What is our responsibility in the world?
Fundamental change in society
1st Public Talk, New York, New York State
April 14, 1984
If one may point out this is not an entertainment; this is not to help stimulation, but rather this is a serious gathering. And we are not doing any kind of propaganda or try to convince you of anything: new ideologies, new philosophy, new kind of esoteric nonsense. We are serious and it is important that we together think and observe together and perhaps also listen together, not only to what the speaker is saying but also to all the things that are happening in the world, the terrible things that are happening: the confusion, the chaos, politically, economically, and of course religiously - it is just a matter of entertainment, stimulation based on belief and dogmas and faith and a vast network of superstition. And there is always the threat of war. So we ought to be able, together, to observe these extraordinary phenomena that are taking place at the present time.
Thinking together is very important because we never meet either intellectually at the same level, at the same time or meet, think together holistically - together. We are so individualistic in our opinions, in our conclusions, in our beliefs and dogmas and so on, which prevent us from really thinking together. I do not know if you have noticed, very few people think together, even a husband and a wife find it impossible to think together. And even if there were a few of us who really thought together, putting aside our particular idiosyncrasies, particular reactions and any form of repetitive reactions, if we could, this morning, at least for an hour or so, put aside our particular dogmatic, assertive, aggressive conclusions, then perhaps we could think together. We are not trying to convince you of anything. Please believe it. We are not trying to force you, point out, or even try to help you. But rather if we could actually think together; it would be a marvellous thing if we could; very few people have succeeded. Either we disagree or agree. This is not required, as agreement or disagreement, where we are thinking together, thinking, actually thinking together, not be instructed about what to think, or guided, which is the function of a lecture. A lecture is intended to inform and to instruct. But this is not that kind of affair.
If we could think together, listen together, and perhaps learn together, first, what is actually happening in the world. We are responsible for all the mess, the confusion and the misery, and the terrible things that are happening. And what is the responsibility of those who observe, not merely intellectually, verbally, but observe with their whole being, with their mind and their heart, observe, feel, understand and act? What is our responsibility? Are we Americans looking at the whole world, British, French, German, Russian, with their nationalistic divisions, tribal glorification which is nationalism, or are we looking at this whole phenomenon as human beings first, not as a scientist or a philosopher or psychologists and so on, as a Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist and all that business, but as human beings looking at this extraordinary world which human beings have created, the society in which we live, with all the uncertainty, contradictions, poverty, injustice - to look at it as human beings. Could we do that this morning: forget your particular nationalistic, patriotic nonsense, or religious conclusions with certain faith, dogma and beliefs - not be anchored at all to any of this? To look at the world which we have created so freely, so intensely and perhaps passionately, so that we are together, not the speaker is saying something to which you agree or disagree, but together see what is happening.
As one travels around the world meeting so many people with all their different characteristics, with their superstitions and beliefs and dogmas and so on, one wonders why human beings, who have lived on this earth according to the archaeologists and so on for forty-five thousand years and more, why during all that duration of time we remain what we are. Though technologically we have advanced tremendously. Externally we have extended the capacity of the brain, which requires tremendous energy to build all the instruments of war, all the beneficial effects, apart from war, to help man to live more comfortably, more healthily, and so on. But when we look at ourselves after forty-five thousand or fifty thousand years - great evolution, not only biologically, externally, why is it that we are what we are now: worshipping tribalism which is called nationalism, frightened, insecure, killing each other in the name of god, in the name of peace, in the name of some ideologies, aggressive, brutal, violent, suspicious and utterly insecure, carrying a great burden of sorrow? This is what we are now and very few have gone beyond all that, very, very, very few. And the vast majority of mankind lives in this misery, starvation of which you know nothing about in this country. Perhaps those who are poor have a certain social security, but you go to the East, there is no social security. The population is multiplying every year in India by about fifteen million people. Poverty is extensive. Violence is spreading more and more. The world is becoming dangerous. And looking at all this, as probably you also look and listen, in the newspapers and magazines, news-broadcasts, and so on, what is our responsibility? What shall we do together, not one individual, or try to gather those people of the same perception and form an institution, an organisation? And we have had a great many institutions, a great many people who will tell us what to do, leaders - political, religious and so on. We have had them by the thousands and yet we remain what we are. This is a fact. This is not some fantastic opinion of a particular speaker. This is so. This is what is actually going on.
So one looks around seriously, wanting to be committed to some kind of action, not for a day or two, or a month, or a year or so, but committed continuously for the rest of one's life: undeviated, not persuaded by demagogues or people who promise you heaven and so on, all that business, but a few, perhaps many even, who are seriously concerned and dedicated, giving one's life to find out what is right action; what is our responsibility to this society which we have created. Society is not different from us. We are society, because we are aggressive, brutal, violent, frightened not only of living, frightened of death - so we have a whole bundle - and realising all this, not superficially, and listening.
There is an art to listening, not only to what the speaker is saying, but to listen to one's own responses, to one's own fears, to listen, not only to the birds and the ripple of water and see the beautiful landscape, but to listen so completely that there is no barrier between you and that which you are listening. The art of living is far greater than any other art. And we have never spent perhaps a day or two, or a month or so, to find out what is the art of living. There is an art of living. One has spent years and years to become a scientist; you go to monasteries and spend all your life there, or spend one's whole life earning a livelihood which is a vocation of imitation, to become a surgeon, a doctor, you spend ten to fourteen years, and we never learn, or even spend a day to find out what is the art of living. And together, this morning, we are going to find out. Not that the speaker is going to point it out and therefore you agree or disagree, but together find out. And we are going to talk over together, not only about relationship between human beings, we are going to talk over together fear, whether there is an ending to fear, talk over together all the movement of pleasure and whether there is an ending to sorrow. And also we are going to talk over together what is religion, and what is meditation, and to find out if there is something most sacred, which is untouched by thought, something that is infinite.
We are going to talk all these matters over together in these two talks, this morning and tomorrow morning. And merely talking about it has no value; one has written books and books and books; there have been a thousand gurus, which is the most silly form of profession! (laughter) There have been thousands of priests, Popes, every form of psychology, from the most ancient Sumerians to the present day. There have been a thousand gods, specially when you go to India, I believe they have about three hundred thousand gods, and you can have fun with them; depending on your pleasure you can choose any one of them. And in the western world there is only one entity, which becomes rather tiresome. (laughter) And we are going to talk all these matters over together. Please, the speaker means together, which means you have to exercise your own brain, not just go to sleep. We are not persuading you, we are not trying to tell you what to think, or direct. We can only think together when we have no motive, which is extraordinarily difficult. Because all of us have motives of some kind or another, which ultimately prevents a communication.
There is not only a verbal communication, which is what is going on now, but also a communication non-verbal, which requires, on the part of each one of us, not only to hear the word, the content of the word, the meaning, the significance of the word, not only etymologically, but what the word conveys to each one of us. And whether the word distorts our perception. So one has to be extraordinarily aware if we are going to investigate together into all this. So please, if one may remind you again, this is not an entertainment of any kind, but you are used to being entertained - every evening on the television, that is there - entertainment, you sit by the hour looking at the beastly thing. And you are being influenced, coerced, consciously and unconsciously. And to be aware of all this that is going on around us, not to be shaped, not to be conditioned, which we are conditioned. And that conditioning is being more and more emphasised, given strength: we are Americans, the American way of life; so do the English say, so do the French, Italians, the Russians; and the whole of the East is imitating the West. To be conscious of all this. Not as information, not as data accumulated, but as human beings. Can we together this morning be active, not only intellectually but also active with our innermost feelings?
So, first let us look at ourselves, because we are the result of thousands upon thousand of years. Our brains have been evolving and our brains have extraordinary capacity, as is shown in the technological and the scientific world. Extraordinary things are happening: destructive, diabolical, and also helping man to live a better life and so on. And we never spend a day or even a few hours looking at ourselves actually as we are, not according to any psychologist, philosopher, or any book or any expert. I don't know if you have not noticed what is happening in this country. There are so many specialists here. If you have a headache, you go to a specialist. If you have sex problems, there are specialists. How to bring up a child, how to feed a child. I don't know if you realise all this, that we are becoming slaves to specialists, experts, and so we are losing the real quality of freedom. So we are going to talk over together all this. Where shall we start, knowing that you as a human being have created this society and you are losing your relationship with nature. Where shall we begin? Something exotic, theoretical, problematical, or shall we begin with the nearest thing that we have, which is you and another, you and your relationship with another? Shall we begin there? Or do you want to begin with god? God is the invention of man - we'll go into it when we talk about religion.
So we must begin very near to go very far. The very far is not in time. Time is a very complex process. The now, the present, contains the past and the future. The future is what you are now. What we are now is the past, past memories and so on. Either we begin very near, that is me, you, and observe not in terms of time, either chronological or psychological, but observe, be sensitive, be alive to the actual fact of what you are. For if we do not bring about a mutation in the present, a mutation psychologically, so that the very brain cells themselves are deeply changed. If we do not do it now, the now being the whole of time, then the future is what we are now. I wonder if you understand? Right? Are we seeing this together? Not agreeing. Do we see this fact? The tomorrow is the today. Either it is repetitive, going to the office every day, from nine to five, or to the factory and so on, labouring, and if there is no mutation now, there will be again the same repetitive action tomorrow. So the future is what is now. Right? Do we see this fact together? We all want to become something, either a successful businessman making lots of money, or begin to change ourselves into what we should be - the becoming. The becoming takes time - right? And is there any becoming at all? There is becoming physically, externally from a clerk to an executive, from an ordinary man into a so-called saint and so on. Outwardly, there is a becoming, but inwardly is there a becoming at all? So the becoming implies time and this quality of time distorts our thinking. I wonder if you are following this. May I go on with it or is it all that I am talking and you are just listening?
We are trying to find out together what is change, what is a mutation in the brain cells - the biologists are going into all this. Does change, mutation demand time? Once you think or feel according to time, then the future is what we are and therefore there is no mutation, no radical change at all. So we are asking: seeing what we are, actually, that is our consciousness, which is what we are, our consciousness is all the biological and physiological responses, all our beliefs, faith, dogmas, rituals and so on. Also all the network of fear. Observe it for yourself, please. The expert is not talking. The speaker is not an expert, thank god! But we have investigated a great deal into this matter, for over sixty years. The speaker is not a learned person; he has not accumulated all this through books, but observing, listening.
And we are asking: I am this, my consciousness is this: fear, sorrow, pain, pleasure and all the varieties of fear, all the nationalistic, tribalistic responses, prejudices - black, white, purple, pink and all the rest of it, we are all that - subtle, violent, cruel, bitter, cynical, and we are always trying to change that into something else, like violence, trying to change violence into non-violence, which is to become. The becoming involves time. We are questioning very seriously into this whole meaning of time. If there is no time at all as tomorrow or the next second, what then is change? You understand? Either that change is instantaneous or there is no change at all. That is what we are going to find out.
We said we would start with relationship between man and woman, between human beings whether they live here or far away in the Eastern world. What is relationship? Relationship is the most important thing in life. It is an art, and without relationship you cannot possibly live. The monk who goes off into a monastery, he is related to a belief, to a dogma, to a saviour - he is related. Or the man who is married with several children, sex and all the rest of it, he is also related. The scientist is related; he specialises in one discipline that takes most of his life, all his thinking capacity, but also he is related to his wife or to his friend or to his girl-friend and so on. So what is our relationship? Are we related at all? How can there be a relationship with another if you are individualistic? Go into it, sirs. If you are thinking about yourself all the time, which you are - your success, your business, your worries, your problems, and she is also doing the same thing: with ambition, greed, individualistic pursuits, individualistic fulfilments. And this is what we call relationship - pleasure, with encouragement, dependence, possessiveness, jealousy, anxiety, irritation and noise and all the rest that goes on in relationship. If one is aware of all this, which I doubt very much if one is aware, if one is really actually concerned to find out what is actual relationship, apart from this. This obviously is not relationship. You may sleep with somebody, and all the pleasure and the pain of it.
So is relationship the building of images between you and another? You have built an image about another, wife, or girl, or whoever it is. You have built an image. The relationship may be of one day or twenty, thirty, forty years, and you have gradually built day after day, day after day, an image about her and she about you. And these images have a relationship with each other, but actually there is no relationship. I wonder if we can go into all this. We have to face all this if we are going to discover for ourselves whether there is a possibility of deep mutation in the very brain cells themselves. This is what the biologists are asking; they are experimenting with all this. But if we do not discover things for ourselves, we depend on chemistry, on specialists and therefore we become so utterly insensitive and superficial. So, is it possible to live with another - please, go into it with me, we are thinking together - is it possible to live with another without a single image, picture, thought? Then only is there a relationship directly without any barrier. To find out the art of living, we have to enquire into the whole question of thinking. Probably you have never even asked that question.
What is thinking? Why has thought predominated the world and also in our relationship, however intimate it may be? What is thinking, not thinking along a particular line or a particular discipline, thinking about something. We are not asking what it is to think about something, but actually thinking per se. What is thinking? And thought has created the most extraordinary things in the world, all the great paintings, the great cathedrals, medicine, and all the destructive instruments of war. And thought has also brought about rapid communication, surgery, and also all the things that are in temples, churches and mosques. Thought has put all that together, the rituals and so on. One has to find out, not be instructed by another, which becomes so silly at the end of it, so superficial, but to find out for oneself what is thinking and why we have given such extraordinary importance to it.
Thinking, surely, is the outcome of memory; if there is no memory, there is no thinking. Memory is stored in the brain, among the cells, and memory is knowledge. Memory is born from knowledge. If you have no knowledge, you have no memory. And knowledge is born from experience. Experience, knowledge, memory and thought are limited. Knowledge, future knowledge or knowledge expanding itself, is still limited. All knowledge, whether in the infinite future, is still limited. There is no complete knowledge about anything, can never be because it is based on experience, collected, built gradually step by step. So thought is limited. I think we all agree to that. Must - I mean that is obvious. You are thinking about yourself all day. Either meditating which is another form of thinking about yourself. I wonder if you realise all this. Thinking about yourself, your problems, your relationship and so on, that very thinking, being limited, must inevitably create conflict. Anything that is limited is divisive. Are we thinking together, or you are saying: 'No, it's not'? Thinking together, not agreeing together. So, thought in relationship is the building up of reaction step by step, day after day, day after day. That thought has created that image about yourself and about another. And so that thought with its image, with its picture is the divisive factor in relationship. This is logical. And being limited, it must inevitably create conflict between man, woman, child, and so on.
Geographically, you have divided the world, human beings, as Asia, Europe and America. Thought has divided human beings as Western, Eastern. Thought has divided people as Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindus, Tibetans. Thought has been responsible for all this. And thought, which is born of knowledge, memory, has its place. Without thought you cannot go back to your home; you cannot write a letter. If you are a good carpenter, you must have a great deal of knowledge about wood, and the quality of the wood and the grain and so on. And has thought any place in relationship with each other, knowing very clearly, logically, sanely that thought is limited and therefore divisive, separates - you and me, and hence everlasting conflict between you and another?
So we are asking, if you are still awake and not gone to sleep, we are asking whether thought, being limited, producing, inventing a great many things which are beneficial for man and also inventing terrible things to destroy man - what shall we do with thought? You understand the question? Please ask this of yourself. Don't wait, please, for the speaker to tell you. Seeing what thought has done, beneficial, helpful and so on in one direction, the extraordinary capacity of the brain in one direction, and also the extraordinary energy given to the destruction of man; different ideologies; the communist, socialist, the capitalist and so on. Ideologies, spending enormous energy. All this is the activity of thought.
So what place has thought with regard to love? Is love the operation of thought? Is love in the brain? Or is it totally outside the brain? One can only answer that question logically, sanely when we understand whether thought has any relationship - relationship, you may recognise the woman or the man, but when thought takes over the relationship then there is everlasting battle. Now, that has been the condition, the training for thousands of years - to live with conflict. You all live in conflict. Meditation is a form of conflict, to go to business, everything that you do either contradicts what you are, or the very self is the contradiction. You understand all this? The 'me', the self, is put together by thought. The 'me' is memory. You may invent it as super 'me' or the extraordinary ultimate 'me', it is still put together by thought. Thought, the 'me', is a network or a bundle of memories. And so, is love memory? Please go into it all for yourself. If it is not, then what will you do with all your memories that you have about her, about him, the insults, the pleasure, you know all that business? What will you do? Just carry on day after day, day after day until you die? What is the factor that will end thought in relationship, if you see that thought is detrimental, dangerous, destructive in relationship? Because thought, being limited, must inevitably divide, separate. If you really see that, not as a verbal statement, but as an actual fact of life, everyday life, then you will inevitably ask what place has thought? Psychologically has it any place at all? And if it has no place in relationship psychologically, then what is love? Is love the factor - please listen - is love the factor that denies totally the separative element in relationship?
Then one has to ask, if you are at all serious, committed to find out all these matters: what is love? Is love desire, pleasure? Is love remembrance? If it is desire, as for most of us it is, you see it on the television everyday, in every book, desire and pleasure, then what is love? Is it a matter to be cultivated? Is it something to be achieved? Give me time, I will learn how to love. I'll go to college, to specialists, they know all about it - that is what you are doing in different ways; somebody is going to tell you what it is.
So we have to go into this question very, very deeply, not superficially just for the day, and pass it by. Because that is what the biologists are seeking, a mutation in the brain cells. The brain cells contain all memories, knowledge, experience. The brain cells are the whole content of your consciousness. And there must be a mutation in that, which means the brain cells themselves bring about a mutation in themselves. Is that a matter of time? If it is a matter of time, as we have lived for forty thousand or fifty thousand years, or whatever the archaeologists say we have, no mutation has taken place at all, given time. Time may be the enemy. Time may be the enemy of mutation.
So we have to understand: is love desire? And what is desire? Not how to suppress desire, or how to transmute desire, or how to direct it along right channels, or identify desire with some symbol so as to ennoble desire - it all sounds rather nonsensical, but you have to understand what is desire, to look at it, find out, go into it. What is desire? It is important to understand this, not verbally or theoretically, but actually, because we are driven by desire. Desire has become so extraordinarily dominant in our lives, desire to be President, desire to be something or other, you know, the whole worship of success in this country. I don't know if you have watched, known, America has become the symbol for the rest of the world; they want to be like Americans: rich, prosperous, plenty of cars, money; and so this country is the example, and if you take away the superficial layers of an affluent society, you are like the rest of them, full of desire, contradictions, pain, conflict, uncertainty and all the rest.
So we must go into this question, if we have time: what is desire? You are still awake, I hope? What is desire? Do you understand how strong it is in our life: desire for enlightenment, desire for more knowledge, desire for power, status, riches, desire to reach heaven? You know, desire, that extraordinary energy: desire to go to the moon, desire to invent the latest destructive bomb that will destroy the whole of humanity. What relationship has desire to love? Or no relationship at all? What is desire? Please bear in mind we are not suppressing; we are not saying it must be translated or changed into some other thing. We are examining the very movement, the birth of desire. We are not analysing, we are observing. Analysis is different from observation. Analysis implies there is an analyser and the thing being analysed. In observation, there is no analysis - just to observe how the thing is born. You understand? Are we clear on this matter? We are observing. In observation there is no observer. If there is an observer in observation, the observer then is directing, the observer then is the past - his memories, his idiosyncrasies and so on. So as long as there is the observer as the past, looking, then there is a distortion taking place.
This is complex, you will understand it as we go along. So to observe without the observer, to observe without the 'me', the 'me' being all the complex memories and so on. So we are observing the nature and the structure and the birth, the origin, of desire. There is no desire without sensation. Sensation is born through visual perception, visual seeing, touching and so on. The sensory responses create the sensation, as in seeing a beautiful woman, man, clothes, cars and so on. The seeing, the contact, then the sensation. Then what takes place? Look at it for yourself. The speaker is not instructing; we are not telling you; you are observing for yourself. Seeing, touching, contact, sensation - then what takes place? Then thought creates the image that you are in that car, or in that dress, or in that shirt; at that moment when thought with its image takes control or dominates sensation, at that second desire is born. Right? I wonder if you have understood this? One sees a beautiful shirt - a shirt, being a man, I hope you don't mind - one sees a shirt in a shop window, goes inside, touches it, says how nice that material is, how would it look on me. At that second desire begins. Right? Do you see this? Now the question then is: sensation is necessary, it is obvious, it is physical. If you have no sensations, biological, physical sensations, you are paralysed. There must be sensation; that is, the whole physical organism exists on stimulation and sensation, but when thought gives shape to sensation, at that second desire is born. Right? Is this clear? If it is clear then we can ask the next question.
Can there be a gap between sensation and thought giving shape to that sensation - you're following all this? - so that there is an interval between the sensation and thought, which is not discipline. Discipline implies, the word 'discipline' comes from the word disciple, disciple, the one who is learning, learning to see whether there can be a gap between sensation and thought giving shape to the sensation, a gap, and that gap extended. Do it and you will see the fun of it, (laughter) and the seriousness of it, because we have completely changed the whole question of control. I won't go into it; there's no time now. We'll do it tomorrow, if there is time tomorrow.
So, thought giving shape to sensation is the origin of desire. That origin which is desire has nothing whatsoever to do with love. Love is not born of thought. Therefore love has its own intelligence. Thought has its own peculiar intelligence, but the intelligence of that compassion, love, is something totally outside the brain, which is not contained within the limitation of thought.