Knowledge, sorrow, death, and to be free of the content of consciousness
Our consciousness is the common ground on which all humanity stands
3rd Public Talk, Brockwood Park
September 05, 1981
I suppose one must talk, and that is why you are here.
We have been talking over together the many problems of our daily life. We have talked about fear, pleasure, pain, and also the importance of relationship and the conflict in relationship, and whether it is at all possible to be free of all conflict, not only in our personal relationship but also in the world in which we are living, the world which is so tragically disintegrating, where there is terror, misery, confusion, poverty, and always the threat of war - it may not be in this country but there is always a war going on somewhere or other in the world. We all know this.
And also we talked the other day about right action: what is a man to do in a world as it is; and also we talked about the future of knowledge, what place has knowledge in our daily life? What place has knowledge in our relationship? Whether knowledge is the cause of conflict in relationship, knowledge being the whole structure of memory, experience, stored in the brain, recorded, and acting according to that record, like a computer. But the computer is far more alert, far more capable of thinking, out-thinking man; being programmed properly, it can outstrip man altogether. Of course it cannot perceive the beauty of an evening, it may compose but the feeling of music, the joy of it, the pleasure, the intense beauty of it, the computer cannot.
And also we talked in the last two talks and question and answer meetings, whether knowledge, which is part of desire, whether that knowledge has any place in love, whether knowledge contributes to love, whether desire with all its complications is love. And the pursuit of pleasure which has been most constant in one's life, whether that pursuit of pleasure is love. And pleasure is based on knowledge, as fear is based on knowledge. And that knowledge, is it not also part of sorrow?
As we said the other day, and if one may repeat it again, this is not a weekend affair. It's a lovely day, and you have a nice garden, green lawn and it is a pleasant day, but when we are gathered here together it is not a weekend affair, we are talking about our daily life, and our relationship to society, our relationship to all the terrible things that are going on in the world.
And also we have been saying that we are thinking together. That is, we are, each one of us is looking at the problems that we have and talking them over together. It is not you are not thinking according to what the speaker wants you to think: we are not doing any kind of propaganda, or any kind of sectarian guru business, but together we are examining, thinking, feeling our way into the very, very complex existence and our relationship to the whole world, and the future of mankind, what is going to happen to our children, to the future of all those people who are coming.
So we must go into this problem over again, considering what our life is, what the future of our life is, whether that future, based on knowledge, that is, experience, from that experience knowledge, from that knowledge memory, reaction to that memory is thought, and from thought there is action. That is the cycle in which we have been functioning: from experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action. Whether such a cycle has any future at all; or it is merely repeating over and over and over again the same routine, facing the same problem which thought has created, and whether thought is capable of ever solving these problems at all. We went into that considerably.
And also this morning we ought to talk over together, the very complex problem of love, compassion and from that compassion intelligence. That intelligence is not yours or that of the speaker. It is intelligence, totally objective, impersonal, non-sectarian and so on. We ought to talk over that together. It is difficult to talk over together with such a large audience. We can perhaps talk over together if we are sitting quietly under a tree or in a room, you and I single, two people having a good dialogue, that is very possible, but to have a dialogue of this kind with such a large number requires that we all think together, be attentive together, face the problem together. Because we have created the problems together. Our society which is so corrupt, so disintegrating, so violent, it is our responsibility, we have contributed to it, society is not different from us, we are part of it. Though the communist maintains that society is us - we are talking about psychologically, totally differently. They are materialistic, dialectical people, interpreting history according to their own opinions and values, but we are not communists, we are not doing any kind of propaganda, but talking over together the immense problem of existence.
And I think it is important to talk over this question: what place has knowledge, which is always clothed in ignorance because knowledge can never be complete about anything, even technologically, astrophysically, it cannot possibly be complete at any time. And any action born of that knowledge must be incomplete. And from that incompleteness all our problems arise.
So we have to talk over together: what place has knowledge, or what relationship has knowledge with regard to love? Knowledge is memory, remembrance. Is remembrance part of love? We are not talking of the love of god, the love of something or other abstract, but love between people, between human beings, not only the personal, limited love, but also love of mankind, love of human beings, because as we said the other day our consciousness is the common consciousness of all mankind. All mankind suffers, all mankind, every person wherever they live, they go through agony, uncertainty, anxiety, guilt, loneliness, the content of their consciousness, the consciousness of each one of us is similar to the rest of mankind, psychologically. And so psychologically this consciousness is common to humanity, it is not my consciousness or yours, it is the consciousness of all human beings, for everybody goes through terrible times. And perhaps then one realises if one goes into it deeply, that one is not an individual at all. You may have a separate name, a separate form, different superficial culture, you may admire some painting which the Asiatics might not, or you might not appreciate the Asiatic culture, paintings, sculpture. But psychologically we are similar, our consciousness is similar, so individuality is, may be, an illusion.
And to understand this problem of knowledge, whether knowledge brings sorrow and what relationship has sorrow to love; whether the mind, the brain, a human being that is suffering for various causes, can ever know love. Or love is entirely, totally different from knowledge and sorrow. We ought to together talk over this problem. Please, we are not talking theoretically, abstractly, hypothetically, but we are concerned, not only with our own lives but the lives of human beings in the future. What will man be in two thousand years, when the computer takes over all our thinking, quicker, faster, correcting itself, learning and creating new machines - the ultra intelligent machine. And what is the future of mankind then? I hope you are following all this together. So this is our problem. A problem that must be practical, a solution to the problem must be applicable to daily life otherwise it is so futile. So I hope - one hopes that together we can talk about this sanely, rationally without any emotion, romantically, all that kind of business. So let us talk over together this.
We know what knowledge is, not only semantically the word, the word which creates the image, the word which is part of thought, that word, symbol, knowledge, what relationship has that to love? Will love exist without remembrance? I may be married, I have a wife or a husband, or a girlfriend, or whatever you will, and in that relationship there is not only the sensual responses as sex, but also all the psychological responses: the pleasure, the possessiveness, the dominance, the irritations, the quarrels - all those are recorded. If you observe - please, I am not talking for myself, we are talking over together - all those are recorded in the brain. Those records like a gramophone are repeated over and over and over and over again. In that there is security, in knowledge there is security, psychologically as well as physically. And that security, does that deny love? If it does, then what is love? Is it something so abstract, so impossible, that the human brain cannot capture it, possess it, have it? And when we talk about love and compassion with its intelligence we also should discuss suffering, the pain, the grief, the anxiety, the loss of someone one loves, with whom you have been living for many years, or a son or a brother who was your companion, whom you loved. And when there is that sorrow of loss, of pain, can that sorrow contain love? Right?
So we have to enquire into not only knowledge and its place, or it has no place with regard to love; and is knowledge suffering, and when there is suffering is it possible at all to have love? And facing all this problem, what is the answer? Can sorrow end? Please this is a very important question because for thousands and thousands and thousands of years man has been in wars, facing death, shedding tears, bearing the enormous burden of sorrow and has never been able to resolve it. In the Christian world they have somehow passed the buck to somebody else - you understand that? They have given their sorrow to somebody else, call him whatever name you like, and that symbol, that person is the epitome of sorrow and you hand over yourself to him. So religions throughout the world have not been able to solve this problem, they have escaped from it, they have suppressed it, they have rationalised it, they have handed themselves over to a symbol, to an idea hoping thereby sorrow can end. Man has done every kind of thing to escape from sorrow - through drugs, through drink, through sex, through every form of amusement - football has become the religion of the world now. And through that we are trying to escape from our own pain and anxiety, sorrow. So if one can put aside all that, not escape, not hand ourselves over to somebody who will solve our sorrow, if we can end every kind of escape, even the verbal escape, talking endlessly about it, or living with sorrow, not talking about it, but that sorrow eating one's heart out. And from that all kinds of neurotic habits, ideas, conclusions arise. So if we can stop all that, rationally, sanely, not by will because will is the essence of desire, and desire also is part of sorrow. If we can, not only this morning, which is fairly easy to forget ourselves for the time being, but when you go out again it all starts, so can we totally not escape from the pain of sorrow? What does that mean? Does it mean that knowledge of my son's death, of my wife running away with somebody, and so facing my deep insoluble loneliness, the remembrance of all that remains like a deep wound, and that brings sorrow: not being loved or loving, that person not responding - you know all those things that go on in daily life. We have become so utterly selfish, thoughtless.
So can we, together, stop the whole movement of escape? It is not an action of will or determination or verbally taking a vow never to escape but actually deeply not avoiding that thing. So that memory of the past pleasures, companionship, all that has no longer a place and so we can remain with that thing called pain completely, wholly. You understand? Are we meeting, thinking together? I hope. That is, my son is dead, I loved him, and I remember all the things he used to say, play. I have a photograph on the mantelpiece; there is always the recording going on, the remembrances, which is an escape from the actual pain - right? Or that pain is sustained by remembrances. Or every furniture, the room, the garden, reminds me of it. So I am constantly being reminded, sustained by past events. And can I totally abandon all that? And I may feel it may be disloyal. You follow? So many tricks I play with myself. And so I sustain, nourish by remembrance, this, the event, all the things that have gone with that person and so I nourish it, keep going. And that is a form of not understanding or facing or going beyond sorrow. We all know this. Everyone of us knows what it means, sorrow - not only personal sorrow but the sorrow of mankind, the man who has nothing. If you go to the East you will find enormous poverty, no hope. The same limited quantity of nourishment. We were walking once along the highway in India. A poor man had collected a few leaves, dead, dried leaves and branches, and in a pot he had put rice, two or three drops of oil - this is one is describing accurately - two or three drops of oil and an onion. He was cooking it on the little fire. We were watching him. As it was cooked he explained that it was his only one meal for the rest of the day, and he said take some of it. And he will never be able to have full meal for the rest of his life. I am not playing on your sympathy, please, we are just observing what it is. A man who will never have clean clothes, will always live in poverty, and the very knowing of it is a sorrow. And also those who are highly educated, who only look through knowledge as a means of advancement, the ascent of man through knowledge, and keep repeating that. And we human beings, because they are scholars, scientists, well-known people, we follow them. And in that too there is sorrow because knowledge is limited. There is this war, which has been recorded for five thousand years and practically every year there has been a war, and how many people have shed tears - wounded, maimed - and we are still going on with it. We have left it to the politicians to decide our future. And the politicians are merely thinking along particular, narrow, tribal lines.
So there is all this enormous sense of ignorance which is not ignorance of books, ignorance of oneself. And when you are aware of all that there is sorrow, and you want to do something about it and so you join a group, form an organization, institutions, give money and then you think you have solved the problem. No institution, or organization is ever going to solve our sorrow. These are all escapes. So can we look at sorrow, be with it completely without a movement of thought? A movement of thought is to escape from it. The very word 'sorrow' colours the fact of sorrow, the pain of it. So to observe it, to live with it without the word, without the remembrance, without the idea of going beyond it, just to hold it completely, wholly together. If one does that, what takes place? I hope we are doing that together now. What takes place when you remain with a fact, and not translate the fact according to your prejudice, to your want, your desire, without any motive, what happens when you remain with a fact which is pain, and not allow thought to come into it? That is, when you give your total attention to the fact, and we do not give total attention when there is an escape, when there is interpretation, when there is rationalization, when the word becomes all important. You understand? You are following all this? Is that possible at all? To so wholly remain with that pain of tears - you follow? - the great depth of it. Because thought is very superficial, pain is not. But when thought colours that pain, that very thought becomes an abstraction, and therefore it destroys attention, it wastes energy. So to remain with the fact is to give total attention, which is to give all your energy to that. When you give such attention, with that total energy, that fact is transformed. That is, the fact is not different from you. I wonder The fact is you. The fact of sorrow, self-pity, the loneliness, the despair, the sense of being abandoned, all that is you. You are that. But thought comes along and says, 'You are not that. You are different.' I don't know if you are following all this? So there is a division between the you and the object - the fear, the pain, the loneliness, the despair, the depression, - all that, is something different from you, for you to control it, for you to overcome it. So there is a conflict in this division, which is false because that which is taking place is you. You understand? Vous avez compris? We understand each other? Are we getting along somewhere?
So there is also that thing to be understood: the observer is not different from the observed, sorrow. The observer is the observed, like the thinker is the thought, the experiencer is the experience. But the experiencer says, 'I am different from the experience, therefore I must have more experience' - you follow? But when one realises very deeply that the observer of sorrow is sorrow itself, that is a tremendous revolution. Because we have been brought up that the observer is different from the observed. To break that whole cycle of tradition is to live with that sorrow, pain completely without a single movement of thought. That is the ending of sorrow, which means the ending of knowledge which you have acquired, which has been slowly built up, so knowledge, the ending of knowledge, the ending of sorrow. I wonder if you understand. And is knowledge love? The picture, the image, the name. Where there is jealousy, possessiveness, ambition, competition, how can there be love? But our whole society, our culture is based that you must succeed, you must be ambitious, you must compete. And yet I go home and say, 'I love you darling'. It has very little meaning.
So one discovers for oneself - and no guru, no priest, no god, nobody can help in this, one discovers for oneself that love has no memory, no remembrance, no picture, no image. And that love which is not sentiment, which has nothing to do with devotion and that love when it is sustained, looked at, then out of that, compassion and intelligence. Compassion is supreme intelligence, it is not my intelligence or your intelligence, it is totally objective, and yet you can love another. That is the beauty of it.
And also on a lovely morning like this we ought to talk about something which one avoids all the time, death. Talking about death is not morbid, it is part of one's life, whether one is young, or old, diseased, it is part of our daily existence, which we try to avoid. So we ought to talk that over together, and not say 'Why do you talk about a dreadful thing like death on a lovely morning like this, green fields and blue skies and lovely trees?' The lovely trees, the blue sky and the green lawn is part of life. This is also part of life. But we are frightened of it, therefore we say we'll keep it at arm's length, as far away as possible, don't let's talk about it. But it is there. And man from the beginning of time has faced this problem, this terrible thing called death, and has found many, many explanations, including what happens after. The whole Asiatic world believes in being born again next life. And the Western world is collecting a lot of evidence about it, writing books about it. In India it is as ancient as the hills. But their belief, which is, to be born next life to a better life, always a better life. If you are poor, if you live rightly you will be born to money, to a better house. If you have got a better house you will get a better palace next life. (Laughter) If you have a palace in this life, next life you will be a king. You know the game. So what you do now, what you sow now, you will reap in next life. They all believe this, most earnestly. It is in their blood. But when one asks: how do you live this life? - they look the other way. So that belief has no value at all - like most beliefs. Or in the Western world you have other kind of belief - resurrection, Gabriel blowing the horn - you know, all that.
Man is seeking comfort really. I have collected so much this life, so many pictures, so much furniture, so much land. I have cultivated my brain through education, through study, through experience, travelled a great deal. If I die what is the point of it all? I have lived a moral life and I die, why should I live a moral life? You follow? These are all the various arguments and explanations about death. We won't go into all the details of it but this is a problem that we should talk over together. What place has fear and death? What is the relationship of the two? And what is important, the before or the after? You understand? Before death or after death?
For most of us after death is much more important. But we should consider seriously what is before death, what is this thing called living, and what is the thing called ending? The living and the ending. What is this living to which all human beings cling to, always avoiding the ending? You may not want to end, through writing a book and therefore becoming immortal - or a poem, or a painting, do something that will give you a name, a position, well-established, therefore you become one of the immortals of the Academy Francais. You understand?
So should we consider, if you are at all serious: which is urgent to be considered, the living or the dying, the ending? Both have importance because that which ends has a new beginning - you understand? - not incarnation. You understand? That is, is it possible to incarnate now? You understand? To reincarnate now, not after, that may be merely idealistic, romantic, sentimental nonsense, but the ending is a new beginning - everything is. I don't know if you follow this. If I end, totally, completely all attachment, not some future date, now, today, completely end my attachment with all its corruption, there is a new beginning. Right? But one is so frightened to end, not knowing what will happen. And if what will happen is certain then there is no ending. You follow? I wonder if you understand all this.
So is it possible to end while living? - not suicide, I am not talking of that, taking a pill and - exit. But I am talking about this life, the routine, the boredom, the self-centred activity, the constant demand, constant wanting something, wanting, wanting - you follow? The attachment to somebody, the attachment to a belief, to an ideal, to a conclusion, to a concept. To end attachment - let's take that for the moment, if you will - attachment to your religion, to your gods, to your church - you know, attachment, to your husband, to your wife, to your son - not to belief, that is fairly simple, to some image, some picture, some utopia concept, or even your own personal experience which one clings to, those are fairly easy. To say, well, that's But to be free of attachment to a person on whom you depend, what is this attachment, why is one attached? Let's go into it together.
Why am I attached to my son, to my wife? She has given me her body, she has given me comfort, she has encouraged me when I was depressed - you know, all that thing that goes on, and the picture I have built about her, the image I have built, I am attached to that, not to her as a person, but I am attached to all the memories, the remembrance she has cultivated - in that relationship in which we have grown together.
I do not know if one has not realised that when one is tied to anything there is corruption. If I am tied to my nationality it is corruption. If I am tied to an ideal it is corruption. Or a dialectical opinion and finding the truth out of that opinion, if I am attached to that as a Socialist, Communist, Left, Right, Centre and all the rest of it, in that there is corruption. So I discover that wherever there is attachment there must be corruption. It is inevitable, it is a law. All that I recognise logically, intellectually, but inwardly I am still - I have a battle with the intellectual conclusion and the fact, I am attached. Intellectual conclusions I can let go, that is fairly easy. But though I have examined the cause of attachment I am still attached because I am frightened to be alone, stand alone. In attachment there is some form of security, and I have no security if I am by myself. And I am frightened to be by myself, stand on my own feet. Therefore I lean on gurus - you know, all that business begins.
Now, I realise the fact that in that attachment there is really no security, because she might die, she might run away, she might look at somebody else, she is a free person, but I don't want her to be free, but I am attached. So can I look at that attachment, have an insight into that attachment, because insight is the liberating factor. Not arguments, not explanations, not the causes, not any amount of pressure but the liberating fact of insight into attachment, then there is a freedom from it, completely. Which doesn't mean you become cynical and all the rest of it. Out of that freedom there is love.
So can we look at our present life, the daily living, not the death - we will talk about it if there is time afterwards, but this thing called existence, and end voluntarily, easily all the psychological factors? Not physical factors - I don't mean that. You can't end having a house - that would be absurd, end of food, clothes but the psychological factors of attachment, of fear - you follow? - all those things to which we cling to. Can all those end? Not when you die, when one dies, but while living, living with all the energy, vitality, intelligence, energy, not when you are gaga or when you are senile, but when there is tremendous activity going on, to end these psychological factors. That is death. Not the physical organism coming to an end, either through misuse, through accident, old age and so on, but death is the ending of all that one holds psychologically. That is: must one take one by one of all the various factors - please follow this a minute - all the various, separate factors like fear, pleasure, pain, sorrow, loneliness, anxiety and so on, uncertainty, one by one and end them? Or have an insight into the whole thing - you understand? - because they are all interrelated, they are not separate. So to have a total insight into that is to liberate the whole of it. Right? That is, to remain totally with the whole structure of 'me', because the 'me' is the knowledge, is the knowledge of a thousand years which has made my life into a routine, to ascertain what it is now, and to have a total insight into it - that is real freedom. Then there is a new beginning, totally.
And also there is the question: what happens if I don't end all the content of my consciousness? You understand? I agree with you, you have pointed out to me all the things, but I haven't been able to succeed, I haven't been able to have this deep insight into the whole nature of my being. I have partial insight, I have got rid of one or two, half a dozen little absurdities but I have still got very deep absurdities. So what happens when I die? You follow my question? You are all interested in this? Of course! (Laughter) You see, this is the tragedy. I have got rid of a few of the things but I still hold on to something which I want, which is dear to me, which is next to my heart. I won't let go. So please tell me what happens afterwards. (Laughter) Are you interested in all this? I am still attached - it might not be to my wife or to ideal, I am still attached to the money which I have collected, I can't take it with me but I want it till the last moment. (Laughter) So I am attached to that - what happens? To understand this question one must go very deeply into the whole consciousness of man - if you are not too tired, are you?
We must question the content of consciousness. That content is put there by thought. I hope this is clear. Probably it is not. Let me We said thought is the root cause of fear is time, thought. Some of you have heard this probably for the first time, we have been talking about it in the previous talks. Fear is the product of time-thought. Time is thought, they are not two separate things and time and thought have put all the contents of consciousness together - my belief, my experience, my fears, my pleasures, my specialties, surgeon, carpenter - you follow? All that is the content of my consciousness, my attachment. That content makes consciousness. Without that content consciousness as we know cannot exist. Right? The content makes up consciousness. If the content is not, which is fear, pleasure, anxiety, loneliness, all that, then what is my consciousness? Which is, the content of my consciousness is me - please follow this. The content is me, I am the whole of that consciousness. So I have let part of that consciousness go, the content of that consciousness go. Right? The things that don't matter very much. And the things that matter very deeply, I hold. Right? And I discover also that this consciousness is the consciousness of all mankind. That is the real thing which we won't face. The content of my consciousness - belief, culture, the pain, the books I have read, the fears and so on, so on, so on is common ground on which all mankind stands. Go to Asia they have the same problems - sorrow, pain, lack of work, oh god, so many things. So this consciousness is common to all of us. Please follow this carefully, if you will. It is not mine or yours, it is common ground on which humanity stands. And I, part of that consciousness, of the common consciousness, I have let a few things go. So do a few people in India let go, but they hold on to something. So the common thread is there. I wonder if you understand this. And if you let the whole content be wiped away by insight you have contributed to that consciousness an enormous amount. You understand? You have brought a totally new dimension into that consciousness. And what you have brought is so colossally important because you have brought real freedom for man, from sorrow - you follow? - real freedom. So it is of the utmost importance that you empty that content, not just one piece here and there. This is logical, this is what is happening. We are all influenced by the killers of the world - Hitler included. We are all influenced by literature, by various teachers that have been before, all those are part of our consciousness. And when we live within that consciousness there is nothing new. It is like a man who has read a great deal. Personally I used to know somebody who used to have, he could talk about any subject on earth, Eastern philosophy, Western, anything you want. So one day we were talking, he says to me that with all this knowledge I have, I probably can never experience something original. There is the tragedy. You understand?
So what happens to the content of that consciousness, which is not mine, if I let go a few things I let go, but hold on to something very strongly? I help to continue that consciousness. You understand? Therefore I am utterly responsible. If I am violent I am sustaining that consciousness. If I feel anxiety, pain, grief, you know, all that, I help to hold it. But if you through insight liberate the content you add something incalculably valuable. That is the greatest morality: to be free of that content, to give a new meaning to life which is love and compassion, with its intelligence. Right, sirs.