Can attachment, belief, experience, knowledge, end now?
You are only aware now, or never
6th Public Talk Saanen
July 22, 1976
We have been talking over together many psychological problems - complex human relationship in which there is such conflict, pain, anxiety. We also talked about fear, not only in our daily life, but also the fear of tomorrow, which may be death. We also talked about the pursuit of pleasure and compassion which is so rare a thing in this world, and the ending of sorrow.
I think we ought to also talk over together this morning - and the weather is appropriate - about death. It is a very complex problem in which many things are involved. Unless one goes into it rather deeply, very wisely, with great insight into it, if you are merely seeking superficial comfort, a belief that will be most satisfactory, then I am afraid those who are expecting such things will be disappointed. But if you would kindly listen with some affection, care and enquire seriously then we can talk over, have a dialogue, about this very complex and perhaps the most important thing in life apart from living, which is death.
To understand it, not verbally, not intellectually, without any emotion, and sentimentality, because sentimentality, emotion, belief doesn't solve any of our problems. We have to approach it most objectively, rationally, without any fear, and therefore with sanity. And so perhaps if we can talk over together this question - the meaning of death, then perhaps some of us can penetrate into that which is so mysterious, frightening, and a thing that brings about such great sorrow in human life.
First of all there are several things which we must understand before we go into the question of death. First: is having an insight, or having a deep understanding of the world and ourselves, the society and ourselves, the community and each one of us. The community, the society, the world about us in not different from us. We have made this world what it is, with our fears, with our ambitions and greed and violence and destructive demands, we have built this society, this culture, both religious and non-religious. This is our way of living, our daily living that has produced this society, this culture. And so we are the world, and the world is us. That must be clearly understood from the beginning if you are to enquire very deeply into the question of death: that you as a human being, are not different from the humanity of the world. We have gone into this question, and if we may, we may repeat it again, that wherever you go in the world you find human beings, apart from their environment, apart from whether they are rich or poor, whether they believe or not believe, all throughout the world human beings suffer, go through great anxieties psychologically, always in conflict in their relationship. There are fears of various kinds, so human beings right throughout the world have a common factor apart from their culture, their superficial behaviour. So we are the world, and the world is us. The individual or personal tendency, character may depend on heredity, environment, and culture, but when you strip the surface, move all that, below, deep down, in human beings there is this struggle, pain, anxiety, a great sense of frustration, misery, confusion. So there is a common factor in every human being. So basically, fundamentally we are the world, and the world is us. You know if you really grasp that, feel that, not merely intellectually argue about it, but deeply when you feel it our whole outlook changes completely. So that is the first thing one must grasp fundamentally: that you are not different from another human being. You are the essence of all humanity. If you know how to read yourself then you read humanity. You understand? If I know how to look at myself, observe myself, then I am observing the total human being, which is you, me and another, however far away they are, or however close they be.
When that is clear, then the next point is we must consider time. This is very important because we are slaves to time both chronologically as well as psychologically. There is chronologically tomorrow and many years ahead - chronologically. And psychologically is there time at all? We are questioning it, we are enquiring into it, we are having a dialogue together, so please share in this. Don't let me, let the speaker show you and then agree with it, or disagree with it. We are sharing it together. Time is also another great problem in life. Time chronologically exists - that is obvious. There is no question of arguing about it. We are asking: is there psychological time at all? And if there is psychological time as we have it now, what is that time? Psychologically we have time, that is tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, a year hence - I will be something, which is the movement of time, from this to that. Right?
We are enquiring what that time is. When we say, 'I will be that' psychologically, or, 'I won't be that', 'I shall reach a state of perfection, a state of bliss' - all the rest of it - all that implies from this to that. To move from this to that demands time, both biologically, physically as well as psychologically. That is clear - I hope it is clear.
So what is this time to which we are so attached? That is, tomorrow is very important for us psychologically because I do not know how to transform 'what is', and therefore give me time to understand it and go beyond it. You follow? You understand this? I am angry. As a human being, one is angry. And to get over that anger, time is necessary. That is, give me tomorrow, or a week, and by then I will be able to be free of anger. So we think time is necessary to transform 'what is' into 'what should be'. Right? So we are enquiring what is that time, the movement from this to that? Please, are we meeting each other? At least some of us. Do, please! Don't encourage me (laughs), I don't want your encouragement. But I want we must understand each other.
So what is that time that human beings demand in bringing about a change from that which is to that which should be? What is that time? Is it a movement of ignorance? - please go slowly, we are enquiring - ignorance. Is it the lack of capacity to meet 'what is' entirely, and not having that capacity, that energy we need time to capture that energy? You are following this? Is time the product of thought apart from chronological time? So don't mix the two together. We are talking entirely about psychological time, because chronological time is very easy to understand. If I want to catch a bus I must be there. We are talking about psychological time. Is time from 'what is' to 'what should be' the process of thought? Is time thought? Is time measure? You understand? Now go slowly into this, very carefully.
Time as measure has become very important technologically. To go from here to Mars you need time. And to bring about that technological knowledge and use that technological knowledge skilfully - to put together this thing that can go to Mars - needs time; technologically you need time. Thought has put together technology, and thought is time. Right? Thought is the movement of time. Thought is measurement. Right? Are we meeting each other? Please don't agree with me, just look at it, not only verbally but actually. Human beings have ideals - I don't know why, but they have ideals - ideals which have been projected by thought, noble ideals or whatever the ideals be. Why do human beings invent ideals? What is the cause of it? Is it because they do not understand or go beyond their own anxiety, their own greed, sorrow, and therefore they project the opposite of 'what is' as the ideal and try to live according to that ideal? Therefore to live according to that ideal you need time. Are we following this? So being incapable of dealing with 'what is' we say we must have time to achieve and to change that which is. That is simple. I have explained that.
So time is a movement of thought as measure. Right? The Greeks were responsible for this. I am not a Greek scholar, I don't read books and all the rest of it, psychological books or philosophical books - I read other books - they bore me in fact. None of the sacred books or any other books, so-called religious books. I have a horror of all that stuff. So the Greeks said in their thinking: measurement is absolutely necessary. Thought is measure and the whole western world is based on that, the whole technological world is based on measurement. That is simple. And measurement means time. Time implies thought. Right? To move from here to there I need time. So why does a human being invent, or see the necessity of that which should be? You follow my question? Because he can't deal with this - with 'what is'. If he knew how to deal with 'what is' the future wouldn't exist. You capture it?
So man, or rather thought, has invented time as a movement to achieve that which should be, the ideal. Capito? So we are saying: is there such time, psychological time? If a human being knows what to do with 'what is' tomorrow doesn't exist. You follow? So measurement implies comparison. Comparison between this and that, comparing that with this, and that is much more hopeful, much more pleasurable, much more inviting than this. So time has become an extraordinarily important thing to us. And the ending of time, the putting a stop to time is death, for most of us, Please, this is rather important to understand, because we are talking over together a very complex problem which is called death. And to really go into it very, very deeply one has to understand not only that you are the world and the world is you, but also you have to understand time. Death means the ending of time, as it is generally understood. Right? That is, you have lived a life for fifty, or thirty or ninety or a hundred and whatever it is, you have lived a life of struggle, conflict, misery, confusion, occasional joy - you know, what human life is. All those fifty years, or sixty or thirty, is a movement of time - right? - in which all these complexities have taken place. For most of us the ending of that complex life is death - right? - which is the ending of time. Are we meeting?
So to us, time has become extraordinarily significant. To learn a language one needs time. To learn any skill one needs time. But we think also psychologically to change 'what is' needs time. It is the same movement as learning a language, we have transferred it to changing ourselves into something. And the ending of time, or time must have a stop, means death. Right? We are coming back to it a little later.
And also we must understand, when something ends there must be new beginning. Right? Because if there is a continuity there is no newness, freshness, no radical change. So ending is a new beginning, the ending is a new creation. The ending of a tradition is freedom to something else. So we human beings are frightened to end - the ending of what we know, what we have achieved, what our personal relationships are, our knowledge, all the things that we have accumulated. If that continues it is a mechanical movement. Right? The ending of that is a new movement. You see this?
Look: a human being is attached to another, dependent on another. When there is attachment, is that love? In that attachment there is pain, there is suffering, there is fear, there is jealousy, there is a sense of losing and therefore feeling empty, loneliness, therefore the greater the attachment becomes. So when there is an ending to attachment there is something totally new. We are meeting each other?
So, we are going to find out if there is not an ending only, but is there no beginning and no ending? You understand? This is a little bit because what is immortality? The ancient Egyptians sought immortality in stone. They said life is eternal. That is, life, which I live every day, will continue for ever and ever and ever. Right? You see it in their tombs and all the rest of it. And they try to cheat death that way. They said life is eternal, which is, my life, with all my goods, with all my property, with all my power, with all the slaves that I have - the ancient Egyptians, they said that is continuous. So they sought immortality through the assertion that life continues as is. Which is, they thought there is no beginning and no ending. We must find out if there is an ending - you understand? - ending to attachment, this and that, and when there is an ending is there no beginning and no ending? You understand? This is something new which I am discovering myself now. You understand? I am investigating together. So we have to find that out, because we have sought immortality as the perpetuation of our own self: myself, my name, my form, my character, my desires, etc. etc. - we want that made immortal, that is beyond death. And by Jove, this is very, very difficult to explain all this to you, verbally. We will go into it.
And so we are frightened of ending which is called death. So man says, 'No, you won't die but life after life if you live properly, you will become more and more and more perfect, till you reach the highest principle, the Hindus call it the Brahman, till then you must go through various lives, called reincarnation and other forms of continuity'. So man has always sought immortality, something which death can never touch. That is, he is always frightened of an ending, an ending of himself. So one has to ask what is it that man hopes continues? You follow? The me, the ego, the person, to which he clings, and he is so frightened to lose that. So we are asking: what is that? The me, the I, the ego, all that, what is that? Has it any reality? Or is it put together by various social, environmental, ideological, verbal structures. You understand? When you say 'me' - what is that me, I? It is a name, it is a form, it is various characteristics, memories, experiences, knowledge. Right? The 'me' is a colossal image put together by thought. Right? When thought, which is a material process, comes to an end, the 'me' - what happens to that? You are following all this? I wonder You understand?
We said thought is a material process, which we have been saying for many years and the scientists are now saying the same thing. Not that I want their encouragement, I am just stating it. A material process. And thought has put together the 'me'. When thought, which is the material process, comes to an end with death, the me - is there a me? You understand? So what - please listen - what is the origin of thought? You understand sir? The beginning of thought. Is it not, the root of it, is it not man living with his senses, knowing the thing and all the senses are moving - no I must be careful with you, you are not meeting me.
We are asking what is the origin of thinking, thought? Life being uncertain, in flux, in movement, changing, the origin of thought must have its beginning in reaction, reaction to environment, to family, and so on - reaction. Thought is reaction because it is the reaction which is memory. And when there is a memory there is reaction to that memory, which is thinking. I have got it! I'll stick to that - not stick to it, that is the truth. That is, thought is reaction. Understood sir? That is, knowledge as experience, experience which is stored in memory, memory stored in the brain, and the reaction to that memory is thought. Very simple. I ask you, 'What is your name?'. You reply instantly, because you are familiar with it. I ask you a little more complex question, it'll take time. And I ask you a question which you cannot possibly answer and you say, 'I don't know'. So it is a process of reaction. So thought, which is a reaction and therefore fragmentary, has created the 'me', which is a total reaction. Please do see this, it is very important because we are going to find out if death is an ending of thought which is a material process, and therefore the ending of me - is there something more? You understand?
So we have talked, we have gone into the question of the world and you - you are the world, and the world is you, time, and the desire for continuity, and the fear of ending, and the ending is the 'me', which is put together by thought, and the origin of thought is reaction. So when life as we know it - that is our daily life of confusion, misery, attachments, pain, anxiety - that is all we know - with pleasure, occasional joy, sexual and all the rest of it - we don't have to repeat over and over again, all that comes to an end. Is there a totally different dimension in which there is no beginning and no ending? All that we know is a beginning and an ending, and the fear of ending. Right? Are we meeting each other? Fear of ending, which is death.
So we are asking: can the life that one lives end, can all the attachments, beliefs, experiences, knowledge, end, now? You follow? That means dying now. You understand the question? I wonder if you do. Look sir: our life - our daily life, which has been a continuous stream from the very beginning of humanity, till now - a river, a rushing river of sorrow, misery, confusion, quarrels, violence, bestiality, wars, utter selfishness, lack of compassion - all that is a vast stream flowing, of which we are. Either that can end, or it will continue for ever. You understand? Either there is an ending to that stream, that means the mind which has lived in that stream, which is of that stream, can that consciousness completely empty itself of all that, and therefore dying to all that, ending to all that? Therefore if there is an ending to all that there is a totally different beginning in which there is no end or beginning. I wonder if you capture this. Have you got it sir? Have some of you got this? I'll go into it again, because
Death, the Christians have made death into one thing; the Hindus, the Buddhists have made it into another thing. And human beings whatever their beliefs, whatever their beliefs in reincarnation, whatever it is, it doesn't affect their life, they are frightened of an ending, the ending of everything they have known. Death means losing all that: your family, your houses, your insurances, your attachments, whether they be to furniture, to people, to houses, to beliefs, to ideals, to gods - losing everything that you have known, which is the ending, obviously. We cannot face that. Because thought is a material process and thought has put together that thing which is me. The 'me' is the known. I may not know all the content of me but it is the known when investigated and discovered: self-knowledge. All that is a continuous movement of time as thought and measure. That is what we live with and that is what we are attached to, and when that ends there is fear of death. You have understood? So we would rather live with the known, that is our misery, our confusion, our struggles, our pettiness and all the rest of the ugliness - we would rather cling to that than say, 'Look, end it'. That means putting an end to time. That is, there is no tomorrow. You understand? So the living is the ending of what is known as life, which is our pain and all the rest of it, and to that we cling desperately. And being afraid, we seek shelter, we seek comfort, we seek some palliative. And we then have innumerable beliefs that I will continue, and I will meet my brother, my sister. You follow?
So as long as a human being lives in that river of sorrow and not end it, humanity will go on endlessly in that stream. But, when there is an ending to that, there is a totally different dimension in which there is no beginning and no ending. And that is absolutely timeless. This you have to come upon by living it; not by talking about it, it has no meaning, but when you attach to something, end it today, not tomorrow. And one can. Because there is pleasure in attachment, in possession, and to look at that pleasure and see what all the implications of that pleasure bring about - which is fear of losing, fear of not having that same thing tomorrow, jealousy, anxiety, hatred - you follow? - all that comes out of that attachment. Seeing all that as a whole and to end it instantly, is dying to all that now, and therefore there is a totally different dimension in which there is neither an ending, nor a beginning, which is eternity. You understand what I am talking about? No, please you have got to live this thing - you understand? - in your daily life. Which means, you are greedy - a human being is conditioned to be greedy, to have greed - conditioned by society, by education, by endless years of tradition - that is part of his tradition, that he must be greedy. And not being able to meet that, how to dissolve that greed, he invents a world of non-greed. Therefore he says, 'Give me time to achieve that.' But if he knows how to observe greed, then there is only that feeling. There is not the other non-greed. To observe it means one has to find out if the word 'greed' brings the feeling, or the feeling exists apart from the word. This is really important to find out. Do I exist apart from the word, the name, the form, this, that and the other? So in the same way, is greed encouraged by the word? Or is that feeling, sensation independent of the word? If it is independent of the word it is just a sensation, and you must have full sensations, therefore you are completely out of that category of belonging to the world of greed. You understand this? So if there is an ending of your pleasure of tomorrow, then you will discover for yourself that death means in everyday life a beginning in which there is no ending and beginning.
You know, man has sought this everlastingly. I don't know if you have gone into it. I do not know if you have gone into yourself very deeply, because you are the history of mankind, you are the essence of mankind, and if you know how to read that book you don't have to read any other book in the world, apart from technological books, or something or other. There is this vast unread book of yourself, and to read it you must have the capacity to observe it, to look into it. You can only look into it, not page after page, page after page - please listen to this - but to read the whole book in an instant. And you can do that if there is no observer or reader reading a book. You have got it? That is, the book is yourself, and the reader is that which he is reading. But if the reader says, 'I am different from that which I am reading', then he is translating what he is reading according to his prejudice, his knowledge, his previous history. And therefore between the reader and that which he reads there is always distortion, conflict. So if there is the art, which is to put everything in its right place. Therefore when you read that book of yourself there is only observation, not retention, not acquiring knowledge and with that knowledge read the book. You understand? There is only observation of that book, and it will tell you everything - literally it will cover the whole psychological world.
So the ending of life, which is our daily life, of which you are so frightened because we want something permanent. You understand? And we think the 'me' is permanent. Right? The 'me', identified with the house - the house is permanent, semi-permanent. So through what it thinks is permanent it has made itself permanent. You understand? So that has become our greatest illusion - that I am permanent. When you look at that I, it is put together by thought, and thought is a material process. Until you see that deeply you will always be frightened of death. But if you see that the 'me' is totally impermanent, because thought is impermanent, and that which thought puts together is impermanent, then there is no fear of ending, because it is thought that says, 'I will continue'. But thought itself knows that it is also an end. So the ending is not only a new beginning, but it is that movement which is not of time, in which there is no beginning and no ending.
But the question arises: how is it that there are manifestations from that stream? You understand? Are you interested in all this? You understand my question? That stream, which is our million years of human sorrow and anxiety, fear and despair, hope and all the rest of it, that stream is always manifesting itself - isn't it? - which is you, no? You understand what I am saying? Having manifested itself as you, then you are born in a family, you have a brother, you have a wife - the brother, the son, the wife dies and you are left alone, you are left lonely. That is, you have separated yourself from the stream, thinking you are different from the stream, and therefore feel completely isolated when death takes place. Are you understanding all this? Haven't you I am sure, unfortunately, with each human being, there have been deaths, the loss of someone whom you think you love. The love is that attachment, that image, that pleasure, that is that. And when you lose that person in death - the organic death (sound of train) Oh, these trains! (Laughs) - you are left alone. You are not only crying for that person who is lost but also you are crying for yourself: self-pity, loneliness, isolation, left alone to do all the things which the other one helped you to do. And you are left. And one sheds tears, or one goes to seances, or one believes in meeting them in heaven, or meeting them in the next life - reincarnation and so on. So all that is avoiding the observation of the sense of loneliness - you understand? - the sense of complete isolation. The more you move away from that isolation, that is, avoid it, run away, escape, the stronger that thing grows. But when there is total observation of that, that loneliness, then you will see that loneliness transforms itself completely.
So there is not only the losing of someone, but also the incapacity to meet what actually one is, and so one goes through depressions, sorrows, misery, moods, bitterness - you follow? - all that, which is part of the human stream, you are caught again in it. You understand what I am saying? So when you see an attachment in yourself, end it immediately. That is to die instantly to that. You understand? It is easy to die to something that is painful, but it is extremely unpleasant to die to something that you like, that you are attached to. But when you see this thing, how extraordinarily important it is that time must have a stop, then death has an extraordinary meaning. It is, not mystery, but it has a most significant meaning; which means the ending everyday of everything that human beings have put together. Then you will see for yourself - not - you won't see for yourself, then there is a totally different thing altogether.
I think that's enough, isn't it?