Living in goodness
The essence of goodness is a mind that is not in conflict
1st Public Talk, Ojai, California
April 07, 1979
I hope you are all comfortable, that you are used to sitting on the ground. You know wherever you go in the world life is becoming rather dangerous and there is a great deal of disorder, politically, economically and socially. Nobody seems to bring about order in all this mess. And human beings have many, many, many problems, psychological as well as problems of relationship, problems of meditation, problems of death and so on. And we are going to, during these six talks and four discussions, go into all these matters carefully, perhaps in great detail; and before we go into all those I think it would be wise if we could think over these matters together. We only seem to think together when there is a great crisis like war, or great earthquakes and epidemics, and the moment they are over we return to our own particular little desires, petty reactions, our own little conflicts, our own personal problems. We never seem to think together. And I think it is very important, if I may, that we should go into this matter first before we go into the human problems, which are very, very complex, that need resolution, that needs human endeavour and clarity.
So if we may this morning go into this question of what it is to think together. Please, this is a serious meeting, this is not an entertainment, something by which you are stimulated, or asked to believe. This is not a meeting for propaganda purposes. So if we may ask you to be serious because we are going to talk over a great many problems that affect our lives. So you must, if one may ask, give your attention, your care, your mind, your heart to find out the solution to all our problems. And there are solutions which we shall go into as we go along. But first it seems important that we think together. I mean by that word 'think together', by those words, most of us have our own particular capacities of thought, our own particular prejudices, our own concepts, ideals, beliefs, conclusions, and we hold on to them. They become far more important than to find out if we can communicate with each other, whether we can think together over our problems, problems which demand that we both of us together investigate, explore. And we cannot possibly do that if we do not know how to think together.
First it behoves us naturally that each one of us, if we are to think together, should drop our particular prejudices, your particular experience, your conclusion, your concepts, your ideals, even your experience, then only we can meet each other. I think that is fairly obvious, though perhaps some of you may not have thought about this matter at all, that where there is to be any kind of communication with each other there must be no barriers in sharing the problems together, no opinions, which is very difficult for most people because their minds are full of opinions, about this and that, about politics, about religion, about everything. We are not free to observe our own problems, we are not free to look at the complex society in which we live, with all its disorder, inanities, insanity.
So can we, this morning, think together? Which means that you must, if you will, if you are serious, put aside for at least an hour your particular experience, your particular opinion, one's own special reactions which are generally rather petty, so that both of us can observe, think together, so that our minds are capable of investigating together our innumerable complex problems. Can we do that? Can you, if you are willing to think over together our problem, put aside the conclusions that you have come to, the experience that you have had, your particular response or reaction, so that your mind is clear, so that we can look together? That's the first thing, I think, which is most important. Because after all you have taken the trouble to come here. I don't know why you come, but since you have come, since apparently you must be serious, then we must be able to communicate with each other. Which means that we must be able to think together. We are not persuading you to think what the speaker wishes to convey, he is not asking you to believe what he says, or convert you to a particular ideal, belief, concept - on the contrary. We are together here to investigate, to explore our many, many problems. And you cannot possibly do it if you hold on to your particular vanity, to your particular idea. Please, this is very serious if you want to. So, will you be willing to think together with the speaker and you, to investigate, our innumerable problems? I hope that's clear. You may not agree, you may not accept, but if you are willing to think together with the speaker then you can go very far. Right? That's clear, I hope.
We accept, I think, the way we live. We may be dissatisfied, we may be discontented, we may rebel slightly against the way of our lives but generally speaking we accept the society as it is, with all its immorality, with its disorder, with its extraordinary dangers that are taking place, with all the political nonsense, the divisions of people, religion and otherwise. We accept this because we do not know how to bring about a change in it. We want change. Any intelligent man, aware of all the problems of mankind right throughout the world, a man who is intelligent and aware, asks naturally that the society must obviously change, must bring about some kind of decent order. And we do not know what to do. The world is too much, the pressures are much too great, the demands of our daily life, earning bread and butter, and all the rest of it, are excessively urgent. And if you observe, there are those who say that man is conditioned and he cannot possibly change that condition and he must make the best of it. I hope you are familiar with all this. Make the best of what there is of it, make the best of the society, the human mind is conditioned, it cannot possibly change. There is a great school of thought who believe in that, that the human mind is conditioned through many, many years, and cannot possibly break through. And so there are all those intellectuals, theoreticians, great philosophers, who assert that the human consciousness, as it is, can only make it slightly better, it cannot possibly undergo a radical change. There are those also who say, make the best of our society, reform it, better politicians, vote more sanely, and so on. And there is a whole religious group - and I am sorry to use the word 'religious' because most people rather despise that word - there are those religious people who say you cannot possibly make a paradise on earth, only in heaven. Only you cannot possibly escape from your sorrow, from your misery, from your pain, but if you believe in some deity, in some figure then perhaps you will be saved. These are all taking place in the world actually; we are not describing something which is non-existent. And there are those who want to bring about a physical revolution - the communists, the terrorists, the revolutionaries. And as one observes throughout the world that by changing the environment, by bringing about a dictatorship, human mind is not going to be changed. They may conform, they may adjust, but the human consciousness with all its complexity remains the same. So one is surrounded, as you observe, by these various groups, all urging that they have the right way, all asserting, including the gurus, that if you follow, if you obey, if you conform, if you accept, we will bring about a change in society.
Those of us who have lived sufficiently long have seen through all this. They do not offer, fundamentally, the transformation of human consciousness, of human endeavour to bring about a different human being. We are going to go into all that, whether it is possible for a human mind, yours, to undergo a fundamental, radical, psychological revolution. That's what we are concerned with, whether it is possible to bring about a good society. You know, ancient Hindus, the Greeks and the Egyptians, the ancient ones, have all demanded this, that there must be a good society. And the word 'good', the intellectuals rather despise that word, spit on it. They say, good is very relative, good is not absolute, it is just a modification of the bad. Are you listening to all this, are you interested in all this? I hope you are, because you are part of this ugly society in which we live, with all its extraordinary misfortunes, accidents, disease, pain, suffering, and if you are not interested you are not a human being obviously, because it is part of our life. And if we are not interested in the way we live, whether we can bring about a change in that, in our lives, then we become merely a cog in a vast machinery that is utterly meaningless. We have lost all value, life has become, if you observe, most people's life, wholly meaningless. They may go to the office, they may earn a lot of money, live in an affluent society, have cars, splendid gardens, and pools and all the rest of it, but life is rather shallow, utterly without any significance. This is our life. And we try to give meaning to it. The philosophers try in different ways to give significance to life, which then becomes theories, abstractions. And theories and abstractions in themselves are utterly meaningless.
So please bear in mind, if I may point out, that we are thinking together. You are not listening to a speaker who may have certain ideas, certain approach to life, but ideas are merely conclusions of thought. And if you have certain ideas, and also the speaker has, then there is no possibility of thinking together over this vast existence which you call living. So please, if one may request you, be serious for an hour. And that's very difficult for Americans because they are so used to being entertained - the cinemas, the books, the magazines, they try to entertain you, help you to escape from your own everyday misery, confusion and pain. This is not an entertainment, intellectual or otherwise. You have to put your mind and your heart into this to understand our lives, so we must be able to think together.
So as we were saying, and I hope we are also seeing the same thing as the speaker is seeing, that there are these various theories, beliefs, dogmas, saviours, gurus, philosophers, exercising all their influence through literature, through personal expansion, through personal desires and so on, so on, have not fundamentally changed man. And one asks, why has not man - when we use the word 'man' we also include the ladies, the women, so don't get upset when we talk of 'man'. It's a crazy world. Why has not man, woman, been able to change? He changes a little here and there, and yet he demands that there be a good society. He wants order, not only in himself, in his relationship, however intimate or otherwise, he wants some kind of peace in the world, he wants to be let alone to flower, to have some kind of beatitude. This has been man's demand if you observe, throughout history from the ancient of days, and yet man, the more he becomes civilised, the more he is creating disorder, the more wars. The earth has not known a period when there has been no war, man killing man, one religion destroying another religion, one institution dominating, destroying other institutions, one organization suppressing others - this constant everlasting struggle. I do not know if you are aware of all this. If you are, don't you ask ever if it is possible to live in this world, not run away from it, not go off into a commune or become a hermit or a monk, but to live in this world sanely, happily, intelligently, without all this battle going on inwardly and outwardly. If you do, and I hope you are doing it now, because we are thinking together, if you do then you must demand that there be a good society.
We will go into that word 'good', if we may, because most people, the intellectuals, the highly cultivated minds, think 'good' is rather an impossible word; they don't like that word because it is rather a shy-making word. You are following all this? But I think we should stick to that word in spite of them. So we must go into the meaning of that word, 'to be good'. Because you cannot have a good society which has been the dream of ancient Indians, Hindus, ancient Greeks and the Egyptians and so on, to bring about a good society. And a good society can only exist when there is good man, because being good he creates goodness, brings about goodness - in his relationship, in his actions, in his way of life. So we must be very clear in the understanding of that word 'good'. Don't despise that word. Good also means that which is beautiful. Good also means that which is holy, it is related to god, to the highest principles and so on. So that word 'good' needs to be very deeply understood. When there is this goodness in one then whatever you do will be good: your relationships, your actions, your way of thinking and so on. So please, as we are thinking together let us examine that word. Because one may immediately capture the whole significance of that word, the extraordinary quality of that word, instantly. But generally people don't, they want an explanation, what it is to be good. The speaker is not ashamed to use that word, you may spit on it. Generally the intellectuals do, they say such a thing doesn't exist any more. We are going to find out what it means.
Goodness is not the opposite of that which is bad. Please carefully let's think over this thing together because this is, if you really go into this very deeply, it is going to affect your consciousness, it is going to affect your way of thinking, it is going to affect the way of your life. So please give a little attention to the understanding of that word. First, the word is not the thing. Right? I may describe the mountains most beautifully, paint it, make a poem, but the word, the description, the poem, is not the actual. But we are generally carried away emotionally, irrationally by the description, by the word. So please, we are pointing out, the word is not the actual. So we are saying, goodness is not related to that which is bad. Good is not the outcome of the bad. Goodness is totally unrelated to that which is ugly, which is not beautiful. So goodness is by itself unrelated to that which we may consider evil, ugly, bad. That's the first thing to comprehend in thinking over together. If you say, the good is the outcome of the bad, the evil, the ugly, then the good has in it the bad, the ugly, the brute. You understand? You understand this. No? The good must be, and is, totally unrelated to that which is not. And the good cannot possibly exist when there is any acceptance of any authority. Right? I am going to go into it. Please, we are thinking together over a very, very serious problem.
Authority is very complex. There is the authority of law which man has put together through many, many centuries; there is the law of nature, there is the law of our own experience, according to which we obey, according to the law of our own petty reactions which dominate our lives. Then there is the law of institutions, the law of organised beliefs which are called religions, dogmas. We are saying goodness is totally unrelated to every form of authority. Please look at it, examine it, understand it, don't reject it, say, it is too complex, we don't understand - it is very simple if you examine it, if you apply your mind to it. Goodness is not the pursuit of conformity. If you conform to a belief, to a concept, to an idea, to a principle, that is not good, because it creates conflict. The essence is goodness is a mind that is not in conflict. Examine it, look at it. Goodness cannot flower through another, through a religious figure, through dogma, through belief, it can only flower in the soil of total attention in which there is no authority. You are following all this? Is this all too complex? And goodness implies great responsibility. You can't be good and allow wars to take place. So a man that is really good is totally responsible for all his life. So we will go into that.
So we are asking: can a man who has lived in a society where the pressures of institutions, pressures of belief, pressures of authoritarian religious people, can such a man be good? You are following all this? Please give your minds to this. Because it is only if you are good, if you, as a human being, are totally and absolutely good, absolutely, not partially, we will create a different society.
So our question then is: is it possible, living in this world, married, children, jobs, is it possible to be good - good in the sense we are using it, carefully, in which is implied great responsibility, care, attention, diligence, love, that is, whole of that, that word 'good' contains all that. Is that possible for you who care to come here, listen, is that possible for you? If it is not possible then you accept society as it is. Please this is very serious as we pointed out, this is not for little children, it is not for those who do not want to think through a particular aspect of life. This demands your attention, that means your energy. Human beings have plenty of energy - when they want to do something, they do it. This demands immense energy, that is, if you want to create a different society, a society which is essentially good, in the context in which we are using that word.
Now having stated that what prevents us? Do you understand my question? What prevents every human being who is here from being utterly good, what is the barrier? What is the block? Why don't human beings - you - be utterly, sanely good? Is it we are caught up in our own petty reactions? Please examine it, don't throw it out. Our reactions: we say I like, I don't like, I am angry, you know reaction, sensory reactions, which gradually become psychological facts which we accept. But all reactions, sensory or otherwise are really very petty and shallow. Is that what is preventing us? Please, this is not a group therapy. The speaker has a particular abomination for that kind of nonsense. We are thinking together, we are investigating together, we are not accepting what the speaker is saying, or denying it, but finding out. To find out one must apply one's energy. If one is satisfied with the world, because you have money, you have got a car, a nice wife or husband and everything is satisfactory then you are just a non-existent human being. The man who observes, who realises what the world is, and he is the world, because the world is not different from him. He has created that world, he has created that society, he has created the religions, with their dogmas, rituals, with their separatisms, with their factions, with their innumerable dogmas and beliefs, human beings have created it. Is that what is preventing us? - because you believe. Or you are so self-concerned with your own problems - sexual, fears, anxiety, loneliness, wanting to fulfil, wanting to identify with something or other, is that what is preventing a human being from being good? Please, this is not rhetoric, we are asking something very, very, very serious. If they are preventing then they have no value. You will naturally put all that aside because you see that to bring about this quality of goodness any pressure from any direction: your own belief, your own principles, your own ideals, utterly prevent that goodness from being. Then you will, if you see that, you will naturally put it aside without any equivocation, any conflict because that is stupid.
So we are asking: is this what is preventing you, human beings right throughout the world? It isn't only in America, in this country, but there is this great chaos, disorder, the danger to life - it is in Europe, in India, everywhere it is spreading more and more and more. And any man, any serious observer of himself as well as the world must ask this question. You see, sirs, the scientists, the politicians, the philosophers - please listen to all this - the gurus, whether they come from India, or from Tibet, or from your own country, they have not solved our human problems. They give you all kinds of theories, nor the psychoanalysts, they haven't solved the problem - nobody will. We have to solve these problems ourselves because we have created the problems. And we are unfortunately unwilling to look at our own problems, to go into them, investigate why we live, as we do, utterly self-concerned, selfish lives.
So we are asking: why do we human beings live the way we are living? Our education doesn't help us to solve our problems; you may get a good job, you may call yourself a doctor, a PhD and so on, and so on, but our lives are not changed by them.
So we are asking: can this goodness, with its beauty, with its holiness - that word means that - can we live that way? And if we cannot then we will accept this increasing danger of chaos to our own lives, to our children's lives, and so on down the line.
So after listening, are we thinking together, are we seeing the same thing, you and I together, the same thing? Or we have explanations for all this, or we say, well, somebody else is going to alter our lives, an external force, an external agency, god, ideas, principles - are they going to change our lives? So far they have not, and they never will, because ideals, concepts, images all those are self-created, created by human beings out of their own confusion, out of their own misery, out of their own ugliness, confusion. So you see, we are deceiving ourselves all the time.
So we come to the question then: what will make us change? You understand my question, sirs? More shocks? More catastrophes? Different forms of governments? Different images? Different ideals and so on? You have had varieties of these, and yet we have not changed. The more sophisticated, better education, the more civilised we are becoming - civilised in the sense more away from nature - we are becoming more inhuman. Right? So what shall we do? As none of the things outside of us is going to help, including all the gods, then it becomes obvious. Only I have to understand myself, I have to see what I am and change myself radically. Then goodness comes out of that; then one can create a good society. So are we willing to go into this question? - to know oneself. To understand oneself because oneself is the world. You understand, sirs? Human beings whatever their colour, their religion, their nationality, their beliefs, human beings right throughout the world psychologically, inwardly suffer, they go through great anxieties, great loneliness, extraordinary sense of despair, depression, a sense of meaninglessness of living the way we do, right through the world. Psychologically they are similar to each one of us. That's a reality, that's truth, that's an actuality. So you are the world, psychologically, and the world is you. So when you understand yourself you are understanding the whole human structure and nature, it is not mere selfish investigation. Because when you understand yourself you go beyond yourself, there is a different dimension comes into being.
So we are thinking together over this, and we shall go into it tomorrow, because you can't stand more than an hour of this kind of talk. May I get up and go now?