Ojai 3rd Public Talk 28th May 1960
When I came to give this series of talks, I had the full intention to go through with eight talks; but unfortunately, I can't do it. I can only give these four - and so the last talk will be tomorrow morning. As many of you have come from great distances to listen to them, I regret very much that physically I can't go on with all the talks. I'm sorry.
I would like, this evening, to talk over with you a rather complex problem: that of consciousness, revolution, and religion. Throughout life, however wide our learning, however intelligent we may be, we do have accidents, we do make mistakes; life doesn't run smoothly, as we would like. And we make great effort to alter, to change our lives; we try to reform ourselves, to conform to a certain mould of conduct, to fit into a groove of moral action. But it seems to me that, however necessary, such effort does not bring about a radical transformation within oneself. However much we may struggle individually to do the right thing, to behave rightly, to lead a simple, moral life, these activities, though necessary, seem so futile, so empty, when the world as a whole is in such a dreadful, catastrophic state; and I'm sure most of you must have asked yourselves, what can one individual do about this whole awful mess? I think that is a wrong question altogether; and a wrong question will not find a right answer. I think one has to put the right question; and the right question is not whether the transformation of an individual will affect society, the whole mass of humanity. There is now a tremendous crisis, not economically, socially, intellectually, or even religiously, but there is a crisis in consciousness itself. I think that is the real issue, and not the mere transformation of the individual. One has to understand totally, if one can, this crisis in consciousness; and to do that, one must examine the whole process of consciousness.
I am going to talk about consciousness in very simple terms, using ordinary words, not psychological, metaphysical, or complicated words. I am using the word `consciousness' to mean all the levels of our thinking, feeling - the totality of our being; not only the totality of the individual being, but also the totality of the collective, the human. And I hope that you will not just listen to the words, which would be merely an intellectual process, but will think it out with me as we go along. The art of listening is very important - to understand what it is to listen. I feel that very few of us really listen. When we do listen, we translate or interpret what we hear according to the pattern of our own thinking, or we reject it altogether. To listen totally is to listen without accepting, rejecting, comparing or contradicting; and I feel that if one can listen totally, then the very act of listening brings about an instantaneous perception, understanding. So, if you are at all serious about these things, may I suggest that you listen in this manner.
We must all be aware of this extraordinary crisis in the world - by which I do not mean the conflict between Russia and America, or between the East and the West, because that is not a crisis at all. That is merely a political upheaval, maintained by the politicians throughout the world. The politicians have not created the crisis of which I am speaking; and the politicians do not make for peace, any more than the so-called religious people do. If we would deeply understand the real, fundamental crisis, it seems to me that we have to inquire afresh into this whole question of what is consciousness; because the revolution has to take place, not at the economic, social, or moral level, or at the level of ideas, but in consciousness itself. I feel the crisis is there.
So, what is this thing that we call consciousness, the mind? I do not know if you have ever experienced the totality of consciousness, which is rather difficult - the totality, not just the segment of consciousness which is aware of the various experiences that one has every day, and which interprets, reacts, responds to those experiences. That is only a part of consciousness. There is the world of dreams, and the interpretation of those dreams, which is still part of consciousness. Then there is the whole world of thought, of knowledge, of experience, of things remembered - the past in conjunction with the present, which creates the future. That too is part of consciousness. There is also the influence of the family, of the group, that unconscious conditioning which is racial inheritance, however young the race may be, or however old - surely, all that is part of this consciousness of which the psychologists speak, and of which we also speak, rather easily and facilely, in referring to our own minds. So, consciousness is the known, and the unknown - that part of the mind which has never been delved into.
Now, most of us live at the superficial level of consciousness, carrying on from day to day rather wearily, with a certain amount of boredom, frustration, with here and there a touch of joy and fulfilment, with sorrow, travail, misery, and all the conflicts that we are heir to; and, within that field of consciousness, we make effort to change. When we get angry, live try not to be angry; when we are jealous, envious, greedy, we try to control, to reform ourselves. But this is all within the field of the known; and a problem of the known has an answer which is already known. I think this is important to understand. When the mind puts to itself any problem, the mind already knows the answer, because the problem is known. That is, when you know the problem, whether it is in the economic field, in the field of electronics, or wherever else, the answer is also known. The moment you put a problem into words, that problem has an answer which is already known, though you may take time to discover it. You can see the truth of this for yourself, if you have thought about it.
So, all our endeavour to change, to bring about a radical revolution inwardly and outwardly, is within the field of consciousness; and consciousness, as you will see if you really go into it, is a world of symbols. We live by symbols. The symbol is a word; the symbol is the cross for the Christian; the symbol is the image which the mind creates out of its own experiences, and from which it projects visions, ideas. We live in a world of symbols; and the symbol is always the known. The symbol is the known representing the unknown, which the mind cannot feel out for itself..
Please, I am only putting into words what we already know. If we have given any thought to these matters, we already know all this. And we also know, very deeply for ourselves, that any change within this field of conscious- ness, the field of the known, is not a revolution; it is only a change in the pattern of behaviour, in the pattern of thought. A man may give up Christianity and become a Zen Buddhist, or give up Hinduism and become a Catholic, but his action is still within the field of consciousness; it is merely a change in the pattern which holds him within the cage. And that is what we are all doing: we are always moving within the field of the known.
Do consider what is being said, don't reject it, saying, "I don't understand". It is very simple to understand. I'll try to make it clear by putting it differently.
As I said, the moment we are capable of putting any problem into words, bringing it into focus, into the field of consciousness, such a problem - whether it be economic, social, technical, or moral - has already an answer; therefore it is no longer a problem. The moment you have an answer, it is not a problem. The answer may take several months to investigate and work out; but the mind knows the answer, because it has been able to put the problem into words. I think this is important to understand. especially if you would follow what I am going to say. The mind already knows the answer to any problem it can put into words, however complex, however subtle, however delicate; therefore it is not a problem at all. The mind thinks it is a problem, but it is not. If you understand that, then the next question I would like to put forward is this: is there a problem which the mind - because it is always functioning within the field of the known - has never been able to put into words, consciously or even unconsciously, and therefore cannot possibly answer? I feel there is such a problem - a problem which the mind cannot tackle, for which consciousness has no answer. Therefore, that is the real problem.
Do please give a little attention, if you will, to what I am trying to convey.
As I said, the crisis is in consciousness; the revolution is not, as we all think, at the economic, social or intellectual level. If there is a `revolution' there, it is merely a change of pattern, a change of ideas, the building up of new theories. If the crisis is within the field of the known, we will answer it according to our conditioned minds, as Americans, Russians, Hindus, or what you will. But a mind that has been through this so-called revolution, that has understood all these various problems, with their answers - such a mind is confronted with quite a different issue, because it sees there is no possibility whatsoever of a fundamental change within the field of the known. Then where is the revolution to take place?
Am I making this thing somewhat clear? Please don't agree with me, because it is not a matter of agreement or disagreement; it is not something you can reject because you don't understand it, or accept because you understand a few words during an hour's talk. It is a problem that must really be gone into, and this requires profound thinking, or meditation, contemplation.
So there must be a revolution, a tremendous revolution - but not within the field of the known, because that has no meaning any more. Whether you are a Communist, a Socialist, a Democrat, a Republican, an American, a Hindu - oh, who cares? If you happen to be a Communist, you are more brutal, more ruthless in seeking power; but you do mischief, one way or the other. And if you belong to any particular organized religion, you are equally dictated to by the bosses in the name of God, Christ, the church, and all the rest of it. The older the organized religion, the more clever it is in adapting itself to the present conditions and the new ways of dominating the mind.
We know all this. But unfortunately, though we know it, most of us belong to something or other, or we change from this to that, thinking we are thereby making tremendous progress. And when we have finished with that whole process - I am not in any way talking patronizingly about it - when we have finished with all that, then the question arises, what is one to do? Do you understand? You have changed. You don't belong to any organized religion. You have given up this belief, that belief - if you have. You are no longer an American, or a Hindu, or a Russian, or a German - you are a human being. You do not belong to any one country. You belong to the world; the world is yours, though the politicians have divided this beautiful earth as American, Russian, Chinese. You have been through all that; and yet the mind, consciousness, is still struggling within the field of its own frontiers. You understand what I'm talking about, I hope?
Realizing this, what is one to do? I think that is the problem, that is the crisis, though we don't know how to articulate it, put it into words. That is the problem, not only of the intellectuals, but of the religious person who is more or less serious. The people who go to church, who perform a few rituals, join a monastery, or hold certain beliefs - they are not religious people at all. We'll come to that presently.
So, how is the mind to bring about that energy which is not contaminated by consciousness? Do you understand?
Let me put it this way. All of us, most unfortunately, look to something greater than ourselves; we all want leaders to tell us what to do. When we are fed up with the political leaders, we turn to the religious leaders, or we retire to a monastery to meditate; so religion has become, for most of us, an escape from the reality of existence - not an escape from consciousness, but an escape from the reality of everyday existence. Your creeds and dogmas, your churches and organized beliefs, are simply a means for the mind to take comfort. Your belief in God is as meaningless as another's non-belief in God. There is no essential difference between the two. You have been taught to believe, and the other has been taught not to believe; or you believe because you rationalize, depending on your conditioning.
Now, when you have seen through all this illusion of symbols, ideas and words, you may become cynical or bitter, like the Angry Young Men in England and the Beatnicks in this country, which is fairly easy to do; but when you are no longer cynical, bitter, despairing, then you must inevitably ask, "Where is the religious mind to find the answer?" Books cannot give you the answer; there is no book that can show you a thing. Books can explain, they can give you knowledge; but knowledge only darkens the mind, and for the mind to seek the answer through knowledge, has no meaning. So, when you have discarded all religions, all the behaviour patterns which society calls morality, what are you to do? I am not saying there is no moral action - that is not the point. When you see how the mind becomes a slave to ideas, a slave to prosperity - when the mind is fully aware of all this, what is it to do to bring about a real revolution, not within the field of consciousness, but a revolution which is not contaminated by the known? In putting it differently, am I helping to make it clear, or am I only making it more complicated?
Look, sirs, let me put it another way. You see, life for most of us is a terrible bore. Our lives are routine. We try to fulfil, at whatever level, and every fulfilment has its own shadow of despair; every joy, every bursting forth has its own misery and its own degradation. We know all this; but knowing it doesn't prevent us from going on in the same way, in the same direction. And we also know, as we begin to examine this struggle within, that all individual effort to be good, to be noble, to pursue the right ideal, and all the rest of it, is invariably a process of egotistic salvation, which creates endless conflict. If you examine this effort, in which most of us are caught, you will see that it is essentially born of self-contradiction. A mind which is not in a state of self-con- tradiction, doesn't make an effort: it is. Effort is the state of a mind, of a heart that is in conflict with itself, because it is everlastingly struggling to become something; and what it becomes is the result of its own contradiction, and therefore breeds still further contradiction.
So, all our effort - intellectual, moral, economic - is very restrictive, limiting, time-bound, and there is no way out of it. Seeing this fact, one begins to ask oneself: where is the revolution which is new? Where is the state of mind which is not contaminated by the old? Where is there innocency which is not a mere denial or intellectual formula? Where is there a mind which has been through this whole process, which has travelled through all these fields of limitation, and which knows what it is to be creative in the ultimate sense of that word? Creativity is not painting pictures, or writing poems - I don't mean that. I am referring to that state of creation which is energy without a beginning and without an end, which does not demand an expression, which is.
You must have asked yourself all these questions. But you always want to find an answer, you want to achieve that state; so you are putting a wrong question, and inevitably you will have a wrong answer. You can't achieve that state. Do what you will: go to all the monasteries, read all the books, attend all the talks, including these, seek out every teacher - you can never achieve that state of creation. It can come into being only when you have understood or felt out all the dark recesses of your own mind, so that the mind is completely still and not demanding anything. Don't you see what you are doing within yourself, and therefore outwardly too? You are seeking a state of mind in which you will be capable of understanding, in which you will have no problem; you want to be in a perpetual state of ecstasy, where you will know what love is, and all the rest of it. You are always asking. Your problems are known, and your answers are also known; therefore you have created a picture, a symbol of what you should or should not be.
So, the mind has the power to remember, to discard, to know and to use that knowledge; it has the power to decide, to compare, to condemn, to evaluate. This mind is in constant operation; it is always judging, weighing, observing, interpreting; and I feel the crisis is there. If, being aware of this crisis, the mind puts its question within the field of the known, it will have an answer according to its own knowledge; therefore the problem continues. Whereas, can one confront the problem without a motive? Can one see for oneself - actually, not merely verbally - that the crisis is there, without knowing how to answer it? Do you understand? Because you really don't know how to answer it, do you? You have been through this or that religion, you have tried yoga or some other system of meditation, you have read the usual books, attended this talk, that talk, and have done all the things that every human being does in search of the answer; and you have not found it. Perhaps the problem itself has not been clear to you, because you have never felt the totality of consciousness; you have only known certain parts of it. But this evening you may have been able to feel the totality of this enormous thing.
You know, when you suddenly see something extraordinarily beautiful - a mountain, a stream in the shade of a tree, or the face of a child - your whole being becomes quiet, does it not? You don't say, "Why is it so beautiful?" Your mind, your whole being is, for a moment at least, completely still, because there is no answer. But that is merely an imposition. The beauty of something has momentarily knocked out your mind. It is like depending on a drug to make you quiet, taking L. S. D. so that you will have marvellous visions.
What we are talking about has no answer; so we have only the crisis, without the answer. But you have never faced the crisis in those terms. You have never lived in that crisis without seeking an answer - because there is no answer. The fields of the known may be traversed in one swift perception, or it may take many years to cross the fields of the known. But when you have come to that point where you are really faced with the crisis which has no answer, and the mind is silent with a silence that is not imposed, then you will see, if you have the patience, that there is a revolution - a tremendous revolution in which the mind is made innocent through death of the known; and only such a mind can discover that which is everlasting.
May 28, 1960
Ojai 3rd Public Talk 28th May 1960
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