Bombay 7th Public Talk 17th December 1958
I wonder why you come to these talks? If it is merely to try to confirm your own particular theory about life or to try to find another theory which is superior, more subtle, then I think these talks will have very little meaning. Because what we are trying to do here, if we can, is to break through the curtain of theories and become intelligent. We have so many problems, at all levels of our being - physical, psychological, intellectual and so on - and obviously no theory is going to solve any of them. The theory always brings about conformity, but the understanding of the fact frees the mind and brings about intelligence, an enlightened way of living. This enlightened way of living is obviously denied when the mind is ridden by theories, ideologies, formulae or intellectual conceptions. I think - and I am saying this in all humility - that the function of these discourses here is to awaken, if possible, this intelligence, so that you as an individual will be able to meet the various situations in which you find yourself, with enlightenment, with clarity, with a sense of deep inward understanding.
So if you and I are clear on this point, that we are really trying to break through this wall of darkness, the wall of theories, beliefs, dogmas and superstitions, then, in the breaking through, we shall awaken that intelligence which is an enlightened comprehension of the whole process of living. Then these discourses will have meaning, real significance. But if we merely translate what is said into a formula, a theory, then we shall miss the whole point of all this. Ideas, however refined, however cunning, however subtle can never solve the problems of our existence; no dogma, no new or old system will ever resolve the intellectual, psychological and physical problems of our life. What we need is the application of enlightened intelligence to our everyday living, and that requires a great deal of insight, a great deal of deep inward enquiry. Obviously there is no deep inward search if we merely function according to a particular formula or theory - whether capitalistic, socialistic or religious. That merely leads to conformity. But unfortunately most of us are caught in theories, in formulae, in systems of thought. We first have a system of thought and then try to fit the fact to that system - which is an impossibility. This is invariably what we do. We accept some theory and to that theory, to that belief, to that dogma we try to conform, which obviously leads to a most absurd way of living.
So you and I, as two individuals who are caught up in the stream of life of which we are part - with our turmoils, anxieties, fears, our passing affections and joys - can we not understand our problems, apply our minds to them and sharpen the mind through application? But not in a cunning way, which is what most of us want - to survive at any cost through various forms of political and business cunning and cunning in relationships. Because I feel that if we could become sensitive to this extraordinary thing called life, not merely seek to translate life according to our own particular pattern of thought but be sensitive to the whole process of life - to nature, to people, to ideas - then perhaps we can discover what is true and what is false.
That faculty of sensitivity is, of course, intelligence, is it not? Intelligence is the capacity to be deeply sensitive to all the movements of life. You cannot continue to live fragmentarily, individually, in segregation - as a business man, a financier, a politician, a religious person, a Communist, or this or that - because you are a total being with extraordinary faculties. To be alive, alert, to be sensitive to this movement of life is the only true intelligence, and when one is so intelligent then one can apply that intelligence totally to any action at any level. So it seems to me that it is essential to be sensitive to life, sensitive to the ugly, to the beautiful, to the heavens, to all the untrodden regions of one's own mind and to the restlessness of one's own mind - with its demands, sorrows and inward anxieties. We are not trying to find an answer to the problem but rather to be sensitive to the problem, and with that sensitivity, which is intelligence, we can then understand the problem and therefore resolve it. There is no answer to the problem, at any level, but there is a resolution of the problem if there is sufficient intelligence, sufficient sensitivity to the problem itself. But unfortunately, most of us seek solutions, seek an answer, and therefore we never are sensitive to a problem, because when the mind is seeking an answer it is obviously running away from the actual problem. But through sensitivity, intelligence is awakened and then you can deal with the problem, whatever it be. All the paraphernalia of ritualism, belief and all that stupid nonsense has no meaning if one has the faculty of sensitivity to the whole process of living, and this sensitivity is denied when the mind merely functions in habit.
Most of our minds do function in habits of thought - conclusions we have arrived at, our experiences, some peculiar state which we have known; these become our habits and we function from them.
Now if I may digress a little, I hope you are listening not merely intellectually or merely to the verbal significance of the words, because then you are not applying what you hear, then you are not capable of learning. Here you and I are trying to learn together and in this enquiry there is neither the teacher nor the taught. Life is not a process of being taught by a teacher. Everything has to be learnt. A dead leaf in a dirty street, if you can look at it with sensitivity, has enormous meaning. You can learn from that dead leaf because it has lived, has seen the spring and the summer, and it knows death. One can learn from everything, every incident, every experience, from every gesture, every look, every word. So I hope that you and I are listening to each other in that manner. That requires humility; a mind that knows no humility cannot learn, it merely acquires information. Such a mind is really arrogant in its own knowledge; it accumulates, becomes cunning, but it can never learn. Though I am doing the talking, I hope you are listening in that state of mind which is learning - learning about your habit of thought, which is imitation, conformity, respectability, pettiness of mind. It is that mind which is insensitive to life. It is that petty mind which creates problems and it is still the same mind which seeks an answer to its problem and therefore increases the problem. It is about that mind that we have to learn.
If you have observed your own mind you can see how extraordinarily quickly it falls into grooves of thought. You can see, can you not?, how the mind is conditioned to function along certain lines, to establish so-called good habits and to avoid evil habits. Now, there is no good habit or bad habit, there is only habit, and it is habit which makes us dull, stupid, heavy, without sensitivity to the challenge of life. You know, this is what is happening to all of us, is it not? We want to establish habits so that we do not have to think any more. We want to establish a good habit so that we can function automatically, like a machine. And as machines have no sensitivity, so obviously the mind that functions in habit has no sensitivity. A bureaucrat who has lived for thirty or forty years signing papers, how can he be sensitive to life? He functions with a limited mind, and all specialists, technicians and the rest of us are in the same state; we learn a job and live in it. So the problem is, how to die to habits, and I want to discuss this very deeply, leading to the problem of death.
I want to discourse on this whole problem of death, but you and I will not be able to understand that problem if we do not first understand the mind that creates habit, the mind that creates a centre from which it functions. That centre is the `me', is it not? That centre is the self with its accumulated, organized experiences from which it acts and thinks, from which it loves and from which it hates. It is that centre - which is obviously the organized experience of habit, thought, knowledge - which functions, and that centre is not separate from thought, from the self. There is only the thinker who creates the self. And I feel that if you and I do not fully understand this centre of habit, of imitation, and if that centre is not broken, dissolved, then we shall never understand what death is.
I would like to go into that, think aloud about it with you - or rather not `think', but discourse upon it. But if you merely listen without really observing, without being aware of your own center - the centre of anxiety, of suffering, the centre that wants to love and does not know how to, that is seeking some kind of fulfilment, some kind of happiness, joy, some form of physical or psychological survival - if you are not aware of all that, which is essentially a bundle of imitations from the yesterday, then my going into this problem of death will not answer your questions. As I have said, there is no answer to any problem, there is only an understanding of the problem. Likewise there is no answer to death, but only the understanding of death - the extraordinary depth of it, the beauty of it, the vastness, the newness of it - and that very understanding brings about a wholly different state of mind which will make you free of the fear of death and the sorrow of death. But the fear of death, the fear of loneliness, and that aloneness which comes with the understanding of death, all that will not be understood if you do not intelligently comprehend the implications of habit, of imitation, of conformity, of respectability.
Now, how is this centre to be dissipated? I am using the word `how' not in the sense of finding an answer or a new system, but merely to start an enquiry into the problem. I want to know how to break this centre, not merely continue that centre in a different way under the Communist regime, the socialist regime, the capitalist regime, or some other regime, with the innate suffering, pain and sorrow. I want to understand it, to break it, and I see that time is not the solution. This lengthening of the future is not the solution; the continuity of what has been is not the answer. I hope you understand what I mean? One realizes, doesn't one?, that this centre is the self, the `me' - that craves, that wants, that is seeking power, position, prestige, that has this constant nightmare of struggle, adjustment, pain, sorrow and fleeting joys, all of which is wearing us out, at all levels of our existence. So I am asking, how is this centre to be broken? We say time, many future days will solve it, or we believe in reincarnation. But that is merely giving what has been a modified continuity in the future, is it not? There is still the survival of this centre, is there not?, with all its anxieties, problems, fears, the residue of imitation, of habit. So the question is, is it possi - ble to die to that centre now, not in the future, not waiting until you are old and worn out, and bodily death comes. Am I putting the problem clearly? Sirs, can I die to myself now? After all, death is the great negation and all negation at that deep level is sacred, is profound. That is why negative thinking is the greatest form of thinking and so-called positive thinking is really only a continuation of imitation, conformity. So I am asking you, how to die - how to die to a habit? You understand, Sirs? The habit of ambition which you know - can you die to it? Everyone is ambitious, from the greatest leader to the poorest man in this social structure. You want to be something, to become something, do you not? And the struggle the pain, the frustration, the ruthlessness and cruelty that is involved - you know it all, and still you want to, fulfil. Now can one die to that habit of thought? Not tomorrow, but can the urge cease on the moment? Because, surely, the moment it ceases the mind becomes astonishingly sensitive, and in the cessation of that particular habit there is enlightenment. That enlightenment is awakened by the intelligence which comes when you see the whole implication of ambition. I am taking ambition as an example, but there is also envy, greed, pride, and also virtue, which I am going into presently. Can one die to all this? Because, if you cannot die to it, obviously you will have continuity - continuity of sorrow and death, and then death is a fearful thing. After all, virtue also is a form of continuity, the perpetuation of what you think is good, true. Virtue, to you, is a positive state and virtue, which is the cultivation of an opposite, implies continuity. If you are violent you cultivate non-violence and pursue that ideal day after day. You practise, subjugate your mind, but obviously all that is merely the continuity of a certain idea, a certain thought, that is all. The continuation of a particular idea, which you call virtue, is merely conformity to a certain pattern which society demands. Real virtue is the complete cessation of ambition, of envy, of greed, of pride - not the transforming of one particular feeling into another kind of feeling. The cessation of habit, in which there is no continuity of what-has-been, that alone, surely, is virtue. To cease totally, to have no pride at all is utterly different from being conscious of pride and cultivating humility; cultivated humility is merely the continuation of pride in a different form. But the cessation of pride, totally, on the moment - surely, that is possible.
Look what is happening everywhere ! Everyone is ambitious, from the highest to the lowest. And once a man gets into a position he can hold, he will not relinquish it; he says that for the good of the country, for the good of the people, for the good of society, he must stay in office. You know all the verbiage. Do not say: "If I am not ambitious what will happen to me?" You will find out surely what will happen if you cease to be ambitious. You will have a different life altogether. You may or may not fit into this rotten society, but you will have understood, there will be a state of virtue that knows no tomorrow. Virtue is a state of being, on the instant, and in that there is great depth of beauty. So you must die to all your yesterdays. But that, becomes a theory, a mere statement if you have not really understood the whole problem of the mind that has accumulated, if you are not aware of your own habits, of your own prejudices, ambitions, frustrations, joys and sorrows. If you are not aware of all that, then the mere statement that you must die totally to all the yesterdays has no meaning. You may repeat it, pass it on, but it will have no meaning. Whereas if you can take one thought, one habit that occurs to you and die to it, then you will see that dying is something quite different from anything you have known.
If I can die to my pride, if I can die to my ambitions, if I can die to all the injuries I have received, the insults, the despairs, the hopes and fears that I have nourished for so long, then my mind is no longer thinking in terms of time; then death is not merely at the end of existence, then death is at the beginning as well as at the end. This is not a theory, this is not a poetic statement; if you repeat it, it has no meaning, but if you die to one of your habits - any habit just die to it, just drop it, as a leaf falls away naturally, automatically, then you will notice that in that very dying a new breath comes into being, a new way of existence. It is not that you will replace death by another way of existence, but the very dying to the habit brings about a new, creative living. Please, Sirs, do listen as I am talking, and apply it - not when you get home, not as you wait for the bus, not looking for the moment of tranquillity, but now. Can you not die now to something? Can you not die to your dislike of somebody, to your fear of somebody, to your beliefs - which is much more difficult, because your guru, your belief gives you hope, a future. But if you can die to your own despair then there is no need of a guru, which means there is no need for hope, no need for the tomorrow. To die to despair is the negation of death, it is a state of the greatest creativeness.
Then there is the further problem of what it is that continues in our daily existence. We are all concerned, are we not?, to know if there is some form of continuity after death. You hope, many of you, that you will reincarnate, make yourself perfect, become more and more of value - which means climbing the ladder of success. If you are a nobody in this life you hope you will be somebody in the next life. There is always this problem of continuity. Now what is it that continues in this life, and why do you cling to that continuity? Why does the mind hold on to, attach itself to that form of what-has-been? You understand the question, Sirs? You are afraid of death and so you say you will continue hereafter. Now before you look into the future can you not question the present? What is it that continues? What is it to which you cling? To your position as a clerk, a minister, a priest, a businessman - the deceiving, dishonest, corrupt individuality? Is that what you are holding on to? Your family, your property, your name, is that what you are clinging to? And all this you want to continue after death? Good God! All that is nothing at all, is it? Your name, your property, your ideas, experiences, joys are all changing, moving, and in them is uncertainty, fear and despair. So is that what you want to continue? And is there a continuity of all that; is there a continuity of anything, or does everything, naturally die? The mind refuses to accept death now, does it not?, but surely that which continues can never be creative, can never find that extraordinary state of mind that is creation. Obviously, what continues is only that which has been, modified in the present in order to proceed to some future, and such a continuity - with all its implications of sorrow, failure, hope and despair - is merely the continuity of the centre, the `me', the self which invents the super-self, the Atman and all the rest of the theories.
Can that continuity come to an end now - not just wait for death from accident, disease or old age? I do not know if you have thought of this problem at all? The traditional approach obviously does not uncover the problem. So really the question is whether the mind, with all its memories, organized experiences, can die to its memories and not merely become dull, stupid, incapable of creativeness. Can we not die to memory so that memory does not influence the mind - even though we retain it factually? Because if you factually forget yesterday you cannot survive, you cannot live. But when yesterday influences today - as it does with all of us - then you lose the sensitivity, the profundity of the real dying to the yesterday.
If you have really listened to all this, then you are learning about death, that death is now, not in the future. The beauty of death is in the present, and because it is negative, a positive approach can never discover it. But when the continuity of what-has-been comes to an end, then a new quality of mind comes into being; though it has the accumulated knowledge of a thousand yesterdays, yet the mind is dead to all that and so is fresh, new, innocent. But if you ask, `how can I get that innocence?', you are asking a most silly question. There is no method, no system; systems, methods, disciplines, virtues give only a continuity of what-has-been, modified. It is only in dying that there is a creative mind. One can see also that the stronger the mind is in its egotism, in its self-centred activity, the more energetic, violent, struggling the self is. And obviously it will continue because the mind is different from the brain. Though the mind is the result of the brain it is free of the brain, as thought is free of the brain. Thought continues as a vibration which may manifest itself afterwards, but that again is a form of continuity and that con - tinuing entity can never be creative, can never know this extraordinary state of creation. So, Sirs, what this world needs at the present time is not more technicians; there will be more technicians but at their level they are not going to solve the human problem. They may build more dams, better roads, better means of communication, bring about more prosperity, a better way of living - which of course is essential - but that is all. In all this we have denied religion because for most of us life is mainly a physical matter. Through technology you may be going to have perfect physical living, but that is not the answer to our fundamental problems.
So what is required is a mind that is in a state of creation, not in a state of continuity. And creation can be really understood, learnt about, known, experienced, only in the state of death. Creation is Reality, creation is what you call God - but the word `God' is not that creation; the word is only a symbol, it has no meaning. Repeating about God, praying to God, going to, temples, churches, has no meaning. But if you die to all the words, to all the symbols, then you will find out for yourself - without reading any book, without going to any guru, without any ritual, without any support - you will find that state of creation in which everything exists. But you cannot comprehend that state by any amount of repetition of the word. That state comes only when you die to your ambition, to your anxiety, to your corruption. Then you will see that in that state of death which is negation, there is a totally different state of the positive, which is creation.
December 17, 1958
Bombay 7th Public Talk 17th December 1958
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