The nature of the brain that lives religiously
Facing a world in crisis
4th Public Talk, Brockwood Park
September 01, 1985
The speaker also would like to make an announcement and I hope you will take it seriously. This is not a resort. There is a swimming pool, tennis court and it is becoming too popular, too large. There are people trying to interpret what K is talking about and he has always been saying, please don't interrupt - interpret, not interrupt. So please bear in mind we are going to make it much more orderly, strict and not make it into another resort for amusement, please. Though it has been announced several times, that music that goes on, what is called music - Bong(?) is it? - thumping on the drums and so on went on until half past ten last night. So please be courteous, careful of others and also, if one may point out, wherever K goes he is a guest, whether he is India, in America or here, so one must behave like a guest - respecting others, considering others, having some kind of order and not let it become much too big as it is becoming. We are going to do something about all this next year.
May we go on with other things? We were talking about various problems of life, of our daily, monotonous, rather pleasurable lives that are full of fear, anxiety, antagonism and so on. We went into the question of time/thought. And yesterday - was it yesterday morning?, yes, by Jove, sorry - yesterday morning we talked about the ending of sorrow, what it implies, what is the nature of sorrow and all the pain, the anxiety, the loneliness, the depression, the uncertainty, all that is implied in sorrow. And in certain parts of the world they worship sorrow, pain. And we have never been able to end sorrow, not only the sorrow of one's own life in different ways but also the sorrow of the world as a whole. All the terrible wars that are going on, what is happening in Lebanon and South Africa, and the Communist world, total totalitarianism where you are forced to think along a certain line, preparing on both sides war, the atom bomb ultimately. And that is what is going on. And millions and millions have been slaughtered in the name of God, peace, country, some ideological concept, theories. This has been our lot and we have endured all this for millions of years. And we are, through long evolution we were barbarous once, savages, and when one looks at it, what is happening now, we are still barbarians, we are still inwardly violent, inwardly concerned with ourselves and nobody else, concerned with our own pleasures, problems and so on. We never seem to realise that we are the world, and the world is us. This is not a theory, this is not something that you think about and come to a conclusion, ideologically, or as a Utopian idea, but it is an actuality in daily life. You are the world and the world is you. One wonders how many of us realise this fact, actually realise as we realise physical pain, as we feel when we are affectionate, tender, quiet. This is an obvious fact that you suffer and the rest of mankind suffers. You are violent, the rest of mankind suffers, violent. When you intend to do something for yourself and you want to fulfil that, you are becoming violent like the rest of the world. We went into all this during all these talks, not only during the past seventy years - I am sorry to point this out - but also now. We actually don't feel, realise in our heart and brain that we are the rest of mankind. When one actually realises this fact, not a theory, not an idea, but the actual, daily fact, then there is totally a different way of living. You don't belong to any country, no religious group, no spiritual authority, or those who want to interpret what K is talking about. And when you really feel that you are, you are actually the rest of mankind, you will never kill another, you will never psychologically consciously, or unconsciously, or deliberately want to hurt another.
Please, this is all very, very serious, it is not just for a Sunday gathering, a sermon, or a lecture. We are together in the same boat. We are together understanding the world and ourselves, and our relationship to the world - not our responsibility, our relationship to the rest of mankind. You all may be well-fed, well-clothed, houses, flats, and a nice garden, or live in a slum, but there are millions and millions of people who are starving, deliberately races are being killed, tribes are being killed. And as long as we don't feel all this, but merely accept it as an idea, a conclusion, we are going to create a monstrous world, which we are creating already. And we are that which is happening.
And this morning we ought to talk about other things too, concerned with our life. We talked about compassion, love, and that compassion has its own intelligence, love has its own intelligence, not the intelligence of clever thought, calculation, remembrance but when there is compassion, which can only come, or be, when suffering ends. We talked about that a great deal. Unfortunately the speaker has published books about it all and it is not merely remembering what he has said, or what he wants to say, but the actuality of that feeling of compassion. And that can only come when there is the end of sorrow and when one actually, in one's being, in one's heart, mind, feels that he is the rest of the world, doesn't belong to any sect, any group, any guru, any church, mosque or temple. One will listen to all this, or read about all this, which K has talked about for so long, and you say, 'Yes, marvellous ideas. He has very good reasoning, logical but...' - and you can add many buts to that. We carry on and thereby lies more conflict. Hear one thing, you agree or disagree, or see the truth of it, and wanting to live up to it, and so begin again conflict.
So we went into conflict a great deal during these talks here. And we said as long as conflict exists love cannot be between man and woman, between people, nations, communities, enclave and so on. Our brain which has evolved through long years and time, that brain has extraordinary capacity, each one's brain has extraordinary capacity. We have used it in the world of technology, the world of computers, and we have never looked at the psychological world which is far more important, the subjective, the whole psychological process that goes on inwardly. We have never looked at it, we have never gone into it, not according to others, even including K, but we have never, or superficially scratched on the surface. And therefore we never put to ourself fundamental questions. And we are now talking over things together - not the speaker is saying something and you just listen and when you leave the tent forget all about it and pick it up ten years later. This is your life and our life and if one wants to treat one's life seriously, or flippantly, or casually, it is up to you.
And we talked a great deal about freedom too, freedom from anxiety, sorrow, pain, and all the travail of life. And also there is another kind of freedom. A freedom which is per se, for itself, not because you want to be free from something, that is only very partial freedom. There is a freedom which is completely whole, not partial.
And this morning we should also talk about death. Right? We have talked about so many other things. Death is not a morbid subject on a dark morning or a dark night. People have written books about how to die happily, how to accept it naturally, how to let the body go - you know, they have been talking about it, writing about it endlessly. And we are now, you and the speaker together, please, together, he is not talking to himself, he is not lecturing, he is not talking about something which you have to understand and therefore have interpreters who will tell you what K talks about. And that is going on in this place too, which seems so absurd.
We ought to talk over together this very important, serious, very, very great thing called death. All right, shall we go on? Please bear in mind he is not talking to you - we are talking to each other. He has no authority - and I mean it. He has no sense of superiority, he will tell you all about it. But together we are going into it. If you will. If you don't want to, it is all right. That is all right too. Nobody is imposing anything on you, directing you, telling you what to do or what to think. Right?
What is death? And when we ask that question we ought also to consider what is continuity, and also what is ending, something that comes to finality. The ending, continuity, time and death, or thought - right? All these are involved when we ask that question: what is death? Time, thought, the urge, the demand of continuity and also when we are wanting continuity we also should enquire together into what is ending. And is there a beginning? All these are involved in this question of what is death, not just oxygen, lack of oxygen to the brain and pops off, or kicking the bucket, or whatever you like to call it. It is the whole concern of man: the way he lives and the way he dies.
So we are enquiring together what is death; why death is associated with sorrow. You are following all this? The speaker is not leading you, he is not persuading you. I am bored with telling you that! So what is death? You must take the whole of it, not just dying. You must take the being born, living fifty, forty or sixty, seventy, ninety, or going a little further on - you have to take the whole of it, not just: what is death? That is rather a silly question to say, what is death and then weep about it, or frightened about it, or worship it, as Christians do. The Indians, the former ancient Hindus exploded all over Asia, as Greece exploded over the western world, and they had their theories, including Pythagoras and others of reincarnation which we will talk about presently.
So we have to consider not only what is continuity, what is ending, what is time and thought involved in this process, which means we have to enquire what is living, first, not what is dying - right? We are together in this? I won't repeat that again. So what is living? What do we call living? From the moment we are born through the long period which we call life, living, what takes place there? - not just part of it but the length of it. From childhood we have problems. The children sent to school have a problem: how to read, write, how to learn mathematics and later on chemistry, biology, that all becomes a problem. They are educated in problems. These are all facts, not the speaker's imagination. So our life from the beginning is a continuous problem, struggle, pain, anxiety, uncertainty, confusion, faith, belief, gods and the perpetual repetition of rituals - what is called religion - the worship of a symbol, and faith, belief, success, failure, sorrow, pain. All that is our living. An actual fact in which is included pleasure, sex and all the rest of it. This is what we call living. Go to the office from nine to five, or factory nine to five, or enter a shop and sell books, clothes, food and so on. This is our daily monotonous, so-called disciplined life. Would you and I disagree about that? Or do we see it as a fact? - not as descriptively accepting, but it is the actual fact of our life. Right sirs? And we have not understood that. We have not gone into it and see if one can live totally differently.
But there is always death. There is a very good Italian proverb but I won't go into it, which says, 'Everybody will die, I know. Perhaps I will too!' (Laughter)
So first what is it we have to grasp, understand, go into, resolve - life, the daily living, or the dying? And besides, why are we so terribly concerned about death? The speaker was walking once in the shaded road in India and he heard a chant behind him as he was walking towards the sea. And there was a dead body being carried by two men and his eldest son carrying the fire in front of him, in front of the body. That's all, not all the fuss and hearses and flowers and you know. It was a simple thing and it was really rather beautiful. The son crying, and chanting in Sanskrit, walking towards the sea where he was going to be cremated. And the fuss the western world makes about death - Rolls Royce's, enormous amount of flowers and so on. So what are we concerned with? Living or dying? Please, we are talking to each other. Which is most important for us to grapple with, put our teeth and our whole energy into it?
Talking about energy, there are those people who want to release energy - right? Part of it is acupuncture, part of it is various attempts to increase the energy that we have, and so on. What is energy? It took energy to come here, a great deal of energy - put up a tent, come in a car on a rainy, windy day, get all the things together to come here. That took a lot of energy. You may brush it off and say, 'I will go' - but to decide to go, to come, to drive a car, to put up a tent, to sit here and listen. That requires a great deal of energy. And we want more energy. We don't know how to use our own energy. You have got plenty of energy when you want to do something. They have been to the Moon - all the technological energy that is demanded of everyone. It takes energy to talk, to think, to have sex, everything, life is energy but we, through our self-interest, our specialisation, through our demand for success, and fears and all that, we have restricted that energy. We have made it so small, so particular, so minuscule. Sorry! And our brains have been narrowed down by specialisation, by, you know all the rest of it. So there is energy. When we understand ourselves that energy explodes, then you have tremendous passion, not just passion for something, the flower of passion which never withers. And that can only come when there is compassion.
So what are we concerned most about - death or living? Living is, as we said, a series, a succession of conflict, struggle, pain, sorrow, and all the rest of it. This is not a gloomy picture. You can paint it more beautifully in colours, descriptively make it more attractive, but this is a fact. So shouldn't we understand life first, the living, and then come to understand what is death? You understand? Not the other way round. What will you give, not financially, what will you give to find out how, in what manner one can live totally differently? - not pursue some other quacky nonsense: a new painting, new poems, new dances, and all the rest of that immature, childish stuff. And the speaker is not intolerant, he just sees all this going on. So can we, realising what our life is, the actual life of existence on this earth, bring about a mutation - not a change - complete change, reversal, whatever it is, the thing that one has lived, is living, is completely ended and something new can take place?
Therefore we have to enquire together into what is continuity, what is it that continues in our life, living? Memory, is it? Continuity, a series of successions of events, experiences, the 'me', the persona, the ego, is a bundle of memories. One mightn't like that idea. One wants something more than mere memories, and wanting more, something beyond memories, is another formation of memories - right? One is not satisfied with this memory but wants some other memory. So this continuation, which we call living, is a series and successions of events, memories, experience, all that bundle is me, is you. And continuity is that which is known. How scared we are of something ending you to all that! One has lived a long life of experience, knowledge, one has travelled all over the place - God knows why, but one has - and you talk, judge, evaluate, you know all that. And we never enquire what is continuity and what is ending. Ending voluntarily something that you hold dear - you understand my question? Are we asking each other that question? Suppose one is greatly attached to a person, to a conclusion, that conclusion however historical, dialectical, Marxist, Leninist, blah, blah, all that, one is attached to all that like a limpet. Can one voluntarily, easily, let go? That is what death means. You don't argue with death. You don't say, 'Please give me another couple of days so that I can do everything orderly', it is there at your door.
So can one understand continuity and give to that continuity an end? You understand my question? To us attachment means a great deal. It is the most satisfying common experience - to be attached to the earth, to certain beliefs, certain dogmas, certain rituals, certain habits and so on. One is greatly attached to a house, to furniture, to a habit. Can one become aware of it and end it completely in that awareness? Not the day after tomorrow but now as we are sitting here, becoming aware of all that: the explanations, the reality, not the description but the fact of this constant demand for continuity. Sexual continuity, the continuity of possessions, continuity of family, continuity of one's deep experiences, all that coming to an instant end. That is death. So not wait for death when you are sixty, eighty, ninety, but end it each day, live with death. Don't be... Sir, the speaker is saying something tremendous involved in this, not just a lot of words put together. To live with something, a life that is constantly ending everyday, every minute so there is no continuity of the past, or the future. There is only this ending which is death. And to live that way. Go on sirs. Don't think about it, see the truth of it. Thought is not - it can create, put together a lot of things but thought cannot deceive death. So if one realises the immense significance of living with that ending which is called death in our daily life then there is real transformation, real mutation even in the brain cells, because the brain cells carry all our memories, all the past and all the rest of it. So can we live that way? Not pretend, not 'I must make an effort' - you don't make an effort to die! Unless you jump out of the eighteenth floor and you say, 'So far, so good' (Laughter)
And also we should talk about together what is religion, what is the nature of the brain that lives religiously. Religion has become very important in our lives. You may be atheists, you may say, 'Well it is all nonsense, some stupid priest preaching about some nonsense.' You may shun all that but yet there is this inward demand, inward saying, 'After all, what is all this about, this living and dying, this pain, this anxiety, what is it all about? Who created it? God? Nature? The first cell?' and so on. So religion is concerned not with all the rubbish, circus that is going on, whether in Rome, or in England, or in Benares in India, or in the Buddhist countries, it is all put together by thought, and therefore very, very, very limited. So we have to ask: what is religion and creation? What is creation? Is there a difference between creation and invention? We were talking the other day with an excellent doctor, really first-class doctor, not a doctor who makes money but good doctor with a good brain. He was saying there is a certain part of the brain that can always be activated. I may be misrepresenting, careful, don't accept entirely what the speaker is saying about that. There is a certain part of the brain, he mentioned some technical word which I didn't know, that as one gets ill that gets a little bit dull, as one gets older that gets still more dull. And whether that inner part of the brain can be revived, made alive - right? Don't accept it. Don't go to sleep. We were talking about it - I won't go into it now because this is too complex. So what is invention and what is creation? Religion is concerned with this. And can the brain, which is conditioned, shaped, moulded by all kinds of things: community, what you read, what you hear, all the priests that have been promulgating some ideas, some worship, some gods, all that has conditioned our brain. Can our brain, yours and... our brain, can that brain ever understand what is creation? Or it is based fundamentally on knowledge, which is experience, gathering, learning, memorising and so on. Can that brain understand that which is not measurable? You understand? Are we somewhat together in this?
We measure - right? We measure, which means compare, judge, evaluate, we are always comparing ourself with something else. Comparing one painter against another painter, one poem against another poem, or Beethoven against Bach and so on, Mozart, let me include Mozart in it. So is invention - is not invention based on knowledge? Please, we are talking about it together. If there is no knowledge there is no invention. We must have a background of knowledge to find something new - is that creation? Or is creation something totally out of time and thought? This has been one of the problems, probably the greatest problem of a religious brain, religious quality. We will never use the word meditation any more. I hope you don't mind. That word implies also measurement in Sanskrit as well as in acknowledged dictionaries. Measurement. Not only measurement of cloth and all the material things, but also measuring ourselves against something. Measurement was invented by the Greeks and probably before them, and without measurement there is no technological world. And we carry on that same principle in ourselves; we are always measuring how we are today and hope tomorrow will be the same or wish it to be different. It is always comparing, judging, evaluating. And the word, that word which has become so mutilated by the gurus who have brought various forms of meditation - we won't discuss that word any more because it has become a stupid word. Sitting in a certain posture, breathing in a certain way, concentrating, and all that - making tremendous effort to achieve what? Some carrot before the donkey?
So we should be concerned with not how to make the brain still - that is fairly easy. But to be concerned with total attention, not attention to or about something, the quality of attention, which is different from concentration, entirely different. Concentration is effort, focusing on one thing, or several things, which becomes a habit like the pilots in the air. So is it possible to be attentive? And then in that there is no hypocrisy, no pretensions - you are attentive. And in attention there is complete silence, when you attend. And in that attention there is no border, it is attending. There is not, 'I am attending', there is only attention. Please consider, take counsels together about this.
So what is creation? Not the first cell, nor how we've evolved and all that. We have said God created all this. On the contrary, we have made God our image, out of what we are, we have made that poor chap up there! We have given him all the qualities which we lack - mercy, charity, love, omnipresence, intelligence and all the rest of that business. What is creation? Can the brain, which is the centre of all our nerves, all our activity, all our existence - however small it is, can that brain understand the immensity of creation? Or there is something beyond the brain. Now careful please, don't accept anything the speaker is saying. That is the first thing one has to learn, never accept anything so-called spiritual. That's sheer nonsense. There is no spiritual authority. The authority of a doctor, scientist, that is a different matter. The policeman has authority, especially in Switzerland! (laughter) Tremendous! We were caught in it once! Is the brain capable of really seeing that which is not measurable? We can talk about it, we can invent it, we can say there is the immeasurable - all that means a lot of words. But we are asking a different question altogether: can the brain, which is made up of time, memory, thought, experience, all the rest of it, can that brain ever understand that which is limitless? You understand my question? It is really... Or there is something else, which is the mind, not the brain. Don't invent, then we are lost. We are asking each other: is there something which we will call the mind for the moment, we may change the word, is there a mind which is not the brain? Is there such a thing which alone can see that which is immense? And then that mind can communicate to the brain, but the brain cannot communicate to it? You have understood? We are asking each other. The brain as we know has been made very small, though it has got immense capacity. The computer is something extraordinary. It is going to probably take over our lives, that is probably the new industry. The computer will shape our lives. It is already doing it quietly, slowly, we are unaware of it. We have talked to a great many of these experts - computer experts - who are building it. They are not concerned with what happens to the human brain. You understand my question? They are concerned with creating it - Ah, not creating, building it - that's a better word. When the computer takes over our lives what happens to our brains? They are better, far quicker, so rapid, in a second they will tell you a thousand memories. So when they take over what is going to happen to our brains? Gradually wither? Or be thoroughly employed in amusement? In entertainment? Please face all this, for God's sake, this is happening! All the long sports record on the television, it is getting longer and longer. They spend ten minutes over cricket, and two minutes over what is happening in South Africa. So the entertainment industry is taking over. Please face all this. And religious entertainment, that has taken over too. So we are being entertained all the time. And we treat meeting here as part of that. I assure you it is not. It is terribly serious, all this.
So can the brain ever understand the universe? They can say Venus is so much gas, so much metal, etc., etc., etc., but the description, the quality, the taste of it is not Venus, the beauty of it, the extraordinary quietness of it. And can our brain, to understand all that immensity, be quiet? - not everlastingly chattering, chattering, chattering. Can that brain become extraordinarily simple and therefore extraordinarily subtle? And if that brain is capable of that subtleness, that immense sense of great simplicity of time/thought and all the rest of it, then perhaps that mind, which is not the brain, can communicate to it. Then the brain cannot communicate to that, obviously. And we are doing our very best to communicate with that, doing all kinds of tricks, all forms of control, sacrifice, taking vows, taking - right? And that thing can never - one can never touch it. And the religious mind, religious brain always has the background of great silence and solitude.
We have finished. Will you kindly get up so that I can get up too?