The nature, depth and beauty of death
The ending of sorrow
4th Public Talk, Brockwood Park
September 02, 1984
Next year we will have to have a bigger tent! (laughter)
One hopes that you have had a pleasant week: instructive, learning and exploring into oneself the immense depth and width of life. We are going to ask several fundamental questions this morning. Perhaps some of you have not asked these questions and it may sound rather extravagant or nothing to do with our daily life or that it is merely theoretical. The speaker does not in any way indulge in theories, ideologies or any sense of - have any sense of beliefs, dogmas and all that business.
First of all what is it to be honest? Really, deeply honest. We are honest to some - that is conformity, which we call honesty - to some fictitious belief, faith or ideologies. But honesty seems to be to one where there is total integrity. That integrity is not mediocrity. Mediocrity - the meaning of that word, according to the dictionary, is one who goes half way up the hill and never goes to the top of the hill. Perhaps we go to the top of the hill in science, in all the technological world, but we never go to the very top of it, top of our own enquiry, of our own understanding and find out for ourselves the depth and the beauty of our own lives. Where there is integrity, that is, a wholeness, a sense of - not completeness - but a sense of non-fragmented way of life, out of that comes great honesty, unyielding, not easily persuaded or dissuaded but living a daily life in which is this holistic way of conducting oneself - morality and all that business.
We were going to talk over this morning, together, as we have talked about several other factors of life, like conflict - whether conflict could ever end in our daily life, and we also talked about fear, sorrow yesterday morning, and the nature and the depth and the strength of love, compassion and intelligence. We ought to talk over this morning together what is death, what is immortality and what is continuity. In the understanding of all that we have to really delve very, very deeply into the nature of time and thought, which we have been doing from the beginning of these talks.
Time, we said, is the past, modifying itself in the present, and the future is the present having its roots in the past, continuing, which is the future. Right? So the future is now. That is, we have evolved according to the biologists, scientists - we have been on this earth as human beings, evolving for 40, 50 thousand years. During that long interval of time, during that duration, we have accumulated a great deal of information, knowledge, experience and technologically we have advanced in the most extraordinary way but inwardly, psychologically, subjectively, we are very primitive, barbarous, and we have not fundamentally changed; we are violent, brutal, competitive, terribly aggressive and so on. And unless one deeply understands, not merely theoretically, but the nature of time, when and what is time.
Is time a continuity? - I am this, I will be. When is time? You understand? Is there time in the very act of doing? Is there time in the very action of life? You plant a seed in the ground and it grows, flowers, bears fruit and dies and while that seed is growing, moving, living, there is no concept of time. It is only we human beings have the concept of time. And when we are doing something completely, holistically, without any sense of fragmented outlook or behaviour, the doing - in that act of doing there is no time. Haven't you noticed all this? As you are sitting here and listening unfortunately, or fortunately, to the speaker, as you are listening very attentively - which I hope one is doing - this attention has no time. Right? It is only time comes into being when you say, 'What is he talking about? I don't quite understand', - or I make a tremendous effort to understand - then time comes into being. But when there is actual listening, seeing very clearly, then there is no time at all. And understanding this we are going to enquire together, the speaker means together, all of us together, into the nature and the depth and the beauty of death.
When one uses the word beauty, what do we mean by that word? What is beauty to you? Because we are saying beauty is truth, like love is truth. What is beauty? A beautiful person, a beautiful painting, a great mountain that is immovable, full of snow, valleys, shadows and the deep blue depth of a vast valley. The great paintings, the ancient sculptures and when we look at them we say how marvellously beautiful they are. Is beauty something in the beholder, in the observer, in the seer? Or is beauty when the observer is not? Do you understand? Are we meeting each other? Have you all (laughs) had enough? Enough is enough? Because in our life, daily life there is so little beauty. We want to have a beautiful body, beautiful face, and you do all kinds of things to bring that beauty about, exercise, so-called yoga! Can we go into that word a little bit?
In the ancient days yoga was taught only to very, very few and in doing yoga other factors entered into it, a meditation. In the ancient days, I am not talking now about what is considered yoga. And it was an act of dedication to find out what is truth, what is the way of living according to that truth and so on. But now yoga has become a commercialised affair and if you can't do anything better you are going to teach yoga. (laughter) Those people who are experts at it are accumulating money, you know the whole commercial process. So yoga is something that demands a great deal of attention - in the old days - a great deal of self-observation, self-recollectedness and so on. Not just having a beautiful body.
So, what is beauty, we are asking. When you compare two great paintings, the comparison between that painter and that painter, or that poem or the other poem, this book or that, what is actually going on in one's brain? You are comparing, you are judging, you are evaluating. Some have said Keats is the greatest poet who ever lived, or if he had lived longer he would have been far greater than Shakespeare, and so on. And when you put aside all the paintings in the world, in museums and in your own house and so on, and when you see the great mountains with their snow and against a blue sky in the morning light, there is a certain quality of silence, certain quality of breathless adoration and the perception of that immovable - the deep valleys, the lakes and the rivers and the forests - when you see all that the very greatness of it drives away our petty little life, may be for a minute or for a few seconds: when the self is not beauty is. Do we understand? Are we together in this? When you look at all those mountains, rivers and the beautiful architecture, or read a poem, some part of the ancient literature, the Old Testament or the Upanishads and so on, to observe all that without thought, without 'the me' interfering with your perception, then there is that quality of immense beauty which is not put together by thought. And to come upon that beauty is to enquire whether the self, 'the me', the persona, all the characteristic tendencies and all the troubles, pain and anxieties and loneliness, can all that be put aside, not make that which is great make you put everything aside, then that greatness becomes merely a toy. But if one can put all that aside, the very nature of the self, the psyche, then there is that immense beauty which is really timeless existence. Now let's go on to something else.
Which is: what is death? We are going to enquire together what is death. And also we are going to talk over together what is it that continues? And the continuity is a movement of time - right? Are you following? So we must ask also: is there anything permanent in us, in the world outside of us, is there anything imperishable that cannot be destroyed, that is endlessly permanent? Man has asked this question from the most ancient of times because he sees round him everything in a flux, everything changing, gaining, losing, being destroyed and put together again. And we also see ourselves changing, not only biologically but psychologically - we are all moving a little bit, bit by bit, moving, changing, not fundamentally changing but a little. So seeing all that, this constant change, dying and being reborn, one asks: is there anything permanent, lasting, and what is that thing that lasts? Is it a continuity of what we are? You understand? Does this all interest you? Don't just say 'Yes', that's no fun! But if you are really interested in this because it has to do with one's life, one's daily life, and is there anything in one's daily life that is permanent? There is always at the end of that so-called continuity, there is death. One has lived 90 years, or 50 years or 10 years and during those 80, 90 years there has been a long continuity of memory, continuity of activity, labour, striving, aspiring, hoping to make oneself more excellent in some skill or other, or inwardly, psychologically, to find something that is not always changing. We see all this - an ancient oak dies - everything seems to comes to an end, dies, and observing all this one asks oneself, as I hope you are asking yourself, is there some permanent something that will last, that will have its roots in some place, that will always grow, will always be immense, permanent? Right? Don't you ask all these questions? Or I am asking for you? And so we are asking: what is continuity? What is it that continues in our daily life? Is it not memory, a series of associations and a continuity exists also between when one thought is silent for the moment, another thought arises. There is an interval between those two thoughts and in that interval we observe a sense of timeless existence for a second, but that interval between two thoughts is still thought, in absence. Thought then is absent between those two intervals but is still two thoughts. We will go into all this. Is it too complicated? Probably it is.
Is continuity immortality, because it is one of the things man has sought - immortality - that which is beyond death. And the ancient books, like the Upanishads, the Vedas and the Hebrew literature, the ancient, and the Bible, Shakespeare, Keats - they are in a way immortal, they are going to last when you and I pop off, they will be there - is that immortality? The name, all the things associated with that name - so what is immortal? Mortality, we know what that means: man dying, human beings coming to an end. And human beings have asked this question: is there immortality, a state in which there is no death at all, not a continuity but - because continuity implies time and where there is time there is death, where there is immortality, if there is such a thing, then there is no death at all, there is no ending or beginning. Are you going into all this? I'll go into it, if you are interested we'll take the journey, if you are not, it doesn't matter. I hope you are comfortably seated. (laughter)
What is death, what does it mean to die? - and that is an absolute certainty that we are all going to die, and what does that mean? One has continued from childhood till the moment of death - continued with one's thoughts, with one's ideas or new set of ideas, thoughts, trouble, pain, anxiety, loneliness and all the travail of life, that is what we call continuity. And in that process time is a factor. And when we die, all the Asiatic world believes, at least some of them, majority of them, including India and so on - this continuity will continue after death - which is called rebirth, reincarnation. That's a very comforting idea! What you sow you reap. If you are not good in this life then in next life you pay for it, or you pay for it now. Right? Cause and effect. Causation separate, as though it was separate from the effect. We are saying causation has in it inherently effect. It is not two separate things. I wonder if you get all this? This is not philosophy, it is not some kind of exotic nonsense. You can see one's own life, if you do something ugly it has its own reward, or its own pain. If you do something correctly, without the self, then that brings about its own goodness. So continuity is a form of causation, effect and the effect becomes the cause, and so it is a chain. And we are asking, what is death? Biologically, when the brain has not sufficient blood, breath and so on, it decays very rapidly and that is called death, physical death. Either this is brought about through some kind of disease, natural old age or some accident. We acknowledge that because that is inevitable but we say I have gathered all this experience, all my life I've worked, all my life I have tried to do this and that and what is the good of it all if I come to an end of all that? Don't you ask these questions? So we have to ask: what is it to end? - to end something in which there is no continuity. You understand? To end. All right.
One is attached. There is no question about it. Attached to an idea, to a book, to a saying, to your money, to your wife, or to some ideal and so on. One is deeply attached. We are not saying it is right or wrong. One is attached. Death comes along and says sorry! - cuts that attachment, and we want that attachment to continue, and without it - when there is freedom from attachment we feel a bit lost. So we are frightened of death because it may end everything that you have. Following? And one asks: what have you? At the end of 90 years, I am asking this of myself, and you must be asking of yourself, what is it that you have? - a house, a bank account if you are lucky enough or unlucky enough, a wife, a husband, the pleasure of sex and all the conflict of one's life? Actually what has one in your life? What have you? And if one was very, very honest, you need to have a house, you need to have a shelter, food, clothes, that is natural, normal, otherwise what have you? A series of memories - right? A bundle of memories and nothing else. In that bundle of memories there are all aspirations, wanting, not wanting, seeking God - you know all that, or not seeking God, or saying 'There is only this' - that is, pleasure, money, power. The mundane activities of one's life - that is all one has and death comes along and says, 'You can't carry it with you, it all has to come to an end'. End of that, end of all your memories, all your experiences, all the things one has travelled through life to accumulate. When a scientist, a great scientist, not employed by the government, but free of governments, those scientists they have accumulated an extraordinary amount of knowledge, skill, great penetration into matter, questioning what is matter, what is energy and so on, they too die, like us, and at the end of their life what have they? And the tyrannical, the totalitarian dictators - what is going on in Russia - all the dictatorships in the world - what have they? You understand? We want what we have, which is memories, to continue - right? And when those memories come to an end, which is the fact of life, which is death, and knowing all that, one is frightened. You want to know what happens after, and you want to know what happens afterwards according to your already existing knowledge. Right? You understand? You follow this? You are adding more knowledge by asking what is there when one dies. All that one wants is more knowledge, more certainty of knowledge. And knowledge is limited. You understand? Because knowledge is based on experience which is limited and knowledge is memory and so thought is limited. So we keep going round in that circle. And is there an end to all this? And that is death. And so one asks: is it possible to live with death - not commit suicide and all that silly stuff, but to live with something, live with an absolute fact. The absolute fact is that one is going to die and that death means the ending of knowledge, memories. So can one live with death and not keep the two apart? You understand? You follow all this? What does it mean to live with death? What does it mean to own nothing? You may have money, a wife, children, but to hold and wanting that which you have held to go on, and death means you hold nothing.
Can one live a life in this world, living and death together? That means living and dying every day. Oh come on sirs. So it means never, never becoming something, becoming something psychologically, which is so-called psychological evolution. In that there is time, a continuity and the memory held in the brain - of course! And living with death means that which has been accumulated, gathered psychologically, ending everything everyday, not at the end of the day but at the beginning and in the middle and all the time. You understand what that means? Never having roots in any place, never having a sense of ownership, possession, attachment so the brain becomes extraordinarily alive, free, and therefore no fear.
We said we would also talk about meditation: religion, meditation and what is creation. Are you interested in all this?
What is religion? What is the religious mind? What is the mind? - we must differentiate. The brain is the storehouse of all memories. It is the seat of all reaction and action, response, both neurologically, psychologically, subjectively - it is contained as consciousness in the brain. Right? It doesn't matter. I'll go on, just play with me, will you? And so the brain is limited though it has got infinite capacity because in the technological world look what they are doing. And psychologically, subjectively, we are very limited. That's part of the brain. The mind is something entirely different. The mind is outside the brain. This requires a great deal of enquiry but perhaps we cannot go on with that because our time is limited. (laughter)
Like love is not within the brain. It is outside. If it is within the brain it is a process of thought, memory, recollection, remembrances, pleasure, pain and all that, which is, the brain contains all consciousness. Our consciousness is its content. There is no consciousness as we know it if the content is not. Right? The content is our pain, loneliness, beliefs, faith, hopes, aspirations, anxieties, all that is our consciousness. And that is contained within the skull. So love is not that surely. Love is not a battleground, love is not a reaction, or a remembrance, and when there is reaction, remembrance, and all that, it is still in the brain and love is, if that, love is still part of the brain, that's reaction and all that, then it is not, obviously, love.
So we are going to investigate together what is religion. Why has man spent such energy, great enquiry, suffered, fasted, tortured himself to find truth, to find that which is timeless? Every religion has done this. That is, every religion says: to find that which is immense, immeasurable, you must do certain things, deny the flesh, control, discipline, give your life, dedicate your life to that and only then you will find it. They put this very simple statement more complicatedly but that is what religions have said. And in the Christian world as in the Hindu and the Buddhist world, and the Islamic world, a figure, a symbol, in the mysteries of a not too light a place, cathedrals and churches with all the rituals, accepting, obeying - all that is called religion, agreed? Is that religion? Or religion is something entirely different. Now we have intermediaries, the priest - between that highest and the so-called the lowest - he is the interpreter, like the psychiatrist, and the priest has played a great part in history from the Egyptians and before the Egyptians, the Sumerians and so on, the priests were the learned people and all that. And they have established certain laws, rules and if you are sceptical - and I hope you are - doubting, questioning, never accepting anything psychologically - except the policeman (laughter) and the tax laws, otherwise to question, doubt, never psychologically obey without going into it, not belonging to any sect, to any guru, to any organised religion as Christianity, Islam, or not so organised, rather disorderly Hinduism and so on. If you put all that aside, if you can, because we are heavily conditioned by propaganda of 2,000 years, or heavy propaganda has made your brain programmed to 3 to 5,000 years as in India and so on. If you can put all that aside, as one must if one wants to find that which is nameless, then what is religion? What is the quality of a mind or brain that has totally set aside all man's endeavour to find that, all his systems, methods, his systems of meditation, breathing correctly, cross-legged - you know all that. Those are all meaningless. To calm the brain, breathe properly, quietly, sit in silence, in a room or under a tree - that will not bring about that which is immense. So what is the quality of a mind, of a brain, that has set aside all this? It is untrammelled; it has not any bondage; it is free, completely free. That word freedom also has its root, etymologically - love. Freedom means love also, not sexual love, love.
So, is that possible when all the world is shouting, when all the world is being entertained by religions? Is it possible to live in this world daily with such total freedom from all tradition, from all knowledge except where knowledge is necessary? We are asking a really very, very difficult question because knowledge prevents true perception. From that arises: what is meditation? - not how to meditate. That word meditation and all the implications with that word apart from contemplation of Christians and so on, that meditation has been brought over by the gurus into this country, who are spreading all over America and so on. They have their systems, their practices, their disciplines and the guru gets a lot of money out of it and all that business goes on. There are Hindu meditations, Tibetan meditations, schools of meditation - right? - Zen, the whole lot of them. What are they offering? What is meditation? - not how to meditate, or what system to follow. That is too immature, too childish but if you ask deeply what is it to mediate, why should one meditate? The word meditation also, etymologically and in Sanskrit, means measure, not only to ponder over, to think over which is part of meditation, but also it means understand measurement. Measurement means comparison. Now I am saying, the speaker is saying: where there is comparison there is no meditation. You understand? Oh, come on, are we following a little bit with each other? We are always measuring: the better, the more, the less and the greater. This whole movement of measurement, which is comparison, can that completely end, both psychologically and outwardly, that is part of meditation. That is what, when you are enquiring into what is meditation, it means not only think, ponder over, look and observe, but also it means complete ending of all comparison - short, tall, broad, wide, beautiful, not beautiful, all those are a pattern of the self. Where there is measurement there is self, right? So is it possible to live a daily life without any form of comparison? Then you will see for yourself the extraordinary quality of the brain. Then the brain itself has its own movement; apart from its own movement it has another quality, then it is extraordinarily stable, firm, doesn't mean it doesn't yield, but it yields in firmness, in strength. And meditation also means the freedom from the network of words and thought. Right? So the brain is not entangled with words, with patterns, with systems, with measurement. Then there is absolute silence. And that silence is necessary. Silence has its own sound. Have you ever listened to a tree? This is not some crazy question. Have you ever listened to a tree, an old tree, when the wind and the breezes have come to an end and the tree is utterly silent, no leaf is fluttering and then you listen to the sound of the tree. We were asked that question by a scientist. He accepted that, so you better accept it too (laughter) - because you love scientists, people who accumulate knowledge. But to find out the sound in silence and where there is this complete, absolute, not relative silence. The relative silence can be brought about through thought, through will, saying, I must be silent. That is not silence at all. There is silence only when there is freedom from all the things that man has accumulated. In that silence there is an enormous sense of vastness and immensity, you don't ask any questions any more. It is.
Then we ought to ask also a question: what is creation? If you say, 'God created the world', then that is the end of it. That is one of the convenient statements in various books. That is no answer. But if one begins to ask, 'What is creation? How has all this come into being: the tiger, the deer, the marvellous tree, and the majestic mountains and the great rivers of the world, and this vast population, how does all this happen?' We must distinguish between creation and invention. Creation is totally different from invention. Invention is still within the field of knowledge. The man who invented the jet, he moved from knowledge to knowledge. He invented. All the new inventions in the technological world are based on knowledge. Perhaps a second of not thinking and then something comes but it is still within the area of knowledge. Creation is not invention. Creation is there only when knowledge has come to an end. You understand all this? Then that creation is, if we can use that word, 'nothing'. Nothing means not a thing. A thing in Latin and so on is thought. When there is no - when there is absolute silence of thought then there is totally a different dimension.
May we get up please?