The relationship of freedom to self-interest
Facing a world in crisis
3rd Public Talk, Brockwood Park
August 31, 1985
Those people have appealed for co-operation and for money and also may the speaker join in that appeal. I appeal to you to talk over things together.
We have talked about time, thought and fear. And as we said this is not a lecture about a particular subject intended to inform or instruct. This is a conversation between you and the speaker. Together we are going to look at all the things that we consider are important in our life, our daily life, not only our life as a businessman, or a doctor, or a professor, or a scientist and so on, or if you want to belong to that group, gurus. We are not concerned about others, but rather we are going to have a conversation in which there is no authority, in which there is no specialist. We are all laymen. And together we are going to talk over what we have done in the past two talks and questions and answers, and also we are going to talk over this morning - which is rather rainy and windy, I am sorry, it was a lovely day yesterday - and we are going to talk over together about freedom, self-interest, pleasure, pain, sorrow and love, this morning. And if there is time, we will also talk about death, if that is all right with you.
As we said previously, we are a rather serious group, at least the speaker is. He has been at it for the last seventy years and more. And just attending a couple of talks or reading some printed words is not going to solve our problems, it is not going to help us. And the speaker is not trying to help you. Please be convinced of that, assured that the speaker is no authority and therefore he is not a person to whom you can turn to be helped. There are others who might help you. And if you want to be helped then, if one may point out most respectfully, you leave your problems to be solved to others, and they will solve them according to their desires, self-interest, their power, their position and all that business. So we are ordinary laymen talking over together. We are going to enquire together, face the facts, not the ideas about the fact but facts. And not ideologies, they are meaningless. Not about theories, speculations - who is illumined, who is not, who is - what? - nearer God than you, but together we are going to go into this question of freedom, what relationship has freedom to time and time to thought and action. Because we live by action, everything we do is action, not a particular action, either in the business world, or in the scientific world, or in the speculative world called philosophy. But rather we are going to look at things as they are.
There is a great deal of anarchy in the world, chaos, disorder and who has brought this about? This is our first question. Who is responsible for all the mess that we have in the world, economically, socially, politically and so on, all leading up to war? There are wars going on, terrible wars, now. And do we each one of us realise not intellectually but actually in our daily life, the house in which we live, not only the house built by man outside, but the house inside. Do we realise how disorderly it is, contradictory, how very little freedom we have? That word freedom also implies love, not just freedom to do what you like, when you like, where you like. But we are living on this earth, all of us, and each one is seeking his own freedom, his own expression, his own fulfilment, his own path to enlightenment, whatever that be. His own particular form of religion, superstition, belief, faith and all the things that go with it, with authority, hierarchical authority - politically, religiously and so on. So we have very little freedom. And that word, which is so freely used by every psychopath and every human being, whether he lives in Russia, where the tyranny is appalling, or in so-called democratic world, every human being inwardly, consciously or unconsciously, needs freedom, like every tree in the world needs freedom to grow, to have that sense of quality of dignity, love.
And what is the relationship of freedom to self-interest? Please we are talking things over together, you are not, if I may point out, listening to a speaker, listening to a man on the platform. He is not important at all. And the speaker really means this, he is not important, the speaker. But perhaps you might give your ear to what he says as two friends talking over things very seriously. We are asking what is the relationship between freedom and self-interest? Where do you draw the line between freedom and self-interest? And what is self-interest? What is its relationship to thought and to time? Please, all these questions are involved in freedom. Bearing in mind that freedom is not fulfilling one's own ambitions, greed, envy and so on. What is the relationship of self-interest with regard to freedom? You know what self-interest is? Self-interest may hide under every stone of our life - right? Are we talking together? Are you quite sure we are talking together? Not somebody higher up but we are all sitting on the same level.
What is self-interest? Can one consciously, deliberately, enquire into that? How deep, how superficial, where it is necessary, where it totally, completely, has no place at all? You understand my question? - we are together questioning. Self-interest has brought about a great deal of confusion in the world, a great deal of disorder, confusion, conflict. Whether that self-interest be identified with a country, with a community, with a family, or with God, with the beliefs, the faiths and so on, it is all self-interest, seeking enlightenment - for God's sake, as though you can seek it. Also in that search there is the self-interest, and also there is self-interest when you build a house, have insurance, mortgages. And the self-interest is encouraged commercially. And also by all religions, they talk about liberation but self-interest first. And we have to live in this world, we have to function, have to earn money, have children, be married or not married. And living in this world of the twentieth century how deep, or how superficial, is our self-interest? It is important to enquire into this. Self-interest divides people - right? We and they, you and I, my interest opposed to your interest, my family interests oppose your family interests, your country, my country in which I have invested a great deal of emotion and physical interest for which I am willing to fight and kill, which is war. And we invest our interest in ideas, faith, beliefs, dogmas, in rituals and so on - this whole cycle. At the root of it there is a great deal of self-interest.
Now can one live in this world daily, clearly, with self-interest where it is necessary - please, I am using this word carefully - where it is physically necessary and psychologically, inwardly, it is totally abandoned? Is that possible? You understand? Are we together? Is it possible for each one of us living here in a very, very complex society, competitive, divided by agreement and disagreement, faith opposing another faith, this great division that is going on, not only individually but collectively, and living in this world where do we draw the line between self-interest and no self-interest whatsoever psychologically? Can we do that? You can talk about it endlessly as we like to go to talks and lectures and listen to somebody, but here we have to observe together, you have to not only listen to each other verbally but also deeply, inwardly find out extensively, not just my self-interest, extensively, wholly, where self-interest lies. And inwardly, psychologically, can one live without any kind of muttering of self-interest, of the self, the 'me', which is the essence of self-interest? Another can't explain, or say this is self-interest, this is not self-interest, that would be terrible. But one can find out for oneself either very carefully enquiring step by step, hesitantly, not coming to any conclusion and find out for oneself. Because there is nobody who is going to help us. I think this we must be completely assured of: nobody is going to help us. They may pretend and you may pretend, but the actuality is after these two and half million years or forty thousand years, we are still seeking help, and we are stuck. We are coming to the end of our tether.
And in the enquiry into self-interest we have to go into the question also: what is freedom and freedom implies love, freedom does not mean irresponsibility, doing exactly what one wants, which has brought about such a mess in the world. And also what relationship is self-interest to thought? We went into the question of time the other day, and also thought, thinking. Shall we go into it briefly, what time and thought - need we? It is no good repeating it over and over again, it gets rather monotonous, for the speaker at least. So he has to vary the words, the special phrasing, the silence between the phrases, all that is implied not to be bored for the speaker. But if you merely listen to words, words, words, and not act then we will be left only with ashes.
Time, as we said, is part of evolution, of the brain, two and a half million years. Time is also sunrise, sunset. Time also is hope - I hope, one hopes. Time also is remembrance. Time is also all the knowledge, experience that one has gathered, which is knowledge, both scientific, personal, collective, racial and so on. Time is tradition. And thought is based on knowledge, which is the outcome of experience, whether that experience be personal, collective, racial or traditional, it is still knowledge. And knowledge is always limited either in the infinite future or infinite past, because knowledge is essentially put together through experience, adding more and more and more to what already has been known. That is what the scientists are doing. That is what we are doing, adding more and more. So knowledge is always limited, always. The past, present and future. And time is a process of this accumulation called knowledge. We needed time to go to the moon, time to think it out, time to co-operate collectively and so on. So time/thought are not separate, they are one single movement. All right? Are we going together? Or it is all just words?
So time is not only the past, the present and the future, the present modifying the past and therefore the future - the future of tomorrow is what I am today. So now, that is the moment that you are sitting there as you are listening, as you are paying perhaps attention, the now contains all time. So if one really deeply, profoundly understands that then change is totally meaningless. You are what you are now. And to remain with that, not say, 'Well I hope to change it, I will become this. I am violent but I will be later non-violent.' - you understand what we are talking about? We are together in this? Don't be puzzled, it is very, very simple. It is really terribly simple if you come to look at it. I am violent today. I have been violent for the last two and a half million years, so have you. We have been violent - right? We have tried to cover it over with words, with explanations, with logical conclusions but we are still violent, killing each other, hurting each other both physically and psychologically, competitive, barbarous - right? We are violent people. All that is going on in the world - throwing bombs, the terrorists, all the horrible things that are happening to the animals, to other human beings. Don't you know all this? Right? We know all this. We are violent people. If there is no transformation now, now, at this moment, at this second, tomorrow you will still be violent - right? That is logical, reasonable. Do pay a little attention to this if you don't mind. If I am angry, hating, antagonistic now, I will be the same tomorrow - right? It is obvious. So the now contains the past, the present and the future. So any change implies a movement in time - right? I am this but I will be that. That means time, which means I have really not captured the significance of time. But if I remain with 'what is' completely, without any single movement away from that, that which I observe, hold, stay with, is me. Violence is not separate from me, I am violent. Anger is not separate from me, I am anger. Greed, envy, I am that. But we have separated it therefore there is conflict. This is all very simple, I don't have to... It is clear between us somewhat? Not, I am making it clear to you. You are making the thing clear for yourself so it is not you understand what is being said or the speaker explains what he means, or you can say, 'I don't understand you'. You are not understanding the speaker, you are understanding yourself, you are looking at yourself, if you are not too depressed, if you are not too lazy, if you are not too concerned with superficial things.
So time/thought, self-interest and in all this cycle there is no freedom, obviously. Where there is self-interest there can never be freedom. It is so obvious. So simple if you look at it. And the more simple it is, the more subtle, the more extraordinary depth it has.
We also ought to talk over together the whole acquisitive, pleasurable, gratifying process - all right? You are willing to go into all this? Don't say, 'Yep!' (laughter) It is like digging in the earth to find gold, you don't find gold scratching the earth, superficially scratching, you have to dig, you have to go down very, very deeply. Not up in the air, in the sky but you are the entire humanity, as we said the other day. So you don't have to look for another to help you, or to help you to dig, or to go into yourself, you are that, you are the whole mankind because what you think millions of others think - think, not what they think about, thinking. Thinking is common to all mankind, whether they are scientists, whether they are Buddhists or Tibetans or God knows what else. They all think. They all have pleasure, sexually, or pleasure in attachment, in possession, pleasure in achieving position, money, glory, fame and all that business. And all human beings whatever race, colour, prejudice, religion, they all go through pleasure, pain, anxiety, uncertainty and sorrow - right? So it is not your particular sorrow only, it is not your own particular pleasure, it is the pleasure of mankind - right? We have always sought pleasure, physically, psychologically, and if we do not find it there we invent something extra-territorial, little green men! Sorry to laugh about it. Pleasure in acquisition, possession, I possess you, you possess me - think it over, look at it. And that pleasure is always clouded over with fear. So pleasure, fear, self-interest, time, thought are all one movement, not separate movements - right?
And also we ought to enquire into what is suffering, why man from time beyond time has suffered. They have done everything on God's earth to escape from suffering, not only physical suffering but much more important, psychological suffering. And in spite of all religions, one particular religion worshipping death, suffering, as they do in Christianity, and other religions having other escapes, they have never - man has never, or woman has never solved this problem. They bear with it, they tolerate it, they get crippled by it, they become psychopathic, shed tears. And suffering is common to the whole lot of us in different forms. Either it becomes exaggerated, or you just shed tears and keep it to yourself and carry on. And there is always this killing of each other - right? Thousands, millions upon millions have shed tears, the brutality of it all, the insanity of war, building armaments while millions and millions starve - I don't have to go into all that. It is all very clear. One nationality fighting another nationality, another group of human beings like yourself, you may call yourself British, Indian, or other label, but you are human beings first.
So we are asking is there an end to war, end to suffering - not to war. As long as we are separate, as a family, as a community, or a clique, as a nation, religious and so on, this division is going to create always, perpetually conflict. You and me. We and they. This is our game we have been playing. First tribal, limited, now it is global. So we are asking ourselves: is there an end to sorrow? Put this question seriously to yourself. Because where there is sorrow there cannot be love. There can be sympathy, pity, tolerance, empathy but generosity, pity, sympathy is not love. Love may contain all that or have all that but the parts don't make the whole. You can collect all the sympathy, empathy, kindness, generosity, friendship but that is not love.
So is there an end to sorrow? And this requires immense, a great deal of energy to go into it, not just say, 'Well, I will think about it.' Thinking may be the factor of sorrow. My son is dead and I have got his photograph on the mantelpiece or on the piano in a silver frame, I remember. Remembrance is a process of thought. Of course. Thinking how we enjoyed the sunset together, how we walked in the forest, laughing, skipping, and he is gone. But the remembrance of him goes on. And that remembrance may be the factor of sorrow. I don't want to admit my son is dead, gone. To admit such a fact is to admit utter loneliness. And we don't want to face this fact of being utterly by oneself. And so I look for another. I rely for my happiness, satisfaction - sexually or otherwise - look to another. And I play the same game over and over again. But I have not ended sorrow, not I, the speaker, but we have not ended sorrow. Sorrow is not only self pity, self-interest, but also the loss of that which I have had, the loss, the failure to fulfil, to achieve, to gain something which I have worked for, not only physically but psychologically, inwardly. All this is implied in sorrow and much more. And we are asking of ourselves, nobody is putting this question, or demand this challenge to you but you are asking this of yourself, whether sorrow can end. Not only the sorrow of oneself, where it is there in oneself but also the sorrow of mankind, of which you are. That means no killing of another, no psychologically wounding another. Yes sirs! As we said, where there is sorrow there cannot be love, which is a fact.
So we ought to enquire or look - not enquire, but look - what is love. That word has been so used, so spat upon, dirtied and made ugly. 'I love my country', 'I love my god', 'I am devoted, I pray for love.' - right? 'I am not loved but I want to be loved' - the love poems. Is love sensation? Please ask yourself all these questions. Is love a continuation and remembrance of pleasure? Is love desire? You know what desire is? May I go into it briefly? What is desire, by which you are driven and riven, torn apart, what is that thing called desire? Not to suppress it, not to transmute it or do something with it, but what is the movement of desire, how does it come about? Are you putting these questions to yourself or do you want the speaker to explain? For God's sake! Let's go into it.
We live by sensation, whether physical sensation or psychological sensation. Sensation is part of response, part of comparison and so on, sensation, I sense, feel, I sense the atmosphere, good or bad. Sensation - right? That sensation comes about through seeing, touching, hearing and then what happens after sensation? Oh come on sirs! Thought comes in and uses that sensation as an image - right? I see a nice house, or a garden, or a nice picture, or furniture, or a nice woman and there is sensation, the seeing, the observing. The observing, contact, then sensation comes. Unless there is sensation we are paralysed, as most of us are! We are paralysed if we don't have sensation, in our legs, in our hands, all the rest of it. So sensation, then what happens? Thought takes sensation and makes that into an image - right? I see you beautifully dressed, clean, healthy, bright, good, a good brain and all the rest of that. I see that, the way you talk, the way you do this and that and so on. Then thought says, I wish I were like him, or her. At that moment desire is born - right? Sensation, then desire - then thought giving shape to that sensation. And if there is an interval between sensation and thought then you can go into it much more, but not now. You understand? Are we somewhat together in this? You see sirs, our difficulty is, we are so complex in our thinking, so want to find out, always looking, looking, looking, finding an answer to problems, solutions and: 'how am I to do this'. We are never simple. Not physically, for God's sake, don't reduce it to having some food, or little clothes or food or eating one meal and all that. What is that kind of food that's called I have forgotten the name of it, you know, from Japan, what is the name of it?
K: Macrobiotic, that's it. Go crazy on that. (Laughter) As one goes crazy about Yoga and all the rest of it, T'ai Chi, you know, we play. We are not playing. This isn't a fantasy. This is something you are hooked in. This is our life, our everyday lonely, ugly, little life.
So what is love? Can love exist where there is hate and fear, where there is competition and comparison, where there is conformity, agreeing or disagreeing? Go into all this, sir. Or is love nothing to do with all this? Is love something in the brain, inside the skull? Or is it something entirely beyond thought and time? And where there is self-interest there cannot be love. Obviously sir, you can see all this for yourself. Then what relationship has love to sorrow? And can love be compassion, not only I love you, you love me. Love is not yours or mine, it is love. Right? I may be married, have children, sex and all the rest of it. In all that there may be tenderness, generosity, politeness, kindliness, yielding, tolerating, all that is not love. So compassion and love are not separate, they are one. And can one live like that? You understand? Can one have this in one's life, not in abstract moments, or in moments when you are sitting by yourself on the sofa, or walking in the woods: a flash, a scent, a perfume, that seems for a second to transform your whole existence. Can we live our daily life with that perfume? For that compassion has its own intelligence, not the compassion of a man going out to India or to Africa and do some missionary work, or helping the poor desperate poor, that is not love. Where there is love there is absolute freedom, not to do what you like, not to assert yourself or convert others. All that kind of silly stuff!
So that intelligence is not the intelligence of thought - right? One needs a great deal of intelligence, a tremendous lot of intelligence to go to the moon, or to put a submarine together, to build a computer - right? That is partial intelligence. The scientist, the painter, the poet, the ordinary person who bakes a bread, that is part intelligence, it is not complete intelligence. And that holistic intelligence, the whole quality of that intelligence can only come about with the ending of sorrow, and love, and that acts, not the action which is partial brought about by thought and time.
May we get up? Or shall we sit still? We can't hold hands but we can sit quietly for a few minutes. Shall we?
K: Good. Not meditate. (laughter) Sit quietly. (Long pause) Will you kindly get up? Then the speaker will get up.