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Bombay 1959

Bombay 1st Public Talk 23rd December 1959

Freedom is of the highest importance, but we place it within the borders of our own conceit. We have preconceived ideas of what freedom is, or what it should be; we have beliefs, ideals, conclusions about freedom. But freedom is something that cannot be preconceived. It has to be understood. Freedom does not come through mere intellection, through a logical reasoning from conclusion to conclusion. It comes darkly, unexpectedly; it is born of its own inward state. To realize freedom requires an alert mind, a mind that is deep with energy, a mind that is capable of immediate perception without the process of gradation, without the idea of an end to be slowly achieved. So, if I may, I would like to think aloud with you about freedom this evening.

Before we go more deeply into this question, I think it is necessary that we be aware of how the mind has become a slave. With most of us, the mind is a slave to tradition, to custom, to habit, to the daily job which we have to do and to which we are addicted. I think very few of us realize how slavish our minds are; and without perceiving what makes the mind slavish, without being aware of the nature of its slavery, we cannot understand what freedom is. Unless one is aware of how the mind is captured and held, which is to comprehend the totality of its slavishness, I do not think the mind can ever be free. One has to understand what is before one can perceive that which is other than what is.

So let us observe our own minds; let us look at the totality of the mind, the unconscious as well as the conscious. The conscious mind is that which is occupied with the everyday events of life; it is the mind that learns, that adjusts, that acquires a technique, whether scientific, medical, or bureaucratic. It is the conscious mind of the businessman that becomes a slave to the job which he has to do. Most of us are occupied from nine o'clock until five, almost every day of our existence, earning a livelihood; and when the mind spends so much of its life in acquiring and practicing a technique, whether it be that of a mechanic, a surgeon, an engineer, a businessman, or what you will, naturally it becomes a slave to that technique. I think this is fairly obvious. As the housewife is a slave to the house, to her husband, to cooking for her children, so is the man a slave to his job; and both are slaves to tradition, to custom, to knowledge, conclusions, beliefs, to the conditioned ways of their own thinking. And we accept this slavery as inevitable. We never inquire to find out whether we can function without being slaves. Having accepted the inevitability of earning a livelihood, we have also accepted as inevitable the mind's slavishness, its fears, and thus we tread the mill of everyday existence.

We have to live in this world - that is the only inevitable thing in life. And the question is, surely, whether we cannot live in this world with freedom. Can we not live in this world without being slaves, without the everlasting burden of fear and frustration, without all the agony of sorrow? The limitations of the mind, the limitations of our own thinking, make us slaves. And if we observe, we see that the margin of freedom for the individual is getting narrower all the time. The politicians, the organized religions, the books we read, the knowledge and techniques we acquire, the traditions we are born into, the demands of our own ambitions and desires - these are all narrowing down the margin of freedom. I do not know to what extent and to what depth you are aware of this.

We are not talking of slavery as an abstraction, something which you hear about this evening and then return to your old routine. On the contrary, I think it is very important to understand this problem for oneself, because it is only in freedom that there is love; it is only in freedom that there is creation; it is only in freedom that truth can be found. Do what it will, a slavish mind can never find truth; a slavish mind can never know the beauty and the fullness of life. So I think it is very important to perceive how the mind, by its own processes, by its addiction to tradition, to custom, to knowledge and belief, becomes a slave.

I wonder if you as an individual are aware of this problem? Are you concerned merely to exist somehow in this ugly, brutal world, muttering on the side about God and freedom, and cultivating some futile virtue which makes you very respectable in the eyes of society? Or are you concerned with human dignity? There can be no human dignity without freedom; and freedom is not easily come by. To be free, one must understand oneself; one must be aware of the movements of thought and feeling, the ways of one's own mind.

As we are talking together, I wonder if you are aware of yourself? Are you aware, not theoretically, but actually, to what depth you are a slave? Or are you merely giving explanations - saying to yourself that some degree of slavery is inevitable, that you must earn a livelihood, that you have duties, responsibilities - and remaining satisfied with those explanations?

We are not concerned with what you should or should not do; that is not the problem. We are concerned with understanding the mind; and in understanding there is no condemnation, no demand for a pattern of action. You are merely observing; and observation is denied when you concern yourself with a pattern of action, or merely explain the inevitability of a slavish life. What matters is to observe your own mind without judgment - just to look at it, to watch it, to be conscious of the fact that your mind is a slave, and no more; because that very perception releases energy, and it is this energy that is going to destroy the slavishness of the mind. But if you merely ask, "How am I to be free from my slavery to routine, from my fear and boredom in everyday existence?", you will never release this energy. We are concerned only with perceiving what is; and it is the perception of what is that releases the creative fire. You cannot perceive if you do not ask the right question - and a right question has no answer, because it needs no answer. It is wrong questions that invariably have answers. The urgency behind the right question, the very instance of it, brings about perception. The perceiving mind is living, moving, full of energy, and only such a mind can understand what truth is.

But most of us, when we are face to face with a problem of this kind, invariably seek an answer, a solution, the `what to do', and the solution, the `what to do' is so easy, leading to further misfortune, further misery. That is the way of politicians. That is the way of the organized religions, which offer an answer, an explanation; and having found it, the so-called religious mind is thereby satisfied.

But we are not politicians, nor are we slavish to organized religions. We are now examining the ways of our own minds, and for that there must be no fear. To find out about oneself, what one thinks, what one is, the extraordinary depths and movements of the mind - just to be aware of all that requires a certain freedom. And to inquire into oneself also requires an astonishing energy, because one has to travel a distance which is immeasurable. Most of us are fascinated by the idea of going to the moon, or to Venus; but those distances are much shorter than the distance within ourselves.

So, to go into ourselves deeply, fully, a sense of freedom is necessary - not at the end, but at the very beginning. Do not ask how to arrive at that freedom. No system of meditation, no book, no drug, no psychological trick you can play on yourself, will give you freedom. Freedom is born of the perception that freedom is essential. The moment you perceive that freedom is essential, you are in a state of revolt - revolt against this ugly world, against all orthodoxy, against tradition, against leadership, both political and religious. Revolt within the framework of the mind, soon withers away; but there is a lasting revolt which comes into being when you perceive for yourself that freedom is essential.

Unfortunately, most of us are not aware of ourselves. We have never given thought to the ways of our minds as we have given thought to our techniques, to our jobs. We have never really looked at ourselves; we have never wandered into the depths of ourselves without calculation, without premeditation, without seeking something out of those depths. We have never taken the journey into ourselves without a purpose. The moment one has a motive, a purpose, one is a slave to it; one cannot wander freely within oneself, because one is always thinking in terms of change, of self-improvement. One is tied to the post of self-improvement, which is a projection of one's own narrow, petty mind.

Do please consider what I am saying, not merely verbally but observe your own mind, the actuality of your inner state. As long as you are a slave, your muttering about God, about truth, about all the things that you have learned from sacred books, has no meaning; it only perpetuates your slavery. But if your mind begins to perceive the necessity of freedom, it will create its own energy, which will then operate without your calculated efforts to be free of slavery.

So, we are concerned with the freedom of the individual. But to discover the individual is very difficult, because at present we are not individuals. We are the product of our environment, of our culture; we are the product of the food we eat, of our climate, our customs, our traditions. Surely, that is not individuality. I think individuality comes into being only when one is fully aware of this encroaching movement of environment and tradition that makes the mind a slave. As long as I accept the dictates of tradition, of a particular culture, as long as I carry the weight of my memories, my experiences - which after all are the result of my conditioning - I am not an individual, but merely a product.

When you call yourself a Hindu, a Moslem, a Parsi, a Buddhist, a Communist, a Catholic, or what you will, are you not the product of your culture, your environment? And even when you react against that environment, your reaction is still within the field of conditioning. Instead of being a Hindu, you become a Christian, a Communist, or something else. There is individuality only when the mind perceives the narrow margin of its freedom and battles ceaselessly against the encroachment of the politician and of the organized beliefs which are called religion; against the encroachment of knowledge, of technique, and of one's own accumulated experiences, which are the result of one's conditioning, one's background.

This perception, this constant awareness of what is, has its own will - if I can use that word `will' without confusing it with the will to which you are so accustomed, and which is the product of desire. The will of discipline, of effort, is the product of desire, surely, and it creates the conflict between what is and what should be, between what you want and what you do not want. It is a reaction, a resistance, and such will is bound to create other reactions and other forms of resistance. Therefore there is never freedom through will - the will of which you know. I am talking of a perceptive state of mind which has its own action. That is, perception itself is action. I wonder if I am making myself clear!

You see, sirs, I realize, as you must realize too, that the mind is a slave to habit, to custom, to tradition, and to all the memories with which it is burdened. Realizing this, the mind also realizes that it must be free; because it is only in freedom that one can inquire, that one can discover. So, to perceive the necessity of being free is an absolute necessity.

Now, how is the slavish mind to be free? Please follow this. How is the slavish mind to be free? We are asking this question because we see that our lives are nothing but slavery. Going to the office day after day in utter boredom, being a slave to tradition, to custom, to fear, to one's wife or husband, to one's boss - that is one's life, and one sees the appalling pettiness, the nauseating indignity of it all. So we are asking this question: "How am I to be free?" And is that a right question? If it is, it will have no answer, because the question itself will open the door. But if it is a wrong question, you will find - at least you will think you have found - ways and means of `solving' the problem. But do what it will, the slavish mind can never free itself through any means, through any system or method. Whereas if you perceive totally, completely, absolutely, that the mind must be free, then that very perception brings an action which will set the mind free.

I think it is very important to understand this; and understanding is instantaneous. You do not understand tomorrow. There is no arrival at understanding after thinking it over. You either understand now, or you don't understand at all. Understanding takes place when the mind is not cluttered up with motives, with fears, with the demand for an answer. I wonder if you have noticed that there are no answers to life's questions? You can ask questions like "What is the goal of life?", or "What happens after death?", or "How am I to meditate?", or "My job is boring, what shall I do?" You can ask, but how you ask is what matters. If you ask with a purpose, that is, with the motive of finding an answer, the answer will invariably be false, because your desire, your petty mind has already projected it. So the state of the mind that questions is much more important than the question itself. Any question that may be asked by a slavish mind, and the answer it receives, will still be within the limitations of its own slavery. But a mind that realizes the full extent of its slavery, will have a totally different approach; and it is this totally different approach that we are concerned with. You can ask the right question only when you see instantly the absolute necessity of freedom.

Our minds are the result of a thousand yesterdays; being conditioned by the culture in which they live, and by the memory of past experiences, they devote themselves to the acquisition of knowledge and technique. To such minds, truth or God can obviously have no meaning. Their talk of truth is like the muttering of a slave about freedom. But you see most of us prefer to be slaves; it is less troublesome, more respectable, more comfortable. In slavery there is little danger, our lives are more or less secure, and that is what we want - security, certainty, a way of life in which there will be no serious disturbance.

But life comes knocking at our door, and it brings sorrow. We feel frustrated, we are in misery, and there is after all no certainty, because everything is constantly changing. All relationships break up, and we want a permanent relationship. So life is one thing, and what we want is another. There is a battle between what we want and what life is; and what we want is made narrow by the pettiness of our minds, of our everyday existence. Our battles, our contradictions, our struggles with life are at a very superficial level; our petty little questionings based on fears and anxieties, inevitably finds an answer as shallow as itself.

Sirs, life is something extraordinary, if you observe it. Life is not merely this stupid little quarrelling among ourselves, this dividing up of mankind into nations, races, classes; it is not just the contradiction and misery of our daily existence. Life is wide, limitless, it is that state of love which is beauty; life is sorrow and this tremendous sense of joy. But our joys and sorrows are so small, and from that shallowness of mind live ask questions and find answers.

So the problem is, surely, to free the mind totally, so that it is in a state of awareness which has no border, no frontier. And how is the mind to discover that state? How is it to come to that freedom?

I hope you are seriously putting this question to yourselves, because I am not putting it to you. I am not trying to influence you, I am merely pointing out the importance of asking oneself this question. The verbal asking of the question by another has no meaning if you don't put it to yourself with instance, with urgency. The margin of freedom is growing narrower every day, as you must know if you are at all observant. The politicians, the leaders, the priests, the newspapers and books you read, the knowledge you acquire, the beliefs you cling to - all this is making the margin of freedom more and more narrow. If you are aware of this process going on, if you actually perceive the narrowness of the spirit, the increasing slavery of the mind, then you will find that out of perception comes energy; and it is this energy born of perception that is going to shatter the petty mind, the respectable mind, the mind that goes to the temple, the mind that is afraid. So perception is the way of truth.

You know, to perceive something is an astonishing experience. I don't know if you have ever really perceived anything - if you have ever perceived a flower, or a face, or the sky, or the sea. Of course, you see these things as you pass by in a bus or a car; but I wonder whether you have ever taken the trouble actually to look at a flower? And when you do look at a flower, what happens? You immediately name the flower, you are concerned with what species it belongs to, or you say, "What lovely colours it has. I would like to grow it in my garden; I would like to give it to my wife, or put it in my button-hole", and so on. In other words, the moment you look at a flower, your mind begins chattering about it; therefore you never perceive the flower. You perceive something only when your mind is silent, when there is no chattering of any kind. If you can look at the evening star over the sea without a movement of the mind, then you really perceive the extraordinary beauty of it; and when you perceive beauty, do you not also experience the state of love? Surely, beauty and love are the same. Without love there is no beauty, and without beauty there is no love. Beauty is in form, beauty is in speech, beauty is in conduct. If there is no love, conduct is empty; it is merely the product of society, of a particular culture, and what is produced is mechanical, lifeless. But when the mind perceives without the slightest flutter, then it is capable of looking into the total depth of itself; and such perception is really timeless. You don't have to do something to bring it about; there is no discipline, no method by which you can learn perceive.

Sirs, do please listen to what I am saying. Your minds are slaves to patterns, to systems, to methods and techniques. I am talking of something entirely different. Perception is instantaneous, timeless; there is no gradual approach to it. It is on the instant that perception takes place; it is a state of effortless attention. The mind is not making an effort, therefore it does not create a border, a frontier, it does not place a limitation on its own consciousness. Then life is not this terrible process of sorrow, of struggle, of unutterable boredom. Life is then an eternal movement, without beginning and without end. But to be aware of that timeless state, to feel the tremendous depth and ecstasy of it, one must begin by understanding the slavish mind. Without understanding the one, you cannot have the other. We would like to escape from our slavery, and that is why we talk about religious things; that is why we read the Scriptures; that is why we speculate, argue, discuss - which is all so vain and futile. Whereas, if you are aware that your mind is narrow, limited, slavish, petty - aware of it choicelessly - then you are in a state of perception; and it is this perception that will bring the necessary energy to free the mind from its slavery. Then the mind has no centre from which it acts. The moment you have a centre, there must also be a circumference; and to function from a centre, within a circumference, is slavery. But when the mind, being aware of the centre, also perceives the nature of the centre, that very perception is enough. To perceive the nature of the centre, is the greatest thing you can do; it is the greatest action the mind can take. But that requires your complete attention. You know, when you love something without any motive, without any want, such love brings its own results, it finds its own way, it is its own beauty.

So, what is important is to be aware of how one's mind, in the very process of accumulation, becomes a slave. Do not ask, "How am I to be free from accumulation?", for then you are putting a wrong question. But if you really perceive for yourself that your mind is accumulating, that is enough to perceive requires complete attention; and when you give your whole mind, your whole heart, your total being to something, there is no problem. It is partial attention, in which there is a withholding, that creates the problems and the miseries in our life.

December 23, 1959


Bombay 1959

Bombay 1st Public Talk 23rd December 1959

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