What is the action of total inaction?
A mind that seeks truth must be free of the observer
5th Public Talk Saanen
July 24, 1973
We were talking about the meaning of life the last time that we met here. I do not know if you have really understood, not verbally or logically, but seeing directly for oneself the full meaning of what life is, and if it has any significance, and if it has what is that significance? That is what we were talking about the day before yesterday.
The meaning of life is also the meaning of action. Life is action. And if one has understood or realised or come upon that quality of mind that has grasped the full significance, the meaning of life, from that naturally grows the question: what is action? What is action in daily life? That is, what is the relationship between action and the realisation, or the truth, of the meaning of life? They are really synonymous, they go together. And what is the daily action in our life when one has realised the beauty, the nature, that extraordinary quality of a mind that has seen the truth of what the meaning of life is?
So we will, if you don't mind this morning, go into this question of what is action in daily life in relation to the understanding of the meaning of life. You cannot separate the two. And in enquiring, what is one to do, what is the action? We have to go into the whole movement of the activity of a mind that has realised the nature of the meaning. I think we can see various kinds of action - the action of will, the action of an ideology, the action of a mind that is pursuing a particular pleasure or fear, or a mind that has committed itself to a particular activity - political, religious, social or what you will. That is, there are different kinds of activity in our life in which we are involved. There is the action brought about by will. Will is resistance, and that resistance has its own action. I determine to do something, the determination, the decision is born out of choice. And choice is the discrimination between this and that. And I choose that and therefore resist this. And that action, born out of choice and determination, is a distorted action. It is distorted because action is a movement, a movement which is distorted, twisted according to a choice that is based on my pleasure, fear, or a pursuit of a particular end, therefore that action is distorted. Therefore any action born out of will is not only resistance but also a factor of conflict.
Please we are sharing this together. This is not an entertainment. This is not something intellectually you accept or reject. It is the examination, investigation of what action is. Together we are enquiring, therefore sharing, therefore together we are serious. And being serious, not only now during this hour and a half, but also throughout life, we have to find out what is action which is not distorted, which is a free flowing an action without any kind of conflict involved in it. And that requires great attention, great seriousness, because our life is a series of battles, a series of conflicts, miseries, suffering, every form of neuroticism. And to discover, to live sanely is to discover the full meaning of life. And in the realisation of that meaning of life, we are asking, what is action? We see that any action born out of will, in which we are educated, is not only a factor of distortion, conflict, resistance and the sense of exclusion. Are we moving together? Therefore there is the perception of the truth that will in any form, born out of choice, determination and the effort involved in domination, is an act of distortion. Right? So the exercise of will has no place in action.
We are going to find out then gradually, we are going to investigate what is action - please listen to this - what is action which is total inaction? I don't know if you see the beauty of this? But to find out what is action which is total inaction we have to investigate the various kinds of activities and actions, in which the mind has been educated, conditioned, and in the perceiving of what is false the reality comes into being. Therefore the exercise of will is false. Can the mind see the truth of it, and therefore never, under any circumstances, resist, and therefore choose, discriminate between this and that, evaluate? All that implies choice, resistance, will. Now can the mind be free of this conditioning, which is the result of our culture, and this conditioning starts from childhood, through school, college, the whole of our end of our life, the determination, the act of will, resistance. Right? That means - please this isn't a verbal description, but an actual fact, therefore the mind must be free of it to find out something new - a way of living in which there is no movement of resistance whatsoever.
Then there is the activity of ideology or belief. And for most of us, being educated in ideologies, or an ideal, a concept, a belief, from that arises various forms of activity. When you have an ideal, that is, a formula put together by thought, and act according to that formula, that concept, that ideal, then there is 'what is' and 'what should be'. Right? And therefore conflict. The mind is always adjusting its activity according to the conclusion, to the ideal, to the belief it has projected, adjusting 'what is' to 'what should be' - don't you do this? All our life is based on this. We function, we act according to a concept. Please observe it in yourself. And therefore a mind which is investigating what action is, has to find out for itself why conclusions, beliefs, ideals have become so extraordinarily important. You have ideals, unfortunately, that is part of your conditioning, part of the culture, the ideal state, according to Marx or whatever it is. And the few that understand it get power, and twist the human mind to conform to that pattern. This is what is happening. And we do the same on a much lesser scale. We have ideals, conclusions, beliefs and try to conform all action to that. And therefore out of that activity comes conflict because there is this wide gap between 'what should be', and 'what is'. And the comparison between 'what is' and 'what should be', the imitation of 'what is', the imitation of 'what should be', and transforming 'what is,' is the process of our conditioned, educated, cultured mind. Right?
So can the mind, which is investigating what is action in which there is no conflict whatsoever, because any form of conflict is a distortion of action, as will is a distortion of action, so belief, concept, ideals are a distortion of action - can the mind see the truth of it and instantly be free of it? Can I, you, observe ourselves, see that we have quantities of ideals, which are a dreadful burden, see them, what is involved, what is the meaning of this whole structure of 'what is' and 'what should be', and see the truth of it and therefore let it completely whither away? So the mind is then free of will. You understand what we're this is real revolution - you understand sirs? Free of will, therefore all resistance, all sense of choice. Choice exists only when there is no clear perception. When there is clear perception there need be no choice at all. And the more we choose the more confused. So can the mind see the truth of this and be free of every movement of determination, the will, the 'should be', the 'must be'? And can the mind be free of any conclusion, the ideal? As you are listening, and I hope you are listening seriously, as you are listening do you translate what you hear into an idea, which is an abstraction, and try to live according to that abstraction, which is 'what should be'? Or are you listening, seeing directly now the truth of this, and therefore the ending, now. Right?
So the mind is free from the activities of will and the activities of belief, concepts, ideals. Right? Then there are all the activities of one's tendencies, idiosyncrasies. Right? What are tendencies, idiosyncrasies, characteristics? Why should we have these tendencies, idiosyncrasies and characteristics? Does that bring about individuality, of which you are so dreadfully proud? Are you following all this? Am I making the thing clear?
Now we are enquiring together into this question of tendencies, idiosyncrasies, characteristics, and from that various activities take place. My character is this and I must act according to that. My idiosyncrasy is to climb a tree and I act according to that. You follow? So are not the tendencies, characteristics, idiosyncrasies, the reaction to my conditioning? Follow this please. This mind is brought up in a culture and so conditioned and every response is according to the circumstances, environment, it responds as character, as an idiosyncrasy, as a tendency. And all our activities revolve around that. Therefore we divide life into the artist, the business man, the politician and so on. Each has his own particular activity separated, fragmented according to his tendency. And so we break up life into categories and lose the whole significance of action. Right? Now are you functioning, acting according to any characteristic that you have, any tendency? Please this is really important because we lay such emphasis on having a character. And if you see this, the truth of this, then it disappears. So you are free of the activities of will, of ideologies and tendencies. See what is taking place? You will see it presently for yourself.
Then of course there are all the activities of pleasure, which we talked about the other day, including fears. Now all these activities are fragmentary, therefore disorderly. Right? Please go on with me! I act according to my tendency and you act according to your ideal, somebody acts according to his will, and in our relationship naturally such activity must create disorder. And we try to overcome this disorder by having a super ideal, which is imposed on us by the church, by the guru, by some idiotic phrase.
So you see for yourself the fragmentary activity of pleasure, with it fear, the activity of tendencies, idiosyncrasies and character, the activity of belief, ideals, conclusions, and the activity of will are fragmentary. And where there is a fragmentation there must be disorder. So all our activity is creating disorder. I wonder if you get this? I am afraid you won't agree to this, you have all your reservations. Because if you really see this then you will really have to face the problem that your whole life is disorderly, fragmentary, and the mind is unwilling to see that. And so you prefer to live in disorder. And that is part of our culture. And so what happens? When the mind is living in disorder, your whole life, the brain which can only function when there is order efficiently - please follow this a little bit - has to bring order otherwise it can't function properly. So a disorderly life, the brain demanding order because it needs order to function healthily, so conflict grows all the time. And out of that conflict a neurotic activity takes place, which gives security to the brain - you are following all this? Right? You understand what I am saying?
I lead a disorderly life. I exercise will, my impulses, my intentions are based on my idiosyncrasy, character, on belief, pleasure, they are all contradictory. I live a life of contradiction and disorder. But the brain needs order to function efficiently. I'll go into that a little more presently. So there is a battle going on between the activities and the brain demanding order. And there is conflict. Out of this conflict something breaks, something has to happen. And generally a neurotic action takes place. And in that neuroticism, thought, the brain says, 'I will have security there, at least'. And most of us have this neurotic security. I wonder if you get all this? Wait, wait.
Q: What does neurotic mean?
K: What does neurotic mean? Non-sanity. A sane mind is a whole mind. The word 'sanity' itself means whole, complete, healthy, and also it means H-O-L-Y - holy. A sane mind is a holy mind, an insane mind is not a holy mind, it is a disorderly mind. See what has happened. So my activities are producing conflict and disorder, and out of that disorder the brain tries to find order. Therefore it joins something else, a new cult, a new system, new philosophy, new ideology - you follow? And again caught in the same pattern.
So our life is disorderly, contradictory, and where there is effort, contradiction, disorder, there must be an action which is not sane; and it is only in sanity there is security for the brain. But as it cannot find it, it chooses one action which it hopes will give security. Haven't you noticed all this? Probably not, you have not gone into this sufficiently deeply.
So order is absolutely necessary for a sane mind, and that order comes only when there is no will - please watch this - when there is no ideology, when there are no activities of idiosyncrasies. Therefore there is no sense of fulfilment, or identification with myself or with something. Right?
So what is order? I know what is disorder. The disorder of the outward world - haven't you noticed the disorder of the world? My god! And that disorder exists in us also. And somehow we seem to be satisfied with it, we live with it. And out of this disorder we commit ourselves to various kinds of activities. We become sociologists, climbing Everest - you follow - going to the moon, god knows what else! Or going off to Japan or the east to meditate! You know there is a lovely story of a boy of fifteen who leaves his house in search of truth. He goes all over the place, wanders through every jungle, through every forest, crosses every river, seeking, asking every teacher to teach him what is truth. At the age of eighty, or seventy or whatever it was, he says, 'I haven't found it. I had better go home and die peacefully there'. So he returns and strangely his house still exists. And he opens the door and there it is! You understand? It is there. And he realises that he need never have gone all over the world to find truth. You understand all this?
So what is order? How is the mind to come upon this order which is not the order of belief, the order of will, the order of pleasure, the order of character? I see they are all contradictory, confusing and disorderly. So what is this order which is not related to that? Right?
So let us look at it. Let us approach it differently. Have you noticed that before you go to sleep, if you are at all aware and serious and not drunk, or drugged by alcohol, tobacco and all the rest of it, that you generally take a stock of what you have been doing during the day - haven't you done it? Why do you take a stock of what you have done? You say, 'I didn't do that rightly, I should have done that. I got hurt, which was silly of me. I should have been more polite to that man. I shouldn't have overeaten. I should have been more kind, more generous, not get angry about some silly thing' - don't you go through all this? Why do you do it? You do it because you try to bring order. If you don't bring order consciously, then the brain tries to bring order while you are asleep because it must have order. And while you are asleep if you have not brought about order during the day, the brain must inevitably make effort to bring order. But if you have brought order in the sense of which we are talking about, which is not the order of a mechanical order, then the brain has not to make order, therefore it is free to renew itself. That is, to make itself function easily, to put away everything that distorts it, that brings hurts, so that it is fresh, young, new when it wakes up. Haven't you done all this? Oh, for god's sake!
So order is a state of mind in which every activity of conflict ends. And this is necessary because we are going to find out what is action which is totally inaction? This is probably something new to you. It is also new to me, in the description of it. I am going to find out. I know what is action of pleasure, in terms of pleasure, character, belief, ideals, will. I know that very well. And I see that too, in that there is contradiction, fragmentation, effort, great strain and stress. And all that activity is disorder. I see that very clearly, and seeing that very clearly I have finished with it. Then I also see out of this disorder there must be order. And that order cannot be projected by thought, because it is thought that has created this fragmentation. Therefore order is not the product of thought. So what is this order which is not the product of thought? So I am going to find out and say, 'What is action? Is there an action which has none of the qualities of disorder, of pleasure, character, belief, will? Is there an action which is totally unrelated to all that?' - because that inevitably breeds disorder. Right? Are we meeting each other? Or am I trotting off by myself?
Now how shall I find out? I have known only the activity of disorder, and I have seen the truth of how disorders arise. That's out of my system, blood, brain, everything, it is out of me completely. Then what is order? And what is action? I have got it.
Pleasure, fear, with its activity, conscious as well as unconscious, the activity of belief, conscious as well as unconscious, the activity of character, conscious or unconscious, will and so on, are the very essence of the 'me'. Right? They constitute the 'me', the 'I', the ego, the sense of separate action, the self-centred activity is all that. When I deny all that, when the mind sees the falseness of all that, is there a 'me'? I have known the action of the 'me' in those terms, and when I deny, when the mind sees the truth of the falseness of all these activities, the 'me' is non-existent, because it is identified with that. Therefore there is no longer the action of the 'me', therefore there is no longer the action of disorder. Then I have only known action in terms of the 'me', the mind has only known action in terms of I, the 'me'. When that is not there, there is inaction, isn't there? No? The inaction which I have never seen before because I have only seen action in those terms. Now when the mind sees the truth of all that, action is then total inaction. I wonder if you get this?
Now can I live in this world, having understood the meaning of life, with total inaction? That is, never expressing action in any of those terms. Never! You have understood? Inaction is the expression of the non-me. And the 'me' is disorder. Therefore what is the action of the non-me? Right? What do you think it is? Don't please tell me, because you won't know it unless you have worked, gone into this very deeply. What is that action which is total inaction? We will use a word to convey it, but the word is not the thing. We use words to describe, but the description is not the described. And we may use the word which is so heavily loaded, and we are using that word without any load. So what is the action which is non-action? Right? I would call it love. Don't get sentimental! It has nothing whatsoever to do with sentiment, romanticism, with any sense of idea, a verbalisation. I do not know if you have not noticed when you have understood pleasure and fear, then you realise that love has nothing whatsoever to do with pleasure. Have you ever seen this, felt it?
So where there is that love, there is total inaction in life. And that has its own activity, which is not regulated by thought. You know all this takes tremendous meditation. You understand? The word 'meditation' means to think about, ponder upon, to investigate, to feel one's way into the whole problem of action, not according to your idiosyncrasy or mine, or your conclusion or mine, but to investigate it, open it up. And therefore the mind must be free to investigate. And then you come upon this strange thing called love, which has nothing to do with any church, with any god, with any saviour, with any symbol, with any projection of thought. It is totally unsentimental, unromantic, and therefore that kind of love is a movement in the present, transforming 'what is'.
Now you have listened for an hour, I wonder what you have got out of it. Because what we are concerned with seriously, is the transformation of the human mind. Because when the mind is transformed really deeply, profoundly, when there is a deep revolution in the mind, then it can create a different relationship with the world because we are the world, and the world is us. I am the world, and the world is me. That is an absolute fact. And to feel that, not verbally, not as an idea, actually, then when there is this transformation in the whole being, then our relationship to the world changes. Our relationship to each other changes. And that change is a total inaction. I wonder if you get this? You know that word 'inaction' is generally taken for passivity, a sense of vegetation, letting go. On the contrary when the mind is not in disorder, and therefore order, it has got tremendous energy, naturally. And this energy, which is really inaction, then it can act from the sense of non-me all the time - 'all the time' in the sense every day of our life.
Would you like to ask any questions? We have got two more talks, haven't we? Thursday and Sunday. We will talk further about love and death and meditation. So what would you like to ask now? Or you have had enough for this morning?
Q: Would you go into the problem of earning a living and so on.
K: Yes sir. Would you go into the question of earning a livelihood because that requires capacity, that requires thought, that requires knowledge. Would you go into that.
As the culture and the civilisation exists now, of which you are part, we are brought up to work for our life, work, work, work, all day long. Right? What a horror it is! To be told, to be under somebody, to be directed, to be insulted, to be beaten down. That is the culture in which we have grown, in which you have been moulded. And to the formation of that mould, to conform to that mould, we are educated. We are educated mainly to acquire knowledge, to cultivate memory so as to earn a livelihood. That is the primary function of education, as it is now. And therefore in that education there is conformity, competition, imitation, ambition, success. Success implies more money, better position, a better house if you are a communist, and so on and so on and so on. That is the structure in which we have been brought up. Knowledge has become tremendously important to function in this field, therefore the cultivation of memory. And you discard totally the rest of it, the rest of existence. That is a fact. Now you say, 'How am I to earn a livelihood, though I need knowledge and yet I see the limitation of knowledge'. Right? I need to earn bread and butter, I need to have food, clothes and shelter, whether the State supplies it, or I work for it, it is the same thing. But I have to work for the State to offer it to me. So that is a fact.
I have heard you talk about it. I have heard you say to me knowledge is very limited, it is mechanical, and being very mechanical we try to escape through religions, through sex, through idiosyncrasies, through neuroticism, through the desire to fulfil ourselves in something apart from this work. I have heard you say that and I see the truth of it. But yet what am I to do? How am I to live in harmony - please listen to this - to live in harmony, having knowledge, functioning in knowledge, and also freeing the mind from this mechanical process of learning, so that the two run together? You are following? So that the mind lives, going to the factory, working without competition, because it is not concerned with achieving a position. It is only concerned with achieving a livelihood. I don't know if you see the difference. And also it sees very clearly the freedom from the known. Right? Which is the knowledge, which is the past. Can these two streams move together harmoniously all the time? You are following your question sir? Am I answering your question? That is our problem. Not the problem of earning more, more and more and more, which is what society wants, which is the consumerism, which is commercialism, which is buy - all the tricks they are playing on the mind to make you buy, buy, buy. I won't. I see the falseness. And I see at the same time the freedom from the known, which is knowledge. Can these two work together all the time, so that there is no friction? You have understood my question?
Now what is harmony? You understand, that is the problem. I see I must earn a livelihood. I won't fight, I won't compete, I will work because I have put my brain, my capacity into it, therefore I work very efficiently because I have no psychological problems with work, I will not compete with anybody, therefore my capacity, my energy, my way of writing, producing, whatever it is, is complete, therefore there is no conflict, there is no wastage of energy. Right? I hope you see this.
And so I am asking: what is harmony? You understand? I say there must be harmony between the two. Now what is this harmony? Can harmony, this sense of balance, this sense of sanity, this sense of feeling whole - work, knowledge and freedom from knowledge - that is the whole - can that sense of wholeness be brought about by thought, by investigation, by reading, by searching, by asking? Or does this wholeness, sense of completeness come about through thought? Thought cannot bring it obviously. So seeing - please see this - seeing that thought cannot bring about it, seeing that I can work efficiently, with full energy, because I have no psychological problems - you follow? - and therefore I am only working to earn a livelihood for self sufficiency, and I see the whole thing must work together. And it can only work together when there is intelligence. So intelligence is harmony. Are you getting what I am talking about? Wait a minute, I haven't finished. Just a minute. I am just searching myself.
Look sir, it is intelligence that says: work only for a livelihood, not for ambition, not for competition, not to succeed to have a you know, all the rest of it. Work. That is life. It is the intelligence that has told me, not a conclusion. And also intelligence says to me: freedom is necessary. So intelligence says there must be harmony. So intelligence brings about this harmony - not an outside agency brings about this harmony, or thought. Now - I don't know if you have noticed sir, thought is always outside. Right? Thought is always from the outside. I was told the other day that in the Eskimo language thought means outside. Right?
So thought cannot possibly produce harmony, balance, this sense of wholeness, because thought is outside. But what brings about this total sense of integrity, this sense of sanity, wholeness? Intelligence - the intelligence is not the intellectual acceptance of an idea, it is not the product of reason, logic, though reason and logic must exist, but it is not the result of that; it is the perception of truth from which arises wisdom, wisdom is the daughter of truth, and intelligence is the daughter of wisdom. Right? I have got it. Do you see it? Sir do work at this. You understand sir, just look at it, drink it. And then it is there, you don't have to struggle, read books and go through all the tortures of life. That's it, sir.