Is there anything sacred in life?
Truth demands a mind that is totally free
6th Public Talk, Ojai, California
May 16, 1982
I do wonder why you have all come; is it out of curiosity? Or, it's a lovely morning, it's an outing for you. Or, are we serious enough to face all our problems, which are mounting, and find out for ourselves if we can resolve them? And as it is not possible to have a discussion with so many people or have a dialogue, then we can have a conversation together, which is, that you and the speaker are walking along a shady lane full of shadows and running waters, and are talking about their own problems, problems which confront all humanity, not only each one of us, but also what every human being in the world is going through. And as we were pointing out yesterday, we have assumed our consciousness as being something separate, personal, individual. But as one observes deeply, this consciousness, which is the common ground of all humanity, the common suffering, pain, anxiety, loneliness and great uncertainty and the everlasting search for security, is the problem of every human being in the world. It's not your particular problem, it's the problem which is the issue of all human beings, whether they be Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist.
So we are talking over together amicably, in a friendly spirit, the issues of our life. And as this is the last talk, we cannot go over all the things we have had a conversation about during the last five talks. But we can summarise the whole thing. Most of us are apt to take one special problem and try to resolve it. Or come here hoping that someone else will help you to overcome or resolve or transcend one's particular problem. But if one examines more acutely, critically, every problem is related to all problems. They are interrelated; they cannot possibly be separated and, having separated them, try to resolve them individually or separatively. We talked about various things during the last five talks: fear, the nature of human beings who have been hurt all their life, psychologically, inwardly, and the consequences of that hurt. We went into that very, very carefully. And also we talked about relationship between human beings - man, woman, the neighbour, whether that neighbour be very, very, very far away. And in that relationship, however intimate, however personal, there is always conflict, there is always a certain sense of uneasiness, fear, domination, possessiveness, attachment. All these breed naturally struggle between two human beings. Conflict arises; and we went into that question, whether that conflict can possibly end, or must it everlastingly continue from generation to generation?
And also we talked about fear, which is a very, very, very complex problem; the contributory causes of that fear: conformity, comparison, imitation, trying to be something that you are not, and other factors, bring about fear. We went into that very deeply. And also we talked about the continuation and the demand for pleasure, whether it is the religious pleasure or ordinary pleasure of life; sexual, the form of achievement, success, possession, money, prestige, status, and all that.
And yesterday morning we went into the question: what is love. We talked yesterday morning about why human beings have destroyed that one perfume - the absolute necessity in life - without which life has no meaning whatsoever. You may have lots of money, enjoy yourself on the sea, go to various churches, follow various gurus, accept various philosophies as the way of your life, but without that quality and that perfume, that passion - which is different from lust - that comes about when there is love. We went into that sufficiently extensively yesterday morning.
And also we talked about the ending of suffering; why human beings, so highly educated, in one direction so extraordinarily intelligent, in the technological world, why human beings who have lived on this marvellous earth millennia upon millennia, why they have not understood or ended suffering. Not only personal suffering but the suffering of mankind, where there is starvation, in Africa and in the East, in India, where poverty is destructive, degrading, and other economic problems which separate mankind. And we said without nationalism, a global interrelationship alone will solve all our outward economic social problems. We live on this earth together; it's our earth, not the American earth, or the Russian earth, or the Hindu or the Buddhist or the Islamic world; it's our earth, but we have divided it as the American, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, European and Hindu and so on, so on. Where there is division, racial, economic, religious divisions, there must be conflict; there must be wars, and these wars have been going on for millions of years. And our intelligence, which we give to the technological world, we have not applied that intelligence to solve this problem of suffering. And we have the capacity, we have the energy, but apparently we are caught in a mechanistic world. Our culture is becoming more and more mechanical; it's a mechanistic culture, which is not only where the machine becomes all-important, but also the culture, which is mechanistic, is to live a life of repetitiveness, to repeat over and over the same, with the same problems, with the same issues, with the same conflict.
And we also talked yesterday, and we shall go into it more deeply this morning, why human beings have become what they are: shallow, superficial, having learned a great deal of life, accumulated a great deal of knowledge, and that knowledge apparently has not solved our human, daily conflict. So knowledge may be one of the factors of sorrow, which we talked about yesterday morning.
And we shall go into some other subjects this morning. But first, please, this is not a lecture, as it is generally understood, lecture being, talking about a particular subject and being concerned with that subject to transmit it as clearly as possible to another. So this is not a lecture but rather a conversation between you and the speaker in which both of us are observing, thinking about the same problem, looking at the same mountain, the same trees, the blue sky, and so we are together, the speaker means that, honestly, together to observe these problems and to find out for ourselves, not according to some philosopher, not according to some priest, not according to authority of a guru and so on and so on. To discard all that completely and observe for ourselves why we human beings have become so deplorably unhealthy psychologically. So please, though the speaker may put certain things into words, but the words are not the actual; the explanation is not that which is explained. As we talked about the other day too, we are caught in a network of words. And words become extraordinarily important: the word 'American' has an extraordinary significance to the people who live in this part of the world. Or the word 'Communist', 'Socialist', 'Capitalist', and so on, Baptist and Catholic. So words are not the actuality; the symbol is not the actual. So please, if one may point out most respectfully, what we are explaining, what we are going into, is merely explanation, usage of certain words, but the words, the explanation are not the real.
We ought to talk over together what is culture. The ordinary meaning of that word is to cultivate, as you cultivate vegetables, a garden, a rose bed. Culture implies, not a repetitive, mechanical existence, but to be free from the known and act from that freedom; that's actually culture. That is, we live always in the known. Please, kindly follow all this if you are interested. It's a nice morning, and you may treat this gathering as an entertainment, which would be most unfortunate, as a kind of mental stimulation, a drug. But if you treat this as a form of stimulation, then you lose the reality of one's own life, of one's own shallowness, one's own emptiness, one's own fears, anxieties, and all the travail of life. So please, as the speaker puts it into words, examine that which he says for yourself. Because doubt, scepticism, is a great purifier. Most of us so easily accept things, specially in religious matters and so-called spiritual matters. There authority assumes it knows and you don't know. They act as interpreters. But it is necessary to discover what is truth - there must be doubt. And doubt in the Eastern world, in the Eastern religions, has been emphasised. In the Christian world doubt is an anathema, because if you doubt the whole structure of the church, whether it be local or from Rome or any other, if you doubt it then the whole thing collapses. So in the Western world doubt has been condemned; they have been burnt, those who doubted - called heresy - they have been tortured; as they are doing now to political prisoners in various parts of the world, it is the same phenomena. So, please don't accept a thing that the speaker is saying but try to find out for yourself by carefully listening, if you are interested, if you don't treat this as an entertainment. Then please listen and doubt and question and ask. You are doubting that which you have created yourself, you are doubting your own ideas, your own conclusions, your own experiences, your beliefs, your faiths. You are doubting so that you find out for yourself what is truth.
And that is very important, because truth demands a free mind, a mind that is completely free. And there is no path to truth, so please, as we are going into this very complex problem, let us listen carefully, with a certain quality of doubt. To doubt requires sensitivity. If you doubt everything, (laughs) then it becomes rather stupid. But to doubt with a light hand, with a quick mind, with subtlety, then that doubt brings about clarity, energy. And we need energy to go into all these problems, to resolve them.
So we are asking, what is culture? Is it merely the mechanical repetition of the known? Which is, we live in the past, the past is our memory, the past is our knowledge through experience, and we live always in the past, in the known; and when we act from the known, it is repetitive. We must act in certain areas with knowledge; like a scientist, he has to have a great deal of knowledge; or a great surgeon must have experience; he must have operated upon many, accumulated knowledge, skill, and the sensitivity of hand; and there knowledge is necessary. And knowledge, which is all our remembrances, all the past incidents, the hurts, the fears, the longings, the despairs, the desperate loneliness - all that's part of our past knowledge. And when we are acting from the past, it must be repetitive. And therefore the mind becomes mechanical. The computer is a repetitive machine, maybe quicker, faster than the human brain, but that machine is repetitive, as we human beings are. And so we are questioning any culture born from the past, from the known; obviously it's mechanical, repetitive. And so we are going to find out what is it that brings about a culture which is totally different from the mechanistic culture which we have accepted for thousands of years. Most of our minds - with some rare exceptions - are mediocre; forgive me if I use that word. One may think one is extraordinarily out of that class, but to think that you are out of that class is also a form of mediocrity. (laughter) This is not an insult. We are examining together.
What is it to be mediocre? The word 'mediocre' comes from Greek, Latin, 'climbing halfway up the mountain'. That's the real meaning of that word, 'mediocre'; never climbing all the way up, but being satisfied to climb halfway or one-third of the way. That is the meaning of that word, 'mediocre'. And our education, however wide, whatever knowledge one acquires through a particular subject, all these factors of education are limiting the mind. Have you noticed how, specially in this country, which is spreading this fact all over the rest of the world, how specialists, scientific specialists, the doctors, the surgeons, the philosophers, the psychologists and so on, they are ruling each one of us. They are the authority to tell you what to do. They are the experts: how to bring up a baby, how to have sexual relationship properly, how to make up your face; there are these authorities, and we all obey them. Our obedience has at certain times a revolt, but that revolt is merely a reaction and so it's not complete comprehension of the understanding that all specialised knowledge is limited, as all knowledge is limited. And a culture born out of this limitation is no culture at all. There's no American culture, or European culture. They can go back to the Renaissance, to the past history, but deep culture of the mind can only come about through freedom from the known. Can there be such freedom?
We are going to talk about it together because only from a religion a new culture can come into being. Religion is not the authoritarian, the accepted form of religion. The state religion, the religion of belief, of faith, of dogma, of rituals, of worship a symbol, that is not religion - obviously. So we are going to enquire into what is religion. Do you understand? We've enquired into fear, into the nature of that extraordinary thing called love, whether human beings can ever end their suffering, their misery, their anxiety. And also we should enquire together into what is religion.
Man worships; there are still those people in the East who worship a tree, who worship a mountain. They give it in India to the Himalayas a special peace, a special name. And they worshipped at one time the earth, the trees, the heavens, the sun - as the Egyptians did. But we consider all that illusion, nonsense. And as we are so terribly sophisticated, we worship a symbol, pray to that symbol, to that saviour or, as in India, it's another form of the same thing. Worship has been part of human life from the ancient of days. You may not worship a tree, but you go to the church or to a temple or a mosque and there you pray, you worship. There is not much difference between the worship of a tree, which is alone in a marvellous field of green earth, and the symbol that thought has created in the church, in the temple, or in a mosque. There is not much difference between the two because man suffers, he is in trouble, he doesn't know to whom to turn to, so he invents a comforting god, which is, thought invents a god, and then worships that which he has invented. These are facts, whether you like it or not. You invent the whole rituals of Christianity, as in India, there are complicated rituals. And it is the invention of thought. And then thought says, that is divine revelation. I do not know if you have not noticed, in Asia, which includes India, and here, divine revelation plays an extraordinary part. But that divinity is brought about by thought. The interpreter of that divinity is the priest. He thinks and his thought has created various forms of rituals.
So we are asking, is religion all this? Is religion based upon books, the printed word? Where religion is based on a book, whether it is the Christian, Hindu or Muslim, or the Buddhist, then there is dogma; the authority of the book becomes all-important; there is bigotry, narrowness of mind. Both the Muslim world and the Christian world are based on books: the Koran and the Bible. In India, fortunately for them, they have got a hundred books, hundred gods - no, more than that, three hundred thousand gods. (Laughter) Don't please laugh. This is very serious. It sounds funny. And there they are tolerant, which means they put up with anything: false gods, true gods, any kind of illusion, any kind of assertions of any so-called religious man. Here in the West, as in the Muslim world, the book plays an extraordinarily important part. And therefore those who believe in the book, deeply convinced by every word in that book, they become bigoted, dogmatic, assertive, aggressive, and if they are not semi-civilised, they'll kill. This is happening in the world. So is religion - the word religion, the etymological meaning of that word, is unknown. It arises from certain Latin words, which we'll not go into, but it actually means, according to certain dictionaries, the capacity to gather all your energy to discover, to come upon that which is true. That is the root meaning of that word. So we are gathering our energy - all our energy, not a specialised energy; the energy of thought, the energy of emotions, the passionate energy to enquire into what is truth.
And to go into it deeply, we must enquire also into what is thought, which has invented all the religions in the world. All the rituals, all the dogmas, the beliefs, the faiths - it is the result of thought. There is nothing divine about anything. Thought can say what I have invented is divine. But thought is not sacred, is not holy. So it is important to go into this question of what is thought. We have gone into it previously but the more you look at it, the more you enquire into the very nature of thought, the more complicated the more it demands a subtle mind, it demands a quickness of mind, not a mechanical mind, not a mind that accepts, not a mind that acquiesces, but a mind that is doubtful, questioning, demanding, has this great energy. And when you give this total energy, not an energy which is partial because you are interested in some form of entertainment, or in some form of relief, in some form of comfort - then it is all partial energy. Whereas if you demand totally to understand the nature of human mind, why we live the way we are living, destroying the earth, destroying ourselves, wars, misery, then you have to give all your energy. And where there is this total energy, complete passion to understand, to find out a way of living which is totally different from mechanistic, repetitive way.
So we have to go into this question deeply once again: what is thought, why thought plays such an extraordinarily importance in our life, in our relationship. Is thought love? Please enquire with the speaker; really the speaker is putting your question, it is not his question. You are putting this question for yourself. Thought has created the marvellous cathedrals, magnificent structures in Europe and some of them here; and thought also has put all those things inside the cathedrals and the churches and the temples and the mosques. So one asks: is thought sacred? Because it has put all this in these buildings and then you worship it. I wonder if one sees the illusion of this, the ironic, actual deception, that thought has invented the symbol, the ritual, the host, and the different things in India and Asia; thought has been responsible for all this, some of it being copied from the ancient Egyptians, from India, and so on. And then thought, having created this marvellous structure in stone, then inside it is all the symbols, the agony, and in the Asiatic world a different symbol; then thought says, you must worship that. So we are asking, is thought sacred in itself? Or, it is merely - please listen to it, you may not agree; do not agree but enquire - is thought a material process? If it is not sacred, then it is a material process. But thought has invented these: heaven and hell, the saviours of the world according to different religions, their rituals - it is all the result of thought. And then thought turns around and says, you must worship it. So we must find out for ourselves, not according to any authority in spiritual, religious matters. There is authority of the surgeon, that's a totally different matter. But to discover, to come upon that which is eternal, if there is such thing as eternity, your mind must be free in all spiritual matters, in all psychic matters; that is, in the psychological realm, which is you, there must be total freedom to find out.
So we are going to enquire together the nature of thought. If you have no thought at all, you live in a state of amnesia, blankness, but that is a rare form of disease. But most human beings throughout the world, whether they are Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and so on, communists, the common factor is thought. They all think, whether they are extremely poor, uneducated, or the highly sophisticated, accumulated professor, or the cunning politician, or the highest authority of the church, and so on - they all think, as each one of us does, in our daily life. And that thought dominates our life. So it is very, very important, if one may point out, to understand the whole movement of thought. It has created great poetry, great painting, great sculpture, literature, and thought is necessary to do business, to drive a car and so on. What is thought? What is its origin, the beginning of thought? You are asking the question, not the speaker. Please, apply your own minds, brain, to enquire into this question. Because thought dominates every action in our life. Thought is the determining factor in relationship. So what is that thing called thought, the thinking machinery and the origin of it?
Is not thought born out of memory? You remember where you live, the distance to be covered from here to where you are going, that's knowledge, and that knowledge has been acquired through experience. So the beginning of thought is experience, knowledge, memory, stored up in the brain. Right? This is a fact, not exotic or absurd illusion. You remember something that happened yesterday, pleasurable or not, and that remembrance is stored in the brain, recorded in the brain, and from that record thought comes into being. So thought, whatever it does, is not sacred. It's a material process. Some of the scientists even agree to what the speaker has been saying for many years. They have experimented on rats, pigeons, and guinea pigs, dogs but they don't experiment upon themselves. We are also matter, and science is concerned with matter. And if thought is a material process and thought, whatever it does, whether in the religious field or in the business field or in preparing for wars through a gathering of armaments, is the result of thought. Thought has divided people into this type of religious person, this type of human being who lives in certain part of the world, and so on. It's thought that has divided human beings. And thought, because of its divisive nature, because thought is never complete, because born of knowledge, and knowledge is never total about anything, - therefore thought is always limited, and separative, because - I won't go into all that - it's separative. Where there is separative action, there must be conflict: between the communists and the socialists, and the capitalists; between the Arab and the Jew, between the Hindu and the Muslim, and so on. These are all the divisive processes of thought, and where there is division - that's a law - there must be conflict. So nothing that thought has put together, whether in a book, in the church, in the cathedrals, in the temples or in the mosques, is sacred. No symbol is sacred. And that is not religion; it's merely a form of thoughtful, superficial reaction to that which is called sacred.
So we are going to find out, if we can this morning, giving our attention, our whole attention to enquire what is sacred, if there is anything sacred at all. The intellectuals throughout the world deny all this. They are fed up with the religions, with their illusions and all that. They discard; they are rather cynical about the whole affair, because religious organisations throughout the world have great property, enormous wealth, great power - all that is not spiritual, all that is not religious. So, as we said, the word 'religion', the etymological meaning is unknown, but also the dictionary makes it clear that to enquire into what is truth one must gather all energy, the capacity to be diligent, to act, not according to a certain pattern, to diligently observe your thoughts, your feelings, your antagonisms, your fears and to go far beyond them, so that the mind is completely free.
Now we are asking, is there anything sacred in life? Not invented by thought, because man, from time immeasurable, he has always asked this question: is there something beyond all this confusion, misery, darkness, illusions, beyond the institutions and reforms; is there something really true, something beyond time, something so immense that thought cannot come to it? Man has enquired into this. And only apparently very, very, very, very few people have been free to enter into that world. And the priest from ancient of times comes in between the seeker and that which he is hoping to find. He interprets, he becomes the man who knows, or thinks he knows. And he is side-tracked, diverted; lost.
So if we want to enquire into that which is most holy, which is nameless, timeless, one must obviously belong to no group, no religion, have no belief, no faith, because belief and faith is accepting as true something which does not or may not exist. That is the nature of belief: taking for granted, accepting something to be true. When your own enquiry, your own vitality, energy has not found out, you believe. Because in belief there is some form of security, comfort. But a man who is seeking merely psychological comfort, such a man will never come upon that which is beyond time. So there must be total freedom. Is that possible - to be free from all our conditioning, not biological conditioning - that's natural - but the psychological conditioning: the hates, the antagonisms, the pride, all the things that bring about confusion, which is the very nature of the self which is thought? And to find out, there must be attention, not concentration. The word meditation has been introduced into the Western world quite recently by some of those people who have accepted certain norms, certain patterns of meditation. There is the Zen meditation, the Tibetan form of meditation which is different from the southern form of Buddhist meditation, there is the meditation of the Hindus, with their special gurus, who again have their own forms of meditation. Then there is the Christian form, which is contemplation. And the meaning of that word, meditation, implies, the meaning of that word is 'to ponder over, to think over'. And also, a meditative mind must be free of measurement. Please don't go to sleep, if you are interested. That is, the mind that's in meditation, first of all - we'll go into that a little later, if we have time.
So all those people who have brought this word, - with their systems, methods and practices, are again put together by careful thought. Perhaps one guru or two - those Asiatic birds - have some kind of experience; immediately that's translated into some kind of a spiritual status, and they have their meditation. And they come here and you are gullible enough to swallow all that; paying for it - the more you pay, the greater the meditation. (laughter)
So we ought to enquire into what is meditation - to meditate. It's really important, because a mind that's merely mechanistic, as thought is, can never come upon that which is totally, supreme order, and therefore a complete freedom. Like the universe is in total order: it's only the human mind that is in disorder. And so one has to have an extraordinarily orderly mind, a mind that has understood disorder - we went into that the other day - and is free completely from disorder, which is contradiction, imitation, conformity, and all the rest of it. Such a mind is an attentive mind, completely attentive to whatever it does, to all its actions, in its relationship, and so on and so on. Attention is not concentration. Concentration is restricted, narrow, limited, whereas attention is limitless. And in that attention there is that quality of silence - not the silence invented by thought, not the silence that comes about after noise, not the silence of one thought waiting for another thought. There must be that silence which is not put together by desire, by will, by thought. And in that meditation there is no controller. And this is one of the factors in all the so-called meditative groups and the systems they have invented: there is always effort, control, discipline. Discipline means to learn - not to conform - to learn so that your mind becomes more and more subtle, not based on knowledge, learning is a constant movement. So meditation is freedom from the known, which is the measure. And in that meditation, there is absolute silence. Then in that silence alone, that which is nameless is.
May we get up now?