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Banaras 1960

Banaras 1st Public Talk 24th January 1960

It seems to me very important to think fundamentally and to feel deeply about the major problems of life. To think fundamentally is not to think theoretically or speculatively, but rather to free the mind from the circles that it has woven around itself, and also from the circles that the world - circumstances, tradition, so-called knowledge - has woven around it. But most of us think theoretically; we are satisfied with facile answers and explanations, lulled to sleep by quotations, by satisfactory words, and, however difficult our problems may be, we generally manage to slither through them rather contentedly and superficially. So, to those who are listening seriously and not just passing the time of day because they have nothing else to do, I would like to suggest that we go together, if we can, into our various problems, I into the many conflicts and contradictions which burden our lives. By `going together' into our problems, I do not mean mere verbalization, or the offering of explanations, but rather to find out if we cannot actually experience what is being said by examining our own minds and our own lives, so that we come out of it with clarity, precision and understanding. Otherwise we are merely indulging in words. You will come to these talks and gather a few more explanations, collect a few more ideas, and then slip back into the traditional way of life, or into a comfortable, secure way of life which you have established for yourself.

That is why I would suggest that those who are really serious about these matters should not only listen to what is being said, but, in the very process of listening, should observe their own minds, explore their own ways of thinking, uncover their own habits and activities in daily life. Unless we are willing to do this, it seems to me that these talks will not be worth while at all. I have been here often, and some of you have heard me repeatedly, fortunately or unfortunately, for the last ten years; and most of us change very little. We are established in our positions and have gained prestige. We are growing old, and we shall soon be in the grave without having solved any of our problems.

So, may I suggest that while listening to these talks you do not accept or reject, which would be immature, but rather explore with me the problems that I each one of us has. To explore is not merely to describe and be satisfied, but actually to uncover the conflicts, the confusions, the trivialities of our lives.

One can see, through reading the newspapers and being observant of the events that are going on in the world, that freedom is getting less and less; the margin of freedom is narrowing down. Do you know what I mean? The mind has very little chance to be free, it is not able to think out, to feel out, to discover, because organized religions throughout the world, with their dogmatic beliefs, have crippled our thinking; superstitions and traditions have enclosed the mind, conditioned the mind. You are a Hindu, a Christian, a Moslem, or you belong to some other organized belief which has been imposed upon you from childhood, and you function within that circle of limitation, narrow or wide. When you say you are a Hindu, a Moslem, or what you will, please observe your own mind. Are you not merely repeating what has been told you? You do not know, you merely accept - and you accept because it is convenient. Socially, economically it gives you security to accept and live within that circle. So freedom is denied - not only to the Hindu, to the Christian, to the Moslem, but to all who are held within the enclosure of an organized religion.

And if you observe you will see that, whatever profession you belong to, is also enslaving you. How can a man be free who has spent forty years in a particular profession? Look what happens to a doctor. Having spent seven years or so in college, for the rest of his life he is a general practitioner, or a specialist, and he becomes enslaved by the profession. Surely, his margin of freedom is very narrow. And the same is true of the politicians, of the social reformers, of the people who have ideals, who have an objective in life.

So, if you are observant you will see that everywhere in the world the margin of freedom and human dignity is getting less and less. Our minds are mere machines. We learn a profession, and forever after we are its slaves. And it seems to me that it requires a great deal of understanding, real perception, insight, to break this circle which the mind and society have woven around each one of us. To approach these enslavements anew" to tackle them fundamentally, deeply, radically, I think one has to be revolutionary - which means thinking, feeling totally, and not just looking at things from the outside. And one must have a sense of humility, must one not?

I do not think humility is a cultivated virtue. Cultivated virtue is a horror, because the moment you cultivate a virtue, it ceases to be a virtue. Virtue is spontaneous, timeless, it is ever active in the present. A mind that merely cultivates humility can never know the fullness, the depth, the beauty of being really humble; and if the mind is not in that state, I do not think it can learn. It can function mechanically; but learning, surely, is not the mechanical accumulation of knowledge. The movement of learning is something entirely different, is it not? And to learn, the mind must have a sense of great humility.

I want to know, what freedom is - not speculative freedom, which is self-projected as a reaction to something. Is there such a thing as real freedom - a state in which the mind is actually freeing itself from all the traditions and patterns which have been imposed upon it for centuries? I want to know what is this extraordinary thing after which people have struggled through the ages; I want to find out, learn all about it. And how can I do that if I have no sense of humility? Humility has nothing whatsoever to do with the self-protective humbleness which the mind imposes upon itself. That is an ugly thing. Humility cannot be cultivated; and it is one of the most difficult things to experience, surely, because we have already established ourselves in certain positions. We have certain ideas, values, we have a certain amount of experience, knowledge, and this background dictates our activities, our thoughts. An old man who has accumulated knowledge through his own experiences and through the experiences of others, and who is driven by his urge to be important, to establish for himself a position of power, prestige - how can such a man be in a state of humility and thereby learn about his own trivialities? So it seems to me that we have to be tremendously attentive, and deeply aware of this sense of humility.

The world is in an extraordinary confusion, is it not? Look at your leaders, swamis, gurus, friends - they are all in a state of self-contradiction; they do not know what to do. Some of us have had minor explosions within ourselves, and have responded accordingly. When, for example, we see poverty, starvation, all the social misery that is going on around us, there is a minor explosion within ourselves. We want to act, to do something, not sit around and everlastingly talk, speculate; so the minor explosion brings the minor response. We join a movement of some kind and work, work, work. But that does not satisfy, it has no depth, it does not include the vast expanse of life, so we throw it aside and look to something else; again we join a movement, an organization. And so we go on throughout our life, joining, discarding, having minor explosions and responding with equal triviality.

Sirs, may I suggest that you listen to what is being said, not as a mere lecture, but as a description of yourself, and of your own existence; for if we are not aware of our own lives, if we are not vitally conscious of what is actually taking place within and around us, these talks become empty, utterly futile. So, please relate what is being said to your own life, and do not merely throw it aside as something very nice in theory, hut not practical. After all, it is practical to think very clearly, and not to deceive oneself. To know what the problems are, and to find out how you respond to them, is extraordinarily important, is it not? Otherwise you merely wend your way through life, or create still greater confusion because you happen to get more votes and hold an important position. The mind is anyhow lethargic, very slow, sluggish; it needs a great shaking up, because it has settled down in a comfortable, secure position and does not want to be disturbed. That is the case with most of us. And from that isolated position of security, the mind moves, acts and thinks. And life demands, surely, not only at the present time but always, a totally different response. So it seems to me that to learn, humility is essential. Life is impressing certain things on the mind, and if we are at all aware, we are learning all the time. But most of us learn merely as a process of accumulation. I do not know if you have ever thought about learning - what it means to learn. I am not talking about schoolboy learning, which is merely the cultivation of memory, an additive process of gathering information. That kind of learning is mechanical, and it is a necessary part of existence; but I am talking about learning in an entirely different sense. Surely, the mind cannot learn if it has already accumulated. From that background of accumulation, what happens in your mind when you look at a sunset or the river? You have knowledge about the river you know its name, its so-called spiritual significance; and this knowledge prevents you from really looking at the river. Sirs, am I talking of something foreign to all of you? I do not feel you are moving with me.

There are many problems in life; and how do you look at them? How do you look at the problem of power? How do you regard the tyranny of a few people over the majority? How do you look at the power of a very learned mind, and the power of the word to sway the multitude? What is your reaction to the Gita, to the Vedas, to all the spiritual books? If your reactions are merely trivial, if they are the traditional reactions which you have picked up from your environment, surely you cannot learn.

To me, learning is a constant, timeless movement, it is never cumulative. The mind that has accumulated knowledge has ceased to learn, though it may go on adding to its knowledge. Surely, learning is something entirely different from the acquisition of knowledge, because learning can never be an additive process.

I am so sorry, but I do not feel that you understand this at all. I have no communion with you. It is too bad.

Sirs, the mind - your mind - is the result of time, is it not? It is the cumulative outcome of many centuries, of many yesterdays. Now, that mind wants to learn, it wants to understand something. But can it understand anything with all this accumulation? It can interpret what it sees, saying it is good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, worth while or not worth while; but a mind that wants to learn, to understand something must surely be free from the past.

So, if the mind is to learn, to understand what freedom is, it must begin by perceiving to what an extent, to what depth it is a slave. One cannot merely say, "My mind is a slave", and regard freedom as a goal that one must seek. A slavish mind cannot seek freedom, because it does not know what freedom means. Whatever it seeks, it will still be slavish. But if the mind begins to learn to what extent it is a slave, if it is constantly observing the actual fact of its own enslavement, then it also begins to see where freedom lies. But most of us are not concerned with learning about ourselves. We are concerned with superficial activities, with escaping from ourselves through temples, through knowledge, through books, through social work, and all the rest of it.

I am concerned, as everyone in the world must be, with what is freedom; because freedom is getting less and less. Governments, even the democratic governments, do not give you freedom; they only talk about it. We can sit here and criticize the government, but this is freedom only in a very limited sense. Under the tyrannical governments, there is no freedom at all; they do not allow people to talk with each other like this. So the margin of freedom is getting more and more narrow, which means that human dignity is wearing very thin. Please do see the importance of this. It is only in freedom that you can be creative; and to find out what freedom is, to learn about it, you must first know to what extent your mind is slavish. And being aware of its slavishness, can the mind break through it?

Look, sirs, we are all aware of tradition - the tradition of the family, of the group, of the nation. How much is your mind made up of that tradition? To what extent is your mind a slave to it? You must find out, surely. And to find out, you cannot say that tradition is right or wrong, good or bad; you cannot ask what to do about tradition, whether the mind can function without tradition, or bring up any of the superficial questions that one puts in superficially examining something.

I really want to know to what extent my mind is a slave to tradition - the tradition of centuries, and also the tradition of yesterday which I have created for myself. Tradition is habit. To what extent is my mind a slave to habit? And is it possible to free the mind from habit? This is not a superficial question: it is the fundamental question. Until I know how to answer it - and I can answer it only by learning about myself - my inquiry into social problems, my discussion of economic and religious problems, will always be very superficial, because I shall merely respond according to the tradition which society has imposed upon me. Most of us are satisfied with this kind of superficial thinking, and that is why it is very difficult for us to be serious in examining ourselves, to learn about ourselves and find out to what extent we are slaves. And to learn about ourselves, humility is necessary, is it not?

I do not know if you have ever felt the strange quality of humility. Humility implies love, does it not? It implies a chastened approach to problems. Humility implies an absence of all conclusions, all goals which the mind has projected.

Look, sirs, we, the older generation, always talk about the new generation transforming the world. But those very people who talk so hopefully about the new generation, impose their patterned way of thinking on the younger people. They really do not want a new generation; they want the perpetuation of their own exact pattern of existence. And if the mind is to learn, surely humility is essential, is it not? I am labouring this point, because most of us are conceited, we think we know. Actually, what is it that we know? Have you ever looked at the process called `knowing'? Have you ever inquired into this question of `I know'? What you know is what you have gathered, it depends on what your experiences have been, and those experiences are part of your conditioning. Do you understand, sirs? If you are a rich man, your experiences are shaped according to the pattern of your riches. If you are a poor man, your experiences are limited to the state of your poverty. If you are a scholarly person, your experiences are largely determined by the books you read. If you have been a bureaucrat for forty years, it is obvious that your experiences are mostly confined to that field; yet you say, "I know", and from that conceit you want to shape the course of other lives. That is what we all do. The politician, the so-called religious person, the scholar, the professor, the husband, the wife - everybody does this. It is a curse.

So, what is the problem for those who are really serious? The people who are pursuing some goal, who are lost in some activity, or in getting what they want, are not serious at all. That is only vanity. A serious man is one who wants to find out, to discover for himself, and not repeat what umpteen people have said. And surely such a man, being really serious, must explore all these things.

Take, for example, the whole question of non-violence. In this country we talk a great deal about non-violence, and we have made a philosophy of it. To me it is all rubbish, if you will forgive my saying so. The fact is that we are violent. Being violent, we make an ideal of non-violence, and thereby establish a contradiction within ourselves; and with that contradictory mind we invent a philosophy - which is so utterly silly. What matters, surely, is to see that I am violent, and begin to understand this whole problem of violence - not try to be non-violent. I do not know what it means to be non-violent. How can I know what it means? I can only speculate about it, which is worthless. What I can do is I to learn about violence in myself, watch it, see all its implications, its significance, its neurotic, contradictory states; and thus to learn about violence in myself requires a great deal of humility. But a mind which seeks to be non-violent, is a conceited, speculative mind; it is escaping from violence, and thereby creating a contradiction within itself; and a self-contradictory mind can never understand and be free of violence. However much it may discipline itself to be non-violent, it will always be in a state of contradiction; and a self-contradictory mind is a violent, destructive mind. Please do see this simple fact.

The difficulty with most of us is that we refuse to see the fact that we are violent, because we are committed to the ideal of `non-violence', whatever that may mean. But if I see that I am violent, and I want to understand my violence, go into it totally, with my whole being, then I must abandon the contradiction, I must see the falseness of the ideal of non-violence. What is the good of my talking about non-violence when my whole being is violent, though I may cover it up? So I have to perceive my violence, I have to go into it, understand it; and to do that, my mind must obviously be in a state of humility. Do you understand, sirs?

So it seems to me that we must think out all these problems rather fundamentally. The important thing is not to find an answer that is immediately satisfactory, or for the moment applicable, but rather to have an overall feeling about all these problems.

I am afraid I am not at all communicating to you what I want to convey. It may be my fault; it may be the cold morning, or perhaps one did not sleep properly, or has over-eaten.

You see, most of us do not want to be disturbed. Have you ever noticed a man in a good position, who gets exceptional benefits out of his job? He does not want to be disturbed, he will not let go, he will not allow others to have a chance at it. The same situation is endlessly repeated throughout the world, and it is the same in different ways with each one of us. We need a shaking that will loosen us; and ultimately, of course, there is death. Is this a problem to you, sirs? The mind is always seeking security, a haven in which it will never be disturbed, and therefore it becomes a slave to a particular pattern of living, thinking, feeling. How can such a mind be broken loose from its moorings? How can such a mind learn?

Our problem is, first of all, to know ourselves - which is not a mere idealistic pursuit, because it is only in knowing ourselves that we can knox, what action is. Knowing ourselves is the basis of real action - action which is worthy, significant. Most of us do not want to know ourselves, it is too much of a bore, an exercise; we would rather be told what to do. But to uncover the ways of our own thinking, to see the motives which lie behind our activities, is surely one of the fundamental issues, is it not? If we know how to uncover ourselves, we shall break the pattern of slavery, and we shall then know what freedom is - which is of the utmost importance, because the margin of freedom is everywhere becoming very narrow. The more progress we make in the world of things and in the world of ideas, the less freedom there is. In America, where there is prosperity such as the world has never knox,n, people are becoming slaves to prosperity. That is one of the major issues there now. Here there is poverty, and we want prosperity. We want more food, more clothes, more things; and we are becoming slaves to the very idea that we must be prosperous.

So do please examine yourself to find out to what extent, to what depth your mind is enslaved. It may not be enslaved to the routine of an office, it may not be caught in the mechanical slavery to things; but it may be that you are a slave to knowledge. And without seeing all this, without really inquiring into it, without uncovering and discovering it for yourself, I do not see how you can live in freedom.

You know, there are many people for whom life is a despair. Having worked all their lives trying to bring about social reforms, or what you will, suddenly there is an end, and they are frustrated; all the established philosophies, religions, ideals have come to an end, and they are in despair. I wonder if any of you know that state at all? But people who are very clever, when they face that despair, invent a philosophy of their own, which is what is happening in the world at the present time; they say, "Accept life as it is, and make the best of it".

Now, when you have examined all the avenues of escape, the clever theories, the quotations from the Gita and all the rest of it, and when your mind refuses to be tricked by any explanation or facile adjustment, so that you have no answer, then you must surely come to a state of despair which is not the opposite of hope. Most of us hope for something, big or small - for a better job or to find a way out of a difficult problem - , and when our hopes are not fulfilled, we are in a state of despair, which is merely a reaction from hope, because we are still wanting something. I do not mean that kind of despair, which is really quite immature. I am talking of a mind that has examined all these things, and has not found an answer. Such a mind is not a hopeful mind, it is not seeking or wanting to find a final answer. It is in a state of complete not-knowing, complete despair, and there is no way out. Surely, only then one finds that which is truth.

Truth, or God, or what you will - the thing we all talk about so easily - is not so easy to come by. One has to work very hard - but not through disciplines and practices, which are all meaningless, because they contain the seed of hope and despair. To uncover and see what one is actually thinking, and why one is thinking it; to perceive the influences of tradition, the motives, the habitual patterns of thought - all this is very hard work. One has to be attentive all the time. If, being sluggish, the mind is inattentive, it may discipline itself to be attentive; but that only makes the mind still more sluggish. A disciplined mind is essentially a sluggish mind. If you think about this, you will sec how true it is. An alert, active mind, a mind that looks into, examines everything, needs no discipline. Discipline is in the very process of examination, the process of understanding.

Sirs, I think it is very important that all that is said be applied to oneself. If you are capable of really examining yourself, going very deeply within yourself, then you will find there is a freedom which is not the opposite of slavery; and in the light of this freedom, all the problems of your life have a different meaning altogether. It seems to me that the only important thing in life is to find this freedom; because in this freedom there is creativity, there is that reality which human beings are everlastingly seeking.

January 25, 1960


Banaras 1960

Banaras 1st Public Talk 24th January 1960

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