another way of learning. Shall I go on? [Pause] I am not trying to be clever, making you impatient, but I want to communicate so that you really understand this, that you understand it not only with your brain but also intellectually and also with your heart. You understand? With your mind, with your brain, the quality of the brain that listens, and the intellectual capacity to reason logically, sanely, and also to have this quality of affection, care, love, because those are demanded when you want to discover something new. You understand? When you want to find out something totally new there must be complete harmony, not just intellect operating on its own, or the brain remembering all the past incidents, happenings, conclusions, and holding on to them, and also to have, perhaps which is the most difficult thing, to have care, love, affection.
So we are going to find out together if there is a different way of living which is learning and acting. Just see the difference between what I am going to say, and what we generally do: we accumulate knowledge, and from that knowledge act. There is a time interval - please listen - there is a time interval between the idea and the action. Right? You are following all this? That is, there is the ideal and you are trying to put that ideal into action, so there is a gap between the principle, the ideal, the belief and the actuality. Right? Now we are saying the interval of time between the ideal and action is non-existent. It is going to be a little difficult, please give your attention if you are interested. If you are not, carry on in your own way.
Please see what we do actually. We conceive an idea, and try to put that idea into action. So there is a time interval, a gap between idea and action. This is clear. Right? Would you disagree with that? Now we are saying there is a way of acting, there is a way of learning, in which there is no time interval, and therefore the learning is acting; not acting from previous knowledge. I wonder if you see. I am going to explain it. Go slowly. First I want to establish communication between us.
A first-class engineer is very well acquainted with the piston engine, the internal combustion machinery. And he wants to discover something new. Naturally the brain is full of what he has learnt, full of the knowledge of the combustion engine. Right? And if he wants to discover something totally new he must put that aside. He must have a mind that is free to observe, to listen, to grasp something that may be just there. So the requirement for learning, which is not merely the accumulation of knowledge, is to have a mind that is not burdened with knowledge. And all our brains are burdened with knowledge. Just see the fact. The more traditional you are, the more you have read, read, it doesn't matter what you read, it is all stored up, it is registered in your brain, and so you can never find something totally new. I was once with a friend, a very well known author, and we were talking, he was a friend of mine, and he said, "You know, I have read so much, I have read all the Eastern philosophy, the Chinese, of course the European, I know all about communism, Marx, and so on, and I have no space for the new." You understand? A mind that is traditional, like most minds are, something handed down from generation to generation, a custom, a habit, a ritual, a puja, you know, all that, how can such a mind find something new? Do you understand my question?
Therefore to find a way of learning which is not accumulation of knowledge, the other must be put aside completely. That means no tradition. Are you willing to do that? No sirs. Tradition is very comforting, caught in a routine, like a machine you go on and on.
So I am telling you something, which is, the mind, the brain, must be completely free of prejudice, of opinion, of belief, of all the things thought has put together in the brain. You understand this? Now is that possible? Are you following? A professor, a scientist, if he wants to discover something new naturally he can't keep on repeating his own knowledge. It is absolutely useless. He wants to discover, he wants to find something fresh, not put together by thought. So first to learn, which is not mere accumulation of knowledge, the mind must be free to observe. That is, the mind, though it has got tremendous knowledge, must be capable, have the capacity, have the energy, to set it aside and be free so that it has an insight, insight into what is actually going on. You understand my question? Are you following? Am I explaining things clearly? If not please tell me, I'll go over it in different ways.
We live in the past and therefore we are always destroying the present. The past modifies itself in the present and becomes the future, but it is still the past. Right? I wonder if you are following all this. Please. So our life, our daily life is based on a routine - going to the office for the next fifty years - just think of it! And tradition, your sexual habits, your loneliness, all that is part of this enormous accumulation of knowledge. And from that knowledge, which is the past, we act. Now the speaker is saying there is an action which is not of the past. That implies a mind, a brain, that has put aside all remembrance. I'll show you, I'll go into it and you will capture the meaning of it.
No remembrance, and therefore it is capable of observing instantly and acting instantly. The very observation is the action. Not, I have learnt, and then act. Therefore that implies a time interval. In that time interval all other factors enter. Therefore in that interval there is contradiction, there is pain, and so on and so on. Whereas what we are saying is, to have insight into the whole structure of my consciousness, of your consciousness. I am going to go into it. To have an insight into your whole consciousness, and that very insight is the action which dispels the content of consciousness, which makes up consciousness. I hope you understand all this. I doubt it!
Look sirs, what is action in your life? I am sorry to go back to it, I must until this is absolutely clear. It is based on memory, on knowledge, or a motive based on some self interest and so on and so on. So knowledge has its place. And in relationship with each other, has knowledge any place at all? It is very important to find out. Which means in relationship there is mere memory, is memory, remembrance love? When you say, my wife, it is a remembrance. You have the image of her - or the husband, or the girl, you have an image of her. That remembrance is the outcome of past incidents, experiences, memory, and so in relationship when there is memory there cannot be love. Logically.
So we are saying to have an insight is not a continuation of memory or remembrance. I am going to explain what that means. Our brain - I am not a specialist on the brain, I have watched it, in oneself you watch it, if you watch you don't have to pick up a single book, you can see it all yourself - our brains have the capacity to register, register an incident, an event, a happening, an insight, a flattery, a hurt, it has the capacity to register as a computer. As long as the computer is in operation there is no sense of freedom to observe. Please listen to this. If the brain is registering and therefore retaining it as memory, and acting from that memory, then that action is born from the past. That's logic, that's so. And so between the action and the past there is an interval, therefore there is conflict, therefore there is adjustment, and a sense of constant struggle to approximate. Now can the brain - please listen to this, give two minutes concentration, or attention - can the brain register only what is necessary and nothing else? What is necessary is your physical needs. What is necessary is to have knowledge to act in daily life - where you live, what language you speak, how to drive a car, how to design a house and so on, or design a machine to kill other people. That is the function of the brain, to register. And we said register only what is necessary. And psychologically don't register anything. Try it, do it! Because that is where the trouble begins. I am attached to you psychologically, inwardly, because you give me money, you are my this or that, you give me satisfaction, comfort, sex and all that, I am attached to you psychologically.
So the attachment is totally unnecessary. Whereas the other is necessary. Do you follow all this? So can you see the importance of keeping knowledge in its right place, and psychologically have no knowledge at all? You don't understand all this. There is a great deal of fun in all this if you go into it. So you brain is capable of registering what is necessary, and psychologically nothing. So the brain is free - you understand - because it has settled what is necessary, not extravagantly necessary, what is necessary. And psychologically it has no content. You don't see the beauty of it. And so the brain then, being free, can perceive instantly, and act, the very perception is action.
Now I'll show you something. You probably belong to some kind of religious organization. Your particular organization is different from another particular religious organization. Right? So there is conflict between the two, or you tolerate the two, or you adjust between the two. But there is always the two. And therefore there must inevitably be conflict. All religious organizations have this element. Now to have an insight into it and never belong to any religious organization. You understand what I am saying? So that the very insight dispels the illusion of belonging to something, a religious organization. That is insight. Which is to observe completely free so that the whole nature of organizations is revealed, and it is finished, you never again belong to any single religious organization, or even perhaps political - much more important nowadays, because you are dealing with man as a whole, it is a global problem, not the problem of India, or America, or Russia, it is a global problem, which is the human problem.
Now if I have conveyed this to you, if the speaker has conveyed the reality of this insight - please be careful with it because it is not a continuous thing that you keep going, then it becomes memory, then it is gone, it is finished. You can't use it for personal use. You understand? To have an insight into your fear, which we will go into in a few days, as we go along. To have an insight into pleasure, into death, so that you see the truth of it, not your belief, not your prejudice, not your conclusions, not your imaginary illusory projections, but the actual truth of it. So that is the way, the way of learning which is from moment to moment. You understand? Love is that.
We have talked for a hour and twenty five minutes. That's enough, isn't it?
Madras 1st Public Talk 31st December 1978 'The Art of Learning'
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