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Madras 1967

Madras 1st Public Talk 15th January 1967

I think everybody must be aware of the extraordinary discontent in the world. That discontent takes different forms in different countries. Here, the students go on a strike; and some holy man fasts to save some cows while thousands upon thousands of cows are dying, I believe, in Bihar; somebody is willing to burn himself over some political issue. And in Europe, where there is great prosperity, discontent is shown through extensive travelling, seeking entertainment, either religious or on the football field or in the cinemas. And in America it takes the form of an anti-war campaign in Vietnam, taking L.S.D. or a new kind of drug - if you know anything about it - and general antisocial activity of every kind, violence - not that there is no violence in this country. Violence is the common factor of all human beings, whether they live in Russia, here or in America or in China. I think one is aware of all the vast, frustrating, unrelated, isolated activities and fragmentary issues, which become extraordinarily important. This is happening right through the world.

And as one observes, one is always asking - not only the world at large, but for oneself - if one is at all serious and wants to do something about this chaotic, contradictory, almost insane world. One asks: what is right action? What is a human being to do when he is confronted with such confusion, with such misery, with actions that are fragmentary, unrelated, with actions that have no meaning whatsoever - like saving an animal and killing human beings? And strangely, when this country was at war, nobody fasted for peace, nobody burnt himself in order to stop the war, though they had talked endlessly about non-violence!

So, one sees all this extraordinary confusion and deep, abiding misery, and a frustration that has no end. Whether in a marriage, or in religious activity, or in going to the moon, or in whatever man does, there is this extraordinary sense of deep, abiding frustration. Being aware of all this, I think, most people who know what is taking place in the world must be conscious of this - not only outwardly, but inwardly, inside the skin of each one of us - of this sense of utter meaninglessness, the utter despair, the hopeless misery of man. And watching all this, seeing all this, both outwardly and inwardly, what is a human being to do?

I think there is a difference between a human being and an individual. The individual is a local entity, living in a particular country, belonging to a particular culture, a particular society, a particular religion and so on. A human being is not a local entity, whether he is in America, in Russia, in China, or here. And I think we should bear that in mind while we are talking during these discussions. Then what is a human being to do? Because if the human being understands the totality of this problem and acts, then the individual has relationship to that totality. But if the individual merely acts in a particular corner of the vast field of life, then his activity is totally unrelated to the whole. So one has to bear in mind that we are talking of the whole and not of the part, of the whole of the human being - in Africa, in France, in Germany, here and elsewhere. Because in the greater is the lesser; but in the lesser the greater is not. And we are talking about the individual, and the individual is the little - conditioned, miserable, frustrated, endlessly discontented, satisfied with the little things, with his little gods, with his little traditions and so on. Whereas a human being is concerned with the total welfare, with the total misery, with the total confusion. And when we are clear on that issue, I think we can then ask: what is a human being to do?

Seeing this enormous confusion, this revolt, this brutality, wars, the endless divisions of religion, nationalities and so on, what is a human being to do when confronted with all this? I wonder if one has asked this question at all? Or, is one only concerned with one's own particular little problem - not that it is not important? But that problem, however little, however immediate, however urgent, relates to the whole existence of man. One cannot separate the individual's little problem from the totality of the human problems of life. And as all problems - the family problem, the social problem, the religious problem, the problem of poverty - are related, to concentrate on any one particular problem seems to me to be utterly meaningless.

So we have to consider man as a whole. And when he is faced with this tremendous challenge, not only outwardly but in his consciousness, the crisis is not only for the world outside the skin but also within the consciousness itself. The two really are not separate. I think it would be foolish to divide the world as the outer and the inner; they are both interrelated and therefore cannot be divided. But to understand this whole movement, this unitary process, one has objectively to understand not only the outward events, the various crises that we go through, but also the inward crises, the inward challenges within the field of consciousness. And when we are, as we are, faced with this issue, I am sure one must have asked, "What is this all about?"

This is rather a lovely evening - isn't it? The sun is on the leaves. There is a nice light on the leaves, and there is the gentle movement of the branches; and the light of the setting sun is coming through the leaves and through these woods. And somehow all that beauty is unrelated to our daily living; we pass it by, we are hardly aware of it; and if we are, we just glance at it and go on with our particular problem, our endless search about nothing! And we are incapable of looking either at that light on those leaves, or of hearing the birds, or of seeing clearly for ourselves non-fragmentarily, not in isolation, the totality of this issue of human existence. I hope you don't think I am becoming romantic when I look at those lights! But you know, without passion, without feeling, you cannot do anything in life. If you feel strongly about the poverty, the dirt, the squalor, the decay in this country, the corruption, the inefficiency, the appalling callousness that is going on round you, of which one is totally unaware; if you have a burning passion, an intensity about all that; and also if you have the passion to look at the flowers and the trees and the sun through the leaves, you will find that the two are not separate. If you cannot see that light on those leaves and take delight in it and be passionate in that delight, then I am afraid you will not be passionate in action either. Because action is necessary, not endless theories, endless discussions.

When you are confronted with this enormous and very complex problem of human discontent, human search, human longing for something beyond the structure of thought, you must have passion to find out. And passion is not put together by thought. Passion is something new every minute. It is a living, vital, energizing thing; whereas thought is old, dead, something derived from the past. There is no new thought, for thought is the outcome of memory, experience, knowledge, which all belong to time, which is the past. And from the past, or by going to the past, there is no passion. You cannot revive a dead thing and be passionate about that dead thing.

So, we are concerned as human beings with this problem: what is it all about? The wars, the dictatorships, the political activities, the religious fragmentation of the world as the Hindu, the Muslim, the Christian, the Protestant, the Buddhist, the Zen, this and that - what is it all about? What are we all trying to do? And where is the answer? Go back to the Upanishads, to the Gita, to the guru - you know all that - to find the answer? Or join a new cult, a new sect, a new tamasha, a new circus? Or wait for science to tell you what to do? Or escape beyond all this - go to the moon, take a drug, enjoy yourself completely, sexually, in every possible way that is being done in Europe and America without any limit? Or, enter the political field, social reform, trying to do little reforms here and there like saving the cow? You know what is going on!

So, what is one to do? And who is going to answer this question? You understand? Man has always asked this question: what is it all about, has life any meaning whatever? Because, more and more, man is becoming mechanical. And when he has leisure - and prosperity is going to give him great leisure - how will he utilize it? And when we ask this question, where do we find the answer? Because we must ask questions and we must always ask the right and fundamental questions. And when we do ask, we wait for somebody else to answer it - some book, some prophet, some crank with a peculiar kink in his mind. And we wait till we die, never having found the answer. Or we think we have found the answer when somebody tells us what is the purpose of life, and we like it! That is, we are guided by our inclination, by our temperament, or are compelled by circumstances; and according to circumstances, temperament, inclination, pleasure - which we think is essential - we find the answer.

So we have to banish all those superficial, rather infantile, immature answers, whether given by the politician or by the religious books or by the local guru; we have to put all that away, because they are all based on authority. And more and more in the world, the generation that is coming is rejecting authority altogether. Your gods, your politics, your communism - all that has no value at all, except for the old people. And the old people generally have made an awful mess of the world, and they are the people who are going away. And they have not given the right answer either; on the contrary they have created a dreadful world with all these things: this double talk, double thinking, double standards and deep inward hypocrisy.

And so, when one is serious enough and has time enough to enquire into this question, how will one find the answer? And we must find the answer, because there is nobody that is going to answer us. Because all organized religions have totally failed. Your superstitions, your books, your gurus, your traditions, your family - everything has failed; and you can no longer have faith in all that. And one has really no faith in all this; one pretends, but actually when it comes to daily life, all those cease to exist.

So how are you going to find out? And as the speaker has no authority whatsoever, you and I are going to take a journey together to find out. You are not going to be merely a listener, taking what you like and discarding what you don't want, accepting or rejecting. Then we do not share: then we do not travel together.

And to enquire deeply, the first thing is freedom, otherwise you cannot possibly enquire. There must be freedom from your nationality, freedom from your religion, from your sects, from your books, from your family; otherwise you cannot discover. It does not mean that you become a sannyasi or a monk - these poor individuals are tortured enough; they have tortured themselves in their minds and they cannot see straight.

So really, profoundly to enquire with all earnestness, with passion, with deep, profound interest, there must be freedom: freedom to observe, to listen, to ask; freedom to doubt everything. Because the house is burning, and there is nobody that can save that house except through a right approach to build a different society, a different culture, a different movement of life.

So, as we said, to take a journey together, which is to share together, there must be freedom - freedom not from anything particularly, but the sense of being free. I think there is a difference between the two - the feeling of freedom and the revolt from something or revolt against something. Revolt is not freedom; because when you revolt, it is a reaction. And that reaction sets its own pattern, and one becomes caught in that pattern. And that pattern one thinks is a new pattern; but it is not, it is the old in a different mould. You understand? There are beatniks, the long-haired people, the L.S.D. people who take this peculiar drug which has not come into India - probably it will come presently; you have your own drugs anyhow. Don't laugh, sirs, we are talking about deadly serious things - and of such people as are in revolt against society or against the culture in which they live. Such revolt is a reaction which sets its own pattern, and you conform to that pattern: everybody must have long hair, go about somewhat dirty, take this or that. So this revolt, like any political or social revolt - as one has observed - will inevitably bring about another pattern which is the old pattern in a different line. Like the Russian revolution: you see, after killing thousands or millions of people, torturing them for an ideology, they are coming back to the good old bourgeois mentality.

So revolt is never freedom. Freedom is something entirely different. And freedom comes only when you see and act, not through reaction. The seeing is the acting and, therefore, it is instantaneous: when you see danger, there is no mentation, there is no discussion, there is no hesitation: there is immediate action; the danger itself compels the act. And therefore to see is to act and to be free. Therefore seeing is acting, and acting is the very essence of freedom - not revolt.

So we are taking a journey together. And to learn, to act, to listen, one must have a different quality of mind - surely! Because the old mind, the traditional mind, the mind that is Indian, lives in India, has a particular cultural inheritance - all that is the old mind, the traditional mind. And the traditional mind, whether it is Indian or American - not that there is much tradition in America as yet; there is a great deal of it in England and so on - cannot see anything new; it will always answer according to its conditioning, according to its culture - culture being society, religion, education, food, climate and all the rest of it.

So our problem when we are taking a journey together, is to see the whole of this confusion, this misery, this anxiety, this discontent, the enormous sorrow of man - to see it totally, differently. And it is only when you see it differently, freely, that you have the right answer, then you act rightly; then that seeing is the acting.

Sirs, if you look at the whole problem of man, whether he is in America or elsewhere, from an Indian point of view, your answer will always be fragmentary. Or if you answer it from an ideological point of view, that ideological concept is derived from your inclination, from your pleasure, from your conditioning, from your temperament, from society from the culture in which you live. Isn't it? So if you answer the total issue from a fragmentary point of view, then it will be contradictory, it will be immature. It is like answering a world problem by talking about the cow! You understand? And that is how you are answering war. You talk about saving the cow which shows utter immaturity - and people get so terribly excited, because it is very popular. But those very same people will never stand up and say, "Let us burn ourselves to prevent war". They have never done it, they have never said, "Look, there is so much starvation in this country, let us do something, let us act". But they won't, because that would entail a great deal of unpopularity and so on.

So our issue is: can a brain which has been so conditioned for centuries upon centuries, which is the result of time - time being many, many, many centuries, a million years - a brain which is conditioned by the society in which it lives, by tradition, by the books, by the Upanishads, by the Bible, by the Koran, by the society in which it has been brought up, by the education, however rotten it may be, through which it has been - can that brain see something totally new? And you must see the new to find an answer, to respond to this challenge. Am I making myself clear? My old brain cannot possibly answer this question. My old brain is Indian, Brahminical, or non-Brahmin hating Brahmins, or Catholic hating Protestants, or Jews hating Christians, this and that - that old mind cannot answer this enormous problem. Right?

Therefore is it possible to bring about a complete mutation in the brain cells themselves? You understand the issue? The brain cells are the result of the animal - animal instincts, animal demands, animal pursuits, animal fears, fears of wanting security and so on and so on - reconditioned by society in which one has lived. Can those very brain cells, which are the storehouse of memory, be made completely quiet so that they can see something new? You understand the issue? Otherwise you will always answer a challenge in terms of the past. And when you answer a challenge in terms of the past, the challenge being always new, your answers will be totally inadequate. But your answers must be completely new. If it is not new and if it is inadequate, there is contradiction, there is conflict, there is pain, there is misery, there is sorrow: even logically, do you understand? Even if you are intellectual - I hope you are not, because the intellect is as petty as the little brain - even intellectually, even logically, you must see that fact - the fact, not whether you wish it or you don't wish it. It is a fact, because thought is matter. (I am sorry, I will go into it very quickly, and we will discuss it another time). Thought is matter, thought is energy; and that energy has created thought which has become the matter in the very brain cells themselves. You can observe all this yourself, you don't have to read books about it. You can watch it.

So the quality of the brain projects thought when confronted with a problem, with an issue; that thought is the result of memory, the past, the old. So thought is never new. And therefore thought is never free. So when you examine the problem, the issue, the challenge, as a process of thinking, then you are meeting it with the old. And therefore you will never be able to solve it. Right? Is it clear so far? You may not go directly so far, but if you do not, I am sorry; I will have to go into it.

So, our problem arises when we are confronted first with war - war outwardly and inwardly. There have been wars for five thousand and more years. There have been thousands and thousands of reforms and never a mutation, never a complete change. Man has tried various forms of social structure: a classless society, a collective society and so on, the hat-trick dictatorship. He has tried various disciplines. He has joined monasteries, he has become a sannyasi. He has rejected all that, and accepted to live merely for the day, never thinking about tomorrow, saying, "I will enjoy myself completely now, it does not matter what happens tomorrow". He has been through all this. You may not have done it as an individual; but man has, a human being has; and he has not found the answer. He has sought, and seeking is born out of this vast discontent. And seeking, searching, he will find according to his inclination and temperament and compelled by circumstances. Therefore his search invariably ends in a little god, in a little church, in a little saviour.

So we have this world problem: whether the brain cells themselves can be so totally quiet that they respond when demanded. You understand? You know, we are dealing with something that demands very close attention, on your part. Probably you have never thought about this. And if you have, you have not been able to quieten the brain. Because you have not found a way to quietness; you have found a way to discipline thought, to control thought to suppress thought. Thought is the response of memory, thought is matter, that, you have transformed or controlled or reshaped. But we are asking something entirely different: which is thought - however clever, however cunning, however erudite - can never answer this problem. Whatever the structure thought creates - through science, through electronic brains, through the compulsion of environment, necessity and so on - it must be the result of the old; because thought is never new, as I explained. And therefore thought can never find an answer to this tremendous question.

So our question is whether thought, which is matter, which is in the brain cells themselves as greed, envy, ambition, security - the inheritance of the animal, which is all what is called evolution in time - whether those brain cells themselves without any compulsion, can be still so that they can see something new. Right? Is this all rather too difficult?

Now I am going to go into it. Now, you have heard this. Now you have heard this statement that thought is old - like the statement that time is sorrow. You hear it. And thought begins to analyse it. Thought begins to investigate itself. If you have heard this statement, this is what has happened. You have heard these two statements: time is sorrow, and thought is old; and you begin to think about them. Having heard them, having understood English, thought is beginning to interpret it, translate it. But its interpretation, its translation, is based on yesterday's experience, knowledge, thought. So it will invariably translate it according to its conditioning. That is what is taking place when you hear a statement of that kind.

Now, to hear that statement first - the English, the meaning of it - then to listen to it completely is: having heard, you have moved away to listen. You understand? You have heard that statement and the brain cells become active and begin to translate. When they don't translate but you have merely heard the statement, then you can listen without interpretation: then the brain cells are quiet, because you are giving complete attention. Attention is not concentration. When you give complete attention - with your nerves, with your ears, with your bodies, with your eyes, with the totality of your being - when you listen so completely, you will find there is neither the listener nor the thing listened to. There is only a state of complete attention in which there is neither the observer nor the observed - this is not a philosophical thing; we don't go off into some mystical affair, but we are dealing with actual facts. Then you will see, if you have gone that far on the journey, that you will respond to the challenge totally anew, not with the old brain.

Sirs, that demands tremendous discipline, not the discipline of suppression, imitation, conformity through fear, and so on.To be aware of this process, how the brain acts; to realize that thought is the response of memory accumulated in time and is therefore old; to see that thought is quiet, not compelled, not forced, because you understand that the old cannot possibly create the new or understand the new - to understand all that is itself tremendous discipline, which has nothing whatsoever to do with conformity, which is that of a soldier.

So, when you are earnest, not carried away by a flippant, sectarian outlook, then the very necessity and the urgency of the crisis, that very problem, makes you tremendously serious. And when one becomes so earnestly serious, then one can begin to observe the whole process of thinking, one can observe the individual as the human being, one can see how the individual, the local entity, destroys the total perception. Whereas the perception of the total includes the particular; and when the particular is related to the whole, its action will be harmonious with the total. The total is not an ideology. To be aware of the total process of human existence is not an ideology - the ideology of Lenin, or your particular ideology of Sankara, Atman and all the rest of it. Ideologies have no place whatsoever, Because you are dealing with facts. You cannot put out a fire consuming a house, with ideology, with theology; but you have to act. And to act one has to have a totally different mind. And that means really a mind that is completely quiet, that can look at the whole problem out of silence. And silence is always new, Because thought does not enter into silence at all.

Do you want to ask any question? Would this be the right occasion, or would you like to wait till Tuesday morning? Would that not be better?

You know it is fairly easy to ask questions. Anybody can ask questions. But to ask the right question is very difficult, because the right question demands that there be intelligence behind it, that there be sensitivity. The right question is not a momentary issue; but it implies that one has gone into it tremendously. Then if you can ask the right question, in the very asking of that right question is the right answer. Then you don't have to ask anybody. To put the right question demands an awareness of the total relationship of every problem; then the question about a particular problem - however urgent, however important - becomes unanswerable; and if it is answered, it only leads to more conflict. But when one is aware or the problem of man - his sorrows, his despair, his utter loneliness and the tremendous boredom, which are not covered over by ideologies, by books, by belonging to some little sect, then one will put the right question. And when one puts the right question, we can then discuss, go into it freely and easily, with great affection and care.

January 15, 1967


Madras 1967

Madras 1st Public Talk 15th January 1967

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