Can the brain renew itself?
Can the brain be free of all pressure?
6th Public Talk, Madras
January 08, 1978
I am not casting a spell, I'm just looking around!
I believe this is the last talk, at least for the time being. As we said the other day, this is not an entertainment, an intellectual game that we are playing with each other or a theoretical investigation into ourselves or into some philosophical outlook or ideas. We are here, if I may point out, for a very serious purpose. We are concerned with the transformation, psychologically, inwardly of human beings. We human beings have created this monstrous world, almost insane, destructive, violent. Unless our consciousness undergoes a radical transformation psychologically, really, there is no hope for man, obviously. So, it's a serious thing that we are talking about. It's a serious thing to take a journey together into this whole problem of our daily existence and see if it is possible to transform, to bring about a radical, psychological revolution in the very structure of our thinking, of our acting, of our behaviour and our outlook. That's what we are concerned with, not with some superstition, not some philosophical ideas or some hypothetical examination, but actually we are concerned with our own lives, understanding our lives, our daily miserable, conflicting, unhappy lives, almost criminal lives and see if we cannot possibly bring about a deep, abiding transformation in ourselves.
We said we are the world and the world is us. You, as a human being represent the entire humanity. You, because wherever one goes, unfortunately, one meets these human problems of suffering, utter lack of love, confusion, sorrow and everlasting conflict within and without. Wherever you go, this is taking place, in every human being and so this is the common factor and therefore you are, if I may point out most seriously, that you are the world and the world is you. You are the representative of all humanity - past and present. I do not know how you receive such statement; whether you translate into an idea and therefore pursue that idea logically, illogically, opposing one idea by another; or you see the fact of it, the truth of it, have an insight into it, therefore you become totally responsible; not as an individual opposed to a community, but as a human being without labels, without particular idiosyncrasies and so on, which we have talked about yesterday.
So together, the speaker and you, are going to explore the problem of whether the brain, our human brain which has been so damaged, so deformed, so distorted through constant pressure of propaganda, of our culture, by our ambitions, by our grief, anxiety, fears and also by our pleasures. There has been constant pressure on the brain. That's a fact. And when there is pressure on the brain, there must be a distortion, unless the brain has the capacity to renew itself, come back to itself after the pressure is over, which very few people are capable. So, we are going to, first, examine a little bit though we have talked about it at the beginning of the talks.
We said - nice evening, isn't it? I hope you look at the skies sometime, the beauty of the trees, and the light and the sparkling waters and enjoy it. There is a great deal of difference between enjoyment and pleasure. When you enjoy a thing you are at the moment delighted with it, with the beauty of a leaf, with the beauty of a face, with the curve of a branch, but looking at it, having registered it, then you want to pursue that, then it becomes pleasure. And joy is something entirely different from pleasure. Pleasure can be cultivated, pursued, run after, hunted, but joy you cannot hunt or pursue. It happens. But unfortunately when it happens thought comes along and says 'I must have more of it'. Then it becomes pleasure. So, I hope you look at these trees and have a delight in them.
We were saying the other day that there is an art of listening, the art of observation, seeing, and the art of learning. Please, understand this. This is very important, because, perhaps through this art of listening, observing, learning, the pressure on the brain may never be felt at all, so that the brain remains pristine, pliable, young, fresh, innocent. Because only a mind that is innocent can see the truth, not a complicated mind, not an intellectual mind that's concerned with theories, impracticalities and all that. So through the understanding of what is the art of listening, the art of seeing, the art of learning, if we can capture the full significance of these three arts, then when pressures occur on the brain, such as ambition is a pressure, violence or resistance, anger, propaganda, tradition, all these are tremendous pressures on the brain and therefore a brain that lives in this pressure must inevitably be distorted, deformed and damaged. So we are saying that by understanding the art of listening, the art of seeing, observing and the art of learning, then that pressure on the brain can be understood and not be affected.
This is, please, a serious affair, not a matter of agreement or disagreement, quoting one authority against another authority, but we are investigating, exploring together, sharing together, this question which is of tremendous importance. Because our brains, if you have gone into it yourself, not that the speaker is a specialist in the structure of the brain, but one can observe the effect of various forms of pressure on the brain. By observing oneself one can see it. The extreme pressure leads to neuroticism and probably most people who are deeply deformed, their brains deeply deformed, are neurotic; like most traditionalists are neurotic. Do you understand all this? Understanding verbally is one thing and having an insight into the fact is another. The insight brings about transformation but mere agreement with words has very little effect; none at all. So, please, together we are investigating into a very complex problem which is essentially meditation. Because a brain that is damaged can be caught and is caught in illusion and it may meditate for ten thousand years, it will not find truth. So it's very important to understand whether it is possible for a brain that has been damaged, to make it bring about its original quality of freshness, clarity, a brain that's capable of instant decision, not based on logic, reason. Reason, logic, thought, has a certain value but it's limited.
So, what we are doing now is together go into this question whether you are aware for yourself, whether you are a lawyer, engineer, scientist, physicist, businessman or just an ordinary man going to the office everyday, whether you are not under great pressure in the family, outside the family; whether you are aware of this pressure; that is, to be cognisant of it, to be conscious of it, to know for yourself not because the speaker points it out but to know for yourself that whether your conscious thinking is not the result of various pressures and therefore that thinking is the outcome of a distorted brain. So, please look at it for yourself and find out.
Then the problem arises, whether it is possible to bring the brain to its original condition, undamaged, not distorted, and therefore able to function freely. If you have gone into this question, at least some of you I hope have gone into it, not just repeat, repeat, repeat, but if you have gone into it, the question must inevitably arise, whether it is possible for a human being to remove this pressure, this weight, and be free. Then the question is: what is one to do? You understand my question? If you are concerned, then what are you, as a human being who is a representative of all humanity, whose consciousness is the consciousness of the entire human race, and that consciousness is damaged when you call yourself a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Christian, dividing itself and fighting everlastingly.
So, we are asking, is it possible? We say it is possible only when you understand or learn the art of listening, how to listen. When you listen and when there is resistance to what is being said, that resistance is the outcome of your pressure. You don't listen. Not that you must accept, nor must you reject but just to listen without resistance, without translating what is said into what you would like it to be. So to learn the art of listening. I think if you know that, the thing is very simple, it's almost over. Because there is a great miracle in listening. Because in that, if there is no interpretation of what you are hearing or make an abstraction of what you are hearing or turn it into an idea and pursue that idea, then you are off the mark entirely. But if you listen with your heart, with care, with attention, with affection, then that very listening is like a flowering. There is beauty in that listening. Because as we said the other day, art means to put everything in its right place. In the same way, to observe, to observe the world as it is, the outer world, with all the misery, poverty, degradation, vulgarity, the brutality and the appalling things that are going on in the scientific world, in the technological world, in the world of religious organisations, the crookedness, the ambition, money, money, money and power. To observe all this without bringing your personal condemnation or acceptance or denial, just to observe it. Have you ever observed a cloud? Have you? A cloud of an evening is full of light and colour, great beauty. Just to observe it without verbalising it, without wanting to see the beauty, just to observe. And then from the outer to observe equally that which is going on inwardly with your thoughts, your ambition, your greed, your envy, your violence, your vulgarity, your sexuality, all that - just to observe. And then you will see, if you so observe, that thing flowers; your greed flowers and dies, there is an end to it. You are never greedy again because the flower is dead, withered, because you have let it come out and die naturally.
And also to learn the art of learning. Learning implies generally for most of us, accumulation of knowledge stored up in the brain like a computer and act according to that knowledge: that's what we call learning. That is generally accepted, the meaning of the word is generally that, but we are introducing something entirely different which is to learn without accumulation. That is, just wait. I'll show it to you now. I said to learn without accumulation; to learn means to have an insight into the fact. Now, insight implies grasping the full significance of, say for instance, your greed, grasping the full nature and the structure of greed, having an insight into it, a comprehension, a total comprehension of that reaction called greed. When you have an insight there is no need to learn. You are beyond it. I wonder - I won't even ask whether you understand. I'm going on. Because it's very important to understand these three, because then if you have really captured the full significance of these three, then the pressure on the brain can be understood and removed as you go along.
And pressure exists on the brain when there is no space in the brain. I hope we are communicating with each other and that I'm not talking to myself. Everything exists in space: the trees, the fish, the clouds, the stars, the birds and the human beings. They must have some space to live. And as more and more the world is getting over-populated, space is becoming rather limited. That's an obvious fact. And so that may be one of the factors of violence, that human beings, not having enough space, living in a city, in a town, and this pressure is one of the factors of violence. Leave that for the moment.
And inwardly, we have hardly any space at all. Right? I wonder if you see? That is, our brains are so occupied, our minds are so concerned with ourselves, with our progress, with our status, with our power, with our money, with our sex, with our anxiety, with our - we are so occupied, the very occupation prevents space. The people may be occupied with meditation. They say, 'Do please come to that quickly, talk about it, not all about all this'. And your brain, your mind is occupied to find out how to meditate. You are occupied with it. As a women is occupied in the kitchen with her utensils, food and all the rest of it, so your brain is occupied. If you are a lawyer your brain is occupied, concerned with all the law and so on, so on, engineers. All our world, inner world, inside, psychologically is in a state of constant occupation with something or other. Right? So there is no space and because there is no space the pressure of occupation becomes greater and greater and greater. Does all this mean anything to you? Like those people who have taken drugs for a short period or a long period, their brains are affected, obviously. If you drink alcohol a great deal, naturally the brain is damaged. In the same way, any human being who is completely occupied with something or other, whether the most sublime ideas or with sexuality, that occupation prevents space and therefore the brain becomes more and more damaged. You can see this for yourself. The word 'leisure', rather the word 'school' comes from the word 'leisure'. It's only when you have leisure that you can learn. Right? But when the brain or the mind is so occupied you have no leisure therefore you can never learn anything new.
So, that's one of the problems of meditation: whether the mind - I am using the word 'mind' to indicate the brain, consciousness with all its content, all that is the mind. I am using specially that word. I may be wrong but I am using that word to communicate with you what I mean by the word 'mind' - the mind that's capable of reason, logic, sanity, a brain that can react; a consciousness with all its content of greed, envy, brutality, violence, ugliness, affection, all that, the whole structure of all this is the mind. So, we are saying when the mind is so occupied, as most peoples minds are, there is no space. No fresh air can come into it and therefore the damage on to the brain through pressure becomes greater and greater and greater. Right? So, that's one of the problems of meditation: whether the mind, the brain, the consciousness can be free of all pressure, which means a mind that is free. That's one thing.
We are investigating, please bear in mind what we are doing, we are investigating into what is meditation, not how to meditate. That's the most silliest question you can possibly ask - tell me how to meditate. That means you want a system, a system of meditation. The word 'system' implies perceiving the whole by collecting the parts; a system of railways, the system of political parties like the system of communism, socialism, capitalism. All that implies a state of staticism. System goes with the word 'static'. So, when you say 'teach me or teach us or help us to understand or to meditate', you want a system which will help you to meditate. System implies also 'stare', 'to stand', not move. For the speaker, there is no system of meditation. Because you can practise, practise, practise, like a man who practises the piano, the wrong note all the time, and that's what you are doing. So, we are asking, looking into this question of meditation, that the mind must be totally free from any pressure, which means no pressure of will. Please, this becomes rather difficult and I hope you don't mind if I go into it very deeply. Because in meditation the act of will has come totally to an end. Will is the essence of desire, heightened form of desire. Desire we've gone into. I won't repeat that, we haven't time. So it is the heightened form of desire - will. And we act all our lives through will. 'I will do this, I must not do that, I will become something great'. The very essence of will is ambition, violence. Right? Is it possible to act in daily life without the act of will? Which means, without control, which doesn't mean you act without control, but to understand the significance of will and control.
For most of us, all our life we are trained, educated, cultivated, conditioned to control; control your anger, control your sexuality, control your whatever you are controlling. You have never enquired into who is the controller. And if you say who is the controller, you will say it is the higher self, but is it? The controller is put together by thought. Right? It's the permanent centre or rather semi-permanent centre, a centre which thought has created as the controller who knows a great deal, who has experienced a great deal; therefore he is much more wise and so on. So that controller controls all our action and we are questioning the controller itself, whether he is not also a part of thought. Therefore, if he is a part of thought, which he is, when you go into it, the contradiction between the controller and the controlled comes to an end. I'm not going to ask if you understand. I don't care if you understand. You must travel together, you must give your heart to all this, not just listen, listen. You are used to being lectured to, talked at, we are not doing that. We are investigating together happily, easily, with some care, affection and then you will begin to see this for yourself.
So, is it possible to act in life, in daily life, without will, without control? See the significance of that question, when specially you have been educated to control. You will say 'If I have no control, I will do everything I want to do. The world will become more chaotic than it is'. Perhaps the world is more chaotic as it is because it has learnt to control. So you must go into this question. And the controller is the essence of desire, varying from time to time. Therefore there is always conflict between the controller and the controlled. I'll show you in a minute. That is, when you traditionally, you accept meditation and try to concentrate - right? - try to control your thoughts; that's what most meditations are about: first, begin, that you control your thoughts. Right? Isn't that so? No? Have you ever done any kind of meditation? If you have, not that I have done it, because I reject the whole thing, in toto. If you have, your thoughts wander off all over the place and then you say 'I must think of this' and so the battle goes on - thought wandering off and you pulling it back, the controller pulling it back. And this battle goes on for the rest of your life and you think you are a tremendous person when you have won, when you have controlled your thoughts so completely you are master of it. But you have never asked: the controller itself is the product of thought. So you are playing games with yourself.
We are saying, in meditation, if you are interested, if you pursue it to its utmost depth and height, mind must be completely free of all action of will. The action of will exists when there is choice. Right? I choose that and go along there. When there is choice, there is confusion. Right? Only when you are confused, you begin to choose. Right? Only when you are clear, there is no choice. So, choice, will, control, go together and prevent the total freedom of the mind. That's one point.
The other is, our consciousness - and please follow all this. I am going into it step-by-step, our consciousness. We think your particular consciousness, your particular consciousness is different from mine or from another. Is that so? Your consciousness contains all the culture that has been poured into that mind, the tradition, the books that you have read, the struggle, the conflict, the misery, the confusion, the vanities, the arrogance, the cruelties, grief, sorrow, pleasure - all that is your consciousness, as a Hindu, as a Buddhist, Muslim: that's your consciousness. Right? The content of that makes your consciousness. The book is its content. It's simple. So, consciousness is its content. Now, is it possible to be free of the content? That is, not being a Hindu, not being a Muslim, all the implications of it; not having greed, envy, anxiety, fears, the pursuit of pleasure, sorrow, all that. Can the mind, consciousness as we know it, be free of its content? This is very important if you want to go, take a long journey into meditation. It's very important to understand this. Not how to empty the consciousness of its content, but to become aware of it first. To become aware that you are a Hindu with all the implications of it, the superstition, the dogma, the tradition, the Pooja, the meaningless things that you do in religion; are you conscious of your envy, your greed, your ambition, your utter lack of relationship with another, lack of love? Are you aware of this content?
Now, awareness implies to observe the world as it is, to know the world, the trees, the nature, the beauty and the ugliness and also to be aware of your neighbour, sari, dress, to be aware, and also to be aware inwardly of what you are, actually, not what you think you are, to be actually aware of what you are. And if you are aware, so aware, you will see that there are a great many reactions - like and dislike, punishment and reward in that awareness. So can you be aware without any choice, a choiceless awareness, just to be aware without choosing, without recording, without prejudice? So to become totally aware of our consciousness that means - please it will become a little more difficult - which means, can consciousness become aware of itself, not being asked to be aware and then it becomes a pressure; but to naturally become aware choicelessly of your consciousness. Can consciousness become aware of itself? Which means also, can thought, your thinking become aware of itself? That is, the brain is like a computer. It is registering, registering your experiences, your hopes, your desires, your ambitions, it is registering every impression and from that impression, from that registration, thought arises. That's the original man - not original man, the anthropoid ape, for example, the nearest to man, it registers, it remembers. Therefore it begins to think. From registration thought arises. Now, we are asking can there be an awareness of the thought arising, as you can be aware of your anger arising? Right? You can be aware of it, can't you? No? Are you all asleep? Or am I putting so much in this talk? It doesn't matter.
So as one can be aware of anger arising, so can you be aware of thought beginning? Which means, to be aware of the thing flowering, growing. In the same way, is there an awareness of your consciousness, the totality of it? This is part of meditation. This is the essence of meditation: to be aware without any choice of the world outside you and the immense complex world inside you. So when you come to that point, you will see that the world is not separate from you; the world is you. So consciousness becoming aware of itself then the parts that make of consciousness disappear. Consciousness then becomes quite a different thing, it is a consciousness of the whole, not of the part. You won't understand. It doesn't matter.
So, that's one point. Then as most of us are accustomed to systems, various forms of yoga, various forms of government, various forms of bureaucratic rule, they are all based on systems. You go to your guru and he will give you a system of meditation; or you pick up a book and learn from that book a system. As I said, system implies the comprehension of the whole through the part; collecting the part, you hope to understand the totality of existence. And also system implies, 'stare', 'to stand', not move. System is the opposite of dynamism. That's the word I'm looking for. Right? So all your brain, mind, is trained to follow systems, political systems, religious systems, yogic systems, your gurus systems or your own invention of system. Therefore, when you are following a system, you are static and that's the easiest way to live - to follow a system, like a railway that keeps going along the lines, and we are never aware that we are like the railways, running on lines, grooves.
So concentration, as we said, is resistance to all other forms of thought. Right? Concentrate. Therefore you cultivate resistance. Whereas we are saying, concentration at a certain level is necessary like a school boy. Even there, if he can learn how to attend, then concentration becomes very easy. So, we are going to find out now, that's part of meditation, what it means to attend. Right? So, we have talked about awareness, concentration and attention. Do you attend anything - attend? That means, give your heart, your mind, all your senses completely to something. Do you? When you so attend, that is, when all your senses are completely awakened and observing, then in that process or in that quality of attention there is no centre. Right? When there is no centre, there is no limitation to space. Because, most of us have centres, which is the form of the 'me', the ego, the personality, the character, the tendency, the idiosyncrasy, the peculiarities and so on. There is a centre in each one, which is the essence of the self, which is selfishness. That is, wherever there is a centre, the space must always be limited. Right? Just see it. And if there is no centre, there is no idea of border. And that's why we say a mind that is occupied is forming all the time a centre, and therefore its occupation is limiting the space. So we are saying when there is total attention, that is when you observe, hear, learn with all your senses awakened, there is no centre. So, we'll move on next.
From this arises, when you have done all this, if you have done it in daily life, with your relationship, with your wife, with your neighbour, relationship with nature. Relationship means to be related. You can only be related to another if you have no image about yourself or about another; then you are directly related. But we have images, pictures - sexual or otherwise, pictures. And these pictures, these remembrances prevent relationship.
So, out of this comes compassion; that is, passion for all. And that can only take place when you know - not 'when you know' - when there is this perfume, this quality of love, which is not desire, which is not pleasure, which is not the action of thought. Therefore love is not a thing put together by thought, by environment, by sensation. Love is not emotion, love is not sensation. But in this country, if I may point out, there is no love, because you have been living for centuries and millennia on theories and words, and also each man is out for himself. Don't say: does this love exist abroad? That's not the point. When the speaker speaks abroad he will then tell them what he thinks there. But you do not have to say: does this exist in Europe? It's like asking a politician if his country is very corrupt, isn't it? And the politician says 'Yes, but not so corrupt as my neighbour'. So, that's an evasion of facts. So, in this country love doesn't exist. Love means the love of rocks, love of trees, love of a strange dog, love of the skies, the beauty, the sunset, love of your neighbour, love without all the sensation of sexuality with which it is identified now. Love cannot exist when you are ambitious, when you are seeking power, position, money. How can a man love you, if you are a wife or a husband, when all his mind is concentrated on becoming something, power in the world? He can sleep with you, have children, but that's not love. That's lust with all its misery.
And without love, you cannot have compassion. And where there is compassion, there is clarity, clarity of the mind; not logical clarity, which is another thing; to think clearly, objectively, non-personally, to reason sanely. That also brings certain clarity but we are not talking of that clarity. The light that comes from compassion. Therefore, every act is clear. And from that clarity comes skill, skill in communication, skill in action, skill in the art of listening, learning, observing. But, for us, skill has become a means of self-expression, skill of an engineer, of a chemist. He is concerned about himself, how his skill is helping him to strengthen his self. You see all this around you.
So, we are saying meditation is the awakening of that intelligence that is born out of compassion, clarity, and the skill that intelligence uses. The word 'intelligence' means not only what is to be read between the two lines, horizontally as well as vertically, but much more than that. That intelligence that is non-personal, non-cultivable, that comes only out of compassion and clarity. All this is meditation and much more. And 'the more' is when the mind is free and therefore completely quiet. It cannot be quiet if there is no space. The stillness of a night, when there is vast, immense space.
So, silence can only come not through practice, not through control, not the silence between two noises, not the peace between two wars; silence comes when the body, the mind is in complete harmony, without any friction. Then, in that silence there is a total movement which is the end of time. That means, time has come to an end. And there is much more in meditation, which is, to find that which is most sacred; not the sacredness of the idols in a temple or in a church or in a mosque - mosques don't have idols but they have their own form of peculiar idols; those are man-made, hand-made, made by the mind, by thought. So, there is sacredness which is not touched by thought. That can only come about naturally, easily and happily when we have brought about complete order in our daily life. When there is such order in our daily life - order means no conflict - then out of that comes this quality of love, compassion and clarity. And meditation is all this, not something that you escape from life, from our daily living. And those who know the quality of this meditation are blessed.