If all time is now, what is action?
Why has man after thousands of years not found peace?
1st Public Talk, Saanen
July 08, 1984
What a lovely morning this is, isn't it? A great silence, specially very early in the morning, just as the sun is rising. All the snow capped mountains, the deep valleys, the vague shadows and the sense of great immensity: that is beauty. Beauty is very important in our lives, not merely the romantic side of it, the imaginative side, but the sense of utter silence, specially when you wake up in the morning, looking out of the window when there is no car passing by, no chattering of people, and this great immensity can only be seen or appreciated when the self is not. What corrupts our daily life, as well as nature, and the beauty of the earth, is our narrow little minds, our selfishness, our brutality, violence and all the corruption, and the wars that human beings are preparing. All that denies the immensity of life, the goodness of life, the goodness of freedom and the beauty which is not romantic, that beauty that demands great austerity, a sense of a brain that is at rest, not chattering. This beauty is truth, this beauty is goodness. And we search for it all over the earth in different ways, following various leaders, scriptures and obeying and disobeying, pursuing various pleasures - all that denies surely the great beauty and the immensity of life. Why is it that we have reduced this immensity of life, which is immense, why is it that we have made it all so petty, personal, destructive, utterly meaningless? I wonder if one asks this question of ourselves, and one hopes that you will be doing this during all these talks, that we are together going to question everything in our life, doubt everything in our life.
Doubt is an extraordinarily important thing; scepticism. To observe every experience that one has, doubt that very experience, doubt that very thought, doubt that very feeling, so the brain becomes extraordinarily cleansed of all our accumulated experiences, tradition and so on. This is what we are going to do during all these talks. This is no personal, or personality cult. Please understand this. We all want to cling or worship, or feel near some one person. We are accustomed to that. And we are saying this is not a personality cult at all. So please don't build an image about him, the speaker. The speaker is not very valuable. What is valuable, what has significance, is what he is saying. And to understand what he is saying you must question, not accept a thing. Which means you have to observe, one has to observe one's own reactions, one's own attitudes, justifications, defences and so on. Then it is possible for both of us to communicate with each other, not theoretically, not in abstraction but actually, because we are going to take a very long journey together, no detours at all. We are going together to watch this whole phenomenon of life, of which you are. And also please bear in mind that this is not an entertainment. Because we are used to being entertained, it is our habit; cinema, television, books, novels, we want to be entertained. And religions have become that too, a form of entertainment. So please bear in mind throughout these talks that this is not in any way entertainment. The speaker is not trying to help you. Please bear that in mind very seriously. Because if he is out to help you then he becomes the leader, a man who then conducts you, tells you what to do and so on.
So this is not entertainment, nor an intellectual feast. Because we must use our intellect, it is part of our daily life, it is part of our biological construction. But those of us rather neglect the intellectual capacity and treat the whole thing as a kind of romantic, theoretical, activity. So the speaker is not helping you but we are together, if you will, think, observe, feel the whole extraordinary complex phenomenon of daily living. Please be serious about this, that the speaker is in no way your guide, or the abomination of a guru. That means then you become merely a follower. And generally the followers destroy that which is truth.
So we are going together to think, and that is one of the most difficult things to do because each one of us has opinions, very strong opinions, very strong conclusions, biased, prejudices, conditioned according to our particular pleasure or experience. So one becomes isolated and thinking together becomes almost impossible. I do not know if you have not noticed this, even between the wife and husband, girl and a boy friend and so on, they can never think together, observe together the same thing, the same reaction, the same intensity, at the same time, but there is always this division: 'I think, you think', 'It is my opinion, my judgement' and so on. So please first see how difficult it is and arduous, it requires great attention to think together. Because thinking is very important in our life. All our action is based on thinking. And now as each one of us feels separate, individualistic, with his own gods, with his own experiences, with his own prejudices and so on, and thinking together, if we could do that, it would be a marvellous thing. If one could put aside, at least for this hour, put aside our prejudices, our opinions, our tendencies, idiosyncrasies and observe, not according to your observation or my observation but to observe the mountains together, the beauty, the majesty of those hills, the splendour of sunshine, the running waters, the extraordinary glory of the earth, together. And our difficulty is also that we have - we are caught in words. You have a certain meaning to words, or the speaker has a certain meaning to words. And we use the words to communicate, which we must. But also if one can realise our brain is caught, trapped, captured in words. I wonder if one realises that, how words have become extraordinarily important. And so it becomes very superficial when we are constantly using words, which have become a slogan, repetitive, mechanical - I am British, I am French, I am German and so on. But to go much deeper, beyond and above the words, requires an extraordinary alertness, not to be trapped by words. And then only it is possible to think together. Can we do this this morning? Actually be aware of one's own prejudices, opinions, dogmas, our own particular attitudes and put all those aside for a while at least, if you can do that. Then we can think together. Then we can work together.
And also it is important to realise that this is not an activity of stimulation. The speaker is not trying to stimulate you. He is not acting as a drug so that you are stimulated for this morning and let it peter out during the day. So it is not a stimulation. It is not a propaganda, to make you think in a certain way. He is not propagating any ideal, any theory, any belief, because theories, ideals, beliefs, dogmas, have separated human beings. There are the totalitarian ideals, and the ideals of the so-called world of freedom. They are at war with each other. And we are also at war with each other, this perpetual conflict in our life. If you cannot get on with one person either you break away from that person, divorce, all those extraordinary divisive processes that are going on in our daily life. Please listen to the words and see if they are true, if they are actual, if they have any meaning in our daily life, or these talks and gatherings are something separate, utterly unconnected with our existence, with our daily conduct. If this is possible, one hopes it is, we can then go into very, very complex problems of life.
To approach a complex problem - because our life is very, very complex, the society is very complex, relationship is very complex, our labour, going to the office, all that, the whole psychological as well as social, outward existence, is extraordinarily complex. There is no ready answer. There is a ready answer if one goes through with it, sees it clearly right from the beginning. Our life is complex therefore we must approach it very simply. That will be our difficulty, because our brains are very complex, they have had thousands of experiences, have accumulated great knowledge, both biologically, psychologically, externally. We have great knowledge about almost everything. I do not know if you have seen lately on the television the birth of a child, how it is conceived, all the complexity of the cells and so on. So our brain is a very complex machine. To understand that we must approach it very, very simply. But we have very complex minds - brains. We are never directly simple. Simplicity is not merely having one meal or few clothes, and so on, that is very complex too. Simplicity means to have no prejudice, like and dislike, no personality entering into it. To look at the beautiful sky of an evening, with the sun just over the hills, the radiance, the extraordinary light and the clarity, to observe all that requires great simplicity of brain, not chattering everlastingly. It requires that sense of silence to observe the great immensity of a sunset.
So if all this is fairly clear between us then we can proceed. But please this is just the foundation, the first couple of bricks. Unless we lay very deep foundations you cannot go very far. The first movement matters enormously. Whether that movement is precise - which is the brick - precise, correct, impersonal and it becomes impersonal when you are considering the whole of life, objective, non-romantic and without sentimentality. And that is what we are doing now, laying the first brick. Having laid it, if you are willing, if you are pursuing it, then we must enquire into a very complex problem which is time.
We are together, I am not - the speaker is not telling you but we are together observing it. To observe is not through the words but just to look, to look with your eyes first, so the perception is very clear. That perception is denied when you have problems; when you have problems you can't see clearly - right? So together be free for this morning at least to observe the whole content, the significance of time. Because we live by time - sunrise, sunset, the evening star, and the morning light, the dark and lightness. There is the time of yesterday, time as tomorrow, time as now. Time is now as you are sitting there. So there is time to cover a distance from here to there, time to learn a language, time to write a letter, time to acquire skills, time to experience. So we live by time, both outwardly, externally and inwardly. Please this is very important to understand because we are going into something which both of us must really understand, not just theoretically, not in an abstract sense but actually. Because if we understand the nature of time then perhaps there is a possibility of understanding that which is beyond time. That is much more complex. Don't jump to that. First we must understand what is, what actually is. And therefore we are enquiring into what is time. You are enquiring too. As we said, time to cover a distance from here to your home, to become an excellent carpenter, to become a great scientist, to write a great novel, requires time. And so on. And also there is time inwardly: I will be, I must be, I must achieve enlightenment - whatever that may mean! I must reach God, Heaven - you know all that implies time. I am this, violent, but give me time and I will be free of violence. Please see this actual fact in yourself. The speaker is acting merely as a mirror in which you can see yourself. When you see yourself clearly the mirror can be thrown away. The mirror is not important but what is important is what you see in the mirror. The mirror if it is clear, without any distortion, it shows exactly what your face - how you look and so on.
So we are together enquiring into time. We have described time outside, by the watch. We met here exactly at ten thirty, it was exact when I sat on the platform. And there is time also inwardly. One is an apprentice and gradually one becomes the master, that takes time. You are a business clerk in an organisation and if you are good at it you become gradually the manager. That attitude, that way of thinking has spilled, has extended over into the psychological world - I am this, I will be that - right? We are understanding each other? So there is time outside, by the clock; time inwardly, time between now and death. Right? Now we are going to enquire much more deeply into the nature of time.
First of all one must use our brains to find out, not just accept. The intellect's function is to discern, judge, evaluate, but if you brush aside the intellect as being too lop-sided - intellect is part of our structure, part of our being, as emotions. But if you merely cling to your emotions and say intellect doesn't matter, or if you are merely intellectual - so we must have the capacity to look at the whole of it with our brains, with our intellect, with our feelings, with our nerves and our entire being - right? If you can do it. That is why it requires great attention, watching every movement of thought. I don't know if you have ever done that. Watching without trying to distort every thought, never letting a single thought escape. That requires attention, watchfulness, great self awareness. So time there is as the past, the present and the future. Right? Time as the past, all the accumulated knowledge, experience, all the incidents, the things that we have done which we regret, the things we want to do, which is the future, the things that are being done now - right? So the present, the now, is the past - of course - is the present and also the future - right? Do we understand each other, this? Because it is important to understand in order to communicate what we are going to say still further.
We are saying, the speaker is saying that all time, all time is contained in the now. That is, the past is contained in the now - that is simple, you can see that. You are your past - right? Your memories, your incidents, your experiences, your failures, your regrets, your remorse, your guilts, all the tradition that you have been brought up in, both the religious and sectarian, the whole of the past is time. Right? We are supposed to be on this earth as human beings forty five thousand years, or more. Think of the vast accumulated knowledge that we have had. Forty five thousand years of striving, conflict, misery, unhappiness, joy, sorrow - right? All that is the past. Clear? All that is now, as you are sitting there, all that is what you are now. And the now also contains the future. I will show it to you. You see I am showing it to you - I don't - you understand, you are not meeting it. Like two friends walking along in a shady lane, talking about all this. Two great friends who have known each other for some time. There is no animosity between them, no defence, no aggression, two old friends who have known each other for many years, talked together, perhaps belong to the same club, same tie, same way of talking, they know each other extraordinarily well. And they are not trying to convince each other of anything, and they are asking this question: what is time, what is the now? The now, one says to the other, contains all time because what you are now you will be tomorrow - right? So tomorrow is now. Have you understood? I am prejudiced now, I like and dislike people, and tomorrow I will be prejudiced, I still will like and dislike - right? So tomorrow, the future is now. Is this clear? Have we understood each other? Please, this is very important to understand this. Not the speaker is putting an extraordinary, some kind of exotic, oriental nonsense. When the Orientals bring something it will be nonsense but if you can see this point for yourself, that all time, the past, the present and the future is contained now - right? I am what I have been, and what I will be is what I am now. If I don't change now I will be tomorrow exactly what I am - clear? Are we together in this? - not verbally, not theoretically but actually - that we now contain all time, apart from learning a language, learning a skill - you understand - writing a letter, that requires time, to come from one place to another, that requires time, but psychologically, inwardly, all time is now. Right? See the difficulty of it, that there is no tomorrow, there is only now. That means there is no becoming - right? There is no psychological evolution at all. Now this is... you understand? It is not 'I am going to achieve something' - that means time. Do you understand? Suppose I want to be illuminated - whatever that may mean, quotes! I want to find truth, all the rest of it. That means in the future - right? Clear? The future is now, what I am - right? If I don't fundamentally change the future is what I am tomorrow - right? What I am now tomorrow - clear?
Then from there we can go on to something very complex. If we see the truth of this, that there is no psychological evolution at all. There is no becoming, there is no what I am but what I will be. The future is now - if I don't radically change now I will be exactly tomorrow what I am. Right? That means seeing the truth that there is no psychological becoming. The psyche, which is the essence of the self, thinks in terms of becoming - right? Do you follow all this? This is not an intellectual feat. This is a simple, obvious fact. Christianity has one way of expressing it - resurrection, reaching God, attaining Heaven, which is expressed in the Asiatic world differently but it is the same movement - right? That is, I am this, I will gradually become that. That is, never to think in terms of graduality - gradualness. You understand all this? I need time gradually to learn a skill - right? I need many years to learn to dance well in a ballet, from childhood I must begin. To play the violin I must begin when I am very young, if I have got the talent, if I have got the passion behind it. And also I feel the same movement is carried over into the psychological area, I must one day reach. Right? That is why you belong to various groups, various gurus, you put on various dresses, robes to be different, because you want to achieve something. So if you see the truth, the absolute truth that all time is contained in the now, to realise the depth of it is rather frightening. When you say, 'I hope to see you tomorrow', 'I love you tomorrow' - you understand? So either that love is now in its entirety or not at all. If this is very clear, the absolute clarity of it, that the psyche has no future - you understand - that you have no future. That is because what you are now you will be, unless fundamental mutation - which is a biological word but a good word to use - unless there is fundamental mutation now, you will be what you are tomorrow.
So, realising that as an actuality, not a theory, not a supposition, not some ideal, all that nonsense, but fact, then we must begin to enquire into what is action? Into what is relationship? Into what is change? Right? Change, action and relationship - right? If I understand, if that truth that all time is now, then what is my action, what is then action? Please enquire, don't go to sleep. Sorry. Forgive me. If the speaker is emphatic please it is not that he is aggressive. The speaker feels very strongly about these matters. Humanity is destroying itself - right? All over the world terrible things are happening. They are preparing all kinds of horrors, the scientists throughout the world. Gas warfare, germ warfare, these terrible missiles, atom bombs, neutron bombs. We were at one of the centres where they are preparing all these, top scientists. We casually go on every day of our life not paying any attention to all that. When you are aware of all the things happening in the world, which is you, round you, you feel utterly responsible, not for yourself, for this whole humanity, not just for Switzerland. I know this means nothing to most of us because we just want to go on with our old traditions, our old habits, our old defensive mechanisms and so on. So when we realise all time is now, what a marvellous truth, then what is action? What is our present action? We must begin with the actual to find out what real action is, which has no future. You understand what I am saying?
What is our present action? Action, the doing? It is either based on memory, the past - right? Memory which has been accumulated through various experiments, experiences, so the past dictates action. Are you following? Please come on. Or the future dictates the action, the ideal, the theoretical concept of the communists, dialecticism, you know all that. So action is according to the past memories, past remembrances, past hates, past dislikes, past prejudices, past personal attitudes, that is all the past. According to that past there is action - right? Whether in the scientific world, or in the psychological world. Action there is invention - right? Do you understand? Are we together in all this, or am I going off by myself? There is a collection of top scientists in a certain place, Los Alamos in New Mexico in America, they invited the speaker to talk to them. There were seven hundred top scientists of America creating all the things for war. They asked: what is creation in science? You understand? What is creation in science? I said there is no creation in science, there is only invention. We will go into that apart. What the speaker wants to explain is that the past is so formidable, so strong that guides, controls, shapes our action - right? Or you have a future ideal, future theories, and act according to those theories as approximatingly as possible - right? Past memories and the future theories, ideals, concepts, dogmas, faith. So action is based on these two principles - right? Clear? Of course, this is simple. But when one realises all action is now, there is no future action - you understand? Because the future is now. I must go over it. If that is not clear that all time is now, contained in the now - right? You agreed two minutes ago, at least you shook your heads, some of you, indicating that you were following, you saw the fact of it. Now if there is no future, because the future is now and the past is now, then what is action? We said action as we know it now is based on the past - memories, regrets, guilt, experience, which is all knowledge, or the future, the ideal, the concepts - right? Theories, faiths, you act according to that. So you are acting according to the past or to the future. But the past and the future are now - right? So what is action? You understand my question? Please do - don't give up. You have to exercise your brain, your intellect, your energy to find out, your passion to find out. What is action? If - no, what is action then all time is now? What is your answer? What is your deep truthful answer? When the brain - listen to it - when the brain is conditioned to act according to the past, or to the future, and when the truth is all time is now, therefore there is no future, but now. The future is contained in the now, and the past is contained in the now. You understand all this? So what is action?
I can tell you but you see you are waiting for me to tell you. Too bad, you are not really going into it. You are waiting for somebody to explain all this. Suppose there was nobody to explain to you, what will you do? You have seen the truth of something - the truth that all time, the past, the future, is in the now. You see. And you meet a man who says, 'Look, what is action?', and leaves you. And you have to find out because when once you have seen the truth that all time is now, that truth will never leave you. You understand? It is like a thorn, like an arrow in your body that will not be extracted, pulled out. So you have to answer it. And you won't answer it because you are incapable of answering it, because our brain is conditioned to the past action, action according to the past, or according to the future. So one has to tackle that problem first: whether the brain can be free from the past. Careful now. I need memory to function in the world - right? To go to my office, to work in the laboratory or in a factory, or some skill, I need a great deal of time, a great deal of knowledge. There, there is a becoming there - right? I don't know but I will know. That same movement, same - it is extended, that same thought is extended into the psychological world. I am this, I will be that - right? Now you perhaps have seen for yourself very clearly the truth that all time is now. And the speaker says, find out what is action. Right? Your action has been according to the past memories, past training, past experience, which has conditioned the brain, and also conditioned the brain to the future idea, ideal, concept, I must be, and so on. Can the brain be free of these two? You understand? Are you following all this? You understand my question sirs? (Yes).
Can the brain, which has been conditioned to act according to past memories, or thought has projected a concept, an ideal, a theory, according to which you are acting. The brain is conditioned that way. Can the brain be free of that, otherwise you will never find out what action now is - you understand? I can - somebody can explain but it won't be the depth of your own understanding. Clear? I'll explain it. I'll go into it. This will be a verbal explanation, naturally. It won't be something you yourself have discovered, and therefore truth and therefore live according to it.
We have to enquire into what is perception, seeing, perceiving. One perceives the fact actually that all time is now. That is a fact. Irrevocable fact. No other clever man comes along and says, 'It is not like that.' If what you have discovered is truth then you can meet any challenge. You won't be bowled over.
Questioner: I don’t know the answer but I can feel...
K: Listen madam, you can ask your question, write it down and we will answer it, not now. I hope you don't mind.
What is action, which is totally independent of the past and the future? Right? What is action which is not dependent on the past or the future - right? Is there an action which is so complete now, not fragmented - you understand? That is my action - human action is based on the past or the future, therefore it is fragmented - right? It is broken up. So we are asking: is there an action which is totally free of fragmentation? I don't know if you see the beauty of the question itself? Therefore there is - the speaker says there is such an action. And that action is to see the seeing is the doing. There is no interval of time between the seeing, perceiving, understanding and the doing. The understanding, perceiving, the seeing, is action itself. Say for instance - I am working so hard, come on! One perceives very clearly, objectively, without any bias, that all organised religions throughout the world, all of them are based on superstition, faith, belief, tradition. Obviously. With their various forms of rituals, dresses, fancy dresses and so on and so on and so on. You see that is put together by thought, whether the ancient thought or present thought, it is put together by thought. Therefore as thought being limited it must be limited. Because thought - I will briefly explain it to you - thought is the outcome of memory. Memory is part of knowledge. Knowledge is the outcome of experience - right? There is no complete knowledge. In the scientific world they are adding knowledge - right? - bit by bit, by bit. A thousand people, or a hundred thousand people are adding to it day after day, day after day - right? Therefore the more is limited. Right? So experience is limited. The experience of a man who says, 'I have reached God' is limited. Right? So knowledge, whether now or in the future, is limited. Therefore thought is limited - right? So anything that thought has put together both externally or inwardly is limited - right? So action based on thought is limited. Get it? Hear it for the first time for God's sake. All action, if it is based on thought, will always be limited. Therefore that which is limited must invariably create conflict. If I am thinking about myself all day long, as most people do, it is a very small affair - right? I must practise, I must meditate, I must not do this, I must not do that - you follow? I must seek, I must have no conflict, I must meditate. It is all very self centred activity and therefore it is very limited - right? So thought is limited. Is there an action which is not based on thought? Thought is the past - all the memories, all the tradition, all that. And thought also has projected the future, the ideal, the communist theories - it is still limited. So if we are acting according to the past or to the future, it is still limited - right? Therefore breeding enormous conflict and confusion, obviously. So is there an action which is not based on the past or the future, because all time is now? Is there an action which is so complete now? You understand? Which means, seeing something clearly is to act instantly. I see very clearly, the speaker sees very clearly to belong to any organisation, specially spiritual organisations, is utterly detrimental, limited, therefore don't belong to anything. Yes, sirs. Because to belong to something gives us security. We want to feel safe. The guru knows, I don't, therefore I will follow him, it is a form of self deception, insecurity. Right?
So one perceives that, and instant action. The whole thing, you are free of the whole so-called spiritual leadership. That requires - you understand, it is not strength - mere perception of seeing 'what is'.
It is a quarter to twelve. An hour and a quarter. I hope you aren't tired. We will continue on Tuesday morning. Please if one may remind you one must - life is a complex, you can't take parts of it and say, 'I understand' and go away, it requires the whole of it, not just part of it. We are only just beginning - a very small part of it. We are going to talk about fear, relationship, meditation, sorrow, the whole complex problem of our daily living. If you read a book you don't read the first chapter, you must go through to the very end of it. Not we are inviting you to come to all the meetings, I don't care - the speaker doesn't care if you come or don't come, but what is important is if you begin go to the very end of it, don't stop in the middle of it. Right? Put all your energy into it.
May I get up now?