Madras 6th Public Talk 9th November 1958
I think it would be worth while and interesting to go into the whole problem of the word, the symbol and the name. Words play a very important part in our lives. The symbol, the name has extraordinary significance for us, and perhaps if we could break through the significance by understanding the whole content of the mind, which is so filled with words, symbols and names, then perhaps we should be able to understand the whole process of thinking. Because I feel that if we do not know how to think rationally, sanely, with deep insight as well as with reason, our thinking will not lead us very far and further, to go beyond reason, we must first know the whole process of reasoning. One cannot just skip it and say it is not important. One must know the root of reasoning. One must know what is the conditioning from which all reasoning takes place. I am not talking about verbal reasoning but the reasoning based on actual experience, actual living. If we can proceed from there, I think we can go very deeply into the investigation of the whole problem of what is the `me', and the whole field of thought.
But to go very deeply, I think we must begin with the word and see how extraordinarily effective a word is, and how we confuse the word and the meaning and the significance of our feelings. I feel it would be good if we could understand, each one of us, what an extraordinary importance words have, neurologically as well as physically, in the ways of our thought, the ways of our action, the way of our living. It seems to me that unless we can break through the barrier of words and free thought from words, we shall not be able to find out who the experiencer is, and if it is possible to free the mind from all experience. It sounds odd and crazy, but we will see what it means as we go along.
I do not know if you are aware of the role words play in your life. First of all, we know that the word is not the thing. The word `tree' is not the tree: that is obvious. And the word `time' is not the whole field in which time, as yesterday, today and tomorrow, exists; time as distance, time as progress - the word is not all that. So we must be able to dissociate the word from the thing, and to dissociate the word from the feeling which the word evokes. I do not know if you have ever tried it yourself as an experiment - to dissociate a feeling from the word. Take the word `love', and the actual feeling. Does the word awaken the feeling; or does e feeling come first and then the word, e symbol? Unless one has experimented very carefully with this for oneself, one's thinking will be very limited; one only functions upon the verbal level otherwise. So it seems to me that it is very important to see how the word, the name, the symbol gives shape to thought, because all words, symbols, names shape our thinking. The word `India' - if you are an Indian and feel very sentimental about it, if you are nationalistic and all that nonsense - gives immediately an emotional surge; an undefined, sentimental, unrelated feeling is aroused by that word. It awakens in you the picture of India, the map, the country, the sea, the dirt, the squalor, the beauty of the mountains, the rich sunsets, and the division of the people, their callousness, the superstitions, the traditions, - the whole thing. Obviously the word arouses an extraordinary feeling. The word is not the feeling but you give significance to the word and it takes hold of you. The word `Christ', the word `Buddha', how immediately it has significance, neurologically and biologically. So too, the word `meditation'. How, immediately on hearing it, the mind takes a posture, the mind assumes a certain attitude; that word reawakens certain memories from childhood, from what you have read, from tradition, and you at once have thoughts of what you must or must not do. So each word awakens and shapes the mind; the thought shapes the mind.
After all, that is the whole process of propaganda. Unless the mind is able to dissociate the word from the feeling and investigate the feeling freed from the word, you will ever be a slave to words; therefore you will be a slave also of tyranny, of propaganda, of all the religious rackets. Take the word `guru', what an extraordinary significance it has for you; at once you become reverential. I do not know if you have noticed it, but the word `brahmin' to an anti-brahmin is something terrible; and the word `Russian' implies at once a political belief. I am just indicating the extraordinary slavishness of the mind to the word.
Then the question is: Can the mind free itself from the word? And, is there thinking without the word, the symbol? After all, unless you are able to dissociate the word from the feeling you do not know what you are. Take the word `Atman' - that is a favourite word of all the religious, phoney people. By using that word they think they have solved everything. But to find out whether it is a fact, whether it has any reality, one must first be free of all the emotional significance we give to that word. Then you can investigate it; then you can think very sharply, and such thinking has significance.
So if the mind can dissociate the word from the feeling then the mind can investigate what it actually is. Is the the mind merely a series of words which we have accumulated, with all their significances - conscious as well as unconscious - or is the mind different from the word? Is there a mind, without the word? Is there a thought without the symbol? I do not know if you have ever thought along these lines but I would like to enquire into it very deeply with you, to see if the mind can be free from the word and, when it is free from the word, what is the state of the mind? And, is the observer who examines the mind merely another series of words? And when thought is freed from the word, is there thinking? I do not know if I am making myself clear, but unless one goes into this very seriously - inwardly, deeply - , self-knowledge will have very little meaning.
So, what is the self? - bearing in mind what we have seen previously, that the word must be separated from the thought, the feeling. I think it is very important to go into this because if I do not know what I am, actually, if I do not know the source of my thought, why I act this way or that, why I have beliefs, ideals, ambitions, why I struggle ceaselessly, if I do not know the source and cause of all this, obviously whatever I think, whatever I do is merely an addition or a subtraction on the periphery. If the quality of the mind itself is to undergo a tremendous revolutionary change - the quality, not the layers, the thoughts, the activities but the quality of the mind itself - if there is to be a revolution at the very centre and not at the periphery, then I must understand all this, I must understand myself.
Obviously we must change, but not through environmental influences, not through slogans, not through propaganda or mechanistic devices conditioning the mind from outside. Because if the mind is to have within itself a new quality then the mind must understand all this, be aware not only of the conscious, everyday state, but also of the unconscious, where perhaps words have much more significance than in the conscious mind. For in the unconscious are stored up all the traditions, the racial inheritance, the years of thought, the conclusions, hopes and fears. To understand this extraordinary thing called the mind - which is infinitely capable and yet so petty, narrow, deadly - the mind must be aware of itself, of its own conditioning.
So, what is the mind? Let us begin, not with the mind but with the self which we say we must know. There must be self-knowledge, must there not?, there must be a total comprehension of oneself not merely a peripheral understanding of some immediate superficial response. I say there must be such a comprehension, and if we investigate very carefully the whole process of thinking and the verbal response, if we can go into it very deeply, then we will see that a revolution in the quality of the mind is immediate, immediate in the sense of being stripped of time. hope you are following all this and not merely learning a few phrases to quote back to me when we start again. Because if you could seriously consider what is being said, not merely hear it but apply it in the sense of being aware through my description, of yourself, of how your own mind is working - then I think we shall be able to go very far.
So, what is this self which has such an extraordinary importance? Do not say that it is not important, that the only important thing is the Higher-Self, and all that nonsense. Because if it had no importance we would not be fighting for jobs, we would not be killing each other, we would not be ambitious, frustrated, unhappy, in this whole field of isolated agony and loneliness. So, Sirs, what is the `me', the `you'? Do not bother about how it began and where it will land, but actually, what are you now? A few possessions, a house, a bank account if you have one, a name, a form, certain tendencies, a certain temperament, your fears, hopes, ambitions, achievements, some technical knowledge, the know-how for living in this world - you are all that, are you not? But you want to add to it that you are also something which you call the Atman or the Higher-Self, the eternal, the spiritual entity. But again that is in the field of thought, is it not? Since you can think about it, it is related to thought and therefore still within the field of time. I hope you understand this. One cannot think about something one does not know - the Immeasurable, the Timeless, can one? There is no measurement for it; it is outside the field of thought. One can speculate, spin a lot of theories about it, but theories are not actualities.
So what I can think about is related to time; it is not out of time. Surely this is fairly clear, is it not? Being a Hindu you can think about God because you have been told certain things. The Communist does not think about God because his symbol is the State, which is his God. So your God is the product of your own thinking and therefore not real. If you really feel that to be so, to be true, then your God has no meaning whatsoever. Then you can start to find out if there is a God or not. That is fun, that enquiry has vitality, depth, fullness, vigour; but just to repeat that there is God and go to the temple, or whatever you do, has no meaning; it is deadly, unreal, a devitalizing existence. As you know, this is what is happening in this poor, unfortunate country; we are dying to beauty, dying intellectually, artistically, morally, in every way, because we are living at the verbal level which has no meaning at all.
So the self is the `me' with all its memories. There are the memories at the superficial, conscious level where we add techniques, modern science and so on, and below that is the unconscious with all the causations, the sexual urges, the perversions, fears, racial and family inheritance, the Gods, beliefs, ideals, the culture of centuries - all that is the `me'.
Now, is that `me' merely a word? Do you understand what I am asking the meaning of my question? Say, you call yourself a Hindu, a Brahmin, a Christian, a Buddhist or whatever it is; is what you are merely a word, dissociated from your consciousness? Or does the word signify your consciousness? Or has the word Hindu, Brahmin, Buddhist, Christian no meaning at all? Are you not just aware of yourself as consciousness? Do you follow what I mean? I do not want to take more examples or we shall get lost; we must be able to think generally, abstractly, then we can come to the particular. If you can grasp the significance of the total statement then you can work out the details for yourself. After all, Sirs, we are not only the full, rich past coming into contact with the present - in which the western culture is imposing itself on the eastern - we are creating action. But is all this merely a series of words?
Let me put it differently. What is the instrument of your investigation? It is thought, obviously, is it not? When you say, I will look, I will investigate, what do you mean? Do you look verbally, using words all the time, or do you say to yourself, `I know the danger of words, but I will just look'. Can you look without words? Probably this seems too abstract, but I don't think it is if you are following what I am saying. We say we want to investigate the `me', to have self-knowledge, but obviously it is essential to find out what the instrument is with which we examine, investigate. Are you investigating yourself by means of a series of words or symbols? That is actually what you are doing. You have an idea of the self, a picture, a symbol of the self, and with another series of words you are investigating. But cannot the mind look at itself without any symbol, without any word? Can I free the mind from the word, from the thinking? Thinking is the response of memory, a series of words, is it not? There is in memory a kind of Bank of associations, and from that I respond. Take a very simple thing. I ask you something with which you are very familiar, such as where do you live, or what is your name. Your response is immediate because you are so familiar with the question and the answer; it is automatic. The mind does not need to set going the motion of thought; the response is instantaneous. But if I ask you a question a little more complex, there is a gap before you can respond. In that gap is the process of thinking, investigating which is memory taking time to find the reply. So the interval between a challenge and the response is time, and in that time thought is taking place. The greater the lag between the question and the answer the more the thought process is working. That is simple; you can experiment with yourself and see it happening. Whether the response is automatic or delayed, it is always the response from memory; from the Bank of words.
Now please do watch yourself as you listen. Because I am asking you now a question. When you think, what is taking place? Are you thinking in words, in symbols? And is there such a thing as thinking without words, without symbols? Is there such a state? You see I want to go into it further, more deeply, but I cannot if you are not following, going along with me.
I say to myself, `Am I merely a collection of words?' For if I strip myself of name, of property, of certain things I may have, what am I? Have you ever gone into it? If you have ever gone into yourself, stripped yourself of your specialities, your knowledge, your ambitions, the hundreds of things that one has, what then are you? You must surely, in moments, have experienced that sense of complete isolation, loneliness. Now is that state merely verbal, is that acute loneliness merely verbal? Or is it actual? Please listen carefully. If it is actual, then is it possible to look at it, investigate it, without a word? It is possible, is it not? Then, if you have removed the word, is not investigation only, that state? Obviously, if you remove the word then the investigator is not somebody apart from that agony, that complete self-isolation. So there is no observer when the word is not used. I do not know if I am making myself clear. Let us take something closer, nearer. I am angry. At the moment of that intense adrenal flow into my blood when I am angry, there is no awareness or consciousness of a separate `me' who is angry. There is only the state of anger. A second afterwards there is self-identification with that state, and then I say `I am angry'. Now if you do not identify yourself with that state, if you free the mind from the word `anger', what then? Does it continue? Sirs, I hope you are following this, if even only a little bit. I am not playing intellectual gymnastics, but if one can do this, it means an extraordinary, radical change in the quality of the mind.
The word `anger' has great sociological and moral significance. The word itself is condemnatory. And that word you give to a feeling automatically, and so you never investigate the feeling itself. You are incapable of investigating it because you have already invested it with a verbal significance.. So, can you free the mind from the word and look at the feeling? Is it anger that is there when you take away the word?
So we begin to see what an extraordinary significance the word has. If you have ever experienced loneliness, you will know the terror, the agony, the despair, the incommunicable state in which the mind finds itself. But if the mind can free itself from the word, then you are able to look at it, without verbalizing. Then your looking brings into being an entirely different state. Seeing all this, what is the experiencer, the observer, the thinker, to whom experience, knowledge, is so important? What does that word `experience' mean? Is it again only a word, or an actual state of experiencing in which there is no separate experiencer? I am afraid I am putting too many things into one basket all at once, but unless you go through all this very profoundly you will find that the experiencer always separates himself from the experience, and therefore the conflict between the two false things will always. exist, which is the most destructive thing to the mind and the main cause of our deterioration. I am going on quickly and I hope you will keep pace.
Is there experiencing without the experiencer? Obviously not. Unless I am aware that I am experiencing, there is no experiencer. When I separate myself from experience and am aware that I am experiencing, then I say I like this experience and I do not like that; this is pleasurable, that is not pleasurable. Then I seek the one and avoid the other. So my mind has divided itself, is in a state of contradiction, caught in the duality of pleasure and no pleasure, and I spend my life in that way everlastingly, until I die. So I want to find out if there is experiencing without the experiencer. That may sound crazy but it is not. Because I see that so long as I am conscious that I am experiencing, I divide it all up as pleasurable or painful and pursue the one and avoid the other, thereby creating endless conflict. I also see that conflict of any kind, outward or inward, is deadly to a mind that wants to be alert, healthy, vigorous, vital. So the question is, can there be experience without the experiencer? Which is the same question as: can there be thinking without the word? Please do not answer; it is not a question of agreeing or disagreeing; you have to go into it.
When I go into that question very deeply, I see that there can be a state of experiencing without the experiencer and in which there is no experience at all. This is not a state of insensitivity, of death, of a mind which has been anaesthetized, but the state of a mind which is completely awake, totally aware of itself because it has completely understood the whole content of itself and all the processes which I have described. When such a mind is totally comprehending itself and knows all the intricacies of itself, then you will find there is a state which is not experiencing at all. So long as there is awareness of an experience, there must be a division between the observer and the observed, and therefore conflict. So you have to find out whether there is such a thing as thinking without words, if there is an experiencing without the experiencer, and if there is a mind that is fully awake without experiencing, without knowing experience.
Now when the mind is not experiencing but is fully awake, such a mind alone can discover that which is beyond. But, you see, these are words. It is very interesting, what is taking place now. I want to communicate something to you, I want to tell you something, but I can only tell you something of which you know. I cannot tell you of something you do not know. I want to, but you only know the experiencer experiencing, with all the struggle. You do not know the state of experiencing only, without the experiencer translating the experience according to his memory. And you certainly do not know - though some of you may - the state where there is no experiencer at all. I want to tell you about it, but see the difficulty! There are no words to describe it; no symbols to cover it. For it, your holy books have no meaning; they are dead.
So I say that to go through all this profoundly in yourself, that alone brings a new quality to the mind, that alone is the true revolution. Then there is the creative mind; that is creation. So you see how important it is to have self-knowledge, not the platitude, but actual self-knowledge, not the verbal approach but the actual comprehension of the whole state of your being. If you go into it, you are bound to come to this point where you are able to think without the word, where there is an experiencing without the experiencer, where there is only a state, where there is no experience. How can something which is totally alive, which is Light, experience? To know of that, the whole problem of thinking must be gone into, and then you will see the extraordinary beauty of it, the depth, the riches that are really there. Such a mind does not need Gods, rituals, ceremonies, a country or books. To such a mind the whole thing from beginning to end is a way of meditation, a way of living.
November 9, 1958
Madras 6th Public Talk 9th November 1958
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