The innermost nature of the self is not-a-thing
Can the brain be free of all pressure?
5th Public Talk, Madras
January 07, 1978
In spite of what is going on around here, we are a gathering of serious people. This is not an entertainment. And so I hope you will not mind if we go on talking about what we have been discussing or going into in the last four talks.
I think we ought to go into the question of sorrow and death. We ought to go into it fairly thoroughly. But before we go into it we should consider seriously what is the whole nature of thought, because we live by thought. All our activities are based on thought. All our relationship with each other is based on thought, though we call it love and all the rest of it, but essentially it is based on thought. Our religions, the whole psychoanalytical process of the Freudian, the Jungian and all the rest of it, and all the rituals, the pujas, the gods that man has created throughout millennia after millennia, is based fundamentally on thought. I think we ought to go much more in detail about that, if you will.
I wonder if one realises thought in itself is fragmentary, very limited. It may expand that limitation thinking it is going to cover the whole universe, but it is still fragmented, limited. It is limited because it is born of time; time being memory, experience, knowledge stored in the brain, and that memory responding. And so it is always limited, fragmentary. It can imagine, it can think, it can say to itself, that I can perceive the totality of man, of love, or of the immeasurable, the timeless. It can think it can conceive of it, but being itself limited and fragmentary, whatever it creates, puts together, must be limited and fragmentary. And that's why when all our relationship is based on thought, our relationship is never whole, complete.
So we are going to find out, if it is possible, whether there is a perception, an insight, an innermost way of living which is not fragmentary, which is not limited. I hope we are understanding each other. As we said the other day, we are exploring together, we are investigating into this problem, which is: is it possible to live a life, a daily life, which is not broken up, fragmented, but a life that is complete, whole? I am sure most of us must have asked that question. Because when there is an action of the whole then it is never repetitive. It is only a fragmentary activity that is always breaking up, limited, boring, repetitive. We are going to go into that a little, if you don't mind.
Because thought has divided the world into nationalities, geographic divisions, class divisions, religious divisions, ideological differences - communists, socialists, ultra-left and ultra-right, and so on and so on. Thought has done this. And also we live a fragmentary life. Our life is broken up - businessman, religious man, a monk, a lawyer and so on and so on, specialised entities. And that too is the result of thought which is in itself limited and fragmentary. Now we are going to find out if it is possible not to live a life which is fragmentary, but which has no regrets, no grief, anxiety, sorrow.
So we have to investigate together into the question of what is the self, the 'me', the ego, the entity that identifies itself as being separate from another? If you will we are going to go into that to find out whether one can lead a daily life which is not based on you and me - me first and you second. Our whole culture is that, social, moral, ethical, religious and so on. Right? Can we go on with it? What is the self, the 'me', the ego, how does it arise, what is its inmost nature, of the self? Inmost, the very depth of it. Is that very structure, the nature of the self, fragmentary? Or is there in the very structure, in the very essence of it, a quality which is not fragmentary? You are following all this? I ask because - please sirs - I ask because I am not sure we are meeting each other. Please, sir, I am not sure we are communicating with each other. I rather doubt that we are, because it is a very serious thing that we are investigating. Because man has always lived with sorrow, and acquainted with grief. Whether it is possible to end that sorrow, not in some distance future but in our daily actual life now.
And also to find out, not intellectually or verbally, or emotionally and romantically, the nature and the beauty of love, what is the depth of it, the meaning of it, the fullness of it. And also what is death? So it is very important, it seems to me, that we examine together, share together, walk together, investigate together, this question, which is: what is the nature of the self, the identity of a particular individual opposed to the community, opposed to the many, and what is the inmost nature of the self? Without speculating, without asserting, without accepting the traditional verbiage - I am using the word 'verbiage', it is just words. So we are together, please bear in mind, we are together exploring. So you are not just sitting there listening to the speaker but actually working with him. That means you will have to give your attention, you have to listen to each other, though all of you can't speak and I am the only person that unfortunately speaks at the moment. We have to be very alert, watchful, heeding that which is being said, and our response to what is being said, and how we receive or accept, or listen to what is being said. All this is the responsibility of those of you who are willing to listen seriously.
May we go on? If the self, the 'me', is put together by thought then whatever it does at the highest so-called conscious, or super-conscious level, is still fragmentary. Right? If it is not put together by thought, the 'me', the ego, the self, then it is something sacred, inviolable, unalterable, something that is beyond time. So we are questioning these two factors: whether it is put there, the nature and the structure of the 'me', the ego, the self, by thought and therefore fragmentary, and whatever it does, however it might imagine, long for, hypnotise itself that it is the whole, that it can perceive the whole, it can come upon truth, either that is a total illusion and deception; and if the self, the 'me', the ego, the you, is something that is not of time, that is not born of thought, then it is capable of perceiving totally the nature of truth, that which is beyond words, which is not measurable by words. So these two are factors we must examine. Right?
So we are trying to find out the inmost nature of the self because all our activity is based on self. The me first and you second. In all our relationships, in all our bureaucratic activities, social activities, in our relationship with each other, the self, the self-centred activity is constantly in operation, even when we are meditating, even when we are supposed to be religious and all the rest of it. Right? So what is the self? Unfortunately most of you probably have read philosophy, sacred books - I won't call them sacred because they are just books - or somebody has told you, your guru, or your religious leader probably has told you the self is something extraordinary, it is to live everlastingly from the beginning to the end.
So we are asking a very simple question, which is really tremendously complex. How you approach that question matters a great deal. Whether you approach it with fear, you approach it with a conclusion, or accepting the authority of others, and your approach then is already limited, circumscribed. To investigate one must be free otherwise you can't investigate. Right? If you are prejudiced, if you have some ideals, some conclusions, some wish, then that very wish, conclusion is going to dictate your investigation. So can you, if I may ask, be free to go into this matter very carefully, logically, sanely, and freely, to find out the nature of the self, and the inmost essence of the self?
Because if the self is merely the operation of thought, put together from the very beginning of time then death has a certain meaning. If it is not, then death is a beginning. We will go into it. The individual, the identity of a human being who feels, or thinks he is separate, is he actually separate though his form, name, may be different, his idiosyncrasies, his character, his peculiar, if I may use the word without being misunderstood, genius, peculiar genius - not in the great sense of the word genius - peculiar eccentricities, tendencies, qualities, are they the result of culture, the culture in which you are born, the development of character, the resistance to the culture, which may be the idiosyncratic outlook on life. This is very, very important for us, if I may point out over again, to go into.
So first, what are you? Your activity is based on the self, self-centred activity from morning until night. So what is that centre from which you are acting? The centre from which you are meditating, if you meditate - I hope you don't - that centre from which all your fears, all your anxieties, sorrows, griefs, pain, affections, arise. That centre from which you are seeking happiness, enlightenment, god, or truth, or whatever you like, the centre from which you say, 'I take a vow to be a monk', the centre from which, if you are in business, trying to become more and more and more powerful, more money. That is the centre which we are examining, the self. What is that self and how has it come into being? That is, to know yourself. You understand? That is, knowing yourself as actually what you are, not what you think you are, what you hope to be, but the self and the knowing of that self, whether it is possible to know it completely, the essence of it. And whether it is possible to go beyond all the fragmented activity of the self. Right?
So is the self that centre put together by thought? Please think, investigate, reason as though for the first time you are thinking about it, then it is fresh, then you can investigate. But if you say, 'I already know what the self is, I already have come to certain conclusions about it', you will prevent yourself from examining it. Right? That's fairly simple.
So what is the self? You, what are you? Not, who you are, but actually what are you? There is a difference between who you are and what you are. I don't know if you see semantically the meaning of the two. The one, when you say who you are, you are investigating somebody leading further and further away from the centre; but if you say what you actually are, 'what is', then you are dealing with actuality. The actuality is that which is actually happening. Right? You will see it in a minute. So what are you? You are a name. Right? A form. The result of a society, a culture which has emphasised throughout the ages that you are separate, something indefinitely identifiable. Right? You have your character, your peculiar tendency, your character, either aggressive or yielding. Is that not put together by the culture which has been brought about by thought? It is very difficult for people to accept a very simple, logical examination, because they would like to think the self is something most extraordinary. We are pointing out the self is nothing but words and memories. So the self is the past. And to know oneself means to observe yourself, actually what you are, in our relationship with each other. Then the reactions of the self come out - right? - in our relationship, intimate or not intimate. Then you begin to see what you are, your reactions, your prejudices, your conclusions, your ideals, your this and that, all that. Is not all that a result? Right? Are you following? That which is a result has a cause. So is a cause a series of memories, remembrances, and so a centre that has been created by thought to which thought clings. Am I off by myself?
Let's begin differently. Don't you want to know about yourself? If you don't know about yourself, actually what you are, you have no basis for any action which will be true, not fragmentary, not miserable, regretting, and so on. Don't you want to know what you are? No? To know yourself. Now how do you begin to find out about yourself? You can only know yourself either through observation in relationship, or through analysis. Right? Are you following this? Oh, come on! I can know myself. I will talk about myself. I can know myself watching my relationship with others, with my wife, if I am married, or with my girlfriend, or with friends, in that observation I see myself reacting - as a Hindu, as a Buddhist, as a Christian, as a non Christian, or imagine that I love people - you know, I find out. Or through analysis. Right? Analysing myself. Now to me analysis is paralysis. And the Hindus are very good at it, and therefore they are totally paralysed because they don't act. They analyse, analyse, analyse, therefore gradually this analysis leads them to paralysis. You watch them as they walk down the street. So either you analyse, or you observe in relationship, observe yourself, what you are, how you think, how you react, what are your responses, what is the centre from which you are moving. Always a fixed point and from there move. Therefore the movement is very limited. So we are going to find out.
In the process of analysis who is the analyser? You understand my question? The analyser thinks he is different from that which he is analysing. But is that so? The therapeutic analysis by a professional - you understand what I am talking about, do you? All right. Probably they have never questioned this: who is the analyser? Is the analyser different from the analysed? You understand? Am I different from my anger, from my greed, from my anxiety, from my ugliness, brutality, cruelty, hate, am I different from that? If that is different from me then I can analyse it. Right? And each analysis, if I am good at it, each analysis must be complete otherwise the remembrance of that analysis is going to interfere with the next analysis. Is this all Greek to you? I'll go on, it doesn't matter. I am afraid you are used to listening, not investigating.
So is the analyser different from the analysed? Or they are both the same, the analyser is the analysed. Right? Need I go into that? When you go through the process of introspection, analysis, and all that, what is happening when you analyse? You are taking time, aren't you? Time. You investigate in the morning and go off to your job, and come back, and again investigate yourself, or you investigate very, very carefully, slowly, minutely, all that implies time. And who is the analyser? Is he something different from that which he is analysing? Is anger different from you? Is jealousy different from you? Your cruelty, your hate, different from you? Or you are that? You understand? You have divided this thing: you are different from that, therefore you think you can analyse that. But when you observe very closely you will find that you are anger. At the moment of jealousy, anxiety, you are that. Only a second later you say, 'I have been angry'. Which is the movement of thought dividing anger from you. Oh, come on! Right?
So the analyser is the analysed. And if you realise that you will drop totally, completely all analysis. But when you talk to psychotherapists they won't drop it because they have got Cadillacs, cars and all the rest of it, their life depends on it. And probably it is the same with you, because you are so conditioned that you refuse to see this simple fact. If you drop completely analysis then how will you investigate the self? You understand my question, you are following all this? How am I to investigate, look, observe, understand this very, very complex thing called me if I don't analyse, because I see it is stupid to analyse, it will lead nowhere. Therefore I reject it completely, entirely. Are you in that position? Or you have got one foot there and - you understand my question?
So I can only find out about myself by observing my reactions in my relationship. So relationship becomes tremendously important. Right? Because it is going to reveal to me what I am. Whether I think I am divine, or there is some part of me that is divine. I am going to discover it in relationship. If there is some part of me which is divine then that part must act. So we have invented a very clever thing, which is, there is something very divine but it is all clouded over, so I have to peel off, like an onion, then I'll find myself. Self-realisation - I don't know what that means. They use that a great deal in this country, and I am sure they don't know what it means either. So I realise I can only understand myself in relationship, therefore I observe. Do I observe - please listen - do I observe with the memory of previous observation? You understand my question? I have observed myself in my relationship yesterday, with my wife, with my friend, with my boss, and I remember that. Then with that remembrance observe myself next day. Do you understand? So what is happening? I am not observing myself at all. The memory is operating, remembrance is operating, therefore there is never penetration into the very structure and nature of the self. Are we getting together somehow, in spite of the words, in spite of your intellectual blah?
So is it possible to observe myself each moment as though as it was fresh? Not having remembered my observation and let that remembrance operate. Do you see the difference? To let the remembrance operate, or observe from moment to moment, afresh each response, see what it does to you. Then that response becomes extraordinarily important because it is fresh. But the moment you name it, it has already become the old. So you have to have an alertness to watch that you do not name it, that it is not an operation of remembrance, therefore you are observing with a clarity that is penetrating, that has an insight. Right? So which is it you are doing, actually now, please, I am asking you. This is very important for you to find out, to learn, not memorise, learn from listening to find out. Gosh, I have got so much to talk about yet. Which is it that you are doing? If you are analysing then you are going to end up being paralysed completely, and become neurotic, if you are not already. Then if analysis is completely out because you see the futility of it, not because I tell you, but you yourself have an insight into the whole structure of analysis, therefore you can drop it. Then to observe yourself in relationship, to observe without the gathered knowledge of previous observation - if you do that then you are merely repetitive, therefore you are not learning, watching yourself in operation. And if you can not name that reaction.
Now, put it round the other way, a little bit. May I go on? I will go on, it doesn't matter. Have you observed anything - your wife, your girlfriend, or the tree, or the movement of water - with all your senses, with the totality of your senses, your smell, your hearing, your taste, all your senses heightened and observing? Have you ever done that? Oh my lord, what a generation. If you have done it there is no centre from which you are looking. You understand? Because then thought is part of that observation, then your senses are part of that observation. Therefore thought is not separate from the senses, therefore there is no division as the 'me', the observer and the thing you, the observed. Are we getting somewhere? I won't even ask you hereafter.
So the nature, the inmost nature of the self, when you have gone through all the layers of the self, the essence is nothing. You are nothing. Right? On that nothingness thought has imposed the superstructure of consciousness. Consciousness being the content, without the content there is no consciousness - the content being you are a Hindu, Buddhist, your religion, your particular god, your puja, your anxiety, your sorrow, your pain, your hate, your love, all that is the content of your consciousness. Obviously. And the idea that you are super atman, or super, super consciousness is part of that content. You understand what thought has done. We are absolutely nothing. All this superstructure has been built by thought. And thought is the response of registration. Of course. You understand registration, like a tape. See what thought has done.
So what then is love? You understand my question? We are going to discuss tomorrow, what is meditation, what is the real meaning of meditation. Is it the emptying of this consciousness with all its content - fear, greed, envy, nationality, my god and your god, my rituals and my possession, emptying the whole of that? That means facing, observing nothing. That nothing is not a thing. You know nothing means, not-a-thing. Thing is that which has been put together by thought. I wonder if you see all this. Nature has not been put together by thought. The tree, the stars, the waters and the lovely evening and the beauty of sunlight, it has not been put there by thought. But thought has made out of the tree a chair, a table, that is a thing. So when we say nothing it means not a thing put there by thought. It is not negation. I wonder if you see.
So then what is love? Is it a thing of thought? Is it a fragmentary affair? Or when thought is not then love is. And what relationship has love to sorrow? And what relationship has sorrow to passion? And what is the meaning of death? Love is not a thing, a thing. We said a thing is something put together by thought. If thought is love then that love is fragmentary, is something that thought as desire made that love acceptable, which is pleasure, sensory pleasure, sexual pleasure and other forms of pleasure. So if love is not thought then what is the relationship of love to compassion? Does compassion come into being with the ending of sorrow? And what does sorrow mean? Please you have to understand, this is all our life, our daily life we are talking about. Because we all go through great sorrow - sorrow of the death of someone, different forms, the multiple forms of sorrow, the agony, the loneliness, the utter despair, without any hope. How do you think all those poor people without any hope ...
So one has to go, explore into this question of sorrow, whether it is possible to end it completely. This has been one of the things mankind throughout the ages has tried to understand, accept, tried to go beyond, or rationalise it, explain it by using various Sanskrit words, or putting all sorrow, as the Christians do, into one person. Right? If you don't do any of that, which are all escapes, you are faced with your sorrow. You know the sorrow of loneliness, don't you, the sorrow of frustration, the sorrow of loving somebody and not reciprocated, or the sorrow that comes into being when you love somebody and he has gone, the sorrow that each one has, feeling that he is totally inwardly empty, worthless, without self sufficiency. You know the various forms of sorrow. Is sorrow self pity? I have lost somebody, and that brings great agony. In that agony there is self pity, loneliness, lack of companionship, a sense of being left completely without any strength, vitality, dependence. You are totally lonely. That is, we all know this kind of sorrow. By rationalising, explaining, seeking escapes, which we do, we are caught in this network of escapes. If you don't escape because you understand the futility of escapes, suppression, going off to temples and taking - all that nonsense, then you are faced with the fact, and not move from that fact. You understand, not move. That means thought wants to run away from it, but to remain with it, to observe the thing growing, flowering and decaying. And it can only flower, decay when you watch it, when you care for that thing which you call sorrow.
You know when you care for something you watch it with great tenderness, with great care, with great attention. Your baby, how the mother looks after it, gets up at midnight, many times during the day, weary, but she cares, she is watching. So in the same way if you watch this thing called sorrow with care, with hesitancy, with affection, then you will see there is no escape from it, therefore that very thing that has been called sorrow turns into some totally different thing, which is passion. Not lust but passion. And without passion life has no meaning.
So the self and the structure of the self is based on nothing. The innermost depth of the self is absolutely not-a-thing. And love is not nothing, not-a-thing, but love is only possible, the beauty of it, the greatness of it, the magnitude of it, only when thought realises it has no place in relationship and therefore love is. And the ending of sorrow, the ending of sorrow is passion.
So the next thing is to find out what is the relationship of love to death. What is the relationship of our existence to death? We are tremendously concerned with what happens after death, but we are never concerned before death. We are never concerned with our life, how we live our life but we are always concerned how we end life. Right? Now we are going to reverse the process. That is, how you live your daily life, whether in that daily life there is an ending, ending to your attachment. You know what your life is, don't you? It is one battle from the moment you are born until you die, a series of endless conflicts, a series of hopeless endeavour leading nowhere but more money, more pleasure, more things - things including your gods because they are made by hand or by the mind, which is thought, anxiety, depression, and elation, confusion, uncertainty, always seeking security, and never finding it. This is your daily contact, your daily life, controlling yourself, controlling your sex, or indulging in sex, ambition, greed, power, position. Right? This is your daily, ugly, brutal life. And you colour it by calling it various names and giving peculiar meaning to it. But in actuality this is your daily life. You know it very well, and you are afraid to let that go. You are bound to let it go when you die, you can't argue with death. Death through accident, disease, old age, senility, you know, you face all that.
So this is your life and we are saying this is far more important than death - not at the end but now. Death means - please listen - ending. I know you would like to go on. We think there is reincarnation, maybe. That is totally, completely irrelevant whether there is life hereafter or not. What is totally relevant is what is now. Right? Whether you can alter the way you live now. Even if you do believe in this idea of reincarnation, born - you see, what is being born next life, who is being born? Yourself, your greed, your envy, your brutality, your violence modified? And if you believe in that then what you do now matters enormously, but you don't really actually go as far as that, you play with the idea, but you are greedy, you are envious, you are brutal, you are competitive, and all the rest of it.
So we are asking: death means the brain without oxygen, without blood, decays, ends. Now can you end in life now something which you hold most dear, which is yourself? Right? Can you end your attachment? Go into it. End it, not argue, why not this, end it and see what happens. So if you end all the things like greed, envy, anxiety, loneliness, now, death has a totally different meaning. Then there is no death. The body will decay naturally because you live so wrongly. So you are living with death all the time. You understand? Death is life. Ending is a beginning. If you keep continuously the same thing going on, there is nothing new. You understand? Only when there is an ending, a flowering takes place. You understand? Do it, sirs, please, in your life do it. Test it out. That's what I mean that you must be serious. It is only the serious man that lives. Serious in the sense he knows he is frightened, he knows he is greedy, he is aware of his own peculiar pleasure, and without argument, without suppression, without - end it with ease, with grace, with beauty. Then you will see a totally different beginning. Because then there is an actual facing of nothing, which is death, which is the invitation to death while living. The invitation is the ending of all your attachments and all the rest of it.
Then out of all this comes a strange factor, the factor of supreme intelligence. And that intelligence is based on compassion, clarity, and because of that intelligence there is great skill. So if you are serious then act, do, not some vague theory, or ideals, the ending of something that you hold most dear, your ambition, your spiritual ambitions, your physical ambitions, your business ambitions, end it. Then you will see yourself a new flowering takes place.