What is the relationship between desire, thought and action?
The essence of goodness is a mind that is not in conflict
2nd Public Talk, Ojai, California
April 08, 1979
May we continue with what we were talking about yesterday? We were saying yesterday that throughout the world the religions, with their orthodoxy, rituals, with their beliefs and superstitions, have not fundamentally changed man; nor the scientists; nor the philosophers with their extraordinary theories, with their wishes, with their particular conditioning; nor the politicians. As you observe, the world is becoming more and more dangerous to live in, more and more confused, disorderly, wars are going on all the time over the earth, neither the modern psychologists nor analysts have solved our human problems. Most people throughout the world, I am sure, desire to have a good society, to live peacefully, to live with certain tranquillity, with certain security. But all this is becoming more and more impossible, except perhaps for the very, very rich, but the average man throughout the world finds it extraordinarily difficult to live, both outwardly where there is so much insecurity and danger, and inwardly, psychologically he is everlastingly in conflict with himself and with his neighbour, whether he is close by or a thousand miles away.
So when one observes all this, as I am sure you are all aware of all this, one asks, why human beings, each of us, do not radically change, why we accept to live this way, why we submit to this extraordinary destructive disorder, why we do not conserve, that is protect the earth, the air, the environment, which we are gradually destroying. I am sure you know all this. And man, human beings, have looked to some leaders, some statesmen, some heroes, some saviours, some agency outside of us, gods, and these too have failed us. Which again is an obvious fact.
So considering all this, what is a human being to do? Why do we accept all this? You are supposed to be civilised, educated, affluent, and that may be perhaps rather a misery, and we have practically everything that we physically want. Order can be brought about in society but to live in the society is becoming more and more dangerous. Which again is fairly obvious. So how do we human beings, with all our petty reactions, with all our beliefs and dogmas and prejudices, how do we become, or be good? Because this is really a very important question one must ask.
As we were saying yesterday, we must think together over this matter. I mean by that word 'think', see the problems together, not have different opinions about it, see actually what is going on. And to observe clearly one must be free of one's own particular prejudices, particular narrow, limited, petty reactions. One must be free, obviously, from one's nationalities, the attachment to a particular part of the earth, geographically divided. This is what is separating, destroying human beings.
So how do we, each one of us, create, or bring about a good society? Please, as we said, we are thinking together, we are investigating together, though previously the speaker has said, thought is very limited, thought is fragmentary, broken up, but we must use thought, though it is limited, though it breaks things up because thought is in itself partial, but we must use thought, realizing its limitation we must exercise thought to find out, to observe very clearly, with reason, logic, sanity why we live the way we do: concerned with our own little problems, with our own sexual desires, with our own psychological conflicts and all the rest of it. So we said, goodness is not an abstraction, not an idea, not something ideal, actuality, to be good. Because it is only when individuals, or groups of individuals, human beings, are good, in the deep sense of that word, then there is a possibility of bringing about a different society. We were saying all this yesterday. And we came to the point that to have this sense of goodness, which we carefully explained what that word means, which is, to have great sense of responsibility, to have certain care, affection, love - all that is implied in that word. And realizing that, the significance, the full depth of that word 'goodness', which is not the opposite of that which is evil - we explained that carefully - and we said, is it possible for a human being to bring about this goodness in himself? Because he creates the society, the society which we have is created by each one of us, we have contributed to that, by our greed, by our angers, by our hatreds, by our various forms of pleasure, ambition and so on, we have created this monstrous society. And unless we understand ourselves, what we are, and bring about a change in what we are, there can never be a good society. So we said, to understand oneself is important. The ancient Hindus, and the Greeks and others have said, 'Know Yourself'. Please, we are thinking together, we are investigating together, don't listen to the talk and go away; you are working as hard as the speaker. We are investigating, exploring, thinking, feeling together into this problem. Because any thoughtful man who is serious must find out for himself a way of living, surrounded by chaos, surrounded by disorder, immorality, to live a life that is essentially good. And to find that out we said, you must know yourself. Know yourself, not according to some philosopher, to some leader, to some analyst, to some guru, because they only inform you what they think you are, including the Freudians, the Jungians, and all the rest of it. If you discard all those - one must, if you want to discover what you are, and to bring about a change in what you are, you must investigate your own consciousness, your own mind, your own reactions, your way of life. That's fairly obvious, isn't it? We cannot possibly depend on others to tell us what we are. They have done this. I am sure you know all this but you have probably never thought about it.
And priests, the religious leaders throughout the world, have said, you can't possibly change yourself, but only if you can surrender yourself to the highest god, the highest principle, then perhaps you might change. That's not good enough. So we are asking: can you discard what others have said what you are, and investigate for yourself what actually is going on within yourself, and look? I hope this is somewhat clear. That is, if you rely on authority to tell you what you are, you are then depending on the assertions, the speculations, the theories of others, however good, however reasonable, however logical. And when you accept them and through their eyes examine yourself, then you are looking at yourself through the authority of another. Please see this simple fact. If I tell you what you are - I wouldn't be such an idiot - then you would accept my theory, or my concept, my idea of what you are, and conform to that pattern. This is what we are doing, actually. So gradually we become second-hand people. Right? See this. Please see how important this is, because as long as we are living with the authority of others, however intelligent, however much they have explored, we are then accepting their pattern of what our consciousness should be, what we are, and then lose the initiative, the creative capacity to investigate and discover. I hope we are making this clear and I hope we are doing this. Because out of that comes freedom.
You can't possibly investigate without freedom. Right? This is obvious, isn't it? That if you want to know yourself one has to discard totally, completely what others have said about you. Can you do that? Or must you accept their theories, logical or illogical, sane or insane, and accepting what they say and gathering their information which may sharpen your own mind, and with that sharpened mind, sharpened at the expense, at the behest of others, look at yourself. You follow? Or is there a possibility of looking at yourself without all that? Right? Are we meeting each Are we thinking together, we are understanding? I hope we are meeting each other. That is, one can know oneself very clearly, objectively in relationship. Right? Relationship is the mirror in which we see ourselves, actually as we are. Because we are apt to deceive ourselves. We are prone to create illusions. We have the tendency to create ideas, formulas, illusions, and they assume reality. Haven't you noticed all this? So one must be absolutely free of all illusion. Is that possible?
I hope we are meeting each other, we are investigating together, because please bear in mind this is not a talk given by the speaker for you to listen and agree, or disagree, and go home, and carry on in your usual life. But on the contrary, this investigation together becomes very serious; and being serious it affects our lives. And if you don't want to be disturbed, then please don't listen. If you want to carry on your daily life as one does, probably you will, after even hearing this talk, then shut your ears and don't bother. Go to a cinema or do something else. But if you are serious and I hope you are, then one has to look at oneself without any illusion in the mirror of relationship. There you discover all your reactions, objectively, without any distortion. That is if you want to discover yourself, that is if you want to bring about a good society, healthy, sane, moral; human beings who have values, not imaginary values.
So we have to investigate, look together into this mirror. You see one of the difficulties is that our minds in observing in this mirror, dictate what the mirror should tell. You are following all this? Our minds, which is our thought, our desires, our pleasures, our fears, our anxieties, our groping uncertainties, dictate what that mirror should show. I hope you are following all this. So to observe very clearly in the mirror there must be a mind that is capable of observing without any distortion. Right? That is, what makes for distortion? Do you understand my question? The mirror is not distorted, obviously. Because in our relationship, with my wife, husband, whatever it is, in that relationship there is no distortion, those are facts, but the mind begins to distort, which is, thought begins to distort. I hope you are following all this. Right? Are we going on together with this? So we have to investigate why the mind - we are using the 'mind' in the sense, not only the brain, but thought, emotions, sensory responses, all that is the mind - right? - which is consciousness. I won't go into that, we'll go into that a little later. Which is, your mind is the product of the senses, emotions, thought, desire, and all the experiences, memories, is the content of one's mind. Right? It is very simple when you observe it. That mind with its thought, sensations and so on, that thought has created the sense of the self, the 'me' - the self. Right? So the self is always distorting. Right? Which is, the self, the 'me', is the product of thought, thought which is limited, obviously, thought which is the response of memory, memory being experience and knowledge, inherited or acquired, that thought has created this self. This self is always distorting: my desires, my wishes, my particular idiosyncrasies, my particular tendencies, my desires, my opinions, my longing, my fulfilment. And this self conceals itself in many, many ways. I don't know if you have noticed it. Have you noticed, for example, those who are greatly in the political world or the religious world, the self has concealed itself in the name of god. Right? I wonder if you see all this. Please don't accept what the speaker is saying, but observe the activities of this extraordinary thing called the self.
One can become a religious leader - religion quotes - and talk about god, preach about god and all that kind of stuff, and the self is identified with that god and it gives him a great deal of position, money, all the rest of the nonsense - in the name of god. Haven't you noticed all this? Or you have an experience, there is an experience and immediately the self takes that over, makes it into some philosophical concepts, some experience which it thinks is extraordinary and begins to talk about it, preach about it. And in the very preaching of it he becomes very important, gathers money, position, respectability, you know, influence.
So to find out how to observe the mirror without distortion we must understand first the nature of sensation. You are following all this? May I go on? Please, are we meeting together? You see we have senses, that is, we are not using all our senses at the same moment; we are using the senses as a particular sense, partially. You may be an artist and what you see and what you observe, the colour, the beauty of the mountains, the shape, and so on, there, you are exercising vision, you are not exercising all your senses. I wonder if you are following all this? So we are conditioned to function with one or the other senses, giving them importance. Haven't you noticed this? So that we are never operating with all our senses. So that's one of our difficulties. And is it possible to look, observe with all our senses. You are following this? Because this is very important. When you so attend with all your senses there is no centre from which you are observing. I wonder if you see this. Experiment with this, find out, either the speaker is telling some nonsense, or whether it has any validity. So to find out one has to be aware how your senses are operating; whether one sense, or one or two senses have become extraordinarily important and the others are being neglected or atrophied. Whereas if you become aware and find out, you then discover that you can operate with all your senses. Then when all the senses are in full operation there is no centre as the self which distorts observation. I wonder if you You will have to find this out.
So we are saying that as long as one particular, or a couple of senses are taking dominance over the others there must be distortion, obviously. So as we said, the mind is made up of these senses. Then one has to understand desire, because when you are looking in the mirror clearly, if you want to look at it objectively, sanely, rationally, clearly, you have to understand the whole movement of desire. Are you interested in all this? Or are you going to sleep on a lovely morning? You know, I was thinking, should you be serious on a lovely morning? Or you are only serious when it is a rather misty, cloudy, rainy, darkish morning? This is a serious gathering, not an entertainment, intellectual or otherwise. We are discussing the whole question of a society that is going to pieces, that is deteriorating, degenerating, and being serious people, they are concerned with a different way of living, to bring about a different society, a different culture, not the culture based on waste, disrespect and so on, so on, so on. And to bring about such a society each human being has to be fundamentally, deeply good - good being sane, rational, care, sense of deep love. That is the essence of goodness.
And as we said, to observe in the mirror one must investigate the whole movement of desire because we are driven by our desires. Right? Specially in this country, we are encouraged through commercialism to such an extravagant explosion of our desires: we are told to buy, buy, buy - if you listen to the television and the commercials, my god! So the society around us, which has been created by us, by our greed, by our envy, by our anxiety, that very society of which we are a part, encourages this drive, this energy which has become desire. Right?
And all religious organizations, ancient Hindus and Catholics and so on, have always said to their monks who come to serve in the name of god, 'Suppress your desire, control your desire', or 'Surrender your desire to god' - give yourself, which is your desire, which is the energy which is expressed through desire, to the nameless, to the holy, to the ultimate. And human beings not being able to do that completely, control themselves. Burn with desire, sexual and other forms of desire, and fight, fight, fight, struggle in the name of god. So such people obviously cannot look in the mirror without distortion - obviously. So we are saying, we have to understand desire, not suppress it, control it, or transmute it, or run away from it. Because when we understand something very clearly, then you can deal with it. It is only when we are not quite clear then we battle with it.
There is one problem in the understanding of this word 'desire': what do we mean by 'understanding'? You understand? Please follow all this. To understand, it means to comprehend, to know, to be aware, to have cognizance, to see the full meaning. But we are using the word in a different sense, if one may, which is, to understand something is to transform it, is to completely change it. I am going to go into this carefully. Please, we are investigating together, you are not just listening to me, that's useless, because it's your life, not my life. So we are trying - we are investigating the whole movement of desire, why man has never been able to understand it, give it its right place and be free of it. You understand? We have never been able to do it. Now we are going into this question of desire, please, bearing in mind that we are not suppressing it, we are not trying to control it, we are not trying to surrender this enormous energy to some ideal. We are trying to comprehend this enormous energy of man, which is a driving force of our life - desire, with its will. Because will is the essence of desire - I want this, I will get it, I must be successful. You follow? All that is this enormous energy that man has expressed through desire - I hope this is clear - which has created extraordinary problems because you have your desire, another has his desire, and so there is conflict between the two. Your desire drives you in one direction, and the other in another direction, so there is never a relationship which is actual but each desire driving one another apart and hoping some day we will meet together, either sexually, or in some heaven - which is nonsense. I hope you are meeting all this.
So we have got this enormous energy, which is operating in the world. To go to the Moon you have to have enormous energy, the desire there. To be a good politician, to become a President, or whatever it is, you have to have this extraordinary desire, ambition. And this ambition, which is an expression of desire, is cultivated to the highest degree in this country. And so there is constant ruthlessness in this drive. I hope you are following this. Right? It is ruthless. I may have this tremendous desire and experience something and you know, imagine that I have achieved some extraordinary state and talk about it, preach about it, but it is still this desire that makes me sit on a platform and talk about it (laughs) - not with me, (laughter) and I mean it. Then you may ask, why do you talk? If it isn't your desire, why do you talk at all, why have you talked for over fifty years? Right? That's a logical question. Must I go into it? First of all, this person talks because he is without any motive. Please understand, I have no motive to convince you of anything - that I am great, that I am reputed, that I have this, that I have that, that's all beside the point. Nor do I want to convince you of anything, to make you believe in something other than what you believe. On the contrary. Belief destroys people, separates people, it has no validity, it is not actual. And the speaker is talking because - I don't know (laughter) - because it may be that one has love for one's fellow human beings, may be that one has compassion, and various other things. You never ask the sun, 'Why do you get up in the morning?'-or the sun set; you never ask a flower why it blooms: you either look at it, enjoy it, smell it and see the extraordinary beauty of it and every day look at it. Perhaps that's why one is talking. Apart from that, there is much more to be said about it. I think man has lost the direction of life. And also to state something that is beyond all thought, beyond all measure, which no philosophy, nothing can explain, but one has to come to it. So let's get back to what we were saying.
We have this extraordinary desire, with its energy which is driving, which is almost uncontrollable. I don't know if you have noticed all this. And we have never been able to give it its right place. So - please listen to this - what is the relationship between thought and desire? You understand my question? Where does thought and desire meet? If thought does not meet desire then what relationship is action without thought? You understand my question? Please I will have to go into it. Please, have a little patience, because we are investigating a very complex problem. You have a desire, and you act. You see something in the shop you desire, and you buy it, or do something. What is the action of desire without thought? Is there an action of desire without thought? You are meeting all this? So I am asking - we are asking: what is the relationship between the two? You understand my question? Please understand my question first. That is, desire is sensation. Right? That is, you see something beautiful, there is perception, contact, sensation. If it is merely that then it is very simple, isn't it? Seeing, contact, sensation. If it ends there, there is no problem. Right? I wonder if you understand this. Please go into it with me, it is really important, this. You can see a beautiful vase, beautiful house, or beautiful woman or man, whatever it is, a beautiful thing - the seeing, the touching, there is the sensation. If it ends there, there is no problem, but when thought comes in and creates an image of having that vase, that person, or whatever it is, in your house then begins the problem. You follow? So I am asking what is the relationship between desire, which is, seeing, perception, contact, sensation, then thought taking that sensation over, creating an image, the vase in your house, the car in your garage, the man or the woman in your room, creating the image and then the whole movement of struggle begins. I wonder if this is clear. Are you following? Are you getting tired?
So we are asking: what is the relationship between desire, thought and action? Can there be perception, contact, sensation, without the interference of thought, which then creates the image and the pursuing of that image? You get this? I wonder if you get it! The pursuing of that image is your desire to fulfil, and not being able to fulfil, frustrated, anger, jealousy, annoyance, bitterness, cynicism, the whole business of frustrated people, because they cannot fulfil their desire. You are following all this? It is extraordinary, how the mind if you observe desire very closely you can see this movement going on.
So desire is seeing, perception, contact, sensation, and can it stop there and not let thought create the image, and the pursuit of that image, and then fulfilment, frustration and all the rest of it? We are asking now: can perception, contact, sensation stop, and no more? Which means, thought has no relationship to desire which creates the image and the pursuit of that image, and fulfilment, frustration, all that follows. Have you understood this? This demands a great deal of attention; when there is this movement of desire, which is contact, sensation, to be totally aware of all this at one glance. You understand what I am saying? That is, when there is clear insight into this - I am using the word 'insight' in the sense, when you comprehend the whole of it - then desire and will play very little part in life. Then there is something else operates, which is intelligence. You understand? This is perhaps a little bit - I am introducing something else. May I go on with this, or are you surfeit of this?
Desire has not been properly investigated by people, specialists - we are not specialists fortunately, we are ordinary people, laymen, we can investigate it without losing any face or losing money, losing position, or anything. We can just investigate it and see the movement of this whole desire, which is perception, seeing, contact, sensation, thought taking the sensation over and creating the image, pursing that image and the fulfilment in that image or the frustration. When you look at this whole movement as a whole, holistically, there is an insight into it - right? - you see the inward working of it, and which is intelligence. So intelligence then operates, not desire, not mere sensation. You have got it? Have you understood something of this? That is, our action is now based on desire, the image created by thought, acting. Therefore your desire opposed to another desire and so there is conflict between two desires: when you are married, husband, wife, girl, boy, this is the operation that is going on all the time in every way - sexually, in ambition, this thing is going on, movement all your life, which brings great conflict, various forms of neurosis and so on, so on, so on.
So we are saying something entirely different: to have an insight into the whole movement of desire. That is, to look at the whole desire, and say, 'What shall I do without desire, which sounds silly. If you take away desire I can't act' - we are not taking anything away, we are merely looking at the whole structure and the nature of desire. When you look at it completely without any distortion that very looking is intelligence. You understand? No? This is difficult. Sir, what is intelligence? You say, he is a very intelligent man - I don't mean that. You can be intelligent but rather stupid too. The meaning of that word according to a good dictionary is: to understand, to read between the lines, to be able to comprehend non-verbally, because that is what it means 'between the lines', to understand without gesture, without the word, to grasp the whole significance of something instantly. You understand? That is intelligence. Now to grasp the whole significance of desire instantly, and see the truth of it, and that intelligence then will operate, which doesn't mean that you deny desire, intelligence is operating. Right?
So are you now operating with intelligence or with desire with its image and fulfilment? See the difference? When there is intelligence desire has its place, and thought has its place, therefore there is no conflict. This requires a great deal of enquiry into oneself to be so aware, so attentive to the arising of desire, that's perception, contact, sensation, arising, and then thought instantly taking over, creating the image and the pursuing of that image - I must be the President, the whole business of it. When you understand this whole movement, have an insight, that very insight is intelligence which then functions, intelligence then is operating, acting. Right? Have you captured some of it? I think that's enough for today, isn't it?