The Flame of Attention
Longer, Unedited Versions
New Delhi 1st Public Talk 31st October, 1981
If one may I would like to point out that we are not doing any kind of propaganda for any belief, for any ideal, for any organization. We are together considering what is taking place in the world outside of us. We are looking at it not from an Indian point of view, or from a European or American, or from any conclusion, or any particular national interest, but together we are going to observe what actually is going on in the world.
We are thinking together but not having one mind. There is a difference between having one mind and thinking together. Having one mind implies that we have come to some conclusion, that we have come to certain beliefs, certain concepts. That is implied, more or less, in having one mind. But thinking together is quite different. Thinking together implies that you and the speaker have a responsibility to look objectively, non-personally, at what is going on. So we are thinking together. The speaker though he is sitting on a platform for convenience has no authority. Please we must be very clear on this point. He is not trying to convince you of anything. He is not asking you to follow him. He is not your guru, thank god! He is not advocating a particular system, particular philosophy, but to observe together, as two friends who have known each other for some time, who are concerned not about their private life, which we will discuss later on, but together they are looking at this world which seems to have gone mad. The world that is preparing for war, where each nation is piling up armaments, spending millions and millions and millions of dollars, or rupees, or whatever it is. There is the atom bomb, the nuclear bomb, and also the computer. There are these two problems which we have to face together. That means you and the speaker, non-personally, not attached to any particular belief, to any nation, but to observe clearly, objectively, what is happening.
The whole world is arming, spending incredible amounts of money to destroy human beings, whether they live in America, Europe, or Russia, or here. They are taking a disastrous course which cannot possibly be solved by politicians. The politicians throughout the world are making a mess of things. So we cannot possibly rely on them, nor on the scientists. They are helping to build up the military technology, armaments; competing one country against another. Nor can we rely on so-called religions, they have lost all their meaning. They have become merely verbal, repetitive, absolutely without any meaning. It has become a superstition, following mere tradition, whether it be five thousand years or two thousand years. So you cannot rely on politicians who are throughout the world seeking to maintain their position, their power, there status. Nor can we rely on scientists because they are inventing each year, or perhaps each week, new forms of destruction. Nor can we look to any religion to solve this human chaos. I hope we understand that.
And what is a human being like us to do? Is the crisis intellectual, economic; or national, with all the poverty, confusion, anarchy, lawlessness, terrorism, always the threat of a bomb in the street? Realizing all that, observing all that, what is our responsibility?
I am not at all sure that you are interested in all this. Whether you are concerned with what is happening in the world. Or are you merely concerned with your own private salvation? Please do consider all this very seriously. To think together, that is you and the speaker observe objectively what is taking place not only outwardly, but also in our consciousness, in our thinking, in the way we live, in our action. If we are not at all concerned with the world but only with our personal salvation, following certain beliefs and superstitions, following gurus, then I am afraid it will be impossible for you and the speaker to communicate with each other. We must be clear on this point. We are not concerned at all with private personal salvation, but we are concerned earnestly, seriously, with what the human mind has become, what humanity is facing, that is human beings, human beings who are not Indians, or Russians, or Americans, human beings who are not labelled as Indians and so on. We are concerned in looking at this world and what part a human being living in this world has to do, what is his role?
I do not know if you are aware, though you may read a great deal in the newspapers, and every morning in the newspapers there is some kind of murder, bomb, destruction, terrorism, kidnapping, and you read it every day and you pay little attention to it. But if it happens to you personally then you are all in a state of confusion, misery and asking somebody else, the government or the policeman to save you, to protect you. Right? And in this country when you look, as the speaker has been here for the last sixty years watching all this phenomena that is going on in this unfortune country, poverty, which never seems to be solved, over population, the linguistic differences, one community wanting to break away from the rest of the community, the religious differences, the gurus who are becoming enormously rich, private aeroplanes; and you are following all this blindly, accepting it, not being capable to do anything about all this. These are facts. And we are not dealing with ideas, we are dealing with facts, what is actually taking place.
And, if we are to think together, look together, observe, we must be free of our nationalism. We are interrelated. That is, we are human beings whether we live in America, here or anywhere. Please realize this, how serious, urgent it all is. And has this country become lethargic, totally indifferent to what is going on, utterly careless, only concerned about their own little salvation, little happiness? So in order to observe and so discover what to do, we must think together.
The question then is: what is thinking? You understand? What is the operation, or the process, or the content of thinking? Because we live by thought. All the temples are put there by thought. The inside of the temples, the images, all the puja, all the ceremonies, are the result of thinking. All the sacred books that you have - Upanishads, Gita and so on - are the result of thought, the expression of thought into words, to convey what somebody else has experienced or thought about. So the word is not sacred. No book in the world is sacred because it is the result of thinking, of thought. Right? That is clear. And we worship the intellect. Those who are intellectual are apart from you and me who are not intellectual. Their ideas, their concepts, the way they write, we respect their intellect. And they either become bitter, angry, or attacking, because intellect they think will solve our problems, but it is not possible because it is like developing one arm out of proportion to the rest of the body. So neither the intellect, nor emotions, nor romantic sentimentality is going to help us. We have to face things as they are, to look at it very closely and the urgency of it, we have to do something immediately, not leave it to any scientist, politician and so on.
So are we, you and the speaker, thinking together, not agreeing together, not having the same opinion, or judgement, but looking at this world that human beings, you, your grandparents, we all have contributed to this? Right?
So first of all let us look at what the human consciousness has become, because our consciousness is what we are. What you think, what you feel, your fears, your pleasures, your anxieties, insecurity, your unhappiness, depressions, love, pain, sorrow and the ultimate fear of death. That is the content of our consciousness, which you are. Right? Your content of your consciousness makes the human being. Unless we understand the content of that and go beyond it, if it is possible, we shall not be able to act seriously, fundamentally, basically, to bring about a transformation, a mutation in this consciousness.
I hope we are communicating with each other because I am not talking to myself. If I want to talk to myself I can do it in my room. But please for god's sake please let's both of us look at all this and find out for ourselves what to do, what is our responsibility in this chaos. To find out what is right action we must understand the content of our consciousness. That is clear.
If my consciousness is confused, uncertain, pressurized, driven from one corner to the other, from one state to another, I become more and more confused, uncertain, insecure, and from that confusion I cannot act. So I depend on somebody else, which we have done for millions of years. I do not know if you have noticed that as long as you are under somebody's thumb you behave. You were under the thumb of the British at one time, you behaved extraordinarily well because there was fear behind that. When you remove the thumb, we have anarchy, confusion, everybody doing what he likes. An engine driver arrives two hours late - nobody cares. So our thinking is based on reward and punishment. If you are rewarded you behave properly, or if you are punished you behave properly. Right? This is the traditional conduct of a human being right throughout the world; it is not only in this country but everywhere. But here it is worse, nobody seems to care.
And to bring about order, not only in ourselves, which is the primary importance because from that order there will be outward order. I do not know if you have noticed we are always seeking outward order. We want order in the world established through dictatorships, or strong governments, or through totalitarianism dictatorship. We all want to be pressurized to behave rightly. Remove that pressure and we become rather what we are in the present India.
So please this is a serious talk, it is not a lecture as it is commonly understood. This is a talk of two friends, or several friends sitting together amicably, with affection, with care, with their hearts and minds looking, trying to find out what they have to do in this world, the world that has gone mad, insane, a country like this which is so appallingly poor. You are buying four hundred thousand million dollars worth of aeroplanes from France. You know all this. You read it in all your papers every morning and you feel irresponsible. We feel it has gone out of our hands, out of our control. So it becomes more and more serious on the part of the so-called intellectuals, on those who are serious, who are facing a terrible crisis, it becomes more and more urgent, necessary, that we find out for ourselves, not from books, not from your gurus, or from your ancient books, but to find out what our consciousness is and to be able to free the content of that consciousness so that we become truly religious people. We are not religious people, we are becoming more and more materialistic.
So together, and the speaker means together, we are going to examine, investigate, the content of our consciousness. That content makes you what you are. And without understanding the content of that you cannot possibly bring about right action, not possibly able to face the crisis that is in front of us. Please understand this. The speaker is not trying to convince you of anything. This is a terribly serious matter.
So what is the content of your consciousness? What are you? We are going to learn together what we are. The speaker is not going to tell you what you are, but together, you and the speaker, are going to examine what we are. Whether it is possible to radically transform what we are. So we are going to observe first the content of our consciousness. Right? Are you following all this? Or are you tired at the end of the day? You know you are under pressure all day long, all the week long: pressure at home, pressure in your jobs, economic pressure, religious pressure, government pressure, the gurus who impose their beliefs, their idiocy on you. We are under pressure. And here we are not under pressure. Please realize this. We are two friends talking over together our sorrows, our hurts, our anxieties, our uncertainty, insecurity, and how to find security, how to be free of fear, whether our sorrows can ever end. We are concerned about that. Because if you don't understand that, look at it very clearly, we will bring about more confusion in the world, more destruction. Perhaps all of us will be vaporized by an atom bomb. So we have to act urgently, seriously, with all our hearts and mind. This is really very, very important, we are facing a tremendous crisis. So together let us look.
We have looked at the world, the world which we have created, which thought has brought about. We must understand something too: we have not created nature - the trees, the birds, the waters, the rivers, the beautiful skies and the running streams, the tiger, the marvellous tree, we have not created them. Who created it is a different matter - don't say god created it. How it has come about is a different matter, it is not for the moment under view, but we have created everything else. We have destroyed the forests, we are destroying animals, the wild animals, millions and millions of them we are killing every year. Certain species are disappearing. So we have not created nature: the deer, the wolf, but thought has created everything else. Thought has created the marvellous cathedrals, the ancient temples and mosques and the things that are in them. And thought having created the image in the temple, in the cathedral, in the churches, and the inscription in the mosques, then that very thought worships that which it has created. Do you understand all this? You are following all this? Well, it is up to you.
So is the content of our consciousness brought about by thought? You understand my question? Why has thought become all important in our lives? Why has thought, which is the intellect, the capacity to invent, to write, to think, to do, thought, why has it become important? Why has not affection, care, sympathy, love, why have those not become extraordinarily more important than thought? We are going to find out.
So first let us examine together what is thinking, because our structure, both the psyche as well as outwardly is based on thought, thinking. Please, right? So we have to examine what is thinking, what is thought. Right? Don't go to sleep. I may put it into words but you are observing it, seeing it for yourself, not the speaker indicates and then you see, it but in talking over together you see it for yourself. Right? You all understand English, don't you? I am afraid I don't speak any other language, any other Indian language. I speak several European languages but no Indian languages. So what is thinking? Unless we understand what is thinking very carefully we shall not be able to understand, or observe, or have an insight into the whole content of our consciousness, of which we are. If I don't understand myself, that is, my consciousness, why I think this way, why I behave that way, my fears, my hurts, my anxieties, my various attitudes and convictions, if I don't comprehend all that whatever I do will bring more confusion. Right? That is clear.
So first I have to understand what is thinking. How do you answer it? What is thinking to you? When I ask you that question, somebody challenges you with that question, what is your response, what is thinking? Why do you think? You know most of us have become secondhand people because we read an awful lot, go to university if you are lucky, accumulate a great deal of knowledge, information, what other people think, what other people have said, and you quote them. You compare what is being said with what you have already learnt. There is nothing original but repeat, repeat, repeat. Right? So when one asks: what is thought, what is thinking, you are incapable of answering.
Questioner: But sir, there is the problem...
K: Yes, sir, yes sir, we will go into problems presently. This is a tremendous problem: what is thinking? And we live, act, behave according to our thinking. We have set up this government according to our thinking, we have wars because of our thinking - all the cannons, the aeroplanes, the shells, the bombs, everything is put there by thought. Thought has created the marvellous surgeons, the extraordinary technicians, marvellous carpenters, plumbers, thought has brought about these experts, but we have never investigated what is thinking. So we are going to do it together. I am not the expert, I am not your guru. I am sitting here, a little higher up for convenience. I am not your authority or your guru. But we are thinking together, investigating together.
So thinking is a process born out of knowledge, experience. Listen to it quietly, first listen to me and then see if that is not true, actual, then you discover it for yourself as though the speaker is acting as a mirror in which you see for yourself exactly what is, without distortion, then you can throw the mirror away or break it up. You understand? Thinking is first, experience, knowledge, knowledge stored up in the brain as memory, from memory the reaction is thought and action. Experience, knowledge, memory, stored in the brain, in the cells of the brain, then thought and action. Right? No, please see this for yourself, not repeat what I say. This is an actual fact: experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action; from that action you learn more. So you are caught in this cycle. Right? You are following this? Experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action, and from that action learning more, so we are caught in this cycle. That is our chain. Right?
Questioner: That is reaction, not action.
K: Sir. I beg your pardon.
Questioner: That is reaction, not action.
K: It doesn't matter. Call it reaction, action, it doesn't matter. This is the way we live. And we have never moved away from this field. You may call it action, reaction, whatever you like but we have never moved away from this field. We have always lived within the field of the known. That's a fact. Now the content of our consciousness is all the things which thought has put in it. I may think - oh, so many ugly things - I may think there is god in me, which is again the product of thought. I may think that whatever you think is there. So I am going to take one by one the content of our consciousness and look at it. Most of us from childhood are hurt, wounded, not only at home but at school, college, university and later in life we are all wounded, hurt. And when you are hurt you build a wall round yourself. Are you following all this? And the consequences of that hurt are to become more and more isolated, more and more disturbed, frightened, not to be hurt further, and your actions from that hurt are obviously neurotic. So that is one of the contents of your consciousness.
So what is it that is hurt? When you say, 'I am hurt' - not physically but inwardly, psychologically, the psyche, what is it that is hurt?
Questioner: I have built an image of myself and that is hurt.
K: How do you know? Are you repeating?
Questioner: No. Because I have such an image.
K: All right. Now I mustn't enter into discussion because there are too many people. Right sir. If you and I were alone then we can discuss, have a dialogue, but you cannot possibly have a dialogue with so many people, so I hope you do not mind if I do not answer your particular question.
We are asking: what is it that is hurt? The image that you have, or the picture that you have about yourself. All of us have images about ourselves. Right? Either you are a great man, or a very humble man, or you are a great politician, you follow, the pride, the vanity, the power, the position, etc., that creates an image of you. Or if you are a PhD, you have a certain image; if you are a housewife you have a certain image about yourself. Everybody has an image about himself. Right? That is an indisputable fact. And that image gets hurt and thought has identified or created that image. Right? And that image gets hurt. You are following all this? So is it possible - please listen - is it possible not to have an image about yourself at all? See what happens when you have an image about yourself: you create a division between each other. Look at it carefully. I will go into it.
What is your relationship with your wife? Have you any relationship with your wife, with your neighbour, with your rulers? When you ask what is relationship - suppose I am married - thank god I am not - but suppose I am married - please listen, this is important. Don't laugh it away, for god's sake look at it carefully, it is your life. We are wasting our lives, we are destroying our lives. It is important to understand relationship because we are interrelated to the world. You are not only related to your wife, to your neighbour, to your children but you are related to the whole human species. One has to understand very deeply what is relationship. Is it merely sensory, sexual relationship? Or is it merely romantic, convenient companionship? You cook and I go to the office. You bear children and I work from morning until night for the next fifty years, until I retire, in a beastly little office. And that is called living. So I must find out very clearly, carefully, what is relationship. Because if my relationship is based on hurt then I am using the lady or the man to escape from that hurt. Right? I wonder if you see all this. So I must look at relationship. If I am married, what is my relationship to my wife? Is it based on mutual images? You understand? I have created an image about her and she has created an image about me, and the relationship is between these two images which thought has put together. Right? Do you understand all this? So is thought love? Is desire love? Is pleasure love? You may say, no, no, you shake your head but actually you never find out, never investigate, go into it.
So together we will discover what is relationship, and in that relationship can there be no conflict at all? You understand my question? We live in conflict from morning until night, why? Is that part of our nature, part of our tradition, part of our religion? Or each one has an image about himself: my wife has an image about herself, and I have an image about myself, she has not only an image about herself, she has other images: her ambition, the desire to be something or other. And also I have my ambitions, my competitiveness. You follow? So we are running parallel, like two railway lines running parallel, never meeting, except perhaps in bed but never meeting at any other level. You are understanding all this? What a tragedy it has become. For god's sake wake up.
K: Oh, golly, how eager you are to ask questions. You don't even listen. You are ready to ask. You don't look at yourself. You don't want to find out what your relationship is. What your relationship to the world is.
K: Sir, please forgive me, we cannot possibly answer your question, or this gentleman's question, remarks, if I do then we enter into something quite different. We are two friends, talking over together. So please it is important to understand this question of relationship. The world outside is interrelated, you are not separate from the rest of the world. You are the rest of the world. They are suffering, they have great anxieties, fears, they are threatened by war, as you are threatened by war. They are accumulating vast armaments to destroy each other and we never realize how interrelated we are. I may be a Muslim and you may be a Hindu, but my tradition says, 'I am a Muslim' - which is I have been programmed like a computer to repeat 'I am a Muslim' and you repeat 'I am a Hindu'. You understand what thought has done?
So it is very important to look at our relationship, not only my intimate relationship but also my relationship with the rest of the world. The rest of the world is like you, modified, educated differently, superficial manners, perhaps affluent or not but the same reactions, the same pains, the same anxieties, the same fears. That is why, please give your mind, your heart to find out what your relationship is with the world, with your neighbour and with yourself, with your wife or husband. If it is based on images, pictures, remembrances then there will be inevitably conflict with your wife, with your husband, with your neighbour, with the Muslim, with Pakistan, with Russia. You follow? You don't see the urgency of all this. And the content of your consciousness is the hurt which you have not resolved, which has not been completely wiped away, it has left scars and from those scars you have various forms of fears which ultimately leads to isolation, because each one of us is isolated, through tradition, religious traditions, through education, through this idea that you must always succeed, succeed, succeed, become something. And also in our relationship with each other, intimate or otherwise, whether you live here or live in America or Russia, we are interrelated. So the world is you and you are the world. You may have a different name, different form, different kind of education, different position, but inwardly we all suffer, we all go through great agonies, shed tears, frightened of death, great sense of insecurity, without any love, compassion.
So how do you observe, or listen to this fact? You understand? That is, how do you listen to what is being said? The speaker is saying that you are the rest of mankind deeply, you may be dark, you may be short, you may put on saris, but those are all superficial educated traditions, but inwardly the common, the flow, whether I am an American, a Russian or Indian, the flow is the same. The movement of human beings is similar. Right? So we are the world and the world is you very profoundly. And one has to realize this relationship. You understand I am using the word 'realize' in the sense that you must be able to observe it and see the actual fact of it.
So from that arises the question: how do you observe? How do you look at things? How do you look at your wife? Or your husband, or your Prime Minister? How do you look at a tree? You understand? Because the art of observation has to be learnt. Oh god, there is so much to talk about. All right. How do you observe me? You are sitting there, how do you look at me? What is your reaction? Do you look at me, at the speaker because he has got a reputation? What is your reaction when you see a man like me? Or are you merely satisfied by looking at the reputation he has, which may be nonsensical, it generally is, how he has come to this point to address so many people, whether he is important and what you can get out him. He can't give you any government jobs, he can't give you money because he has no money. He can't give you any honours, any status, any position, or guide you, tell you what to do. How do you look at him? Have you looked at anybody freely, openly, without any word, without any image?
Questioner: Probably never.
K: Never. Have you looked at a tree, the beauty of a tree, the flutter of the leaves? So can we learn together how to observe? You cannot observe, not only visually, optically, if your mind is occupied. Right? As most of our minds are occupied: the article I have to write next day, I am occupied with my cooking, I am occupied with my job, I am occupied about sex, I am occupied about how to meditate, I am occupied about what other people might say. So my mind is occupied, from morning until night. Now can such a mind, being occupied, observe anything? You are following? If I am occupied with becoming a marvellous carpenter, not a politician, not a guru - just a carpenter, a master carpenter, not one of your amateur carpenters who is not really an artist - if I want to be a first-class carpenter I have to know the texture of the wood, I have to know the instruments, how to use the instruments, I have to study how to put joints together without a nail and so on and so on. So my mind is occupied. Or if I am neurotic my mind is occupied with sex, or becoming a success. So how can I, being occupied, observe? Right? So is it possible not to be occupied all the time? I am occupied when I have to talk, when I have to write something or other, but the rest of the time why should I be occupied? You understand this?
This leads to a very important question, which is - you know something about computers, you have heard of them? The computers can be programmed as we human beings are programmed, the computers can be programmed. Take for instance, it can learn, think faster, more accurately than man. It can play with a grand chess master. After being defeated four times, the master beats the computer four times, on the fifth time or sixth time the computer beats the master. The computer can do extraordinary things. I won't go into all that. It has been programmed. You understand? It can invent, create new machines which will be better programmed than the first programme. A machine that will be ultimately intelligent, not created by man. The machine will itself create the ultimate intelligent machine. You don't know anything. Please, the speaker has been talking, discussing with a great many computer experts in California and other places, and what is going to happen to man. You understand? What is going to happen to man, or to woman, when the computer takes the whole thing over? The Encyclopaedia Britannica can be put in a little chip and it contains all that knowledge. So what place has knowledge in a human life?
So we are saying our brains are occupied, never still. So to learn how to observe your wife, your neighbour, your government, the poverty, the brutality of poverty, the beastliness of wars, there must be freedom to observe. You see we object to being free because we are frightened to be free, to stand alone. So that is one of the things in our consciousness: hurt, relationship, this immense occupation.
Now you have listened to the speaker for nearly an hour and a quarter. Right? What have you heard? Or what have you gathered? Words, ideas, which ultimately have no meaning? Right? But what have you gathered? Have you seen for yourself, never to be hurt? That means never to have an image about yourself. And have you seen the importance, the urgency of understanding the relationship and having a mind that is not occupied? You understand? When it is not occupied it is extraordinarily free, it sees great beauty. But the shoddy little mind, the secondhand little mind is always occupied, about knowledge, about becoming something or other, enquiring, discussing, arguing, never a quiet, free, unoccupied mind. When there is such a mind, out of that freedom comes supreme intelligence, not out of thought.
So tomorrow we will continue with the content of our consciousness.
The Flame of Attention
Longer, Unedited Versions
New Delhi 1st Public Talk 31st October, 1981
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