An action that is not the outcome of thought
Life is a movement in learning
2nd Public Talk, Madras
January 01, 1979
I hope you will not think me rude or impolite if I ask you with due courtesy why you are here. What is the reason? What made you come to listen to this speaker? Is it out of curiosity, is it out of old habit, out of some illusory desire? Or, have you come, if one may ask, with a serious intent to hear what the speaker has to say and whether it has value, any meaning in one's daily life? And if you discover for yourself what the speaker is saying, either true or false - if it is false, then you will naturally put it aside, but if it is true, sane, logical, reasonable, then you will obviously either intellectually, which is verbally, accept and do nothing about it. But whereas if you do not merely accept intellectually what is being said, and if you accept it with all your heart and mind, with your total being, then you will naturally do something about it, then you will naturally change your life radically. Because that is what we are talking about - the total transformation of man, which is you.
And that is important because any new culture - because the old cultures throughout the world are dying, or decaying, are beginning to degenerate - a new culture can only come into being when there are really profoundly serious religious people, non-sectarian, who do not belong to any society, to any group, to any guru, to any particular religion, because religions as they are, have no meaning whatsoever. So one asks, if I may, with courtesy, why you are here. I think you should know why you are here. Whether you are adding one more illusion to the already illusory life that one leads, do you understand? Whether you are making what the speaker is saying into an illusion, into a make-belief, into a theory and being theoretical, which has very little value. So, if one may ask, why you have taken the trouble to come and listen to the speaker. Can you find out for yourself why you are here? And if you do find out, that is, if you are honest to yourself and not slightly demented, slightly neurotic, slightly hoping for some miracle to happen that will bring about a revolution, psychological revolution in society, so that you will be comfortable, you will have nice houses and everything financially, physically secure. Then if you have come with that purpose, you will be deluded. You will be deceived.
But whereas, if you have come with a serious intent, and with that serious intent there must also go hand in hand with it a quality of scepticism, a quality that questions, that demands an answer, not from the speaker but the very challenge that you ask, that you put to yourself, that challenge demands an answer from yourself. I think it is important for us when the world is going to pieces, there is such anarchy, when everything around us is crumbling, it behoves us as serious people, to know what it is that we want, what it is that we are seeking. Most of us seek physical security - money, job, a certain physical security; and there are others who don't care so much for physical security but they want psychological security, inward security and in the search of that security they fall into many traps: the do-gooders, the social workers, the narrow parochial sects, into a false sense of meditations, and so on and on and on. There are a great many traps around us. So we must ask ourselves, if I may suggest, what it is that we are trying to seek, what it is that we want, what it is that our hearts and minds demand.
As we were saying yesterday, if you have followed it and if I may go back to it a little, because we will continue with what we were going into yesterday - we were saying that action is part of life, the doing, the doing, the action in our daily, everyday, troublesome life. And we were pointing out, action born of knowledge must always be limited. Right? Because knowledge is the past, and when we act with that burden of the past, then such actions are incomplete, limited, fragmentary. And is there a different kind of action which is not fragmentary, which has no regrets, which has no sense of incompleteness? And we were saying there is such action, that is, to have total insight into the problem. We explained - if you do not mind hearing it again - that all our daily activity is either based on a principle or an ideal or a memory. See it in yourself, I am only describing, but the description is not the described. Right? Right sir? The word is not the thing. So I may describe, but what is described is not that which is actually taking place. So, don't let us be deceived by the description. But the description might help you to observe what is actually taking place, knowing that the word is not the thing. Right?
If most of us are seeking psychological security, which apparently is the human endeavour, the human struggle, in our relationship with each other, however intimate or not intimate, this desire, this urge, this compulsion, to find a deep abiding psychological security which can never be disturbed, which is totally complete in itself, that is what most of us want. I do not know if you have not examined yourself and if you have, psychologically, inwardly - that is what we want. Isn't that so? And we have never questioned if there is such security. In the search for this psychological security, thought has brought about all the gods. In them we have invested our urge to find security. Right? The gods, the rituals, all the whole circus that goes on in the name of religion - there we try to find security. And is there security in all the things that thought has put together? Right? Please, this is a challenge to you. You have to respond. You cannot all of you respond, that would be impossible, but you can respond to yourself. This challenge is put before you, and you have to answer it and not evade it, and if you evade it, then the consequence of that evasion, of that avoidance, leads to further illusion, further misery. Obviously. Whereas if you face this challenge and find out for oneself whether there is security psychologically, or is all psychological security an illusion. I mean by that word 'illusion', in the course of sensory perception, when that perception is coloured by a belief, by a hope, by an unconscious desire, then that which is brought about is illusion. Have you followed all this? I doubt it.
We said, our minds are filled with a great many illusions. We have physical security, some of us, and the vast majority of mankind has very little physical security - that is another story. We won't go into that - why man has brought about this extraordinary division between poverty and riches, and every kind of physical revolution has not solved it. Perhaps there is a way of solving it, which we might discuss later on, but for the moment we are not discussing, going into that. We are saying an action born out of knowledge, knowledge being that which we have accumulated both biologically as well as psychologically, when that action is born from that which has already been experienced, known, that action must inevitably lead to further illusion. And we were saying that there is an action, as we pointed out yesterday, and if you have seriously thought about it, there is an action which is not the outcome of thought. All right? May I go on? I don't know how much you understand. I really would like to communicate this, not merely verbally, intellectually, but really out of one's heart, one's whole being, to communicate to another that there is a different way of living, in which there is no conflict, no pain, no sorrow, no fear, and a quality of intelligence that is totally, completely secure. But to find that way of living one must attend, one must give attention to it.
Are you all comfortable? Yes? Because if you are not comfortable, you won't be able to attend. Right? Because we are going to talk about this quality of attention and then we'll go, as we go along. Most of us know what concentration is. Every schoolboy is taught to concentrate on a book or something or other, so that he applies his mind to a particular thing, resisting all other invasion, all movement of thought, resisting all movement of thought and concentrating. You know this, don't you? This is obvious. And the more that you can totally concentrate without any interference of other activities of thought, one thinks one has achieved something. We are saying attention is nothing whatsoever to do with concentration. All right? Examine it, sir, critically examine what is being said. Don't accept. Don't swallow hook, line and the rest of it. Find out if what the speaker is saying is correct or not - correct being accurate, precise, not vague, romantic, nonsensical. Concentration emphasises, gives importance to a particular activity of thought. Right? Whereas attention is not the product of thought. Just play with it. Don't accept it. Just look at it. Because most of us know what is inattention. When you are listening to the speaker, you listen for a minute or two, or perhaps less than that, and your thoughts wander away to something else, and you try to pull it back and listen. Aren't you doing that? (Laughs) Good lord!
So your mind is chattering and occasionally the chattering stops and you attend, you listen. But most of the time it's constant activity, and in that constancy there is a particular demand made by circumstances, or by yourself to apply, concentrate on a particular activity and resist all other activity of thought. You are following all this? Right sir? If you understand this movement, that thought is bringing about a quality of concentration, and that very thought is moving away in other directions - right? - and there is an urge, a compulsion to hold the thought in a particular direction. Right? This is what is generally called concentration. Attention - to attend, in that attention, if you really attend, there is no centre from which you are attending. Right? You all look so puzzled. Sir, because it is important to understand this, because attention and inattention, there are the two things we have to face. Right? Are you following? Am I communicating something or not at all? Tant pis. You see, have you ever given attention with your mind, with your heart, with your nerves, with your whole being, to something in which there is no otherness, in which there is no sense of deviation or distraction? So, there are three things involved - concentration, distraction and attention. Right? Most of us, when we are concentrating, are afraid of distraction. Right? I wish we could talk to each other quietly like this. Now, is there a distraction at all? Perhaps thought itself is a distraction. I'm going to show it to you in a minute. When you say there is a distraction, that implies thought has made up its mind to pay, concentrate, on a particular object. And when there is any other kind of movement away from that, that movement is called a distraction. Now is that a distraction? We are saying there is no distraction. Right? Because, it is thought - please listen - it is thought that has said, I must concentrate on that, but that very thought is moving away in another direction, and that is called distraction. But is it a distraction, because the thought has pinpointed in a certain direction and that very thought is moving away from that. And that is generally called a distraction. Right? Why do you call it a distraction? It is still the movement of thought. Right? So any movement of thought is another distraction. I wonder if you get this. No, you don't.
So, what we are trying to point out is that there are two qualities of the mind - inattention in which there is no attention, which is inattention, and attention. Right? And to be aware of inattention is to be attentive, in which there is no distraction. You get it? I wonder if you understand this. Because we are always struggling between the two - inattention and attention - and that takes all our energy. In meditation, for example - which is not the moment to talk about now - this is the battle that is going on, to be totally attentive, and a second later, completely not attentive. Right? Now we are saying the inattention is not a distraction, but to be aware of that lack of attention, to be aware that you are not attending, that is good enough. You understand? I wonder if you understand this. So that your mind is never in conflict, because conflict is a wastage of energy. So we are coming back. Now we have explained what attention is - not explained, the fact of attention. That when there is attention there is no centre from which you are attending, as there is in concentration, which then has what you call distractions. Whereas there is attention and there is inattention. When one is aware of not being attentive, that very awareness is attention, in which there is no distraction whatsoever. I wonder if you get this. Got it sir? Even verbally have you got it? Intellectually? Which is nothing at all, but at least it is a whisper.
Now will you so attend without concentration, without effort, to what is being said? That is, that there is no distraction. You may attend, listen for a minute and wander off and be aware that you are wandering off. That very awareness of wandering off is attention. Right? Got it sir?
We were saying yesterday all life is action, whether you are sitting in a Himalayan cave as a hermit or in a monastery or living an ordinary life. Life, the whole of existence, is action, as whole of life is relationship. Relationship is action. And our actions, as they are now, politically, religiously, in every way, such action breeds further misery, further confusion, further sorrow, which is what is happening politically, if you observe, which is what is happening religiously with their hierarchical set up - you will eventually reach illumination, do this, this, this, and you will get it. The carrot before the donkey! And we are questioning the whole activity of what is called action. You understand? We are questioning it, we are saying that action based on a principle, ideal, a remembrance, a memory, knowledge, such action is fragmentary, incomplete, and therefore it will inevitably lead to further misery, further sorrow, further confusion, which is what is happening in our daily life, if you observe. Whereas there is another action, if you are attending - please attend - if you are not attending, if your thought is wandering off, be aware of it, and that very awareness of your inattention is to attend to what is being said. Hai capito? Have you understood?
So, we are saying that there is an action that is not based on knowledge. For that, to understand it much more deeply than yesterday, we must go into the whole question of what is thinking, what is thought, why human beings throughout the world have given such extraordinary importance to thought. You give importance to thought, don't you? Everything that you do is based on thought - the job, the technological knowledge, the gods, the churches, everything is built by thought. Right sirs? Do you question that? Thought is the outcome of memory, is the response of memory. Right? If you are in a state of amnesia, you couldn't think, but as you are not - I hope you are not - and as you are not, your thinking is the result of centuries of experience, accumulated knowledge which is stored up in the brain - which is so obvious. If you have gone into it, looked at yourself, your actions, repetitive, occasionally free, constantly caught in a routine, in a groove, and if you observe your own thinking, you will see that your thought is a material process, which is the outcome of knowledge. Right? It is a material process. It is not something extraordinarily super spiritual. Right? Right sirs?
Thought is always active. It is never still, and man has said, you must make it still in order to - you understand? - in order to find some higher spiritual consciousness, which I doubt. There is no higher spiritual consciousness, there is only consciousness. Man has invented super, super, super consciousness, which is, that invention is the product of thought. And people who talk about super-consciousness are worshipped, made into extraordinary gurus, because you also want super-consciousness. But you never examine that thought has produced this whole area of consciousness. Whatever it thinks is still part of that consciousness. You understand this? Are we moving along together or are you tired? If you are, let us take a rest. I can go on talking to myself, because I am investigating as I go along. If you are tired, please take a rest because we are asking your brain to think anew, to look at things afresh, not in the old traditional way, to look at your life as it is anew, afresh and that is a challenge that the brain may get tired of. It wants, says give me a moment, let me be quiet so that I can recapture.
So, we are saying that thought has created our society and all the miseries contained in that society: the class division, the rich man, the poor man, the man of power, the man of position, the man of greatness, and the poor, the downtrodden, and all that. And all the gods on the earth are created by thought; the temples in which the gods are supposed to live are the construction of thought. All the rituals, the dogmas, the beliefs, the puja that you perform everyday in the hope of having some kind of peace, and all the so-called meditations, the transcendental and the other nonsensical meditations are based on thought, and thought is always limited. Right? There is no limitless thought. Thought can think it is limitless, that it can find the immeasurable, that is part of its illusion, because thought is the outcome of knowledge, memory, and therefore it is time-binding, and therefore limited. Right? Are you attending to this? Do you listen to this? When I ask a question, your thought comes into activity and it is beginning to ask, search to find the answer, and to find the answer it goes back to memory - where did I read, who told me? You follow? The activity goes on. Whereas if you are asked a question that you do not know and you cannot find it in books, from your guru, from anything, then your mind naturally, brain naturally says: I really don't know. Right? Are you in that position? You follow? Can you ever say to yourself, 'I don't know'? Because that quality of mind that says, I don't know, is not seeking to know, because the moment it seeks, thought is in operation and then it will project what it wants, and will say, I have found it. You understand all this? Are you getting tired?
So, to enquire is to have a mind that doesn't know. And we are enquiring into an action of which we are not aware at all. We know our actions based on memory, that is simple, clear. And we know the technological activity of knowledge, the accumulation of thousands of people, scientists, working, accumulating. And from that accumulation, they have created the extraordinary things, the most marvellous surgery, the most delicate extraordinary things they are doing. And also technologically, they are preparing destructions of war, material for war; and also thought has created the illusions - right? - I believe in god, I am a nationalist, I belong to this party which is going to save mankind, my guru is the most marvellous entity, and so on and on and on. All that is the movement of thought. So, whatever thought, in its action must inevitably be limited. Now, have you an insight into that? You understand? If you attend very carefully to what is being said, then you will see the whole movement of thought: the hidden thoughts, the open thoughts, the thoughts that are extraordinarily secretive, hidden, doesn't want to be open, the whole structure and nature of thought. When you have an insight into it, thought gives itself its own place. You get what I am saying? Have you got what I am saying?
The meaning of the word 'art' means to put everything in its right place - the art of living, not the painting and sculptures, that has its own art, but we are talking about the art of living, and in there art means to put all things in their place so as to give order. So, the art of living is for thought to find out its own place. Have you understood it? Can you do it? That is, to give knowledge its right place, and psychologically knowledge has no place. Have you understood, madame? No? At least somebody says she doesn't. I am glad.
I think most of us have never looked at the movement of thought. Right? Most of us have never asked what is thinking; why has man given such extraordinary importance to thinking. And the very process of thinking born of experience, knowledge and memory stored in the brain, that process of thinking is always limited. Right? Is that clear? Thought is limited. Thought is fragmentary. Fragment, I mean, something broken, like a vase - when you break it there are pieces of it. So thought is broken, limited. Right? Because it is born out of knowledge, and knowledge is the past, knowledge is not the whole. Right? Are you do you see it? It can never be the whole. So thought, whatever it does, must be limited, and any action born out of that limitation must have regret, confusion, feeling of guilt, anxiety and never ending conflict, because thought in its action is limited. Right? Is this clear - clear not verbally, inside, you know it as you know your language, as you know your eyes, your face, you know it.
So thought can never lead to the immeasurable, that which is not measurable. Thought is measurable. Right? And therefore that which is measurable is limited. Though you can measure it 100 yards it is still limited. So, when thought seeks illumination, tries to meditate, that meditation, that struggle, all that you go through, is always limited and therefore broken up, fragmentary. Right, sir?
Now, we are saying there is an action that is not born of thought. Are you interested? Now will you pay attention? That means you have no centre from which you are listening. If you are listening from a centre, you have already brought in the sense of distraction. You understand this? So, can you attend? We are saying there is an action that is not of time. Again I mustn't introduce time for the moment, because that leads to something else, we will talk about it. There is an action which is not the outcome of memory. I am pointing out to something else. I will come back to it. In your relationship with another, however intimate or not intimate, when memory operates in our relationship, what takes place? There is inevitably division. Right? Haven't you noticed it? You are related to your husband, wife or girl or whatever it is, and in that relationship there is the whole movement of thought, which has built up, built out of constant contact with each other, a sense of pictures, images, which are memories. Right? And those memories, those pictures, those images, divide you and your husband, girl, or boy. So there is always a division. Right? So, we are asking from that - we won't go more deeply into it - we are asking from that: is love a remembrance? Right? When one says to one's wife or husband or girl, whatever it is, 'I love you', is that a remembrance? Or when you say, I love your god, your image, tremendous emotional devotion, is that love? We will go into this question much more deeply another time. What we are pointing out is that where there is the activity of thought, thought itself being limited, must bring about division - national, political, religious, the whole structure of man's activity, which is destroying the world. You go up to the moon and plant a flag up there, there is a limited action. When you worship your petty little god round the corner which has been put together by thought, that is a limited action. So, when you have an insight into that - insight being, the mind comprehends the whole picture, the whole structure, and nature of thought, then thought comes to its own limited place. Have you got it? Have you understood some of this? Come on sirs!
So, when thought has understood its own limited place, then action is not the outcome of thought. Then action is the outcome of that total insight of the nature of thought. Has somebody got it! Have you understood all this? Probably I should read to you the Bhagavad Gita and then you will all be happy (laughter), or read some commentaries on commentaries on commentaries. But this needs your active co-operation to find this out. You have to think, you have to work, which is to work to find out how you think, how your whole life is based on thinking. You have to catch a bus, but catching the bus has its right thought, right place, but when thought involves the whole psychological structure of man, then thought has limited the psyche of man. You understand this?
So, sirs and ladies, another five minutes more. I do not know how much you are learning - learning, not accumulating knowledge and memory - learning to find out this quality of insight from which action takes place. You see what we are really saying is, that man has extraordinary capacities - man, woman too please! We're not - women's lib. Man has extraordinary capacities, and those capacities are limited by thought. And if thought is given its right place it releases a tremendous energy, not to do more mischief, but to live a life in which there is no shadow of conflict, a life that is supremely excellent, a life that has this extraordinary quality of compassion, love. That is why one has to understand the nature of thought. Thought is not love. And when one worships the intellect, as you all do, because when you are studying or reading or being lectured to about the Gita, the Upanishads, the various commentaries, you are encouraging the intellectual capacity and therefore denying love.
We mustn't sit too long silently, it can lead to deception.
(Microphone disturbance) It's all right, sir, it's all right, sir.