Is it possible to live in peace?
Why has the brain got caught in the narrow circle of the self?
1st Public Talk Saanen
July 10, 1983
It is a lovely morning and I hope you are not too hot! We are going to talk over together many things, serious things and so these gatherings here are not an entertainment, either intellectual or emotional or romantic. They are serious, and if I may point out throughout the talks that we are exploring, investigating, and enquiring together. The speaker is not merely putting forth some ideas but rather we are going to observe together the facts. The word 'fact' means that which has been done previously and remembered. What has been remembered is not the fact, but what has been done in the past is a fact. And what is happening now is a fact. The word 'fact' is that. The past incident without remembrance and that which is happening now. The future is non-fact, it is a hope, it is an idea, it is a concept but what actually is a fact is that which is happening and that which has happened.
And we are going to deal together only with the facts and not with concepts, with ideas, with speculations, however philosophical, however interesting, but we are going together to consider the fact of what we are, the fact of what is happening around us in the world, and the fact that most of us are concerned with ourselves. And in a world that has no peace whatsoever, there is such chaos, disorder, great danger, terrorism, threats of war - these are all facts. And in this world, living every day of our lives, with all the turmoil, with all the labour that man has to do, with all the problems we have to face, is it at all possible to live in peace? Because in the world there is no peace. The politicians talk about it, the hierarchy of the Catholic church talks about it, so do the Hindus and the Buddhists and all the Muslims and so on, but actually there is no peace. And peace is necessary in order to grow, to flower, to understand, to have time to look around, to explore into ourselves and what we can find there. We must have peace - not freedom from something. Freedom between two wars, between two rows, between two problems, or a sense of physical relaxation - that is not peace. Peace is something much more fundamental, much more deep than the superficial freedom that one has, or one thinks one has.
So we are going together, this morning - part of the morning - to talk over together as two friends whether it is possible to live in peace, both inwardly, psychologically and outwardly. We may want peace and we may see the necessity of having peace but we do not live a peaceful life. And the world is preparing for war, ideologies fighting each other. They do not consider human beings but only the extension of power and so on. So we cannot possibly look for peace from the politicians and governments. That is a fact. They have talked about pacem in terris, peace on earth and there has never been peace on earth. On the contrary religions have helped to bring about wars. You know all about it so I won't go into it. They have tortured, condemned, excommunicated, burnt and then the next moment they talk about peace. Probably the Buddhists and the Hindus are the only ancient Buddhists and Hindus, in their religion they have accepted the dictum 'Don't kill' - but they do kill. That is just an idea again. And the Islamic world is full of what they are - you know all about it. Those religions that are formed, established on books become bigotry, fundamentalists, and they become terrorists also of the world. And institutions and foundations, groups have promised peace. But they too do not give peace.
So where does one find peace? Because one must see very clearly, without peace we are like animals, we are destroying each other. We are destroying the earth, the ocean, the air. And politically and religiously we look to leaders to unify and bring about peace in the world. But they have not succeeded either. Governments, politicians, religious people, those groups that are searching for peace, none of them have given human beings, you and me, the speaker, peace. So where do we find it? Without that fundamental necessity we cannot possibly understand greater things of life.
So together we are going to go into this, not verbally, not intellectually, but find out for ourselves as human beings, without any guide, without any leadership because they have all failed. Without any priest, without any psychologists, can we have peace in the world, in the world and in us? First, can we have peace in ourselves?
The word 'peace' is a rather complicated word. One can give different meanings to it depending upon our moods, depending on our intellectual concepts, romantically, emotionally we can give different meanings to it. But can we together, not give different meanings, but comprehend the word and the significance and the depth of that word? It is not merely the freedom from something: peace of mind, physical peace, but the ending of all conflict, that is real peace, not only in ourselves but with our neighbours and with the world. Peace with the environment, the ecology and all that, to have deep rooted peace, unshakeable and not superficial, not a passing thing but timeless depth of peace.
One has sought peace through meditation. All over the world that has been one of the purposes of meditation. But meditation is not the search for peace. Meditation is something far different, which we will go into presently.
So what is peace and how can we establish and lay the foundation so that we build on that - psychologically speaking? You understand sirs, we are talking over together. I am not pointing out. The speaker is not the authority but in talking over together things become very clear. If we can talk over together without any bias, without any prejudice, having no conclusions or concepts what peace is, then we can go into it together. But if you have opinions about peace, what peace should be, then your enquiry stops.
Opinions have no value, though the whole world is run on opinions. Opinions are limited. Your opinion, or the speaker's opinion, opinions of the totalitarian governments, or the opinions of the church people and governments and so on, they are all limited. Your judgement and the opinion which gives values are all limited. I hope we understand the word, what it means to be limited. When you think about yourself from morning till night, as most people do, it is very, very limited. When you say you are Swiss, it is very limited, or when you are proud to be a British as though you are god's chosen people, that too is limited.
So opinions are limited. When one sees that clearly then one does not cling to opinions, or the values that opinions have created. Because then your opinion against another opinion doesn't bring about peace. That is what is happening in the world. One ideology against another ideology - Communist, socialist, the democrat and so on. So please understand, if I may repeat again, that we are talking over together and if you are adhering to your opinion and I am sticking to mine, then we shall never meet. So there must be freedom from opinion and its values. Is that clear?
Can we go on from there? That you are actually not holding back your opinions and using them as axes to beat each other, to kill each other, but opinions I have are limited and therefore they must inevitably bring about conflict. If you hold on to your conclusions and your conclusions are also limited, and another holds his conclusions, his experiences, which are always limited, then there must be not only conflict, but wars, destruction and all the rest of it. If you see that very clearly then opinions become very, very superficial, they have no meaning. So please when you are enquiring into what is peace and whether you can live in peace, don't have opinions about it. Be free to enquire, and in that enquiry act. The very enquiry is action, not that you enquire first and then act. But in the process of enquiry you are acting. I hope again this is clear, that there must be freedom. It is the very basis of peace. There must be freedom from all the values of opinions so that we can together actually, not theoretically, but factually see that you and the speaker have no opinions, which is a tremendous demand because we live on opinions. All the newspapers, magazines, books are based on opinions: somebody says that, you agree and that is your opinion too. Another reads another book and forms an opinion. So please, to find out the true meaning of peace and the depth of it and the beauty of it, and the quality of it, there must be no bias. Obviously that is the first demand - not that you must have faith in peace, or make the goal of your life to live peacefully, or search out from books, from others what is peace, but to enquire very deeply whether your whole being can live in peace.
Action is not separate from perception. When you see something to be true that very perception is action. Not that you perceive or understand and then act. That is an intellectual concept and you put that concept into action. The seeing is the action. The seeing that the world is broken up into tribalism - the British, the German, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Swiss - they are tribes. To see that fact, that they are tribes, glorified as nations, and this tribalism is creating havoc in the world, bringing wars in the world; each tribe thinks its own culture opposed to other cultures. But tribalism is the root, not the culture. So in observing that, the fact of that, is the action which frees the brain from the condition of tribalism. Is that clear? Are we making this clear between ourselves? That when you see actually, not theoretically or ideationally but as a fact that tribalism, which has had certain benefits in it, but the very fact that it exists as glorified nations, is one of the causes of war. That is a fact. There are other causes of war, economic and so on - we won't... One of the causes is tribalism. When you see that, perceive that, and that cannot bring about peace, the very perception frees the brain from its conditioning of tribalism. We are together in this? We are talking over together. The speaker is not persuading you. He is not trying to convince you of anything. He is not doing propaganda of any kind. But we are facing things as they are, head on. And one of the factors of contention throughout the world is religion. You are a Catholic, I am an Arab, a Muslim and so on. Based on ideas, propaganda of two thousand years, and the Hindus and the Buddhists over three to five thousand years, we have been programmed like a computer. Please see the fact that programming has brought about great architecture, great pictures, great chants, music, but it has not brought about peace to mankind. When you see the fact of that you do not belong to any religion - you are neither a Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, nothing. Nor when you see that the division takes place when there are half a dozen gurus in the same place - you know what they are doing, don't you? - they bring about misery, contradiction conflict. Your guru is better than mine. My group is more sanctified than yours. I have been initiated, you have not. You know all that nonsense that goes on. So when you see all this as an actual fact, which is so round you, then you do not belong to any group, to any guru, to any religion, to any political commitment of ideas. Please, this is very serious if you really want to, and the urgency to live peacefully there must be freedom from all this because they are the causes of dissension, Division. Truth is not yours or mine. It doesn't belong to any church, to any group, to any religion. The brain must be free to discover it. And peace can only exist when there is freedom from this fallacy. Are we together so far? - even intellectually? You know for most of us to be so drastic about things is very difficult because we have taken security in things of illusion, in things that are not facts. And it is very difficult to let them go. It is not a matter of exercising will, or taking a decision - I will not belong to anything. That is another fallacy. We commit ourselves to something - to a group, to an idea, to a religious quackism, because we think there is some kind of security for us. And in all these things there is no security and therefore there is no peace. The brain must be secure. And the brain with its thought has sought security in things that are illusory - right?
So freedom from that. Can you do it? Are you serious enough to want, or crave, to demand that one must live in peace? Or only this morning, persuaded perhaps by the speaker, you say, 'Yes, I understand all that but...' - but, but, but!
So when we are talking over together as two friends, and that is what is taking place as two friends, though you are many, we are friends, you and the speaker. And as two friends who are not persuading or dissuading, not asking each other to commit to something or other - they are not then friends. As two friends asking each other: is it possible that one lives peacefully for the entire existence of one's life? Not at odd moments, not when you have nothing to do and you are captured by the tube, by the box, by the television - those are all superficial relaxations. But to live without a single conflict, without a single problem. Not that there are not problems, there are. But those problems are not being solved because we are the maker of those problems. I wonder if you understand all this?
First of all, the brain, which we'll talk about - the speaker is not a specialist, he has discussed the matter with many scientists, don't accept what the scientists say either. It is far more important to discover for oneself how one's own brain is acting rather than be told by experts, professionals, scientists, what the brain is. The only instrument we have is the brain with its thought. And that brain, with its thought has not brought about peace in the world - in the world or in oneself. That, again, is a fact. And that instrument, which is thought, has reached its tether, its end - we will go into that presently.
And so where does one explore? And also to explore there must be - we must be very clear who is the explorer and that which is being explored. Is this clear? If I am exploring into what is peace, then 'I' is separate from the thing that is being explored, and so there is division. Where there is division in the enquiry itself there must be conflict. Are we making it clear? Please this is not an intellectual game but really to find out the depth of peace, and all the great significance of it, the ramifications of it, the expansion of it, it can only be found if we understand from the very beginning that the explorer is the explored. The explorer is not different from that which he is exploring. This is difficult for most of us to accept either intellectually or actually because our conditioning is so strong. From childhood this division exists: the observer and the observed, the examiner and the examined, the investigator, who thinks he is separate from that which he is exploring. This is our conditioning. This is so. This is a fact. And so we live in perpetual conflict because where there is division - between Catholic, Protestant, between the Muslim, between the Buddhist, Arab, Jew, and all the rest - wherever there is division inwardly or outwardly there must be conflict. And if you like to live in conflict, that is your affair. Have a good time, enjoy it, the fun of it and the pain of it. But if you want to discover how to live peacefully you must understand this basic fact that the explorer is exploring in himself, not something outside of himself. He is exploring his own structure, his own activities, his own movements of thought, his own memories. He is all that. I wonder - one wonders if you have ever observed that you are a movement of memory. You understand? Memory is the faculty to remember, the faculty of time. That is the duration of an incident which might have happened fifty years ago, or yesterday, that incident is over but the faculty of remembering that incident is memory. And we live on memory - a movement, changing, reacting, constantly shaping itself. We are that. I wonder if you realise it? And we think progress is the expansion, the continuation, the heightening of the memories, like the computer.
I do not know if you have gone into the question of the computers - some of you may have. It is rather interesting. There have been - the computer is a machine that will remember, it'll memorise, which is, it is being programmed by experts. I don't know how many millions can be held, memories, on a single side of a nail. They are doing extraordinary things. I have talked to some of them. Do you understand this? And the activities of man, they have built cars, they will invent. Each passing generation is better than the last. They may not write poems, probably they will. They may not write the music of Beethoven, probably they will do jazz very well. So with this machine called the computer what is going to happen to your brain? Please consider this seriously, for god's sake. This is not a threat - we have talked about this to some of the great inventors of computers and their advancement; they do not consider what is going to happen to the human brain. They are only concerned with the advancement, the quickness, the rapidity of the computer. We will talk about it some other time and will go into it.
But we said as long as there is memory, which is the faculty of remembering things that have happened before - which are necessary in the technological and the physical world - and as we discover that we are a movement in time, which is the movement of memory, does peace lie in memories? You understand my question? One can remember the days, or the nights, or the mornings, when one saw the extraordinary depth and the beauty of peace. That perception, that awareness for a minute, has gone, but one remembers that. The remembrance is non-fact and so we are living in memories which are dead, gone, finished - right? Please it is not a depressing or an absurd thing for you to turn your back against all this, but see what memory does to us. Memory is my being programmed as a Hindu with all that silly nonsense going on, thinking that my own culture is better than any other culture, because it is about three thousand years old or more, I take great pride. And yours is fairly recent. You are conditioned as the speaker is conditioned - if he is conditioned. Which is, the conditioning is memory - right? - non-fact and so I stick to my memories, which are dead things, and you stick to your memories - as Christian, as Hindu, you know, as an Arab, or a Swiss, or god knows what else!
And also we must have memories - one can't go from here to your house if you have no memory. If you drive a car you must have memory. If you are in the technological world you must be supremely competent in your memories, otherwise you lose your job. But we are talking about the psychological memories of experience, pleasant or unpleasant, painful or delightful - the psychological. So memories are the conditioning factor - right? Please see the fact of it. Not my explanation of the fact. One of our difficulties is that we rather like explanations rather than the fact. Why certain governments are behaving that way - and the journalists and so on explain it. And we accept the explanations, the logic, the reason and so on. The description is not the fact. The painting of a mountain, however beautiful the painting be, is not the mountain. All the pictures in the museums, some of them extraordinarily beautiful, but those pictures are not what they want to represent, something which they have seen. You read a novel and it is good literature - if it is - and all the imaginings, romantic business, sex and so on, written by an excellent, well-known author - again that is not your life. Your life is here. So to find out how to live in peace - not the method, not the system. That is a wrong question when you say 'how'.
So we are going to go into it more. What is the cause of conflict? Which all of us have. What is the root of it? What is the root of all problems, whether it is a religious problem, problems of meditation, problems of relationship, political problems, religious - problems. The word 'problem' means - the root meaning of that word is something thrown at you. Probably something hurled at you. Problem is a challenge - right? If you respond to that thing called problem from your memories then your memories will not answer the problem because your memories are not alive, they are dead. You understand the significance of this? That we live with dead things. There is a picture of my son, brother, aunt, uncle or whatever it is, on the mantelpiece. He is dead and gone, he can never come back, physically he is gone, incinerated or buried, or whatever they do. But I have that picture, a constant remembrance of something that has gone. And I keep up that romantic, illusory, memorial relationship. Please see the importance of all this. So our brain is never clear. It is always functioning within the field of memory. And to live with a sense of great abundance, flowing peace, there must be freedom from the past, which is memory - right? Memory, not how to get to your home, or to speak a language. If I had no memory of English now I couldn't talk to you, you couldn't understand what the poor chap is telling you. (I wonder if you understand what the poor chap is telling you either - laughter) And why the brain holds on to dead things as memory.
What is the function of the brain? The scientists are saying several things about it. One side is this kind of activity, the other side is still not awakened, or awakened but influencing the other, and so on. But if you enquire into yourself sanely, not neurotically, not self-centred, if you are self-centred and enquiring into that you will still condition the brain to be self-centred. So what is the function of the brain? One can see one of its major functions is to live in the physical, is to arrange the physical world - right? But that very brain has brought about chaos in the world - right? That is, the activity of the brain which is the root and the beginning of thought, that is the instrument which we operate, thought. That is the major function of the brain. And that function has created such extraordinary havoc in the world, disorder. And also that very brain has brought about health, communication, and all the rest of it, medicine, great surgery. To communicate from India to the other end of the world, to California, if the operators are not too lazy, it takes a few minutes and you are connected. Of course it is not as rapid as thought. So technology is gallopingly advancing at a tremendous speed. And that very technology is creating havoc in the world too, like the computer, like the atom bomb. You understand? Two great powers - I don't know why they are called great powers, they are two idiotic powers - are talking about, you know, trying to kill each other with the latest bombs - right? That is what thought has done, being one of the faculties of the brain. And also thought has created the marvellous, magnificent cathedrals. And also all those things that are inside them - they are not God-given or something mysteriously brought about. All the dressing and the trappings of the priests is the result of thought, copying the Ancient Egyptians and so on. You understand? See what thought is doing in the world. And we, our brains, which have evolved through time, endless generation after generation, that brain is doing all this - creating and destroying - right? And we accept this way of living. We have never challenged ourselves to find out. We have never asked of ourselves why we live in this chaotic world outside and inwardly, inward chaos. We never realise that to have order in the world outside, there must be order in us. Our house is the most important thing to clean up first, not the world around us. Certain things are necessary like an organisation not to kill whales, to protect nature, not to destroy the earth seeking more and more and more oil - you know what is happening and all that. The rotten governments, for which we are all responsible.
So what is the deep fundamental function of the brain? Ask yourself this question. I have got five minutes more. If you asked yourself that question, not dependant on what others say, on their answer, their ideas and suppositions and theories, but when you begin to enquire very, very deeply the fundamental activity which is essential - what is it doing, what does it want? You understand? Is it just survival? Here in this country you do survive very well. Is it just survival? Just to live in this perpetual conflict, division, quarrels? Is it to act and function within its own conditioning ? Is it to live perpetually in some form of illusion and therefore always slightly neurotic, unbalanced, as most people are? If it is none of these things - obviously it is not - then what is its function? Please we are asking this question of ourselves. The speaker is not putting the question to you and for you to wait his answer. We will go into it. We will go into it very, very, deeply but you cannot wait for him to tell you - then it is like - then it is nothing. It is as good as any other idea. But if you really want to find out what is the deep function of the brain and is the brain different from the mind. Or are they both the same? Or when the brain is unconditioned, thoroughly, completely, then the mind can act upon the brain. Which will we go into, all this. But one has to be very, very clear where its physical, necessary activities must exist, the technological, physical earning a livelihood and so on, there it must - that is one of its great activities. But if the other activity is contrary to that, then there must be perpetual imbalance.
So the first thing is to find out if the brain can be unconditioned. We were talking the other day to some scientists, doctors and all the rest of it - God, how many specialists there are in the world! One is thankful one is not, one is just an ordinary person and all the rest of it. We were discussing about this fact in New York two months ago: whether the brain cells which are conditioned, whether those brain cells can bring about a mutation in themselves, not genetically, you know all the rest of it, but in living, daily living, can there be a mutation in the brain cells? If not, we are condemned for ever to live in our conditioning and therefore in perpetual conflict, and therefore no peace at all - right? So please, we must stop now and we will go on the day after tomorrow and enquire what is the deep function of the brain.
May we get up?