Thought limits our lives
Can the human condition change radically?
1st Public Talk, Bombay
January 23, 1982
We are going to talk over together the condition of man. It's not only in this country but all over the world, man is conditioned according to his culture, according to his language, according to his religion. And also he is conditioned economically, socially and by his parents and so on. Man throughout the world is conditioned and generation after generation man apparently has not changed at all. There has been slight modification, slight change but generally speaking, man - it includes the woman naturally - throughout the millennia he has evolved. That is time, circumstances and culture has shaped the mind of man. That's your mind. And we are going to talk over together whether that conditioning, the human condition, can ever be changed, can ever be transformed or must it always go on century after century what it has been - his condition of sorrow, of pain, anxiety, loneliness, despair and the search for a religious mind, a search for something that's beyond all conditioning. This has been the lot of man. And we, during these six talks here, we are going to talk over together, converse together, have a dialogue together, whether it is possible for the human condition to change radically, fundamentally. That's what we are going to go into throughout these six talks, if you care to attend them.
There are those who say that human condition can never be changed. They can be modified, they can be altered here and there, do a little patch- work, but they maintain, and they are very so-called highly intellectual, sophisticated people, they say that the human condition can never be changed. It has always been what it has been and only partially modified. That is their assertion, that's their investigation, both psychologically, socially, and in other ways. They have stated that the human mind, the human condition, the sorrow, the pain, the anxiety, the agony, the constant, endless conflict, can never radically bring about a change. That's their statement. And we are questioning, doubting, being sceptical, whether those statements that the human mind can never be changed - we are questioning that. And we are going to investigate together whether it is possible, not superficially, not at the periphery but basically, fundamentally, whether the human mind, which has brought about a great deal of happiness, technologically and a great deal of misery in the world - whether that condition of man can ever be changed? We are going to investigate into that.
If one may point out, this is not a lecture as it is generally understood, where the speaker puts out some ideas with which you agree or disagree, some statements with which you can argue about. This is not a lecture of that kind. That is, the speaker puts forward a lot of ideas, concepts and conclusions, and you, the audience, merely listen. That is, hear with one ear and let it go through the other. Here we are going together to investigate. Therefore this is not a lecture. Please understand this very clearly, this is not a lecture as it is generally understood. But we are going to face together the innumerable problems that man has. And we are going to look at it, we are going to understand the depth of it, not only the superficiality of it but the profundity of our human problems. So, though the speaker is describing, examining, putting into words, what the condition of man is, you, as the audience, and I wish there weren't so many, if there were a few, we could talk together more easily, but you, as an audience who are the listener, must share, not only share but communicate with what is being said so completely that you yourself are examining, you yourself are investigating, comprehending, changing radically. So please, if one may again point out, this is not a lecture and the speaker is not doing any kind of propaganda for any belief, for any ideals, for any conclusions or for any systems - sociologically or religiously. We are together, freely, understand, not only verbally but in our hearts and mind the state of man, that is your state, what is happening to man throughout the world?
So please, we are sharing together, partaking together in the investigative process. It is a process, it's a thing you have to understand step by step, not according to the speaker but you are examining your own conditioning, your own condition, your own sorrow, your own pain, uncertainty, insecurity, the terrible world we live in. We are together sharing by observing critically, sceptically, without any conclusion what the world is. The world outside of us is created by each one of us. The society is the product of human struggle, human competition, human aggression, human struggle to achieve, to become not only economically but religiously. So please be serious, this is not a flippant talk nor is it to entertain you. The speaker doesn't want to entertain you, cinemas, the temples, they can do that. But the speaker is very serious about this matter, questioning, doubting, demanding, so that each one of us can find out the truth for oneself, not dependent on anybody.
So, if that's very clear from the very beginning, let us proceed together to examine the human consciousness, the human state of mind, his condition. The crisis is not political, the crisis is not economical nor is it spiritual, so-called religious. The crisis is in our consciousness. Our consciousness is what you think, what you feel, what you act, how you behave, your beliefs, the whole complexity of human existence. So we are not doing any kind of propaganda. We are not trying to point out a way to do - how to resolve our problems. But if we could together, step by step, examine the exact position, exactly what is happening, not only in the world but also in ourselves, then perhaps we can communicate with each other more deeply, more clearly. So please, this is a serious gathering, it is not an entertainment, intellectual or emotional but needs a mind that is clearly observing, questioning, so that your own mind, your own perception, sees what is happening out there in the world and what is happening inwardly to you.
So, first of all that which is happening out there in the world and that which is happening inwardly are not two different movements. It is like the tide going out and the tide coming in but we have divided the world as something outside of us and a life which is inward. I hope you are all understanding all this. It is one unitary movement, going out there and the tide coming in. It is constant interrelationship between the world outside of you and the world inside. To bring about a radical, social, economic, political change in the world, you must understand what is happening inside, in yourself, because you are creating the world. Your society you have created and you are responsible for that society. And if you do not put order in your own self, inside your self, inside your house, which is your consciousness, then you'll create a world that is destructive as it is now, malignant, dangerous, preparing for wars, for destruction. So it becomes very important that we understand very deeply, not only what is happening out there in the world but also what is happening to all of us, each one of us as a human being - why we suffer, why we are in conflict, why we human beings are always struggling, struggling.
So, first let us look around us, at the world. All over the world there is a decline, there is degeneracy taking place - all over the world. There is no freedom - freedom in the sense, freedom from sorrow, freedom from pain, freedom from loneliness. There are governments that are controlling human minds, trying to shape them through their ideology, which is the communist world, the totalitarian world. In that world there is no freedom, if you go against the government, you are sent off to Siberia or one of the psychological hospitals and so on. The rest of the world there is freedom, somewhat. And there is conflict between nations economically, socially, religiously, the Catholics against the Protestants, the Hindus against the Muslims, the Muslims against somebody else and so on. This constant battle is going on. Not only physical battle, like in Beirut and other parts of the world but the conflict in our relationship with each other. One is aware of all this, this is not something new the speaker is pointing out. This is actually what is going on. There is national division, which is tribal division glorified as nation, there is division racially - the Arab and the Jew and the Hindu and so on. There is division between religions. There is division between gurus. There is division between gods. There is division between man and woman. So wherever there is division there must be inevitably conflict. That's a law. No politician is concerned with the global interrelationship, which is the only way to survive.
So, politics are not going to solve this, human problems. Governments are becoming more and more corrupt, inefficient, nor can you rely on any leader. This country has had many, many leaders - religious, political, neurotic and rather limited minds - you have had leaders. They haven't helped you actually, that is, to bring about a radical transformation in the structure of the mind, in consciousness. No guru, no leader, you have had them all and where are you at the end of it, at the end of many, many centuries? You have sacred books, I don't know why they are called sacred, but they are books and you have relied on them as a guide. Right? And at the end of millennia you are exactly where you were when you started. So, the world out there with the politicians, religious leaders, economic strategists, and the accumulation of war material, each country spending millions and millions to destroy each other, and nobody is standing up against it saying that is all wrong. We all want to lead a comfortable, easy life. So, that world outside of us we have created it, through our greed, through our vanity, through our aggression, competition, through our cowardice, we have created that world, we are responsible for that world. Not the politicians, they are like us - crooked, double talk, like we do. So you can't rely anymore on politicians, leaders, gurus or books. That's the world.
And when you examine yourself what you are, what are you? Sad human beings, seeking security, uncertain, confused, miserable, lonely, having certain capacities, either technologically or artistically or some other form of skill. This is what we are, each one of us.
And so what we are, the world is. Please understand this, because we are facing a great crisis. The crisis is not out there, it's the crisis in our minds and in our hearts, in our consciousness. If we don't examine them carefully, understand their nature, the structure of our minds and hearts, we will slowly degenerate, as we are doing now, all over the world. So, we are responsible for what we do, nobody else. You can't put it on a God or on circumstances or saying past life. You are responsible because the world is created by you. The world outside, not the universe. And the Gods that you have, your thoughts have made the Gods. The Gods haven't made you. Right? Please understand all this. You have made in this country three hundred thousand gods or more, as they have done in the other parts of the world. Gods which have been created by man, by thought, the rituals, the pujas, all the ceremonials are created by thought, by you. You want to escape from this world into a fanciful world, which is the world of puja, football, rushing off to temples or mosques or churches, it is the same thing, a vast entertainment. Right? We are not criticizing, we are just pointing out to you. We are examining together, not agreeing together nor opposing each other but looking at actually what's going on. And most of us do not want to face things as they are, we'd rather escape from them, turn our eyes away from them, because we haven't got the integrity to stand and look.
So, during these six talks we are going to do it together, to observe actually what is happening in our consciousness, in our minds, in our hearts, the way we think, the way we act, how selfcentred we are, how utterly callous we are becoming. And together we are going to examine first why human beings have become what we are - you understand my question? - what we are, actually; what has made us what we are? In asking that question we always want a cause. Please understand this, give your attention to this, because it is rather difficult. I'm going into something which you will have to pay attention, if you want to.
We are asking why human beings have become what they are, greedy, envious, quarrelsome, lonely, sexual, seeking pleasure, frightened, sorrow, that is what you are. And we are asking why? What has made us become like this? Now, when you ask a question 'why', you want to find a cause. Right? Whatever has a cause must have an end. Right? Please understand this. If I have pain there is a cause for that pain physically, I have either some disease or some incurable disease. There is always a cause and an effect. Now, when we are asking, what is the cause, the reason why human beings, highly educated, sophisticated, capable of thinking, why they have become like this: degenerate, dishonest, corrupt, schizophrenic, that is, leading double lives, going to the temple and be a lawyer. That's a double life, a contradictory life which is schizophrenic. Why? When we ask that question - please listen carefully - when we ask that question we want a cause for it. Right? Which is, the cause is circumstances, cause is environment, cause is I have not been properly educated. We invent a lot of reasons which seem reasonable and say, these are the causes why human beings have become what they are. Right? This is not difficult to understand. Right? Now, when you are trying to find out a cause you are not looking at the fact. I wonder if you understand this.
Look, if I have a toothache, I know the cause of it. I go to the dentist, he either pulls the tooth out or does something with it. If I have pain, there is a cause for it. Now, is there a cause - please listen - is there a cause why human beings have become like this? Or human beings are always like this? Vous avez compris? I mean, you have understood? There may be no cause, because if there is a cause it can be ended. Apparently after several millennia we are more or less what we were ten thousand years ago. So, when you ask why we have become like this - please do not try to find out a cause, because that is an escape from your observation of the fact of what is happening. You understand this? I must go on.
You see, when we are analyzing, which is to seek a cause, you are moving away from what is actually happening. You get that? No? I am lonely, let's say I'm lonely, I want to find out why I am lovely? So I begin to analyze, examine, go into what loneliness is and so on. When I do that I have moved away from the fact of loneliness. You have understood? From the fact of what is actually happening. So when we look for a cause we are running away from what is happening. Have you understood? So when we ask why human beings throughout the world have become what they are - conditioned - do not try to find a cause, but stay with what is happening, that you are conditioned, your minds are corrupt and all the rest of it. Look at it, remain with it, observe it. It is a living thing. So, if one may point out, don't analyze. That's a waste of time but observe clearly what is happening.
So we are going to learn together what is observation. You understand? We have observed the world, what is happening in the world and also what is happening inwardly, in the psyche, in our consciousness. So, we are going to learn how to observe; what is the nature of observation, how the manner of looking not only optically with your eyes but also looking inwardly. We are going to see or observe, learn to observe. Are we together so far? Somewhat at least?
Do you observe, look with your eyes, the squalor in the streets? Do you observe the moon, the trees, the world around you? Or you are so concerned with your own problems, with your own troubles that you never look. Because when you look at the trees, at the stars, at your own wife and husband, your children, when you look at the squalor, the poverty, the degrading condition of this city, when you look around, you become sensitive. You understand? You become sensitive so that you can look more profoundly into yourself. That's why it is important from the very beginning to find out for yourself the manner of observation. To look at a thing, at your wife, at your husband, at your children or the stars, to look without the word. Do you understand? When you look at a tree, the word 'tree' is a distraction which prevents you looking. You have understood? Right? Is this clear? Let me put it differently. The word is not the thing. Right? The word 'wife' is not the living human entity. The word 'mountain' is not the actual mountain. The word 'door' is not the actual door. Right? So, the word is never the thing. The word is a symbol but the symbol is not reality. Right? So when you look at that thing called a tree, look at it without the word. Right? Then you look at it much more closely, much more sensitively, more accurately. But if the word interferes, then the word takes away the actual observation. Right? Bene? So, to look at the world, that which is happening in the world outside there, to look at it without any identification - right? - to look at it as a non-Hindu, non-Buddhist, non-Christian or Muslim, just to look at it. Right? Can you do that? Because if you do not do that, then you are preventing a global interrelationship which alone can solve the economic, social, the problems of poverty and so on, not governments anymore. It's a global problem. So you must have a mind that looks at the whole world, not just the Indian world or the Muslim world but whole world of humanity. Right? So, you can never be identified with any country, with any people, with any group, with any conclusion or ideologies, you must be a free person to look at this marvellous world.
So, to observe not only the world, now we are going to observer ourselves. Right? To observe, to see exactly what we are, neither get depressed by what we see or elated by what we see, not see ourselves as various imaginary people but actually what we are - right? - if you can face it. What are we? We are the past, the present and the future. We are the centre of that, the past, all the remembrance, all the experiences, the knowledge, the incidents, the pain: the past, and the present and the future, we are all that. Right? So, we are time makers. I wonder if you understand all this. We are not only the result of time but also we make time. We are slaves to time. That's a fact. So, the past, the present, which is modified by the past, and the future is borne out of the modification which is tomorrow, all that is part of what we are, we are time makers.
And also we are what we think we are. Right? If you think you are the result of past lives that's what you are. Right? If you think God created you, it's your thought that has created you. You understand all this? So thought is time - we won't go into more we'll go into it much later. So thought has put together what you are. Right? Right? Thought. Thought has said you are Christian, thought has said you are Hindu, thought has said you are Muslim or Buddhist, thought has said you are an Indian with a peculiar flag. Thought has invented everything, including technology - what you are. Right? This is very difficult to understand, so if you please go into it with me. Your consciousness, that is, what you think, what you feel, how you act, your beliefs, your dogmas, your rituals, your gods, your fears, your pleasures, all that is your consciousness. All that is what you are. Right? And all that is put together by thought. When you say, I'm an Indian, it is the result of thought. Somebody has told you, or you etc., etc. When you say, I'm a Christian, it is the result of thought. So your consciousness, its content, is put together by thought. Right? Thought has created the extraordinary technological world, the computer, the submarine, the warship, the canons, all that is the result of thought. Thought has created the marvellous churches, the temples, the mosques. Right? Thought has put in the temples, in the mosques, in the cathedrals, the symbols, which are what thought has put there. Right? So thought has created the most extraordinary, complicated, technological world, the extraordinary surgery that is going on, the medicine, the communication, the rapid transit, all are the result of thought. There's no question about it, you don't have to worry about that. And also thought has made you an Indian. Thought has said, you belong to this particular community, the Brahmins, the kshatriya, you know, all that, is the result of your thinking, which has brought about this conditioning.
So we have to examine what thought is, because if you don't understand what is thinking, you will never be able to delve deeply into that which is beyond thought. So we have to understand the nature, and the structure of thought, why thought has such extraordinary importance in our life. We have emotions but thought recognises those emotions, classifies them, good and bad, worthwhile and noble and so on. It is thought, it is operating all the time, chattering. You must know that, your mind is chatterings all the time, never still, even in meditation, whatever you call meditation. So, together we are going to examine what is thought, what is the source of thinking, how does thinking happen. Because whatever you do you think, before or after, what you do, either you've thought it out and do or do and then think it out. So thought is extraordinarily important to understand and its place. So, what is thinking? I may explain it but you follow it, examine it, look at it yourself so that it is not, I think and I tell you and then you accept it, which becomes too silly, we are grown up people. Which is, I may describe, point out, the speaker may point out what is thinking, how it comes. But don't memorise it but rather look at it, find out for yourself the origin of thinking.
First of all, we live by thought, we are directed by thought, our actions are based on thought. Thought is predominant in our lives. If you are a businessman thought is operating, if you are an engineer thought is operating. If you are a guru, I hope you are not, then thought is operating. So we must examine very closely what is thinking. When you are asked, what's your name, you reply immediately, obviously. Why? Because you have repeated your name dozens of times. So in that there is no need to think. What is your name, you say immediately, there is no necessity to think. But when you are asked a little more complex question, there is the question and the answer, in that interval between the question and the answer there is thinking going on. If I ask you, what is the distance between here and Delhi or New York, your mind begins to enquire. You've heard about it, you'll ask somebody - you follow? - there is thinking going on, which is an interval between the question and answer. In that interval you are thinking, you are asking, you are looking into books to find out the mileage. And if you are asked a question about which you know nothing, you say, I don't know, because there you don't have to think. You say, I don't know. You understand? So there are three states: the immediate reply, a time interval reply and the fact 'I don't know'. Right? The 'I don't know', there you can't you have said it. 'I don't know', there is no thinking necessary. It's only the time interval that demands your thinking. Right? Are you following all this? Somebody. (Laughs) Now, in the first case you answered without thinking, the second, you take time to find out, the third, you say, 'I don't know'. Nobody says, 'I don't know'. You understand? It is a most marvellous feeling, statement when you say, 'I really don't know'. There is great beauty in that, great vitality of a mind that says, 'I really don't know'. It's a fresh mind, not a mind crowded by knowledge, not a mind that is second-hand. It's a mind that says, 'I really don't know'. That has great integrity. So, we are going to examine together what is thinking.
Thinking is born out of memory. Right? If you had no memory you couldn't think. Memory is the accumulated knowledge of experience, either yours or human experience. Like the scientist, they have accumulated during the last five hundred years or more a great deal of knowledge, through experiments, through hypothesis, through trials. They have collected great deal of knowledge. To be a good scientist, you must have a great deal of knowledge of what other people have said, of what you have experimented, how you have tried, you have gathered it. That knowledge is stored in the brain as memory. That memory responds, if you are a scientist in one way, if you are an engineer in another way, if you are a businessman in another way. So all have accumulated knowledge. And knowledge is the result of tremendous experience. Right? Experience of millennia of human beings, what they have gone through, what their incidents, accidents, pains, suffering, all that. So knowledge, experience of all human beings and that knowledge stored in the brain as knowledge and memory, which is remembrance, and from that thinking takes place. This is a fact, you can observe it in yourself.
Now, knowledge is never complete. Right? It can never be complete, you can accumulate more and more but it is never complete. They can look through telescopes and so on into the universe but they can never understand the nature of universe, the enormity, the space, the vastness, the vitality, the immensity of it. So knowledge is always limited, is always hand in hand with ignorance. So thought is always limited. Get it? Right, sir? Because my knowledge is limited, my remembrances are limited, thought is therefore limited. And whatever thought does is limited. I invent a God, it's a limited God. I can say, God is immense, but it is the creation of thought, therefore it is limited. The rituals, the puja are all the inventions of thought, therefore it's limited. And therefore you have the Christian prayers, the Hindu - you follow? Battle is going on with this limitation. Like thought has invented the nation called the Hindu and the nation called the Arab or the Muslim. Right? Thought is responsible for all this.
So, what place has thought? If thought is all our life, then all our life is limited, which is a fact. I may go to the temple, I may pray, I may imagine immensely but my life is limited because I am caught in this book of knowledge. That book may be ten volumes but it is still limited. Right?
So, can there be a mind which is not burdened by thought, but thought has its place? You've understood this question? Look, as we said, experience, knowledge, memory, thought and action, from that action you learn more. So, come back, more knowledge, greater remembrance, thought, action. You are caught in this chain, because we are functioning on knowledge all the time. And we are seeking that which is not knowledge through knowledge. You understand? I wonder if you grasp this. Right? We are seeking as human beings something which is not knowledge, which is beyond knowledge, which is really the most profoundly sacred, not all the inventions of thought, those are not sacred. Thought is not sacred. So, we have to find out, discover for ourselves the place of knowledge. Which is, I must have knowledge of English to speak in English. If you are a Frenchman you must have a knowledge of French and so on. So, you have to find out the place of knowledge, where the knowledge is necessary. You understand? To go from here to your home knowledge is necessary, to drive a car knowledge is necessary, to write a letter, to talk to somebody knowledge is necessary and know that knowledge is limited. Then find out whether, why you accumulate psychological knowledge? You understand. I wonder if you understand all this. Are you getting tired? You should. Because you are not listening to me, you are thinking, you are watching, you are learning, not learning from the speaker, learning by observing yourself. Observing that your actions are based on knowledge, experience, knowledge and so on, and therefore your actions are always limited and therefore they always bring conflict. There is no holistic action. That is, if you are a tribal minded Hindu then you will never understand a global relationship of human beings because you are tethered to some idea that you are a Hindu.
So, you have learn to find out where knowledge is necessary and where knowledge is not necessary. I will show you in a minute, if we have time. From childhood we are hurt, we are wounded, the parents wound us by scolding us, telling us what to do, what not to do, bully us. In the school the teacher or the fellow students hurt us. In college, in university, the comparison, the comparative process is a process of hurting me - you are better than me therefore I am hurt. We are all, from childhood we are hurt. That memory of that hurt remains. Can one not be free of the feeling of being hurt altogether? That is, be free of the knowledge of being hurt. You understand? Oh, come on sirs! So that your mind is free from hurt.
So, we are saying psychological knowledge, which we will go into much more deeply later on, is totally unnecessary because that is what is making the conflict, that is the structure of the 'me' the 'I' the ego; that invents a superego, superconsciousness which is to be brought down and all that game you play. But this accumulation of psychic, psychological knowledge is the essence of what you are. So when there is freedom from hurt, which is the knowledge which you have gathered through life, that you have been hurt and hold on to that, that knowledge is totally unnecessary. Whereas the other knowledge is necessary. Right? Now, can you be free of your hurt? - if you are aware of it. Most people are not, because they have become utterly insensitive to it, they accept everything, the squalor in this, they accept everything - don't you? The poverty, the habits, the traditions, you know what it is, specially in this country you have become used to everything. You never question, you never doubt, you never ask, you never
So, hurt begins when you have an image about yourself. When you have an image that you are a great man, somebody comes along and says, don't be silly, and you get hurt. As long as you have an image about yourself, whether you are beautiful, whether you are really extraordinarily, talented, that you are better than somebody else, and so on, so on, you have built that image from childhood, either your mothers, your fathers have given you that image which you strengthen by thinking more about it and that image gets hurt. Right? So, find out whether you can live without a single image. Which is to observe yourself having images and those images get hurt and the consequences of that hurt is neurotic behaviour, frightened, more and more withdrawing, isolating yourself and so on, the consequences of that hurt. That is, the accumulated knowledge which you have kept as being hurt is the essence of that image. Now, can you live without a single image about yourself or about anybody. That is, to have no image is the essence of humility, which has never been touched by vanity. You understand?
So, sirs, we'd better stop now. We meet again tomorrow, if you want to. And we will continue with this conversation together.
(Clapping) Don't clap, sirs, it is not necessary.