Why are human beings what they are now?
Fundamental change in consciousness
1st Public Talk, New York, New York State
April 09, 1983
This is not a lecture as it is commonly understood; to inform or instruct. This is a dialogue between you and the speaker, a conversation in which you and the speaker are going to explore together the extraordinary problems that we are facing. We have to think together, which is quite arduous, because each one has his own particular opinion, his own values and judgements, experiences and so on, to which he clings to, obstinately, or willing to let go. And this is not a course of entertainment, not something you are told what to do, or be instructed in any way. But together you and the speaker are going to explore the extraordinary crisis, not only in the physical world, but in consciousness, in our way of life, in what we are doing. One must consider together after forty five thousand years and more why human beings are what they are now. Together we are going to think; not the speaker thinks and then you listen, or wait for an answer from the speaker to our problems, but together we will investigate very carefully, in this very short time, why after perhaps thousands upon thousands of years we are what we are: violent, pursuing endlessly wars, conflict, confusion, uncertainty.
So please, if one may point out most respectfully that we are together find out the causes, and when one discovers the cause there is an end to the cause. So we are going to look, perceive together without any motive. Most of you perhaps have come here either out of curiosity or to be intellectually entertained or be stimulated. And one is afraid if you come with those intentions then we shall not be able to communicate with each other. You are facing very great issues, and to seek an immediate answer is rather futile. We must together explore the extraordinary complexity, the way of our thinking, why we behave in a certain way, and so on. So together let us think and find out.
Settle down please. (Laughs) We'll go on. You are used to football (laughter), to be entertained, to be disturbed. But this is a very serious affair.
What has brought us to this present condition? Is it thought? Is it mere accident? Is it man everlastingly must live in conflict? Seeing what is happening all over the world, the extraordinary advance in technology, in surgery, chemistry, and the biological experiments they are making in one direction, in one field, all that is going on - medicine, surgery, going to the moon, putting some silly flag up there. And psychologically, inwardly, we more or less remain as we have been for centuries upon centuries. There is advance in the field of technology, computers, way of communication, and so on. In the other direction, inwardly, we have hardly moved at all. We are more or less what we have been from the beginning of time: conflict, envy, brutality, violence, the state of anxiety, loneliness, despair, hopelessness, seeing that man cannot possibly change. Either one becomes very, very depressed, or tries to find a way out of all this. Is there a way out of all this? Please, we are thinking together, we are questioning together. The speaker may put it into words but it is a conversation between you and the person who is speaking, a dialogue with two friends, serious, committed to find out.
Is there a way out of this at all? Politically all the world over, whatever problems they have, and the solution of those problems, there are a hundred other problems in the solution. There is a political division, ideological divisions, religious divisions, national divisions, and the divisions between man and man, between man and woman. These divisions - as the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Christian and the Muslim, with all their sub divisions - wherever there is division there must be conflict. Wherever there are nationalities, the American, the Russian, the Chinese and so on, there must inevitably be various forms of economic, social, military, political struggle. Perhaps most of us are aware of this, but we seem to be unable to do anything. We see that where there is division of any kind there must be conflict. The world is divided into nationalities, into racial divisions, colour, religious and so on. All these divisions exist, they are actual, they are not theoretical. And these divisions have brought about wars. Not a particular kind of war, the nuclear and so on, but wars. Apparently nobody is interested in stopping wars. Nobody is interested apparently to find out the causes of war and whether those causes can be totally, completely eliminated. Neither the politicians nor the religious hierarchy, whether they be Catholic, Buddhist or Hindu, are interested in ending war. They may talk endlessly about peace; you cannot have peace if there is division, division as nationalities.
Who has brought about these divisions? Please, this is an important question to find out for ourselves, not be instructed by the speaker. He is not a guru, thank god! We have to think very seriously, deeply, by asking who and what are the causes of this division, this endless division. Is it thought? Is it that thought, which has been necessary in the world of technology, in the world of surgery and medicine, communication, where thought must be employed, and is it thought that has created this division? Thought has built marvellous cathedrals, great paintings, lovely poems, great literature, and so on. To find out for ourselves what is the cause, the basic cause, the fundamental cause, why humans have lived through centuries upon centuries divided, endless tribal wars - the American tribalism is called nationalism, it is still tribalism. And they apparently glory in their tribalism, as they all do all over the world. Glorified nationalism is still tribalism.
Who has brought about all this misery, confusion, sorrow? And there is so little compassion, love. I hope one hopes that you are asking the question: who is responsible for all this? Who has created this society in which we live? The immoral society, the society in which man has to work from morning till night, going to the office every day for the rest of his life till he dies, his fears, his deep anxiety, the desperate struggle to become something, and the all-consuming sorrow of mankind. You might ask that each one of us is responsible. Each one of us is responsible for what is going on in the entire world, because our consciousness with all its reactions is not your consciousness or mine, it is the consciousness of the entire humanity. The entire humanity suffers. The entire humanity goes through great agonies of suspicion, of confusion, sorrow, fear, loneliness. All that every human being here, in this country, or in the far away countries, they all share that same anxieties and so on. Your consciousness is not yours. Your consciousness with all its content - your gods, your disbelief, your faiths, and so on, is common, the ground on which all human beings stand. So you actually, if one may point out very carefully, that you are not individuals. We like to think we are individuals because our consciousness, which is our heritage, tradition, the conditioning is shared by every human being living on this earth.
Please investigate it, don't reject it, but find out, if one may ask, for yourself find out if this is true or false. If it is true then you will find out for yourself whether you are what the religions have said, what society has said. Everyone encourages this spirit of separation as the individual. And the individual is struggling against everybody else for his happiness, for his success, to overcome his own obstacles and so on. Surely our consciousness - I hope we understand what we mean by consciousness: all that we are, the name, the form, the qualities, the fears, the faith, the disbelief, the content of our consciousness is what we are. And that content is common, shared by all human beings. So it is not personal consciousness.
And that consciousness is the movement of thought. Thought is always limited because thought is the outcome of experience and knowledge, stored in the brain as memory. So knowledge is always incomplete about everything. That's a fact. All the scientists are always adding more and more and more. Our knowledge about your wife or your husband is limited. You actually don't know your wife or your husband. Your experiences are limited. So thought is always limited. That thought is shared by the greatest scientist, greatest philosopher, or by the most ignorant man who does not know how to read. He may live in a small hut far away from all so-called civilization. He thinks and so does the rich scientist. They may express their thinking in different ways but they all think. So thinking is not individual thinking. All this may sound rather absurd or irrational, but if you carefully examine without any bias, without any prejudice or conclusion you will see the actual truth of it, that your thinking is not yours. It is the thinking of all man, mankind.
So when one realises that truth, that it is not your individual thinking, individual consciousness, then you are responsible, one is responsible for everything that is happening in this monstrous, ugly world. As long as each one of us is violent we are sharing the violence of all mankind. If we are envious we are sharing all the complications of envy of every human being on this earth, and so on. This is a fact. It is not some speculative theory of the speaker. So thought is responsible for all this; for the technological advancement, for the glory of a great poem, or a great painting, and all the things that are contained in the cathedrals, in the churches, in the mosques, in the temples, are all the result of thought. Thought has created god. I hope this is not too much of a shock to any of you. If you are really shocked, so much the better. But if you merely accept it as an intellectual statement and go along with it, it will have no value.
Words are merely a means of communication. Words, which are common between you and the speaker as English language, is a convenience of communication. But the word is not the thing. The word is not the actuality, the fact. Nor the explanation, nor the description. But most of us are caught easily in descriptions and explanations and are satisfied with those. But if you if one goes into the matter very, very seriously, as one must, when we are facing such an extraordinary crisis, must find out if thought, which is always limited because all knowledge is limited. We have discussed this matter with a great many so-called scientists, philosophers. They admit that thought is limited. And so is knowledge. There are other scientists and philosophers who say through knowledge man advances, ascends - like Bronowski and others. We are questioning that. Can that which is limited, because knowledge is limited, which they admit, can there be advance, evolve through limitation? If thought is limited, its evolution will always be limited. Therefore whatever it does must create conflict. I hope we are together in this, not merely intellectually, verbally, but actually. That we see together, perceive the actual truth that thought, which is the outcome of experience, knowledge, and knowledge and experience are always limited, therefore thought is ever limited. And what is limited must inevitably create conflict.
Thought has created all these problems, the problems of war, thought has divided human beings into different nationalities because thought said perhaps there is security in a group as in a family and the greater community, the nation and so on. And in dividing human beings into nationalities, hoping to find security, it has brought about total insecurity, which is war and all the diabolical inventions to kill human beings. Thought is responsible for this. There is no question about it, you can't argue against it. You can show what thought has done in surgery and so on, so on, in the technological world, but thought in human relationship is what we are talking about. Thought has created these innumerable, intricate problems in our life. And thought having created the problems tries to find solutions to the problems it has created. Right? Are we together in this, somewhat? Thought has led us to the present condition. And our brains have been educated, trained, conditioned to solve problems. If you are an engineer you have the problems which must be solved. A scientist, he has problems and he must solve those problems, mathematicians, or those who are guiding the Challenger and so on. We are trained from childhood to solve problems. Our brain has the capacity, is conditioned, trained to resolve problems. So we treat life as a problem to be solved. Please consider this.
And as thought has created the misery, the sorrow, the conflict among human beings with their separate ideologies, and these ideologies are the product of thought, whether it is the communist ideology or the democratic ideology or the dictatorship ideology, they are all the result of thought. Thought has created the problem, this present problem, and thought is being used to solve those problems. And you see what is happening: multiplication, deepening of problems. So when one realises that, the actuality of it, the truth of it, then one asks, is there a different instrument other than thought? Please we are asking this very, very serious question. Is there a different kind of instrument rather than that instrument which we have used, which is thought, which apparently has found no answer to any of these problems? Are we aware of this fact, that thought has created the religious divisions, thought has created your saviour and all the rituals, however beautiful they are. The speaker was once in Venice, and a Cardinal was performing a mass. It was the most beautiful thing one saw. It was a great sensation. And people were genuflecting, crossing themselves, it was great fun. Day after day for some length of time this went on. And that religion, not only the Christian religion, but the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Islamic world, have nothing whatsoever to do with our daily living. They are romantic, sentimental, and all that is the product of thought, the gods and all the circus that goes on in the name of religion.
So when you actually see the truth of it, then you begin to ask, and you can only ask this if there is tremendous doubt, scepticism, of all the things that thought has put together. Not only your consciousness, your behaviour, your conclusions, your opinions, your values, which are all the activity and the movement of thought. One must doubt all that to find out the truth. But most of us are frightened to doubt because when we doubt there is great uncertainty. It evokes fear.
So we are asking is there another instrument? Before we can investigate into that we must question also the whole problem of time. Time is a series of movements, both the outer - time by the watch, by daylight, sunlight, sun rising, sun setting, full moon and so on; to learn a language I must have time, to learn a skill one must have time - and psychologically time may be the enemy of man. The speaker is saying that. Please don't accept it. Look, please consider it. Together we are looking into it. We have been told, and our tradition says we must become something, not only in the outward world but also inwardly. The becoming implies time. We carry over from the becoming something in the world to the psychological field. I am this but I will be that. I am violent but through time, which is evolution, I will be there will be the end to violence, or become non-violent, which is absurd. Violence can never become non-violent. I know it is one of the catchwords which Tolstoy and others in India have propagated, that you are violent, human beings are violent, inherited from the animals, apes and so on, and gradually through time, which is evolution, he will become non-violent.
Please see the importance of this. Evolution, which is the movement of time; time being a slow inward movement, that evolution through forty, fifty thousand years on this earth has brought us to this state, to the present condition of what we are - jealous, envious, angry, violent, brutal, cynical, bitter, frightened. After forty thousand years or more, we are what we are through evolution, and we hope through evolution we will be changed - which seems rather ridiculous. If evolution has not changed us now, will evolution ever change us? Please put these questions to yourself. So one may ask: time may be the enemy of man, psychologically. There is no psychological evolution. If you and the speaker are the result of forty thousand years or more, and we are come to this peculiar state that we are in, will we, give me another forty thousand years, change? You understand the question? It seems so absurd, nonsensical. Which is, I am violent, through time, through evolution I will be without any violence. And if I am eventually going to be non-violent, the end of violence, in the meantime I am violent. You understand?
So time psychologically is the enemy of man. Thought is time. So thought which is a material process, and time is a series of movements from this to that, from here to there psychologically, and they have brought about man to this present condition, to the present condition of great pain and sorrow and passing pleasure. Time will not resolve it, nor thought. If this is very clear, not as verbal explanation but an actual fact, then only we can ask if there is a different instrument rather than that which we have used, which is thought. Like a good carpenter, like a good mechanic, he throws away something that has no longer any use. But we don't. We cling to it. We say, show me the other instrument then I'll give up the other. And nobody is going to show it to you, including the speaker, because this is a matter of great serious investigation.
Because we all want to be helped. We are in sorrow, pain. If there is physical pain we go to the doctor which is natural, necessary. But psychologically, inwardly, we want to be helped. And you have been helped. The priests have helped you for the last seven thousand years, as far as civilization is known. From the Sumerians there have been priests, the ancient Egyptians had priests, they told you what to do, as the modern psychologists tell you what to do. There isn't much difference. If you are in trouble you pay a hundred dollars or more for an hour and trot along to the psychologist and he will promptly tell you what to do. Perhaps he will take three months, at a hundred dollars an hour. And we want to be helped. So we invent the guru who says, 'I know, follow me, I will tell you exactly what to do'. And the dictators also have told us what to do. And the totalitarian states - the elite know and the layman doesn't know. Any dissent - concentration camp, or psychological hospital. So we depend on others to help us. Please, this is again a very serious matter. And there is nobody that will help you, psychologically. If one realises that truth, that fact, because for the last million or long centuries we have sought help and we have created the helper, including god.
Where there is disorder in our life, confusion, that very confusion and disorder creates the authority. There was at one time in Italy a great confusion, physically - trains were late, things were stolen. We were there. And Mussolini came along and created order. Out of our disorder we create the authority. We are responsible for the authority. And then we worship the authority, whether it be the Christian authority, and so on. Because we live in disorder, our lives are confused, uncertain, frightened. There is great sorrow in our life. We are always seeking help from others. And probably - I hope not - you are here for that reason too. There is no help from this person. When one realises there is no help from outside, either by god or the angels, the so-called evangelists of this extraordinary country, and the philosophers and the books and the psychologists and so on, on which we all have depended, and all that dependence has led us to this misery. When one realises that, that there is no outside authority to help us out, when one realises that you may get depressed, which is another reaction, or become hopeless. But such reactions are symptoms of our present day existence; we jump from one thing to the other.
So, we have come to a point when you realise really, truly, actually, that time is a series of movements as thought, both are limited, they are similar - time is thought, and thought is limited. And that limitation has brought about this misery, this chaos in the world. When one comes to that point, not verbally, not merely intellectually but deep down in one's heart and blood, it is not a conviction. You are not convinced that the sun rises and the sun sets, it is a fact. So time and thought are not the answer because they are limited. To come to that point requires great meditation, not just verbal acceptance or intellectual conceit.
So now we must here ask if we have come to that point, that one is not seeking help from anyone to put our house in order. We have created the disorder in our house, and as human beings with some intelligence we must put that house in order. If we do not, we create the authority, and the authority dictates and creates more disorder. Are we together treading the same road, going along together on the same path? If we have not, then we must stop and investigate where you have stopped, why we do not proceed further. You understand my question? This is said most respectfully.
Do we realise how serious all this is? It is not a Saturday morning passing time, or tomorrow. It concerns our lives - what is the future of man, what is the future of your children. That is, the future tomorrow, that tomorrow extended for a thousand years. Are we responsible for our children, for the future of man? Not American man, not America, or your particular group, or your particular family, but the future of mankind, of which you are. If you separate yourself into families, small group, then that very limitation creates disorder. Please see advisedly this.
So one asks, what is the future of mankind? What is the future of each one of us? And for those we are responsible. Is it all a casual affair? Send them off to schools to be educated, and that peculiar conditioning through education to become soldiers. You understand? To become something or other. One has to earn a livelihood, which is becoming more and more difficult in an overpopulated world. Here in this affluent society, somewhat affluent, you don't know what poverty is. We have lived through it, from childhood we know what it is. And there are millions and millions who have hardly one meal a day. And when we are only concerned with ourselves, that concern, self-centred concern is limited, and therefore you are responsible for the misery of mankind. Each one of us is. And one must ask where are we going with the extraordinary technology, with the computer which may the computer may take over our human thinking. It is doing that almost, creating a robot. I hope you know what is happening, and what is going to happen to the human mind. We are programmed, our minds are programmed - to be a Christian, to be a Hindu, to be this and to be that. And after being programmed for two thousand years as Christians, and Hindus for perhaps three to five thousand years, we repeat. Clever, cunning, destructive. So can a human mind be free from all those states of being programmed? You understand? That means freedom from conditioning.
I am looking at the time. I don't know what time it is. It is quarter past eleven. I was told to stop at quarter past eleven.
Can the - two minutes - can the human condition - human condition: what we are now - can that human condition be changed, moved, broken? There are those who say they cannot - great philosophers, great writers have said this. They can only continue in that condition, modified. But if you have gone into it very deeply, it can be. The conditioning can be radically changed, otherwise there is no freedom for man. Then he will live everlastingly, endlessly in conflict.
If we may we will continue tomorrow. Please don't clap - you are clapping for yourself not for me. May I get up?