Can the brain be totally free?
The turning point
5th Public Talk, Saanen
July 21, 1981
We have got three more talks - today, Thursday and Sunday. We have to cover quite a bit during these three talks. First we have to consider together whether the brain, which is now only operating partially, whether that brain has the capacity to function wholly, completely. I do not know if you have gone into that question at all. Because we are only using now a part of it. One can observe this for oneself without going to any specialist. One can see that any specialisation, which may be necessary, whether that specialisation does not bring about the functioning of only a part of the brain: if one is a scientist, specialised in that subject, naturally only one part of him is functioning; or if one is a mathematician and so on. And we are asking whether - together we are asking, we are not imposing the question on you, we must ask this question: whether the brain, though in the modern world one has to specialise, whether it is possible to allow the brain to operate wholly, completely. That is one of the problems we are going to discuss this morning.
And the other problem is: what is going to happen to humanity, to all of us, when the computer which can outthink man accurately, much more quickly, rapidly and if that can do, as the computer experts are saying it can - with the help of the robot, man will then only have a couple of hours of work a day. This is going to happen within the next five, ten, twenty years. Then what will man do? Either he is going to follow the entertainment field, which is already taking place: sports are becoming more and more and more important, if you have watched the television. Entertainment in different forms, football, you know all that is happening. And also religious entertainment. Either humanity is going to follow the whole movement of entertainment, or it is going to turn inwardly, which is not an entertainment, which demands much greater capacity of observation, examination, non-personal perception and so on - inwardly. These are the two possibilities. And this is happening already, the entertainment world is going to take over - the cinemas, you know, all the rest of it. Or the computer can formulate a new religion, putting all the religions together, synthesise, bring out something totally new. And humanity - which is another form of entertainment - will follow that, or enter into something totally different. That is one problem.
And the other is, the whole content of our consciousness is basically fear, pleasure, the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of fear, and the suffering of mankind. That is the basic content of our human consciousness with its varieties. Right? These are the three problems that man is facing. If humanity is going to follow entertainment, it is very simple. And I hope, one hopes these Gatherings are not a form of entertainment.
And also whether the brain can be totally free so as to function wholly, because any specialisation, any following a certain path, a certain groove, certain pattern, must inevitably make the brain function partially and therefore limited energy. I hope we are thinking together about all this.
And we live in a world of specialisation - engineers, physicists, surgeons, carpenters - you know, the whole mechanical world. And also specialisation of a particular belief, of a particular dogma, rituals, they are all specializations. And though certain specializations, which are necessary, like surgeons, carpentry, and so on, whether in spite of that specialisation, whether the brain can function completely, wholly, not partially, and therefore have tremendous energy. I hope we are following each other. We are thinking together. Right? Is this a problem at all to any of us? Or the speaker is imposing this problem onto you? We have so many problems, I don't know why we have so many problems, but don't let us add another problem to already innumerable other problems. This is, I think, a very serious question into which we have to enquire together.
If one observes one's own activity you will find more and more that the brain functions only in a very the brain operates only very partially, very, very little. And therefore our energy becomes less and less and less, as we grow older. Biologically, physically, when we are young we are full of this vitality, but as we get educated, follow a livelihood which needs specialisation, that brain becomes small, narrow, limited, and therefore the energy becomes less and less and less, but it has its own vitality. Right?
So we are asking whether that brain, though it may have to have a certain form of specialisation, not necessarily religious, because that is superstition, we can put all that out, whether, suppose I am a surgeon, I have to specialise, whether in spite of that the brain can operate wholly. It can only operate wholly, completely with all the tremendous vitality of a million years behind it, only when it is completely free. I hope is this somewhat are we meeting each other? As a question - we are going to enquire whether the brain can ever be totally free, in spite of the specialisation, which is necessary for a livelihood. And it may not be necessary if the computer takes over. It won't take over surgery, obviously. It won't take over the feeling of beauty, looking at the evening stars, the Orion, and the Pleiades and so on, but it may take over other functions altogether. Right? So can the human brain be totally free? You understand my question? - without any form of attachment? - attachment of any kind, physical, attachment to certain belief, experience and so on. Can the brain be so completely free? (Sound of train) Oh, lord! If the brain cannot be so totally free it will begin to deteriorate, because when it is occupied with problems, with specialisation, livelihood and so on, so on, it is active. The brain is active, but when the computer takes over this activity the brain will have less and less problems and therefore it will gradually deteriorate. Right? This is happening, it is not something in the future, it is actually happening now when you observe one's own activity. Right?
So the question is, we have to find an answer to whether the brain can be totally free, and therefore function altogether, not partially. Right? And whether our consciousness, with its content, basically fear, the pursuit of pleasure and all the implications of that, and grief, pain, sorrow, being hurt inwardly and so on, that is the basic content of one's consciousness. Right? You may have other forms of consciousness, a group consciousness, racial consciousness, national consciousness, the consciousness of a particular group, the consciousness of the Catholic group, the Hindu group and so on and so on, but basically the consciousness with its content is fear, pleasure, the pursuit of pleasure, pain, sorrow, death. Right? This is the central content of our consciousness. Right? We are thinking together, please. Right? We are thinking together, examining together. The speaker is not laying down anything. We are together observing the whole phenomenon of existence, human existence, that is our existence. As we pointed out earlier, we are mankind because our consciousness, whether it is as a Christian living in the Western world, or in the Middle East, or in the Asiatic world, that consciousness, its content is basically fear, pursuit of pleasure, pain, hurts, sorrow and the never ending burden of all this. Right? So our consciousness is not personal, mine. This is very difficult to accept because we have been so conditioned, so educated, that we resist this actuality, which means we are not individuals at all. We are the whole of mankind. It is not a romantic idea, it is not a philosophical concept, it is not, absolutely, an ideal. If one examines it closely it is a fact. So we are going together to find out whether the brain can be free from the content of its consciousness. Right?
Sirs, why do you listen? Why do you listen to the speaker? Or in listening to the speaker you are listening to yourself. Right? Is that what is taking place? The speaker is only pointing out, he is acting as a mirror in which you see actually yourself. The actuality of one's own consciousness, not the description which the speaker is pointing out, not the description which becomes merely an idea, if you merely follow the description. But through the description you yourself perceive actually your own state of mind, brain, your own consciousness, then the listening to the speaker has a certain importance. But if you are merely listening to the speaker as a telephone, then it has very little value. Right? So please, don't say to yourself at the end of these talks and questions and answers, 'I haven't changed. Why have I not changed? It is your fault. You have spoken for so many, sixty years perhaps, and I have not changed.' Is it the fault of the speaker? Or you have not been able to apply it? And so if you don't apply naturally it is the fault of the speaker! Then you become cynical and do all kinds of absurd things. So please bear in mind that we are listening not to the speaker but through the description and the words we are looking at our own consciousness, which is the consciousness of all humanity. The Western world may believe in a certain symbol - religiously, certain figure, certain rituals; and the Eastern world also has the same thing but behind it the same fear, the same pursuit of pleasure, grief, pain, being hurt, wanting this, and you follow? - the whole of that is the movement of common humanity - right?
So in listening we are learning about ourselves, not following the description and therefore learning the description, but actually learning to look and therefore bringing about a total freedom in which the whole of the brain can operate. Right? After all sir, meditation, love and compassion is the operation of the whole of the brain. When there is the operation of the whole there is integral order. All right? And when there is integral, inward order there is total freedom. And it is only then that there can be something which is timelessly sacred. That is not a reward, that is not something to be achieved, but that comes about, that which is eternally timeless, sacred, only when the brain is totally free to function wholly, and in that wholeness there is order and so freedom.
So, after stating that let us proceed to find out together whether the content of our consciousness, which is the operation of thought - right? - the content is put together by all the activities of thought, which we will go into, and whether that content can ever be freed so that there is a totally different dimension altogether. Right? First let us observe together the whole movement of pleasure. There is not only biological, sexual pleasure, there is pleasure in possession, pleasure in having money, pleasure in achieving something that you have been working towards, there is pleasure in power, political, religious, power over a person, power in the acquisition of knowledge, and the expression of that knowledge as a professor, as a writer, as a poet, the gratification that comes about through knowledge, and the pleasure of leading a very strict, moral, ascetic life, the pleasure of achieving something inwardly which is not common to ordinary man. And this has been the pattern of our existence for millions of years. Right? Our brain is conditioned to it, therefore our brain has become limited. Right? I wonder if you see this? Anything that is conditioned must be limited and therefore the brain, when it is pursuing these forms and many other forms of pleasure, it must inevitably become small, limited, narrow. And probably unconsciously realising this one seeks different forms of entertainment, a release through sex, through different kinds of fulfilment and so on. Right? Please observe it in yourself, you are not listening to me, you are listening to yourself, your own activity of daily life. And if you observe, your brain is occupied all day with something or other, chattering, talking, endlessly - you follow? - that is going on, like a machine that never stops. And so the brain is gradually wearing itself out, and it is going to be inactive if the computer is going to take its place - you follow? - all the things computer will do.
So why is man, human beings, caught in this perpetual pursuit of pleasure, why? Please, find out, let's find out. Is it because he is so utterly lonely? - escape from that sense of isolation. Is it that he has been, from childhood, conditioned to this? Is it because thought creates the image of pleasure and pursues it? You are following? So can we ask together whether thought is the source of pleasure. Right? You understand? Is it? Find out. That is, one has had some kind of pleasure, either eating very tasty food, sexual, or the sense of being flattered and so on, so on, thought has - or rather the brain has registered it. (Sound of train) I didn't know there were so many trains. (Laughter) These incidents which have brought about pleasure have been recorded in the brain, and the remembrance of that pleasure of yesterday, or last week, that remembrance is the movement of thought. Right? And so thought is the movement of pleasure - right? Right? Thought has registered that incident, pleasurable, exciting, worthwhile to remember, and it is stored, held, attached, and thought projects in the future and pursues it. Right?
So the question there is: why does thought or memory of an incident that is over, finished, carry on? You follow? Is that part of our occupation? A man who wants money, power, position, is perpetually occupied with it. Perhaps similarly the brain is occupied with this question of remembrance of something a week ago which gave great pleasure, being held in the brain and thought projects future pleasure and pursues it. This is the repetition of pleasure which is the movement of thought and therefore limited. Right? I wonder if we see this. And therefore the brain can never function wholly, it can only function partially.
Now the next question that arises, what am I to do? If this is the pattern of thought, how can thought be stopped? Or how can the brain not register that incident of yesterday which gave me delight? Right? That is the obvious question. Right? Now why do you put such a question? Just investigate it. Why? Is it because you want to escape from the movement of pleasure, and that very escape is another form of pleasure? You understand what I am saying? Right? Whereas if you say, look, this is a fact. The fact is, the incident which gave great delight, pleasure, excitement, and the fact is it's over, it is not a living thing of that which happened a week ago. It was a living thing then but now it is not. Right? Can you finish last week's pleasure, entertainment, excitement, finished, end it, not carry it over? It is not, how to end it. It is not, how to stop it. But just see the fact how the brain is operating, how thought is operating. If one is aware of that, thought itself will come to an end. That is the registering of last week's pleasure is ended, finished. Right? Please sirs, if we don't do this don't accuse the speaker of not making it clear, and therefore becoming cynical, or being helped to be cynical.
And the other problem is fear. Again this is the common ground of all mankind, whether you are living in a small house, or in a palace, whether you have no work or have plenty of work, whether you have tremendous knowledge about everything on earth, whether you are a priest, whether you are the highest representative of god or whatever it is, there is still this deep rooted fear in all mankind. That is a common ground on which all humanity stands. Right? There is no question about it. That is an absolute, irrevocable fact, it cannot be contradicted. It is a fact. And again as long as the brain is caught in this pattern of fear its operation is limited. Right? And therefore it can never function wholly. So it behoves us, it is necessary if humanity is to survive completely as human beings not as machines, one must find out for oneself whether it is possible to be totally free from this fear, not only physical fears of losing a job, of getting hurt, of having pain which has been experienced last week, and carry on with that remembrance of that pain, and therefore hoping that pain will not recur and fear involved in it. There is biological fear and deep psychological rooted fears. You are looking at yourself, not at the speaker. The speaker is not important. What is important is to look at the content of our consciousness with its fear. We are not talking about the various forms of fear - fear of old age, fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of anxiety, fear which breeds hate, fear of not arriving, not achieving, not fulfilling, not reaching Nirvana, or whatever you want to reach spiritually. We are not talking about the objects of fear but fear itself. Right? See the difference. We are afraid about something, or fear of something. Fear of yesterday, or fear of tomorrow, which is fear of time. Right? I am going to go into that a little bit.
So we are talking about fear itself, not the expressions of fear - clear? What is fear? When there is fear, is there any sense - no, let me put it differently: When there is fear, at that very moment is there a recognition as fear? Do you understand my question? There is fear in me, suppose. Is that fear describable at the moment it is taking place - the reaction - or after? The after is time - right? I wonder if you see this. Right? Are we meeting together in this? I am afraid - suppose I am afraid. Either I am afraid about something, or I am afraid of something that I have done in the past which I don't want you to realise, or know, or something has happened in the past which again awakens that fear. Or is there a fear by itself without the object? And when there is fear at the second do I call it fear? Or only after it has come? Do you understand all this? It is surely after it has happened. Right? Which means what? The memory of other incidents of fear has been held in the brain and the moment that reaction which takes place, the memory says 'That is fear' - right? Are we together in this? I will explain again. God, how we depend on explanations! How terrible!
I recognise that with the immediacy of that feeling, you don't call it fear. It is only after it has happened that I name it as fear. The naming of it as fear is the remembrance of other incidents that have arisen which have caused fear. Right? I remember those fears of the past and the new feeling arises and I immediately identify it with the word 'fear' - right? That is simple enough. So there is always the memory operating on the present.
So we are enquiring: what is fear? Is fear time? Fear of that something which happened a week ago, which has caused that feeling which I have named as fear, and the future implications that it must not happen again, and it might happen therefore I am afraid of it - you follow? So I am asking myself and you are asking yourself: is it time that is the root of fear? You're following? Are you following? Right? Are you getting bored with all this? Are you getting bored with all this? No. I hope not.
So what is time? You understand this? Time by the watch is very simple. There is sunrise at a certain time and the sun sets at a certain time. And yesterday, today, tomorrow. That is a natural sequence of time. There is also psychological time in us. That is, the incident which happened last week, which has given pleasure, or which has awakened the sense of fear, and the remembrance of that projecting not only in the present being modified, but the future - right? - I may not have a job, I may lose my position, I may lose my money, I may lose my wife - you follow? - time. So is fear part of time? Right? It looks like it. Right? And what is psychological time? There is time by the clock, obviously. If one has to catch a train, it is fixed, there is time. To go from here to there requires time, and so on. Time implies space. Right? Not only physical time which needs space, there is also psychological time which needs space - yesterday, last week, modified today, tomorrow. There is space and time. Right? Right? That is simple. So is fear the movement of time? And is not the movement of time psychologically the movement of thought? You are following all this? Please, this is very good education for each one of us.
So thought is time. Right? Time is fear. Obviously. I have had pain sitting with the dentist. I remember it, stored, projected, hope not to have that pain again - thought is moving. Which is, time of yesterday's pain, held, and not wanting it again. So fear is a movement in space and time which is thought. Right? If one sees that not as an idea but an actuality, which means one has to pay attention to that pain, that fear which happened last week, to give to that fear complete attention at the moment it arises then it is not registered. Do try, do this and you will find out for yourself. When you give complete attention to an insult, there is no insult. Or if somebody comes along and says, 'What a marvellous person you are', and if you pay attention it is like water on a duck's back. Right? So please see the truth of this for yourself, that when you realise, time, space, thought is the movement of fear, that is a fact, not described by the speaker, but if you have observed it in yourself that is an absolute fact, you can't escape from it, you can't escape from it. You can't escape from a fact, it is always there. You might try to avoid it, you might try to suppress it, do every kind of but it is always there. Right? And if you give complete attention to the fact, the fact is not - psychologically. You understand?
So the content of our consciousness is the movement of thought, time and space. Whether that space is very limited, or wide, extensive, it is still a movement of time, space, thought. As we pointed out together, pleasure (Sound of aeroplane) It is behind the other mountain. I hope you have observed something: the extraordinary mechanical power of that instrument - right? - the tremendous power. And thought has created it. Thought has created different forms of power in ourselves but they are all limited. And when there is freedom from this limitation there is an astonishing sense of power, not mechanical power, a tremendous sense of energy, much more than that. It has nothing to do with thought and therefore that power, that energy cannot be misused. But if thought says, 'I will use it', then that power, that energy is dissipated. Right?
We have got five minutes more left. We must also discuss, talk over together the other factor which exists in our consciousness, which is sorrow, grief, pain and the wound, the hurts that exist in most human beings from childhood. The hurt, from that hurt, psychological hurt, the pain of it, the remembrance of it, the holding on to it, and the grief that arises from it, and also there is sorrow involved in it; and also there is the global sorrow of mankind which has faced thousands and thousands of wars, millions and millions of people have cried. And this war machine is still going on, directed by the politicians, by our nationalism, by our feeling that we are separate from the rest, 'we and they', 'you and me'. That is a global sorrow which the politicians are building, building, building. And we are ready for another war - I hope there won't be, but when you are preparing for something there must be some kind of explosion somewhere. It may not be in the Middle East, it may happen here, as long as you are preparing for something you are going to get it - like preparing food. But we are so - if I may use the word without disrespect - we are so stupid to allow all this to go on: terrorism - you know, the whole of it.
So, we are asking - perhaps we shall continue with it the day after tomorrow - we are asking whether this whole pattern of being hurt, lonely, pain, resistance, withdrawal, isolation, which causes further pain, grief, sorrow of my son's death, sorrow of losing something, losing some precious belief that I have held, the disillusionment that comes when I have followed somebody, one has given one's life, one's endeavour, struggled for somebody, surrendered oneself to something, and then get disillusioned and from that, pain, anxiety, uncertainty, sorrow. You have noticed all this? That is the pattern of our consciousness. When one asks: is it possible ever - ever to be free of all this? It is possible if we apply, not endlessly talk about it. If I realise that I am hurt from childhood, psychologically and see all the consequences of that hurt. The consequences are I resist, I withdraw, I don't want to be hurt anymore, I encourage isolation and therefore I am building a wall round myself; and my wife also is hurt and she is doing the same thing. Right? I don't know if you realise all these things. So that is, the consequences of being hurt from childhood are pain, resistance, withdrawal, isolation, more and more, deeper and deeper fear. And the global sorrow of mankind - I don't know if you have ever thought about it even. How man, human being, has been tortured through wars, tortured under dictatorship, Totalitarianism, tortured in different parts of the world. And also there is the sorrow of my brother, son, wife, running away, or dying, and the sorrow of separation, the sorrow that comes about when one is interested in something completely and the other is not - you are following? In this sorrow there is no compassion, there is no love. And the ending of sorrow brings love, not pleasure, not desire, love. And where there is love there is compassion. With compassion comes intelligence, which has nothing whatever to do with the intelligence of thought.
So one has to look very closely at ourselves as humanity, why we have borne all these things all our lives, why we have never ended it. Is it part of our indolence, part of our habit? And if you say, 'It is part of our habit, part of our conditioning. What am I to do about it? Let's talk about it. How am I to uncondition myself?' - keep at it. That is what we are all doing. 'I can't find the answer, I will go to the guru next door' - or further away, or the priest, or this or that. We never say: look, let me look at myself closely and see if I can break through it, like any habit. If you have a habit of smoking, it can be broken very easily, or drugs, alcohol. But you see, we say what does it matter. I am getting old anyhow, the body is destroying itself, so a little more pleasure, what does it matter? So we carry on. We don't feel utterly responsible for all the things we do. We either blame it on the environment, on society, on our parents, on the past, heredity, it is genetic - some excuse but never applying. And if one really has the urge, the immediate urge to find out why I am hurt, why one is hurt. One is hurt because one has built an image about oneself. That is a fact. When you say, 'I am hurt' - it is the image that you have about yourself. Somebody comes along and puts his heavy boot on that image and you get hurt. Right? You get hurt through comparison: I am this but somebody else is better. As long as one has an image about oneself you are going to get hurt. That is a fact. But if you pay attention to that fact that as long as you have an image of any kind somebody is going to put a pin into it. As long as I have an image about myself, because I address lots of people, a big audience, becoming stupidly famous in the world and all that rot that goes on with reputation, and I want to maintain that, you are going to hurt it. Somebody has a bigger audience - you follow? So I get hurt. So as long as there is comparison, as long as there is (Sound of train) Oh, this train! So if you give complete attention to the image that you have about yourself - attention, not concentration, give attention, then you will see the image has no meaning, it disappears. Right, we will stop. We will continue the day after tomorrow.