To live without a shadow of control
The turning point
7th Public Talk, Saanen
July 26, 1981
We have been talking about the complex problem of existence. We have talked about forming images in our relationship with each other, the images which thought has projected and which we worship. We have also talked about fear, pleasure and the ending of sorrow. We have also gone into the question of what is love, without all the travail that is involved in that word. We have also talked about compassion with its intelligence. And we ought now, this morning, to talk about what is religion.
Most of the intellectuals throughout the world shy away from that word. They see what religions are in the present world, with their beliefs, with their dogmas, with their rituals, and the hierarchical set-up of the established religion. And they rather scoff at it and run away from anything to do with religion. And as they get older, and get very near that threshold called death, they begin to revert to their old conditioning: they either become Catholics or pursue some guru, or trot off, if they have money, to India or to Japan. And religion throughout the world has lost totally its creditability, it no longer has any significance in daily life. They may go to the marvellous cathedrals, churches, and all the things that go on in them, but their heart isn't in it. The more you examine, the more you criticise, the more one is aware of the whole content of all the religious structure, one becomes very sceptical, very doubtful of the whole business. And so the intellectuals will have nothing to do with it. And those who are not, either treat it romantically, emotionally, or something you go to to be entertained.
But if one puts aside all the intellectual, the romantic, sentimental attitude towards religion, one can then begin to ask, not with any naivety but with seriousness in which is included doubt, one begins to ask: what is religion - not the mere meaning of that word, the etymological meaning, but deeply, what is religion? Man, from the ancient of times, has always thought that their must be something beyond the ordinary daily life, the ordinary misery, confusion, conflict of daily life. And in his search he has invented all kinds of philosophies, all kinds of images, created all kinds of images from the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Hindus to modern times, but he always gets caught apparently in some kind of illusion. He begins to delude himself. And out of that illusion he begins to create all kinds of activities. And again, if we could brush all that aside, because we have examined it sufficiently, gone into it fairly deeply, with all the contemporary religions, then one begins to ask oneself: what is, and if there is, something beyond all the contagion of thought, all the corruption of time? If there is something beyond the usual existence in space and time. And if we begin to ask that of ourselves, how shall we set about it? Is any kind of preparation necessary? Discipline, sacrifice, control, all that - a certain period of preparation and then advance.
And we are asking ourselves, we are thinking together, if there is anything beyond, and if one does not hypnotise oneself, when one is free from illusion, then one can begin to examine, enquire very profoundly, what is truth and if there is any path to it, or there is no path, or how can the mind reach that, or come to it?
So we are going together this morning, together, to enquire, explore into this problem. First of all it is important to understand, is it not, that one should be free of all illusions, otherwise the mind remains in various forms and varieties of illusions. So what creates illusions? Is it not desire, wanting to reach something, wanting to experience something, wanting to have, desiring something out of the ordinary, extra-sensory perception, visions, spiritual experiences, and so on. So one must be very clear as to the nature of desire, which we talked about considerably in the past talks, and understand the movement of desire, which is thought with its image, which we went into, and also to have no motive in our enquiry. That is very difficult: to have no intention, to have not a sense of direction, then the brain is free to really enquire. Again, we have been into this problem right through our talks. We said there must be order in our house, in our existence, in our relationship, in our activity. Without that order which is freedom, there can be no virtue. Virtue, righteousness, is not something that is intellectually cultivated. Where there is order there is virtue, and the order is something that is living, not a routine, a habit.
And the other point is: is there something to be learnt? We are thinking together, please. Is there something to be learnt from another? You can learn from another history, biology, mathematics, physics, the whole technological world with all its complex knowledge, you can learn from another, from a book, from one who has already studied all that. And is there something to be learnt from another psychologically? Please, this is an important question that we must investigate together - to be learnt from another psychologically about ourselves, about that which is eternal, if there is something eternal. Or, there is nothing to learn from another because all the human experience, all the psychological knowledge that one has, that humanity has gathered together for millions of years, is within oneself. You are following? Therefore if that is so, that is, we are the rest of mankind, our consciousness is the whole of mankind, and our consciousness is that. And it seems rather absurd and rather naive to go out and learn from somebody else about ourselves, because it requires the clarity of observation to learn about ourselves. That is simple. There is no psychological authority and therefore there is no spiritual authority, because the whole history of mankind, which is the story of humanity, is in us. Right. Therefore there is nothing to experience. I wonder if you see this. There is nothing to be learnt from somebody who says, 'I know'. Or, 'I will show you the path to truth'. This has been the whole trend of the priests throughout the world. They are the interpreters between the highest and the common. From the ancient of days they have played this game. And to learn about, to understand ourselves, all that authority must be set aside. Right? Obviously. Because that authority is part of us. We are the priests, we are the disciples, we are the teachers, we are the experience, we are the ultimate, if we know how to understand. Right?
So there is nothing to be learnt from somebody, including the speaker, specially from the speaker, because one greatly accepts other people's influence, impressions. Right? So one has to be free to enquire. And to enquire very, very deeply, not superficially because we have done all the superficial enquiry during the last six or sixty years, and we have come to the point when we say we have more or less established order in our life, more or less, and as we go along we will establish greater order. Then we can ask what is the religious mind which can understand what is meditation - which we are going into.
Within the last perhaps ten, fifteen years, that word has become very popular in the West. Before, only very few who had been to Asia or India talked and enquired into their form of meditation, because the Asiatics and the Hindus have said - we will call the Hindus and the Asiatics one word - Asiatics - the Asiatics have said only through meditation can you come to, understand that which is timeless, which has no measure. But during the last ten or fifteen years those who have nothing to do call themselves gurus, come over to the West and have brought that word. It became a word that rather made it like a drug. The word 'meditation' actually means, the dictionary meaning, to think over, ponder over, be concerned with and so on. And these people who brought that word from the East, they sold it to those gullible people, you paid for it, paid for the mantras which they brought, and you gradually learnt their tricks. And also you learnt the various mantras which they brought along. You know the word, I am sure, like guru, mantra, meditation is part of the daily common coin. The word 'mantra' in Sanskrit I believe, means consider, ponder over, meditate, in not becoming. You understand? - not becoming. And also that word means 'put aside all self-centred activity'. Mantra means that. Which is, ponder over, meditate on not becoming and put away altogether the self-centred activity. Right? That is the real meaning of that word 'mantra'. You cannot sell that. You cannot go to somebody and say, 'Give me money and I will tell you'. (Laughter) And those people who have done it have become enormously rich people, it has become something commercial.
And also there have been various systems of meditation - the Tibetan, the Hindu, the Japanese, Zen and so on and so on. Right? And these systems have been invented by thought, obviously. And thought being limited the systems must inevitably be limited. And also they become mechanical if you repeat, repeat, repeat. Your mind naturally goes dull, rather stupid and utterly gullible. Right? It is common sense, all this, but we are all so eager to you know, to experience something spiritual, either through drugs, through alcohol, or follow a system that you hope will give you some kind of exciting experience because we are bored with our own daily life, going to the office for the next forty years (laughter), at the end of it die, we are bored with all that. We are bored with our present religions and so somebody comes along and brings some fantastic notions and we fall for it. This is happening. We are not exaggerating, we are not attacking anybody personally but we are just examining the nonsense that is going on.
So if one is sufficiently aware of all this and has put aside all this, because it is utterly meaningless, you don't have to go to India, or to Tibet, or to god knows somewhere else, or even to Rome, because if one uses not only common sense but has a critical mind, a mind that is questioning, not only what others say but also questioning yourself, which is far more important: not to accept anything that you yourself see that it is correct or noble or real experience - to question it, to have a mind that is capable, rational, sane. That is essential. And to have a mind that is free from all the illusion, a form of self-hypnosis. If that is possible in a world that has more or less gone mad, violent, terror, wars, the atomic bomb and the computer that is going to take over all the activities of thought. Then what is a human being? You understand? The human being has lived on thought; all the architecture, all the music, the things that are inside the churches, temples and mosques, they are all put there by thought, invented by thought. All our relationship is based on thought, though we say, 'I love you', it is still part of the image which thought has created about another. So thought to us is astonishingly important, and thought itself, as we have examined it very carefully, is limited, it has the capacity to break up, to bring about fragmentation between people, as my religion, my country, my god, my belief and so on, so on, all that is the movement of thought: thought, space, and time, which we talked about.
Now together, if we have gone that far, then we can begin to examine what is actually meditation. The Christian form of that is contemplation. Contemplation is different from meditation. Meditation is the capacity of the brain, which is no longer functioning partially - which we talked about also - but the brain that has freed itself from its conditioning and therefore functioning as a whole, such a brain is different from mere contemplation. I can be conditioned as a Christian, a Hindu, whatever you will, and I can contemplate from my background, from my conditioning. That contemplation does not free my conditioning. But meditation demands, and therefore it becomes extraordinarily serious, and it requires a great deal of enquiry and attention not to function partially, which we again explained carefully. By partially we mean in a particular specialisation, or to function in a particular occupation, to narrowly make the brain, or allow the brain to accept beliefs, tradition, dogmas, rituals, which are only partial - all those invented by thought. The Christians have this word 'faith'. And if one has faith in god, or whatever you will, things will be all right, or things will come out all right! This has been the slogan for two thousand years. And the Asiatics have their own form of faith - karma, reincarnation, evolution, time and so on.
So meditation is different from contemplation in the sense that meditation demands that the brain is no longer conditioned to act partially but wholly. Right? That is the requirement for meditation, otherwise meditation has no meaning.
So the question then is: is it possible, living in this world, which demands certain forms of specialisation - a skilful carpenter, skilful mechanic, skilful mathematician, or a very skilful housewife, it doesn't matter, living in this world which demands these and yet be free from specialisation. You understand? I wonder if we are together in this. Suppose I am a physicist, that is, theoretical physicist and I have spent my life, most of my life in formulating mathematically, thinking about it, questioning it, asking, cultivating a tremendous knowledge about it, and my brain has become specialised, narrowed down, and yet I begin to enquire into meditation. Right? And in my enquiry into meditation I can only partially understand the significance and the depth of that word because I am anchored in something else. Right? I wonder if we are meeting each other. Right? I am anchored in my theoretical physics as my profession; anchored there I begin to enquire theoretically whether there is the timeless, whether there is, what is meditation and so on. So my enquiry becomes partial again. Right? But I have to live in this world. I am a professor at some university. I have got a wife, children, I have the responsibility of all that and perhaps I am also ill. I have got the responsibility of all that, and yet I want to enquire very profoundly into the nature of truth, which is part of meditation. So my approach is partial. So my question is: is it possible to be specialised as a carpenter and yet leave it at a certain level so that my brain, the brain which is common brain to all humanity - this is very difficult for people to accept, your brain is not your brain, it has been growing for millions of years, accumulating all kinds of and so on, knowledge, it is not yours, your consciousness as we went into, is not your consciousness - which you readily accept but you would rather resist when we say that your brain is not yours, it has grown through space and time, which is common to all humanity. This we won't go into now.
So my question is: being specialised, can my brain say, yes it has its function but that function is not going to interfere. Right? I wonder if you are understanding all this? I am a carpenter, I know the quality of wood, the tools, the grain, the beauty of the wood and so on. I say, yes, that is natural, I must have that, but the brain that has cultivated the speciality cannot possibly understand the wholeness of meditation. Right? If I as a carpenter understand this, the truth of it, that I as a carpenter have a place, but that specialisation has no place in the wholeness of comprehension, in the wholeness of understanding meditation. If I see the truth of that then specialisation becomes a small affair. Right? Are we meeting?
So then we begin to ask: what is meditation? Why certain parts of the world, like the Asiatic world, have given importance to this word. Asia is not geographically separate from the rest of the world - it is geographically separate but Asia is you and me. Right? Because we are part of humanity, part of our consciousness, we are the rest of humanity. So when one part of humanity has given a great deal of time from two or three, four thousand years, as the Egyptians have done, as the Hindus have done, it is part of our enquiry to find out.
First of all meditation demands attention. Right? To attend, which is to give your whole capacity, energy, in observation. Attention is different from concentration. I hope you are following all this. Are we together in this? Concentration is an effort made by thought to focus its capacity as energy on a particular point. Right? Right? That is concentration. When you are in a school the teacher says, 'Concentrate on your book, don't look out of the window, look at your beastly book'. (Laughter) And you are trained to concentrate, that is to bring all your energy to a particular point. Which means in that concentration you are not allowing any kind of other thoughts to interfere, that is to control; concentration implies controlling thought, not to wander away. Right? I hope you are following this - but to focus your thought on a particular subject, on a particular page, on a particular picture. Which is, thought says that it is important to focus my attention, focus my energy on that. Right? It is the operation of thought. I wonder if you realise. Right? Are we meeting? It is the operation of thought in which there is compulsion, control, which says, 'Look'.
So in concentration, please understand this carefully if you don't mind, in concentration there is the controller and the controlled. Right? My thought is wandering off, I say it should not wander off, I bring it back, the controller who says, 'I must concentrate on this'. So there is a controller and the controlled. Right? Who is the controller? The controller is part of thought, the controller is the past. Right? The controller who says, 'I have learnt a great deal and it is important for me, the controller, to control thought.' That is, thought has divided itself as the controller and the controlled, so it is a trick that thought is playing upon itself. I wonder if you see all this. Please we must understand this very carefully because in attention there is no controller, nor the controlled, there is only attention. So it requires a careful examination into the nature of concentration with its controller and the controlled. Right? All our life there is this controller - I must do this, I must not do that, I must control my desires, control my anger, control my impetus - you know, control, control, control. Therefore I have gradually learnt to inhibit myself and there are those people who say, 'Don't inhibit, do whatever you like' - right? That is the game also being played by the gurus.
So one must be very clear in understanding what is concentration and what is attention. As we are pointing out, in attention, that is to attend, there is no control. Please understand this because as we are going to find out presently: is there a way of living our daily life in which there is no control? Right? That is part of meditation. I wonder if you see. This is a question one must ask oneself. Is there, in daily existence, a way of living in which every form of control doesn't exist at all, because control means effort, control means division between the controller and the controlled: I am angry, I must control my anger; I smoke, I must not smoke and I must resist smoking - right? - and so on, so on, so on. What we are saying is something totally different and therefore it may be misunderstood and may be rejected altogether, which is very common because we say well, all life is a control. If you don't control you will become permissive, nonsensical, it has no meaning, therefore you must control. Right? Religions, philosophy, your teachers, your family, mother - control. But we have never enquired into who is the controller. The controller is put together in the past, the past is the knowledge, which is thought, thought has separated itself as the controller and the controlled. And concentration is all that.
And in understanding that we are asking a much more fundamental question, which is: can one live in this world with a family, all the rest of it, without a shadow of control? Right? First of all, see the beauty of that question. Because our brain has been trained for a thousand years to inhibit, you control, control, it is never operating with the wholeness of the brain. Right? See what it is doing for yourself. You are not learning from me, from the speaker, you are watching your own brain in operation, rationally, a critical examination in which there is no deception, hypnosis and so on. And most of the meditations that have been put forward from the Asiatic world, are to control; control thought so that you have a mind that is at peace, you have a mind that is quiet, not eternally chattering. Because silence, quietness, absolute stillness of the mind, brain, is necessary in order to perceive. Right? Therefore all the types of meditation, however subtle, have the basis - to control. Or hand yourself over to some guru, to some idea. Right? And forget yourself because you have given yourself over to something and therefore you are at peace. Which is again the movement of thought, desire and the excitement of something you have offered and it's been accepted. You follow all this?
So whereas attention is something entirely different. It is not the opposite of concentration. Right? If it is the opposite then the opposite has its root in its own opposite. Right? If love is the opposite of hate, then love is born out of hate. Right? I wonder if you see this? Any opposite has its root in its own opposite. So we are saying that attention is not the opposite of concentration, it is totally divorced from it. So we are going to enquire together, what is attention. Does it need effort? Right? That is one of our principal activities: I must make an effort. I am lazy, I don't want to get up this morning but I must get up. Make an effort. Right? I don't want to do something but I must. I am getting tired of this.
See how extraordinary that we cannot catch the significance of it immediately. It has to be explained, explained, explained. We seem to be incapable of direct perception - between concentration - not concentration camps - concentration and attention. Right? To have an insight into attention and be attentive. Well, we will go into it.
When does attention take place? Obviously not through effort, right? When you make an effort to be attentive, it is an indication that you are inattentive and trying to make that inattention become attention - you understand? I am tired of these explanations! (Laughter) Personally I have never learnt about any of all this nonsense. Personally nobody explained all this to me, thank god! (Laughter) Personally I have never read about all this, it wouldn't be authentic, it would have no meaning. But to have quick insight, you understand? To see instantly the falseness of all religious organisations, all of them, and therefore you are out of it. To see instantly that the observer is the observed and therefore no effort, it is so. It is only effort exists when there is division. You are following? So does it indicate our brains have become so dull because we have been trained, trained - you follow? - so that it has lost its pristine quickness, its capacity to see directly without all the explanations and words, words, words. But unfortunately one has to go into this because our minds, our brains cannot grasp instantly for example that truth has no path. You understand? To see the immensity of that statement, the beauty of that statement and put aside all paths - the Asiatic, the Western, the North, South, East, West, so that your brain becomes extraordinarily active.
One of the difficulties is that we are becoming mechanical. The computer is learning more quickly than we are learning. The computer can go so far ahead of us. And so if our brains are not extraordinarily alive and active, our brains will gradually wither away, because now we exist because we have to think, we have to be active partially, but when the computer can take all the work, all the thought - most of the thought, and operate at a rapidity which the brain cannot, then the brain is going to wither - you understand? Please realise all this, this is happening, it is not an exaggerated statement of the speaker, it is happening now. We are unaware of it.
So we are enquiring into what is attention. In concentration there is always a centre from which you are acting. Right? You can see it. Right? This is clear. When I concentrate, I am concentrating for some benefit, for some deep-rooted motive, for something to gain and so on, which is, from a centre I am observing. Whereas in attention there is no centre at all. When you look at something immense, like the mountains, their extraordinary majesty, the beauty of the valley, the line against the blue sky. The beauty of it for a moment drives out the centre - haven't you noticed this? And you are for a second stunned by the greatness of it. Beauty is that perception when the centre is not. You understand? Like a child given a toy, he is so absorbed by the toy he is no longer being mischievous, he is completely with the toy. But remove, he breaks the toy and he is back to himself. Right? So most of us are absorbed by various toys. And when the toys go we are back to ourselves. Now in the understanding of ourselves without the toy - right? - that understanding without any direction, without any motive, that very understanding is the freedom from specialisation which makes the whole of the brain active. Now the whole of the brain when it is active is total attention. Right?
Look, I'll point out something else. We are always looking or feeling with one of the senses. Right? I like the taste of something, or hear some music, but one never listens, one never looks at anything with all one's senses. Right? Have you ever done it? Oh, gods! When you look at a mountain, because of its majesty, your senses are fully in operation, therefore you forget yourself - you understand? Now when you look at the movement of the sea or the water, or the sky and the slip of a moon, when you look at it totally, with all your senses, that is complete attention in which there is no centre. Which means that attention is total silence of the brain that is no longer chattering, completely still. Is it taking place with you now? Is your brain completely still? Because we are talking about a stillness, an absolute silence of the mind, of the brain. Because there are various forms of silence - the silence between two noises, the silence between two notes, the silence between thoughts - right? - the silence when you go into a forest where there is great danger, of a dangerous animal, everything becomes totally silent. I don't know if you have noticed - no you haven't, here you have killed everything.
So this silence is not put together by thought, or through fear. You understand? When you are really frightened your whole body, your nerves, your brain becomes - haven't you noticed it? Oh lord! So this is not that quality of silence, it is entirely different. It is the operation of the whole of the brain with all its senses active, it is that freedom which brings about total silence of the mind. And it is only such a mind, such a brain - mind-brain, I don't want to divide it into two for the moment, we will stick to the brain - such a brain that is absolutely quiet, not brought about by effort, determination, by desire, by motive, it is the freedom of order which is virtue, righteousness in behaviour; and in that silence alone there is that which is nameless and timeless. That is meditation.