Complete freedom from thought
Can there be complete freedom from thought?
1st Public Talk, Brockwood Park
September 09, 1972
Questioner: Could you say something about violence sir?
K: Something about violence - that is just what I was going to talk about!
I wonder why human beings have become so extraordinarily aggressive and violent, not only in their personal relationships but also in their relationship with the world and with each other in the world. I think it has to do a great deal with ideologies, with lies and the search for power and position. Of course one can understand how ideologies, whether the communist, or Mao or any religious ideals have inevitably produced terrible violence. Politicians throughout the world have said so many lies and they have produced violence. And one of the major causes of violence is this division between man and man, as national, religious, sectarian divisions. I think those are the main causes of this violence that we indulge in. And one can give many, many explanations, a thousand explanations depending on one's reading, cunning thought and psychological analytical explanations. But at the end of these explanations violence still remains. And what is a human being to do? Here we are, gathered here, and going to talk about violence, the violence that has recently been going on, murdering people, every form of violence throughout the world between the rich and the poor, the people who live in slums and all the rest of it, the violence which we exert on the animals, killing animals for our pleasure, for our food and so on.
To really go into this matter very, very, very deeply and therefore seriously, is to learn all about thought. Learning is not memorising; learning is immediate, whereas memorising takes time. To learn a language needs time, or any kind of technique, a piano, painting and so on. But learning is instant perception and action. Right? Can we go on with that? You know, if I may point out, this is not a weekend entertainment. This is a very, very serious matter, at least I consider it so. One has spent many, many years as a human being investigating all this. One doesn't come to any conclusion, because conclusions are ideologies in a different form. Whereas if one is constantly learning, not memorising, then one has to go into this question of thought.
Can there be complete freedom of thought? And being free of thought then thought can be used intelligently, efficiently, objectively. Because it is thought that has created this violence, thought with its ideologies, with its conclusions, with its separative beliefs, ideals, and when one observes thought it is the very basis of fragmentation. All right? Are we communicating with each other? That is, you know we are sharing together something about which we have to learn. Sharing means learning and therefore in learning there is a possibility of communication, to commune together, to learn together, to share together. It isn't the speaker sitting on a potty little platform and giving information, but rather together, and I mean together, and that is the beauty of it, and I think in that there is love. The sharing together of this problem of not only violence, but the whole human existence, whether it is possible to live totally differently, with a totally different kind of consciousness, at a different dimension, in which there is no violence, no fear, no sense of anxiety, uncertainty. So if we could, during these talks here and discussions, go into this question: what is the position, the place of thought in human existence, and whether the mind can ever be free totally of all the things that thought has created - the myths, the teachers, the saviours, the whole religious structure, which is a bondage. All the national egocentric divisions are all the result of thought. And until we learn about it - what place has thought - merely discussing or explaining what is violence, how we should avoid it or get rid of it, or become peaceful, seems to me rather trivial. Not that there is not violence, not that there is not action which will put an end to violence, but to discuss violence is to go a peripheral awareness of something that demands much deeper penetration. Right? So may we go on?
One can see for oneself if one has observed, how thought, however subtle, has bred this extraordinary human structure of relationship, of social behaviour, of division, and where there is division there must be conflict, there must be violence, whether it is a linguistic difference, a class difference or the difference brought about by ideologies, difference brought about by systems, whether the communist system, socialist system or the American system or the Mao system, whatever it is, such divisions invariably must create violence. And until one learns very deeply how this violence has come about, not merely the cause of violence but to go much beyond that, very much beyond the causation we shall never, at least it seems to me, be free of this extraordinary misery, confusion and violence that is going on in the world.
So I am asking myself and we will ask each other: what is freedom in relation to thought, and human behaviour? Because it is the human behaviour in our daily life that is bringing about this chaos in the world. So can there be complete freedom, freedom from thought? And if there is freedom from thought then what place has thought? Please, this is not intellectual philosophy. Philosophy means the love of truth, not speculative opinion, theoretical conclusions, or theoretical perception. But it means actually the love of truth in our daily life, in our daily behaviour. And to go into this very seriously - and I hope you will also go into this very, very seriously - one has to enquire, learn and not memorise - memorise something which we think is true, or about which we have come to a conclusion - because we are not going to come to any conclusion. On the contrary. Truth isn't a conclusion. A conclusion takes place only when thought with its opinions, with its dialectical truths, with its conclusion, then thought becomes a means of separation.
So what we ought to do this morning and the other mornings that we are going to be here, is to find out for ourselves and therefore learn, what is thinking. And whether thinking however rational, however logical, sane, objective, can bring about a psychological revolution in our behaviour. Right? Thought is always conditioned. Right? Because thought is the response of memory. Memory is experience, knowledge, accumulation, all that. And from that conditioning thought springs, and therefore thought can never bring about right behaviour. Do we see this? Because I have met a great many psychologists throughout the world who are saying, seeing what human beings are actually, how dreadful they are, what their behaviour is, how contradictory, what unhappy miserable beings there are, what we ought to do is to reward them and thereby condition them in a different way. You understand? Right? That is, instead of punishing them for their bad behaviour, reward them for good behaviour. Forget their bad behaviour but reward them for their good behaviour. So from childhood you are conditioned to behave rightly, or what they think is rightly, not antisocially, through rewarding and therefore condition them that way. Right? So they are still living with thought. To them thought is tremendously important. And so like the communists, like the others, they say, thought must be shaped, thought must be conditioned in a different way, and from that different structure there will be a different behaviour. So they are still living within the pattern of thinking.
This has been tried in ancient India, among the Buddhists and every religion has tried this. And human behaviour with all its contradictions, with its fragmentations, is the result of thought. And if we would change that human behaviour radically, not at the peripheral, at the outer edges of our human existence, but at the very core of our being, then we must go into this question of thought. Right? You must see this, not I. You must see the truth of this, that thought must be understood, one must learn all about it. To you it must be tremendously important, not because the speaker says so. The speaker has no value whatsoever. What has value is what you are learning, and not memorising. If you merely repeat what the speaker says, either accepting or denying, then you haven't really gone into the problem at all. But whereas if you really want to solve this human problem, how to live in peace with love, without fear, without violence, one must go into this.
So how is one to learn what freedom is? Not freedom from oppression - you understand? - freedom from fear, freedom from all the little things which we worry about, but freedom from the very cause of fear, from the very cause of our antagonisms, from the very root of our being in which there is this appalling contradiction, this frightening pursuit of pleasure, and all the gods that we have created, with all their churches and priests and - you know all the rest of the business. So one has to ask oneself, it seems to me, whether you want freedom at the periphery, or at the very core of your being. And if you want to learn what freedom is at the very source of all existence then you have to learn about thought. If that question is clear, not the verbal explanation, not the idea which you gather from the explanation, but if that is what you feel is the real absolute necessity, then we can travel together. Because if we could understand this then all our questions will be answered.
So one has to find out what is learning. I want to learn whether there is freedom from thought, first. Not how to use thought - that is the next question. But can the mind ever be free from thought? What does this freedom mean? We only know freedom from something - freedom from fear, freedom from this or that, from anxiety, from, oh, a dozen things. And is there a freedom which is not from anything but freedom per se, in itself? And in asking that question is the reply dependent on thought? Or freedom is the non-existence of thought? You understand? And learning means instant perception, therefore learning does not require time. I don't know if you see this. Please, this is really fascinatingly important. I don't know, I did it, I'm sorry!
Q: Could you repeat that?
K: I don't know what I said sir, I'll go on, we'll talk about it.
To learn implies time - learn a language, a technique, a method, acquiring certain information, knowledge about mechanics and so on - that requires time, several months, several years - learning a piano, violin, language. That is really memorising, practising, acquiring knowledge which can be translated into action, and that is all we are concerned with - all human beings are only concerned with that, because that gives them power, position, a means of livelihood and so on. And I say to myself, learning must be instantaneous, learning is the seeing and the acting, in which there is no seeing and a gap - acting. That is, time is required to learn a language. Is time required to learn freedom? You understand? Is time required for the mind to see that as long as it functions within the pattern of thought there is no freedom, however expanded, however worthwhile, marvellous the expansion, the content of that expansion is, to see that, does it require time to learn about the truth that freedom is not within that pattern. Right? That is, are you going to take time to see the truth of that? You have understood my question? Look, you have explained to me what thought has done in the world, you explain it to me that a new kind of pattern still made by thought, will help to bring about a different behaviour. And your explanation and my acceptance of that explanation, the logical process of it, the verbal communication, the reference to all the words you have used which are familiar to me, all that takes time. Right? And at the end of that the mind is still not free, is still within that pattern. Are we following each other? And you tell me to learn what freedom is, is instantaneous, it doesn't require time, time is thought and don't use thought to understand freedom at all. So I say to myself, what are you talking about? I don't understand because I have only one instrument, which is thinking. And I have used it wrongly, rightly, mischievously or nobly, but that is the only instrument I have. And you tell me: put that instrument aside. Learn, not about the activities of thought, which you already know, but learn, which is instantaneous, how to look - learn what freedom is without time. Are we following each other or am I talking Greek? There are several Greeks here - so sorry! (laughter)
You understand my question? That is, perception is learning and perception doesn't require time, and time is basically the movement of thought, and through thought you cannot learn what freedom is. And to learn about freedom, thought must be completely silent.
Q: How can it be silent?
K: Wait, just listen. Not how - do you see? The moment you say 'how' then you want a method, a practice, which is still within the pattern of thought.
So I have this problem from you: thought has its right place otherwise you and I couldn't communicate with each other. And to learn about communication I have to learn the language, and since you and I both know English we can communicate together, and to learn English takes time. Insight into freedom doesn't take time, and you cannot have insight into freedom if there is the operation of thought, or the movement of thought which says, 'I must understand what freedom is'. Right? So there is this problem then: how am I, who am used to thinking, which is the only instrument I have, and I have been educated, brought up to think, all my conditioning, all my existence is based on that, all my relationship is based on the image which thought has created. And you come along and tell me, 'Don't use that instrument, but look, perceive, learn, have an insight'. And then you say, 'How am I to have an insight if my mind is so heavily conditioned, so burdened with all the things of thought, how am I to be free of that in order to see the other?' Right? You have put the wrong question. You understand? If you say, 'I must be free of this' - which is the mechanical process of thinking, you have stated a wrong question because you are not learning about the new. You still are concerned with the old and where you are concerned with the old you will remain with the old. I wonder if you get all this!
So the real question is: can the mind, knowing, knowing the whole content of the old, not be concerned with it now, because we are enquiring into something of a totally different dimension? And this enquiry demands freedom, not that you should understand the old and bring the old over, or control the old, or subjugate the old, or suppress the old, but move away completely from the old and learn about the new which doesn't take time. Right, have you got it? It all sounds contradictory and absurd - it isn't.
Q: Surely thought must precede perception? We can’t stop thinking.
K: That is just it. You can't stop thinking.
Q: It isn’t something that just falls out of the sky onto a blank.
K: No, I understand, madam. I understand this. If you want to see something new what do you do? You are inventing, you are an inventor. You know all the old business, you want to find something new, totally new. What do you do? Keep on with the old? The old with which you are familiar, you know what the old is, the whole mechanism of the old. And if you carry that over you can't find anything new. So what do you do? You must leave the old. There must be a gap between the old and something new that may come into being. There must be a gap. And that gap takes place when you see the whole significance of the old - that the old cannot possibly give birth to the new. So we all want the new because we are fed up with the old, bored, you know what the old is, and wanting the new we don't know how to break the chain. So there are gurus, teachers and all the absurd people who say, 'I'll teach you how to break the chain'. And their breaking the chain is still within the pattern of thought. Right? They say, 'Do this, don't do that, follow this, think of that' - they are still caught within the system of thought. Now if you see that, if you have an insight into that, to have an insight into that doesn't require time. I don't know if you see that. You see that instantly, how absurd this whole religious structure is, all the organisation around it, the popes, the bishops - you follow? - the absurdity of all that! Grown up people playing with childish things! If you have an insight it is finished. Then you ask: how am I to have an insight? Which means you haven't actually listened. You are still holding on to your old to the skirts of the old churches and beliefs and ideologies, and you say, 'I can't let go because I am afraid'. 'What will my neighbour think?', 'I will lose my job'. So you don't want to listen, so that is the problem. Not how to acquire perception, not how to come by insight but rather that you don't listen to the danger of the whole thing which thought has built. And to have the insight you have to listen; you have to let go and listen. If you listen to that pigeon, which means to listen without naming, without condemning, to really listen, then when you listen you have the insight. Right?
So freedom - absolute freedom, not relative freedom - absolute freedom is only possible when the mind understands thought and its place and the freedom of thought. Right? Now where are we after saying all this, this morning? Because after all, you and I are learning together. You have spent time to come here, energy, money and all the rest of it, and are you learning or merely memorising? If you are merely memorising then you repeat what others have said, therefore you become second-hand human beings. Instead of repeating Lao-Tse, the Buddha, Marx, Engel, or whatever, now you'll repeat what K is talking about, but you will still be second-hand, whereas if you learn you will be out of that class altogether, away from all that rubbish.
So where are we? Is there an insight into freedom, insight into freedom from thought? And when there is that insight into freedom from thought then in that freedom thought can function logically, sanely, objectively, non-personally. So how am I, who are so heavily conditioned, who have used thought from the morning till the evening, during my sleep, dreaming, waking, all the time the mind is employed with thought, how is that mind to have an insight into the freedom in which there is no thought. Right? Please put that question to yourself. And when you have put that question to yourself is thought answering that question? If thought is answering that question then there is no freedom, but when you put that question, really seriously, intensely, passionately - you want to find out, then you will see there is freedom which you have not sought. The seeking is the movement of thought.
Is that enough for this morning? Can we discuss this?
Q: Feeling to you is another way of thinking, is it? You have not mentioned feeling once.
K. You didn't mention feeling. Do you feel very much?
Q. I am, therefore I feel, I am..
K. You are, therefore you feel. You are quoting Descartes, aren't you? (laughter) What is feeling? Nervous response? You put a pin into me, I feel pain. The response of the brain which recognises that pin, pain and says that is pain - feeling. What is that feeling? I am an Indian, I feel very strongly about my country. Or I believe in something, in my salvation, in my resurrection, in my continuity, I feel very strongly. That is still part of my thought operating according to a conclusion. I feel very strongly about my wife. I love my wife, and is that love, is that feeling part of my thought? Answer it please. No?
Q. Part of your very being.
K. It is a part of your very being. What is your very being? Please go slowly. What is my very being? My very being is a physical entity with all its conclusions, beliefs, dogmas, theories, insights, casual insights, opinions, judgements, fears, pleasures, all that is me. That is my whole conditioning as a human being according to the culture, race, tradition I have been brought up in, that is my being, which is my words - no? Will you stop? All those are words, aren't they?
Q: It can be feeling.
K: Go step by step, please see it. I have been brought up in a culture - Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, whatever that culture is, Communist - and that culture has shaped my mind with all its symbols, words, tradition, pictures, ideals, are all words, and those words give me a certain feeling. When I say, 'I am a Catholic' - the word, the picture, the image, creates a certain feeling in me, neurologically. And that is my being. And that is the whole structure of thought. When I say, 'I love my wife' - or my country, my god, my whatever it is, when I say, 'I love my wife' the image I have about my wife - no? The image which thought has built year after year, the pleasure, the pain, the insults, the nagging, the companionship, the sex - you follow? - the whole of that picture is put together by thought and that picture evokes certain feeling. Those images create certain reactions. To me thought is feeling. There is no difference between the two. And it is fragmentation to think feeling is different from thinking.
Q. Surely emotional feeling like love is something which somebody transforms with you. You can’t say that eating and sleeping are just thought. The need to love and be loved is essential to us as the need to eat and to sleep, surely.
K. It is essential for us to love and to be loved. Do we love? Just let us go into that one question, please, one by one. It is essential for us to be loved and to love. Or do we love the image which we have created?
Q. Yes but whether it is an image...
K. Wait, wait, madam. Just go slowly. If it is an image which we love then we don't love the person, whatever that person is. We love the image which we have created about that person. Therefore one has to go into the question: what is love? Is it related to thought? Is it the product of thought, emotion, sentiment, pleasure? Is love pleasure? Is love desire? Is love sex? Don't please And if it is, then it is within the field of thought, and is love thought? Therefore to find out what love is there must be freedom from thought. See sir, it all ties together.
Q. But the need to love, be loved is not thought.
K. The moment the need - I need your love. Why should I need your love? No, please look at it. I need your love, I need your companionship, I need your sex, I need your whatever it is. And you need me. That means we are dependent psychologically on each other.
Q. Needing love is love of self.
K. I know but you see, we don't like to think that. (laughter)So I am asking: why is there this extraordinary dependence? Psychological dependence. I depend on the railway, on the postman, on the milkman, and so on, but why this dependence psychologically on each other? If we depend on each other to co-operate, that I can understand. Because then we can co-operate, to do things together, to work together, to think together, to learn together. But if I need you to learn - you understand? - then I am back in the old pattern again. That means I can't learn by myself, I need somebody to tell me what to learn. So why do we psychologically depend? I need to be loved. What a terrible thing to say! For myself I feel I don't know I feel sacrilege when I say, 'I need to be loved'. Why do I need to be loved? Because I don't love. Something beautiful doesn't say, 'I need' - it is beautiful, like a flower, like a cloud in the sky, like a perfect human action. The moment we need, it is the whole movement of thought which says, 'I am lacking', 'I am insufficient', 'I can't stand by myself' - which are all the activities of thought.
So what is the relationship between love and thought? Can they ever meet at all? Or they run parallel always and therefore there must be harmony between the two. You understand all this? Oh, for God's sake! Come on, sir!
Q. Whenever I pose a question you answer it yourself. Everyone sometimes has this moment of perception but when you try to keep it or show it, it is gone.
K. Surely perception, we said, comes when time is not involved. When there is a demand for the continuance of a perception you are introducing time, which is the activity of thought. I have an insight into religious organisation - let us take that for the moment - I have an insight into it, I see the fallacy of it. And I use that insight to see other structures. So I have memorised the insight - you understand? - it has become a memory and therefore it has lost its insight. I don't know if you understand this. Surely insight is always fresh, new, it isn't the old insight brought into the present.
Let us go into this question of insight. The word 'theory', the root meaning of that word 'theory', means insight. And having an insight means, generally, coming to a conclusion. You understand? Scientists, philosophers, and others, human beings, have an insight - from that insight they conclude. And that conclusion becomes much more important than the insight. And the conclusions become the means of not only satisfaction but stability, certainty, a feeling making me secure. And if I collect a lot of conclusions I have lost insight. So to have an insight and not draw a conclusion. You understand?
Q. I don’t know anything about your teachings. This is my first time and I haven’t read any of your books.
K. Don't bother sir, it doesn't matter.
Q. But I’d like to think that I was in tune with what you feel, say and think. Personally I have found... (inaudible)
K. Yes, I understand your question, sir. I think I understand it. May I explain further? I have to meet the world. I am an ordinary man, I have to meet the world - the world being the environment, the job, the culture, the various relationships socially, morally and so on - the world, with wars, with the Olympic games, everything that is going on in the world, I have to meet it. I meet it intellectually, pragmatically, according to my temperament, idiosyncrasy. That temperament, that idiosyncrasy, is the response of my conditioning - of course. I don't want to Do you want me to go into that? No. And that conditioning is what the society has placed on me, the culture, the environment, so I am the society, the world is me, I am the world. The two are not separate. This is a basic, it is not pragmatic, it is the truth. I am born in a country, in a culture, in a tradition, family, national, racial, and all that is me. And I like to think I am separate from the world because I feel I am totally different, I am an extraordinary human being, I am not the mass, I am an individual, and when I look at that word and go into that word there is no individuality at all. I am a repetitive human being. If I am born in this country or in a Christian world I repeat everything that has been told to me from childhood - about Jesus, the myth of Jesus and all the rest of it. Or in the Communist world I belong - you know all that. So the world is absolutely me and I am the world. And to change the world I have to change myself, break away from my conditioning. Not a particle of that conditioning must remain to bring something new. And not knowing that I am conditioned, not knowing how to deal with this conditioning, I just go on; change my conditioning a little bit here and there, you know.
So, to really, basically, radically go into this thing, one has to watch, learn and that is why I began by asking: what place has thought and what place in existence has freedom from thought? Unless these two questions are answered and thereby find harmony between the two - you understand? - they are not two separate watertight things - then I will know a dimension which is entirely different.