Can the brain ever be free from the known?
Can the brain ever be free from knowledge?
6th Public Talk, Madras
January 11, 1981
This is the last talk, so cheer up!
There are many things to talk over together this evening and I hope we shall have time for it. We haven't talked about freedom, about the whole sensory activity which is centred in the brain. We have not talked about the ending of fear and the pursuing of pleasure, and the ending of sorrow, and what it is - that word which has been so spoilt, love, and also a mind that is religious, death, and again that much abused word, meditation. We have got a lot of ground to cover, and I hope we can do it by both of us thinking over, talking over together - not merely listening to the speaker.
We began by saying yesterday, also in the previous talks, that there must be freedom from the known; and we are going to enquire together first what do we mean by freedom. Whether man really wants freedom at all. Many volumes have been written about freedom, various revolutions that have been started to bring about freedom to man, ending up in terrible bureaucracy and so on. And also whether on earth, here, living this life of conflict and misery and confusion, we can ever have freedom. We think freedom exists when we have choice, to move from place to place, from job to job, from one career to another. That gives us the impression that we are free, free to choose, freewill, and so on. And we should really enquire together what is freedom, how vital it is in our life, whether we demand freedom, and when there is such disorder created not only in this part of the world but elsewhere, each individual, each person thinking he is free to do what he likes and so bringing about a great deal of disorder, chaos.
So one must, if we will, if we could together, enquire what is freedom. And also we will enquire into what is if it is at all possible to be free from the known. Is freedom associated with a restriction, with a bondage, with a concept, with suffering? Is there a freedom totally independent, not associated with any cause or with any motive, is there a freedom that is so complete, total? We only know freedom in a prison. Being imprisoned in a family, with all the troubles of a family, being in a great deal of trouble, problems, one after another, and man is always saying to himself, 'I must be free from all this'. So his idea of freedom is, from something: from restraint, from pain, both physical and psychological, freedom from anxiety and so on, so on. Is not such freedom a reaction? If I am caught in a great deal of trouble, I want to be free of it, and that freedom is an escape or a reaction from the trouble I am in. And for most of us that is the kind of freedom we want - from something. Or, being in something, having freedom there. Like a man in a prison, he is free in the prison - if you call that freedom.
So is there a freedom which is totally unrelated, which is absolute - we are using the word 'absolute' in the sense absolved, free from any causation, from any motive. And is it possible for a brain, for a human mind, the immense struggle, the conflicts, the miseries, the loneliness, can there be a freedom from all this, so completely away from this? And being so free, able to act rightly in the world. We are going to enquire into all that presently.
And also, as we pointed out a few days ago, and also yesterday, can the brain ever be free from knowledge, which is the process of recording. Right? When there is recording, any incident, experience, any accident and so on, a word may be recorded, a word loaded with insult or flattery, a gesture, a look, all that is being recorded, and that becomes knowledge: the known. And then the brain functions always within the known. That is what we are doing. And can there be freedom in the field of the known? I don't know if I am making myself, if one is clear. Shall we go on with all this?
We carry a great burden of knowledge, of hurts, of insults, of various emotional psychological reactions, various forms of experiences with their knowledge. Our brain is burdened with all that, not only the academic knowledge, the knowledge which we acquire through mathematics and so on, but also the whole psychological world which is loaded with knowledge, the known. And as long as thought is working in that field, can there be freedom? And is freedom from the known - you understand when we use the word 'known', all the psychological knowledge that one has acquired, all the various forms of emotional, intellectual gatherings which have become our knowledge, stored up in the brain, and as long as our action is limited to that, can there ever be freedom? I don't know if I am conveying this at all.
After all we are always enquiring seriously, if we are at all serious, whether the past - the past, which is the accumulated knowledge of mankind, which guides us, shapes us, which brings about action that's always limited, and therefore being limited such action will invariably cause conflict, misery, confusion and so on - one is always asking if it is possible to be free of the known, both the psychological known and the gatherings that one has accumulated through experience. I wonder if we are meeting each other. Are we? Please, as we said from the beginning of these talks, we are exploring together, examining together. This is real co-operation in which there is no instruction, in which there is no passing of information, ideas. We are both of us looking into the problem, which is: can the brain ever be free from the known, except in the technological world? You understand? That is, the knowledge how to read and write, how to speak a language, when you become an engineer you have accumulated a great deal of knowledge about mathematics, stress and strain, if you are a physicist you have acquired knowledge through two or three hundred years of experimentation, hypothesis and so on. There you need knowledge. One needs knowledge to talk in English, or whatever language one has. We are not talking of such knowledge. We are talking about the psychological knowledge which we have gathered. Can the brain ever be free of that? If it is not, we are always living in a very, very, very narrow circle. Our actions will invariably be limited, fragmented. Our actions will never be whole.
So in asking this question we are also asking what is right action. Is there right action ever? Or must action always be limited? When we use the word 'right', one means whole, complete, not fragmented. That is, an action that is whole. Our action is based on thought - thought being, as we pointed out, the accretion, the gathering of experience, knowledge, memory, and thought and action. This is how our brains work. And thought being limited, because knowledge is always limited, such action, born of thought, must always be incomplete, therefore fragmentary and bringing about division and conflict. Right? I think this is fairly clear.
Then what is right action? An action which is right under all circumstances, whether it is in the narrow limitations of the family, or social action, action in relationship and so on, what is right action? Can that right action take place when there is the operation of thought? You understand? I'll go into it a little bit. As we pointed out yesterday, the computer can do almost anything we do, but the difference between the computer and the human being is, basically, freedom from the known; the computer can never be free in the sense it has been programmed, it has accumulated a lot of knowledge, programmed by human beings. So. Man has the capacity to be totally free. And the computer is not intelligent. So what is the difference between the computer and the human mind? Is it intelligence? Then what is intelligence? You are following all this? What is intelligence? Is intelligence the capacity of the intellect, which can discern, reason, logically or not logically, objectively, perhaps occasionally sanely? Has the intellect the capacity of intelligence, or is intelligence something entirely different? You are following all this? Is intelligence a matter of time? Please, time being accumulating knowledge, cleverness, capacity to think, and thought has its own activity which may be called intelligence, and is that intelligence?
So what is intelligence? Are you waiting for the speaker to tell you? When you see a danger, a physical danger there is immediate response. Right? That response has been the result of previous conditioning. When you see a snake, a cobra, there is instant response. And that response is the outcome of long tradition, but also the instinct to preserve the physical condition, that is self-preservation. That can also be called intelligence. But when we see psychological danger - right? - we don't act instantly. For example, attachment, as we pointed out on several occasions, is corruption - attachment to belief, to an idea, to a concept, to a conclusion, attachment to a particular deity, attachment to husband, wife, child, you know, attachment. One sees the danger of it, if one is alert, awake, see what are the consequences of attachment, and yet we go on. We can explain, argue, investigate, analyse, but that analysis, investigation, has very little value. So why is it the human brain does not act instantly and reject attachment altogether? You follow what I am saying? The physical danger and psychological danger. Is that not lack of intelligence. I don't know if you are following my
So perception of psychological conflicts brought about through selfishness, see the danger of it, see what it does in our personal as well as public relationship, see what is happening in the world, see the consequences of all that, and yet we don't stop it. Is that a state of neuroticism? - and therefore it is not intelligent.
And also we must investigate much more deeply the question of intelligence. As we said, the computer can do almost anything that we do. And what is the difference between the computer and our brain? Then one is asking what is intelligence. If intelligence is immediate perception of danger and action, then we are unintelligent. Right? I don't know if you follow.
So time as a factor of the resolution of any problem is an act of unintelligence. And we are talking about psychological problems. Our minds - our brain is trained to solving mechanical problems. It hasn't faced the problem of our daily living and resolving it, like conflict, not only within ourselves but around us. We see the consequences of conflict, ultimately leading to war, and yet we don't act. Therefore perception, which is seeing, comprehension of the whole, movement of attachment for example, and seeing the danger of it and ending it instantly, such action is intelligence. Right?
So our psychological structure, which is far more important than the government laws, the superficial structures of establishment, organisations, all that, is overcome by our psychological demands. Man has the capacity to have this intelligence, to have an insight into something and acting instantly. Can we do that? Is it possible for us to do that? Right? Which means, you see the nature of fear, how fear arises. Shall we go into that?
All right sir, let's go through it. In analysing - sorry, I won't use that word - in examining, which is different from analysing, in - now, let's be clear. Analysis implies there is an analyser and something to be analysed. Right? I analyse my reactions. I analyse why I get hurt, which means the analyser is different from that which he is analysing. We are not analysing, we are merely observing, which is entirely different. Observing the movement of fear. Please we are not dividing ourselves into examiner and the examined, the thinker and the thought, but examining, looking, observing, what is fear. Right? Which is entirely different from the analysis of fear. Right? I wonder, can we go on from there?
What is fear, which man throughout the ages has been born with, burdened with? There are physical fears, which are natural, as we pointed out, when you meet a cobra, but we are talking of psychological fears, how they arise, why we haven't at all ended them, why the brain is not free of psychological fears. And is it possible to be totally free of fear, psychologically? Is fear a movement of time? Right? Time being the future, the present and the past, the past modifying itself in the present and going on. That is, fear of being hurt psychologically. Right? And keeping that hurt, holding on to it, and building a wall of resistance round oneself not to be hurt any more and therefore isolating oneself more and more and more, and so getting more and more hurt. Now we are asking, that fear is caused by time. Right? I don't know if you understand - or by thought. I am afraid I might lose my job, though I have a job I might lose it. That is the future, which is time. Or I have had pain, psychologically, it might be repeated and I am afraid that it might come again. You follow? So is thought the cause of fear? And thought is time. Thought is a material process, and time is also a material process. I wonder if you follow all this. Right sir?
So if thought is the movement of fear, then the problem is, can thought end, or not record the hurt? You have understood? I wonder. Right sir? The brain has recorded the hurt, the hurt is brought about because I have an image about myself and you come and tread on it and I get hurt. I, being the image which I have created about myself - right? - and that image gets hurt. Now not to record that hurt, which means not to have an image about myself at all. I wonder if you are are we moving together in this? Not accepting the explanation but ending the image you have about yourself. Right?
So fear is a movement of thought as time. It is not, how to stop thought, but it is rather, not to record. I wonder if you see. Is that possible? Because our reactions are so quick. You call somebody an idiot, there is immediate response from him. So can the brain record what is absolutely necessary to live in this world, but not record at all psychologically? You understand? Please understand the question first. We must record technological knowledge, how to drive a car, the language we use and so on, so on, so on. But why should we, why should the psychological world, that is my image and all that, record at all? If we see the importance, or the necessity, or the danger of recording, and you don't act on that danger, you are either neurotic, or totally unintelligent. That is, most of us are vain, proud about some footling thing or other - about our knowledge, our position, our capacity to argue - you know, pride, pride of possession. Now can that pride which creates such extraordinary conflict between people, it is a form of ruthlessness, can that end? Which doesn't mean that we cultivate humility. You cannot cultivate humility, if you do, that is vanity. But to see that pride, the sense of - you know what pride is, I don't have to go into it. You see all the implications of it, at one glance, which is fairly simple, and end it instantly. In the same way, fear, so that the brain, the psychological structure which is centred in the brain through sensations, that instant action frees the brain from the continuance of fear. I don't know if you are following all this. Are we meeting each other? Are we?
Now wait a minute, we can test this out. Are you free of fear? Fear of public opinion, fear of your parents, fear of your father, your husband, wife, fear of so many things. Which is, will you trim the tree of fear, or go to the very root of fear? Fear of not following your guru. You understand? Fear of your gods, fear of not doing the right thing, becoming respectable. You understand? Will you take one branch after another branch, or go to the very root of all fear, which is time and thought? Now can we see that, not an abstraction of it as an idea - please, do listen to this - not as an idea but see the fact of it, the actuality of it. Then seeing the actuality, remain with that actuality. You understand what I'm saying? Not escaping from it, not suppressing it, not trying to overcome it, just like watching a rock. Have you ever watched a rock, a boulder on the hill side? It doesn't move - though it has its own vitality and so on, that's a different matter - it doesn't move; so in that same way watch. Observe the whole movement of fear, watch it without any sense of deviation. Then one will find that fear goes away completely - psychologically.
Or to put it round the other way, you have physical pain - dentist or various forms of physical pain - that pain is recorded, and from that record there is fear that it might occur again. Now when you have pain, watch it, observe it, don't say, 'I must detach myself', just watch the pain, and as you watch it, alert - you are following? - not just saying 'I am in awful pain' and all the rest of it - watch pain and it won't be recorded if you are watchful.
So fear, which is the movement of thought and time, which is essentially thought, time is thought, it's a movement. Right? Time is movement, thought is movement. And thought is the origin of pain, of fear. Now pleasure is the movement of thought also. The pleasure that you derive sexually, the imagination and all the rest of it, it is the movement of thought, at the moment of pleasure you are not aware that it is pleasure. I don't know if you have watched it, all this. Only a little later thought says, how lovely that was. So thought, not only brings, gives continuance to fear but also to pleasure.
Now, there is the other question, which is, suffering. I must go on. Suffering. Man has suffered, you can see it right through the ages, war after war, killing, how many mothers and wives and parents have cried and cried. Suffering. And suffering when you lose something, grief, when one loses a son, a daughter, death. And all human beings know this, whatever part of the world they live, this is a common factor: fear, pleasure, sorrow. And human beings have not been able to solve this, end sorrow. What is sorrow? Why do human beings go through tortures? And because they suffer, because they fear, because they are pursuing pleasure they invent gods. Right? Because we have not been able to solve it, these things, therefore some outside agency, we hope somehow, by some great miracle, or this or that, will solve our problems, this problem. And it has never been solved because the gods we have created - we have created the gods in our image, god hasn't created in his image us, if he has, he is a pretty poor god! No, don't laugh sir, you are going to your temple next week, fast for forty days to go to some hill.
So fear is at the bottom of all this. Fear, which means you want security, and you hope gods will give it to you, and you jolly well know they can't. So you become a hypocrite, you lead a double life, which is lack of utter integrity.
So what is suffering? Why, if I lose my son, my wife, my job, lose something in which I want to fulfil - this craze to fulfil, fulfil what? Your desires, your ambitions. Right? So when we talk about grief, why do human beings, why do you, we human beings, human beings who are the representative of all mankind - we went into that. We are mankind, we are not individuals, we talked about it the other day - why we have carried this burden. Is it a form of self-pity, not being able to face loneliness, not being able to stand alone, not having capacity to look at things clearly and not get emotional about everything that we do? You understand? I lose my son, my brother, and I shed tears, why? I am attached to my son because I hope he will be better than me, you know all that stuff. I am attached to him. In that attachment I have found comfort, I have found a sense of deep relationship, I have found a sense of not being isolated. But I am isolated, so I am trying to escape from that isolation, that desperate loneliness. I can give many, many reasons for sorrow but the explanation, the cause will not dissolve your sorrow. What will dissolve it is to see what actually is taking place - not intellectually, not verbally, but with your heart look at things.
Without the ending of sorrow one cannot have love. Love is not pleasure, love is not desire. And without love life becomes what it has. Right? Then you will say, 'How am I to cultivate love?', or 'How am I to have that?' To come upon that is a benediction which you cannot do anything about. All that you can do is to say what is not love - your jealousy, your attachments, your ambitions, your greed, your beliefs, this self-centred activity. If all that is not, the other is. But we don't want to be free of all that. We want all that plus the other. Right?
And another question is death, of which you are all frightened. This is really a very important question to go into, whether we are young or old, what is death. When there is love is there death? Find out, sirs. Let's go into it. First of all, our consciousness is the common consciousness of mankind. Our consciousness is our beliefs, our dogmas, our superstitions, our pains, our sorrows, our fears, our gods, all the things that we have accumulated as knowledge, the experiences, the agony, the depression, the anxiety, the isolation, the loneliness, the sense of deep sorrow, not only personal sorrow but the sorrow of mankind: war after war, war after war, the sorrow of divided nations - the Arab and the Jew, the Hindu and the Muslim, the communist and the capitalist and so on, so on, so on. All that is part of our consciousness. Right? That is our consciousness. It is the consciousness of mankind, not your consciousness or mine, or his, because we all have innumerable problems, we all seek certainty, we all want security, a place where we can be psychologically safe, undisturbed. This is the common lot of mankind, whether they live in Russia, China, America, or here. So our consciousness is the consciousness of the human, yours, it is not your consciousness. We can go into it. It is so. There is no question. We can discuss endlessly to prove this, but it is so because you suffer, the man across the street suffers, whether that 'across the street' be a thousand miles or many, many miles, he suffers, so there is a common factor. You may have a different colour, different name, different profession, different tendencies, different culture, your genes have inherited certain things, but basically this is what we are.
And then what is it to die? You understand my question? We think our consciousness is mine, because the brain has been conditioned to think as though I was separate from everybody, and that separation as 'me', has been cultivated by religions: personal salvation, personal enlightenment. The Christian world, the Hindu world, everywhere this goes on, this is encouraged. And we accept it, because we think there is great delight in being separate. Are we actually? We are, physically, with all its physical tendencies, because we have been placed under a certain culture, hot climate, hot food, or this or that, but underneath we are all so much similar. And when we say, 'What happens to me when I die?', it is a wrong question. Because we think that we are individuals, that is the question we put: what will happen to me when I die. And so you want comfort in a belief of reincarnation, or this or that, but when you see the fact, the fact that we are so alike deeply, with so little affection, care, compassion. So death has no meaning when one realises the fact that we are all total human being. One hasn't time to go into this much more deeply. That's enough for the time.
The other question is meditation. Meditation is unpremeditated art. Have you got it? Am I right? I said, meditation is unpremeditated art. You can't prepare for meditation. There is no system, no method. The system, the method is premeditated. Somebody has thought he has meditated, invented a system, and we follow that, hoping to get something. So one has to find out what it is - unpremeditated art, which is meditation. You understand sirs? I'll go into it.
First of all we can banish all the systems, all the methods, the postures, the breathing, forcing the mind, thought, to be controlled and so on, so on. The controller is the controlled. Right? Thought creates the controller and then the controller says, 'I must control thought in order to meditate', or rather, to meditate, which is so obviously silly. So systems, methods, the idea of controlling thought, or thought identifying itself with something, a picture, an image, a symbol, and concentrating on that. I don't know if you are following all this. And there is this nonsensical transcendental meditation, which is really a glorified racket, a moneymaking racket. I know you won't like, some of you who have probably done this. You pay to somebody ten rupees, or ten thousand rupees, and if you get it straight from the 'horse's mouth' you pay all your income, and he gives you a mantra. I have been told a mantra means, the root meaning and the depth of that word means ponder, consider, meditate upon not becoming, and absolve, dissolve all self-centred activity. That's what that word apparently means. But look what it has become. You can repeat without going through, giving off somebody money to tell you the mantra, you can invent your own mantra - Coca-Cola (laughter), yes, yes, sir, don't laugh, you are all doing it. Or any other catchword, repeat it for twenty minutes in the morning, twenty minutes in the afternoon, twenty minutes in the evening, and the rest of the day you can do all the mischief you want, take a siesta. You understand, a siesta, what it means? Twenty minutes rest, go to sleep, put your brain to sleep, by repeating, repeating, repeating, in the afternoon, so on, so on. So that is not meditation.
So we are going to find out what is meditation, if you are really interested to find out. Not how to meditate - what is the depth and the beauty and the reality and the immense possibility of meditation. The word means, ponder, to think over, be concerned - the dictionary meaning of that word. But the word is not the thing. Right? The word 'meditation' is not meditation. And why should one meditate at all? Is meditation separate from life, that is, our daily living: the office, the family, the sex, the pursuit of ambition - daily life, is that separate from meditation? Or is meditation part of life? You understand? You understand my question? Part of life. If it is separate and you meditate in order to live a better life, in order to be better - you follow? - then you are imposing certain concepts on actuality, certain experience of others - essentially of others - on what you think should happen. Now if you can deny all that - you understand? Please this is very serious, what we are talking about. Unless you are really very serious to go into it, don't play with it. It is to deny everything that man has thought about meditation: about silence, about truth, about eternity, whether there is a timeless state and so on. To be free of other people's knowledge completely, and that goes very, very far. That is, to deny your gods, your sacred books, your tradition, your beliefs, everything wiped away because you understand they are the result of thought. Which means you are totally psychologically not dependent on anything. Which means you are free of fear, no longer touched by sorrow, which doesn't mean that you become hard, bitter, cruel.
And without love and compassion there is no meditation. So life, living every day in this world, which is corrupt beyond words, which is immoral, destructive, without any sense, a lack of integrity, living in that in this world, surrounded by all this, to have that sense of total freedom, which is absolute freedom, because you have denied everything that man has thought out, except the technological world - I don't have to repeat that over and over again. Because then you enter into quite a different dimension which is the mind - not, you enter - there is the mind. The mind is entirely different from the brain. And that mind cannot be understood or known, or perceived unless the brain with all its sensory responses is understood. That is, to see something, see the seed, the sea, that sheet of water, or anything of nature, with all your senses, with all your senses, not merely with your eyes, or hear one thing, with all your senses. When you perceive with all your senses there is no recording, there is no 'I'. It's only when we perceive something partially, then the partial thing creates the 'me', which is partial.
So when the brain is totally free from all accumulated psychological knowledge, then there is the mind. I won't go into that, then that becomes a theory. You understand? Unless one has done all this actually - you can test it out, you can see it in your daily life - if that is not tested out in daily life, it is not worth it. So when there is this absolute denial of all the psychological accumulation then the brain becomes very quiet. It hasn't to be induced to be quiet. Then illumination is not an experience. Illumination means to see things clearly as they are, and to go beyond them.
And in our lives there is very little beauty, not the beauty of form, actual beauty in our life. And that beauty cannot exist without love. And when there is love and compassion, it has its own intelligence. That intelligence acts, which is whole, which is right action. All this is meditation. And there is immense beauty in it, a great sense of aesthetic appreciation in the perception of the world. And in that there is great benediction, not from your gods, but the benediction of living a life which is whole.