Can thought bring about right action?
The crisis is in the very nature of thought
3rd Public Talk, Ojai, California
May 09, 1981
It may be necessary to briefly repeat what we have said during the last two talks. We were saying that this is not a propaganda, of ideas, some kind of belief, or some philosophical conclusions, nor some religion, as accepted by that word generally. But we are trying to observe together what is happening in the world. It is not a particular point of view that the speaker is putting forward, or personal recollections, experience, and all that kind of nonsense. We are together, and the speaker means together. Observe clearly, without any prejudice, without identifying oneself with any particular part of the world, or with any belief, religious dogma, and so on. To observe the enormous violence that is going on in the world - the wars, the threat of the atomic bomb, the religious divisions, the nationalistic separation with their armaments and so on. It is a very dangerous world we are living in. And most people, I am afraid, do not realise the enormous degradation, degeneration that is going on throughout the world, not only in this part of the world but everywhere. And we are trying to solve these problems politically, economically, socially, or evangelistically, which, of course, brings about more and more confusion, more and more separation, greater division and therefore greater conflict.
And we said, neither politics, nor the established religions, nor the scientific knowledge is going to solve our problems, nor the psychologists, nor the priests, nor the specialists. But the crisis is in our consciousness, that is, in our minds, in our hearts, in our behaviour, in our way of looking at the world from a narrow, limited point of view. That is where the crisis is.
And together we are going to explore, together investigate if it is at all possible for the human mind, which has evolved through millions and millions of years, conditioned by time and evolution, whether such a mind, limited, such a brain, conditioned, and this consciousness which is limited, narrow, exclusive apparently, whether that consciousness with its crisis in the present world can ever be changed, can ever bring about a radical mutation in that conditioning.
And we also said, this consciousness with which we have identified ourselves as mine and yours, is utterly erroneous because our consciousness is the consciousness of mankind. Man wherever he is, including the woman, of course, wherever he is - Japan, India, Middle East, Europe, or here - is in constant travail, in conflict, never resolving any problems of fear, pursuing endless pleasure, never resolving the problems of sorrow, pain, grief, loneliness. This loneliness, grief, pain, sorrow, with occasional flashes of joy and love, is common to all mankind. That is an obvious psychological fact which most of us are reluctant to see because we are so identified with our own particular consciousness, with our own particular grief, with our own particular enjoyment and so on. But the actual psychological fact is, if you observe attentively, with sensitive awareness, that throughout the world human beings go through exactly what you are going through - whether they live in the north or the south, east or west. So this consciousness is common to all mankind. I think this should be, if one may point out, clearly understood. There is no contradiction about it, it is not something, a point of view, something the speaker has invented, but psychologically when you examine very deeply, objectively, not personally, one finds that this is the common ground to all mankind. One may not like to hear this because we all think we are individuals, separate from everybody else, trying to identify ourselves with something, trying to fulfil, trying to become something - all individualistic, narrow, limited. But the psychological fact is that we are not individuals. You are the collective. We are the result of millions and millions of years, our consciousness is the common consciousness of all humanity. Your consciousness is the consciousness of man. And if we do not understand this very clearly one is apt to not continue with the investigation clearly.
The world, wherever one lives, this sense of individuality has been emphasised. Religions have sustained it, education has maintained it. And this supposedly individual freedom has brought about extraordinary chaos in the world, which is a fact. Which again is not a certain conclusion, or a point of view of the speaker, but one can see this clearly. We think we are free because we can choose. And choice implies uncertainty, lack of clarity. Where there is clarity, which can only come about when there is no conflict, such clarity has no choice, it is clear. It is only the mind that is obscure, confused, uncertain, that begins to choose. Again, please, investigate this as we go along. And if one may request, we are not laying down the law, we are not leading you anywhere. We are trying - rather, we are actually thinking together, not accepting, not following. In matters of the spirit, in matters of deep psychological investigation one must be free from all sense of following somebody. There is no leader, or a guide, into that realm. One has to watch, observe, see for oneself very clearly what one is - not according to any philosopher, any psychotherapist, or psychologist, they too are human beings, and they too go through pain, sorrow, anxiety, uncertainty, desperate loneliness and so on. So they too are part of this confusion. They too have this common consciousness.
And if one realises this actual fact, not imposed upon you by another, or by the speaker, but you yourself, clearly, objectively, non-personally or emotionally observe, this is the common fact that we are the rest of mankind psychologically. You may have a different body, woman, man, you may be a lighter skin, another darker, slant eyed, and so on, but inwardly, deeply, we go through the same phenomenon as the rest of man. This is logical, this is reasonable, this has sanity, and if one understands this very deeply, perceives this fact, then we are totally responsible for whatever is happening in the world.
Please understand the seriousness of these talks. This is not an entertainment, an amusement, intellectual concepts, a verbal oratory, we are dealing with something terribly serious, because human beings throughout the world are degenerating, destroying themselves.
And as we said, this is the common factor, and therefore we are totally, absolutely responsible for whatever is happening in the world. Because we are nationalistic, wanting to be the first country in the world, we are creating war, competition. And competition is destroying people. So we are talking about something dreadfully serious.
And this consciousness, in which there is the crisis, and nowhere else, is put together by thought. Our consciousness is, with its content, the product of thought. Which is, thought has accepted the propaganda of two thousand years in the western world, religiously, and in the eastern world thought created an image, certain rituals, as in the west, certain symbols, and that thought with all its religious, superstitious, dogmatic belief, faith and so on, is put together by thought. Again, this cannot be refuted. This is reasonable - and one can see the limitation of reason, but one must have the capacity to reason very clearly.
So thought has built this world, the psychological as well as the technical world. Thought has brought about the relationship between man and woman. In that relationship there is a great deal of conflict. We have been saying this for a number of years. And we are pursuing, investigating together. Please be clear on this point, if you do not mind. We are together, not the speaker is exploring, explaining, putting into words, but together you and the speaker are exploring why man - supposed to be educated, sophisticated, clever, solving problems - why man has come to this point after so many million years. He is in perpetual conflict within and without. He is confused, neurotic, believing in something that is non-real, holding on to certain concepts, and ideals for which he is willing to kill. This may have been the process of time, evolution, which has brought us up to this point. And philosophers and others say, 'You must accept human conditioning, you must accept what you are. You can modify it, you can somewhat superficially change, but deeply, at the very depth of one's existence it is not possible for this conditioning to be radically changed. And therefore modify, live as best as you can, make the best of this world, however miserable one is, it is, accept it and try to live within that area without too much conflict'. But we are saying that this conditioning, this crisis in consciousness can bring about a radical transformation. Please, as we said, do not accept what the speaker is saying but investigate it, think over it, observe it.
And the speaker also says, don't follow anybody, specially in the realm of the psyche, neither the Indian gurus, nor the westernised gurus, nor the so-called meditations that these people have invented, taken the old forms and put them into new words, and people, being gullible as a whole, wanting to be secure in some place or other, easily accept all this nonsense. So please the speaker repeats it over and over again, do not be influenced by the speaker, do not agree with the speaker, do not be influenced by him but observe the world actually as it is, observe it without any direction, without any motive, without any prejudice, look at it.
And this consciousness, as we said, is put together by thought. Thought is a material process. Thought has built marvellous architecture, buildings, the most beautiful architecture, paintings, poems, statuary. But thought has not created nature, but thought can destroy nature. Thought has not made the tiger, that beautiful dynamic animal. Thought has not made the rivers, the mountains, the heavens, but thought can despoil them. So one must clearly understand the nature of thought because thought has put together the content of our consciousness, and as the crisis is there thought must be very carefully investigated - what is thinking? Because all our action is based on thinking. That is, our action is born out of knowledge, out of experience, out of accumulated knowledge and memory, stored up in the brain. And thought is part of that memory, part of that knowledge, part of that experience. And as experience and knowledge can never, under any circumstances, be complete, therefore thought invariably, under all conditions, is limited.
And thought is not sacred. The things that thought has created in the temples, in the mosques, in the cathedrals, in the churches, they are the result of thought, they are nothing sacred. So we are going, as we go along in the next three talks, to find out if there is anything sacred in life, not put there by thought. Thought, as we said, is a material process; even the scientists are beginning to accept that. Of course, religious people will not. They may be the majority, but the majority is generally mediocre. And a religious mind can only find out what is sacred. And to find that out there must be meditation, and that meditation the speaker generally puts at the end of his talks because meditation without the understanding of the world and of oneself has no meaning. Meditation then is merely an escape from 'what is'. And without order in our life, complete, absolute order, meditation is a form of indulgence in some pleasurable and neurotic action.
So we must first look and find out for ourselves if there is right action under all circumstances. Can thought bring about this action, right action? And we mean by that word 'right', a precise, objective, non-personal, non-romantic action that does not bring about more and more conflict. We are going to investigate together if there is such right action. Because now each one thinks fulfilment of one's desires, of one's pleasures without any restraint, without any sense of understanding, that is right action, according to present, modern civilisation. But such action, as one has observed, leads to more and more conflict, more and more chaos, which is what is happening on this unfortunate earth.
So we are asking: what is action and what is right, accurate, precise, an action that does not bring about conflict? Is there such action at all?
All right? It's a lovely morning. To be under the trees is a beautiful thing - dappled light, you are looking at those mountains, with their purity, and the line so delicate, so defined and pure. And living with all that in this marvellous country, which is being slowly despoiled and ruined, man who should be the most extraordinary, excellent entity, has brought about such chaos in the world. It is a great tragedy of which you are not aware - because we are not aware of our own selves, we are not aware of our actions. We are being led perpetually by politicians, the priest, the evangelist, the professors, the specialists. We are not self-educated. We are educated according to a pattern, which is no education at all, which is only a part of education. The deeper education is self-education, the understanding of oneself, the knowing of the whole content of oneself. And to observe that content of oneself it is shown in relationship, as we talked about it the other day. In that relationship there is conflict, because that conflict arises when each one thinks he is separate, ambitious, greedy, competitive, all the rest of it, attached to a belief, to a dogma, to a person, to an ideal, to an experience. And such attachment does breed corruption, which we carefully explained the other day.
And now we are asking if there is right action at all - not superficial, not something immediate, satisfactory, but an action that is not born of time. I'll explain what I mean by that. It may lead to some kind of mystical, scientific-fiction action, we are not talking about that. One must understand what time is. For most of us time is very important, not only sunrise and sunset, yesterday, today and tomorrow, time by the watch, time by the sun, but also the whole concept of psychological time.
Our brain, if you are sensitively aware, our brain has evolved through time, from the one cell up to now. This brain functions in time, it is conditioned by time. Right? That is clear. And time we use as a means of self-advancement, time as a means of learning a language, time as a means of accumulating knowledge in order to act skilfully or not. So time is a factor, a very deep conditioned factor in our life. There is hope, the future, which is hope, and time as the past, with all the memories, experiences, and knowledge is of time, whether it is scientific knowledge or the psychological knowledge, or self-knowledge, it's all within the area of time. When one says, 'I will be better', 'I will not be this but I will be that', that involves time. Please understand. Let's think and observe together. You are not merely listening to the speaker who is advancing any set of ideas which you gather, then remember, then say, 'I have learnt'. We are together looking at it now, attentively.
So time has been the factor of guide, achievement, self knowledge, self advancement. Time is used in the sense, 'I am lonely, but I will escape from it, or I will understand it, or I will do something about it'. In all that is implied time. And we say, after accumulating knowledge we will act skilfully. I want to be a good carpenter, I apprentice myself to a master carpenter, and learn after many years, like a surgeon, like a businessman, like the priest and so on. Time is knowledge. From that knowledge we act. Or act and learn from that action, which becomes knowledge again. You are following? There are these two ways of acting: either accumulate knowledge first, like a doctor, ten years in learning, intern, and so on, then he becomes a doctor, a surgeon, after studying, learning, accumulating knowledge, act. Or act, and from that action learn, which becomes knowledge. So both are the same. Which is, both are based on the acquisition of knowledge and acting from that knowledge. And knowledge is always incomplete, it is always within the shadow of ignorance. So action must be always limited, and therefore any action born out of an idea, which is the projection of thought, any action born out of recollection of past knowledge, memory and so on, must also be limited and therefore bringing about conflict, confusion. This is again logical, rational, sane. It is not something, a point of view of the speaker but it is an obvious fact, this is how we act, how we live.
So we are enquiring if there is a totally different way of acting. We must be very clear, if the speaker may repeat, we must be absolutely clear of the function of knowledge. You have accumulated within the last hundred and fifty years more technological knowledge than ever before, tremendous knowledge, otherwise you couldn't have gone to the Moon, spaceship and so on, so on. You have invented, man has invented all the terrible instruments of war, the atomic bomb which is the main exportation, apart from grain and blue jeans, of America.
And we are asking: is there an action which is not limited, therefore complete, whole so that it does not bring conflict? Please this is important to understand, if you will give your mind, your brain, to attend to find out. As we said, many of you may be interested in meditation and therefore nothing else but if you are only interested in meditation, such meditation is meaningless if one doesn't live rightly, sanely, rationally. Such meditation, whether it is Zen, or X, Y, Z meditation is merely an escape from actuality, an escape from 'what is', which is our daily life. Our daily life is such misery, such confusions, there is so much conflict. And to try to meditate and come into a kind of mystical experience is only an illusion. Perhaps you like to live in illusions, it is more fanciful, pleasurable, but to see 'what is' and then see if that 'what is' can be transformed, that's part of profound meditation.
So we are asking: is there an action which is complete and not limited and therefore confusing? That is the question. We are asking, we are not saying there is, or there is not. We are asking a fundamental question, not a superficial, passing demand. We are asking something very, very serious: because man for millions and millions of years has lived in confusion, conflict, misery, never resolving the human conflict, the human suffering. He has escaped from it through religions, through all kinds of fanciful, symbolic worship and prayer.
So please, together we are trying to find out if there is an action that is whole, holistic. That word 'holistic' means sane, healthy, rational, and also the word 'whole' means holy, H-O-L-Y. All that is implied in that one word, 'holistic'. Is there such an action which doesn't bring conflict, which doesn't bring about more problems? How are we going to find out, together? How do you approach a question like this? How do you look, or listen to a question put before you? Either you say, there is no such action, and so you have blocked yourself if you say that. Or you may say, it is possible. Again the possibility is not actuality. So it is very important, if you want to find out if there is such action, it is very important to find out how you listen to the content of that question. Whether your mind, when that question is put, whether your brain is trying to resolve the problem, trying to find an answer, or actually listens very carefully to the meaning of the word. The word is merely a means of communication, the word is not the thing, it never is - the symbol is not the actuality. So it is very important how you listen to the challenge - whether you are trying to resolve it intellectually, rationally, reasonably. If you are trying to resolve it reasonably you will inevitably come to the conclusion, it is not possible. The process of logic is the activity of thought which is always limited. Therefore your answer to a challenge will be limited, therefore you have found no answer to the question. I hope this is all clear.
So how do you approach the question? Do you approach it with a mind, with a brain that says, 'It is a question I don't quite understand, I'll first watch it, listen to it. Not try to find an answer. Let me see the content of that word'. That is, is there an action which is not born out of memory, which is time, and I also know time is necessary, knowledge is necessary to drive a car, to be a carpenter, to be a surgeon, to be anything, knowledge is certainly necessary. But this question, can it be answered by thought which is the movement of memory? Do you understand? Are we together in this? Which means when you try to answer it: right or wrong, impossible or possible, you are depending on memory. Therefore thought is telling you what to answer. And thought being limited, your answer will invariably be limited and therefore productive of conflict. If this is clear, will you observe, listen to the question without any movement of thought?
I will repeat the question, which is: is there a right action which is not born out of time, which is thought, which is knowledge? There may be no such action, or there may be. So our mind, our brain is free to look. Our brain being sensitive, alert, aware, is listening, paying tremendous attention to the question, not trying to solve it. So when you do that, that is, when you give complete attention, when you are totally sensitively aware, in that attention there is no question of time. But if you say, 'I need time to be attentive', that is to learn what it is to be attentive, then you are acting according to knowledge, which is to learn to be attentive. Then you are not attentive. Right? Please see this.
So can you listen to this question with all your being, with all your capacity, attention? When you give that total attention it is like bringing light, putting light upon something that has been obscure. And when you give that attention there is total light on the question. And the question then reveals its own answer. When you see something clearly, that clarity is the answer. You understand?
So there is an action - please don't accept it, don't be mystified by it, don't say, there is, there is not, find out for yourself - there is an action which is born out of insight. Insight is not the remembrance of things past, but seeing something directly, purely, without any direction and that seeing, perception, is total action, which is insight. And when you can so look at the movement of thought, which is the content of our consciousness - the content, which is our greed, our envy, our ambition, our nationalism, our beliefs, our experiences, our pleasures, all that is our consciousness. When you think, I believe in god, that is part of your consciousness, or I don't believe in god, that is part of your consciousness. That consciousness is put together by thought, through experience and so on. Now to look, to observe the totality of that consciousness is to observe attentively one action completely. That is, to have an insight into the movement of action.
Right, sir, that is enough. I've finished. We will continue tomorrow morning, if you don't mind.