The Flame of Attention
Longer, Unedited Versions
Madras 2nd Public Talk 27th December 1981
May we continue with what we were talking about yesterday evening? I am afraid that noise has been going on all day, you will have to put up with it. Appropo of that so-called music, you have had Muslim rule over seven hundred years in this country. They didn't make any dent on the Hindu mind. Then you have had one hundred and fifty years of British rule. Perhaps they made a little dent on the Hindu mind. Since you have had freedom for the last nearly forty years you have torn everything to pieces. You have had five to three thousand years of so-called culture, and the moment you have had freedom, whatever that word may mean to most of you, you have torn that cloth that was woven during those three thousand, five thousand years, torn it all to pieces, and you are living in a state of chaos, without any kind of culture, without any kind of responsibility, without any integrity. And that is the result: worshipping local gods, tribal superstitions, even the so-called fairly educated people.
So after having said that with regard to that noise, which is called music, let's proceed with what we were talking about yesterday. I hope that is all right. Unfortunately the wind is blowing from that direction.
We were talking yesterday about conflict. We were asking whether human beings who have lived on this beautiful earth, with all the vast treasures of this earth, with their mountains, rivers and lakes, during all these millennia human beings have lived in perpetual conflict. Not only outwardly with the environment, with nature, but also with each other, and inwardly, so-called spiritually, we have been in constant conflict, from the moment we are born until we die we are in conflict. And we put up with it; we have become accustomed to it; we tolerate it. We find many reasons why we should live in conflict, because we think conflict, struggle, ever striving means progress: outward progress, or inward achievement towards the highest goal. There are various forms of conflict: the man who is struggling to achieve some result, the man who is in conflict, struggles with nature, trying to conquer it.
(Noise of music) I am so sorry - what you have reduced this country to, such a beautiful country, India is: lovely hills, marvellous mountains, tremendous rivers. Three thousand to five thousand years of human suffering, human struggle, obeying, accepting, destroying each other, and this is what we have reduced it to: a wilderness of wild thoughtless human beings, who do not care for the earth, nor for the lovely things of the earth, nor the beauty of a lake, a pond, of the swift running river, none of us seem to care. All that we are concerned with is our own little selves, our own little problem. And this, after three to five thousand years of so-called culture. I wonder if you realize what you as human beings have done in this country. It is most unfortunate that all this has to be said. One wants to cry with what we are doing in this country; what other countries are doing, perhaps more or less the same - the other countries also have loud music, nonsensical entertainments, but when we are concerned with this country we shouldn't compare with other countries. That is a political escape, not facing facts.
And we are going to face facts this afternoon. Because life has become extraordinarily dangerous, insecure, utterly without any meaning. You may invent a lot of meanings, significance, but actual daily life - it may be lived for thirty, forty, hundred years it has lost all meaning except to gather money, to be somebody, to be powerful and so on. I am afraid this has to be said.
As we were saying yesterday, no politicians, or any politics, whether it is left, right or centre, is going to solve any of our problems. Politicians are not interested in solving problems. They are only concerned with themselves and keeping their position. And the gurus and religions have betrayed man. You have followed the Upanishads, read them rather, the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and Bhagvad Gita, and it's the guru's game to read them aloud to an audience that are supposed to be enlightened, intelligent. So you cannot possibly rely on the politicians, that is, government; nor upon the religious scriptures, not upon any guru whatsoever because they have made this country what it is now. If one seeks further leadership they will also lead you up the wrong path. That is what we were saying yesterday afternoon. And as no one can help us, no one, we have to be responsible for ourselves totally, completely: responsible for our conduct, for our behaviour, for our actions and all that.
And we are going to talk about conflict this afternoon: whether it is possible to live in a world that is becoming more and more chaotic, more and more insecure and dangerous, whether we can be free of conflict both outwardly and inwardly. Please, as we said yesterday, this is not a lecture but rather that we are together, perhaps with my little help, we are together investigating, exploring whether we can live without a single conflict in our life. And it is necessary and important to find out if we can so live. (More loud noise of music) I think the wind will die down!
One must ask after all this millennia, why human beings have not solved the problem of struggle, conflict amongst themselves, with each other, in themselves? This is a very important question to ask: why we admit to and succumb to conflict? You know what conflict is? The struggle to become something, or not to become something, the struggle to achieve a result, personal advancement, personal success, try to fulfil something of your desires; the conflict of war, the preparations for war, of which you may not be aware. They are inventing dreadful machines to kill each other, kill us, and the competition involved in our desires to succeed. The conflict between man and woman, sexually in their daily relationship. Apparently this conflict is not only conscious, if one is at all aware but also deep down in the very recesses of our mind: conflict of pretension, trying to be something when you are not, conflict that exists in trying to achieve heaven, god, or whatever you like to call that thing that you adore, worship, conflict in meditation, struggle to meditate, struggle against lethargy, indolence. So our life is from the very beginning, from the time we are born until we die, it is a perpetual conflict. We are in conflict with that. (Noise of music) And they don't care whether other human beings suffer from their music, to their noise. It is not music.
So we must find out together why man, you as a human being, representing all the world - we went into that a little yesterday, you are the rest of the world - why we human beings have tolerated, put up with, become habituated to conflict? Please don't go to sleep. We are thinking over together most seriously whether it is possible to completely be free of all conflict; because conflict, consciously or unconsciously will inevitably bring about a society that is ourselves extended. Society is not an abstraction, it is not an idea, society is relationship between man and man. If that relationship is in conflict, painful, depressing, anxious, painful, then we create a society which represents us. It is a fact. Please look at it carefully. Society isn't something out there. Society, the idea of society, the idea is not actual society; society is what we are with each other. And we are asking whether this conflict can ever end?
What is conflict? When conflict is, when we do not accept what actually is, and escape to something called an ideal, the opposite of 'what is', then conflict is inevitable. Are we meeting each other? That is, when I am incapable of looking actually and observing what actually I am doing, thinking, acting, this is 'what is; and I project an ideal, so there is conflict between 'what is' and 'what should be'. You are following all this? I hope so. Sir, I am not talking for my pleasure. I am not trying to fulfil myself in talking, or build up a kind of reputation. I don't believe in any of those things. We are talking to convey, if we are serious, that there is a way of living in which there is not a spot of conflict. If you are interested in it, if you are concerned about it, if you want to find out a way of living that is without that sense of vain effort, then please do listen carefully, not to what I am saying, not to what the speaker is saying, but listen to the fact, the truth of what is being said, which is your own observation because we are together investigating. It is not what the speaker is pointing out but together we are looking. Please do pay attention to this. It is no fun for the speaker just to talk to blank faces, or people who are bored. Since you have taken the trouble to come and sit here under the beautiful trees, it is nice, but we are here to talk over together serious matters.
So we were saying conflict exists when we disregard what is actually taking place and translate what is taking place in terms of an ideal, in terms of 'what should be', in a concept which we have accepted, or which we ourselves have created. So when there is a division between 'what is' and 'what should be' there must inevitably be conflict. This is a law. Not the speaker's law but it is the law; like an apple or a fruit falls from the tree, that is a law; so similarly this is a law. So we are going to investigate why human beings have never faced 'what is' and are always trying to escape from that.
This country has always talked about non-violence. That is right, isn't it? (Noise of birds) Even the birds agree! This has been preached over and over again, politically, religiously, by all the various leaders that you have had - non-violence: which is not a fact, just an idea, a theory, a set of words, but the actual fact is that you are violent. That is the fact. That's what is. And we are not capable of understanding 'what is' and that is why we create this nonsense called non-violence. Right? So that becomes a conflict between 'what is' and 'what should be'. And while you are pursuing non-violence you are sowing the seeds of violence all the time. That is again so obvious. So can we together look at 'what is' without any escape, without any ideals, without suppressing or escaping from 'what is'? We are by inheritance from the animal, from the ape and so on, we are violent. Violence takes many forms, not merely brutal action, hitting each other; violence is a very complicated issue. Violence is imitation, conformity, obedience; violence is when you are not and pretend what you are supposed to be; that is a form of violence. Please see the reason of all this, the logic of all this. It is not just that we are making statements for you to accept or deny. We are walking down a path, in a forest, in the lovely woods, together and investigating, talking over together like two friends, about violence. And so we are talking about it amicably, without any persuasion, without any sense of resolution of the problem. We are talking together, we are observing together. We are walking along the same path, not your path or my path but the path of investigation into these problems.
We are violent. That is a fact. We get angry, we conform, we imitate, we follow, we are aggressive and aggression takes many forms - a polite, gentle aggressiveness, with a kid glove, persuading you through affection. That is a form of violence. Compelling you to think along a particular line, that is violence. Violence is the acceptance of something that you are not. So please understand violence isn't just getting angry or beating up each other, that is nothing, that is a very shallow form of violence. Violence is very, very complex and to understand it, to go into the very depths of it, one must see the fact first and not, "We should be non-violent". I hope this is very clear. We are communicating with each other, therefore if there is no understanding in our communication we must stop and go back. Communication means understanding together of a particular problem, using the words, as we are talking in English, that we both understand.
There is only 'what is', which is violence, and not non-violence, that is non-fact, not a reality, it is a projection of thought to escape, or to accept violence and pretend that we are becoming non-violent. This country has played that game for centuries. So can we look at violence freed from all that: from escape, from ideals, from suppression, but actually observe what violence is.
So we have to learn together how to observe. We are not teaching you, you are not the speaker's followers, he is not your guru, thank god; but we are merely walking together, investigating, there is no superior or inferior in this investigation. There is no authority in this investigation, but when your mind is crippled with authority, as you are, it is very difficult to be free of all that and look at violence. So it is important to understand how to observe. To observe what is happening in the world: the misery, the confusion, the hypocrisy, the lack of integrity, the brutal actions that are going on in the world, the terrorists, the people who are taking hostages and the gurus who have their own particular concentration camps. Please, don't laugh, you are part of all that. It is all violence. How can anyone say, "I know, follow me"? That is a scandalous statement. So we are together observing what violence is. So we are asking: what is it to observe? What is it to observe the environment around you; the trees, that pond in the corner there, made beautiful within this year, the stars, the new moon, the solitary Venus alone, the evening star by itself, the glory of a sunset, how do you watch it, if you have ever watched at all? You cannot watch, observe if you are occupied with yourself, with your own problems, with your own ideas, with your own complex thinking, you cannot observe. Right? You cannot observe if you have prejudice, or if there is any kind of conclusion which you hold on to, or your particular experience that you cling to, then it is impossible to observe. So how do you observe a tree, this marvellous thing called a tree, the beauty of it, how do you look at it? How do you look at it now as you are sitting there surrounded by these trees? Have you ever watched them? Have you seen their leaves, fluttering in the wind, the beauty of the light on the leaf, have you ever watched it? So can you watch a tree, or the new moon, or the single star in the heavens, without the word, the moon, the star, the sky, without the word? Because the word is not the actual star, the actual moon. So can you put aside the word and look? Right? That is outwardly.
Can you look at your wife without the word? Without all the remembrance of your relationship however intimate it has been, without all that builtup memory of ten days, or ten years, or fifty years, can you look at your wife, or your husband, without the memory of the past? Have you ever done it? Of course not. So will you please let us learn together how to look, how to observe a flower. If you know how to look at a flower, that contains eternity. Don't be carried away by my words. If you know how to look at a star, a dense forest, then you see in that observation there is space, timeless eternity. So we must together find out how to observe: to observe your wife or your husband without the image you have created about her or about him. You must begin very close - you understand - you must begin very close in order to go very far. But if you don't begin very close you can never go very far. If you want to climb the mountain or go to the next village on your feet, the first steps matter, how you walk, with what grace, with what ease, with what felicity. So we are saying that to go very, very far, which is eternity, you must begin very close, which is your relationship with your wife and husband. Can you look, observe with clear eyes your wife or your husband, without the words 'My wife', or 'my husband', 'My nephew', or 'My son', without the word, without all the accumulated hurts with all the remembrance of things past, can you look? Do it now as you are sitting there, observe. And when you are capable of observing without the past, that is all the images you have built about yourself and about her, then there is right relationship between you and her.
Now, as we have not observed each other, it is like two railway lines never meeting. That's our relationship. I wonder if you are aware of all this? If you are aware what actually our relationship is. We are together learning how to observe that tree, sitting next to your neighbour, the colour of the shirt, the colour of the sari, the type of the face, observe without criticism, without like or dislike, just to observe. Now when such observation takes place can you look at your violence; violence being anger, irritation, conformity, acceptance, getting used to some noise, some dirt, the squalor around your houses, can you look at all that? So when you so look you bring all your energy, you bring all your energy to observe, and when you so observe your violence you will find, if you have gone into it, if you do it, that violence because you have brought all your energy to observe, that violence totally disappears. Don't repeat, if I may most respectfully request, don't repeat what you have heard. By repeating what the speaker has said you become secondhand human beings. By repeating the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and all the printed books, you have made yourself secondhand human beings. You don't seem to mind, do you? You are not even ashamed of it, you just accept it. That acceptance is part of this complex problem of violence.
So we are saying that it is possible to live without conflict, when there is no duality. There is no duality now, not when you reach a certain state of consciousness. There is no actual duality, there is only 'what is'. You understand? Duality only exists when you deny, or try to escape from 'what is' into 'what is not'. Is this clear? Are we all together in this matter? I know your philosophy, Vedanta and all that stuff, I don't know anything about it, but people have talked to me a great deal about all these matters, pundits, scholars and ordinary people, they live in duality. Right? Not physical duality, there is man, woman, tall, short, light skin, dark skin, you know all that, that is not duality. But the idea that conflict is necessary because we live in duality and therefore those who are free from the opposite are the enlightened people. You invent a philosophy around that. And you read about it, accept it, read all the commentaries and you are stuck where you are. Whereas the speaker is saying there is no duality actually; not when you reach spiritual heights, you will never reach spiritual heights if you have dualities now, not in some future incarnation or at the end of your life. The speaker is saying there is only 'what is', there is nothing else. 'What is' is the only fact. Its opposite is non-fact, it has no reality. I hope this is very clear, even logically, with reason. If you are exercising your reason, your capacity to think logically, 'what is' is more important to understand than 'what should be'. And 'what should be' we cling to because we don't know how to deal with 'what is'. We use the opposites as a lever to free ourselves from 'what is'. You are following all this? I hope you are.
So there is only 'what is' and therefore there is no duality, there is no opposite: there is only greed and not non-greed. When you understand the depth of violence without escaping from it, running away to some idiotic ideals, as non-violence, when you look at it, when you observe it very closely, which is to bring all the energy which you have wasted in pursuing the opposite, which is a wastage of energy, when you try to suppress it, it is a wastage of energy which is conflict. But when you observe 'what is' there is no conflict. Please understand this.
Suppose I am envious, envious of you who are very clever, bright, intelligent, sensitive, see the beauty of the earth and the glory of the sky, and I don't see it. And you enjoy this lovely earth and to me it means nothing. Then I want to be like you. So I begin to imitate you, the way you walk, the way you look, the way you smile, the way you look at the heavens. I am greedy. Right? But I have been educated from childhood not to be greedy. The 'not' is the opposite of what I am. I have been educated, conditioned, all the books have said there is duality, or some books - that is not important, the books have said it. And I have accepted it. And it is very difficult for me to break that conditioning, so I begin to discuss with you, cleverly; there is duality, books have said it, my guru has told me. So my conditioning from childhood prevents the understanding of this very simple fact, which is, there is only 'what is'. Goodness is not the opposite of the bad. If good is born out of the bad then goodness contains the bad. You understand? Think it out sirs, work at it. Let's exercise our brains. So to always live with 'what is', with what actually is going on outwardly and inwardly. When I am envious, I live with that fact, I observe it. Again envy is a very complex process, part of competition, the desire for advancement, politically, religiously, business. And I have been brought up in that; to break that tradition in which I have been brought up demands a great deal of observation, not run away to the opposite of tradition. Just to observe what tradition is. You understand all this? I hope the speaker is making it all very clear. You are all traditional people. That is, you are repeating psychologically, even intellectually what you have been told. Your whole religion is based on that. And there they are.
So when once you see the fact, that there is only 'what is', and to observe with all the energy that you have, that fact, then you will see that fact has no value or importance, it is totally non existent. You are following this?
Look sirs: one has been told from childhood to be good. The word 'good' is an old fashioned word, but it is really a beautiful word. Good means to be correct; correct in your speech, correct in your behaviour, not according to an idea of what is correct. Correct means to be precise, accurate, not pretentious. I am not good - suppose I am not. And my parents, my teacher, my educator says, "Be good" - so I have created a conflict between I am and what I should be. I don't understand the meaning of that word, because that word again is very, very subtle, it demands a great deal of investigation into that word. Good means also to be completely honest, to have great integrity, which means one behaves not according to some tradition, fashion, but behaving with the sense of integrity, which has its own intelligence.
And also goodness means to be holistic, to be whole, not fragmented. I am all that, fragmented - suppose I am - fragmented, traditional, brought up in this chaotic tradition. What is important is not what is goodness, why my brain is caught in tradition - that is more important than being good. You understand? So I have to understand why the brain, which is again very, very subtle, has great depth to it in itself, why such a brain has followed tradition. It has followed because it is safe, there is security because I am following what my parents have said and so on, that gives one a sense of safety, protection - a false protection: I think it is safe but it is unreal, it is illusory, and I won't listen to you because I am frightened to be without tradition. Which means to live with all your attention.
So it is possible, if you go into it very carefully, to live a life without a shadow of conflict. Because those of you who believe in god, I am sure you all do, don't you, if god created you he must have meant that you must have a rotten life - right? But you have created god; that is a fact. God is your ultimate security and you believe in that. See what thought has done: created an image of god and then you worship that god which is self worship. You understand? Oh, you people don't. Then you begin to ask who created the earth, who created the heavens, the universe and so on. So your tradition begins to destroy the human mind. It is a repetition, it becomes mechanical, it has no vitality, except to earn money, go to the office every morning for the rest of your life and then die at the end of it.
So it is important to find out whether you, as a human being, who is the rest of humanity - we went into that the other day, your consciousness is the consciousness of the rest of man because every man throughout the world suffers, is anxious, depressed, lonely, uncertain, confused like you; your consciousness is like any other consciousness. And so when you live without a single conflict but only living everyday with 'what is' and observing 'what is', not only out there but inwardly, then you will create a society that will be without conflict. Right sirs.
The Flame of Attention
Longer, Unedited Versions
Madras 2nd Public Talk 27th December 1981
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