What is the root of the crisis in mankind?
The crisis is in the very nature of thought
1st Public Talk, Ojai, California
May 02, 1981
Right from the beginning we should make certain things very clear: this is a serious gathering, it is not an intellectual or emotional entertainment. Also one may point out, we are not trying to do any propaganda for any ideals, for any beliefs, for any conclusions, for any concepts. We are not trying to bring something exotic from India, because I am not a Hindu though I was born there. We are not trying to convince you of anything. Please be quite clear on that point. Together we are going to be aware sensitively, without any prejudice, without any identification, without any choice, to be aware of what is happening in the world, not only externally, outwardly, but also inwardly - what we have become, what society, which human beings have built, has come to. We are going to sensitively, choicelessly be aware of what is happening in this world which human beings have created, a world which is disintegrating, a world where there is tremendous violence, division, nationalities, religious separation, divisions, all culminating in the division of man, human beings.
And if one is aware, not from any particular point of view, but aware, objectively, with certain attention and feeling, one cannot help but observe that human beings, we, have brought about a society, a community of people who are being educated by others, by the specialists, by the technologists, and we are not educating ourselves - not according to some philosopher, ancient or modern, not according to some psychologist, or some committed sectarian, committed to some guru, but rather to educate ourselves and be totally responsible for ourselves, and not dependent on anybody psychologically. We are dependent on the postman, the market, and so on. But apparently, as one is aware and observes, in our so-called freedom we are destroying ourselves. These are all obvious facts. Morally, ethically, aesthetically, we are becoming more and more vulgar, more and more self-centred, more and more concerned entirely with ourselves, with our feelings, with our problems, with our fulfilments, with our own particular desire to be expressed. And this is called freedom. And that is, that freedom, when it is denied, as it is in the totalitarian states, there are dissidents, there is a great deal of trouble, as elsewhere.
And the problems are increasing because our society, ourselves, our economic condition, poverty, overpopulation, religious divisions, are bringing about the destruction of man - man and I mean also woman. The crisis is not political; the crisis is not economic, nor religious, but the crisis is in consciousness, in our minds, in our hearts, in our brain. The crisis is there. And the politicians, however capable, and the scientists, the biologists, the micro-biologists and so on, they are not going to solve our problems - they have not. Perhaps they will increase more and more our problems.
And considering all this, where does one start? Obviously, as the speaker is in this part of the world, here they have one fad after another fad, one fling after another, joining various types of cranky, meaningless - I was going to say, rather idiotic - gurus. And here, as elsewhere, we are being told what to do about everything. If you have listened to the radio, as perhaps most of you have, you are told how to have proper sex with your husband, you are told how to think - rather, what to think, how you should become young. You know the whole instruction that goes on, being told what to do. This is not an exaggeration, this is an obvious fact. If there is any trouble within, we immediately turn to some psychologist, to a priest, some guru. Or we neglect or accept things as they are. So we are gradually, if not already, lost our integrity, our sense of total responsibility for ourselves. And a culture, the modern culture which is being exported all over the world - it's the atom bomb, the computer, the means to destroy other human beings, war. And it is the easiest country to be copied. That's why all over the world America is looked up to, they all want to come here, to make money, like the gurus, fatten on some idiotic nonsense, and so on.
I am sure, we are sure, if you examine all this impersonally, not identify yourself with any particular part, the truth of this is obvious. Before we are mature we are already declining.
So, what is then man to do? What are we, you and I, and others, concerned, if we are, as we must be, with this terrible world in which we are living, the dangerous world, where if you disagree you are being killed, or sent to concentration camps, or excommunicated, or driven into solitude, put in prison and so on and so on. What has happened to man? What has happened to you? Why man has become like this after a million years, and more, what is the root cause of all this? What is the origin of this terrible confusion, this total disregard for human beings, for another? What is the cause of our ailment? Most of us deal with the symptoms - some superficial reactions, and we try to find a solution for those. But apparently we never ask fundamental, basic questions. We never seem to demand of ourselves fundamental questions. And it is only, if one may point out, that in asking basic questions one may have the right answer.
And the basic question is, if one examines, that the crisis, and perhaps this crisis has always existed in our human existence, being, the crisis is in our consciousness. Consciousness is what you think, what you are. Not the momentary responses only, but the consciousness of your particular desire, particular longing, particular fulfilment, identification, fears, pleasures, and the sorrow, the pain, the grief, the lack of love and compassion - all the things that thought has put together in the content of consciousness. All that is what we are - our beliefs, our experiences, our depressions, our immense sense of loneliness and despair, our longing to be loved, to be encouraged, to be held together, all that is our consciousness. Our nationality, our peculiar religion of two thousand years, which is vast propaganda, or five thousand years in the Asiatic world, or three thousand - all that is our consciousness. Whatever thought has put together, both outwardly in the technological world, and what thought has put together psychologically in the inward world, is part of our consciousness. And the crisis is there, not in the development of technology, which is overpowering, which is almost destroying the world. The crisis is not in belief, in faith, in some sectarian group, the crisis is not somewhere out there, but it is where you are. The crisis is in your consciousness.
And apparently we don't seem to be able to meet it. Many of us do recognise the crisis, if we are aware of what is happening globally, if you are sensitive, alert, knowing no scientist, politician, economist, or biologist, with their extraordinary experiments they are making, the crisis is in our mind, in our heart, which is our consciousness. And recognising the crisis - because it is the crisis of everybody, not just yours or mine, it is a global crisis. It is the crisis of humanity. Now we have reached a point, we can totally obliterate each other completely - the atom bomb, the new technology of war, and so on. One wonders if one is aware of all this, not be only concerned with our particular little problems, which is part of our crisis too, our particular loneliness, depression, sorrow, pain, pleasure, which is part of this, our consciousness. But also the global consciousness of man, of a human being, that consciousness is not your consciousness, it is a global consciousness, because everywhere man is suffering, lonely, in despair, terribly uncertain, frightened, utter lack of love, compassion, intelligence. It is a common ground upon which all human beings stand together.
So this consciousness with its crisis is not your consciousness. I hope that is very clear. Because you suffer, are uncertain, frightened, lonely, and all the things that one goes through in relationship is being followed all over the world, whether they live in Russia, China, or in the East, or here, they go through all this. So this consciousness is not mine or yours. This consciousness is global, it is part of all human beings.
I know for most of us it is very difficult to see this, recognise it and do something about it, because we all think we are so terribly individual, because we have identified ourselves with our body, with our reactions, with our nationalities, with our country, so we think we are individuals. Are we? Have you ever asked that question - not superficially, but basically, demanding that question whether you are actually an individual - which means, indivisible? The meaning of that word is indivisible, not broken up, not fragmented. And that is an individual. Are we? Or are we the result of a million and more years of collective experience, collective knowledge, collective belief and so on? The speaker is not a communist; he is totally a religious person. When he uses the word 'religion' he means by it, not belonging to any religion whatsoever - Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, all the sectarian business. But religion implies, means investigation sceptically, investigating, exploring with doubt, questioning sceptically into what is truth. That is religion. Not all that nonsense that is going on throughout the world - well-established, respectable, profitable. When we say that you are asking this question, whether we are individuals at all, because our brains have evolved through time, accumulating a great deal of experience, knowledge, and that brain, is it yours? Please ask this question of yourself. Don't, please, if one may request, identify yourself with it. Then you cannot possibly ask the question. If you say, 'My brain is mine', then it is finished, all enquiry comes to an end. But if you are enquiring, if you are sensitively aware of the growth, the evolution, from the microbe to the present condition of the human brain, it has evolved through time, millions and millions of years. Genetically, heredity and all the rest of it, this brain is not ours, it is the brain of human beings. And that brain which is so extraordinarily capable - look what it has done in the field of technology, look what it has done in the field of nationalities, how it has invented gods, theories, saviours, and so on. I wonder if you are aware of all this.
And that brain operates with the instrument of thought. Thought is its instrument. And thought has created the technological world, thought has created nationalities, thought has divided human beings - black, white, purple and all the rest of it. Thought has divided the religions - the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Islam, and so on, so on, so on, so on. Thought has made this world in which we live, the technological world as well as the psychological world. And one asks again if one is aware of this fact. Thought has created the marvellous cathedrals, the churches, and also thought has created what is put in them - the rituals, the candles, the prayers, the symbol, the saviour, as they are in India, and elsewhere, all over the world. Thought is responsible for war, for Hiroshima, for the present condition of man's confusion, anxiety, uncertainty.
So thought is part of this consciousness. Thought has put together the content of that consciousness. This is irrefutable. As we said, please we are not doing any propagation of any particular idea, but we are together, please, together, now, becoming aware sensitively, without any choice and identification, look very closely into the content of our own consciousness, of our own being. From there we act, from there we function, from there is the self created, the 'me', that is our consciousness. And thought has put it there. When you say you are a Christian, believe in this or that, in the saviour and so on, thought has been responsible for it. When you do any form of rituals, as in all religions, these nonsensical rituals which have no meaning, it is the result of thought. You may not like to hear all this. These are all facts. Thought is responsible. Thought has not created nature, the tree, the tiger, the heavens with their stars. But the astrophysicists can explore space, which is again the movement of thought.
So to understand the crisis in consciousness, in our very being, one must enquire very closely into the nature of thought, because that is the only instrument we have. We may invent intuition, a hunch, and so on, but it is still the basis of thought. Thought is the basis of all this. One wonders if one recognises this, and sees what thought has done. Thought has created the world in which we live, the society in which we live. The society is an abstraction. Society is an abstraction; what is real is relationship between man and man. And the socialists, the communists, the democrats and so on are trying to change society, the social structure, all over the world. But they are never concerned with the relationship between man and man, man, woman and so on because that relationship makes society. Which is again a fact. If your relationship with another is correct, true, has integrity, your society will then be totally different. But that society which is an abstraction is being changed by machines - not by revolutions - by computers, by the atom bomb, by all the technological inventions that thought has brought about, that is changing society, the structure. But human beings remain as they are - selfish, self-centred, completely concerned with their own dignity, with their own vanity, with their own ambition, with their own fulfilment, with their own desires.
So in order to understand and bring about a radical change in the crisis, or to respond to that crisis correctly, which means accurately, completely, one must enquire very deeply into the nature of thought - why thought has become so extraordinarily important in life. And is there another instrument apart from thought? We are going to go into it very carefully without any superstition, without any mystification, without any sense of acceptance, having faith and all that nonsense. We are going to, together, examine what thought is, how it has created this terrible mess and problems and so on. And we are going to enquire also together, if thought is not the instrument of the resolution of this crisis, is there another?
Please, as we pointed out, we are exploring together. You are not listening to what the speaker is saying, merely accepting or agreeing, or then not, but joining together to find out. Because the speaker has no authority, he is not a guru - thank god! So there is no relationship, which is so utterly false, between the teacher and the taught. There is only the act of learning, not you teach me and I teach you - which becomes ridiculous. But rather that together, as two human beings, think together, which doesn't mean you agree with me, or I agree with you, but together examine the nature of thought. Because by thought we live, by thought we destroy each other. So thought has become astonishingly important in our life. Thought divides each one of us in our relationship - man and woman. I do not know if you have gone into it, how thought divides a relationship and so there is everlasting battle in that relationship. We will go into all that. Perhaps not during this first talk but there are going to be, as there are going to be several - six talks, we will go into all this, if you are interested. The speaker is not persuading you, he is not stimulating you, he is not acting as a drug, but together we will see this crisis and we must resolve this crisis, or respond to this crisis properly, directly, sanely, rationally, not according to our particular narrow belief, or faith, or some kind of idiotic concept.
So we are asking, what is the nature of thought, and why thought has become so devastatingly important. You may say, if there is no thought, what - I am reduced to a vegetable. Thought has its function, it has. And also thought has brought about this terrible atom bomb that is going to destroy human beings, war. Thought has divided the world into nationalities. Thought has divided the Christian from the Muslim, from the Hindu. Having divided it says, 'We must love one another'. Having divided it says, 'There is only one Saviour who alone is responsible for your sorrow' - and all the rest of it. Thought is responsible for all this. And if we really are not sensitively aware of the movement of thought and all its activity, then we shall not be able to meet this crisis. And if we cannot, we are going to destroy each other. This is not a prophecy. You can see it on the wall, written on the wall, unless we are totally blind, totally insensitive, so absorbed in our own petty little self. It is all there, for anyone can see, to see what is going to happen and what must be done. So that is together, and I mean together, not the speaker is going to tell you and you accept it, then it becomes rather silly - but together find out why thought has become so supreme, and what is the source of thought, what is the origin of thought, what is the beginning of thought.
We have got ten minutes more. Time is an extraordinary thing! (Laughter) To understand time, because time is also thought, so if we understand the nature of thought we shall understand the nature of time. And if there is an ending to thought, that is real meditation, there is an ending to time - not physical time, but where time must have a stop. And we are going to discover that for ourselves in all these talks. That is, if you care to listen, care to share, think over together, then we will find, discover it for ourselves and not be taught by another. If you are taught by another you become a second-hand human being, which we are, we are what everybody has thought, from Aristotle, the Greeks, from the ancient Hindus, and the ancient Buddhists and so on, so on. All that is handed down and we are all that. So we are utterly mediocre people. There is nothing original - not in the field of technology, of course there are inventions. And you identify with that invention and you think you are unique. But thought is common to all mankind - black, brown, or whatever colour, or nationality and so on, thought is common. And therefore there is a common bondage between all of us. And unless we understand the extraordinary subtlety of thought with its memory, we shall not be able to meet this crisis. So we will go into it if time will permit, because I have to stop exactly an hour - five minutes! (Laughter)
We are enquiring into the origin of thought - in five minutes! (Laughter) But we can and we will proceed, if we cannot do it completely this morning we will do it tomorrow morning, and at other times. Thought is born of experience. Thought is born out of that experience which becomes knowledge, stored up in the brain as memory, various types of memories, technological, personal, national, historical and so on, scientific. So experience - listen, discover it for yourself as we talk - experience, knowledge, from knowledge is memory, the remembering of past things, then from memory thought. Then from thought there is action. And that action brings further knowledge. So we are caught in this. That is, experience, which may be personal or global, knowledge which is global, from knowledge which is stored up in the brain as memory, memory, and from that memory respond, response which is thought. Then thought acts, this way or that way, rightly, wrongly, skilfully or with great subtlety, and from that further knowledge. So in this chain the human brain works, it is caught in this chain, which is a fact, if you observe it very closely. And that's why thought has become so extraordinarily important. And as it is born out of experience, knowledge, and as knowledge can never be complete, whole at any time, so thought is always limited, it is always broken up. And whatever it touches must bring about division. Obviously, right?
So do we see the truth of that? That knowledge can never be complete, and thought then must be incomplete, limited, fragmentary, and whatever it does, whether it creates the United Nations, or invents god, it must always be limited and therefore being incomplete it must bring about disharmony, conflict. If one realises this completely, not as a theory, idea, but as an actuality, then thought has its place. Because if you have no knowledge of where you are going after this meeting, it would be absurd. So knowledge has a place. But knowledge, psychological knowledge, which is the 'me', which thought has put together, the self, and the self-centred activity different from, in the relationship with another, and that brings about conflict, confusion, misery.
So if one understands that very, very deeply, then one can begin to enquire: is there a totally different kind of instrument that is not fragmentary, that's whole? Perhaps we will do that tomorrow. I must stop now.