Is thought the cause of the decay of man?
Can the brain ever be free from knowledge?
5th Public Talk, Madras
January 10, 1981
Will it be necessary to repeat what we have been talking about during the last four gatherings here? Perhaps some of you have come for the first time here, or some of you may have not really listened at all, and some of you are here probably out of curiosity and an unfortunate reputation, but I think we should go over what we said in the last few talks very briefly, and those who have heard it please, have the goodness to forgive if you hear what has already been said.
We were saying, not only in this part of the world but probably everywhere else the human brain, the human conduct, the behaviour, the morality and so on must be salvaged, that is to be saved, to be rescued. And people perhaps don't seem to care very much what is happening to them, both in their psychology, to the earth, to the air, to the sea, which is being polluted, which is slowly being destroyed by human beings, by you, by the rest of us. And we hardly give any thought to it, and if we do, we join some kind of little group to do something about it, and get lost with the group's quarrels, with the group therapy and so on, so on, so on. But seeing that the salvage can only be made, or brought about in the brain of the human beings themselves, the brain itself has to be rescued. The brain itself is losing its quality, its quickness, its perceptibility, its sensitivity, its capacity to think objectively, sanely, rationally, not according to any philosopher however clever, or any particular political division - left, right, centre. Nor can the politicians solve this problem, nor the scientists, the biologists, the economists, the gurus, and the various religious organisations, whether it be Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and so on. It is fairly obvious for any observant, thinking man that none of these can solve our problems.
And as we said, we have to enquire. And a sceptical enquiry into the nature of man, the psychological world as well as the intellectual world, the investigation of that through scepticism, never believing anything, never following anybody, nor obeying - except the laws, of course - if you don't pay taxes you will be had up. But also there is so much corruption going on with regard to all that, not only in this country but everywhere else - perhaps more so in this country, corruption has become the way of life here. Seeing all this, that no philosopher, no politician, no organised religious group can ever solve this problem of human existence which is now degenerating, which has become corrupt, which lacks utter integrity, then there is no spirit of co-operation. Naturally from all this, as we said last week, we have great disorder in our lives, not only in our daily life but in the society in which we live - the society being our relationship with each other, our daily human relationship in which there is a great deal of conflict, pain, anxiety, loneliness and all the rest of that.
And also we talked about, the last time we met here, about order and disorder. We said, disorder, as we explained very carefully, is caused by thought itself; thought is the origin of this disorder in which we live. Disorder that exists between nations, that nations invented, thought out by thought, the division between religions, the division between political parties, the division that exists among the scientists who are competing with each other - jealous, more money, more Nobel prizes. All this indicates a great deal of disorder - finally war.
So in observing all this we enquired, what is the cause of all this, why man after so many millions of years has come down to the lowest point in his existence, why. We like to attribute this disorder to some fantastic causes, but actually this disorder is in our minds, in our brains. Perhaps we would not like to admit that: our consciousness is in disorder. It is in confusion. Disorder is where there is conflict within oneself and outwardly.
And we also said, and we will continue with what we are going to talk about this afternoon, that knowledge which we have acquired through experience of millions and millions of years, that knowledge as memory is stored up in the brain, from which arises thought and action. This is the chain in which we are caught: experience, knowledge, stored in the brain as memory, from which thought arises, and from that, action. This is the chain in which the brain through millennia is caught. And knowledge has become extraordinarily important for all of us, because knowledge gives us a means of livelihood. That's why our education has so conditioned our minds to pursue a career, earn a livelihood, skilfully or not, efficiently or not, and survive, some way or another. And knowledge, which we so cherish and worship, knowledge which we have acquired from the books, whether religious or technical, knowledge that we have acquired from our own personal experiences, knowledge which has been given to us through tradition, this knowledge that is stored up in our brain is now being transferred to the computer. Please follow all this - if you care to.
And let me also, if one may ask, and suggest that we think together, observe these things together. Together, I mean together. The speaker is sitting on a platform a little bit higher than you for convenience, but he is not sitting in any state of authority. It's merely for convenience. So in this enquiry there is no authority whatsoever. We are together exploring into the cause of this present confusion, why man is declining so rapidly, morally, even physically, and intellectually.
And of course, in all this there is no love. We have relationship - sexual, pleasure, all the rest of it, that is not love. Desire is not love. And this confusion which is brought about by thought, thought itself is the cause of confusion. We went into that very, very carefully. It is not that the speaker is saying something with which you disagree or agree, but you can investigate it for yourself and test it. You can enquire into it sceptically, with a great deal of doubt - not doubt about what you have learnt, what the books say, what the Gita or the Bible or your pet religious book says, but question, doubt, be sceptical in your enquiry. And that is the religious mind, the mind that is capable of being sceptical in its investigation. Not who is religious, the man with a beard, the man with a loin cloth, or the man who goes to a temple ten times a day, or to the mosque, he is not a religious man. Religion requires a great deal of diligence, and that diligence, which is to observe conduct, conduct in our daily life with each other, which has nothing whatever to do with any philosophy, with any religion - they talk about it - but actually in our lives, in our daily, confusing, unhappy life. We are investigating that, not some theory, belief, ideals, or what some book says.
So together we are going to, this evening, as on all the previous evenings, together, walk the same path, the same road, take the same journey, so that we both understand. Communication is necessary through words. The speaker has no particular jargon, neither scientific, nor religious, nor any other words, except simple, ordinary daily words, spoken in English. And the words are not the thing: your wife, or your husband, the word 'husband, the 'wife' is not the person. So in enquiring we must be very, very careful about words, knowing that the word is never the thing, knowing explanations are not the actualities.
So our mind, brain is caught in a verbal structure, because to us words mean a great deal - to be called a Muslim means a great deal to a Muslim, or to a Hindu or to a Buddhist, or to a communist - if you call him a fascist he will be very, very upset, but the communist is a fascist. So one must be extremely alert that in investigation we are not investigating the words, or that in the process of examination there is no abstraction as an idea, but actual observation what is going on, so that our brain is active, not sluggish with words, with conclusions, with beliefs.
So together we are going into the whole question why knowledge, intellectual, knowledge through experience, knowledge which we have acquired through tradition, whether that very knowledge - please listen, I am questioning, I am not saying it yet, I am exploring - whether that knowledge itself is not the cause of this immense confusion: not knowledge about the Gita, about the Upanishads, or any of those books - books are not sacred, the printed word is not sacred, but you can attribute to that book what you like. So please, if one may again point out, we are observing together, examining together, being aware that word, explanation is not the actuality.
So, this knowledge that we have acquired through education, through experience, through the past generation upon generations, this knowledge may be - please listen carefully - may be the cause of our disaster because we are burdened with the past. Knowledge is always the past, and that knowledge, being the past, is incomplete. And that knowledge being incomplete, and action then being incomplete, that action must inevitably create confusion, fragmentation. Where there is fragmentation there must be not only conflict but confusion, like nations - fragmented, like religious groups - fragmented, beliefs divide man, ideals divide man. All these are fragmentations, and therefore there must inevitably be conflict, and therefore confusion.
So we are enquiring together whether knowledge is not the cause - which is thought - thought is not the cause of this tremendous decay of man. Thought, as we said, has created extraordinary things: the whole technological world, the surgery, medicine, communication, going to the Moon, and so on; and also thought has created war and all the material to kill man. Thought has also written marvellous poems - I was just reading Keat's 'Ode to the Nightingale', a marvellous poem - but it is put into words by thought. The pictures, the architecture, the temples and what is inside the temples, inside the churches, all created by thought. So thought, in the world, in the physical world in certain areas has brought benefit to man; in other areas it is destroying man, that is knowledge. And this knowledge, which we have acquired through our senses and therefore connected with the brain, this knowledge man has acquired is now being transferred to the computer. I do not know if you are aware of all this.
The computer can do everything that man can do. It can learn. It has been programmed as our brain is programmed: to be a Catholic, to be a Protestant, to be a Hindu, to be a Buddhist. You understand all this? Of course if you pay Your brain is programmed, whether you like it not you have to observe it. Otherwise you wouldn't call yourself a Hindu, or a communist. Your brain has been cultivated through time, and through that time, which is the acquisition of experience, knowledge and so on, that brain has been programmed, has been conditioned to respond according to certain reactions. This is inevitable. That brain is now being given over to the computer. Please realise this. The computer is becoming your brain, the human brain. The computer plus the robot are already operating in manufacturing things - like cars. All kinds of things are happening. In about ten, fifteen years you will be unemployed. You have to face all this. Society is going to be turned upside down. It is coming, whether you like it or not, it's at your door. You understand the seriousness of all this? I wonder if you do. That your brain, which has been so extraordinarily capable, suffered innumerable sorrows, lives in great anxiety, frightened, insecure - the whole psychological world which is the result of thought, that thought with all its knowledge has been transferred to the computer, and the robot. So man, then, what is he? You understand my question? If the computer can do everything that you can, that your brain can, which is, it can learn, it can correct itself, it can foresee much more than human beings can, its responses are instantaneous, because it is programmed that way.
Then what is man? You understand all this? Computers say, I believe in god. Oh, you people laugh, you don't see the seriousness of all that is happening to all of us. The computer can compose a poem, can compose, can diagnose better than any doctor. You understand? And then one asks, what is man, what are you? If the machine can do everything even better than you, what are you? Which is, our brains have operated mechanically. Right? It believes, it doesn't believe, it creates its own gods, its own philosophies - the computer can create a philosophy better than any philosopher. So what have we left? You understand my question? If the machine can take over everything that man can do, and do it still better than us, then what is a human being, what are you? Your belief in god? - the machine has belief in god. It will do rituals better than you can do. It can invent theories better than any philosopher. You understand all this?
So what have we left? What we have left is our psychological world. You understand? Our sorrow, our fears, our pleasures, our anxieties, our immense loneliness. You understand all this? That's what we are going to be left with. Not with your gods. The gods have been invented by man, by thought. You have shaped gods according to your desires, your fears. So the computer can do all that.
So what we are going to be left with is, time: biological time, psychological time, and time as day and night. That's what we are going to be left with - time. And biologically time is necessary, that's part of the genes - genes also probably are computerised in time, to have time to grow physically. And you have psychological time, that is hope, the future, the burden of the past, the anxiety, the fear, the immense everlasting pursuit of pleasure, and not only your own particular sorrow but the sorrow of mankind, of which you are. This is what we are going to be left with. Right? Please, I hope we both are together observing the same thing. Not the speaker is observing and telling you about it, but we are together observing the facts, what is actually going on, of which we are not, most of us are not aware. Technology is advancing so rapidly. And everything that we human beings are doing now - going to the office from nine to five for the next fifty years, and education that is being given to students - you understand? - all that is going to be taken over. For god's sake, realise!
So we are going to be left with all our senses. Senses which create, which is the centre of the brain, and our senses either deteriorate gradually because we are incapable of using them any more because we are only pursuing pleasure. You are following all this? And so we have to find out what time means. Right? There is the biological time, psychological time, time by the sunset and sunrise, the new moon and the full moon. So there are three times: biological, psychological, time by the watch.
We can perhaps control or change the biological time, which is also, you see what is happening in the world, little boys and girls are already having babies, deformed because their wombs are small. I don't know what you are all doing! This is happening, sirs. And there is psychological time. You can't do anything about the chronological time. You can perhaps get up earlier, go later to bed, but you have only one factor, that is psychological time. That time is the movement of thought in consciousness. Don't agree with me, see it for yourself. Consciousness is made up of its content. Right? The computer has its consciousness because it is programmed to think this way, that way, answer rapidly and so on, which is what our consciousness is. I wonder if you see all the implications of it. Our consciousness which is the accumulated beliefs, the accumulated confusions, the accumulated problems, the beliefs, the superstitions, the fears, the nationalities, the ideals, being left, politically left, centre, right, all that is our consciousness, which the computer is. You realise?
So what are we going to do with our life? You understand? Either because we have time, leisure, and all the trouble which we take now to go to factories, work, work, work, the computer and the robot are going to take over. Then what is man going to do? Either you are going to pursue entertainment, which is pleasure - you understand? The religious pleasures, entertainment, Tirupati, Rome, cathedrals, temples, either you enter into the whole area of entertainment and perhaps that is what is going to happen, because we have lived on entertainment - entertainment from books, if you are inclined to be a philosophic mind, books, being entertained in philosophy. If you are entertained by the Gita, Upanishads, the Bible, you go in for that entertainment. Or you are being entertained by rituals, the mass, the temple worship, you know all that is going on, which is all entertainment. Or you turn inwardly. You understand? Those are the only things we have left: entertainment or deep enquiry into oneself, enquiry into the psychological world: the senses, the fears, the pleasures, whether there is ever an ending to sorrow, what is love - you understand? - what death means. Because the computer will say, 'I believe in the hereafter'. Do you understand what I am saying?
So together let's go inward. You understand what I am saying? Let us together examine whether there is an ending to fear, whether there is an ending to insecurity, not physical insecurity because the computer may change the whole structure of society, as it is happening already. So we have only two things left to us: entertainment, or going deeply into the world of the psyche, and going beyond. The scientists are also becoming entertainers, like the priests. So you cannot possibly depend on scientists to salvage our inward state, nor the psychologist, nor the priest, there is nobody that can help us, except our own observation. Which doesn't mean that we become more and more selfish. We are examining the human consciousness, the human brain. Your brain is not yours, it is the brain of humanity, because it has lived millions and millions of years. So in examining, investigating through sceptical exploration, we are examining not to become more mischievous, more ugly, more inwardly despicable, crooked, corrupt; we are examining so that the brain with all its activity taken over by computer, then we are investigating nature, whether thought which has created the psyche, whether that thought which is time, can stop. You understand? You understand? Please follow.
Thought is time. Right? Thought is the result of memory. Memory is knowledge, experience, stored in the brain, therefore it is a movement, thought is a movement of time. Right? And we are going to enquire very, very deeply whether there is a stop to time. First of all to observe - you understand? - to observe what is going on inwardly, which is the result of senses, the various senses centred in the brain, otherwise you wouldn't react. So the centre of the brain is the accumulation of the senses, from which thought arises, and thought has created the 'me' and the 'you', thought has created the individual, but thought itself being fragmented - right? - because knowledge can never be complete, that thought has invented the individual, and so the individual is incomplete. And there is no individual because your brain is the brain of humanity, your brain has evolved through millions and millions of years, therefore you are not an individual. That's the first thing to realise. It's logical, it's not something invented by the speaker. You can see it for yourself if you examine it. So the idea that in investigating this psyche you are becoming more and more selfish, or you are going to be saved: this is not an individual salvation, it's the salvation of the human being, not you, Mr Smith or Mr Rao, or Mr whatever you name is, sorry - including myself.
So first, as we said, to learn the art of listening; listening to yourself, never distorting what you listen to. Right? That is, are you listening now to what the speaker is saying, or you are distorting what the speaker is saying to suit your own theories, conveniences, happiness, comfort, this or that, or saying tradition has already said this, which indicates that you are not listening. So the first thing is to learn the art of listening, not only to the speaker, which is unimportant, but listening to your wife, listening to your son, listening to your husband. And you cannot listen if you have an image about him or her, a conclusion about him or her, that will prevent you from listening. Right? Do it, sir. If you listen that way your brain becomes extraordinarily sensitive, alert, active, which it is not now.
Then the art of seeing: the seeing without the word. You understand, sir? To see something like a flower and not name it, because the word prevents you from seeing. You understand what I am saying? Come on, move sir! That means the seeing implies, not bringing previous memory in perception. Right? Then you don't see. If you want to see your wife, or your husband as they actually are - do you want to see your wife or your husband actually, without the image you have created about her or him? If you want to look, observe, see your wife, not the physical form, not the pleasure you have derived through sex, through intimacy, through comfort and all that, but to see her or him, as it is purely, that's an art. Either you give - please listen - either you give time to learn the art, as you give time to learn a language, and then when you give time to learn the art of seeing, what have you done? You haven't seen your wife at all. It is like a man saying, 'I pursue non-violence, that's my ideal', while he is being violent. You understand this? So to see without time, that means without the previous conclusions, previous records. I wonder if you understand all this! This is necessary if you want to look into yourself, if you want to observe the whole psychological world of which you are, in which there is no guide, there is no priest, there is no psychologist, there is no psychotherapist, you are watching yourself. So you have to learn the art of listening to yourself. Do you see what it does? - if you do it now. You see how your brain becomes extraordinarily supple, sensitive, active. And to see without the previous records that you have accumulated, then memory is operating, not the optical, clear observation. Right?
And also one has to find the art of learning. Learning as we know it now is merely accumulating knowledge, which is mechanical. You speak a language you learn to speak a language, English, French, or Tamil, or whatever the language is, and you accumulate it and then speak. Our brain is used to that, which is time. Right? Is there a learning without time? Which is, seeing instantly. That is, sir, look: man is violent, probably inherited from the animal and so on, but don't let's go into the cause of it for the moment, because each person will say the cause is different and we will get lost in the disputation of various causes. But we are violent, human beings are violent. Now when you say, 'I will become non-violent', you are learning to become something. Right? See, sir, please see what you are doing! You are learning through time to become. Right? Right? That is, your whole conditioning psychologically is to become something: if you are naughty, you become good, if you are angry, you hope not to be angry, if you are violent, you become - so we use time as a means to learn to become something, or not to become something. That's our operation, that's how our brain works. Now to see violence, and not change it - to become something else, but to see violence - you understand? Careful. We are thinking together, please do it as I am talking about it. If you don't like violence, take your own particular form of greed, envy, or anger, whatever, smoke, whatever you do, take it, look at it. You say when you are greedy, 'I will get over it', or 'I will transmute it', or 'I will suppress it', which are all movements of time. During that time other things happen which prevent you from ultimately becoming non-greedy - of course.
So you see that, you see that's a fact. You see it, do you? That the becoming involves time, during that time you are learning how to become that, which is, you are being computerised or programmed to become that. I wonder if you see that. Whereas there is a different way of learning. Which is, you are observing yourself. If you observe yourself and you've learnt something about yourself, and from that learning you observe, you are not observing yourself. You understand the difference? Are you coming with me? That is, I am watching my greed and I say, 'I must not be greedy', because my brain has been conditioned, or been told, religiously and all that blah not to be greedy, so I say, 'I will learn not to be greedy', which involves learning, restraining, controlling, suppressing, all that. Right? - that's clear, that's what we do. Now we are asking, is there a different way of looking at greed. The word, the meaning, the word 'greed' may create greed, or is there a division between the word and the fact? You are following all this? So I am watching what is greed. And the brain is not going to be caught in the old system of becoming, but seeing it as it is and ending it instantly. Do you understand? Not going through the other process but ending that which is observed immediately. See what happens.
Look, this is very If you want to go into it very deeply, extraordinarily clear it becomes. Our brains have problems. Right? Sexual problems, relation problems, money problems, many problems. Our brains are filled with problems: whether there is god, whether there is no god, what to believe, not to believe and so on, so on, so on. Now every problem, new problem arises you try to solve it with all the problems that you have already, so you never solve problems, except technologically. Please understand this. The technological brain can solve problems, but our brains psychologically are so full of problems, any new problem becomes another problem to be added to the old problem. So - you understand? - there is never an ending to problems. I don't know if you have realised all this, or am I just pointing out to you. You are not learning from the speaker anything. Please realise this - nothing. You are learning from your own observation. Therefore you are a dignified human being, not depending on anybody.
So when you are observing yourself when greed arises, to look for the cause is very simple - right? - desire, which we talked about the other day. To see greed and end it so that your brain is not caught in time. You get it, what I am saying? Do it, sir, as you are sitting now, you have own particular little problem, look at it, don't try to verbalise it, don't try to run away from it, but just look at it. Stay with it. The moment you try to change it - you follow? - you are caught in the time. But if you stay with it quietly without any movement of thought, you will see it is not. I've to go on. Right?
So there is the art of listening, the art of seeing, the art of learning. With that you approach yourself. Right? You approach yourself, which is the whole psychological world - because the computer has taken over everything you have (laughs). So you are watching yourself. Which is, watching the human consciousness, watching the human psyche, it is not your psyche, because wherever you go in the world, it doesn't matter where, human beings are suffering. Right? Human beings have fear, human beings are pursuing pleasure, human beings are afraid of death, human beings have no love. Right? So it is a common factor. Your psyche is the common factor, so you are the whole of humanity. You understand, sir? I know this is something probably new to you, therefore you are rebelling and resisting it, but if you just listen to it, listen to it you will see that's a fact for yourself. You may have a different name, different colour, different stature, different manners, but deep down psychologically you are like the rest of mankind - mankind that is lonely, mankind that is frightened, mankind that is longing to escape from itself and burdened with innumerable, with the sorrow of a thousand years. You are that. So you are the representative - you are the rest of mankind, you are mankind. So when we investigate we are investigating not your particular little 'me', which is part also, but investigating into the whole psyche of man, therefore there is nothing selfish, there is nothing to be saved. This is not a religion, we are not talking about a religion of salvation. We are talking about the ending of fear. Fear is the result of thought. Right? Fear is the result of time - fear of the past, fear of the future. Actual fear has no time, only when thought says, 'I am afraid'. I wonder if you understand this. At the moment of fear thought is absent - right? - it is only a sensory response, centred in the brain and thought says, 'I am afraid'. You understand this? I am afraid of losing my job. I am afraid of losing my wife, I am jealous because my wife, etc., etc. All that is the movement of thought, as pleasure is the movement of thought, sexual pleasure, the picture, the image, all that. And also the various types of pleasure - pleasure of having more money, the pleasure of power. Right? Pleasure of possession, pleasure in attachment, whether wife, to a child, to a building, to an idea, and that attachment is corruption. Yes, sir. Attachment is corruption. Obviously. If you are attached to your wife, you are attached for various reasons, fairly simple - physical pleasure, psychological pleasure, and the comfort you derive, or whatever it is, you are attached. Without her you feel lost, lonely, therefore you are attached. So from that attachment arises jealousy, anxiety, fear of losing and so on. So where there is attachment of any kind there must be corruption. Right? Sir, do you see it? The truth of it? Do you see the fact of it? Then end it. But if you say, 'I'll think about it, I will learn about it. Why should I not be attached' and all the rest, back and forth, then you are back into the old system - right? - where time binds you. I wonder if you understand this. Our brains have become slaves to time. But if you see that, you can end time, which is ending thought.
But before we go into much deeper things this you must be clear about. A brain, a psyche that is not afraid, that has no fear, that isn't everlastingly pursuing pleasure in different forms: possession, power, siddhis, becoming an ascetic, controlling oneself, all the various forms of pleasure. To look at it, to see what it is. It is not a pleasure when you see a sunset, beauty, but it becomes pleasure when thought says, 'I must have it again, I must go there again.' You understand all this? Sir, see it and do it instantly!
Then we have to go into also the very complex problem of sorrow, whether sorrow can ever end. Because if it does not end there is no passion. Passion is totally different from lust, from desire, from pleasure. And we have lost that passion, probably we never had it. Passion which has its own intelligence and therefore its own action. But you cannot find that, that passion cannot come into being if you have not understood or ended sorrow. And we will go into that briefly perhaps tomorrow, and also find out what is a religious mind. It is only the religious mind that creates a new culture, not machines, not the politicians, not the economists, not the scientists or the gurus. The religious mind, the mind, the brain that is investigating into the nature of what is religion, but starts with scepticism. And we should perhaps, if we have time we'll do that tomorrow.