Can death be brought into the field of the known?
A mind that seeks truth must be free of the observer
6th Public Talk Saanen
July 26, 1973
We have been talking, and I hope sharing together, many of the things which concern human beings. And I think this morning we ought to talk over together sorrow, love and death. These are the problems or issues which concern most of us, whether we are young, middle aged, or old. We will go into it, sharing together, what it means - suffering, and whether it can ever end; what it means to love without all the tortures of love which human beings are so well aware of, and also whether the mind can ever be free from death. These are very complex problems, that need great scrutiny, deep enquiry, and a very serious intention and activity.
These are the problems that most of us have to face, or are facing. We deal with them rather superficially, trying to find an easy answer, an easy escape, or conform to certain slogans, to certain conclusions, hopes, and so we never go beyond the superficial level. Whether the mind can ever be free from sorrow, and it is a great thing to enquire into it, and discover for oneself whether the human being - man, woman, doesn't matter, child - the agony, the loneliness, the despair, the anxiety of suffering.
And also we ought to consider very deeply what is the meaning of love. A word that we use so easily, a word that is so loaded, destroyed by the politicians, by the priests, by the man who says he loves his girl or his wife, and the love of a super human entity, called - a convenient word on which you hang so many things - god.
We will go into them rather hesitantly and delicately because you need a very subtle mind, a sensitive mind because these problems, these three problems have been with human beings from the beginning of time. They have given many explanations, both intellectual, psychological and super human explanations. But explanations do not solve the actuality, the 'what is'. You may describe most beautifully, using good words, literary, linguistic, semantic meanings, and description is never satisfactory because what you describe is never the real. So bearing that in mind we will, in the allotted time given to us this morning, go into this.
First of all I feel it is necessary to find out what it means to listen because we are going into something together that requires your attention, not intellectual attention but the attention to listen, not only to what is being said but also listen to what is actually going on within yourself. Listen so as to observe, observe actually the quality of your mind that is confronting these very complex problems of existence. You not only listen, which means not interpreting - then you are not listening. Listening is an action of attention in which there is no interpretation, in which there is no comparison, or remembering those things which you have read and comparing. Or comparing your own experience to what is being said. Those are all distractions. Whereas if you actually listen, without resistance, without trying to find an answer, because answers do not solve the problem, but what does resolve the issue wholly is to be able to observe without the observer which is the past experience, memory, knowledge and just to observe. With that we can then proceed to find out what is sorrow and whether the human mind can ever be free of it. And this is a very important question to actually, not verbally, not intellectually, not romantically, or sentimentally, but actually find out for oneself whether sorrow can ever end. Because then the mind, if it ends, is free of a colossal burden, and that freedom is necessary to enquire into what is love and death.
So what is sorrow and is there ever an ending of it? It is really quite a deep problem. I do not know if you have applied your curiosity to it, whether you have seriously undertaken to find out what it is, and whether the mind, your mind, that is, the human mind can ever go beyond it. When we are enquiring into sorrow we have to find out what pain, grief and sorrow are. Pain is both physiological as well as psychological - suffering pain in the body, in the organism and the great complexity of pain and grief and sorrow inwardly, inside the skin as it were, psychologically. There is the physiological as well as psychological and psychosomatic pain. Right? We are meeting each other? There is physical pain - all of us know it - a little or a great deal, and we can deal with it medically and in other ways. You can observe pain with a mind that is not attached, with a mind that can observe the bodily pain as though it were from the outside. You are following this? One can observe one's toothache and not be emotionally, psychologically involved in it. And when you are involved emotionally and psychologically with that pain in the tooth, then the pain becomes more. You get terribly anxious, fearful. I do not know if you have not noticed this fact.
So to be aware of the physical pain, physiological, biological pain and in that awareness not to psychologically get involved with it - you understand? Be aware of the physical pain and the psychological involvement with it which intensifies the pain, bringing about anxiety, fear, and keeping the psychological factor entirely out. Are you following this? That requires a great deal of awareness, a certain quality of aloofness, a certain quality of unattached observation, then that pain doesn't distort the activities of the mind. Then that pain, which is physical, doesn't bring about neurotic activity of the mind. I do not know if you have not noticed when there is a great deal of pain, how the mind not being able to resolve it, gets involved with the pain and all its outlook in life is distorted - and to be aware of this whole process. And that awareness is not a matter of determination, a matter of a conclusion, or saying one must be aware in order not to - then you create a division and therefore more conflict. Whereas if you see intelligently - we went into that word very carefully the other day - when you observe intelligently the movement of pain and the psychological involvement with that pain, then there is a distortion in the action, in thought - to be aware of this. Then physical pain can be dealt with, or acted upon, fairly reasonably. That is one point. And that is comparatively easy.
But what is not easy and rather complex, is the whole field of psychological pain, griefs and sorrow. That requires much more, much clearer examination, closer observation and penetration. From childhood we human beings, wherever we are, get hurt. We have so many scars, consciously or unconsciously, there are so many forms of being hurt. We have shed tears quietly or openly and out of that hurt we want to hurt others, which is a form of violence. And being hurt we resist, we build a wall around ourselves never to be hurt again. And when you build a wall around yourself in order not to be hurt you are going to be hurt much more. I do not know if you have not noticed all this.
And from childhood through comparison, through imitation and conformity, we have stored up these great many hurts. And not being aware of them, all our responsive activity is based on these hurts. Right? We are going together? You are not merely listening to what the speaker is saying, but you are using these words to see yourself, then there is a communication between the speaker and yourself.
So can these hurts which produce all kinds of activity, of imbalance, neuroticism, escapes and so on, can these hurts be wiped away, so that the mind can function efficiently, clearly, sanely, wholly? And that is one of the problems of sorrow. You have been hurt, and I am pretty sure everyone has been. That's part of our culture, that's part of our education. When in school you are told you must be as good as 'A', get better marks; you are not as good as your uncle, or as clever as your beastly grandmother. And that begins, you are getting more and more, through comparison, brutalised, not only outwardly but very, very deeply. And if you don't resolve those hurts you will go through life wanting to hurt others, or becoming violent, or withdrawing from life, from every relationship, in order never to be hurt again. And as this is a part of our suffering, can the mind which has been hurt become totally free of every form of hurt and never be hurt again? A mind that is never hurt, and can never be hurt again, is really an innocent mind. That is the meaning of that word in the dictionary: a mind that is incapable of being hurt and therefore incapable of hurting another. Now how is it possible for a mind that has been hurt deeply, or passing by, to be free of these hurts? I do not know if you have ever put this question to yourself. I am putting it to you. Now how do you answer that question? How do you find out, knowing you are hurt and to be free of that hurt? Because if you understand one hurt totally, deeply, completely, then you have understood all the other hurts. Right? For in the one all are included. One hasn't to go chasing one hurt after another.
So why is the mind hurt, knowing that all forms of education, as it is now, is a process of distorting the mind - through competition, through conformity - brings this hurt, not only in the family but in the schools, in all our outward relationships? To determine not to be hurt - please listen to this - to be determined not to be hurt is a conclusion of thought and thought being time, being a movement, thought which has created the image that it should never be hurt, has not resolved the problem of being hurt. You have understood? So thought cannot resolve the hurt. Just listen to it, listen to what the speaker has to say. Imbibe it, drink it and find out. So thought cannot possibly resolve these hurts, and as that is the only instrument that we have, because that is the only instrument that we have so carefully cultivated, and when that instrument is not brought into action, you feel at a loss. Right? But to realise for yourself that thought, the whole machinery of thinking, will not in any way solve this problem of hurt, your intelligence is in operation. And that intelligence is not yours or mine, or somebody else's. It's intelligence. And analysis will not resolve the hurts. We went into that question the other day. Analysis is a form of paralysis and it cannot solve the hurts. Right? So what have you? You see very clearly that you are hurt. And the thought cannot resolve it, nor analysis. Then what takes place in the mind that has seen the truth of the process of thought, with all its associations? You understand? Thought has created the image about yourself and that image has been hurt. Bene? Are you following all this?
So when the mind realises the activities of thought with all its images, analysis, movements cannot resolve it, then the mind without any movement observes the hurt. And when it observes it totally, in the way we are describing, then you will see every form of hurt is totally gone because the hurt is the image you have about yourself, and that image has been created by thought. And what is hurt is the image, and that image has no reality. It is a verbal, structural, linguistic image, which has been fed by thought, and when the energy of thought is not active then the image is not. I hope you are following all this. Then there is no possibility of ever being hurt. Got it? Test it. Apply it - not tomorrow, now.
That is one of the causes of our sorrow. And there is the sorrow of loneliness, the sorrow of not having a companionship. Or if you had a companionship, losing that companion, or the death of someone whom you thought you loved, who gave you physical, psychological satisfaction, both sensory satisfaction and psychological fulfilment, when that person is gone, that is, when that person is dead, or turned away from you, all the anxieties, the fears, the jealousies, the loneliness, the despair, the anger, the violence, burst in you. That is part of our life. And not being able to solve it, the Asiatic world says, 'Next life, my friend, we will solve it. After all there is always next life, then I will know how to deal with it.' And in the western world the sorrow is invested in one person, or one image whom you worship; suffering of man invested in one individual. And there also you escape through that, but you haven't solved this problem. You have postponed it, you have put it away on an image, on a cross, in a church. But it is still there.
So sorrow can end only with knowing the movement of yourself, how you want to escape from it, how you want to find an answer to it, not being able to find an answer, resort to beliefs, to images, to concepts. That is what human beings have done throughout the ages. And there are always the priests, the in-betweens who will help you to escape. So if you observe all this within yourself, which is knowing oneself, not according to any psychologist, modern or ancient, but just to observe yourself - the hurts, the escapes, the loneliness, the despair, the sense of agony, of never being able to go beyond 'what is'. Just to watch that without any movement of thought. That requires great attention, in that attention, that attention is itself its own discipline, its own order.
So when you observe loneliness, which is one of the factors of our sorrow, or the feeling that you must fulfil in something, and not being able to fulfil, being frustrated, and therefore sorrow, just to watch all that without any movement of thought verbally or with the desire to go beyond it.
Look sir, let me put it differently. I lose my brother, my son or whatever it is, he dies. I am paralysed with the shock of it for a few days, and then out of it, at the end of it, I am full of sorrow, pain, loneliness, the meaninglessness of life, I am left with myself. And to remain completely without any movement - you understand what I mean by movement? Without any movement of thought which says, 'I must go beyond this, I must find my brother, I must communicate with him, I feel lonely, I feel desperate' - just without any movement of thought, just to observe. Then you will see out of that suffering comes passion, which has nothing whatsoever to do with lust, which is energy completely free of the movement of thought. Vous avez compris?
So through - no, I won't use the word 'through' - so being aware of the whole movement of the 'me', which is the product of thought, which is the movement in time, being aware of this nature and the structure of the 'me', conscious as well as the unconscious, and in that awareness there is an ending of sorrow. You can test this for yourself. If you don't test it you have no right to listen to it, it has no meaning.
So through self knowing there is the ending of sorrow and therefore the beginning of wisdom. Right?
Now let's go into the next question and consider what love is. I really don't know what it is. One can describe it, one can put it into words, into the most poetic language, using very beautiful words, but words are not love. Sentiment is not love. It has nothing to do with emotion, patriotism, with ideas. That we know very well, if we go into it. So we can brush aside completely the verbal description, the images that we have built around that word - patriotism, god, work for the country, the Queen, you know, all that tommy rot! And also we know, if you observe very carefully, that pleasure is not love. Can you swallow that pill? For most of us love is pleasure, sexual. For most of us this pleasure has become extraordinarily important - the magazines, the absurd naked people, everything is revolving in the western world, and now it is pushing towards the eastern civilisation, this sense of sexual, physical pleasure. And when that is denied there is torture, violence, brutality, extraordinary emotional scenes - you know what is going on. So is all that love?
The pleasure of the sexual act, and the remembrance of it, chewing the cud over it, and wanting it again. The repetition, the pursuit of pleasure, and that is what is called love. And we have made that word so vulgar, meaningless - go and kill for the love of your country! Join this group because that loves god! So we have made that word into a terrible thing, an ugly, vulgar, brutal thing. So what is love? What place has it in human relationship between man and woman? Are you interested in all this? I am afraid you are! (Laughter) Probably that is the only interest you have! That is only a part of it. Life is much bigger, vaster, more deep, than mere pleasure. And this civilisation, culture, has made pleasure as the most dominant, powerful thing in life.
So let us consider what is love in human relationship. When you look at the map of human beings - man, woman, man and woman in relationship with their neighbour, with the State and all the rest of it - what place has this thing called love in relationship? Has it any place at all in actuality? Because life is relationship, life is action in relationship. Right? And what place has love in that action? Are we sharing together all this? Please do. It is your life. Don't waste your life. You have short years and don't waste it. And you are wasting it. And it is a sad thing to see this happen. So what place has love in relationship? And life is action in Relationship. Right? What is relationship? - God, there is so much to talk about, what time is it? Quarter past eleven - what place has love in relationship? And what is relationship - to be related? That means to respond adequately, completely to each other. The meaning of that word 'relationship' is to be related. Related means direct contact with another human being, both psychologically as well as physiologically, direct contact. Are we related at all with each other? I may be married, have children, sex and all the rest of the business, and am I related at all? And what am I related to? I am related to the image that I have built about you, or her. Please watch this. Do watch it. And she is related to me according to the image that she has about me. Right? So these two images have relationship. And that imaginary relationship is called love! Right? See how absurd we have made the whole thing. That is a fact. That is not a cynical description. I have built the image about her through the years, or ten days, or a week - or one day is enough. And she has done the same thing. And the cruelty of it - you understand? The ugliness, the brutality, the viciousness of these images that we have about each other. And the contact of these two images is called relationship. And therefore there is always a battle between the man and the woman. The one trying to dominate the other, having dominated, a culture is built around that domination - the matriarchal system or the man's system - you know all that is going on very well. And is that love?
Then if it is, then love is merely a word that has no meaning. Because love is not pleasure, jealousy, envy, division between man and woman, one dominating the other, one driving the other, possessing the other, attached to the other. That certainly is not love, it is just a matter of convenience and exploitation. And this we have accepted as the norm of life. And when you observe it, really observe it, totally aware of it, then you will see that you will never build an image whatever she or you do. There is no image forming. And therefore perhaps out of that comes an extraordinary flower - the flowering of this thing called love. And it does happen. And that love has nothing to do with 'my' or 'your'. It is love. And when you have that then you will never send your children to be killed, to train in the army - you understand all this? - then you will produce quite a different kind of civilisation, a different culture, different human beings, man and woman.
Now there is the other problem, death. You know really suffering, love and death and living are one thing. They are not separate, fragmentary things. I do not know if we have time this morning to go into this really. Oh Lord. Also I want to talk next Sunday - as that's the day after, isn't it? When do we meet - next Sunday, isn't it? - on meditation, which is another thing. I'll go into death as deeply as possible, and briefly - it has to be - and I hope your minds are not tired.
You know death has been a problem with man: ever since man has come into being he has tried to solve death in different ways - in after-life, new life, reincarnation, resurrection, and always fighting, frightened, avoiding that very word and putting it as far away as possible. Right? And in it is involved great fear. So there is this extraordinary thing called death. I don't know how you look upon it: as something inevitable and therefore to be accepted, reasoned with, find a conclusion, logical, reasonable conclusion that will give you satisfaction; or you come to a conclusion that life is not just these brief years, and also you will continue in the next life, with a different name, with a different culture, with a different environment. The whole Asiatic world believes that. And here you have also your own form of belief. If you haven't that you say, 'Well, everything dies, why shouldn't I die too, and let's make the best of it. If it is a stupid life it is a stupid life but let us have a joyful, jolly good old life'. And that life is a constant battle with yourself, with your neighbour, with your government, in your office, in your factory, in your relationship with your wife and children - everlasting travail, everlasting pain. We cling to that rather than to the thing that we don't know of, which is death. These are all facts, not my invention, they are just observable, daily facts.
So there you have the desire to live, the desire to live in the life that one knows, however ugly, however stupid, shallow, however meaningless, trying to imitate, conform, admiring the intellectuals, the scientists, hoping some day you will have plenty of money to enjoy yourself, greater number of holidays, and all that. And that you call living. Right? And that is part of your life. And that you know, because that is the only thing you know. You don't know how to change it. You hope some politician, some revolution, some kind of leader will come along and change a little bit here and there, a new scientific invention that will alter the whole circus. But that you know, that is your habit, your acknowledged experience, within that area is what is called living, with its violence, brutality, anxiety, the sense of utter loneliness, despair, tears, agony. And there is at the end of all that the thing called death. And you push that away, as far away as possible, never look at it, never say, 'What is it all about?' Right?
Now can you invite that thing which you have pushed far away, into your daily life? You understand? What does that mean? What does death mean? That is - please do listen to this - one's life is this, what one has described, which one knows amazingly well, which we have accepted, with which we live and we don't know what to do with it, but we carry on. We live with the known and we don't know what death is. We keep a great width, it is a great divide between living and that. This we know, and that we don't know. Any form of escape from it is childish, whether through reincarnation, through belief, through resurrection, those are all beliefs, conclusions, hopes, therefore they have no value whatsoever. So can you please listen, because I have gone into this very, very deeply, and I have done it, not just a lot of words. Can the unknown, death, be brought into the field of the known - you understand? So I must find out what death is, what it means. The body will die, the organism will live as long as it has been carefully looked after, medical, and it is being used, like any machinery that is being used, it will wear out. If it is used properly it will last longer. But you don't use that machine properly. Right? You don't use it, because you indulge - you overeat, you eat every kind of dead animals - oh, for god's sake! - drink, smoke. Oh! You know, your life is dictated by your tongue, by the taste, so you are gradually, or quickly, wearing out the organism. And like any machine it must come to an end, though it can be postponed - and the doctors or scientists are trying to prolong it, I don't know for what reason, but they are trying to prolong it.
Then what does death mean? Dying of what? Dying to my ending my attachments, ending of my possessions, my bank account, the ending of my friends, my wife, my children - ending. You understand? Ending the 'me' that's attached to the piece of furniture, the knowledge that I have acquired, the book I have written, the painting I have done, and through painting I have become famous, I have lots of money, I am envied. So, the ending of all that is death. Right? That is what we call death. So can't I die - listen to this - to die to all my attachments, ending all my attachments while I am living? - to the beastly little book I have written, to the image that I have built about her? You're following all this? So can the mind die to everything that it has built, to everything that it is attached, to the knowledge, to the experience, to the hopes, to the conclusions, to its gods, to its pleasures? That is death. Right? And that is what is going to happen. So why not bring it - you understand? So why not die to everything that you have known? Then you incarnate differently now. I wonder if you understand this? Do you understand all this?
If the mind dies to yesterday, which is the known, which is the time, which is the pain and anxiety, if it dies completely to all that then it incarnates, that is, reborn anew, fresh. Can the mind do this - not theoretically, not as an idea, but actually in daily life? That is, you see a sunset, lovely, with all the glory of light and colour, look at it, delight, and with it die to that sunset - you understand? End it there, not carry it over. And to observe your attachment and finish with that attachment. You do something, a piece of work, at the end of the day it is over. So to die to everything at the end of the day, all that you have accumulated. You understand sir? You can do this. You can test this out without much elaborate practice, effort and all that nonsense, you can just do it so that you live a life, dying and therefore a fresh, new young life anew. You understand sirs?
You have heard this morning all this: the way of sorrow, and the ending of it, the love that we have besmirched and spat upon, and the real meaning of it; and you have heard how the mind frees itself from death. Now you have to test it. You have to do it, not merely everlastingly listen, listen and not do. That is like ploughing a field and never sowing. Right, sirs.