Is thought the instrument of right action?
On being conditioned
2nd Public Talk, Brockwood Park
August 26, 1979
If one may remind you, this is not an entertainment. You are not being converted to anything. It is not a meeting of propaganda. We are met for a serious purpose, at least the speaker is, so I hope you are also very serious.
What we were saying yesterday I think should be repeated briefly for there may be new people here this morning. We were saying that self-awareness, being conscious of oneself, one's reactions, one's inward thoughts and ambitions, various forms of suffering, pleasure and all the travail of human beings, to be aware of all that. Aware without any choice, just to be aware, without direction, without any kind of pressure, just to be conscious of all the inward and outward activities that are going on, specially the psychological activity of the human mind. That demands certain serious attention, not analysis but pure observation, to observe without any choice, without any direction, without any sense of pressure, that needs quite a deep attention.
And we were also saying that religion is the only factor that might bring all humanity together - east, west, north, south. But as religions are at present in their very nature destructive, disruptive, divisive, based on belief, dogma, ritual, and tradition, hierarchical outlook, all that organised religion is not religion at all - it is a vast sense of superstition, desire playing a tremendous part in it and so leading to a great deal of illusion.
Religion can only come about through meditation, which we shall go into as we go along in these four talks and answering questions. And we said too that if we could think together. Because for most of us our career demands all our thinking: if you are an architect, engineer, scientist and so on, all our thinking is directed in one particular direction. Our whole life depends on it and so we are conditioned to one strata of thinking, or one form of thinking. And it becomes very difficult for those who are caught in a particular groove of thought to be able to think not about something but the whole movement of thinking itself. That is what we were saying yesterday. And it becomes so extraordinarily important now, always probably that human beings should come together not based on a belief, on an ideal, or on some authority but have the capacity, the intention, the seriousness to think together. Think not about something which is comparatively easy, but have the affection, care, attention and perhaps love so that we are able to communicate with each other without any barrier so that your thinking and the speaker's thinking are together.
Then we were saying we should be able to bring about a good society. The ancient Greeks and the ancient Hindus and others have talked about bringing about a good society somewhere in the future, based on some ideals, concepts, intellectual conclusions and perhaps rarely upon their own experiences, that there must be in the world a number of people who will create a society essentially good so that humanity can live on this earth happily, without conflict, without wars, without slaughtering each other. And that society doesn't exist in spite of two or three or five, ten million years of human existence. Religions have tried to being this about but in their very nature, by their very organisation, they are separative, they are based on belief, dogma, ritual, authority and all the rest of that, it becomes really quite meaningless. Though organisations of such kind bring about a certain quality of security, that security itself becomes insecurity when it is based on illusion. I think this is all very clear if one has gone into this matter at all.
And is it possible while we are living on this earth, which is not the British, or the English, or the British or the French or all the rest of it, it is our earth. And can we live there peacefully now? Which implies not some future idealistic society based on goodness but actually in our daily life now bring about such a good society? Which means to have right relationship with each other. A relationship not based on some past images, put together by thought, but a relationship in which that which is actually happening in this relationship of reaction, to be aware of those reactions, and not build out of those reactions various forms of images which prevent actual relationship with others, however intimate or impersonal. Is that possible? Which means can the human mind which has been so conditioned for millennia, can such a conditioned mind be aware of itself, know all the intricacies and the complexities and the reactions of the human mind, based upon the senses, and becoming aware of itself bring about a deep transformation, a mutation in itself? That is the real problem. I hope we are communicating with each other. Or am I going too fast?
Perhaps most of us are not used to this kind of thinking, or this kind of explanation. Explanations are not actualities. You can describe the mountain but to be close to the mountain, see actually the beauty of it, the dignity of it, the majesty of it, is quite different from the description of that mountain. But most of us are satisfied sitting in our armchairs to be comforted or made to feel romantic about the mountain through explanations, paintings and so on. But we are actually dealing, not with the mountains, but with actual daily life of our life. Can that life, which is now a travail, a great deal of effort, struggle, competition, brutality, terror, you know all the things that are going on in our daily life, can that be transformed? Not in some future idealistic, when the environment is completely changed to bring this about, which is impossible. The Totalitarians tried this, change the environment and they say then the human mind can become transformed - which has been proved nonsensical. And also there are the others who say human conditioning, the condition of the human mind can never be changed, you must accept it, live with it, modify it, refine it and make it much more pleasant. But what we are saying is quite the contrary of these two, that the human mind can be transformed - not to fall into another conditioning, not into another set of beliefs and dogmas and all that nonsense, but actually bring about in itself a religious quality, which is the only factor of bringing about unity among all human beings. All organisations have failed and we never apparently see such organisations can never do this, but yet we are addicted to organisations, like drugs, like whiskey and so on. We think if we could organise everything would be all right.
Perhaps some of you have heard that story which I have often repeated: there were two friends walking along the road and as they were walking along one of them picks up from the pavement and looks at it and his whole face changes, lightens, delighted and he puts it in his pocket. And the other fellow says, 'What have you got? Why are you so happy about it?' 'Oh,' he says, 'I have picked up part of truth, it is so extraordinarily beautiful.' And the other fellow says, 'Now let's organise it.' And we think through organisations, however highly regarded, patronised, plenty of money and so on, blessed by all the big cannons of the world, such organisations have never produced a unity of human mind for in their very structure and nature they must be divisive, separative, based on some form of idealism or belief, and so they are essentially destructive to bring about this unity of the mind, of the human mind, which requires love, affection, care, attention, responsibility. I hope we are meeting each other, are we? Or am I talking to myself?
Questioner: May I ask you a question?
K: We will do it the day after tomorrow sir. If you are still here, if you are still interested.
So our question is, and has always been: can the human mind, human consciousness, with all its content, the grief, the sorrow, the anxiety, the loneliness, the sense of despair, the desire to fulfil and frustration, the whole of human struggle, is that consciousness with its images of god and you know, all that. Can that consciousness be transformed? Otherwise we will always be separative - please do pay attention a little bit - separative, destructive, self-centred, perpetuating wars and maintaining this everlasting division of nationalities, races, colour and all the rest of it. So if one is serious and deeply concerned with humanity, with man with all his problems - economic, social, religious - all that, can that mind be completely changed?
And the speaker says it can be, it must be. And then the question arises: in what manner can this be brought about? Does it demand discipline? All right sir? We are communicating with each other, you are following? - not verbally, not intellectually but actually becoming aware of one's own conditioning - the number of beliefs, the experiences, dogmas, you know the whole human existence - becoming aware of it, would you ask whether it is possible to transform this enormous past, with all the knowledge it has acquired, can that be transformed? Where there is knowledge, whether the past or the present, acquiring knowledge, knowledge is always incomplete, there is no knowledge as a whole. So with knowledge goes ignorance. Please understand, this is really quite important for you to understand this. As knowledge can never be complete therefore knowledge always goes with ignorance. Part of knowledge is part of ignorance. And when we rely entirely on knowledge as a means of advance, as a means of ascent of man we are also maintaining ignorance. And so there is always this battle between ignorance and knowledge.
And we are saying as human beings live their lives in the past, their whole life is a movement of the past, if you observe it for yourself you can see how we live in the thousand yesterdays, our memories, our experiences, our hurts, our failures, you know the whole movement of time which is the past. And can that movement come to an end so that the mind is fresh, young, alive, new? Knowledge is necessary at certain levels. If you are a doctor you must have knowledge; a surgeon you must have knowledge; if you are a good carpenter you must have a great deal of knowledge of wood and the implements and so on. But knowledge is the result of experience accumulated through thousands and thousands of people through millennia. That knowledge is stored up in our brain from childhood, genetics and so on and so on. And that knowledge, based on experience, is memory. You follow? This is all very simple, this is not highly intellectual or anything. And thought is the result of that movement of memory, as knowledge is always with ignorance our memory is always limited. And therefore thought is always limited. Thought can imagine that it can perceive or see or experience the limitless, but thought in itself is the outcome of knowledge with its ignorance and therefore it is essentially, basically limited, fragmented and never can possibly conceive the whole. This again becomes very simple and clear if you go into the whole question of thinking, and our whole nature, our whole civilisation, all the cathedrals, all the things in the cathedrals, the rituals, the whole circus of all this is based on thought. And so thought can never be sacred, though it can create an image and call it sacred but that thing which it has created is not sacred because thought itself is limited. And we are caught in the images created by thought. So thought - please follow - thought can never bring about a complete transformation of the human mind. Right? Because all the things that thought has put together as consciousness - are you interested in all this?
Audience: Go on, go on.
Audience: Go on, go on, please.
K: If you are not sirs don't bother to listen because this is really very, very serious. You have taken the trouble to come here, in rather rotten weather and you want to find out what the other fellow, what the speaker is trying to say, so you have to listen, you have to find out. And in the very finding it out you test it, you don't accept anything the speaker says. Though he is sitting on a higher platform it doesn't give him any authority. We are investigating into the whole nature of man and whether that can be transformed. Because the way we are living is terrible, destructive, meaningless, going to the office everyday or factory - you know all this. From the moment you pass your school examination, or whatever it is, for the rest of your life, going to the office, struggling, struggling, struggling. And so life becomes utterly meaningless.
So we are saying: thought has created the most beautiful architecture, both in the east and in the west. And the things that have been put in it, in all the various churches, don't get angry please, I am just describing it, it is a fact. Don't resist, just look at it, just listen and if you don't want to listen shut your ears, or if you don't want to be impolite, quietly slip out. Because what we are saying is totally contrary to everything that is going on in the world. We are asking for a psychological revolution, which means the transformation of the human mind with all the things that thought has put in there.
So we are saying that thought, do what it will, because in itself it is partial, limited, narrow, based on knowledge, and knowledge goes with ignorance, therefore thought whatever it does, it may write the most beautiful, romantic heaven, theories of god, theories of what society should be and so on, whatever it does it cannot possibly bring about a radical change. But thought has its own place. You cannot go home without knowing, without thinking. If you had total amnesia you would be lost. So thought has its right place, but thought cannot bring this change. If you once see that and grant it, even intellectually, then what is one to do? You understand my question?
Please understand this very deeply, otherwise you will miss the whole point. Man has tried, in the east and in the east, depending on thought - the ancient Greeks, and ancient Hindus and the ancient Chinese - depending on thought and saying that will help man to change, to bring about a different culture, a different society, and thought has not brought it about. If one actually, deeply realises that fact, not a theory, not something you come to through argument, through opposing opinions, but an actual fact, then the next question is: what is the factor that will bring about this change? If thought cannot what will? You follow? If a good carpenter has an instrument which is useless he throws it away. But we don't. We keep it. We hope somehow that it will operate through some miracle. We don't throw it away and therefore have the capacity to look in another direction, because we are frightened that if thought is not the solution for all our problems, including political, religious, economic, if thought is not the solution, and if you say, 'All right, I will put thought aside, because thought has its place,' then our minds are free of the useless instrument, which has its own place, then it has a capacity to look in other directions. I wonder if you are following all this? I hope you are doing all this and not merely listening to a lot of words, and consider it as useless and go away.
So what is there, if thought is not the instrument of right action, then what is the instrument - right? Are we together in all this? What do you say? Our senses partially make up our whole mind, obviously. But we use our senses partially - right? One or two senses highly awakened, highly developed, the others are dormant - right? And is it possible to observe with all our senses, not with one or two senses, with all the senses highly observant? Do you understand the question? Which means is there an observation which is not the instrument of thought? You are following this? May I go on with it? Not for your entertainment, but you are doing it with the speaker. We are doing it together. Which means we are doing it together with care, with attention, with affection, with love, together. Otherwise it is meaningless. You accept a lot of words and go away, it will just be ashes in your hands.
So is there an observation, not partial, but with all the senses observe? Which means is there an observation without the past? Senses have no past, they are acting. You understand this? This is marvellous. I am discovering something myself. The senses are responding according to every challenge, and the senses when they are functioning completely there is pure observation. Isn't it? I wonder if you see this. And that observation is not induced by thought - right? In that observation there is no centre from which to observe. There is only observation, pure and simple without all the pressure and the volume of the past - right? Which implies that one has to go into this whole question of discipline, because we are used to it. We are used to making an effort, to learn is an effort, a language or anything, one has to make a tremendous effort. And is there a possibility of living - please listen to this - is there a possibility of living without a single shadow of effort? Ask yourself please, find out the answer because we have made effort in every direction, and we have not brought about a good society where people can live happily, without fear, without terror, without uncertainty - you follow - all that is going on in the present world. And we say through organisation, making an effort to create an organisation we will solve that.
So we are questioning the whole movement of effort - effort to reach god, if there is a god, effort to be noble, effort to have good responsibility in our relationship. And so effort implies the action of will. You are following? Will is desire, and there are multiple forms of desire. And desire in its activity must create effort. If I want a good suit I must make an effort. If I want to be good, in quotes, I must make an effort to be good. If I want to reach god - we won't discuss god - either I must fast, be a celibate, take vows, burn in myself, struggle, struggle, struggle, great efforts to reach the ideal, the highest principle. We are questioning that effort because we are saying that in pure observation, which I have explained a little bit, there is no effort, there is only observation and action. I wonder if you get all this. I'll go into it presently in more detail.
That is why one has to understand the whole nature of desire because we are driven by desire, whether sexual, whether ambitious - you know, all the rest of it, desire becomes the basis of our existence. So we have to go into this whole question of desire. Various monks throughout the world have said no desire - if you would reach god, the highest principle, desire must be suppressed - you know all this. Look at all the monks throughout the world, they are ordinary human beings, taken a vow to serve god and concentrate all their energy on that which means desire must be held low, suppressed or transmuted and so on and so on. So one has to investigate desire. Observe desire, not control, suppress, transform - just to observe desire. You understand? Pure observation of desire. In that, if you go into it deeply, thought doesn't enter at all, as we explained just now, I hope. Need I go back to it again?
So we are saying as one of the major factors of life is desire, one has to understand what is desire, how does it dominate our lives, why? - whether it is desire for heaven or illumination, whether it is desire for a house, you know, all the rest of it, desire. How does it come into being? What is the relationship - please just follow it slowly, we will go into it carefully - what is the relationship between the senses and desire? You understand my question? The senses - seeing something in the shop window, a dress, a shirt, whatever it is, a nice piece of furniture, or a beautiful car - that is, seeing and desire. You understand my question? What is the relationship between the two? How would you find out? Read a book? Go to a psychologist? A professor? A guru? A man who says it is so? How will you find out? Because we are so dependent on another's explanation - right? We want to be told. The speaker refuses to be told by the books, by the professors, by all the hierarchical beings in knowledge. So how is one to find out? If we discard all that you are left with yourself. How will you find out what is the relationship between the activities of the senses and desire? Or must they all go always together? Do you understand my question? Are you following all this? That interests you, all this? Gosh! Please bear in mind, if you don't mind, that we are not converting you to anything, to new aspects of desire, or this or that, nothing. We are investigating together.
If you observe very closely the movement of desire: you see something in the window, a dress, a shirt, a trouser, whatever it is, the senses are awakened by that perception, by the seeing of that shirt, of that dress - right? The senses are awakened. Then you touch the material, which is contact and then sensation - right? Please follow this step by step. Seeing, contact, sensation - right? Then, observe it closely you will see it for yourself, then thought comes and makes an image and says how nice it would be for me to have that blue shirt on - right? So when thought makes the image of you having that robe, that dress, and creating the image of you in that dress and how nice you look, then desire begins. You follow this? Do please, it is very interesting if you go into it very deeply. Seeing, contact, sensation, that is perfectly normal, it is so. Then thought comes along and creates the image of you sitting in the car and driving it, and the excitement of the speed and all the rest of it, you have created the image. So, thought when it dominates the senses and creates the image, then desire begins.
So the next question is, if that is so, the next question is: why does thought create the image? You understand? It is perfectly right to see a beautiful car, look at it, touch it, the sensation of it. Then thought slips in, you are sitting behind the wheel and driving it. I hope it is a fast car, in spite of the energy trouble! So thought has created this. If one understands this, not verbally, not intellectually but factually, then thought has no relationship with the sensation - you understand? I wonder if you see that. So then there is no question of making an effort to discipline desire, to suppress desire, to transform desire. Because we are accustomed, trained to make an effort - right desire, wrong desire, noble desire, ignoble desire, according to the pattern of each civilisation, which civilisation is put together by thought - right?
So discipline then has quite a different meaning. Discipline now means to control - right? To struggle to be what is demanded, either Victorian or Modern, permissive, or not permissive, discipline ourselves to be something, control ourselves - you follow? All that is based on an effort to be, to become, to achieve, psychologically we are talking about. So when you understand the nature of desire, what place has effort? You understand? Psychological effort. What place has discipline? Discipline actually means to learn, it comes from the word disciple, one who is willing to learn from the teacher - to learn. The actual meaning is to learn. We have learnt. You understand? We have learnt together the nature of desire. So where is the whole movement of a civilisation which says discipline? - which means conform, imitate, compare - you follow? All that is implied in discipline and much more naturally.
So is it possible to live a daily life without a single effort? You understand? Without a single sense of control. Please this is very dangerous, especially in a permissive society. We are not advocating permissiveness, or the opposite of it. We are examining the whole structure of the human mind, which has been trained to control and the reaction is, let go, do what you want, do the thing you want. On the contrary we are saying understand, look, observe, be aware of your whole existence, not just one part of it - be permissive when you are twenty. But from the beginning of life to the end, look at it, because all religions, organised religions with their dogmas and so on have always demanded this, discipline, to serve god, discipline, make effort. You can't love with effort - can you? Thought can make an effort and says 'I will try to love' - but it is not love, it is still the movement of thought based upon knowledge with its ignorance, and thought can never have that quality of love which is whole.
So we are saying that the human condition, which is the human consciousness, not only the particular consciousness, that consciousness is part of the whole of consciousness - I wonder if you see this? Your consciousness, living in a town, living in a village, living with a husband, wife or a girl or boy, that little consciousness with all its problems, whether you live in a happy community or not a community, whether you are living happily with your wife, your girl or whatever it is, happily in quotes, that small particular consciousness is the consciousness of the rest of mankind because they are all particular little consciousnesses. I wonder if you see this. So your consciousness is not separate. I know one likes to think it is all special but our consciousness and its content is put there by thought - right? Thought has brought about this limited consciousness. Now to observe this consciousness, however limited, to observe its activity without any direction, just to observe, not choosing 'I will keep this part and let the other part go' - just to observe the whole content. When you so observe, which means there is no observer who is the past, then that consciousness has no centre. I wonder if you see this? Our consciousness now is self-centred - right? Me and my activities, me and my problems, me and my job, me and my wife, me and my other wife, other girl, me and so on and so on and so on. This consciousness is the movement of thought. Thought has put in this consciousness various activities, belief, dogmas, rituals, on the one hand, you know all that is going on, called religion, and the business activity, the activity of personal relationship, grief, sorrow, pain, anxiety, guilt - you know, all that - all that is our consciousness. And that consciousness is the consciousness of those people living in Russia or India, China, or America. So if one realises this, that we are part of the whole of humanity, not English, British, you follow? - all that kind goes away. Then we become extraordinarily responsible, not to my little family but to all human beings. After all that is love, isn't it? To feel totally responsible for my children who must be educated rightly, not be conditioned to a particular form of British outlook, or French outlook, whether Russian or Totalitarian, or whatever it is, educated so that they become religious human beings. Because in that religion there is unity, which is not to be organised. And right education implies that sense of freedom from fear, from this terrible anxiety to fulfil and so on. This is not the moment to go into right education.
So when one feels that one is representative of all humanity then you become extraordinarily responsible to the whole of mankind, therefore there will be no wars. Oh, you don't see all this. There will be no nationalities. That is actual, you understand, this is not a theory, but when you feel that your consciousness is the rest of mankind, because they suffer in India as well as you do here, in America and so on and so on. Our consciousness is the consciousness of mankind and in the freeing of that consciousness of its content we have responsibility to the whole. And that is essentially the nature of love and compassion.
We are going to meet the day after tomorrow. Instead of having dialogues or discussions, which we have tried all over the world at different times, we thought it would be a good idea to have questions. Whatever question you want to ask, then we will try to answer each question. That's on Tuesday morning.