Attention is like a fire
Attention and order
3rd Public Talk, Ojai, California
May 26, 1984
What a lot of people, aren't there! I suppose we are really concerned with what we are talking about and that's why you are here. This is not, as we have often repeated, an entertainment, either intellectual, verbal twistings and innuendoes, nor romantic theories and speculations and sentimental nonsense. We are dealing with facts. As we said, facts are those which have happened, and that which is happening now - those are facts. And what is happening tomorrow is not a fact, or a thousand tomorrows. We are only dealing with facts. And if we can understand those facts profoundly, not from any particular point of view, or a particular bias or direction, then perhaps we can examine the facts closely, carefully, and not only superficially but also profoundly, deeply.
As we have been saying during these talks we are taking a journey together, you and the speaker, a very long, wide journey, not into the future, but into the present. The present, as we pointed out, contains all time. The present is not only the past, all the memories, all the incidents, stored in the brain, recorded, but that past is now also. It is fairly obvious. And the future is what is now. The future will be exactly, perhaps slightly modified, is in the present, in the now. So what one is now one will be tomorrow, a thousand tomorrows. And if there is no fundamental radical psychological revolution - not evolution - a revolution, a mutation, deep fundamental change, tomorrow will be exactly what we are now. So all time, the past, the present and the future is contained in the now. This is not a theory, not a speculative philosophical concept, but an actuality. If one looks at oneself very carefully what is happening, what is happening now is what we have carried through thousands and thousands of years, psychologically, and both biologically also. And that burden of the past with all its memories, experiences, knowledge is now, is what we are now. And we will be tomorrow what we are now. So please the now contains all time.
And in relation to that, what is action? And it is a fact that all time is in the now, in the present, what then is action? You understand? Can we go along with this for a while? Please, we are investigating together, the speaker is not instructing or informing. We are together, you and the speaker are investigating, exploring, examining, not analysing. There is a difference between analysis and perception. Analysis implies an analyser, the analyser is the past, and he is examining the present, what is happening now. What is happening now, or what is psychologically taking place, is what the observer has been, or is. Are we together in this? The observer, the analyser, is the result of a great many accumulations of information, knowledge, incidents, experiences, so the analyser is examining that which is happening now, or examining that which has happened. Right? So the analyser is the analysed, which is the present. Am I talking to myself, or are we somewhat together in this matter?
I think this is rather an important question to understand because when we divide the analyser as something separate from the analysed, then in that process of division there is contradiction, there is conflict; either there is suppression, or examination as something outside. But the analyser is the analysed. When one is violent, when there is violence and you analyse violence, one can easily analyse violence, from the distant cousins, the apes until now, we have inherited all the violence of all the thousand years of continuity of violence. We can easily examine and analyse violence. Is violence different from the examiner, the analyser? Is not the analyser also part of that violence? Right? So the analyser is the analysed, it is not something separate from the analyser, therefore there is no division between the analysis and the analyser, they are one. And when we understand that, conflict exists only when there is division - division between your ambition and somebody else's ambition, division between you and your wife, your husband, your neighbour and so on, division brought about through nationalities, through religions and so on - not only psychologically but linguistically also, and so on.
So the analyser is the analysed, and so we said we are not analysing, we are perceiving directly. Is this somewhat clear for us, can we go on from there? I wish one could talk this over together quite simply, not you sitting there and the speaker sitting on a platform, but two friends looking at the whole problem of existence, amicably, in a sense of affection and care, looking at all this travail of man, the travail of each one, it would be very simple to do that, have a good dialogue. But when there are so many people here that is not possible, unfortunately. But you as a person and the speaker can think together, not along any particular line, or a particular point of view, or strengthen one's own opinion which becomes obstinacy, but rather as two friends who have known each other for some time, not only understand the verbal significance but go beyond the words. If we could do that together then perception becomes very easy, to perceive. Not I perceive and the speaker is persuading you to perceive in a particular way: to perceive. In that perception you and the speaker disappear because we are only perceiving, but when there is a motive for that perception, a direction, a sense of bigotry, obstinacy, and then perception is distorted, and therefore you perceive differently from another. I hope this is clear.
So we are asking, when all time is in the present, now, which is a fact, not an abstraction or an ideology, or some ideal, but it is a fact, and when there is that fact what then is action? You understand? This is an important question to understand. We are also going to talk over together not only that but also the whole problem of becoming, psychologically. And what is action in relation to that becoming? And also if we have time we are going to talk over together suffering and perhaps, which is part of life, of our daily life, death - death not as a morbid incident but an extraordinarily important problem in one's life.
So we are going to talk over together: action, daily action, and the question of becoming. And in that becoming we all want to be secure. Security is very essential to all of us. The brain cannot function fully with all its capacity, energy and drive if the brain is not completely secure. Right? No? If one is confused, uncertain, with a thousand problems, how can the brain be secure? If you have many, many illusions, as most people do, the brain becomes then rattled, uncertain, confused. So the brain to function efficiently, not only technologically but much more seriously which is psychologically, the brain needs extraordinary stability, the brain needs to be absolutely clear, firm, unshakeable. And we are going to go into all that if you have the patience. But if you are not interested because you are interested in so many things - boating, driving, interested in reading a book, but giving attention which is totally different from interest.
Most of us, perhaps almost all of us, are attempting to become something psychologically. Outwardly, externally you can understand a student becoming an engineer. He becomes an engineer, earns a livelihood and keeps becoming more and more expert in engineering. And psychologically we have the same concept that I am this now, but I will become that. Don't agree with the speaker: question, doubt, don't follow anybody psychologically, of course you have to follow a doctor's instructions if you are ill. But psychologically, inwardly to obey any kind of authority, any kind of expert, professional, destroys the integrity of one's own perception. Psychologically we are all attempting to become something. Right? That is an obvious fact. One is greedy, or violent and one is trying not to be, that is to become. There are wars, and through United Nations and all those organisations, we are trying to unify the world, to become something in the future. I won't go into the contradictory nature of various nations becoming united, which is impossible, but that is the political activity of those who are concerned with their own ambitions, the perpetuation of particular systems. But one can see that there is always an attempt on the part of each one of us that we want to change from this to that. The 'that', the future, is in time, far away or very near but it is still a movement of becoming, gaining, losing, getting reward or punishment. This whole process of becoming, always with the intention, with the motive, the better, the more, the gain, the fear of loss. That's clear.
Now is it a fact that to become something involves time? Right? I am this now but give me a year or two days I will be different. Which is, time is involved, but that time is now. You understand? The future is now. Is this a puzzle?
K: Yes? I am glad! Then we can go more slowly into it. As we said, sir, we are the past. Right? All our memories which have been recorded in the brain, all that we have done, not only fifty years ago but yesterday, so the past is now. Right? And what is now, if there is not a radical change, will be tomorrow, which is time. The future is therefore in the now. Right? So where is becoming then? You are following? Please, this is really fascinating, very serious. We are accustomed to the idea of evolution. That is, man has reached the stage now after forty, fifty or a million years ago, our brain has evolved from the ape until we are now so-called civilised people, which I question, but that doesn't matter. And that has taken immense time. That time of forty thousand years is now, because what you are now. And the future is what you are now, perhaps slightly modified, but the future is also in the now. So unless there is a radical change now the future will be what you have been, tomorrow. It is simple enough. Now don't let's beat the dead horse, it is clear. If it isn't clear think it out if you have the time and the inclination, you know all the rest of it, if not, drop it. Probably you will, which is most convenient and easy. But if you are interested, if you really want to discover for yourself a radical psychological, deep change, that change cannot have time. It must happen now. Clear?
If you have got toothache, pain, you don't say, 'I'll wait until next week, it is part of evolution', and all the rest of it, there is instant action. So if we don't realise the danger of allowing time to interfere with action, then that action breeds all kinds of complications, obviously. So our question is this: the brain to function efficiently, clearly, without any kind of confusion, must understand what is security, what is stability, a sense of firmness so that it is not wishy-washy, wobbling all over the place as most brains are. Right? So we must examine if there is any security at all, psychologically. Of course we must have security physically, which is becoming more and more difficult for economic reasons; and those economic reasons are, each country thinks, my economy first, as each person thinks, me first. The economic situation of the world is very serious, they tell you everyday about it on the television, if you have observed, or in the newspapers, and they are trying to solve these problems, and they have not succeeded so far, and they never will because each group, each community, each nation, thinks they are something separate from the rest of the world. And therefore the economic situation becomes very limited, small, ineffectual. It is the concern of the rest of humanity, because everybody throughout the world desires to be secure physically, economically, and that is not possible when there are wars, and the threat of war, when there is division as religious divisions, national divisions, ideological differences, dialectical dissection of history, coming to a conclusion as Marx, Engles, Lenin and Stalin on one side, and on the other side Democratic, and so on. I know you will get bored with this but unless we radically change this narrow pattern we are going to have more and more wars, economic problems, it is becoming more and more dangerous. It's up to you. And all this can end only when you drop your own particular conditioning as an American, Russian, Indian, French and British and so on, so that we are one humanity, as our consciousness is the rest of humanity. I have gone into that, I won't go into it now.
So the brain can only be stable, have complete security, when we understand the whole process of becoming. Becoming implies duality, and where there is duality there must be conflict - the Arab and the Jew, the Muslim and the Hindu, the Catholic and the Protestant - you follow - the perpetual state of conflict human beings live in. So where there is becoming there is duality and therefore conflict. And the brain cannot perpetually live in conflict, it then becomes neurotic, psychotic and pursues every kind of illusion; and therefore the multiplication of psychologists, therapeutists and psychiatrists, you know they are multiplying all over the world. I am sorry, there are psychologists here!
So to see that fact, not the idea of the fact, you understand the difference. One sees the fact and one then makes an abstraction of it which is called the idea of it, and we pursue the idea and not the fact. Right? Are we together in this? So we must be very clear in this matter, we are dealing with fact, not with idea, the symbol of the fact, or the word of the fact. When you see the fact that time is not the solution, or brings about a radical change, then you are stuck with the fact. Right? You are with the fact. And the fact is not different from you, you are the fact. You are the fact that you are violent, brutish, thoughtless, anxious, and all the rest of it, the whole content of one's consciousness which is in a turmoil, constantly in conflict - like the consciousness of every human being in the world. So we are essentially all humanity, each one of us is all humanity. And if you change, not tomorrow, there is no time, time is the enemy of change - I wish you could realise this. Do consider it seriously please, if you are at all serious - then what is action? If there is only all time contained now, then what is action in the now? You understand my question? Are you puzzled a little bit?
K: Good! So we can explore more. What is action? Every day action, going to the office, going to the factory, talking to your wife or husband, rowing, walking, jumping, chasing ideas, or chasing gurus, which is the same thing. You are acting. Life is action, as relationship is action. So what is action? Our action is based on reward and punishment, to put it very, very simply. I like life if I can get something out of it. And I will be punished if I don't act rightly, therefore I attempt to act rightly. So our action is based on reward and punishment, our action is based on some futuristic concept, on an ideal, and action according to that ideal, conforming, adjusting to that ideal therefore conflict. All our action has a motive, a direction, selfish generally, self-interest, self-concern, which is reward and punishment - a reward in the future - if I do this I will get that. Right? If I don't it I might lose, therefore the fear of losing. So our action is always in this area of gain and reward, punishment and fear. Right? Reward is always in the future. Punishment is also that it might happen in the future. So there is never action per se. You understand? Action for itself. Like a good carpenter who will make you a marvellous cabinet, the love of it itself, not the reward, the punishment, the gain.
So action in relation to time breeds conflict. Right? Is this clear? And is there action which is for itself? Is love the action in itself? Not the love that has jealousy, hate, amusement, fun and excitement, sex, pleasure - love is not all that surely. You see when there is love there is action without conflict. And love is not a slave to time. So there it is. If you can understand that, explain and deeply grasp the truth of it, then the brain becomes extraordinarily vital, strong, not confused in any way because then you are living now completely, fear of the future and the past disappear.
We ought also to talk over together the question of suffering, which is part of our life. There isn't a single human being in the world, not a single human being, whether he is in a monastery, or a monk in the Himalayas, a man in the street, and you and every human being on earth suffers. And we make others suffer. That's our cycle. And there is the suffering brought about by war; wars have existed for six, seven or ten thousand years. And during that long duration of time, killing each other in the name of god, in the name of peace, in the name of gain and profit and so on, man has brought upon himself and others great sorrow, tears. There isn't one human being who has not cried, shed tears and the pain of loss. Millions maimed because we are so conditioned to stick to our own particular point of view, to our own particular religion, to our own particular ideology - I believe and I hold to that. And you believe something contrary, therefore I am willing to kill you. This is going on. The Russian ideology, the democratic ideology, and they are willing to kill each other, blow each other to smithereens. And this has been going on for thousands upon thousands of years, protecting my country, my god, my - oh not here, there is no king here! This is very serious, sir, you may laugh it off, but if one's wife or husband, son is destroyed by war then you will know what it means. We all know what it means but yet we go on in the same old pattern.
And so there is the sorrow of mankind, the sorrow of humanity. And also what we think is our own particular sorrow - my son is dead, my wife has left me, there is the sorrow of seeing another suffer, the sorrow of those who can never read or write, those who are extraordinarily poor. All that is sorrow, not only the sorrow of mankind but also the sorrow of each one. Each one thinks, it is my sorrow, not yours. But sorrow is sorrow, not yours or mine, it is sorrow. To understand this requires freedom to observe, to perceive, but we have become so individualistic, so narrow, so small, we reduce everything to our own limited backyard. Sorrow is sorrow of all humanity, it is not yours or mine.
And one asks: can that sorrow ever end? Or it is the lot of human beings to kill nature, animals, to kill each other? Not only kill verbally, kill by gesture, kill millions with one bomb, destroy millions and millions. So all this is sorrow. And sorrow of disease, pain, sorrow of not gaining, losing - take all that in, it isn't just the sorrow of my son dying. Can this sorrow ever end? Sorrow is not sentimental, sorrow is not something romantic, it is a dreadful thing. It is something that is so directly concerned with every human being, the loneliness of sorrow, the pain of it, the anxiety and so on. Can all that end? Probably we have never asked that question, we have never faced it, we all want to escape from it, take a drug in order not to suffer, get drunk, escape because we never actually have faced the problem, the seriousness of it, that is, to give our complete attention to sorrow. Not veil it through words, through some kind of speculative hope and so on, but actually live with it without becoming morbid. That is to give one's whole complete attention to it.
Attention is like a fire, when that attention is there that thing which is sorrow, the loneliness, the pain, the anxiety, the tears, when there is that complete attention all that goes, disappears. Attention is a flame.
Sorrow, the root meaning of that word, is also passion. The ending of sorrow is passion, not lust. And we never have passion, we want pleasure. Passion is something extraordinarily different. Where there is the ending of sorrow there is passion - it is not your passion or my passion, it is passion. And that's part of love. Where there is love there is compassion. And where there is this extraordinary passion of compassion there is intelligence, and that intelligence acts - that intelligence is not yours, or mine, or X Y Z's.
And if we have time we ought to talk over together a very serious problem, which is death. On a lovely morning like this, to talk about death seems absurd. I wonder if we can talk first about beauty. What is beauty? My friend says, 'I am not interested in that, beauty doesn't much matter.' Where there is love there is beauty, freedom, goodness - which has been one of the problems of humanity, freedom, justice, goodness. Where there is love, do what you will, it will be right. So let's leave beauty until tomorrow, it is too complex.
We ought to talk over together this enormous problem of death. One thing is absolutely certain, irrevocable, that we are all going to die one day, that is a fact. And we have never gone into the question, because most people are afraid of it: what is death, what is it to die? And why have we made death something far away from life, living? Do you understand my question? We are living now, and death may come to us when we are ninety, or a hundred, or later, much, much later - I hope for you. So there is a long wide gap between the now - you understand what I am saying? - between the now and the future. Knowing the now contains the future, therefore death is the now. I wonder if you understand all this.
Let's go into it slowly. I just saw something which I have never seen before. What is it, and why is it that we are frightened of death? We are frightened of living obviously. What we call living is a fearful turmoil, conflict, struggle, pain, anxiety, economic stringency, perpetual disagreement with each other, one opinion opposed to another opinion, the everlasting, constant waking up in the morning and getting ready and rushing off to the office, or to the laboratory, or to a factory. I wonder if you realise how we spend our days and our years. One may call it a jolly life; if you are very successful, have plenty of money, and a great deal of amusement, you say, 'I have had a jolly good life' - most people do when they have money, power, position, all the things they want. But those are very, very few in the world, fortunately. But the vast majority, all of us, rush off on Sundays to church, just to show up that we are there for god to look at us. And go to the office from the age of twenty until you die, work, work, work - the responsibilities, the duties, the pain, the fear, the anxiety, the loneliness. I wonder if one is aware of all this. You may be a successful actor, a lot of money, but there is always the end of it too, death.
So what we call living is a very painful, confused, anxious life. Right? This is what we call living, and we cling to that because that is all we know. And we want to escape from that, so we have a tremendous industry of entertainment, sports, entertainment, football, you know the entertainment industry. And also the religious entertainment. Don't say, one is not an entertainment and the other is more holy, it is still entertainment. It is a sensation. Please don't think one is blasphemous, we are just facing facts.
So from the moment you are born until you die, problem after problem, and the solution of the problem, and in the solution of the problem you have ten different other problems. When a brain has been trained from childhood to resolve problems, mathematical problems, geographic problems, technological problems, engineering problems - you follow - so our brains are conditioned from childhood to resolve problems, not to understand problems, see what problems are, what is a problem, but to the resolution of them. And in the resolution of the problem it is organised in a different way. Right? One organisation after another. This is our life - political, economic, social, and we are never for a moment free. And specially in this country you are talking about freedom all the time, freedom to choose, freedom to go from this little place to another place, change jobs, change wives. So choice we think is freedom. But it isn't, is it? Choice exists only when the brain is uncertain. When it is clear there is no choice at all. And so this very deep confusion, uncertainty, loneliness, despair, depression, you know the whole cycle of our living.
And when death comes we are blown off, there is nothing else. And so we invent reincarnation. Do you believe in reincarnation? If you do, then live rightly. Live now rightly, because if you don't live now rightly the next life will be exactly the same thing as you are now. Naturally, because time, whether it is a thousand years or now, there is no right action, which can only take place where there is this quality, this perfume, this extraordinary thing called love. If that is not there the next life will be exactly the same thing as you are now, only slightly modified, perhaps a bigger house - that is all what you want, bigger car, more pleasure, but it is the same thing continued.
So what is death? We have understood what life is, at least what we consider life is, a tremendous bondage to time. And what is death? There is death to the organism, we are all getting older every day, from the moment we are born we are getting older and older and then die. And we have never asked what is death, what does it mean, while living - not when we come to the end of it? While living we have never asked what is the meaning, the significance, the depth of death. We have never asked what is the depth of life, living. It must have something enormously significant living, but we have reduced it to such a potty little affair. So we have never asked there, and we never ask secondly what death is. And as two friends let's look at it, not frightened, because then you will never understand it.
So as we went into the question of fear last week, and the ending of fear, there must be the end of fear to understand the nature and the quality and the depth of death. As we said, biologically, organically, we are wasting, day after day, the organism. If we are living wrongly, all this travail, the misery, the confusion, the pleasures, the pain, tremendous wastage of energy, and that is coming to an end, that is part of death. And also what is it that is dying apart from the physical, biological existence, what is it that is dying? What is the 'me', that is the 'I', the ego, the person, the persona, the self - let's stick to that one word - what is that self, the 'me' that is going to die? Right? And that is what we are frightened of, not of death. The 'me' which has been accumulated in this life as memory, knowledge, experience, the 'me', my selfishness, my greed, my ambition, all the recording, records, which is stored in the brain, the 'me', and we are frightened that me is going to come to an end. So we have to examine closely what is the 'me'. Who are you, apart from your name and your bank account, where you live and all that kind of stuff, apart from the physical me, the physical body, tall, short, apart from all that, what are you? Have you ever faced it? Let's face it now, don't be frightened.
What are you? Are you not all the accumulated memories - memories, pleasurable, pain, the fifty years, or thirty years, or ten days of memory, aren't you all that? Memories of your pleasure, the pain and anxiety of your desire, the loneliness, the depression, the struggle, aren't you all that? That is all memory. Right? Look at it as it is now, don't say, 'Isn't there something superior beyond memory?' I know that game! You can invent something superior, that there is a soul, and the Hindus call it the atman, and so on, superior consciousness, something divine, something very, very clear. Those are all theories, absurdities; the actuality is what you are, that vast collection of humanity, of memories of human beings. If you are a great technician, putting the atom bomb together, the neutron bomb, you have to accumulate a great deal of knowledge and death comes along and you say, 'Wait a minute, let me finish it.' Which is all the process of gathering, dispensing, gathering. You are that. That's a fact. But we don't like to look at the fact. We say, 'No, I am something more.' This 'something more' is the desire, is thought saying, 'That is too small, surely I am something much more important than that'. So that too is the invention of thought. So you are the bundle of memories put together by thought. Face it! And death comes along and says, 'My friend, that's the end.' And you say, 'Please, let me live a little longer.'
So please follow this closely and you will see it for yourself. Time is now. Time is contained, the past, the future is now. So death is now. That means if I am attached to my wife, to my something or other, to my furniture - aren't you attached to something? - and death comes and says, 'That is the end of it.' Cuts it. So can you be free of the attachment? Therefore you are living then, living and dying at the same time. You understand this? Oh, no! Do it, sir, and you will see what an extraordinary thing it is then. If you are attached to your memories, to your experience, to your failure, to your ambition, all that is going to come to an end. So can you live with death, which is to end your ambitions now? And to live without ambition means tremendous energy - not to do more mischief.
So death and life are always together. And when this happens, actually, not theoretically, not imaginatively, not wishing for it but actually doing it, to whatever you are attached. I know it is difficult if the husband says to his wife, 'Darling, I am not attached to you any more' - he will have a lot of trouble. And that is another problem, a tremendous problem. You may be free from attachment and she is not; or she is and you are not. Then what is relationship? Is relationship merely the accumulation of memory as pleasure, pain? Is relationship then merely a sensation? The image of each other, is that relationship? And so when there are these separate images there is conflict, pain, anxiety. So where there is pain, anxiety, fear, love is not.
So death and life always march together. Then there is that sense of absolute freedom from the little travail of myself. And that is necessary to understand that which is timeless, if there is such a thing as eternity. We will talk about it another time, but see all this as a movement of life, dying and living. Therefore in that sense you will never kill another, never deliberately hurt another. Right, sirs, finished.