Action, observation and dying while living
To observe without distortion
6th Public Talk, Ojai, California
May 18, 1980
I hope one realises that this is not a Sunday morning gathering for amusement, or entertainment, or some kind of so-called spiritual uplift. We are rather serious and we have talked mostly during these talks and question and answer meetings, of the whole complex problem of living. And together, with the speaker, we are trying to resolve all our problems; not only the problem of fear, greed, attachment; and the question which we talked about yesterday also, that love is not desire, love is not the continuous expression of love, of pleasure.
And we would like this morning as this is the last talk, to go into the question of what is action, what is the significance of death, and also a much abused word, meditation. Because this concerns most of our life. We are not trying to prove anything, convert you to a new set of beliefs or ideals, doing any kind of propaganda. The speaker particularly has a horror of all that. But together with the speaker, if you will, and if you are serious, go into all these questions.
Though probably most of you have been here during the last two weeks, we now will have to go and consider what is action. Because most of our life is action: all our relationship is action, our attitudes, our behaviour, our particular idiosyncratic expression, our restraints, our freedom to express what we like, or don't like; we are violent, aggressive, obeying, believing and so on; all that is action. Not just going to the office every day for the next fifty years - I don't know how you tolerate it - or doing some particular job, over and over and over again, for the rest of one's life. All that is also action. And these actions are based not only on past knowledge, modified by the present and continued into the future.
Please, as we said, we are talking over together. We are not trying to convey or say something which is not clear. Together, you and the speaker, must go into this whole question of action: try to find out if there is an action which is complete, which has no regrets, which has no sense of incomplete partial action, and therefore that action breeds conflict, such actions are divisive, and so on.
So what we are going into this morning, if you are at all serious, on a lovely day, if you want to go into this as we have gone into the other problems of life. We are dealing with life, that is, we are dealing with everyday living: our conflicts, our confusion, our jealousies, our aggression, our attachments, our beliefs, our constant struggle with pain and sorrow. That's our life. And to escape from that turmoil we go into various kinds of philosophies, psychoanalytical issues, hoping to solve our own daily conflicts and miseries and confusions. We apparently never face those. We have very carefully cultivated various forms of escapes, a whole network, both religious, sensational, vulgar and so on.
So this morning, as on the previous mornings, we are going to consider together; the speaker is not telling you what action is; together we are going to understand the nature of action, and whether there is an action which is so complete, whole, that it leaves no mark on our daily life so as to bring about conflict. What is action, the doing? For most of us it is based on accumulated knowledge, experience, and from that, act. Right? We are following, I hope. That is, through many years study, practise, and acquire a great deal of knowledge, and act from that, either skilfully or not. That's what we are doing all the time. A carpenter, a scientist, or astrophysicist are the same in their movement, in their acquisition of knowledge, and adding more knowledge, modifying it, changing it, but the basis is acquiring knowledge and acting from that knowledge. The other thing is to act and then learn from that action. Do something that pleases you immediately, learn from that, acquire knowledge in doing. So both are the same. I hope we understand this. That is, the acquisition of knowledge either by study, gradually learning, through experience, and from that knowledge act. The other is, act, and through action learn, and therefore acquire more knowledge. So both are the same. You understand? So our action is based on knowledge, and on a great deal of information, and from that, skill. Right? And as we were saying, knowledge is always incomplete. I think, one must very clearly understand this. There can never be complete knowledge, either with the astrophysicists, scientists, painters, music, piano players, the carpenter, the plumber, there can never, never be complete knowledge. And so knowledge goes always with ignorance. So our action, when based on knowledge must be incomplete. One must see this very clearly.
And in daily life, in our relationship with each other, whether intimate or not, action is based on previous memories, images that we have built about each other, and act from that. Please see all this clearly. Because the next question will be rather difficult if you don't understand this question carefully. Which is, action based on knowledge, on image, in our relationship with each other, must be divisive; that is, dividing, conflicting, partial. And in this relationship with each other, either there are no images at all and therefore actual relationship; or if there is an image, that image is the outcome of knowledge, and acting from that image. So our relationship, intimate or otherwise, is partial, fragmented, broken up, and so there can never be in that relationship love. Right? Love is not a remembrance - Father's Day, Mother's Day, and all that business. That's a commercial business.
So is there an action which is not born out of time? I am going to explain this carefully. Acquiring knowledge in any field requires time. To get to know each other requires time, if they are more intimate, that also requires time. So all our action is the outcome of knowledge and time. Right? Time being not only by the watch, by the sun rise and sun set, but also psychologically. That is, I am, I shall be; I have not, but I will have; or, I am greedy, angry, violent, but time will help me to resolve it. So our mind is put together by thought and time, and knowledge. So our action is born out of that. If you examine it very carefully, all our action is based on that, and therefore knowledge being incomplete, thought being incomplete, there must be strife between two people, whether it's man, woman, and so on, man and man, the whole business of relationship. And if one understands this, or intellectually is aware of it, to be intellectually aware of it is partial, because that is only a part of our life, to be emotionally aware of it is also partial, but to be aware of it completely, the whole implication of that. Right? Are we following each other, I hope.
So then the next question is: is there an action - go carefully, please - is there an action which is not the outcome of knowledge? You are following? That is a question: we are not saying there is, or there is not. To acquire language, technology, to be skilled in technology, in computers and so on, you must have skill based on knowledge. There it is necessary. Right? We are asking something entirely different: which is, we act psychologically out of knowledge: I have known you for some years, I have built an image about you, and from that knowledge I act with regard to you. Right? We are enquiring into the psychological memory from which action takes place. Right? We are following each other? Please, we are going into something very, very subtle and difficult, if you don't, I can't help it. It is very simple if you apply your mind to it, if you listen to it carefully, not only to what the speaker is saying, but also listen to your own mind working - if you are not asleep, or taking a sun bath here, or eating some kind of food. You have to give some kind of attention to this.
Psychologically we have built a great deal of knowledge from which we are acting. That is, our knowledge is self-centred. Right? I want, I don't want, I am greedy, I must fulfil, there must be sex, and so on and so on. So psychologically we have built an image about ourselves and others. That image, that symbol, that word is the knowledge. Right? So this self-centred knowledge, from which we act, is essentially selfish. Right? And when action takes place from the self-centred state, such action must be either harmful, hurting, violent, isolating. Right? I don't know if you have not noticed, if you have studied your own life, that most of us are so egotistic, so rooted in our self-centred vanity, that we build a wall around ourselves. Right? If I am aggressive, I have already built a wall round myself, and in that state I want to act. Right? See all this, sir, in yourself. You are actually observing yourself, if you will, in the mirror which the speaker is presenting. It is your mirror, not my mirror. That we, as human beings, right throughout the world, move, act, from this centre. Right? And as long as we act from this centre there must be conflict. And as we pointed out from the beginning of these talks, our concern is to eliminate conflict, not only national, economic, social conflict, wars, the conflict between various religions, the various doctrines, beliefs, superstitions, rituals - which are part of superstition - as long as there is this divisive element in the mind there must be conflict. And this divisive element exists as long as our action is self-centred. Right? And this self-centred state is the accumulation of knowledge and experience stored in the brain, and in that state there is this constant pursual of the me and my expression. Right?
So our next question is: is it possible to act, to live, without this self-centre? Therefore it is a very serious question, it isn't a Sunday morning evangelistic nonsense; it is something that we have to go into very, very carefully. Because human beings, from the very beginning of time have lived with conflict. And we are still living in that state after millions and millions of years. Therefore there is something radically wrong: in spite of all the philosophies, religions, beliefs, we are still animalistic, we still have this terrible destructive centre from which we act. I hope we are not merely listening to a lot of words, but you are observing your own mind, aware of your own mind working, looking, asking; asking if there is a totally different way of living. Not be caught in the same pattern of a million years. Right? Please put this question to yourself most seriously, because we are destroying ourselves, we are destroying the earth, the air, and we are destroying human beings.
So our responsibility is tremendous. I am using that word 'responsibility' without any sense of guilt. If you feel responsible you act. But if you don't act don't feel guilty, you are simply not responsible.
So what is this centre? Right? How has it come into being? And as we said, we would talk about death also. When death takes place the centre of this action ends. You follow what I'm saying? I'll explain, I'll go into it carefully. First, we are asking: can the centre come to an end, and yet live in this live, not go off into some monastery, identifying with some ideology, or utopia, and say, I have lost the centre - which would be nonsense. Because you have merely identified the centre with something else. Right? I don't know if you see that. That is, this egotistic activity with its pleasures, fears, anxieties and so on, that centre, that ego, believes in something, and identifies in something - in the image, in a doctrine and so on, or takes a new name - but that centre still remains. You are following this? Good!
So our question is: is it possible to die to that, and yet be alive, active, work, carry on? Which is to carry on without conflict. You follow? So we must enquire, what is this centre to which the mind, the brain, the form, the name cling to? You understand? I don't know if you are following all this? We are asking: what is the nature and structure of the self? Right? What are you? You can only find out if you don't assume anything. Right? If you say, 'Well, I must be what I am', then you are not finding out what you are. Or, I believe I am some spiritual entity - again, you can't find out; or if you approach with your prejudice, you can't. So in enquiring into this you must be free to observe. Right? Because observation is not analysis. You must understand also this carefully. Our whole mind and brain is trained to analyse. That has been our pattern of life. And when one sees that pattern of living has not brought about the ending of conflict, you must enquire in other directions. Right? The other direction is observation. Observation without direction, which means no analysis. Sorry, if there are other analysts here, forgive me! If you don't agree it is all right, but go into it with me, with the speaker.
When you observe, when thought interferes with that observation you are giving it a direction; from your memory, from your motive, from your desire. Right? Then there is no observation. Your desire, your motive, your pleasure directs the observation. Right? So to observe actually what you are, one must approach it freely. And that's our difficulty because our minds are conditioned. And being conditioned, our approach is always limited. Right? So can you, sitting there this morning, talking this over together, be free of that? Free of your prejudice, of your analysis, of your aggression in your analysis, all that. Just to observe, as you observe your face in the mirror when you comb, or shave your face. Right?
Then what is this I, this ego, this self, that we give such tremendous importance? Because one has to find that out because if that is something actual, not an illusion, you understand? - something that you can touch, feel, look, and not some illusion that one has created, then one has to find out what is the nature of this 'me'. Because we are going to discuss together, not only what we have talked over in the past, but also what death is. Please, it is related. Surely the 'me' is put together through education, through comparison, through so-called culture, the so-called idea of individuality, all that is the movement of thought, which has created the 'me'. You understand? Which is so; the me that is aggressive, the me that strongly believes in some fantastic idea, that is romantic, that is terribly lonely, and escaping from that loneliness into all kinds of idiotic nonsense. So all that is me, put there by thought. Right? When you say, soul and all that business, it is still thought. And we are saying, from that, action takes place. Right?
Is there an action which is not self-centred? Right? To put it very simply: which is not egotistically motivated, directed. Because that has brought havoc in the world. Right? Not only in personal relationship but with our neighbours whether they are near or far. Now can this self-centred existence come to an end? And yet be alive in this world, act, think, feel? That is, psychologically we have built a great deal of knowledge about us - can one die to all that psychological knowledge? Right? And is that death? You are following this?
You know we are so afraid of death. We have never enquired into a mind that has not only not fear, which we talked about the other day, but also what is death. Right? You see our mind clings to a continuity. Right? In continuity there is security: I was, I am, I will be. That concept, that idea, gives tremendous strength. Right? I feel secure, safe. And death denies all that. Right? My security, my attachment to all the things I have held together. And we are afraid of that. That is, to enter into something unknown. Right? Because we have always lived with the known. You are following all this? Please do, it is your life: your calamity, your miseries, your depressions, your loneliness, it is your life. You have to face it one day or the other. That is if you want to understand and live differently without one single problem, without a shadow of conflict, with a great deal of affection and love. That's if you want to do it. But if you don't, you carry on, continue in the old pattern, bringing a great deal of misery to yourself and to others, war, and all the misery that goes on in the world. It's up to you.
So our living, our daily living, as we know it, as we are aware of it, is a series of continuous constant struggle, conflict with each other, however intimate you are, confusion about all this: one politician says that, the other says the other, one economist, highly placed, denies the other economist, one scientist - you know the game that goes on. This is constant struggle with each other, within ourselves. That's our living. Right? That's an actuality, not a theory, not something that somebody has imposed upon you, you are that.
So is that what we are frightened of, losing all that? You understand what I am saying? Let me take perhaps a good example, which is attachment - sorry to repeat it again, those who have heard it. One sees the nature and the structure of attachment, the consequences of that attachment: pain, jealousy, anxiety, hatred, pleasure, and a thin line, a film of love, so-called. Going to the office, or to the factory, being a secretary, taking some shorthand, you follow, day after day, constantly for the next fifty years. What a tragic way you live! Or you escape from all that into some other idiocy. There too is this conflict, there too is this aggression, pleasure, in a different form, but the same pattern is repeated. And this is what we call living.
And there are all those preachers, priests, so-called religious authorities - hierarchy - they say, you can't have heaven here, it is up there, you must have faith - right? - to understand it, to escape from it, you must have faith. I wonder if you have noticed that religions are based on books. Right? Here Christianity is the Bible, and the Islamic world is the Koran; in the Buddhist and the Hindu world there are many, many books, there is no one book that says, do this. So those religions which are based on books deny doubt. Go into it with me. Right? If you doubt, the whole religious structure comes to an end in the Western world; and it does also in the Buddhist world, and the Hindu world. So faith has taken the place of doubt. I do not know if you have gone into this question of doubt. What an extraordinary cleansing effect it has on the mind! Of course, if you doubt everything you end up in a lunatic asylum! But one must know when to doubt. That means you must know when to: when you have a dog, if you know when you have it on the leash, but you let it go when necessary, when you want it to be free, you can't keep it all the time on the leash, poor dog! So doubt must be held on the leash, and sometimes let go. Which means you start with uncertainty - you understand - not with certainty - please follow this. Books give you certainty. Right? The Bible, this and the other. You have to believe in that. So it starts with certainty, and you begin to examine, it ends up in uncertainty. Whereas if you start with uncertainty you may end up with something beyond certainty, beyond everything else. Now we are going to go into that presently.
So can we, in living, intimately or not, be free of attachment immediately, which is death? You understand what I am saying? Do you understand? Death will not argue with you. Death, you won't say, tell Death, 'Give me some more time, please wait'. But if you know what death is, which is the ending. Right? The ending while you are living; the ending of attachment. You follow now? Which is what death is going to say to you: you must leave everything behind you. But such an ending is frightening. Right? So you believe in reincarnation, you want hope, and all the rest of it; or in heaven, resurrected and all that. Now you see, while we are living can you end something? Not smoking and all that silly stuff, but much more deeply, psychologically: end to your greed, end to your aggression, end to your dogmatic beliefs and experiences, you follow, end it. When you end something there is a totally new beginning. I wonder if you see this. But when you end it through analysis, through will, you are not ending it. Right? This is difficult. All right, I'll explain it.
If there is a motive for ending, then that motive is put together by thought, by desire, and when you analyse and therefore end it, it is still the process of thought - right? - which continues in other forms but you have ended it in a particular direction. Right? Have you understood this? Right.
So we are saying, observe without direction, attachment, or aggression, or your violence. Observe it without any motive, direction, desire, just to observe it, and in that very observation there is an ending of it. And therefore you are inviting death while living. You follow? I wonder if you understand this? Not commit suicide, that's another thing. But the mind that lives in conflict, pain, suffering, without any sense of affection, love, because it is self-centred, and one of the many facets of this self-centre is this aggression, competition, greed; end one of those, or many of those, immediately, easily: then you are living quite a different kind of life in this world.
So death is while living. You understand? Do you understand this? Not at the end of life when you are old, gaga and diseased, unconscious, go through all that misery, you understand? But to end the things that the mind has collected, easily, with certain grace, so that there is a different quality of the mind. You understand? Such a mind has not this continuity and constancy.
And also we ought to talk over together as two friends, a very, very complex problem - our life is a complex problem, unfortunately - also about religion, meditation, if there is something beyond all matter. You understand my question?
Religions, or rather man has always enquired if there is something more than material existence: the daily routine, the work, this loneliness, the incessant pain and sorrow. Man from the ageless time has asked if there is something beyond. He has always been seeking it; and the priests and the minds that want to make an institution of that, the searching, the asking, those have made it into a religion. Right? Made it into an organisation, an institution. So the man who is seeking is caught in that. I don't know if you see. So one has to find out if you are caught in that. Or you are enquiring - right? - enquiring not believing, not faith, but enquiry, observing, asking. Right? That is, asking if there is something more than this existence, this material welfare, whether there is something far beyond man's limited existence. Right? We are going to go into that, together; not me go into it and you listen, because that's very easy - when you leave you forget all this, what you have listened to, but if it is your life, your everyday concern, then it's yours.
How do you - not how - in what manner do you enquire into this? You understand? Our minds, our brains, are the result of time. A million years, and many more million years, it has evolved, grown, accumulated all kinds of knowledge, through experience, through pain; our brain is that. Always seeking security, both physically and psychologically, its very essence is: give me security. Because when the brain and the mind are completely secure then there is quite a different state of mind. But unfortunately our brain and our minds and our reactions and so on have not found security, either in the physical world, or in the inner world, in the world of psychology, in the psyche; neither there nor here. After a million years we are still groping after this. And not finding it thought invents god, saviours, masters - you follow? They will give us security. That's why the gurus and all the priesthood grow like mushrooms, offering you all kinds of things, including the clever psychologists, and the philosophers.
So first, is there security? You understand? Please ask yourselves. Is there security in your relationship with another? To bring it down to earth! Obviously not, you would like to have it. And that security means constancy, right, a continuity. Have you that in your relationship? If you are honest, obviously not. But the mind is seeking this. If it can't find it, it invents an illusion and hopes in that illusion to have security. Right? You understand? So the mind, thought, which is part of the mind and brain, thought is seeking this constant movement of security. Right? And not finding it there it must inevitably invent something which becomes an illusion. That also is a reality. Right? Illusion is a reality.
So the mind must be free to understand, to investigate, if there is something beyond matter. The mind must be free of any kind of illusion. Right? Illusion is belief; illusion is faith; illusion is dependence. You follow? So can the mind be free of any form of illusion, otherwise it can't go further? Not you, the brain can't, the mind cannot move further. That is to be aware that you have illusions, and end it, not keep in the background and try to investigate, then you are playing games. So can the mind be free of the desire to create illusions? Right? That's part of meditation, not just sitting in a place and for ten minutes be silent, morning, evening, afternoon, whenever you do it, and the rest of the day be mischievous, egocentric. Right?
So scientists, astrophysicists, are always asking this question, if they are serious, not merely inventive and business scientists: is there something beyond matter? You understand? Is there something beyond thought? Because thought is matter. Right? Because it is held in the brain cells, the memory, experience, knowledge, held in the brain cells, therefore it is still matter. And thought is matter. You are following? You may not accept it, go into it, examine it. So is there something beyond matter? How will you find out? Scientists and others, astrophysicists and so on, are looking out there. Right? Outside of themselves. Right? We are saying, when you know how to look at yourself, which is also matter - understanding yourself, looking at yourself, there it is much more real than the other, this you can test - you understand? From your daily actions you can test it - that becomes merely a theory. I don't know if you are following all this? Are you, sir? I hope you are enjoying this sunny weather. If you are not interested in this, look at the trees, the beauty of the trees, the sun through the leaves and the distant mountains and their light, the beauty of the sky. But if you are sensitive to that then you will be sensitive to what is being said.
So what is the state of the mind, consciousness, that can discover - I am using the word 'know' in a rather wide sense. You know the word 'know' is very limited, isn't it? You can say to your wife, 'I know you', but do you actually know your wife, or your husband, or your boy friend? You don't. You only know according to the image that you have built about her or him. So here the word 'know' becomes - when you say 'I know there is something beyond', you have destroyed it. You understand what I am saying?
So meditation is not something you practise. It is the understanding of the whole movement of life. Right? The sorrow, the pain, the anxiety, the aggression, the loneliness. Otherwise, if the mind isn't free of all that, your meditation is worthless. You understand? You know these gurus that have come from India have brought over their many, many forms of systems, superstitions, and concepts. There are the Tibetan meditation, the Zen meditation, the meditation to awaken - I am just using their phraseology, don't jump on me - meditation to awaken their kundalini, various forms of yoga. Yoga, the real meaning of that word, is to join. Right? That is, to join, according to them, to join the lower material existence to the highest. The practices of yoga, you know, you breathe, take various postures and all that, was invented about the 18th or the 17th century by a man, or a group of people who wanted occult powers. Which is through control, through forcing - you follow - through direction, they said this we might awaken extra sensory perception - I am putting it into modern words! And they have been practising it. But there is only one yoga, which is called Raja yoga, in which there is no practice, no artificial exercises: walking, swimming, natural, and a tremendously moral life in which there is integrity. You follow? That is real yoga, not all this thing that you play along with.
And when you understand the nature of a system in meditation you understand all the systems. Right? Whether it is the Tibetan, Zen, or your own particular kind of native guru, not the imported gurus but your own native ones; if you understand one system of theirs you have understood all the systems with regard to meditation. Which is, they are based essentially on control, concentration, practice. Right? Do this and that everyday. That is - including Zen - to make the mind more and more dull, which is to repeat, repeat, repeat. You understand? I hope you understand all this.
And these gurus also come along and give you what they call mantra. You have heard about all this. I am sorry you are burdened by all this business. The word 'mantra' means, the root of it, 'man', 'tra', two different words. The first word, 'man', means meditate - listen to it carefully - meditate, or ponder over not becoming. You understand? Not to become something: 'tra' means - I am bored with all this stuff! 'Tra' means put away all self-centred activity. You understand? Mantra means meditate, or ponder over, be concerned with not becoming. You understand? You understand that, sir? Don't become anything. You may become something in the material world, but don't become inwardly anything. And if you have any self-centred activity, put away that. That is the real meaning of that. And look what they have reduced it to!
So system, whether Tibetan, Burmese, Zen, or the Hindu, or the Christian, when there is a repetition, which means you repeat hoping to achieve something, and that system is invented by your guru, or your super guru and so on, and you merely follow. Right? That is, follow some authority. Therefore your mind becomes infantile, narrow, mechanical, without any substance behind it. So when you understand one system - finished. You understand? You don't have to go to Japan to understand the Zen Buddhism, or go to India, or all the rest of it. The word Zen comes from the word, Sanskrit word 'Dhyanam'. It went first after the Buddhist period, or during the Buddhist period to China, a monk carried it there. And as the Chinese and the Japanese cannot probably pronounce Dhya, they turned it into Zen. And that has become almost sacred!
So meditation is the ending: the ending of your greed, the ending of your attachment. Right? Because then only the mind is free; then only the mind has no problems. It is only such a mind that can go beyond. That is, the mind with its consciousness - the consciousness is made up of all the content, you understand, the content makes consciousness; your greed, your envy, your anxiety, your loneliness, your beliefs, your attachments, your pursuit of safety, you follow, all that, your violence, is the content of our consciousness. And to go beyond, to find out - or rather to see, to observe if there is something beyond all this, the mind must be completely free of all its content. This is rational, this is not illogical. You understand? Then the mind is empty. Emptiness is full of energy. That they are also saying, the scientists. Right? When the mind is empty there is nothing; nothing which means not a thing created by thought. Such a mind being empty, that mind is full of energy. Right? You don't know about it, don't go into it, unless you have done all the other things it is just a lot of words.
Then is there something beyond energy, what is the origin of energy? You understand? Not god, all that has been set aside completely. Is there something beyond this energy, the origin of this energy? There is if a mind is totally empty, knows compassion and love, such a mind will come upon it.
What time is it sir?
Q: Five minutes to one.
K: Oh, I am so sorry, it is five minutes to one. Sorry to have kept you so long.