Action not based on knowledge
Knowing oneself is the beginning of freedom
1st Public Talk, Bombay
January 24, 1979
Sir, may I begin? It appears to me that the art of dialogue is no longer there. Dialogue means conversation between two people; two people who are concerned with their daily life with all the problems involved in their lives; two friends talking over together not only the world problems of the world outside them, but also the problems that exist within oneself, within the skin as it were. And if one may suggest this evening that we are talking over together not only our intimate problems but to observe objectively, impersonally what is happening in the world. So we are thinking over together. This is not a mere talk by the speaker. He intends that together we explore, investigate the problems, the catastrophe that is going on in the world, the madness, the wars, the utter mismanagement of governments and all the nonsense that is going on in the name of religion and all the gurus with their absurdities and all the so-called spiritual authorities with their extravagance, with their utter lack of understanding of truth.
So we are together, you and the speaker are going to investigate together, not only this evening but in the next three talks that will be here, and if one may suggest these gatherings which are serious, not frivolous, not mere intellectual entertainment or bask in some fantastic, romantic or idealised atmosphere. So please, bear in mind that we are investigating and therefore that demands that you be very serious. It is your responsibility also, as that of the speaker, that you challenge your ways of life, your ways of thinking, the beliefs that you have, the tradition that you accept. One must challenge the whole way of our living, our daily living, not the theories, the suppositions, the superstitions, the various accepted beliefs and principles, they are absolutely no value at all; they have no meaning. The ideals that you accept are utterly destructive because we are concerned with our daily existence, that existence is relationship: relationship with each other, relationship with man and woman, relationship with your neighbour, relationship with the world and also relationship with nature.
So please bear in mind, if one may repeat that again, and I shall constantly, that we are concerned with the ways of our life, with all its turmoil, with all its fears, with its anxieties, ambition, greed and so on. That is what we are concerned with because unless we transform our daily way of living, mere meditation, trying to seek some form of enlightenment, have utterly no meaning whatsoever, because they lead to illusion.
One wonders why you are here. It will be very interesting to find out for yourself why you listen to the speaker. What is it you intend to receive from him? What is it that you are demanding, questioning, challenging? Why all of you, if I may ask, have come, with what intention, with what motive, with what urge? If you can find that out for yourself then we can establish a relationship between yourself and the speaker. If you come, wanting some solace, some comfort, some form of escape from your daily life, some form of theoretical heaven, then I am afraid you will be very disappointed. But if you are concerned, as human beings must be concerned who are serious - the word 'serious' means having weight, having great concern with the world, with their life, with their actions, who are not merely intellectually activated by some kind of speech or talk. So I think it is very important if you could find out for yourself why you are here. Either you are here out of curiosity and that has a very limited value or you have certain ideas about the speaker, his reputation, and all that nonsense or you want to be confirmed in your own beliefs, in your own visions, in your own concepts, or, which is more important, which is much more worthwhile, that we, you and the speaker think together, investigate together, go into the problems of fear, of pleasure, of what it is to meditate, what it is to have a religious mind, what it means to have an absolutely quiet mind.
Then, if you come with that intention, with that urge, then we can both of us meet, not only verbally with all its semantic meaning, but also non-verbally which is much more difficult, more arduous. To meet or to communicate with each other non-verbally, requires that you and the speaker meet at the same level, at the same time with the same intensity, then non-verbal communication becomes possible, but most of us are incapable of that because we waste our energy. We have not sufficient vitality, drive and so we easily accept various forms of comfortable theories, some form of tradition, some form of leadership and follow. So if we are at all serious, and I hope we are, because it is only the serious man that lives, not the man who is merely accepting some form of pattern, a way of living, but the man who is profoundly serious, deeply concerned with what is going on with the world outside and also what is going on within himself, deeply committed to find out a way of living that is totally revolutionary, different.
We are using the word 'revolution', not physical revolution because that has been tried and that has led nowhere. We are talking about psychological revolution, the revolution that is the only thing that will bring about a different world, a different human being, a human being that is concerned, that has love, that understands the nature of our minds, and hearts. So please be serious, if you don't mind, at least for an hour.
Having said that let us enquire into our lives because that is the only thing we have; not your theories, not your beliefs, not your visionary acceptance of certain concepts or conclusions, they are utterly meaningless because they do not operate in our daily, everyday life. So we are together this evening, if you will, be concerned with our daily existence, with all its complexity, and we are going to investigate together why we live the way we are living: the way of sorrow, conflict, confusion, insecurity, searching for some kind of reality to which the mind can cling.
So first, let us look at our life, at your life. You know to observe you need freedom to look, that is obvious, isn't it? If I am prejudiced, if I am frightened, if I am caught within a narrow groove of my own experience, or if I have some kind of conclusion, a concept, I am incapable of observing exactly what is going on within myself or outwardly. One can observe very clearly what is going on in the world but it's much more difficult to observe, to perceive, or to realise actually the state of your mind, the state of your heart. Because as one observes, and the speaker has, for the last fifty and more years, seen what is happening in this country, and what is happening in other foreign geographical divisions of Europe and America and so on, if one observes it carefully not from a personal opinion, then one discovers, as you must have also seen, that the world is degenerating. And it is more obvious in this country, that being stripped of all tradition, because your tradition is gone, you are only concerned, not with the search for truth, you are only concerned with money, power, position and obviously the natural impulse of sex. You can watch yourself, if you have watched at all, how we are contradictory, we live a contradictory life: we say one thing and do another. Please observe what the speaker is saying, do not accept or reject, observe, find out.
I think everybody, at least those who have observed, who have gone into it, who are concerned, realise that human beings are degenerating. They are not demanding their excellence; they are not challenging their own way of life; they have lost the energy to recreate their own existence; they have accepted the authority of the ancient books, or the authority of some guru and they have become merely followers. Don't you follow somebody? You see, you daren't acknowledge yourself to yourself. You depend on others. So when one sees what is happening in this country, as well as in other countries, one realises that man has become what he was thousands and thousands of years ago, completely concerned with himself. He has become extraordinarily selfish, self-centred, thinking about his own problems, his own gain, his own success, his own misery, his own - all the rest of it, you know what you are all doing, I don't have to describe it; it is fairly obvious. And that is the beginning of degeneration; to degenerate, to go back to what we human beings were millions of years ago. We have not psychologically changed at all. We have better means of communication, electricity, better bathrooms, we can fly all over the world, but essentially we are what we have been, with slight modifications, what we were a million years ago. Right? We are selfish, we are frightened, we are self-centred, all our actions are based either on greed or fear or the demand for success and so on and so on. You know all this, don't you?
First of all it requires a great deal of honesty to observe actually your way of life. And is it possible to change radically, fundamentally, deeply so that a new human being is born? That is, whether you have the energy, the vitality, the urge, the intensity, to discover for yourself, not from another, whether it is possible to change your life so that you are really human beings, unafraid, not depending psychologically I mean, not following somebody, being unattached, free.
So one observes also, wherever you go, we human beings are almost alike psychologically, whether they are Americans, Russians, Chinese, or Indians or Muslims or whatever it be. They all suffer, they all bear pain, they all have anxiety, they are all confused, they are unhappy, frightened, and so every human being, you, is the representative of all humanity. You understand this? Are we communicating with each other? The speaker is saying that every human being throughout the world goes through great travail, great anxieties, great fears, great insecurities, nothing is certain any more, like you they are - please listen to this - so you are like the rest of humanity. You are not different from anybody else psychologically, you may have little problems peripherally but deeply, inwardly you are like the rest of the human beings. This is not a theory. This is not a concept but an actuality and so if one human being fundamentally transforms himself, he affects the whole consciousness of man. One man affects the rest of the world, if he transforms himself. The Hitlers, the Stalins, all the mad people of the world have affected the human consciousness. The Buddha has affected the consciousness of mankind. So if you as a human being radically, fundamentally, bring about a change in your life, please, you affect the consciousness of mankind. I wonder if you realise it.
I mean by realising, not intellectually, nor verbally, but feel the immense responsibility that you have as a human being, that you, if you can deeply transform yourself, not into something else, transform, then that transformation affects the rest of the consciousness of man. For most people this is a very difficult thing to accept even intellectually. Because they think each human being is a separate human being, an individual. Are you really individuals? Have you ever asked that question? Please ask it. Demand, find out, if you are individuals. You may have a separate name, you may be tall, dark, fair or have a bank account. Individual means a human being that is not divisible, that is, broken up; individual means a human being that is whole, complete, that is not divided, broken up in himself, fragmented. So, when one realises the serious nature of this statement that you are the world and the world is you, then your responsibility becomes enormous. And so we are going to investigate together whether it is possible to bring about a change - change in our habits, change in our ways of thinking, to have a clear mind and to know what love is. So we are going to enquire into all that. First of all to enquire, to investigate, demands that you come to investigate freely. That is, free from your prejudices, from your opinions, from your conclusions, from your particular experience of what you think is god or whatever it is, otherwise you can't examine. You understand this, it's so obvious isn't it? That if you are going to investigate into your life, into the life of the society, the life of the world, you have to come to it with freedom to find out, mustn't you? Are you free from your prejudice? - that one thing, prejudice. Because to investigate implies a mind that is capable of observation, capable of action, capable of perception, seeing what is true and what is false.
Are we meeting each other? Are we? Please do tell me. Are we communicating with each other? You are all so very silent. Up to you. When you observe your life, your own life, not mine, not your neighbours, or your guru's, you daren't observe the life of your gurus, because his life is pretty ugly too, he is ambitious, seeking power, money, position, and all the rest of that nonsense - but when you observe yourself what is your life? All life is based on relationship. There is no life without relationship. One may live in the Himalayas, but still the hermit is the product of the world and whatever food he eats is the product of the world. Nobody lives in isolation, they cannot possibly. So life is a movement of relationship and action. Right? Is that right sirs, can we see that and go on from there? Are we meeting each other?
So we are saying life is the movement of relationship. Now what is our relationship with each other? Have we any relationship at all with another, or is our relationship based on some concept, some imaginary memory, or certain images that we have created about each other, and we look at each other through those images? Right? Why are you all so silent? You know sir, this demands your active capacity to think, not just go to sleep. You have to think together to find out, and if we do not, or if you are incapable of thinking, then we are incapable of observing what is going on. Sir and ladies, let us look what is happening in the world first. Because apparently, to enquire within yourself is most difficult for you. Probably you have never done it. You have never watched yourself as you watch yourself in a mirror to see exactly what is going on, not what you think should happen and apparently most of you have not done it.
So let us begin looking at the world first. That is, the world outside you is now a dangerous place to live. There are wars, governments all over the world are incapable of dealing with all the problems. If they solve one problem, the very solution of that problem creates other problems. The world is divided by nationalities, by governments, each government preparing for wars. They are spending, the world is spending four hundred, thousand million dollars a year on armaments which is totally insane and your taxes are supporting this. There are rebellions, terrorists, idealists, who want to create Utopia and therefore they are willing to kill others. All this is spread out before you in the world and what is your relationship to that? You understand my question? How do you regard that, the terror, the utter confusion of the politicians who are obviously seeking their own position, power and all the rest of it. What is your relationship to all that? You have elected them; you have created them, and we demand that society change, become less corrupt, but society is relationship of two human beings. If those two human beings are greedy, seeking power, position and all the rest of it, they are responsible for the society in which they live. This again is all so very obvious.
So it becomes more and more important, more and more urgent that human beings, you, radically change. I wonder how one can convince you of this; how one can make you feel the importance of this, that we are destroying the world and ourselves. And what is a human being like you to do? What action should you take? Right, sir? Enquire, challenge, ask what should you do, what can you do, as a human being living in this chaos, in this corruption, in this great dishonesty, what is your action, what is a human being to do, you, in the midst of this confusion? You understand my question? Are you interested in this question? I'll go into it if you are interested, let us go into it. You see sirs and ladies, our actions are based on our past knowledge. All our actions very carefully thought out or based on some ideal or on some motive or on some accumulated knowledge as memory, all action is born out of that. That is obvious. So our action, as our lives, are from the past. We live in the past. The past goes through the present, meets the present, modifies itself and goes on. That is our life. The past with all our experience, with all our knowledge, with all our suffering, with our anxieties which is our knowledge, that knowledge meets the present, modifies itself and goes on.
So our action is based on this movement: from the past, modifying itself in the present and going on. So our action is based on knowledge. Whether it is technological knowledge, to go to the moon, or the knowledge where you live, the knowledge of your wife or husband, knowledge is essentially the past and all our actions spring from the past, therefore our actions are limited, they are never complete, never whole. So our actions have always got regrets, pain, sorrow, confusion and so on. Do you see this, that knowledge is the motive of our action. Technologically, to speak a language, to go to the office, to do all the work you do in a factory or office, any kind of manual or intellectual work, must have the skill of knowledge. That is essential. So the problem arises, if you are interested, if you want to go very deeply into it, what place has knowledge psychologically in our relationship with each other? You understand sir? As we said, knowledge is essentially the accumulation of experience stored up in the brain and from that brain, from that memory, all response is thinking. So our actions are based on thought and thought naturally then is limited, is fragmented, broken up, thought is never complete. So our actions are always incomplete. Is this clear?
Now, because our actions are incomplete there is anxiety, there is regret, there is pain. So one wants to find out, if you are serious, if there is an action that is not based on knowledge in our relationship. Are we meeting each other? It's up to you sirs, I am not going to ask any more if you understand, don't understand. I'll go on. Our relationship with each other is based on memory. If you are married, or if you have a girl friend or whatever it is in your relationship, you have an image about her and she has an image about you. Don't you? A picture about her and a picture about him. No? Of course. An image, that is, what she has said to you in the past, what you have said to her in the past. The nagging, the quarrels, the sex, all that is stored up as knowledge and our relationship is based on that knowledge. So we are asking, if you are serious, is relationship merely a memory? Is relationship based on memory, love? Is love merely desire, pleasure and remembrance? Or, is love something entirely different? So we are asking a very serious fundamental question: whether there is an action which is not based on past memories. But you must have knowledge, which is the past, when you walk, when you talk, when you go to the office, technology and so on and so on. But has knowledge any place in our relationship? Please answer, find out for yourself, because if it is, then you will have no love, you may say you love your wife or your husband but if it is merely a memory then it is the love of thought and thought is not love. And in this country one watches what is happening here, the degeneracy begins when there is no love. So is it possible to bring about a different kind of action?
Right, sir? Are you, if I may ask most politely and respectfully, merely listening to what is being said or are you working it out in yourself? Are you observing your life, your daily life of relationship, and the action that is born out of this relationship, whether in the office, whether in the business, whatever you do, are you observing this or merely hearing with the ear and just casually passing it by? Please ask yourself this question, find out. And one asks why there is this degeneration, not only in this country where it is so obvious, but also in other countries. Why? Have you asked this question: why man, human beings are becoming degenerate? Why? Not the description of degeneracy, not mere economic reasons or overpopulation or bad governments or this or that but what is the root cause of this appalling decay of human beings? What is the source of it? Have you asked? Please, what the speaker is going to point out, don't accept it or reject it, but listen to it. You know what it means to listen? Do you ever listen to your child, to your son? He wants to tell you a story, he wants to tell you about himself and naturally if you love your son you listen to him. You don't interrupt, you don't say it is good or bad, tell me all about it. Tell me all your story, what you feel, what you think, what you do. So in the same way listen to it. Please listen. You know, with that care, with that attention, with that love, with that affection, willing to find out. Which means you don't accept anything, you don't deny anything but just listen. That is the art of listening. As you would listen to a little boy whom you love, if he was your son or your daughter - if you ever listen to anybody at all. So in the same way be good enough to listen.
We are asking why human beings throughout the world are going down the hill? Why? They give many, many reasons: economic, social, overpopulation, bad governments and so on, superficial reasons, but there must be a basic reason.
K: We will discuss it, sir. Let me first finish what I have to say if you don't mind. Then you can interrupt, question, challenge, demand anything you like, but please just listen.
The principal, the active cause of this degeneration is - don't accept it or deny it but just listen to a story which your son is telling you, or your girl is telling you - is that the intellect has become so dominant, so powerful, that the intellect with all its capacity to think clearly, to act clearly, with all its activity of thought, that has predominated the world and is predominating the world, that is the basic cause of decay because intellect is only a part of our whole being. The intellect that can argue, has theories, capable of deep enquiry - the intellect - the intellect is not the whole nature of man, the wholeness of man and because a part has become all important and therefore fragmenting the world, fragmenting your own actions and as the intellect with all its capacities to think reasonably, unreasonably, having its illusions and clarity, that has predominated, and that is the cause of our decay, because we are not acting with all our nature, with all our being. Do you understand? The intellect, that is, we are using the word 'intellect' to mean the capacity to think reasonably, logically and objectively or unreasonably, without clarity, caught in illusions - that is the intellect. And when that rules our life, and the intellect being only a part, not the whole, then there are divisions between man and man, country and country, class and class, religion different from other religions. It is the function of thought to divide and that is the function of the intellect, and as that dominates the world that is the basic cause of our degeneration. Don't accept it or deny it, but investigate it, look at it, find out if it is false or true, exercise your brain to find out, your brain, not the experts' brain who'll say this cause is this and the other. Find our for yourself.
Isn't your life dominated by thought? No? And all your actions are dominated by thought. Thought has created all the gods in the world: the rich man's god who says, 'God is good because he is affluent' and the poor man says, 'God is rather terrible'. It is all brought together by thought, the temples and the things that are in the temples, the churches and the things that are in the temples; the rituals, the dogmas, the images, the pictures, all that is the result of thought. You are a Parsi because you have been trained from childhood to accept the belief that you are that or the Hindu, the Muslim and all the rest of it. All that is the activity of thought. So when thought predominates the world then there must be conflict because thought in its very nature is limited because thought is born out of memory. Memory is the result of experience which is knowledge. Our brain holds knowledge, experience and thought is a material process. There is nothing sacred about thought. Thought can create beauty, thought can create ugliness, thought can create the most marvellous pictures and thought can create devastating wars. Right?
So the problem arises if you are serious: is there a possibility of action, life without this constant battle, without this constant desire for something more and more and more, struggling, struggling, struggling? You know, we think we are advancing, human beings are advancing, making tremendous progress. Are we? Technologically perhaps. But are we as human beings psychologically developing, growing, flowering in goodness? Do you understand my question? Because that is culture, culture means to grow, to develop, to flower, to be excellent. Culture tied to tradition destroys the growth of human beings. Oh, you are not interested in all this. So that is the cause of this degeneration that is going on in the world, from that, from the realisation not the theory of it, not the verbal concept of it but the feeling, the reality, the truth that as long as one element of our being dominates, there must be decay. So one asks is it possible to act totally as a whole, healthy, sane human being? You understand my question, sir? Is it possible to live a life without a shadow of conflict, without a shadow of fear, without the everlasting pursuit of pleasure which is desire and with all its complexity, with all its struggles and is there a possibility of ending sorrow?
Unless you answer all these questions deeply and find an answer not verbally, but actually ending sorrow, ending fear and understanding the nature of pleasure and the nature of desire, then only there is a possibility of acting as a total, whole, sane human being. This is part of meditation, not merely sitting in a corner and going off into some kind of dream. The actual meditation begins with the understanding of our daily life, to see what is false, and what is true. To see what is illusion and what is not; to see that which is false and to see the truth in the false. You understand what I am saying? Oh, you are not interested in all this!
So sirs, which includes ladies naturally, what we are talking about is a very serious affair. It demands your excellent capacity to think, to exercise your brain and not merely live as we live day after day after day in a routine. We have become machines. That is part of the tradition that that has brought this about. So we are asking: is there a way of living a life which is complete, whole, sane, rational, not illogical and putting everything in order in our life and then only we can proceed much further. You know there is a great mystery, not the mystery in temples and all that kind of stuff, that's nonsense, but the mystery that is absolutely impeccable, that thought can never capture and that requires a great freedom. Because only a free mind, a healthy mind, a sane mind can be a religious mind, not all the rituals and all the circus that goes on in the name of religion. That is all a joke, meaningless. But to have a mind that is whole, complete, not broken up, divided into business, sex, money, power, you follow, how one's mind is broken up, which is obviously a destructive mind.
So we are asking you, challenging you, not just a verbal acceptance whether you can live a life and we are going to go into that to see if we can be free completely and utterly of fear. Fear of death, fear of loss, fear of attachment, fear of losing a job in a world that is becoming more and more difficult; whether man, who has carried this fear for millennia, whether he can be completely totally free; whether man can be free of the burden of sorrow; whether he can ever know what it means to love another. To find out all this, to go into all this, your mind must be free to enquire, to look, to challenge. So it is your responsibility, if you come to these talks, that you are thinking, actively demanding, questioning. Then perhaps we can go very, very deeply into something that is not the product of thought.