Living without images
The turning point
4th Public Talk, Saanen
July 19, 1981
I hope you are all warm! The Ice Age is coming! (laughter)
The speaker has talked about meditation and the things involved in meditation at the end of the talks because he feels that unless we put the house in order meditation has very little value. Meditation is really quite important if one knows or understands the deep meaning of meditation. And he has purposely put it at the end of the talks because order in our lives must be established righteously before we can even think about meditation and that which is eternally sacred.
And so we will talk this morning about order, and we have talked about it also during the last three talks. And order is necessary, order in our action, order in our relationship with each other, order in our daily, everyday activity. And to understand the very quality of order, which is totally different from discipline - discipline, the root of it, is to learn, not to conform, not to obey, not to imitate, but rather the order that comes through learning, learning about ourselves, not according to some philosopher, some psychologist, but to discover order for ourselves, which is free from all sense of compulsion, from all sense of determined effort, or order along a particular direction. And to discover that order which comes very naturally and therefore in that order there is righteousness, not according to some pattern, but order, not only in the outward world which has become so utterly chaotic because in ourselves we are not clear, we are confused, uncertain. And so to learn about ourselves, and that learning is part of order. And to learn about oneself, not according to some psychologist however erudite, however noble, but if you follow another we will not be able to understand ourselves. And it is necessary to understand ourselves in order to have order.
We live in disorder, both outwardly, politically, religiously, socially and also economically, except in the technological world we live in some kind of chaotic, meaningless existence. To find out what is order we must begin to understand, if we may point out, the nature of our relationship. We live, and our life is a movement in relationship; one cannot possibly live alone because however one may think one lives alone one is always related to something or other, either to the past, or some projected image in the future. So life is a movement in relationship. And in that relationship there is disorder. And we must together examine closely why we live in our relationship with each other, however intimately or superficially, why we live in such disorder in our daily life.
As we have been pointing out during the past three talks, we are thinking together, the speaker is not pointing out anything, or trying to persuade you to think in a particular direction, or put any kind of persuasive subtle pressure on you. On the contrary, we are together thinking over our problems, human problems, thinking together and discovering what our relationship with each other is. Whether in that relationship there is order; whether in that relationship we can bring about order. And so to understand the full meaning of relationship with each other, however close, however distant, we must begin to think, we must begin to understand why the brain creates images. I hope we are following each other. Why we have images about ourselves and images or pictures about others, why in us, each one has a peculiar image and identifies oneself with that image, why human beings throughout the world have created an image about themselves, whether that image is necessary, whether that image gives one a sense of security: whether that image does not bring about separative action, and in relationship, intimate or otherwise, why this image exists, for images separate human beings.
Please, we are thinking together, I am not telling you how to think or what to think. The speaker is not pointing out but together we are investigating into this very complex problem of relationship. If we could look closely at our relationship with our wife, husband, friend, or whatever it is, and look at it very closely, not try to avoid it, not try to brush it aside but if we could together examine it and find out why human beings throughout the world have this capacity, this extraordinary machinery, that creates images, that creates symbols, patterns, and in those patterns, symbols, images, one finds great security. We have to examine that together.
If you observe, and I hope you don't mind the speaker pointing this out to you, if one observes, one has an image about oneself. Either one has an imagination of conceit, arrogance, or the contrary to that. Or one has accumulated a great deal of experience, acquired a great deal of knowledge which in itself creates the image. Why do we have images about ourselves? Please put that question to yourself and look at it, whether those images do not separate people. If you have an image as a Swiss or a British, or French and so on, do not those images not only distort our observation of humanity but also do they not separate? And therefore wherever there is separation, division, there must be conflict; as there is conflict going on in the Middle East, the Arab against the Israelite, the Muslim against the Hindu, the Christian against all the rest of the world. (laughter) This is going on. There is not only national division, economic division, which are all images, concepts, ideas, and the brain clings to these images - why? Is it because of our education? Is it because of our culture where the individual is the most important, where the collective society is something totally different from the individual. That is part of our culture, part of our religious training, part of our daily education. And when one has an image about oneself as being a British national, and so on, having that image gives one certain security. This is fairly obvious. That is, having created the image about oneself and that image becomes permanent, semi-permanent, and behind that image or in that image one tries to find security, safety, a form of resistance. Right?
And when one is related to another, however delicately, however subtly, however physically, biologically, there is a response both psychological as well as sensory, based on this image. Again, that is a fact. If one observes, if you are married or living with somebody, in our daily life the image is formed, whether you are acquainted or live with a person for a week or ten years, the image is slowly formed step by step, every reaction is remembered, stored up in the brain so the image is formed about my wife and the wife about the husband - right? Are we following this? And the relationship may be physical, sexual, sensory but actually the relationship is between these two images - right?
The speaker is not saying something extravagant, or exotic, or fantastic, but he is merely pointing out - or rather together we are learning that these images exist. And these images exist because we can never know another completely. If I am married or have a girl-friend, I can never know my wife completely, I think I know her because after having lived with that person I have accumulated various incidents, various irritations and all the rest of it which happen in daily life, and she has also gathered those reactions, and those reactions with their images are established in the brain - right? And those images play an extraordinarily important part in our life. Apparently very few of us are free of any form of image. The freedom from image is real freedom - right? Because then in that freedom there is no division brought about by images. If I am a Hindu, born in India - which the speaker is but he is not a Hindu - suppose the speaker is born in India with all the conditioning that goes on, the conditioning of the race, a particular group with their superstitions, with their religious beliefs, dogmas, rituals, the whole structure of society, he lives with that image, which is his conditioning. And however much he may talk about brotherhood, unity, wholeness - those are merely words, they have no actual daily meaning. But if he frees himself from all that imposition, all that conditioning, all that superstitious nonsense then he is breaking down the image.
And also in his relationship, if he is married or lives with somebody, is it possible not to create an image at all? You understand? That is, not to record an incident which may be pleasurable or painful in that particular relationship, not to record either the insult or the flattery, the encouragement or discouragement - you follow? All that is taking place in our daily relationship, is that possible not to record at all? Are we meeting each other? Because if the brain is constantly recording everything that is happening to it psychologically, then it is never free to be quiet, it can never be tranquil, peaceful. If the machinery is operating all the time it wears itself out, which is obvious. And this is what happens in our relationship with each other, whether that relationship is as a politician, as a guru, as a disciple, whatever the relationship is, if there is constant recording of everything then the brain slowly begins to wither away and that is essentially old age - right?
So we are asking together, I am not putting the question to you, but together we are investigating and we come upon this question: whether it is possible in our relationship with all its reactions and subtleties, with its sensual responses, whether there is a possibility of not remembering? That is, is it necessary to explain further? Suppose I am married and my wife bullies me, flatters me, encourages me and so on and so on and so on; it is our daily education that is responsible for this remembrance, remembrance of that irritation, remembrance of that encouragement, remembrance of that depression which she or the other person feels and lives in that depression, therefore it feels separated. You follow? This recording is going on all the time. And we are asking psychologically whether it is possible not to record, but only record that which is absolutely necessary?
The brain records because it is necessary in one direction. That is, it must record all the things it may learn mathematically. If I am to be an engineer I must know, record all the mathematics, the pressures and so on and so on, I must record. If I am to be a physicist I must record all the previous physicists and what they have said. If I am to learn to drive a car I must record and so on. But we are asking whether it is necessary to psychologically, inwardly, record in our relationship at all? - Right? This remembrance of things past, is that love? Go on. When I say to my wife, 'I love you', is that a remembrance of all the things we have been through together - remembrance - the incidents, the travail, the troubles, the struggles, which are all being recorded, stored in the brain and when I say I love my wife, is that remembrance actual love? Do you understand my question?
So, is it possible to be free and not to record at all? Please don't wait for an answer from the speaker whether it is possible or not, but let us together find out. That is, it is only possible not to record when there is complete attention. Right, I will show you. I don't know why we want explanations. Why our brains are not swift enough to capture, have an insight into the whole thing immediately. Why we cannot see this thing, the truth of all this, and let that truth operate and therefore cleanse the slate, to have a mind, a brain that is not recording at all psychologically. But as most human beings are rather sluggish, rather like to live in their old patterns, in their particular habit of thought, anything new they reject because it is much better to live with the known rather than with the unknown. In the known there is safety, at least we think there is safety, we think there is security in the known so we keep repeating, walking, struggling within that field of the known. And to discover together an observation without the whole process of the machinery of memory operating.
Now you have put that question to me and we have put the question to you: is it possible in our relationship with each other, intimate or not, is it possible not to create an image about each other? Because that image, the remembrance of things past, which is the image, divides people. It is not only the image, but if I am ambitious, competing, trying to become chief executive, or psychologically something or other, and my wife is also doing something else equally in other directions, how can we have a relationship? You understand my question? This is actually what is going on in the modern world: the man and the woman, each is seeking his own particular career, their own ambitions, separate ambitions, greed, envy, success, identification, and perhaps they meet in the bed and they call that relationship. So observing all this in one's daily life, one inevitably asks: is there a relationship which is not actually based on this?
Then one has to enquire very closely and deeply, what is love. Are you waiting for me to tell you? (laughter) This is a very complex question, because all of us feel we love something or other, not only the abstract love, love of a nation, love of a people, love of god, love of gardening, love of overeating; we have abused that word so terribly. So we have to find out basically what is love. You see love is not an idea - right? Love of god is an idea, love of a symbol is still an idea. When you go to the church and kneel down and pray, you are really worshipping, or praying to something which thought has created - right? And so, see what happens, thought has created it, actually this is a fact, and you worship that which thought has created, which means you are worshipping in a very subtle form yourself - right? I know this is probably a sacrilegious statement but it is a fact. That is what is happening throughout the world. Thought creates the flag, the symbol of a particular country, then you fight for it, you kill each other, will destroy the earth in competition with another nation, and so the flag becomes a symbol of our love. And similarly there is the religious love, the devotion to a symbol. Again see what thought does. You create the symbol, thought creates the symbol with all the attributes of that symbol - romantic, logical, sane, and having created it you love it, you become totally intolerant of any other thing. Again thought having created it, thought which is your own particular education, conditioning, and you worship that, which is you are worshipping yourself. That is how all the gurus exist in the world; all the priests, all the religious structure is based on that. And see the tragedy of it, because we have lived for millions and millions of years we are still extraordinarily destructive, violent, brutal, cynical human beings.
And also when we say I love another, in that love there is desire, pleasure, projections of various activities of thought. So one has to look into and find out whether love is desire, whether love is pleasure, whether in love there is fear. Because where there is fear there must be hatred - right? Please, I am not telling you all this, you know all this. Where there is fear there must be jealousy, anxiety, possessiveness, domination.
So to understand the depth of relationship and the beauty of relationship, because there is beauty in relationship. The whole cosmos is a movement in relationship; cosmos means order and when one has order in oneself one has order in one's relationship, and therefore order in our society. So one must enquire in this relationship if we find it is absolutely necessary to have order, and therefore out of that order comes love. One must enquire into what is desire. Right? Desire to become something, desire to reach illumination, god, desire for this or that. So this has been one of the problems, perhaps the problem, for human beings. Must I go into all this? (Pause)
You see one must ask something else too: what is beauty? You see the snow, the fresh snow on the mountains this morning, clean, a lovely sight if you are not too cold! And those solitary trees standing black against that white. And looking at the world about us, the marvellous machinery, the extraordinary computer with its special beauty, and the beauty of a face, the beauty of a painting, beauty of a poem - we seem to recognise beauty out there in the museums, when you go to a concert and listen to Beethoven, or Mozart, or whatever you listen to, there is great beauty. Always out there, in the hills, in the valleys, in the running waters, and the flight of birds and the singing of an early morning of a blackbird, but is there beauty only out there? Or is beauty something that only exists when the 'me' is not? You understand? When you look at those mountains on a sunny morning, clear against the blue sparkling sky - I am not being romantic - the very majesty of that drives away all the accumulated memories of yourself for a moment - haven't you noticed that? There the outward beauty, the outward magnificence, the majesty and the strength of that mountain wipes away all your problems, everything, for a second out of you. You have forgotten yourself. Where there is total absence of yourself beauty is. But we are not free of ourselves. We are terribly selfish people, concerned with ourselves, with our problems, with our agonies, with our sorrows, with our loneliness. And out of that desperate loneliness we want identification with something or other. Out of that loneliness we cling to somebody - to a belief, to an idea, to a person, specially to a person. And in that dependency all our problems arise. And where there is dependency, psychologically, fear begins. When you are tied to something corruption begins - right?
So one must go into this question of what is desire, because that is the most urgent, vital drive in our life. We are not talking about the desire for a particular thing but desire itself, not for something. Let's go into it very carefully. Because as one must know, all religions have said that if you want to serve god subjugate desire, destroy desire, control desire. And all religions have said substitute for that desire the image thought has created - right? The image that the Christians have, the Hindus and all the rest of it. You substitute an image for the actual. Follow all this. The actual is desire, the burning of it. And one thinks one can overcome that by substituting that for something else. This has been the pattern of all religious thinking. Or, surrender yourself to that which you think is the master, is the guru, is the symbol, etc., which again is the activity of thought. I don't know if you are following all this. So one has to very carefully understand the whole movement of desire. For obviously desire is not love, desire isn't compassion. Without love and compassion meditation becomes utterly meaningless because love and compassion have their own intelligence; it is not the intelligence of cunning thought.
So let us together - the speaker means together, not the speaker explains and you follow, then you will be merely followers. Whereas if both of us together, step by step, understand the nature of desire, why it has played such extraordinary importance in our lives, how it distorts clarity, how it prevents the extraordinary quality of love and so on. It is important that we understand and not suppress, not try to control it, nor to direct it in a particular direction which may give you peace and all the rest of it, but rather examine together, please together, the nature and the movement of desire. Shall we go on? You are not tired? It is nice and warm here!
Please bear in mind the speaker is not trying to impress you, guide you, help you - nothing. But together we are walking, perhaps hand in hand, along a very subtle, complex path. And one has to listen to each other. One has to listen to find out the truth about desire. When one understands the truth, the significance, the meaning, the fullness, the truth of desire, then desire has quite a different value or drive in one's life.
And also one must look at something else too: which is, when you observe desire, are you observing it as an outsider looking at desire? You understand? Or you are observing desire as it arises. Not desire something separate from you, you are desire. You see the difference? Either I observe desire, which I have when I see something in the window which pleases me, and I have the desire to buy it, and then the object is different from me. Right? But the object is different but desire is me - right? So there is a perception of desire without the observer watching desire. Am I making this somewhat clear? No. All right, I will explain.
I can look at a tree. The tree is the word by which I recognise that which is standing in the field. But I also know that the word is not the tree - right? The word is not the tree. My wife is not the word - right? But I have made the word my wife. I don't know if you see all the subtleties of all this. So I must very clearly understand from the beginning the word is not the thing. The word 'desire' is not the feeling of it - right? - the extraordinary energy there is behind that reaction. So I must be very watchful that I am not caught in the word. And also the brain must be active enough to see that the object may create desire - right? - but there is a desire which is separate from the object. You are following all this? Are we together in this? Are we so aware that the word is not the thing? That desire is not separate from the observer who is watching desire? That the object may create desire but there is desire independent of the object - right? And each one has a separate desire - the religion, one's god, the mundane, and so on and so on. So one must be aware of all this.
So we are going to find out what is desire, not the object in the window or on the road, or the person I see, but how does desire arise? Right? How does desire flower? Why is there such extraordinary energy behind it? Please we are together in this, not I explain and you follow but together we are moving because this has a great importance in relationship. If we don't understand deeply the nature of desire we will always be in conflict with each other. I may desire one thing and my wife may desire another, my children may desire something totally different. So we are always at loggerheads with each other. And this battle, this struggle, is called love, relationship.
We are asking: what is the source of desire? How does desire begin?
K: Please, there'll be questions and answers after next Sunday. So please be good enough if you don't mind. Then we can write down the question and I'll respond but not now, if you don't mind.
And we must be very truthful in this, very honest, because it is very, very deceptive, very subtle unless we understand the root of it. For most of us, all of us, sensations are important, sensory responses - right? The touch, the taste, the smell, the hearing. And for most of us a particular sensory response is more important than the other responses. If we are artistic we see something specially. If we are trained as an engineer or this or that, then the sensory responses are different and so on. So we never observe with all the sensory responses totally. We respond, or observe in our responses about something special, divided. Now let's find out if it is possible to respond totally with all your senses. See the importance of that. That is, if one responds totally with all one's senses there is the elimination of a centralised observer. I wonder if you are following all this? Right? But when we respond to a particular thing separated, then in that separation begins the division - right? Find out when you go out of this tent, when you look at that river, the flowing waters, the light on the waters, the swiftness of the waters, find out if you can look at it with all your senses. Don't ask me how, then that becomes mechanical. You understand? But if you say let me look at it, try, find out. That is, to educate ourselves in the understanding of the sensory responses which will be total. I must come back to something else - sorry. That is only part of it.
We are asking what is the source of desire? As we said, sensory responses - we begin with sensory responses. You see something, the seeing brings about a response. You see a green shirt, or a green dress, the seeing awakens the response. Then the contact takes place - right? Then from that contact thought creates the image of you in that dress, or you in that car, or you in that house. So watch it, go slowly into this. Sensory responses, the seeing, the hearing, the tasting, sensory responses, then the contact, not only with the eye but touching it, then thought creating the image of you in that shirt, or in that dress, or in that car and then the desire arises. You follow this? The seeing of a car in the road, nice lines, highly polished, etc., the power behind it. Then I touch it, feel around it, go around it, examine the engine. Then thought creates the image of me getting into the car and starting the ignition, putting my foot down and driving it. (laughter) No, just see it. This is actually what goes on - right? So desire begins, the source of desire is when thought creates the image, up to then there is no desire. There is sensory responses, contact, which is normal, all right, healthy, but then thought creates the image and from that second begins desire. You follow? I see a beautiful vase; feel the shape of it, the beauty of it, the Grecian and all the rest, I won't go into it. And touching it, looking at it, the beauty of it, gradually creating the image, wanting it begins.
If this is clear then the question is: is it possible for thought not to create the image? You understand this? This is learning about desire, which in itself is discipline. You understand? Learning about it is discipline, not the controlling of desire. I wonder if you understand this? Is this clear? Learning about desire, if you learn about something it is finished. But whereas if you say I must control desire, then you are totally in a different field altogether. But if you say look, I understand now that when thought creates the image, at that second desire begins. Now is it possible to see the whole of this movement, the whole of it, not just sections of it, when you see the whole of it you will understand that thought will not interfere with its image but only you see, have sensation - what is wrong with it? Do you understand? No, you don't!
Because you see we are all so crazy about desire, we want to fulfil ourselves through desire - right? But we don't see what havoc desire has created in the world. Desire for individual security, desire for individual attainment, success, power, position, prestige - you follow? We don't feel we are totally responsible for everything we do. And if one understands desire, the nature of it, then what place has desire? Or has it any place where there is love? Is love something so extraordinarily outside of human existence that it has really actually no value at all? Or because we have not seen the beauty and the depth and the greatness, sacredness of this word - not the word - of the actuality of it, that we haven't the energy, time, to study, to educate ourselves to understand what it is. Because without love and compassion with its intelligence, meditation has very little meaning. And without that perfume that which is eternal can never be found. And that is why it is important to put our house, the house in which we dwell, not only in the house outwardly but the house of our life, of our being, of our struggles, there to bring complete order. Finished!