The shallowness of a life without passion
Where there is total attention there is no self
3rd Public Talk, Madras
January 05, 1985
This is far better, to sit under the trees and talk about serious things with a group of people who are equally interested in things that we are talking about.
May we go on from where we left off the other day - yesterday. There is nearly a full moon. I wonder if one notices all these things: the full moon and the sunset, the richness of a cloud and the beauty of a wave coming ashore, and all the sound, the noise of the world. Probably we don't. We are too occupied with our own problems, or chattering, or too concerned with the things of the world, or too concerned with the other things of the world. And I think we should continue with what we were talking about yesterday evening, if we may. We were talking about conflict, problems and fear. One wonders if one realises how important it is, how essential, how conflict damages the brain. Our brains are damaged by conflict, by not understanding the facts of living, by all kinds of superstitions, ideologies and the conflict of duality. So, may we go into that subject.
Is it possible to have a brain - because we live by the brain, the brain is the centre of all our responses and reactions. The speaker is not a specialist with regard to the brain. But one can observe one's own brain and its activity. The brain is the centre of action, reaction, all the movement of thought, feelings, responses of nerves. It is the centre of our consciousness, our fears, our anxieties, our sorrow, our longing for something different from what actually is. This constant occupation, never a moment when the brain is quiet, this conflict in any form does damage to the brain. And the brain is the centre of our consciousness. Right? That is so, it is not a theory, which the speaker is putting forward. It is the centre of all our action, of all our feelings, our imagination, our sentimentality, whether it is romantic and so on. This brain contains, or has within it, consciousness. Our consciousness is what we have made of it. Right?
May one again remind you, that we are talking things over together as two friends walking down a lane with many shadows and dappled light, sitting on a bench and talking about all this. They are friends, therefore they are not arguing, or trying to convince each other of something or other - friends never do. There is no argument, or acceptance or denial, agreeing or disagreeing. And so we, the speaker and you, are together thinking, not just listening. Listening is of great importance, how to listen. Listening not only with the hearing of the ear, but also listening to the meaning, to the significance, to the depth of a word. And when you listen so deeply you are not translating what is being said according to your own terminology, or translating it or comparing what is being said, to what you already know; you are actually listening so that you capture the significance, the depth of what is being said. Which means you are listening not only to the speaker, but also much more to yourself: watching your own reactions, how you listen, whether you are really listening, or translating what you are listening to according to your own fancy, imagination, or according to your own particular experience and knowledge. All that prevents actually listening.
If you are listening to great music and if you are comparing it with another great musician, you are not actually listening to that particular music. So, similarly if one is actually listening with one's heart - that doesn't mean sentimentality, it doesn't mean some kind of emotional chaos - but actually listening. And as two friends are listening to each other, in that quality of listening they are asking each other: is it possible for a brain which is the centre of our life, not to be wounded, not to have any scratch? And that demands that we enquire into the nature of conflict; why human beings from the beginning of time, a million years more or less, have lived with conflict, as we all live in conflict. There is no doubt about that, it is a fact. And we are asking why do human beings put up with conflict? Not only external conflict as war, as competition with another, as imitation, conformity and all the pressures, political pressure, newspaper pressures, the family pressure and so on, these pressures also damage the brain. It's a fact. Anything that is under pressure must inevitably either escape from the pressure, and that escape becomes a means of conflict; or, we are being programmed all the time: propaganda of newspapers, magazines and so on. All these activities obviously bring about conflict.
Now, can the brain be free of all conflict? This is a very serious question. Conflict breeds antagonism, conflict breeds self-centredness, it is the nature of selfishness. And we human beings are terribly selfish, self-interested and that breeds conflict. When each one of us is concerned with ourselves, our own fulfilment, our own ambitions and so on, that breeds, that builds up slowly various forms of contradiction, conflict, ultimately war. All these are obvious facts. And we are asking whether it is possible for the brain to be completely healthy, rational, sane, logical? Because, it's only then that you can function tremendously and fully. Is it possible to live a life in the modern world without conflict? You might say that it's impossible; if you are not competitive, if you are not aggressive, if you are not becoming number one - numero uno as it's called in Europe - that means number one. If you are doing that you must inevitably live in conflict and you say to yourself, I can't do that; I have to compete in my business, I have to compete in my examinations and so on. We are nurtured, trained to compete which becomes aggressiveness. You must be aggressive in business, otherwise you don't get business and so on and so on, so on. Do we understand all this verbally, because we are both speaking English? Do we understand this verbally, which becomes then an idea, a concept, a theory, or do you see the fact of it? Do you understand my question? There is a vast difference between fact and idea of the fact. The idea of the fact, and fact itself. Right? The idea is the gramophone, sorry the microphone - but the idea is not the actual instrument in front of the speaker. So there is a fact and the idea of the fact. Do you understand this?
Now, which is it we are caught in - the idea, the concept, the conclusion, the description or the fact itself? Which is that we live in conflict. And this conflict is brought about basically, fundamentally, by self-interest. And then you will say, if there is no self-interest how can one live in this modern world? That is a very common question, and it's a rather silly question. Sorry, if I may use that word. Have you ever tried, or lived a life without self-interest? If you have, then you will have quite a different activity in life. Because we haven't done it, we say it is impossible. If you have to climb a mountain, and you have to climb that mountain, you don't begin by saying it is impossible. You go up it, with your capacity, with your energy and drive. And if you want to find out whether it is possible to live in this world without conflict, you have to do it, find out. That is, can you live without self-interest?
And all the politicians in the world are concerned with themselves, and with power, and their position, which is political self-interest. And the world is that. Can we live that way, can you live without self-interest? So that self-interest breeds continuously conflict, and so our brains get damaged, wounded. And, as we grow older the brain becomes more and more dull, more and more superstitious, repetitive and is willing to obey any tradition, any system of philosophy and religion and so on. So that is a very serious question. Because there is a possibility of having a brain that is never damaged, then that brain has immense capacity, not in the technological world - it may have also - but much more in the world of the psyche, in the world of non-self. You know, the technological journey is always limited, because there is more and more and more to be added. Therefore it is always limited. Whereas the journey that one takes psychologically, inwardly is infinite; it has no end, it is really a world totally different. This is not a theory. Don't go back to your books and say, yes, this is what they have said, and you are only putting it in modern words. But if my friend and I are sitting on that bench in the lane and if that friend says, 'Really I want to find out, this is rather an interesting idea'. Idea first, he doesn't know anything else, but he listens to it, sees the significance of it, the beauty of it, the depth of it and he says, 'I capture what you mean. I don't know if I can ever do it because it demands a great deal of awareness, a great deal of attention, a great deal of watching, watching, watching. But, I am going to see if it is possible.' And as you are that friend sitting on that bench with the speaker, you are saying to yourself - if you are at all serious, not flippant and just curious to attend these silly meetings - you are also, saying, I will see the significance of it, and I'll pursue it. So, if one sees the significance and the reality of it and the beauty of it, then there is immensity beyond the self.
Talking of beauty - may I go into that a little bit? Are you interested in beauty? Are you? What do you mean by beauty? The beauty of a tree, beauty of a painting, a lovely statue, a great poem, the beauty of a sunset, the beauty of a person, a lovely face, with depth behind that face, not just the cinema stars. I don't know why they are called stars! (laughter) The real stars are immense, they have an extraordinary sense of vastness, a light of their own, undiminished, perpetual. So what is beauty? Does beauty lie in a picture, in a painting, in a museum or if you are rich enough to be a multi-millionaire to buy one of the old masters' paintings or one of the paintings of Van Gogh. I won't go into all that. Does beauty lie in a picture? Does beauty lie in that tree, in that moon just rising, with clarity, without a single cloud round it? What is beauty to you? Or you have never even thought about it? Or is it that we have become so insensitive we never look, we are willing to cut down every tree for profit and reduce the land to desert - which is happening. All the squalor in a street. What is beauty? Because if we don't understand or have that quality of beauty - because beauty is truth, without beauty there is no truth - and if there is no beauty in your heart you will never have truth, you will never come upon that marvellous word and the depth of that word. Not the beauty of a dress, or the colours of a marvellous sari or gown. But what is beauty? If you ask it seriously, not what the poets say, not the books that have been written about beauty, or read one of the great poems and feel exalted, and emotionally responding to it, and say what a beautiful thing that is! Is that beauty? Is the word 'beauty' merely a word? May we go into it a little bit?
I wonder. One wonders why in this country that word 'beauty' is lost. Is it sensory responses of seeing a beautiful person and merely getting excited sexually, or because he is important in the world and earns a lot of money - a cinema person. I don't like to call them stars because politically they have become important. Another country has made a President of an actor, and so you are also encouraging this, inane actors who are just a face and a body, with very little behind it. So, to enquire into beauty, if you really want to go into it, one must understand or grasp, not intellectually, why human beings are absorbed by something: absorbed by your puja - right? - absorbed in your prayers. Please, pay attention, this is related to beauty. Please, don't throw it out, listen to it. Human beings want to be absorbed in something or other: in a nation, in politics, or absorbed in their business. You know what it means to be absorbed: to give all your energy, absorbed by something external, or you have something inward, as an idea, as an ideal and you are absorbed by it. Have you ever asked, why human beings want to be absorbed? Have you ever noticed a child who has been naughty all day long - which they should be, fortunately - give him a toy and he gets completely absorbed in it. You have children, haven't you? No? And have you watched a child who has been naughty and given him an intricate toy and all his naughtiness stops, and the toy absorbs him. Right? So till he breaks it, he is completely absorbed by it, quiet, concentrating, loving it. Right? You have children, haven't you? What? For God's sake! Haven't you noticed this? And also grown-up people similarly are absorbed by toys: the toy of meditation, the toy of god. And god becomes most extraordinarily intricate; different gods, you do puja, you are absorbed by it. What takes place when you are absorbed that way. Do you understand? When a child is absorbed by a toy, what happens to the child? He becomes quiet. Right? He becomes completely involved with that toy. He is absorbed by a story. And we human beings are also like that. And when you are absorbed what takes place? All your naughtiness stops. Right? When you are doing your puja, ringing a bell and going to the church and all the rest of it, what happens? For the moment, or for ten minutes, or twenty minutes, for an hour or whatever time it takes, the puja or the ritual has absorbed you, you are quiet.
Now when you look at a mountain - if you have looked at a mountain with its vastness, immense majesty, immovable, so enormous, snow-capped against the blue sky - for a second or two, that multi-spectacle drives the self away. Haven't you noticed this? Then what takes place? The grandeur, the immensity and the extraordinary beauty of a great mountain gives you a momentary shock and the self is not, at that moment. Right? Is this right? Haven't you noticed this? And you are so spell-bound by that moment. And so you become silent for a second. That is, the toy of the mountain has absorbed you. So can you be free of the self without being absorbed by anything? Do you understand my question? Because when the self is not, beauty is. Do you understand all this? Do you know how important this is? Because we have no beauty in our life, we are becoming more and more vulgar, noisy and we have never even thought about this question. We are all too religious to think about beauty. And it is related to a woman or a man - it might absorb your senses, therefore be careful. If you understand the nature of beauty then you can live in this world so completely, so holistically because beauty is not that which is ugly. Beauty has no relationship to the ugly. Have you wandered through Madras, as we did last night? Have you seen those buildings, how ugly they are? We live with all this, we live with ugliness, and we get used to ugliness. We have got used to the squalor of the streets, and we don't even bother, it is happening all the time. So we lose the quality of sensitivity; and sensitivity is essential, otherwise you can't feel, you can't look. If you are not sensitive to that moon, to look at it for some time without thought, just to look at it. See the beauty of that light on the river, or a sheet of water. That demands sensitivity.
That brings up a question - are you getting bored with all this? Why not? - have you beauty in your life? You are silent. Talking about sensitivity brings up another question. Do you want to go on like this, shall I go on like this or would you like to talk about something else? Would you like to talk about pleasure? I am sure - one is sure that you are seeking pleasure. All human beings are seeking pleasure, not only sexual pleasure with its repetitive, imaginative pictures and so on and so on, but also the pleasure of power, whether that power be over your wife or your husband or the power of a politician round the corner for whom you have voted. It is your pleasure to have that man - whether he is capable or incapable doesn't matter - to put him in that place is your pleasure. And it is your pleasure to possess something: possess money, a good house - a good house, you understand, a beautiful house, well proportioned - if you are rich - with a good garden and lovely flowers, that is a great pleasure. And the pleasure of achievement and the fear of failure. And pleasure is based on the principle of reward and punishment. Is that right? Shall we talk about that because that is what we all want? The ultimate pleasure is god. And therefore god is both punishment and reward; and this god is invented by our thought. And as we said yesterday where there is fear, there is god, there are many gods or one god and if there is no fear at all, psychologically, inwardly, then there is no outside agency, but a door is open to eternity. Should we talk about all that, some theory, or shall we talk about sorrow or talk about something much closer, though we do have sorrow, each one of us, or have had sorrow, but we will come to that presently, if there is time.
We ought to talk over together as two friends. This is not a lecture, this is not something to inform you, or to instruct you. But this is a dialogue between you and the speaker. And the speaker would like to raise a question: whether we are only functioning with one or two senses, or whether we are functioning with all our senses? Do you understand my question?
Probably being religious people - which I doubt - at least we think we are religious by going to the temple and all that business, and leading shoddy, conflicting, brutal lives. Religions have said, suppress your senses, because they are a distraction. Don't look at a woman or a man and don't look at a beautiful sunset or the stream that is singing by the side of a road. Don't listen to all that. And so we are gradually killing our senses. When you hear noise day after day, day after day, day after day, noise from the other houses, you get used to it, you get dull to that noise. So gradually we are destroying our senses. Right? And we are asking, when you destroy your senses: the touch, the feel, the quality of a sense, the brain becomes dull too, and is it possible - I am just putting this question to my friend sitting on the bench in the shadow of a tree - can all your senses awaken and function together as a whole? Have you ever tried it? Then you will find when all your senses are active, not sexual senses only, but all your senses: the seeing, the hearing, the touching, the emotion, the thought, all your senses - because thought is a material process. When all your senses are at their highest excellency, the self is not. It is only when there is partial, dull operation of one or two senses, then the self builds up. I say to my friend, listen to it, find out the truth of it and if you don't listen, don't bother.
We talked about pleasure and all the implications of pleasure, essentially based on reward and punishment. To avoid punishment - you understand? - not physical punishment, but the sense of being, losing, the sense of not having. The having is a reward and the losing is the pain. So we live our daily life on this principle: reward and punishment. You reward a dog to obey you, and gradually train him to obey you, and he jolly well obeys you, comes to heel - if you have a dog. Have you a dog? No. So our life is based on reward and punishment. And in that is involved fear, pain and pleasure. We live that way: I will be good, that is the reward; and being not good is the pain, the punishment. So, if one understands the principle, reward and punishment, and whether one can be free of that principle, then life is entirely different.
Let's talk about something else, shall we? We have talked about beauty, and that is an immense thing, not in books, in poems. But you have the beauty that is without absorption, without a sense of ugliness. We ought to talk over together a very complex problem of suffering. Is that all right? Can we go into that? Why have human beings from time immemorial suffered? And they have never solved that problem, they have never ended suffering. After thousands and thousands of years we human beings in the modern world suffer; suffer not having a child, suffer of not being able to fulfil, suffer when one is not loved, suffer in our loneliness. Are you all lonely? Are you lonely ever? Are you really? Suffer when we are lonely, suffer when we don't get rich, recognised, popular. Those are all very superficial sufferings: wanting to be a great man and not being capable of being a great man, wanting to manage something, not being able to manage. There are various forms, like fear, of sorrow: the sorrow of death of someone with whom you have lived intimately. This sorrow of death we all know, every human being on this earth, unfortunately, knows the sorrow of death. And in spite of all the comforts of reincarnation, in spite of all the religious activity and their superstitions, sorrow is never-ending.
Sorrow is not only your sorrow, your personal sorrow, but there is the sorrow of the world. The sorrow of those people who have been killed in the war, maimed, blinded, no arms and no legs, just the body, torso, and their relatives; how many mothers have cried, sisters, wives, lovers and so on. Don't you know all this? Or are you only concerned with your own sorrow? If we are honest, we say, sorry, I am only concerned with my own sorrow. I recognise the sorrow of others: those people who are dying in Beirut, Nicaragua, San Salvador and Vietnam. They are so far away, it doesn't touch us. So there is personal sorrow and the sorrow of the world. It is still sorrow. Your sorrow is like the sorrow of another. It is one's sorrow when one loses one's son, wife, husband. And what a lot of fuss we make about it, weeping, crying, wanting comfort! And there is all the sorrow of thousands, millions of human beings, who are suffering also, like you. And this sorrow, like fear, like pleasure, is common to mankind. It is the sorrow of humanity and that sorrow has never ended. Probably it will never end, because we have made the world so monstrous. This society which we have built, society doesn't exist by itself, we have built it through our fear, through our greed, through our selfishness and our monstrous activity. This society is corrupt beyond words, we have made it, because we are corrupt. And this corruption is self-interest primarily. And so society is not going to help us; religions have not helped mankind, they have not prevented wars. Though you talk endlessly of non-violence, peace in the world - I must have peace of my mind, you know all that nonsense.
There is sorrow in the world and can that sorrow end? Perhaps you have never even asked that question. We suffer and put up with suffering, take comfort in some religion, or some doctrine, or some belief. It is a strange fact, isn't it: if one loses one's wife or son or a relative, we carry that pain all our life. Don't you? I have the photo of my son on the desk, I weep quietly to myself. Or I weep publicly, which is with my friends. We never say, that is the end of it. I'll never carry the memory of pain. It is not brutal, put away the pain of loss in two or three days, not through years. Which doesn't mean that there is callousness - on the contrary. This everlasting talk about one's own son, or husband having died, you keep that up. It is a form of entertainment, gossip. I am sorry, if I've put it brutally.
So, we are asking, whether sorrow can end. Not this sorrow of the world, because there are going to be wars, because human beings are violent; they cry, their own son killed in a war. But your son is quite safe. So society which we have built, which each one of us has contributed to this society, to the political world, to the world of nationalities, with their divisions, that will go on because a vast number of human beings want all that, voting for someone. So you will say, if I end my sorrow, if that's possible, what effect has that on the rest of the world? It's like asking, if I free myself from all the trivialities of life, all the pain and the anxiety and the loneliness, and the sorrow of my life - I want to cry for you. All this is to you, meaningless. You will ask yourself, why? Free myself from sorrow, how will it affect the world? Will the world change, because I have changed? That is a wrong question because when you ask such a question you are finding an excuse not to change. That becomes an easy way out from your own change. And you say, well, it doesn't matter if I change or not because we are all like that and I must live in this world, so, I will listen to you, sounds good but I will carry on in my own way. So asking a question, if I change will the world change, that' a totally wrong question. Then you are looking for reward and punishment. If you radically change, you will find out whether it has an effect on the world or not. Hitler with his madness has changed the world. Napoleon and all the great heroes of war, heroes of murders, have changed the world. So has the Buddha and so on. They were individual, they were separate. They said, this is what I want to do, and did it, brutally or...
So if you really end sorrow, not verbally but actually be free of sorrow, then there is a passion which consumes you for the rest of your life. So it is important to understand whether it is possible to end sorrow: your sorrow, one's sorrow. Is sorrow self-pity? Please examine what the speaker is saying. The speaker is telling his friend sitting on the bench and he is talking about sorrow, and the speaker asks him, K asks him, have you ever asked the question whether you can end sorrow, your sorrow? He says, I have never even thought of such a question, because all my life I have lived with sorrow. And when you put that question, whether you can end sorrow, I really don't know. I don't know what to do with it. I have tried ten different ways and I still go on suffering. And K is asking him, have you ever asked the question whether sorrow can ever end. He said, no, I have never asked it. And K says, now ask it. How you ask it is important: whether you are asking it casually, or asking it as an escape, or are you seeking comfort with the ending of sorrow, or are you putting the question free from reward and punishment? Ending sorrow, not saying to yourself, if I end this, I will get that. If I end sorrow, I will have peace, I will have happiness, I will have joy. That is mere exchange, it is not the ending of sorrow. So, K asks the friend, is it self-interest, self-pity? When you suffer, is it self-pity? He says, partly, yes. Is it the loss of someone who has given you comfort, who has given you pleasure sexually, or different forms of pleasure? He says, yes, partly. Is it that you find yourself lonely because you have leant on that person, been with that person for years, got used to her or him, or it - it may be furniture, which you have cherished, polished, an old piece, 13th century furniture and then you get attached to it, and when that is taken away, you get upset. Is it that kind of suffering you have - you have treated her or him like a piece of furniture, got used to him? You understand? Put all these questions. Don't just go to sleep.
The friend says, yes, all these are parts of this. Primarily I am lonely. Aren't you lonely? And what is loneliness? I am attached to you as an audience. And the speaker, if he is attached to an audience small or big, when the audience disappears he is going to be lonely, he is going to lose his fame, his notoriety; you are going to loose the image you have built about him. Right? That's right. So, similarly when you are attached to something, which is another form of self-interest, attached to a person, to an idea, to a concept, to a symbol, to a myth, then when that attachment is torn away from you, you become lonely, depressed, anxious, nervous, you break down. So, K is telling his friend, when you know all this, which is part of suffering, which is the essence of suffering - suffering is not separate from you, as though you were suffering and suffering was something different. You are the entity that is suffering, 'you' are suffering. Do you understand the difference? Not that I am suffering, the 'I' is suffering. Do you understand? Like anger, envy, is not different from you, you are envy, you are anger, you are violent, and you may say I am trying to be non-violent. That too is you, you are not different from the qualities, from the expression, but you are that. So suffering is not separate from you. So K says to his friend, the first thing when you suffer don't escape from it, don't seek comfort in any form. And my friend says that's much too difficult, not to seek some comfort, some consolation, some way to relieve myself from the ache and the pain. Then you are escaping from the fact, and we have cultivated a thousand escapes, it is part of our life.
So K says to his friend who is you, he says, don't escape. That is the first thing to realise. If you escape to something, then that something also you will lose, and you will begin again. Do you understand? So don't ever escape. See the fact, the truth of it, the implications of escaping. Then if you don't escape, don't try to find out the cause of suffering, because that again is a process of analysis - right? - which is the operation of thought, time: don't do any of that. But, K says to his friend, which is you, remain with sorrow. As you want to remain with pleasure - don't you? - so remain with sorrow, don't ever move from sorrow. That is, don't let thought interfere with that thing you call sorrow. Sorrow is a great shock, not only to the physical organism, but also a great shock to the psyche. And to remain with that shock, never trying to transcend it, all that will be the activity of thought. Do you understand? It is like having a marvellous jewel in your hand, the more you look at it, the more the beauty of that jewel is revealed. Similarly if you look, if you hold sorrow, never move away from it, then you will see how immense it is, not just sorrow, the pain, and the anxiety, but in that observation of sorrow, passion comes. Not the passion of lust, and all that, but passion. Do you know what passion is? No, you don't. Because without passion you cannot create anything, you cannot love without passion. Don't translate it into sexual passion, lust. Passion is important, without passion life becomes shallow, and therefore that which is shallow has no beauty, no love, no passion.
I am sorry if I have kept you.