Why do we have problems at all?
Is it possible to live a life without a single problem?
1st Public Talk, Bombay
January 22, 1983
If one may, I'd like to point out that this is not a lecture. A lecture generally means to instruct on a particular subject with a view to inform, instruct and teach. So this is not a lecture but we are going to talk over things together. Not that the speaker is going to only talk but together, you and the speaker, search out the various issues of our daily life and to see if there are any solution for them. We are concerned not with philosophy, generally which is understood to mean theories, speculations and a form of intellectual entertainment, but rather you and the speaker slowly, with certain scepticism, doubt, questioning, demanding, that we two talk over, converse, have a dialogue over our whole existence. We are not instructing or informing on any particular subject, but together, and we mean together, share together, into the many problems of our life. So, please, it's your responsibility, as well as that of the speaker, to think together, not you think separately and the speaker thinks separately, but each of us discover, find out for ourselves if we are meeting each other, not merely at the intellectual level or emotional or romantic or ideational level, but rather that you and the speaker meet in a relationship that is enquiring, not accepting but questioning.
And to question, enquire, one must be free of prejudices, otherwise your enquiry has no value at all. Or if you are committed to a particular form of thought, particular adjustment to an ideal, then we cannot possibly think together. Thinking together requires a great deal of attention because most of us are already committed to so many ideas, conclusions, opinions, and so we never meet. As the speaker has no belief, has no ideals, has no authority whatsoever, he can investigate easily, freely, happily. But if you also were free to enquire, to look into the vast complex of our society, of our governments - not this government of this particular country but governments throughout the world, to not merely have certain information about them all, but why human beings who have lived on this earth for perhaps forty, fifty thousand years, or perhaps more, have become what they are - dull, violent, superstitious and following some idiotic nonsensical tradition. We must be capable to deeply understand the nature of ourselves because we are the society, we have created this society in which we live, and to bring about order in that society, not by legislation, not by governmental laws or a new form of governors and chief ministers and so on, but as long as our own house is not in order - our house, the house in which we live, not the physical house but the house of our struggle, conflicts, misery, confusion, sorrow, that's our house - and if we don't bring about order in that, mere demand for outward order has very little meaning.
So please, we are thinking together. You are not merely listening to the speaker, taking a few ideas from him or a few slogans, a few concepts and then agreeing or disagreeing, but we are concerned deeply why human beings are what they are, why they have become like this. And the future is what they are now. If they don't change now, the future will be exactly what it is now, perhaps with certain modifications, variations, but human beings, if they don't radically, fundamentally bring about in their own attitudes, in their own lives, which is to put order, then attending to all these talks, seeing old familiar faces has very little meaning. If that is very clear that we are together meeting at a certain level, with the same intensity, at the same time, then communication becomes very simple. Because obviously, the speaker is here to say something, to explore something with you. But if you hold on to your commitments, to your beliefs, to your gurus and all that business, we can never meet each other.
So please, this is a talk or a conversation between two people, between you and the speaker, a conversation, a dialogue of two friends who are concerned not only with their own private lives, but concerned with the world, concerned with what is happening in the world - the global disorder, the threat of wars, the poverty, the violence and the destruction that is going on right throughout the world. So we are responsible for all that. And it is no good going off into some corner and to meditate about god knows what. So please, if you will kindly bear in mind all the time that we are together deeply concerned, serious, not flippant, to find a solution for all these problems.
What is a problem? Why have we throughout our life from the beginning of when we see the light till we die, why do we have problems? Social problems, economic problems, mechanical problems, computer problems and our own problems in our daily life, in our relationship - why do we have problems at all? Is it necessary to have problems? The word 'problem', its root meaning is something that is thrown at you. The meaning of that word 'problem' means something thrown at you, something - a challenge. That is the meaning of that word. And we are asking why do we have problems at all? Is it possible to live without a single problem? If you have problems, obviously those problems act as friction and wears out the brain, and one gets old and so on. So human beings throughout the world have many, many problems. They live with problems. Their whole life is a movement of problems. And now we are asking, is it possible not to have problems? We are going to investigate the question, not say yes, it is possible to live without problems, or not - that's not the point. The point is: why do we have it, what is a problem, why the brain is always trying to solve problems. There are mechanical problems, the problems of computer, mathematical problems, problems of design, problems in architecture, physics, in all technological field there are many, many problems there. That is inevitable. If you are treading the road of technology, it must have its many problems. And why do we, in our life, in our relationship, in our own way of living, in our family, the people one loves, why do we have problems? Whether you should follow a certain guru or not - you know the whole structure of problems of our life. We see in the technological world problems must exist - when you are building a computer, it demands not only the resolution of the problems there, and in the technological world problems will always exist. And is our brain educated, trained to solve problems? You are following all this, I hope. We live in a mechanical world. We are business people, we are doctors, surgeons, physicists, biologists, trained computer experts, and our brain - please follow all this, if you are interested - our brain is trained, educated, conditioned to solve problems. So we extend that same attitude towards our daily life. You understand what we are saying? Are we meeting each other? Suppose one is a computer expert. He has several problems there and mechanically he has to solve those problems, which means his brain is trained, conditioned, educated to solve problems. Right? And we extend that same movement of solution of problems to psychological field. So, in the psychological field, that is, in our relationship, in our fears, anxieties, all the rest of it, we have got the same mentality, the same condition that these have to be solved. Right? These are problems that have to be solved, which means we look at life, at our daily living, from the point of view of a problem. Are we meeting each other? Are we? Or am I talking to myself?
So what we are trying to point out is, if you are trained or educated to solve problems, by solving one problem, you are increasing many other problems. This is what is happening throughout, in all the governments. They try to solve one problem, in the solution of that one problem increase or add more problems. So we live with problems. And we are saying something totally different, which is to observe life, not with a mind that is trained to solve problems, but to understand the nature why the brain is conditioned, trained, educated to solve problems and with that same movement we meet life. Have you understood? It's up to you.
So, we are going to look at the various issues of our life not with a brain that is trained to solve problems, but to observe the issues, not demanding an answer, not demanding a solution. Is this clear? Please, this is very serious because to live a life without a single problem is the most extraordinary life. It has immense capacity. It has tremendous energy. It is always renewing itself. But if you are always caught in the field of problems and the resolution of those problems, then you never move out of problems. Is this clear? So we are going to find out whether it is possible to look at any issue, and not call it a problem - except mechanical problems - any issue of our daily life and not label it as a problem but to look at it, to observe it, to be aware of the whole nature of that issue, the content of that issue. But if you approach it as a problem and therefore try to find an answer to it, you will increase the problems.
Say for example, it is important to have an unoccupied mind. It is only a brain that is unoccupied that can perceive something new, that is free, has tremendous vitality. So, for example, it is necessary to have a very quiet mind because it is only a very quiet mind, unoccupied mind, brain, that can see things clearly, that can actually think totally differently. Now, you hear that, that it's necessary to have a quiet, still mind, brain - whatever you like to call it for the moment - then you ask 'How am I to get it?' Then you make a problem of it. Right? I need a quiet mind, my mind is occupied, restless, chattering all the time and then you say 'How am I to stop it?' The desire to stop it brings about problems. 'How am I to do it?' is a problem. Have you understood this? But if you approach the question that one must have a unoccupied mind, then you will begin to see for yourself the nature of occupation, why it is occupied, why it is constantly dwelling on a particular thing. When you observe it, when you are aware of it, it is telling you its story. You understand this?
We are going to go into all this, but first we must be very clear that you and the speaker are treating life not as a problem but as a tremendous movement. And if your brain is trained to solve problems then you will treat this movement as a problem to be solved. And is it possible to look at life with all its questions, with all its issues which is tremendously complex, to look at it not as a problem but to observe it, to observe it clearly, without bias, without coming to some conclusion which will then dictate your observation. So, to observe this vast movement of life, not only your own particular life, the life of humanity, life of the earth, life of the trees, life of the whole world, to look at it, to observe it, to move with it. But if you treat it as a problem, then you will create more problems. Right? Is this clear? Let's proceed.
What is our first issue in life? I am not using the word 'problem'. As I said 'problem' means something thrown at you. That is the root meaning of that word, etymologically. Now, what is the first movement in our life, the life of man, not only your little life, some business life or you are a doctor or a surgeon or some kind of leader, we are not talking about that petty little life, which we will come to presently, but the life that is around us, the vast immense complex movement of existence. What is it that strikes you first? What is it that has meaning, that has depth, that has a sense of vitality behind it? What would you say if each one of you was asked that question? What would be your first observation, your first response, your first immediate enquiry? Perhaps you have never asked this question and so you are not willing to answer it for yourself, but if you look at this vast extraordinary movement of life, of which one is a part, what is the thing that you meet first? Would it be relationship? Would it be your own particular concern about yourself? Would it be your own fear, your own anxiety, your own particular narrow, limited enquiry, your own search for god? You understand - what would be your first natural contact, natural demand? Do you look at this vast movement of life from a narrow little window, that window being your own little self, your own worries, your own anxieties, your own sexual demands? Sir, enquire with me, please don't go to sleep. Or you are looking at this vast movement from no particular point of view, from no window, from no commitment. Or are you so caught in a system, in a tradition, in knowledge? As a professor, as a philosopher or a writer or a surgeon, or are you looking at it as a specialist or do you look at it as a human being, the human being who has so many questions, sorrows, pain, anxieties? How do you look at all this?
To answer such a question, when you put such a question among so many people, naturally each one has different responses. But as we are all human beings, who are the rest of mankind - we are the rest of mankind, you are not an Indian, you may have a certain background, certain traditions, certain long history - that is only a matter of label, but primarily you are a human being, not a Christian, not a doctor, not a Buddhist, not a Hindu. You are primarily a human being related to all other human beings. Therefore you are the rest of humanity. Your body may be different from another body, the organism, the physical organism, may be different from other physical organism. You are obviously different from the speaker, physically. But the body never says, 'I am.' You understand? You are following? The body never says, 'I am something special' - my progress, my success, 'I must seek god' - the body never says all that. But thought says all that. You are different physically from another and the physical organism is the most extraordinary organism, which we despoil. And the body is never conscious that it is separate from somebody else. It is thought that says 'I am different'. You understand? This is important - it is thought that divides.
So that is the first thing, don't you notice, when you look at this vast movement of life, how man has divided himself from another, separated himself from another, calling himself an American, a Russian, a Jew, an Arab, a Hindu and all the rest of it. Don't you observe this extraordinary broken up human entities? Are you aware of all that? Isn't that the first thing you see: how the world is divided geographically, nationally, racially, religiously? And this division is causing immense conflict. This division is causing wars - the Hindu against the Muslim, the Russians against Afghanistan and so on, so on, so on. Isn't that the first thing you see in this world - how man has created this division? This division must exist because our thought has created this division. (Dog barking) Shall we wait till the dog's finished? (Pause)
Sir, if you are at all alert, aware, one sees what thought, man, human being, has done to himself and what he has done to others. That is the first thing one observes - the destruction of this division, the breeding of wars through nationalism. One of the causes of war is nationalism, the economic division, and one never treats this vast movement of life as one unit. That is what one meets, the first thing when you look at the world - man fighting man. And we have lived that way for thousands of years, killing each other in the name of god, in the name of peace, in the name of the country, in the name of a flag and we are still doing this, after thousands of years. So one asks what is wrong with man? Why is he doing this? He is extraordinarily clever in the technological world, he has invented the most extraordinary instruments, most delicate - you can't imagine the things they are doing. But we are still carrying on most stupidly, our own lives. So that is the first thing you notice. And one asks what is the cause of it? And I hope you are asking that too, not just listening. What is the cause of all this, this division, these wars, the structure of hierarchical authority in every country, in the religious world, in the political world, in the scientific world, it is all based on hierarchical principles - authority - authority of knowledge, authority of experience and so on. Now, what is the cause of all this? Who is responsible?
Please enquire, go into it with the speaker. Because where there is a cause, there is an end to that cause. If one has pain, the cause being cancer or what you will, then that pain can be ended or you are killed. So wherever there is a cause, there is an end to that. That is a law, that is a principle. So we are asking, what is the cause of all this? This vast misery, unhappiness, the tremendous uncertainty, this uncertainty that is breeding tribal gods - what is the root of all this? Are you waiting for the speaker to tell you or you yourself are discovering it? If the speaker tells you then you make an abstraction of it as an idea. Then the idea and putting that idea into action becomes a problem. But if you, together, if you and I together could discover what is the cause of all this. Not the particular misery of this county with its over-population, misrule and corruption and ugliness of everything that is going on here - it is happening all over the world. They are preparing for monstrous wars, adding great misery to humanity. What is the root of all this?
May we go into it together? Not I explain, you accept, but together, slowly, carefully, find out for ourselves what is the root of all this, what is the cause of all this? If we don't find it now the future will be exactly the same what you are now - wars, division, sorrow, pain, anxiety, uncertainty. You understand? So together let's find out. Please bear in mind the speaker is not instructing. He has no authority to instruct you. You are not his students, he is not your teacher. There is no reward and no punishment. But together let's enquire, which means you must be equally eager, equally intense, equally passionate to find out, not just attend a talk like this and go off, go back to your own life - narrow, bitter, anxious, sorrowful life.
So, what is the cause of this division? And this division breeds wars, rows, quarrels, perpetual conflict. Conflict between man and woman, sexually, ambitious - what is the root of all this? How do you, if I may ask if one may ask, how do you approach a question like that? Approach. The question is, what is the root of all this, what is the cause of all this? That's the question. How do you approach the question? How do you come near to it? You understand? Approach means to come near, to come into contact. It is a question put to you and are you looking at it as a problem to be resolved? Or you come to it, very close to it. You are then open to the question, but if you keep away from the question, you are not open, you are not alive to the question. You understand? Right, sirs? So are we together approaching the question with no direction, with no motive, because if you have a motive, then that motive dictates the answer, it distorts the perception. You understand it? Suppose this is my question - I am putting this question to myself: what is the root of all this? I have no answer. I don't know but I am going to find out. But to find out I must be free, absolutely free, from any kind of direction. Right? Because if I have a direction, a motive, hoping for some kind of reward, then that motive, reward is going to dictate my investigation. Right? So one must be free to observe this question: what is the root of all this?
Is it thought? Is it inevitable that we human beings on this beautiful earth, which you are very sedulously destroying, is it for every human being living on this earth, it is inevitable that he must live in conflict, he must live with anxiety, fear. If you accept that as inevitable then there is no investigation. You have come to a conclusion and there you have shut the door. Conclusion means the ending of investigation. The very word 'conclusion' is to close, to end. So if you come to any conclusion then you cannot possibly answer. So one must be aware of how you approach this question.
We are asking is it thought? What is thought? Is thought yours? Is thought individual - your thinking separate from somebody else's thinking? Every person thinks - the most stupid, ignorant, downtrodden man in a village, he thinks, so does the great scientist. So thinking is common to all of us. It is not your thinking separate from my thinking. Thinking is - you may express it differently, another may express it differently - but thinking is the movement of all mankind. So it is not individual thinking. Right? Do we see that? It is rather difficult to accept it or see it because we are so conditioned, we are so educated, trained to think that my thinking is separate from yours, my opinion is different from yours. Opinion is opinion, it is not your opinion or my opinion. So, thinking, is that the root of all this misery, this destruction, this decline, this corruption, this decay? If it is, then can that movement of thought which has created such havoc in the world - it has created the most extraordinary technological world, the great instruments of war, extraordinary submarines and so on, and also it has created all the religions in the world. It has built extraordinary cathedrals, mosques, temples and all the things that are in the temples, in the mosques, in the churches. Thought has done that, invented all the rituals, invented the saviour in the Christian world, invented liberation or Moksha, whatever you like to call it, in this country. And also it has invented god. The more you are uncertain, the more dangerous the world becomes, thought must find a security, a sense of safety, certainty and so it creates god; your god and my god. My god is better than your god. My guru is better than yours, he gives me initiations, puts garlands round me and all that silly nonsense that goes on. Thought has been responsible for all this. Right, sirs? And if that is the cause - please listen carefully - if thought is the cause of all this - our misery, our superstitions, our immense insecurity, uncertainty, and also thought has created the most extraordinary things: communication, surgery, medicine and so on, thought has done all this - if that is the cause, is there an end to it? You understand my question? Is there an end to thought? That is, if thought is responsible for all this technological world and the human world of misery, unhappiness, anxiety, if thought is the cause of all this, it must have an end. Right? That is, if one has a certain disease brought about through various incidents, that disease has a cause, and that cause, having been discovered, can be treated and ended, the pain or the disease. Similarly, if thought is responsible for all this - not the technological, that will go on - but our daily confusion, misery, uncertainty, sorrow, and all the superstition that thought has created around us, if thought is the cause, it has an end. If you say 'Tell me how to end thought', then you make a problem of it, because your brain is trained, educated to solve problems. As an expert in computers is trained to solve problems there, the same movement is extended into the psychological world.
So, if thought is the cause of this, the question is not how to end it, but to understand the whole movement of thought and not treat it as my thinking separate from your thinking. Thinking - you understand? - if you treat it as your thinking and somebody else treats it as his thinking then the issues are totally different. That leads to all kinds of illusions, superstitions that have no reality. But thinking is the ground upon which all human beings - the black, the white, the pink, the Muslim, the Hindu, the villager, the uneducated - all of them stand. Then you move away from the idea it is my thinking, then you are concerned with global thinking. You understand? Not the Indian way of thinking. You are concerned really with the world, with all humanity of which you are. You are not an individual. 'Individual' means unique, undivided. You are not unique, you are totally divided, fragmented in yourself. And you are the result of past generations. Your brain is not yours. It has evolved through thousands and thousands of years. But your religion, your scriptures, your everyday life says you are separate from everybody else. And you are trained to accept it. You have never gone into it, you have never questioned it, doubted it, fearless scepticism which must investigate, but you accept. And in that acceptance lies your problems.
But if you look at it all as a vast movement of life, of which you are a part, this movement that is limitless, that has no beginning and no end, then you begin to enquire the nature of thought. What is the origin of thought? Why thought divides. Is it its very nature, the very movement of thinking, in itself, is it divisive, fragmentary, limited? Unless you ask all these questions - if you say merely, since thought is perhaps the cause then please tell me how to end the cause, then you are back into your old field of problems. And if you try to solve this problem you will have other problems. I think, I know thought is creating problems, please tell me how to stop them, how to stop thinking, and there are lots of people who will tell how to stop thinking, and then those people vary from each other - meditate, don't meditate, breathe this way, you know all that nonsense that goes on. So we multiply problems after problems. But if you look at this movement of thought, and with this thought man has lived for thousands upon thousands of years.
So one has to not ask how to end thought - that is a stupid question - but what is the nature of it, why has thought become so important? Because thought implies knowledge, what place has knowledge in life? You follow?
So, we must stop now but we will continue tomorrow evening. But please, when you leave here investigate for yourself. Don't allow me to stimulate you to think, which is what is happening now. Then the speaker becomes a drug. Then you depend on him, then you make him into your guru. And then you have your own, out of making the speaker into a guru, you have other problems connected with it. But if you, when you leave here, look at it, find out. That means an active brain, a brain that is active, thinking, discussing, going, not just stuck in a narrow little groove of tradition or some system. And one of the calamities, what is taking place in the world, that we are all getting old, not merely old in the body but old mentally. Decay begins there inside first because we become mechanical. We never have the energy, vitality, passion to find out. You have all been told what to do, you have all been instructed. And please don't - this is not a place of instruction, or are you being told what to do. Here we are serious to find out a different way of living, and you can only find that out when you understand the nature of thought, then a way of living in which thought is not important at all.