What is religion to you?
Knowledge is conditioning
3rd Small Group Discussion, Brockwood Park
October 14, 1984
MZ: Sir, if you were willing, we would like to ask what to you is religion? You differ so fundamentally from most people's concepts of religion, we would like you to go into that, if you will.
RMc: You often speak of religion and the religious life but it seems not to be in the way that people generally speak or think of religion.
K: First of all it is really rather a beautiful day today, especially in the middle of October to have such a marvellous clear blue sky, with all the trees gradually turning into marvellous colours. It is really a very beautiful day. And I think religion is concerned with that too.
RMc: With beauty?
K: With beauty. I don't know what we mean by the word religion. There are so many interpretations of that word. There is the Catholic religion, the Christian, the Protestant and the innumerable divisions of Protestantism, and there is Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhs and so on. So many religions in the world, organised, some are brutal, the Islamic world and so on. So what do you consider is religion, the word? Is it the search for human beings something outside of their own daily life, something other than their petty self-centred activity, beyond their cruelty, bestiality and their vulgarity and all the rest of that? Is it that human beings have always sought from the most ancient of times something beyond themselves? If we consider that, something beyond themselves, beyond their daily life, then that becomes a religion of escape, which probably most religions are, as they are now. It is not connected with their daily existence. It is based on belief, on a book, or on faith, or on some dogma, rituals, the repetition of daily rituals which goes on practically all over the world - incense, dressing up, fancy dress and all that. All that, prayer included, is called leading a religious life, going, as they do in India at one time three times a day to the temple, and the Islamic world five times prayer, and the Sunday mass and so on. So this is considered religious, or rather a religious attitude. We are questioning that.
I would like rather to question the whole nature and the structure of present day religion. There are so many sects. They have found that Christianity is very limited, so they go off to Buddhism, or to some kind of sectarian gurus and so on, the multiplication of this search for something other than the daily boredom, daily loneliness, the constant conflict and so on. This has been the pattern. Would you agree to that?
RMc: But underlying this that goes on in the name of religion, still it seems to be aimed at something that we need, that we want.
K: Yes, we said that. There is something that man is seeking, and gets caught in all this nonsense really, invented by various priests from the beginning, between god and man and they were the interpreters. At one time they were, they were the scholars, they were the people who wrote, who studied, who invented the language and so on. And there has been all the interpreters in between. If one rejects all that, as I do personally because it seems to me rather immature, rather trying to play, or pacify, or gratify human demand for something or other than this mundane life, so-called spiritual life.
MZ: Sir, are you saying that the fundamental search, the fundamental moving towards something, is a real one, it is not...
K: ...a real one, it is natural.
MZ: ...just an escape from the difficulties and the pains and miseries of life. It is something real in the human psyche?
K: I think really it is something in the human psyche, which is in constant conflict, facing constant problems and their solutions, the pressures, the poverty, the unemployment, the whole human modern existence. In spite of all this any thoughtful person wants to find out if there is something more. And he turns to parapsychology, miracles, you know, all that becomes extraneous as far as I am concerned. So if one discards all this, if it is possible, discard rituals, discard totally faith, belief, altogether put aside the spiritual hierarchical system.
RMc: Any authority.
K: The authority, which to me is a criminal act, to have in the world of so-called spirit an authority. That seems to be an anathema to me. So if we can put aside all that, if it is possible, and I think it is possible, not only possible, it is actual, then we have to enquire what is religion? What is the religious mind, or the religious activity of a human being, not away from daily life, not something outside our activity from morning until night? If it is concerned with life then we have to enquire: is it possible living in this modern world, with all the noise that is going on, preparation for wars, violence, and so on, we all know that, living in this world, in this state, wherever you are, is it possible to find out, not through others, not through some book, whether it be the Koran, or the Bible, or some ancient Hindu literature, sacred literature, but for oneself. And the enquiry into that is not a selfish activity. The enquiry, or the exploration, or if you like to use the word research, to find out if there is something beyond man's process of thought. Because after all thought has put all this together - the robes, the rituals, the demand for faith, the dogma, the whole thing has been built up carefully, with great deliberation, the whole structure of so-called religious way. Would you agree to that?
RMc: Yes, but religion seems to say in its commonly accepted sense that thought must be used to approach whatever it is that man is trying to find.
K: That is what we are asking. That we are saying, and also questioning whether thought, which has built this whole so-called religious structure, and also which thought has built, the extraordinary world of technology. It is the same thought. Thought in one direction, the technological direction, and thought seeking out something other than the daily boredom of existence, or the loneliness of existence, or the suffering of existence. Is thought the instrument? Because thought, perhaps you will disagree with this, but thought is essentially limited because thought is based on knowledge, memory and experience. So experience is limited, knowledge is limited now or in the future, as you can see in the scientific world it is always gathering more and more and more, and therefore when there is more it is limited. I hope I am making myself clear on this point.
RMc: Yes. Whatever there can be more of...
K: ...obviously. So thought is limited. And thought is trying to find out the limitless. It can invent, it can imagine and build on that imagination. Or say there is something and have faith about that.
MZ: So many people turn to, or come up with what they would consider perhaps revelation.
K: A revelation.
MZ: Which is what in your view?
K: These are words which have to be very carefully considered. What do we mean by revelation? Revealing what? Either a conditioned experience and therefore limited experience. And if I am devout Catholic and believe in what they say, dogmas, and all that, saviour, my thought is limited with regard to religion, being a Catholic - or a Protestant or whatever you will. And that limited thought, limited enquiry can never put, understand, or grasp the immense significance of that which is immense, immeasurable.
MZ: Then what can a person who wants to make this very fundamental enquiry, what is a person to do?
K: That is what I would like to discuss. Suppose I am one of those who has put aside completely all the religious structure, and hierarchical authority and all spiritual authority - they have no meaning to me personally - and so if a man like me says, now I want to find out, I want to really find out if there is something which thought has not put together. Thought has put together the computer, thought has put together the whole church, the books, the rituals. They are all limited. So a man like me says is there something that is not measured by words, first. Right? Because words are an expression of thought.
RMc: And are limited.
K: And so words have themselves become very limited. So one has to be greatly aware of the limitation of thought, of the limitation of words. And is the brain free from all this? Or it is still conditioned by the tradition, by the past, the background, as a Christian, a Hindu, Buddhist, Islam and so on, is one free of all that? If one is not free from all that then your enquiry has no meaning. You are going round and round in circles.
MZ: How can that be determined by the person?
K: That requires another enquiry which is, to do something per se, for itself, not with a motive. I do something in order to get something else. That is a very limited attitude or activity. So can the brain of an enquirer who has put aside all this, not because of a reward or punishment, but sees the futility of all this, the utter meaninglessness of all this, if he puts that aside, deeply, not just verbally or intellectually, or be caught emotionally, hooked up, as they say, in a belief and pretend that he is free. That has no meaning.
MZ: But that is a very dangerous moment for the enquirer, it seems to me, because he is apparently giving up certainties and beliefs, etc. and yet the subtle danger of something else still in that category coming in is very great.
K: No, you are saying something that he has given up, which is a certainty. But belief isn't a certainty.
MZ: People think of it as so.
K: Look, if you face Islamic religion, Hindu, Tibetan, Christianity and so on, it is now being shattered. People are running away from all this. And there is no certainty in all this, no security in all this, one may pretend, one may hope for, but in actuality there is no security, certainty. So the urge for security, psychically, subjectively, is one of the most dangerous things because one wants security, one wants to be certain, and that is the pitfall because you can find something and stick to it and say, 'I am certain. I have had marvellous experiences and I am quite sure it is so.'
So one has to have this quality of doubt. Doubt everything, your own experience, your own thinking and all the inhibitions, all the aspirations, all the imagination, doubt all that because it is one of the strange factors in certain religions, like Buddhism and Hinduism, doubt is encouraged, doubt. They say you must doubt, you must question. In Christianity that is taboo altogether. If you doubted the whole thing would collapse. The heretics, those who doubted were burnt, destroyed and so on. We won't go into all the past.
So can a human being, who has been nurtured in all this, educated, conditioned in all this, put aside all that? That is the first question, to me. To have a brain that has no problems, because a problem that is not resolved totally creates other problems, so the brain is constantly faced with problems, and so it is in travail, it is in conflict, it is perpetually battling with itself. So not to have conflict, then the brain begins to be free, and then begin to enquire. Otherwise you can't enquire. If you are a student, or a research professor, or enquirer into any material thing, you enquire, you research, you don't cling to anything. You don't cling to a former knowledge, or former experience, that is limited, you move on. But we don't do that.
So religion then is an enquiry and that enquiry has no path, no direction - you follow - it becomes extraordinary subtle. There must be no motive. If you have a motive you have already set the course.
MZ: Sir, are you also saying that the enquiry must continue, that you don't arrive at a point where you stop enquiring, or where you have an answer, so-called, but that spirit of continuing the enquiry?
K: This is rather a difficult question to answer. Do you enquire further if you come to something that has no space, no time? Do you understand? When we talk about enquiry, who is the enquirer? We come back to that old thing. The enquirer is the enquired. I don't know if I am making myself clear on that point. That is, I enquire into matter, through telescopes, through all kinds of experiments, I enquire. But the person who enquires is different from the thing he is enquiring. Right? That's clear. But here, in the subjective world, in the world of the psyche, the enquirer is part of the psyche, he is not separate from the psyche. If that is clear, then the enquirer has quite a different meaning.
MZ: Are you saying that then there is only enquiry, there is no enquired, or enquirer?
K: No, I would say there is only infinite watching. There is no watcher in watching, but the extraordinary vitality, and the energy in watching, because you have watched the whole psychological world, subjective world before you come to that point. And now when you are watching there is no background which is watching, there is only watching 'as is'. I don't know if I am making myself clear? Because you see that means in great attention, in that attention there is no entity who is attending, there is only the attention that has space, the attention that is totally quiet, silent, attention that has tremendous gathering of energy, and therefore there is total absence of the self-interest. And is that possible for a human being to reach that point? And human beings find this is terribly difficult, therefore you come along and say, 'Look my friend, do this, do this, do this and you get that. I am your guru,' - you are my spiritual authority and I am lost, I am caught in again. This has been the process, you can see it wherever there are the saints, the spiritual hierarchy which recognises the saint, and this process goes on all the time. So man has been incapable of standing on his own feet, he wants to rely on something, whether it is his wife, or in a job, or belief, or on some extraordinary experience that he may have had.
So we are saying, I am saying, there must be complete freedom. That freedom is not so complicated. There is that freedom when there is no self-interest at all. Because self-interest is very small, very petty, very narrow and unless there is complete freedom of that, truth becomes impossible. And truth cannot be through any path, it is a pathless land. You can't go through any system, through any method, through any form of meditation to reach that. There is really no reaching, it is.