What is right action in this chaotic world?
Why does the mind live in time?
1st Public Talk, Brockwood Park
August 30, 1980
May I point out, if I may, that we are not doing any kind of propaganda, nor advocating any belief or ideals, nor are we asking any of you to join something. It is non-sectarian, non-reforming, not institutional, nor something that we can look to to help us. But we are rather serious about all this. And I would like to also point out, if I may, that we are thinking over together the whole problem, the problem of existence in our daily life, together. We are not merely listening to the speaker but sharing not only the words, the meaning of the words, the significance of the content but the pursuit of enquiry. So it is your responsibility, as well as the speaker's, to think together. And it becomes rather difficult if you cannot think together, if you are committed to some kind of institution, to some kind of belief, if you are a follower of somebody, if you are attached to a particular belief or experience; and from that point of view to think together is impossible. So I hope you will not mind that during this morning and the subsequent gathering here that we are free, mature people who are willing to go and discover for themselves how to come out of this terrible chaos that one lives in.
The world is so fragmented, more and more every year, breaking up not only religiously but also politically, economically, ideologically and so on. Everyone throughout the world is concerned about their own little selves, their own little problems - not that they are not important, they are, but we must consider the whole of humanity, not just our little shrine or our little guru, or our little belief or our particular idiosyncrasy and particular activity. Because we are concerned, aren't we, if one may point out, that all humanity, whether they live in India, or in Europe or in America, or in China, Russia, all humanity goes through this terrible struggle of existence, not only physically, outwardly but also inwardly, psychologically. This is the common factor of all human beings throughout the world. I do not know if we realise this sufficiently to have a global point of view that is whole, not fragmented. And as human beings living in this particular country, or in another, we are like the rest of mankind. We suffer, we have problems, we have untold misery, confusion, sorrow, the fear, the attachments, the dogmatic beliefs and ideals and so on. This is common to all human beings throughout the world.
So psychologically we are the world. And the world is us, each one of us. This is a fact. As a toothache is a fact, this is a fact. It is not an idea, it is not a concept, it isn't something one strives after, an ideal, but an actual daily factual happening in all our lives. Either you can make this into an ideal or an idea and then try to conform or adjust yourselves to that idea, or treat it as an actual fact that we are basically, at the core of our being, like the rest of humanity. You may be tall, you may be short, you may be brown, white, pink, black and purple outwardly, you may have techniques that are different from another, a different kind of education, different mtier, jobs and so on, but inwardly, deep down in all of us there is this tremendous sense of uncertainty, insecurity, sorrow and unimaginable pain and grief, loneliness. This is the common ground on which all human beings stand. That is we, as human beings, are the rest of the world and the world is us. And so our responsibility is something global, not just for my family, for one's children, those are important, but we are responsible for the whole of mankind because we are mankind. But our beliefs, our ideals, our cultures, experience divide each one of us - we are Catholic, Protestant, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or following the latest guru. This is what is breaking us up - our nationalities, our insular particular attitudes. And this attitude brings about fragmentation in our lives. And where there is fragmentation there must be conflict between various fragments of which you are made up.
Please, if I may point out again, we are thinking together, you are not merely listening to the speaker or trying to find out what he wants to say. We are together examining the whole issue of our life. It is our life, your life, it's not somebody else's life. And that life, which is so fragmented by our education, by our nationalism, by our religious concepts, ideals, dogmas, images. These are the factors that bring about fragmentation in our life. And we listen to all this, perhaps casually or seriously, with passing interest, or if you are serious, not merely intellectual, emotional or romantic but if you are profoundly serious then the question arises: what is our relationship, what is our responsibility to the whole, not only to the particular, to the whole of mankind? The responsibility that as a human being who is essentially, basically the rest of mankind - you may not like to believe that, you may not like to feel that you are merely an individual and what has one to do with the rest of mankind, which really is quite absurd if you really go into it. We are the mankind. And so when we realise that, not intellectually, not verbally but deeply, profoundly as something terribly real, not as something romantic, emotional but something that is actual in our daily life, then what is our responsibility to the wholeness of mankind? Please, if I may ask, put yourself this question.
One feels responsible for one's children, wife, husband, girl, boy whatever it is, because you are intimately connected with them. You have to bring them up, education and so on, earn a livelihood, feel a certain amount security, so you gradually restrict the wholeness of life into a small narrow little groove. And having such mentality one is disinclined or repulses, puts aside the responsibility to the whole of mankind, not only mankind but to the earth on which we all live. We are responsible for all that, ecologically, economically, spiritually. But if we cling to our little images, however reassuring, comforting, satisfying, then we bring about a great fragmentation in our life and that prevents all of us from seeing the totality of mankind.
Please, do pay attention to what I am saying. I am not - the speaker is not trying to convince you of anything, nor trying to persuade you, influence you, or direct you. I am not your guru, thank god! Gurus are absurd, anyhow.
So realising that, that we are together investigating this problem, and when the speaker says together, he means it. Because the speaker can talk to himself in his room but since we have all gathered here together under difficult circumstances, with rather foul weather, it behoves us to apply our minds and our hearts to find out a way of living that is whole, complete, not fragmented, because the world is now becoming more and more distorted, destructive, disintegrating and degenerating, morally, ethically, spiritually - if we can use that word 'spiritually'. And we are part of that world, we are part of that society in which we live. We have created that society, whether the Christian society, or the Communist society or the Hindu, Muslim and all the rest of it. We have created it, our fathers, our grandfathers, the past generations upon generations and we, who have followed them, we have made this society what it is - corrupt, there is injustice, war, man against man, infinite violence. And when one is confronted with all this, not as a picture, not as a descriptive analysis in a newspaper but when one is actually faced with it, which we have to, we are facing it now, in our daily life, what is our responsibility? What shall we do?
You see our minds, our brains are so conditioned, that we can't find an answer for this. We look to somebody, trot off to India to some guru and find out if he has a system, a method to solve this problem. They haven't got it. They have got their own systems, their own absurdities, their own megalomaniac ideals and so on, but when you are confronted with this as each one of us is, whether we are young or old, what is our reaction, what shall we do?
To find out what is right action in all this, not right according to somebody or some value, or according to one's experience, or according to some ideological concept - such concepts, conclusions, do not bring about right action. When we use the word 'right' we mean that it is precise, accurate, irrespective of circumstances, what is the right action in all this, in this mad, rather insane world in which we live? To find out what is right action, not right according to me, the speaker, or to some philosopher, or psychologist, but to find out for ourselves an irrevocable, right action which would be right under all circumstances. First, to discover that for ourselves one must be totally free from all attachment, for attachment breeds corruption. If one is attached to a person, you can see the consequences of that attachment: jealousy, antagonism, fear, the loss, the loneliness. So where there is this particular form of attachment to a person, corruption is inevitable. But to cultivate detachment is another form of corruption. Right? I wonder if we understand all this? If one is attached to an ideal, you can see very well the consequences of that ideal, one becomes violent and is always trying to conform to a pattern that thought has established, and are never facing the fact of what is actually going on but rather comparing what is going on with 'what should be', which is another form of corruption. If you are attached to an image, and that is one of the most difficult things because each one of us has some kind of image about ourselves or an image created by thought in a church, in a temple, in a mosque and so on, so on. Those images are very comforting, reassuring, giving us a tremendous sense of security, which is no security at all.
And again to be attached to an experience, to hold on to an experience, some experience that you have had, talking or walking by yourself in a wood, you suddenly come or feel this oneness with nature, that there is no division between you and the world about you, this sense of wholeness. It happens and that is an experience which is registered in the mind, in the brain, and then one clings to that. And one is then lost in past memory, something that is dead and gone, and when a mind clings to something that is finished, withered away, corruption begins.
One hopes, if the speaker may point out, you are not merely listening to the words of the speaker but you are investigating into yourself, seeing actually what is going on within yourself. The speaker merely acts as a mirror. And the mirror has no value, you can break it, and one must break the mirror. That mirror is merely to see oneself actually what is going on inside, how we are attached to all these forms of persons, ideals, concepts, conclusions, prejudices, experience, which is the beginning of corruption and fragmentation. If you have one image and I have another, being born in India or you born in America or in Russia, or here, we have created that image in ourselves and that image separates us, and so destroys this feeling of wholeness, this sense of global reality of our life.
So can one actually be free of all attachment? Not just keep one or two secretly to oneself but be totally completely free of all that. If one cannot, then you are maintaining fragmentation and therefore conflict, division, struggle, wars and all the ensuing miseries. And it is one's responsibility. This is real responsibility for each of us, not to have a single image. Therefore when there is no image there is a totally different kind of relationship which comes into being, not only with the person with whom you are intimate but also with the rest of mankind. Then your mind and your brain is free. It is only in that total sense of freedom there is love, not in ideals, not in dogmas, in churches, in the things that thought has created and put them in the churches and temples and so on.
So one asks how serious one is. Is it all - one's whole life - an illusion, constant battle, struggle and unending misery, confusion and sorrow? Or can one live differently? Is our brain capable of totally changing its whole structure, its nature? The brain has - if I may go into it and if you are willing to listen, and if you don't listen it doesn't matter either, but if you care to listen and since you have taken the trouble to come here, uncomfortable and all the rest of it, it seems necessary, adequate and right that one should listen to something that is actually true. Our brains have been conditioned along a certain pattern. You can observe it for yourself. The speaker is not a brain specialist, though he has talked to many of them about the brain, but one can observe oneself the activity of the brain. It is conditioned to follow a certain pattern. That brain has evolved through time, through millennia and therefore that brain is not my brain or your brain, it is the brain of mankind. And that brain has followed a certain way, a certain route, a certain pattern, and that pattern has brought about this division between man and man - which is obvious when you look at it, when you go into it. That brain, which has evolved through time, which is the result of millennia, is constantly seeking security in images, in persons, in conclusions, in some ideals, that is the pattern human beings have followed. Please look at it yourself, you will see the truth of it. And it becomes extraordinarily difficult to break that pattern, even an ordinary physical habit like smoking, drinking and all the rest of it. When it becomes deep rooted habit, it is extraordinarily difficult to break it. And the brain has followed this particular path, this particular way of living, being concerned with itself, with its own egotistic activities, its own sorrow, its own particular anxiety, its own pleasures, its own demands - that has been the pattern of this brain for generation after generation.
And we are asking: can that pattern be broken? Not by will, not by some kind of pressure, idealistic carrot, but seeing the actual pattern of our life and seeing the cruelty of it, the inanity, the stupidity of it, that to live in images is the very essence of a destructive way of life. When one sees the truth of it you are already breaking away from it. So one asks: does one actually see the pattern, the norm, the continuity of this movement from generation to generation? And this movement is in the brain, in our brain, in our hearts, in our minds. So can one be free of all that? Otherwise we pursue the way of our daily life which is corrupt, fragmentary, destructive, violent.
So what will make a human being put away all these things? Religions have threatened saying, 'If you don't do this you will go to hell.' - especially in the Christian world. If you don't follow a certain religious image you are - you know, all the rest of it. So what will make a human being, like us, see the reality of it and break, go through with it, finish with it? You understand my question? We have tried every kind of persuasion, propaganda, we have followed so many ideals, gurus, concepts, we have exercised every kind of will, rewards and punishments. But apparently human beings don't change, change radically, they change a little bit here and there, depending on circumstances, convenience, satisfaction. So what will make us change? What will make us for example, a very simple fact, that we have multiple images not only about ourselves, about our country, about our neighbour, about our politicians, our religion, our god, and all the rest of it - images, created by thought. What will make us drop one of them so completely that you never go back to that? Please this is a serious question we are asking, not just a casual question on a morning that we have gathered together. It is a very serious question. What will persuade you, what will make you, what will drive you, what will influence you to change? We have tried all those, every form of persuasion, every form of reward and punishment, but apparently after thousands and thousands of years we are still more or less the same - self-centred, lonely, being attached to some ideal, following some pattern political or religious or other. All that indicates the fragmentary state of our brain and mind.
Since you are good enough to listen to all this, what will make you change? What will make you naturally, easily, without effort, without any anxiety, or thinking about the future, just give up, let the images that one has fall away? If one sees logically, reasonably, the fact that images of various kinds do separate man from man, that images between people prevent relationship, and that relationship assumes a responsibility which is not responsibility at all but a form of particular individual pleasure, all that. Now what will make my mind deeply reject all that? Is it the fault of our education? Always geared to passing examination, jobs, career, money, power, position, is that one of the major factors of this fragmentation? Is it the political system, whether left, right, extreme left, extreme right and so on? Or is it also the fault of our religions, organised religions with their dogmas, rituals which have no meaning whatsoever - it is all so stupid, childish! And we go on with them, and are always frightened about the future, this sense of deep, inward insecurity. So seeing all that, what is our answer to it?
Either you reject all that, or oppose it by clever arguments - the impracticality of a life without ideals, without images, that is what you think. We think that is the most practical way of living. It is not. On the contrary. You can see what is happening in the world, the Communists, the Socialists, the Catholics and so on and so on, with their images, with their ideals, with their concepts, dividing, dividing, dividing. And if they do not divide they try to convert you to their way, through pressure, through torture, through various forms of excommunication and so on.
I think it is rather important to find out for oneself whether this fragmentation, brought about, as we explained, through attachment, through various forms of ideals and images, can they be totally set aside so that one has quite a different way of living, a different way of thinking, looking, feeling, with love and a great sense of compassion?
Why do you listen to me, to the speaker? You are all very silent. Is the speaker trying to stimulate you or influence you, or persuade you to think in this way or that way? And he is not. All that he is saying is look, observe, for god's sake look at things as they are, see what is actually going on within your skin, within your mind, within your heart, not try to translate it, distort it, but actually observe what is.
So one of the problems is, perhaps that is the major problem, that our thought has created this society, our thoughts have brought about this religious structure without any meaning, our thoughts have built this world about us, apart from nature, apart from the animals, apart from the earth, otherwise thought has built all this - our churches, our gods, our religions, our political system, right, left, centre, extreme this or that, it is thought. And thought must be always limited because thought is the outcome of knowledge. And knowledge can never be complete about anything. Knowledge is the process of time, the accumulation of experience, not only yours, but all the past generations and generations, it is knowledge that we have stored in the brain, and that knowledge is always incomplete, it always goes with ignorance. Ignorance and knowledge go together. And out of that knowledge memory, thought. And so thought, under all circumstances, is limited, narrow, must be fragmentary. It may create the most beautiful bridges, these marvellous cameras, the battleships, the submarines, the latest guns and so on. And also thought has created all the things of this world like beautiful architecture, but not the streams, the rivers, the birds, the wonderful earth on which we live. And thought has created the images which we have put in the churches, in the temples and so on. So thought by its very nature is fragmentary, and we, the whole of our being, our struggle, is the movement of thought.
Please, do give Are you getting tired? You can be, I don't care. It is a very serious thing we are talking about. And we rely on thought to alter the course of our life. And when thought alters the way of our life, that way of life will be fragmentary, it will not be whole, complete.
One comes to the point, one realises all this, if one has gone into it at all, and one comes to a certain wall against which you can't go further because we are still operating with the only instrument we think we have: that instrument is thought. Thought, desire and pleasure and fear, which are all the movement of thought. We will go into that a little later. So through thought we think we can break through this pattern of the brain which has been evolved through millennia. I wonder if we see that. Thought cannot possibly break through. It can only create further fragments because in its very nature it is limited. Right? Can we move from there?
Knowledge is necessary. Technological, surgical, engineering, scientific knowledge and so on is necessary. But the knowledge that one has psychologically accumulated through millennia as human beings, is that necessary at all? You understand my question? You understand my question? Bien. I must have knowledge to go to the room in which I happen to live. I must have knowledge how to drive a car, how to write in English, or in French, or in Spanish or Sanskrit and so on. I must have knowledge to earn a livelihood, skilfully or otherwise. That is absolutely necessary. But why should I have this accumulation of psychological knowledge? You understand my question? Which is the centre of me. Right? My egotistic pursuits, my egotistic demands, activities, the whole of that, is based on knowledge. That knowledge may be transmitted into the future, modified by the present, but it is still knowledge. And psychologically why should I have any knowledge at all? Knowledge being, when one has a relationship with another, intimate or otherwise, one creates through time, through various forms of conflict, pleasure and so on and so on, the image that one has about you and she has about you. That image is our knowledge - I don't know if you are following all this. Right? May we proceed?
That knowledge is fragmented, obviously. I can't know all about you. I may know all about you at a totally different level - I am not talking of that. We are talking of the physical daily existence in which there is so much conflict between two human beings. And that conflict comes about through this constant building of images between you and the other. No? And can that image-making come to an end in our relationship with each other, as a man and a woman, or mother and child and so on, so on, can that image-making come to an end? I say it is possible, it can be done. We have potential to create the image, we have also the potentiality to break down that image. That is, why does the mind, thought, and also the brain, create the image? Please this is very important to understand because the wholeness of life, if one comes to that, that sense of total integrated whole, then all conflict ends. And as long as there is this movement of thought creating images between oneself and another, that sense of destructive individual narrowness will also destroy the wholeness. You understand what I am saying?
My lord, why are you all so silent? I hope you are thinking together and that is why you are silent.
So after pointing out all this, what is one to do? Is it ever possible to end this movement of not only creating images about the whole as well as the particular, can this movement of thought end? You know meditation is essentially the ending of thought. Not the meditation that people practise twenty minutes every day, or twenty minutes in the morning and the evening, or meditation according to a system and so on, so on, that is not meditation at all. Meditation is the ending of image-making by thought and the ending of psychological knowledge totally so that the mind is free from the past. That is real meditation.
Now we have talked for an hour and what good has it done? (Laughs) Not that one is seeking a result - I am not, the speaker is not. I don't care if you do, or don't. It is up to you. So after listening for an hour perhaps to this harangue, or to this sermon - you know that story of a preacher talking to his disciples every morning, that was his habit. He would get up on the rostrum, talk to his disciples for about ten minutes, or quarter of an hour or an hour, and begin the day that way. So one morning he was preaching, talking about the goodness of life, how to behave. A bird comes and sits on the windowsill and the preacher stops talking. And they all listen to that bird. And the bird flies away and the preacher says. 'The sermon is over for this morning.' Right? Got it? (Laughter)
May I get up now? (Laughter) We will continue tomorrow morning.