Death is not at the far end of life
Where there is total attention there is no self
4th Public Talk, Madras
January 06, 1985
I hope there are some friends here!
May we go on from where we left off yesterday? We were talking about conflict yesterday evening, and whether it is possible to live in this world, in the modern world - I don't know if the word 'modern' is really applicable, but it doesn't matter we will use that word - to live in this modern world without conflict. We went into that very carefully. And also we talked about beauty. Beauty is not in the picture, or in the tree, or a description of a marvellous poem, or any of the great statues and so on. We said where there is beauty, which is truth, there is no self, there is no self-interest whatsoever. We talked about it considerably. And also we went into the question of what is fear, and whether it is possible to live our daily life without psychological fears at all. One doesn't know what you have thought about it, whether you have worked at it in order to find out for yourself whether it is possible to live without fear, which implies security. Is there security for human beings both externally and psychologically. We talked about that too.
Security may be something most definite, and it may not be found at all psychologically where there is this pursuit of self-interest, and therefore it breeds corruption. We went into that too. Where there is self-interest there must be corruption. Corruption is merely an expression of self-interest, the bribes, black market, you know all that, with which you are quite familiar, I am sure.
And also we talked about what you really want, what is your deep longing, craving. And can that craving, longing, wanting ever be satisfied? So we went into that too a little bit.
So this evening we ought to talk over together - I mean together, this is not to instruct you of anything, or to inform you, but we are, as two friends, having a dialogue, a conversation. Can we together go into certain problems this evening? Which is, death, what it means in life, and love, religion and meditation. We will talk over together these questions. I hope you are prepared for a very serious talk, discussion, not merely agreeing or disagreeing, as we went into that question yesterday. There is no disagreement when you see this microphone in front of you, unless we are blind or half blind and imagine it is something else, which it is not. Then that imagination, or that attitude, or that conviction brings about agreement or disagreement. When we are looking together at a fact that which we call a tree is just that, there is no disagreement about it; you might like it, you might not like it, but it is still a tree. So it is important in our lives to face facts and not fiddle about with ideas, beliefs, faith and all that business. But actually deal with what we have, that is our fears, our anxieties, our jealousies, our antagonism, and great deal of pretensions, hypocrisy, worshipping peace and killing another. There is that word in Latin, which the Catholic hierarchy have been repeating for the last two thousand years - pacem in terris, which means, may there be peace on earth. And there has never been any peace on earth because the very church, the very temples, the mosques have created wars. Right? Whether you like it or not it is a fact.
And so we are going to talk over together what is death, why human beings have been so frightened of it, why human beings have really never understood deeply what the deep significance of death is. We can only understand it when there is no fear. Right? But most of us - I am sorry about my voice, it will get better as we go along - most of us are afraid of death. And we separate living from death - our daily life from death. One thing is absolutely certain, which is that we are all going to die. Right? Whether you like it or not that is an absolute, irrevocable fact. You and the speaker are going to die one day - I hope not in a few days but many, many years later. (laughter)
So we ought to talk over together as two friends, not agreeing or disagreeing, but look at it all - the living and the dying. What is living? What is it that we call living? Please, this is a discussion, this is a dialogue between you and the speaker, so work it out. What do you call living? Is living this constant struggle, constant conflict, seeking power, status, position, and not being, perhaps, able to get it, and living in constant battle with oneself. And the living is what we call anxiety, attachment. Right? Living is going to the office, whether it is the highest ministers of this country, or the lowest clerk. Going to the office every day for sixty years, or fifty years of your life, from 9.0 to 5.0., being insulted, pushed around. Right? Unless you are the top executives. That's what we call also life. The responsibility of earning a livelihood with money to support your wife and children, and educate them - and the education is pretty rotten, as it is in this country, and elsewhere too, because they are merely emphasising memorising. Right? And making them into machines. You are programming them to be mathematicians, to be engineers, to be scientists, and so on. They offer a means of livelihood and so you spend eight hours of the day for the rest of your life, and then retire to die. This is a fact. Seeking god, seeking peace, seeking some kind of shelter, some kind of way of living that is not so utterly shallow, empty. And this is what we call living.
Is it a waste of life? I am asking. We are asking each other this question. This way of living, with all the complications of that, always wanting more and more and more. And this is what we call living: try to meditate, and prepare for meditation, sitting in the right posture, breathing rightly, hoping to control your mind, your thoughts, playing with all that stuff. Right?
And our bodies are being misused as our brains. Have you watched your own bodies? That is, our bodies are an extraordinary instrument, most intricate, anatomically, how through long centuries of millennia upon millennia our bodies have been prepared through evolution. And it is the most astonishing machine. And how we neglect it! And each one of us knows this and we neglect it, we disregard it, we never take proper exercise, yoga. Ah, I must be carefully of that word! You can get hooked up, hooked to the word yoga, and all the practices involved in it, and spend days and years being concerned with that, hoping to achieve some kind of... But exercise is necessary for the body. The speaker does it every morning for an hour, yoga and other forms of exercises. And we are accustomed to one kind of food and we stick to that. You understand all this, I don't have to go into it.
So our body, really if you have gone into it, is the most amazing instrument, like the brain. And through long usage it wears itself out. And the organism dies, when we are ninety, fifty, through accident, through misuse, through old age. The body, the organism may last a hundred or a hundred and ten years, but the organism comes to an end. That is what we call death.
Then we ask ourselves: what is it that lives, if I die? Right? Aren't you all asking that question?
K: Marvellous! You are all asking that question: we know the body goes. And our life may have been wasted. Have you ever asked yourselves whether you are wasting your life? Please ask it now. And find out for yourself whether you are wasting it. Of course you have to earn a livelihood, have a vocation. That is granted. But otherwise are you wasting your life - spending energy on things that don't matter? As we said the other day, our brains contain all memory. Our brain holds our consciousness. Our consciousness makes up the content of our consciousness, makes consciousness. That is the content, which is our anxiety, our fears, our beliefs, our superstitions, our faith, our quarrels, jealousy, hate, fears, sorrow, and the search for truth. All that is part of our consciousness. Right? Clear? Your consciousness is what you are. Your consciousness is not separate from you, you are consciousness - your feelings, your emotions, your sentiments and so on. The whole of that consciousness is in turmoil, confusion, constantly changing, but it is limited. That consciousness is what you are. Right? This is a fact. Look at it, you don't have to accept what the speaker is saying. (I am sorry about my voice.)
That consciousness is me. Right? That consciousness is the self-interest. That consciousness is the ego, the personality, the characteristics, the tendencies. That is the whole content of our consciousness. Right? Its reactions and actions, its appreciations, depressions, loneliness and all that. And we say, is that the end at death, my consciousness dies too, or will it continue? That's what you are interested in. Right? No? Aren't you interested in the continuity of yourself? Or you want to end it quickly? Surely we all want to think and long for a continuity, otherwise you would never talk about reincarnation. Reincarnation implies that which you are now, not having all the opportunities, all the things, perhaps next life you will have it - a better house, more refrigerators, better cars, more power; or if you are religiously inclined, a little more saintly, more moral, not so corrupt. But it is the same desire for continuity. Right?
We all want to continue. We never question what it is to continue. You follow my question? We have never asked ourselves, what do I mean by continuity? Everything is changing - our cells, our blood, the cells in the brain are constantly dying, renovating. And what we mean by continuity is all the memories which we have collected, all the beliefs, all the experiences, the pain, the sorrow, the loneliness, the despair, all that, we want it to continue because we want to continue the 'me'. Right? Is the speaker saying something false or true? Don't become suddenly silent. Everybody longs for this continuity, which is continuity as security.
And if there is death, is that the end of everything? Now what do we mean by ending? Let's go into it, talk about it a little bit. Have we ever ended something voluntarily - your anger, your jealousy, your aggression - have you ever said, 'I'll end it', not tomorrow, but now, completely end it? But our brains are conditioned to the idea of gradation, gradualness, therefore we never end anything. Right? For example, one is attached, attached to an idea, to an experience, to some form of ideal - aren't you? To some form of a concept which thought has created and we cling to that as security. So we are attached to a house, to the family, to a name. And where there is attachment there is anxiety, there is fear, there is jealousy, insurance, mortgage - all the implications of attachment. And death says, that is the end of it. Right? I may be attached to my wife, to my friend, to my family, and death comes along and says, it's over. Now we want to remain attached all the time through the next life. Right? I have lost my brother, or my son, and I hope to meet him in the next life. Don't you feel all these things, or am I talking to myself about nothing?
And there is a continuity in our life through attachment. Right? And to voluntarily say, 'I will end attachment' - have you ever done it? So we are asking, and you are asking too, do we voluntarily ever give up anything, not for a reward, for itself? And you don't see the beauty of ending something completely. So ending has great significance. Right?
Now the question is: why have we put death at the far end of one's life? Because we cling to what is known. Death is unknown. And we would rather live with all the turmoil we have, all the misery, the confusion, and the longings, we would rather have that which we call life, living, and avoid death as far as possible, at the end of everything. We are asking you as a friend, can you live with death while living? You understand my question? That is, when I die, not only the organism is cremated, or buried, or whatever his friends do to him when he dies, and that is the end of everything, though we may want a continuity next life, but that is the actuality - an end. Now death means that: to end. Right? Can you live with death, together, life and death together? Have you ever asked that question? Will you ask it now, as a friend? That to end attachment now, not when you die. Can you end your fear now, not when you are gone?
So is it possible to live - this is a very serious question, please do pay attention to it, I am telling my friend - to live with that, not commit suicide, I am not talking of that, but living with death means ending everything every minute, all that you have accumulated as memory - of course you cannot leave your house because you have got to pay mortgage, insurance, and you have to have a shelter, you can't let that go, or your job, then you will be unemployed and all the misery of it, or you join a community, or become a sannyasi, a monk. They also have their misery.
So can you, can I, live everyday with death? That means ending my experience everyday, only the memories of those experiences, and knowledge, physically they are necessary, psychologically can I end the memories? That is death. Death is going to tell us at the end of our life, 'Boy, you can't carry your memories with you'. So to live with death all the time, it's a marvellous thing if you do it. This is not a reward. Because our memories are entirely in the brain, in the very cells of the brain, and memories which are the past are gone, are dead, memories have no meaning really. But yet we are full of memories, which is our knowledge. You understand this? This is very important. Can you end knowledge today - not the knowledge of doing carpentry and technological things - but the memories, the knowledge that you have carried? Can you - I am asking my friend who is sitting beside me, I am asking him - you have to have memories to do certain things in the physical world - psychologically don't carry a single memory. You understand? Not a single hurt, not a word of hate, or the feeling of hate, or seeking power, position. Power is evil, whether it is a political power, or the power you have over your wife or husband. Any form of power, or near power, being near power is evil, ugly. And can you end all that psychologically? That means to live with death all the time.
Does it mean anything to you? Or we will always be afraid of death?
This brings about another question. Death and love go together. Death is not memory, love is not memory, nor pleasure. It is the ending of desire, the ending of thought, that's love. Therefore death and love go together. Do you understand all this? Have you ever enquired what love is? What is love, to most of us? Do you love a tree, do you love your wife, husband? Is love desire? Please, this is important, go into it, give your heart to find out because you have lost that quality in this country. When you talk about love you become vacant, you don't know what it means. If you loved your children there would be no war.
So we must enquire into what is love - enquire, not intellectually, not analytically - the word 'enquire' we use as watching, listening, observing. What is love? Is it put together by thought? You understand this? When you say, if you ever say, I love my wife, or I love you, what does it mean? Please ask yourself this question. Is it all the remembrance you have gathered about her or him, the sexual pleasures, the desires, the comfort?
So we have to ask ourselves what is desire, which is a very complex thing - I don't know if we will have time to go into it this evening. And also all the images, all the pictures we have built about each other - is all that love? Or love is something entirely different from desire, thought, memory? And without the beauty of love, which is truth, any amount of your meditation, reading, or searching and all the rest of it has no meaning.
So love is not jealousy, is it? Love is not hate. So can you put aside jealousy altogether, envy about anybody, anything? Will you do it? Now, not tomorrow. Never be envious, which is to compare yourself with another. Can you end that comparison and that envy? If you cannot there can be no love. If you are ambitious, seeking your own fulfilment, your own success, your own power, ambition, all that, that denies completely love. No? Will you end all that to find out what love is? You understand? Love is beauty - not the face and the painting and the pictures, and all the contents of museums, ancient or modern. Love is beauty, love cannot exist where there is self-interest, the ego, selfishness. You may love god, which I question because god is something born of your mind, brain.
So death is love. Ending is love.
We ought to talk over together, have a conversation, what is religion? Ah, I must finish this. Is your consciousness - I will pursue this - is your consciousness different from another's consciousness? Have you ever asked that question? If you have not, please ask it now. Is your consciousness, which is your beliefs, your turmoil, your pleasure, your faith, your anxiety, your uncertainty, that is your consciousness, add more to it - is that different from another, except along the borders, frills? You may have more capacity than another, more skill and so on, those are all frills, tendencies, characteristics. But if you observe very carefully your own consciousness, which is what you are, your consciousness is like other people's consciousness. They go through what you are going through: insecure, uncertain, confused, agreeing with certain politicians and disagreeing about others, corrupt. This is the consciousness of humanity. Right? You don't have to believe what I am saying, it is so, whether you like it or not.
And that consciousness goes on even when our organism dies. You understand this? Because humanity for the last million years, less or more, has carried this burden of sorrow, pain, innumerable desires with their fears and so on. So when I die the common consciousness of mankind goes on, which is your consciousness. Right? Look at it carefully, look at it objectively, not personally. You may be born in India with certain traditions, superstitions, having a thousand gods, or more, and the other, only one god, and the other having a greater culture, greater sophistication, greater this and that, and your consciousness is similar to his. So when I die the consciousness of humanity with all the pain and sorrow goes on. You don't realise the seriousness of this.
And unless there are some who step out of this consciousness - you understand? - unless there are some who are totally selfless, totally free of all conditioning, that consciousness will go on. And the few who can step out of it, or many, or all of you, you are contributing to something beyond this consciousness.
We ought to talk over another serious matter which is, what is religion? Why has mankind for over a million years sought something beyond himself? You understand? All new cultures are based on religion. This is an historical fact. And all our culture in the modern day is nothing but money, noise, violence, brutality, power, whether in the temples, mosques or churches with their hierarchy. Their rituals - that is not religion, is it? Ask that question, sirs. Is that religion, repeating day after day mantras, repeating day after day puja, going to temples, offering an incalculable amount of money. Look at all the churches, how they have been built, the great cathedrals - probably you have not seen some of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, all in the name of god, in the name of somebody. In the western world it is the Saviour, and in the eastern world you know better than I do. And that's what is called religion. The origin, the etymological root of that word has not been established. We looked it up in various dictionaries and it has not been established.
If we can put aside all the attempts made by man to find god, or something beyond god, and the priests who come in between us to interpret god, to show us the light - including the gurus - if we put all that aside, what is religion? You understand? Is religion put together by thought for one's comfort, for one's psychological safety, knowing that thought is limited, as knowledge is limited, thought is born out of memory, memory is knowledge, knowledge comes out of experience, the whole process of thought is always limited? It can imagine the immeasurable, but it is still limited because it can imagine it; it can project eternity, but still the projector is limited.
So what is religion? What is it that man, you, and the speaker, have said: what is it? Is there something more than mere knowledge? Right? You understand my question? Somebody answer. Do you understand my question? We have knowledge about so many things: how to go to the moon, how to kill a million people with one blow, how to communicate with each other miles apart, thousands of miles apart so rapidly, all the great surgery. That is all born out of knowledge. And is knowledge religion - psychological knowledge? Or the ending of psychological knowledge? You understand? The ending of it, not the perpetuation of it. That means can the brain be free of knowledge, not worldly knowledge. Please, we must be very careful here to understand this. You need knowledge to drive a car, to write a letter, to telephone, to go to your business, you need knowledge; to recognise your wife and to beat her or to quarrel with her you need knowledge - or her quarrelling with you or beating you up. It generally very rarely happens that a woman beats a man up. I wish it would happen! (laughter)
So I am asking, will the accumulation of knowledge, psychologically, you understand, will that bring about an understanding, or come into that great state of sacredness? Right? Because man has sought something beyond all this. And the search is apparently through meditation. Right? Can we talk about meditation a little bit? The word 'meditation' means to ponder over, to think over: I will meditate about my problem. And also that word means to measure. Right? I believe in Sanskrit too, 'ma' is to measure. Correct me if I am wrong.
So meditation has now become a thing that you practise. You follow a system, a method, do part of yoga as a part of meditation. Is that meditation? Preparation and meditation. You understand? The preparing oneself through a system, through yoga, through repeating mantras, resting twenty minutes a day in the morning, twenty minutes in the afternoon, and twenty minutes in the evening, having a nice siesta, or rest, or whatever it is, and practise that, day after day. Is that meditation? Most of us meditate deliberately, consciously. Right? Practise it consciously in order to meditate, or practise, follow, obey a pattern, and then you will learn what it is to be aware. There are lots of people trying to, following somebody who will teach you how to be aware. It's all such rot!
So what is meditation? It is a very interesting question because conscious meditation, a deliberate process, to sit properly, breathe, you know all that business, consciously, deliberately meditate is no meditation. It is like consciously working to become an executive, consciously trying to become a millionaire, having plenty of money - it's the same. You want a result, you want peace of mind, silence. Right?
Now what is silence? Is it separate from sound? Have you enquired into sound? What is sound? There is sound inside your body all the time, the blood going through the veins. They have put a camera inside the body - you must have seen some of those television pictures, how there is pumping. That is noise, that is sound, when the heart is beating that is sound. You can hear your own heart beating, that is sound. Right? And the sound of a tree, not when the breezes are dancing with the leaves, not when there is a great wind sweeping through it, but when the tree is very still without a single leaf moving, there is a sound in there. And we create sound all round us. Right? Next door for the last month, or another month, or whatever period they have, there is a noise going on, that's sound. Sound of a voice, the sound of music. You understand? There is sound. Why do we separate sound from silence? Because that is what you want, a silent peaceful mind, brain. And to achieve that you practise, hoping by controlling thought gradually, or eventually or in a year or two you will have complete control of your thoughts, your feelings. And you have never asked, who is the controller? Right? Will you ask that question? I want to control my thought because thought is all the time chasing everything, restless, moving from one thing to another, and I want to concentrate, I want to fix my energy on that page, or on that ledger - how to make it crooked for the government, or the tax payer. I want to concentrate, and I try to focus my brain on that, then thought comes along and says, look, and it goes off - distraction.
So there is concentration and distraction. Right? Why do you call it distraction? Is there such a thing as distraction? For God's sake, find all these things out! I want to concentrate on that page but my thought goes off to something else. I pull it back and say, 'For god's sake, concentrate', because it will get you money, it will give you a position, and it will give you a sense of vitality, energy, and that urge is similar to earning money. There is not much difference between concentration, wanting to achieve an end, and the concentration you spend on earning a lot of money, or power, position. If you are a good talker, as you are in this country, you worship a talker. And anything that distracts your thought, you call that distraction. Is there such a thing as distraction at all? Please enquire into it. Distraction implies a moving away from what you should do, or you want to do. You want to concentrate and there is a distraction. Isn't your wanting another form of distraction? Right? Enquire into it. Isn't your whole life a form of distraction? No? Don't look at me as though you are puzzled. Everything becomes a distraction when there is no love, when there is no certainty. Right? I will go into it if you will follow this a little bit.
To the speaker there is no distraction. To him everything is a distraction. See why. Endless talking about politics, endless reading newspapers and quoting, you follow, isn't that a distraction? Chatting, gossiping, isn't that a wastage of energy, isn't that a distraction? So any form of wastage of energy is a distraction. Therefore we have to enquire: is there no wastage of energy at all? You people don't go into all this! Do we waste our energy? In many, many ways, don't we? And when you want to concentrate it is a form of resistance. Right? You build a wall around yourself and you say, 'I must look at this carefully' - isn't that a wastage of energy, this battle, wanting to concentrate, wanting to control, wanting to have power? Isn't that a wastage of energy? Holding on to your position next to the most important person. I heard a lovely story the other day. Somebody shook hands with the queen, and the lady next to that person said to the lady who shook hands with the queen, 'May I shake your hand?'! (laughter) You follow, sir?
Listen to all this and find out for yourself why you call anything a distraction. All the conflicts are a distraction, aren't they? All your jealousies are distractions. That is a wastage of energy, being jealous. No? Hating somebody, being envious of somebody. So our life, the living, is a wastage of energy, the way we are living. And if we end that way of living there is no distraction whatever. Then you are living.
So we must go back to the question: what is meditation? It is very easy to mesmerise oneself. Right? To say to oneself, I am achieving, I am getting nearer to enlightenment. The question arises: can there be silence which is part of sound? What we call silence is the ending of sound. Right? The sound being thought, sound being knowledge. Right? You have that silence without any disturbance. Right? And in that silence come upon something extraordinary, tremendous experience of enlightenment, or of great insight into the universe. Right? Isn't that silence related to sound? Or is sound different from silence? Or sound is silence?
Sir, have you listened to sound, not resist it? Not to say, it is ugly sound - sound. An aeroplane passing overhead, thundering, it is a tremendous noise, sound. Lightening. Right? We are noisy, and therefore we are seeking silence. You understand? So we have separated sound, noise from silence, as we have separated death from living. Right? You understand what I am saying? So our brain, our thought rather, is separating all the time. You understand? It is the nature of thought to separate - nationally, religiously, you and I, the most learned, the ignorant - it is the activity of thought which is in itself limited, therefore whatever it does will be limited, will be separative - Jew, Arab, Muslim and Hindu, communist, socialist - you follow? All that implies a constant division. So we have separated silence from sound. Right, do you get it? If you don't separate, which is, not seek silence as away from sound, then sound is part of silence. I wonder if you see this. Do you see this?
You see when you seek out silence you are creating disorder. And that disorder you call silence. Order is born out of... it comes into being when disorder ends. Right? To find out disorder first, not seek order, why our lives are in disorder, and to go into it, find out, and so on. When there is that comprehension completely of disorder there is naturally order. Now when you don't separate sound from silence there is order, complete order - like the universe, it is everlastingly in order - sun rising, sun setting, the stars, the beauty of a new moon, the full moon, the whole universe is in order, it is only human beings who are in disorder because they have lost their relationship with nature, they have no beauty. You understand?
So the end of the matter is when there is no self, self-centredness, there is something which is totally orderly and that order is silence and sound, and then there is that thing that man has sought, which is timeless. Unless you do this, all that is verbal nonsense. Unless you put your mind and heart to understand your own life, why you live this way, why you have to go to the office day after day, why you have to quarrel with your wife and husband, the jealousy. All that destroys love, and without love there is no order. And where there is love there is compassion. And where there is compassion there is supreme intelligence. Not the artificial intelligence of a computer, nor the artificial intelligence or powerful intelligence of thought. But when there is that quality of the brain, which has understood the whole business of conditioning and is free, and silence is part of that enormous sound of the universe, and where there is the end of sorrow, there is passion. Compassion is that passion, and it is that intelligence, and then beyond that there is total nothingness.
May we get up?