1st Question & Answer Meeting
On being conditioned
1st Public Questions, Brockwood Park
August 28, 1979
There are about over one hundred questions! From the most superficial to the most demanding, deeper questions. I wonder why we ask questions, not because we said we would have questions instead of dialogues, but why do we ask questions? And from whom do we expect an answer? If we put the right question perhaps we should also get the right answer. And it becomes very difficult to answer all these hundred, and over, questions, so we chose some of them. Perhaps some of your questions may not be answered because there are too many of them, and don't think we have chosen specially what suits me, what is most convenient for me to answer because one can ask any kind of question that you want to ask - personal, impersonal, serious or flippant. And we have more or less covered that ground in all these hundred questions.
We will try to answer some of these questions this morning, but please bear in mind, if I may remind you, that it is very easy to ask a question, but to listen to find out for yourself the right answer one must be fairly inquisitive, fairly serious, fairly demanding. And in answering these questions we are not the Oracle, either from Delphi or from India, or from Washington. Or perhaps you would prefer from London! But please bear in mind that we are sharing the question together, that one may answer the question, but the very answering of it perhaps will awaken in each one one's own reaction, either you oppose it or you accept it, or you deny it, or you say, 'Yes, it might be true'. We are investigating the question together. You understand? Together, therefore it's not I am answering, the speaker is answering and you are just listening. We are together answering the question, though the speaker may put it into words but we are sharing the question, we are sharing, partaking in the answer. I hope that's clear.
Because it's such a lovely morning, so rarely happens in England, beautiful blue sky, lovely trees on the lawns and the generally clean air, to talk about very serious matters is rather trying. But the first question is:
1st QUESTION: Is it possible ever to be free of self-centred activity? Is there a real self apart from the self created image?
All right. I wonder what we mean by the self. If each one of us was asked to describe in words what is the self, the ego, the personality, the centre, the basis from which we act, from which we think, from which we feel, if each one of us could be clear not only verbally as an idea but actually, what is the self? If you ask somebody what is the self, they would say, 'It is all my senses, my feelings, my imagination, my romantic demands, my sense of having a house, a possession, a husband, a wife, my qualities, my struggles, my achievements, my ambitions and so on and so on. Also my aspirations, my unhappiness, my joys, and so on' - all that would be the self. Would we agree to that? You can add more words to it, but the essence of it is this centre, the 'me' - my house, my family, my wife, my children, my bank account, what my impulse is, 'I want to do this', 'I am impelled to go to India to find truth' and so on and so on and so on. Would we agree to that verbal description of what we call the self? Not only the verbal description, but the feeling, the 'me' and the 'you' - right? - 'we' and 'they', in which all is included, nationalities, the family tradition, the name, the form, psychosomatic approach and the intellectual capacity, the desire to have more clarity and so on. The 'me' and the 'you', 'we' and 'they' - right?
And from this centre all action takes place - right? All our aspirations, all our ambitions, our quarrels, our disagreements, our opinions, judgements, experiences, is centred in this - right? Shall I go on? We are together so far, aren't we?
Not only the conscious self acting outwardly, but also the deep inner consciousness which is not open, obvious - right? So all this is the 'me', the 'I', the ego, the person, the different levels of consciousness, all that is me - right?
Now the questioner asks: is it possible to be free of this centre - right? Why does one want to be free from this centre? Is it because the centre is the cause of division, me and you, my country and your country, my belief and your belief, my god and your god, and so on and so on. And where there is division there must be conflict - right? Can we go on? That is, when the 'me' is the active element that is operating all the time in you and the same in me with a different name, with a different colour, with a different job, with a different position - the hierarchical social structure - you are Lord so-and-so, somebody else is your servant and so on - it is the same me dividing itself into different categories - right? - socially, economically, religiously. I think that is fairly clear.
And one realises where there is division there must be conflict - the Hindu and the Muslim, the Jew and the Arab, the American and the English, the English and the French, the French and the German, the German and so on and so on and so on. That is physically obvious. And that has brought about in the world tremendous wars, great agony for people, brutality, violence - right? The self identifying itself with an ideal, noble or ignoble ideals, and fighting for that ideal. But it is still the ego trip - right? It is like those people who go to India - I don't know why, but they do - trying to find spirituality and putting on a different fancy dress and saying, 'I am going to find spiritual things there'. They have only changed the garb, the clothes, but they are essentially the 'me', which is operating all the time, struggling, endeavouring, grasping, denying, deeply attached, deeply attached to one's experiences, to one's ideas, to one's opinions, to one's longings. Right? And as one lives, as one observes, this centre, this 'me', is the essence of all trouble, and also all pleasure, all fear, all sorrow. So it says, 'How am I to get rid of this centre?' Is that clear. We can expand it more, but that is the essence of it. There are too many questions.
So is it possible, the questioner asks, to be really free, absolutely not relatively, which is fairly simple. One can be a little unselfish, one can be a little concerned with social welfare, with others and so on, but the centre is always there biting hard, brutal. You all know this. So is it possible to be free of that centre.
First of all, the more effort is made to be free of the centre, the more - please listen to this - the more one makes an effort to be free of the centre, that very effort strengthens the self - right? Like those people who go off into meditation of various kinds, trying to impose something upon it and that 'me' then captures that, identifies with that and says, 'I have achieved' - but it's still the centre - right?
So please first to understand whether it is possible to be free, there must be no effort - right? Which doesn't mean doing what one likes. That is clear, isn't it? No? If one doesn't make an effort, then let's do what we like, which is still the movement of the self. Whether you put on a yellow robe or a purple robe or join a monastery, it is the self still, identified with an ideal, and pursuing that ideal through great effort. But the movement is from the centre. I wonder if that is clear, isn't it?
So what is one to do? If you are not to make an effort because you see the truth of it, that the more you make an effort the greater the travail of the self. It is the self that is making an effort to be free of itself, and therefore it is still involved in it, imagining that it will be free, imagining that it will be etc. etc. But it is still the activities of the centre, me. Then what is one to do?
Before we go into that, is there a real self apart from the self created by thought with its images? - the questioner says. Is there a real self? Many people feel that. The Hindus have said there is the highest principle which is the self. And we have imagined also that there is a real self apart from the me. You all, I'm sure, feel that there is something else beyond this me, which is called the higher self, or the sublime self, or the supreme self. The moment we use the word 'self' or use any word to describe that which is beyond the self, the 'me', it's still the self. The first thing to realise is: is it possible to be free of the self? - without becoming a vegetable, without becoming absent minded, somewhat lunatic, and so on and so on, is it possible? Which means what? Is it possible to be totally free from attachment? That is one of the attributes, one of the qualities of the self - right sirs? I am attached to my reputation. I am attached to my name. I am attached to my experience. I am attached to what I have said and so on. So, is it possible to be free from all attachments? Work it out, sirs. If you really want to be free of the self, no attachment. Which doesn't mean you become detached, indifferent, callous, shut yourself away, which is another form of the self - you understand? Before it was attached, now it says, 'I won't be attached'. It is still the movement of the self.
So if a person is serious, really concerned because the world is divided, is this - the 'me' and the 'you', 'we' and 'they'. We British and they French - or rather the Irish! The black and the white and the brown. So is it possible, without effort, to be free of attachment, to your wife, to your children, to your name - you can't very well be detached from your bank account if you have one, then the bank profits from it, but to be detached - you know what it means? - not to be identified with anything, with your country, with your god, with your - nothing! And therefore when you are really deeply basically not attached, then from that deep sense of no attachment comes responsibility. Not responsibility to my wife, to my children, to my nephew, niece, the sense of responsibility - right? Will you do it? That is the question. We can talk everlastingly, put it into different words, but when it comes to testing it, acting, we don't seem to want to do it. And so we prefer to go on as we are, status quo, slightly modified, but carry on, with our quarrels, you know all the things that are happening in the world. And to be free from your own experience, from your own knowledge, from your own accumulated perception - you understand all this?
So it is possible if you go at it. And it doesn't take time. That is one of our excuses, that we must have time to be free. When you see one of the major factors of the self is attachment and you see what it does in the world, and what it does in your relationship with another - separation and all the rest, ultimately quarrels, divorce, all the ugliness of relationship - if you see the truth of attachment, then that very truth is so, it is actual. Then you are free from it. Your own perception sets you free - right? Will you do it?
2nd QUESTION: Will the practice of Yoga as it is being done in Europe and America help to bring about a spiritual awakening? Is it true that Yoga will awaken deeper energy, which is called Kundalini?
May I read it once more? It's not necessary?
K: Right. From the sublime to the ridiculous! The so-called Yoga which the west and part of the east in India, was invented about the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the exercises, in order not only to have a very good body, healthy body, through force, you understand, through discipline, through control, in order to awaken so-called higher energy - seventeenth, eighteenth century. The real Yoga, which is called Raja Yoga, King of Yogas, is to lead a highly moral life - not morality according to circumstances, according to culture, but true ethical activity in life - not to hurt, not to drink, not to drug yourself, right amount of sleep, right amount of food, clear thinking, and acting morally, doing the right thing. I won't go into all that, what is right and wrong. They never mentioned, as far as I understand after talking with a great many scholars, they never mentioned about exercise. They say exercise normally, walk, swim, all that, but their emphasis was a very moral life, a mind which is active.
And modern yoga - the meaning of the word you all know, you probably know, I have talked to the scholars too and they say it doesn't quite mean that, which is to join. The meaning of the word, Yoga, is to join, join the higher with the lower, or the lower with the higher. You understand? And modern Yoga - I don't know why I am talking about all this nonsense! - I don't know why they call it yoga, it should be called just exercise, but that wouldn't appeal to you! You have to pay money to learn yoga, to breathe properly and all that. You can practise yoga, the exercises of different kinds, the speaker has done some of it for years, taught by the experts, fortunately they didn't charge! Because they also thought I was an expert!! Sorry. (Laughter) I am not an expert and so they soon deserted me! I deserted them.
Sirs, you can do this kind of yoga exercise for the rest of your life, you won't awaken spiritual insight, nor will the awakening of a higher energy come into being. You know in the east they have a word for this called Kundalini, some of you probably have read or been caught in that word. But most of the people, as far as I have discussed with them, who have gone into this matter very deeply, they are always quoting somebody else, back to the original mischief-maker - sorry. (Laughter). And none of them, please believe me, none of them have awakened this thing. They talk about it. They have certain experiences, which they call by this name. I have discussed with them very seriously and what they are talking about is a certain form of increasing energy to do more mischief. I mean that. By eating the right food, by control, by breathing properly, etc., etc., etc., you have more energy, naturally. And that gives you a sense of superiority, and you are enlightened and so on.
But there is a different form of - I won't go into it because you are all eager, I am not touching it! - that can only happen when the self is not. Then there is a totally different kind of energy to keep the mind fresh, young, alive and that can only come when there is absolutely no sense of the self - right? Obviously. Because the self, the 'me', the centre, is in constant conflict - right? Wanting, not wanting, creating dualities, opposing desires, this constant struggle that's going on. As long as that struggle is going on there is a wastage of energy obviously. When that struggle is not, there is a totally different kind of energy taking place - right?
There is the story of a man, a philosopher, or a patriarch, who was a well-known teacher. And a disciple came to him and said, 'Master, teach me how to meditate'. So he sat up in the right position, you know, and closed his eyes and began to breathe very deeply, trying to capture the higher webs and vibrations and all the rest of it. So the Master picks up two pieces of stone and rubs them, keeps on rubbing them. And the disciple opens his eyes and says, 'Master, what are you doing?' He said, 'I am trying to make out of these stones a mirror so that I can look at myself' and the disciple says, 'Master, you can never do that'. He says, 'In the same way, my friend, you can sit like that and breathe like that for ever, but you will never...' - got it?
3rd QUESTION: Can there be absolute security for man - and naturally woman - in this life?
This is a very serious question, because we all want security, both physical and principally psychological. If you are psychologically secure, certain, then we might not be so concerned with physical security.
The search for psychological security - please follow this - the search for psychological security is preventing physical security. We'll go into this. The questioner says: is there absolute security for us, for human beings? We will answer that at the end, but follow it step by step.
We must have security - right? Like a child hanging on to its mother, the child must feel secure, otherwise something goes wrong. They have found this. If the mother and the father don't pay enough attention to the baby, give it all affection, etc., etc., it affects the brain, the nerves of the baby and the child. So it must have security, physical security.
And why do we demand psychological security? Do you understand the difference between the two? There is the psyche demanding security and the physical demanding security - right? This is obvious. Now is there psychological security at all? We want it, we want security in our relationship - right? My wife, my children, a sense of family unit. That unit is now breaking up. In that there is a certain security, psychological - right? So one is attached to the wife, or to the girl - right? So in that attachment there is security, at least we think there is security. And when there is no security in that person we soon break away from it and find it in another - right? This is happening. And we try to find security in a group, in the tribe - that glorified tribe is the nation - right? No? I am glad. And the nation against another nation - you follow? So seeking security psychologically in a person, in a country, in a belief, in your own experience, all these are forms of wanting, demanding security, as one demands physical security - right?
Please we are sharing this together, you are not just listening to me. We are together examining if there is security for us human beings. And demanding the psychological security we have divided ourselves - right? The Hindu, the Muslim, the Jew, the Arab, the Christian, non-Christian, the believer in Jesus, the believer in something else - in all this there is the demand for security. And this security has been found in illusions - right? Do you accept that? Right? Being secure in Catholicism, hold yourself tight. In Buddhism, in Hinduism, in Judaism, Islam and so on - you follow? That has created an illusory security, because they are fighting each other. I wonder if you see this? Do you? The moment you see it, you don't belong to anything.
So wait a minute. So the demand is for security. It may be an illusion in superstition, in a ritual, in a dogma, in a nation, in an economic system, in Totalitarianism - in, what's the word, in the - in being safe, secure, economically, like in America, completely safe, at least they think they are. So, the desire for security not only creates illusion, because it is an illusion - isn't it? - to belong to a tribe, or belonging to some church, so one finds security in illusions, in actualities, in a furniture, in a house, in a person. None of these, as you observe, give man security, because you have had two terrible wars - you haven't had - you follow? You want security, but you create wars, which destroys your own security.
So when you see the truth that the mind or thought has sought out security in illusions - right? - the very perception that you are seeking security in illusion, that very perception of that brings you intelligence - right? Are you following this? Are you following this? Please don't, unless I make it perfectly clear, don't agree with me.
I sought security in my belief as being a Hindu with all the nonsensical superstitions and gods and rituals and all the nonsense that goes on. I sought security in that - I haven't, but suppose one does. That opposes another group of people who have different ideas, different gods, different rituals - Catholic and all the rest of it. So these are the two opposing elements, tolerated but they are antagonistic essentially. So there is conflict between the two, in which I have sought security in one or the other - right? And I realise, by Jove, they are both illusions, in which I have tried to find security - right? And to see that they are illusions is intelligence. It's like seeing danger. A man who is blind to danger is an idiot, is neurotic, there is something wrong with him. But we don't see the danger of this - right? And the man who sees the danger, intelligence is in operation. In that intelligence there is absolute security. You get it? Do you understand this?
That is, the mind, thought has created various forms of illusions - nationality, class, me and you, different gods, different beliefs, different dogmas, different rituals, the extraordinary religious superstitions that pervade the world - in all that one has sought security. And one doesn't see the danger of this security, of this illusion. When one sees the danger, not as an idea, but an actual fact, that intelligence is the supreme form of absolute security. Right? Are we together? Are you intelligent? (Laughter) Otherwise we miss it. You may say, 'I don't believe in any religions, I have no beliefs, I have no this, I have no that' - but the 'me' is in operation, which has created all this, and you are opposing all that by another word, another belief, another idea.
So there is absolute security, which means to see the truth in the false - got it? I wonder if you see this?
4th QUESTION: Emotions are strong. Our attachments are strong. How does looking and seeing reduce the strength and power of these emotions?
Right? Can we go on with that question? Trying to control, suppress, sublimate emotions and attachments in no way reduces the conflict, does it? Clear? Are we generally aware of our emotions? Are we aware of our attachments, which say emotions are very strong, attachments are very strong, are we aware of that? Do you know that you are attached? Go on sirs, find out. Are you attached strongly? And are your emotions so extraordinarily strong that they act? So first one has to be conscious, aware, know, recognise, see that your emotions are strong. And know also, be aware, recognise that you are attached. If that is so, when you are so conscious, what takes place? Do you understand my question?
I am conscious of my attachment, or my strong emotions of hate, jealousy, antagonism, like and dislike, I am conscious of that - right? Are you? Please we are sharing this together. Now, do they, being so strong, overshadow, control my action? You understand? I am examining, looking, observing, the emotions and attachments which are apparently very strong, and they act as barriers to clear thinking, to clear action, to unconfused thinking. So am I aware of them? Or we take it for granted? You follow my question? Say, 'Yes, I have very strong emotions, I'm terribly attached, but it doesn't matter. That's part of life. I don't mind struggling. I don't mind having quarrels with everybody'. There is a lovely joke, but I won't go into it! (Laughter)
So are we aware of them? Now if you are aware, what takes place? Please examine yourself. You are attached. Are you aware that you are attached? Just aware. You know that you are attached to that person, or to that piece of furniture, or to a belief, to a dogma, you know all the rest of it, attached to something. Now when you say you are aware, what do you mean by that? Know, recognise. Is thought recognising the attachment? You follow? You say, 'Yes, I'm attached' - is it the activity of thought that says, 'I am attached'? - you follow? Go into this please with me. Take a few minutes. Pay attention. Please, sir, quiet.
When you say, 'I'm attached', is it an idea? Or is it a fact? The fact is not the idea. This microphone, I can create an idea of it, but that is a fact. I can touch, see - right? So is my attachment a concept? A conclusion? Or is it a fact that I am attached? You see the difference? Do you? Please. So, when you are observing the fact, not the idea, not the conclusion about the fact, but the fact and you are aware of it, is the fact different from you who are observing the fact? You are following all this? I hope your minds are all active. It is clear, isn't it? Am I observing the fact through an idea, or through a conclusion? Or I have heard somebody say that - you follow? - and therefore I look, which means I am looking through a screen of ideas. So I am not looking at the fact.
So I am looking now at the fact. I'm not verbalising the fact, I'm looking at it. How do I look at it? As something separate from me - you understand? Attachment, something different from me? Or that is part of me? Do you understand? Don't go to sleep, please. If you want to sleep, sleep, but if you are serious for a few minutes, see this fact. That is, am I looking as though it was something apart from me? The microphone is apart from me, but attachment, emotions are part of me. Attachment is the 'me'. If I have no attachment there is no 'me'. So awareness of your emotions and attachments are part of your nature, part of your structure. So you are looking at yourself, so there is no division, there is no duality, me and attachment. There is only attachment, not the word, but the fact, the feeling, the emotions, the possessions, the possessiveness in attachment. That's a fact. So that is me.
So what am I to do with the 'me'? You understand? Now please follow this step by step. If you get tired, or if you are distracted, be distracted, but come back. So when there was division between me and attachment I could do something about it - right? Do you follow this? I could control it, I could say, 'No, I mustn't be', or suppress it, or do something about it all the time - right? Which we do. But if it is me, what can I do? Wait, wait. Follow it closely. If it is me, what can I do? I can't do anything, can I? I can only observe. Do you see the difference? Before I acted upon it. Now I can't act upon it, because it is me, it is my arm, it is part of me. So all that I can do is to observe - right? So observation becomes all important, not what you do about it. You see the difference?
So there is observation, not I am observing. There is only observation. In that observation, if I begin to choose and say 'I mustn't be attached' - I've already moved away in saying that's not me. You understand all this? So in observation there is no choice, there is no direction, just pure absolute clear observation. Then the thing that is being observed dissolves. Before you resisted it, you controlled it, you suppressed it, you acted upon it. Now in that observation all energy is centred. It is only when there is the lack of energy there is attachment. I wonder if you see this? Do you see this?
That is, when there is complete observation without any interference of thought, because you are observing. Why should thought come in? You understand the point? You are just observing the fly - the thing that you call the fly - just observe. In the same way to observe so completely your emotions, attachments, then there is a gathering of all energy in that observation. Therefore there is no attachment. I explained very carefully, it's only the unintelligent that are attached. It's only the people who do not see the full implications of attachment that are attached. And they pervade the world, they are the stronger element in the world and we are caught in that. But when you begin to examine this closely, look at it, then you're no longer caught in that, so you are no longer dissipating energy in something which has no meaning, naturally. So your energy is now centred completely in observation, therefore there is total dissipation of attachment. Test it, do it and you will find out. But you have to go step by step, don't jump into something or other, you have to examine the thing very, very closely, so that your mind is absolutely clear in the observation - right? It is only the unaware that jump over the cliff. The moment you are aware of danger, move. Attachment is a danger because it breeds fear, anxiety, hate, jealousy, being possessed and being not possessed - the whole of that, that is a tremendous danger. And when you see danger you act - not you act - there is action.
5th QUESTION: Why does the mind so readily accept trivial answers to such deeply felt problems?
The questioner says, why do I accept trivial explanation when a deep problem is concerned? You understand? Why do I live in words? That is the real problem. You understand? Why have words become so colossally important? No? Look, I suffer, go through great agonies. And you come along and give me explanations and in that explanation I seek comfort. There's god, there's reincarnation, there's this, there's that, there is something else. So I accept the word, because it gives me comfort. The explanation gives me comfort, the belief gives me comfort, when I am in agony, in anxiety. So, explanations by philosophers, by analysts, by psychologists, by the priests, by the yoga teachers - explanations - it is on that we live, which means we live second-hand. We are second-hand people, and we are satisfied with that. You use the word 'god' to a Catholic or to a man who believes in Jesus - you follow? - the word, the image, which word is a symbol, the image is a symbol. So symbols become extraordinarily important, like the flag. Oh sirs, you don't face all this.
Why does the mind do this? Is it because we read a great deal of what other people have said - you understand? - we listen to what other people have said, we see in the cinema what is taking place - others? Always somebody else out there telling me what to do. So my mind is crippled by this. So I'm always living second-hand. Goodness. You understand, sirs?
And we have never asked: can I be a light to myself? You understand? Not the light of someone else, including Jesus or Buddha or somebody else. Can I be a light to myself? Which means no shadow. You understand? Because to be a light to oneself means it's never put out by any artificial means, by circumstances, by sorrow, by accident and incidents - a light. Can one be that to oneself? One can only be that to oneself when your mind has no challenge because it is so fully awake. But most of us need challenges because most of us are asleep. We are asleep because we have been put to sleep by all the philosophers, by all the saints, by all the gods and priests and politicians - right? We have been put to sleep. And we don't know we are asleep, we think this is normal. So a man who wants to be a light to himself has to be free of all this. And the light to oneself can only take place when there is no self. Then that light is the eternal, everlasting, immeasurable light - right sirs.
Could we go on with these questions instead of dialogues, discussions?
K: I thought so! I do all the talking and you I hope not.