Is it possible to end all sorrow?
The ending of sorrow
3rd Public Talk Brockwood Park
September 01, 1984
May we go on where we left off last Sunday? We were talking about various problems of life - not technological problems but human problems. Our psychological hurts, the wounds that one receives from childhood which we carry throughout life; and these hurts prevent us from having real relationship with others. And these hurts bring about fear. We resist every form of further hurts, therefore we have to build a wall round ourselves and thereby become more and more isolated, neurotic and so on. We talked about that; that we have created an image for ourselves about ourselves and these images, whether they are political, religious or one's own psychological images, that is subjective images, are the cause of these hurts. Those are the images that are hurt.
And we talked about relationship - how important it is to have really good, healthy, rational, without any conflict between man and woman and so on; and we went into that fairly deeply.
We talked about fear last Sunday and the whole problem of time. We said time is the movement of the past, modifying itself in the present, and the future is what is now. So we said all time is contained in the present. If one could really deeply go into that question, the nature of time, the nature of thought and time is thought; we talked about that quite considerably. And if all the present, if all time is contained in the now, then what is change, is there any change then at all? And what is action? And what is also relationship when there is no tomorrow? Tomorrow and the further thousand tomorrows are contained in the present. And if there is no radical change in the present, the future is what we are now. We are, as we said, a whole accumulation of memories, we are memories, gathered through thousands of experiences, knowledge from experience, and that knowledge is limited and therefore all knowledge, whether in the past, the present, or in the future, is always limited. And thought, which is also the response of memory, that thought is also limited. So we are going to enquire this morning several things like morality, justice, whether it is possible completely to end sorrow. And if there is time we will also talk over together what is the nature, what does it mean to die? And also we would like to point out this is not an entertainment, intellectual, romantic, sentimental. This is not a propaganda by the speaker. He is not inviting you to any theory, to any ideology, to any form of persuasion. And also we would like to point out that he is not a guru and all that nonsense.
So we should talk over together, that is, you and the speaker investigate together. And therefore when that investigation is true, deep and continuous, then it is your own, then it is nothing to do with the speaker. As we pointed out quite often, the speaker is merely a telephone, and what he says is important - important in the sense that it covers the whole of our human existence psychologically, subjectively, inwardly, and therefore if we could think together, explore together, take a long journey together, then that journey, that investigation is yours, therefore it is your own understanding, not the understanding of what K is talking about. That is very clear.
Then we should talk about morality. The word 'morality' means behaviour, manner, habit according to any kind of culture, environment, and is there a morality that is not time-binding? Can we go along with this together? A morality that is not within the field of time. Our morality is relative. Our morality, which is habit, custom, manners, behaviour, all that is either born of thought and thought being limited, therefore morality is limited, relative, or it is brought about through various cultures, environment and so on. All that is relative and therefore in the field of time and thought. Are we together in this? And we are asking: is there a morality - which is action, manner - that is not within the area of time and thought? One thinks this is important to discover because on that is freedom. Freedom per se, for itself, not freedom from something.
So we ought to talk over that first, perhaps. What is freedom? Is freedom a reaction from bondage, from loneliness, from every form of depression, anxiety, loneliness, despair and so on? If there is a reaction from those and you call that freedom then that is not freedom, it is merely a response to a condition. Freedom implies also, as we understand it now, choice. We can choose to come here, or go there, choose between various jobs, functions and vocations. Choose whom you will marry or not marry and so on. Choice implies confusion. And choice is not freedom. Freedom is not a reaction to a condition. So is there such freedom? Are we together in this? I hope the tent is not too hot, or you are comfortably hot. (laughter)
So this is really a very serious question one must ask of oneself: whether freedom is from bondage, or from the prison which we have created for ourselves, away from the prison, and therefore it is still within the area of the prison. If one is in a prison, both physically and inwardly, subjectively, then the physical control, being enclosed within a certain area, and to escape from that, one calls freedom. And psychologically one has built a prison for oneself by one's own desires, by one's own anxieties, loneliness and so on. And freedom from that is still within the area of that prison, psychological prison. Are we together? Therefore it is not freedom at all. So is there a freedom that is not a reaction, a freedom per se, for itself, not away from something, or from something?
So one must understand for oneself why we are always trying to escape or to rationalise, or to go beyond that which is. If one understands that which is, understand not merely intellectually, verbally, but see the depth of it, see the truth of it, the substance of it, the vitality of it, then observe, perceiving that and remaining with that and explore into that movement - learning, not memorising - from that, if one goes very deeply, then there is freedom per se.
Now morality is still within the area of time and thought. I think we will agree to that. Depending on the countries, cultures, religious conditioning, national bondage and so on. So that is a relative morality. Is there a morality that is totally free from all time and thought? Are we following this? Or is the speaker talking to himself? And to find such - or to discover it, or to live with that sense of timeless morality, morality not put together by thought and therefore limited, relative, passing, and to go into that very deeply, as we said, time must be understood, the nature of time. Time is a series of events and movements. Now time is also the whole accumulation of forty thousand years, or fifty thousand years of human existence on this earth with all their experiences - racial, tribal, religious fears and so on, all that is the past, the tradition. And that past is now operating, working, which is the past is conditioning us. And the future, the tomorrows, is the continuation of the past, modified but it still has its roots in the past. And if there is no radical, fundamental change now, the tomorrows will still be what is now. So the tomorrow is now. The future is now - right? I think it is fairly simple to understand this. We have lived on this earth, according to the biologists and scientists, for fifty thousand years, more or less. We are supposed to have evolved through that time, through that long duration of time, both physically, biologically, and also all the content of our consciousness. And during this long period of time we still remain very primitive, barbarous, cruel, destructive, wars. So we have changed very, very little because we are still violent, appallingly violent - terrorists, wars, all the things that are going on in the world today. And this has been going on for fifty thousand years, more or less. Perhaps we didn't kill a million people with one bomb. We killed another with a cudgel, an arrow but still the killing instinct of other human beings is still with us. So we are, after all this long evolution, we are still barbarians. And we shall remain barbarians - I am using that word, one is using that word in the real sense, not in the Roman sense. The Roman sense was, anybody in the ancient Rome was no good who does not belong to the Roman Empire, or who didn't speak Latin and so on. We are using that word 'barbarous' in the sense that we are extraordinarily primitive, self-centred, amazingly violent, incredibly violent and brutal - in our gesture, in our words and so on. We are still tribalists - the British, the French, the Indian with their divisions of Sikh and all the rest of it. And if we are that now after centuries of evolution we will be still that in the tomorrows. So the future is now. Right?
And is it possible to change now, completely, without the concept, the idea of tomorrow? And if there is such fundamental timeless change, that is true freedom. And when there is freedom of such a kind there is no fear and therefore there is no all the invention of gods and rituals and all that disappears.
And we ought also to talk over together: what is suffering? Why human beings, who are technologically so vastly advanced, so capable, both intellectually and physically, why after all these years and centuries, why we have not ended sorrow. We all suffer - from the most highly sophisticated individual to the most primitive person, uneducated and so on. We all suffer for various reasons - suffering from lack of food, from lack of clothes and so on, in that physical sense. And there are thousands and millions of people in India and elsewhere who have very little to eat. And also there is the suffering of millions of people through wars: what is happening in North Ireland, Lebanon and so on, Afghanistan and India. And that suffering of wars, of thousands and thousands of years ago, wars continue. And those wars have created immense suffering for mankind. And also there is suffering if one loses one's friend, one's - with whom one has lived for many years. And also there is suffering of not fulfilling, not achieving, not becoming and so on. So there is the vast human suffering of which we are. That suffering has existed for thousands of years. And also there is personal suffering, the limited suffering. We don't think that is limited suffering because it is ours: my suffering. So what is the cause of suffering? Why haven't we resolved it after such a long duration of time? Are we at all aware of this great suffering of humanity? And also this suffering of each one of us? And when we become aware it is a great shock, something that nearly paralyses one. All suffering makes one's own outlook narrow, petty, very destructive. And why is it that we have not solved this question?
Christians have avoided this question. The Hindus, including the Sikhs and all those tribal divisions, or religious divisions, they have explanations as Karma, that is, what you do you sow and so on. Everyone has some kind of explanation for suffering. But the explanations, the causes of suffering, if we merely explain it, put it into words, as we shall presently, knowing that the words are not this feeling, the actuality of pain, so the word is not the thing. The explanation, the description are not the actual. So if we are caught in the words then we shall not be able to understand the substance, the quality, the depth of suffering. So first can we be free of words? This is important because words condition our thinking. Words like Communist, or Socialist and so on, they have already - those words have certain significance and we accept those significances and thus we are conditioned by words.
K: Sir, please would you kindly let me finish the talk. We asked last Tuesday and Thursday, we answered many of the questions that have been given, not all the questions because that would be impossible. There were two or three hundred questions. That would take perhaps several weeks. We can't sit here for several weeks. At least we can't. (laughter)
Audience: But you were talking about suffering and being irritated. It is suffering, isn't it?
K: What sir?
Audience: Talking about suffering and getting annoyed, irritated about suffering.
K: Sir, would you mind, you ought to have put this question the other day. So if you will kindly forgive me I will go on with what I want to say. I hope you don't mind.
There is this suffering. Does the word like 'fear' bring fear? The word itself. Or is fear free from the word? Like love. That is a word, but that word is not the actual. So the word 'suffering', does it shape our thinking? Therefore one has to be very careful, if one may point out, that we are not a slave to words, which is quite difficult. Father, mother, wife, husband. Those words have tremendous significance. And we are - those words shape our thinking. Words have immense power, either destructive, or words that have to be understood - the depth of it, the meaning of it, the quality of it, the tonality of it.
So we are not dealing with explanations, descriptions, or the words that can entangle us. We are trying - we are, not trying, actually - we are endeavouring, going into the question of what is suffering.
When we suffer there is intense pain, not only physical pain, but the subjective, psychic, inward pain. That pain acts on the nerves, our whole thinking is a process of shrinking. And it awakens us to a sense of desperate loneliness. We are saying facts, not imaginative statements: facts. What is. And that sense of shock, sense of loneliness, brings the urge to find some comfort, a sense of wanting to be helped. Don't you go through all this? And the desire to be helped is one of the causes of suffering. You understand? We are always seeking help. That is why most of you probably are here. We want to be helped with our problems, with our secret desires conflicting, with our secret longings and so on, which causes pain, discomfort, a sense of annoyance and so on. And we want to be helped. When we want to be helped from another, whether it be the priest, the psychiatrist, and so on, we then become dependent, we then become attached to that dependence. And that is one of the basic causes of suffering. Right? Please this is important to understand because all our gods, our prayers and so on are the demands of every human being throughout the world, seeking help. And therefore when one is being helped one becomes weak. If you are constantly depending on some kind of drug, pill, to escape from suffering, pain, then you become more and more and more dependent on those drugs, pills, doctors. I hope there are no doctors here. (Laughter) If there are, we need doctors but we are talking about dependence. And we are saying that where there is dependence there is attachment. And attachment is one of the causes of sorrow. When I am attached to my wife, to a building, to some ideological concepts, I am attached to it, I cannot live without them. They mean so much to me. My God, my faith, my belief, my ritual. If I depend on all those, and when they are questioned - like they should be questioned - when somebody becomes sceptical about all that then you suffer. So can there be total freedom, not a reaction from all kinds of attachments? Attachment is to the memories of pleasure - are you following? - sexual pleasure, attachment to it, holding on to it. And the pleasure of power, the pleasure of knowledge, and being attached, holding on to that as though there were something concrete. And where there is this attachment there must be sorrow.
And why are we attached? We are questioning. We are enquiring into this. We are not saying you must not, or you must. The speaker has no 'must' or 'don't' - it is up to you. And we are asking: in attachment there is desire, and what is desire in all that? Perhaps if we have time we will go into it. So can we, knowing the nature of time, that is tomorrow is now, and if we - there is no ending of attachment, tomorrow will be still - we will still be attached, therefore we will still be suffering - you understand?
So is there an instant ending of attachment? Not allowing time to enter into the ending of it. Time is continuity. Right? And the gradual process of time is, 'I will gradually get rid of attachment, gradually become non-violent' because all that stuff is nonsense. So suffering is synonymous with attachment. And we are attached because we are so lonely; we are nothing in ourselves. We depend on books, paintings, on other people's knowledge. The whole religious world is based on other people's experience, and experience is always limited, but they have become sacred. One doesn't know why but they have become sacred. A printed thing is never sacred! What you - one hasn't got to go into all that.
And suffering also, suffering comes when there is self-centred pursuit - right? - because self-centredness, egotism, selfishness, is very, very limited. It is always living in a small little area of one's brain. The brain has extraordinary capacity, as you see it in the technological world. Immense capacity, limitless capacity. And when we are self-concerned, as most people are (coughs) sorry - the self-concern is very limited and therefore it brings conflict. Anything that is limited must inevitably bring conflict. When we say, British, French, Indian, American, Russian, it is all just very limited geographically, nationally it is a form of tribalism. And that is why wars - one of the reasons of war is this limitation. So attachment to a person, to a concept, to an image, to some form of knowledge, must inevitably bring trouble, disturbance, sorrow with its pain. And also where there is this self-centred outlook on life, life being so extraordinarily vast, that limited outlook, that limited way of living must inevitably bring sorrow. And is there an ending to sorrow? Completely ending. Because without ending sorrow there is no love. So we should consider, go into the question of what is to end. The finality, the ending of something, not the continuation in a modified form of what has been, or what is.
So what is ending? Ending immediately a habit, a manner - ending. Not 'If I end this what will I get from that?' - you understand? Are you interested in all this? Really? Or is it just a form of amusement?
Have you ever really enquired what it is to end? Have you gone into that question of terminating something and discovering what happens after if you end? Isn't that death? We will come to that presently.
So we are saying where there is suffering there is no love. And is it possible to end all sorrow? You might say what effect has that ending of sorrow, if one is free from that sorrow completely, then what effect has that on the world, on the majority of people? That is the usual question one asks. Isn't that a rather unreasonable question? First end it and see what happens. Not say, 'If I do this what effect will it bring about?' One feels that is a way of escape. One person has affected the world. Right? One leader in a war, from the most ancient of times till now, they have affected the world. One or two propagandists in Christianity have affected the world - Peter and Paul. One person, like the Buddha, has affected the whole of the Asiatic world. He didn't ask the question: 'If I do this will it affect mankind?' - that's such an absurd question! Forgive me if I use that word. So when there is an ending of sorrow there is love. And then we have to ask: what is love? That word, like every other good word, has been spoilt. Is love desire? Is love pleasure? Is love a movement of thought? And time? One can ask these questions, the speaker is asking that question but the asking of that question if one doesn't remain with the question, with the words, then we can go into it very deeply. We asked if love is desire. To us it is, love is pleasure, love is something possessive, power, position, status. So we ought to consider together first what is desire. Perhaps some of you, if you will kindly accept what the speaker is saying, have heard this word - the explanation of what is desire and perhaps you say, 'Yes, get on with it.' But to find out for oneself very deeply the nature and the structure of desire, and see its relationship in life, and find out why human beings throughout the world are driven by that, in various ways, for power, for position, for - you know, all the rest of it. Desire, that extraordinary energy. The desire to go to the moon and how they worked at it! 300,000 people probably worked at that one project, to go to the moon. And then put a silly flag up there. (laughter) No, sir, if the British put their flag up there it would be still silly.
So what is desire? Look at it yourself. Why is it that we are so - we are slaves to desire. The various religions in the world have said desire must be eliminated, or one must transcend it, or that desire must be concentrated on a figure, on a symbol. Suppress every other desire except the search for God. The monks have been doing this for centuries. But desire is a flame. You can't burn it out. You can't put it out. It is there. You can have desire for something noble, and so on. It is still desire. And desire is causing havoc in the world. Each person desires his own way of living, his own way of thinking and so on. That is so obvious.
So we must understand very deeply, not intellectually, but profoundly what is desire. Not escape from it, not rationalise it, not find a substitute for it, but what is desire? Desire is born out of sensation. Physical sensation. Sensation of perception, seeing, visual seeing, the hearing, the tasting, those are all the reactions from any sensation. Those are normal healthy sensations. And we have tried to suppress those natural sensations by fasting, discipline, by attributing all that, or turning all that energy towards a particular object and so on. So out of desire - out of sensation there is desire. That's obvious. That doesn't need further explanation. One sees a thing in the window, a blue shirt, or a nice dress; the perception - going inside and touching it and sensation and then desire to own it, or not to own it. Right? It is as simple as that. And what makes - how does that desire arise out of sensation? You understand? You see something beautiful, a woman or a man, or some beautiful dress or a car, or something, and there is sensation. Then what takes place? Then thought creates out of that sensation the image of you owning that car or that shirt. When thought creates the image out of sensation, at that second desire is born - right? Can we go along with this? Do you refute that? That is, I see a beautiful thing, a beautiful picture, or a statue, or a woman, or whatever it is. We are not discussing what is beauty, that is a different matter. And there is sensation immediately. Then thought says, 'I wish I had that'. Thought then says, 'I will get into the car and drive' - you understand? Then desire is born.
Now, just a minute. So the question is: is it possible for sensation and thought not to immediately - for thought to immediately give shape to sensation? You understand? Do we understand what it is? That is, to have a gap. If one has - we will use the word 'time interval' between sensation and thought creating an image out of that sensation, if there is a little space between the two then desire becomes something entirely different. You understand? So that requires extraordinary attention, extraordinary awareness of the sensation and the image immediately being formed so that there is an interval. And you can then extend the interval, not suppress it, not try to transcend it, not try to escape from it. When you understand something very deeply it becomes very simple. A mechanic, to him it is very simple, the whole motor, but to us it is rather complicated. But if we see this it becomes extraordinarily simple. Then there is no conflict between desires - right?
So we are saying, asking: is love desire? You answer that question for yourself. Desire, we said, is sensation, and thought giving shape to that sensation. The remembrance of pleasure and the demand for that pleasure, more and more and more. So is love pleasure? Is love jealousy? Possessiveness, attachment, fear? Or is love something totally - please just listen to it - totally outside the brain? The brain is the response, is the centre of all response of nerves, thought, emotions, reactions. One doesn't have to go to the brain specialist. This is so obvious. And if love is within the centre of that, which is conflict, pain, desire, anxiety, all the nervous responses, then how can love exist there? And if it - if all that is free you wouldn't even ask whether it is outside or inside. You understand? And what is the nature of compassion? The word itself, passion for all, and all that business. What is compassion? Is compassion pity, sympathy? Compassion, helping the poor? We are examining the word, the meaning, the significance of that extraordinary word. Where there is suffering and the ending of that suffering is passion. You understand? Passion. And with the ending of that suffering there is passion. And is that passion part of compassion? You understand? Can there be compassion if one is attached to one's religion, one's guru, one's beliefs, anchored in a particular sect, in a particular belief? You understand? I am asking. Or is compassion something that is entirely per se, for itself, free from all that? And being free from all that, therefore it is supreme intelligence. And where there is compassion, love and intelligence then action, behaviour, morality, is entirely different, it is not then time-binding. And to live with that, not just words. To live with that extraordinary sense of depth and passion, with that intelligence.
We also ought to talk over together death. Are you tired at the end of this?
K: No? Why? Please, you say, no, but why? Is it that you have not expended energy? Your energy, not the speaker's energy. Your energy. Going into this so deeply. So pursue it to the very end, not stop in the middle of it. That requires tremendous energy. And we waste our energy. And to enquire into this question, which demands a great deal of energy to go into it, the nature of death. The total ending of something. Actually to find out, not just agree, or disagree, or say that is hopeless, or saying how can I end everything in the modern world, and so on, so on, so on. But if we understand at its greatest depth the nature and the ending of something, that brings tremendous vitality, energy. And that you need that energy to meditate, to find out what is truth, what is sacred, if there is something permanent, something that is timeless and so on. It requires not only physical energy but the energy of intelligence. Intelligence is not, as we have often repeated, the energy of thought. Thought has been tremendously intelligent, creating a computer, in putting this television, or the microphone, or the implements of war, surgery and so on. It has been, thought has been extraordinarily intelligent, but that intelligence because it is born of thought, it is limited. As all painting, all sculpture, all books, all poems and all the gods put together, that is still limited. And that limitation causes conflict, war, conflict between us, each one. So to enquire, to explore into the nature of death, see the immensity of it, not just personal dying, or someone else dying, the immensity of death, which is the ending. And if there is an ending what is there? And so on.
So we will continue with this tomorrow morning, if you don't mind. May I get up please?