Why do we have so many problems?
Facing a world in crisis
1st Public Talk, Brockwood Park
August 24, 1985
I am sorry it is such bad weather! What do you expect of the speaker? One would, if you don't mind, take counsel together, take consideration together, weigh things together, observe what is going on in the world together, think together, and deeply be involved with what we are talking about with each other. He alone is not the speaker - you are all speakers and learners like the speaker. So we are together deliberating. To elect a pope it took three days. They deliberated before, balancing, weighing, considering and so on: at the end of three days they chose a man who is called His Holiness, the father. And together we have nearly ten days.
Deliberation implies not only to consider, to weigh, to think out together, and also go into the problems very deeply, slowly, carefully, knowing one's own prejudices, one's own crankiness about food, clothes and so on, so that you are not only listening to the speaker but also listening to your own reactions and prejudices, determinations and vows and all the idiocies that one has - if you will forgive me. So that together, seriously, not separately, not divisively, not you taking one side and the speaker on the other but together observe what is going on in the world. Not only in the world of this particular country but also all over the world: politics, economics, the scientists, the socialists, the liberals and so on, conservatives - I forgot to add them - and all the rest of it. So this is not a weekend camping affair but rather very serious - not church seriousness, churchy seriousness, but rather seriousness that continues not only during these days that we are here together but also afterwards when you go away from here, when we all separate.
And in deliberation there is also a decision, a view to decide and then act. All that is implied in that one nice word. So together, seriously, not merely intellectually, not romantically, sentimentally or fantastically but together look at what is happening to all of us.
One wonders why you are all here and I am here. You have taken a lot of trouble, to set up a camp, bring all your children and dogs - have you got dogs too? And all the young children and boys and girls, you have taken a lot of trouble to come here, expense, the boredom of travel, transport, all the things involved in this. And we also must bear in mind when we are deliberating together there is no outside help. It is a deliberation. The speaker is not trying to help, or trying to impress, convince, cajole, pressure and all that. We can leave that to the politicians, to the newspapers, to television, and the churches all over the world, whether they be temples, mosques, or the churches in the Christian world. So we are together, without any pressure, any persuasion on the part of the speaker, or on your side not taking one particular point of view, and holding on to that. We are both together examining, investigating the extraordinary problems that we are faced with, dangerous, and one does not know what is going to happen in the future, there is immense uncertainty, chaos and the world is becoming more and more sinister - if you have travelled, if you have read, if you have met some of the politicians, the prime ministers and so on.
So we are going first to look at the world, not my world, or your world - the world that is happening in front of us, the things that are going on in the scientific world, in the world of armaments, the race that is going on, the politicians holding on to their particular ideologies, fighting for that. You know, all the rest of it. How do you, if one may ask, approach these problems? Not only one's own particular problem but the problems that challenge, that require a determined action, how do you approach these problems? The scientific world, the biological world, the world of economics, the world of social inequality, social immorality? We know all this, how do we approach it? As a British? As a Frenchman? As a Hindu? Or a Muslim and so on? If we approach it with a particular point of view, or with some trained - biologically conditioned, then our motive is known or unknown and therefore your approach will be limited. This is obvious - right? If I, if the speaker is holding on to his India and all that rubbish, then he will look at all the world with all its complicated problems from a particular, narrow view. And so his approach will be conditioned, his approach will be partial, self-interest and so on. So his approach will always be, to all these problems, very small, very limited. That is clear.
So one is asking, we are asking together, how will you approach these problems? - not a particular problem, whether it be yours, or your wife's, your husband's and so on, but the problems, a problem. How do you approach a problem? Which is, how do you approach a challenge? Something you have to face, answer and act.
What is a problem? According to the dictionary meaning it is something thrown at you - right? Something that you have to face and answer. Not that time, circumstances, pragmatically respond, casually, or with a certain sense of smugness, or with certain obvious conclusions. How do you come to it? We are deliberating together, there is not the speaker sitting on the platform, which he doesn't like anyhow. It is not a personal thing at all. He has got a name and all the rest of that business. Personality doesn't enter into this at all, you can brush that completely aside. So in what way do we come to face the problem? So we will have to ask what is a problem.
Why have we so many problems? All our life from the beginning to the end, from being born to dying, we are crowded with problems, we are worn out by problems - worry, anxiety, uncertainty, and the perpetual conflict, struggle, pain, anxiety, all the rest of it. So shouldn't we together find out how to deal with problems? That is the first question.
We know each one of us has a problem of some kind or another - health, old age, or some disease, incurable, terminal, or some psychotic problems, or some fantastic, illusory, cranky problems, which we call religious problems! (Laugher) - and so on. So please let's together find out why from the beginning of our existence, when we are born till we die, there is this constant resolution of problems. Right? Can we go into it together? Not the speaker explains and you accept or reject, but we are debating together, deliberating together, weighing together - together. As we said, what is a problem? A problem is something thrown, it is a challenge, to which you have to come to, apply your brains, one's activity, not just nervously respond to it, your whole brain is involved in this. Right?
From childhood we have a problem, how to read. When you leave home you feel nostalgic, homesick, and you when you are in a school you have to learn how to write, read all the terrible books. And that becomes a problem - right? - right from childhood, when you go to school, college, university and so on. If you are a labourer that becomes a problem. You know the whole of life is a problem. So our brains are conditioned from childhood to the resolution of problems - right? We are in agreement? Are we together in this? Not I am explaining, you are accepting. We are together on the same boat. You may row faster, you may have more strength, more skill, others may be weak, but we are in the same boat. So, is that clear? Our brains from childhood are conditioned to problems, we live with problems. That is obviously very clear - right? Sexual problem, the problem of relationship, the problem of power, status, position, authority and dominating, obeying and disobeying, you know, the whole movement of life. So can we listen - or hear - to our own conditioning: conditioned, trained, educated to live with problems? And in the resolution of one problem you create other problems, which the politicians are doing so remarkably well. And we are doing the same. So is it possible - we are deliberating together, please don't listen to the speaker alone - is it possible to be free of problems first - the brain - and then tackle problems - you understand? Yes, is it possible? I don't know and you don't know.
So we are enquiring into that first. We have many issues in life, very, very complicated. The whole personality, the whole activity of the brain, the feelings, the sentiments, the urges, the attachments, we have got so many of them. And we never seem to resolve any of them, but gradually wither away, die. So it becomes very important, doesn't it, to you and to all of us, whether the brain, which has been trained to live and take share part, active with problems, can that brain - please think this out together, not me alone - can this brain have no problems at all and therefore tackle problems? You understand? It is only the free brain that can understand problems, resolve problems. Not a brain that is crowded with problems. The scientists are crowded with them. They are first human beings and then scientists. The human beings have problems and the scientists with their theories and all the rest of it have their problems - right? So it is a constant movement or a continuous chain of problems. Right? Now, how can we resolve this? Can you, we together, resolve this question, which is very serious because we are facing a very, very dangerous world. They are playing, the politicians on one side, the ideologists on one side, and the other side with their immense sense of power and so on, both sides, are waiting - right? Right? Mounting armaments, race. And we are caught in the middle of it. All right, sirs?
There is immense poverty, of which this country, or you don't know. Immense poverty, degradation, corruption and so on. We will talk about gods later and all the religious organised structure called religion with their ceremonials, mediaeval dresses and so on.
So we are asking each other whether our brains can be free to resolve problems. Bien? You have to answer that, don't keep still. What will you do? Whatever you do will be another problem - right? You say I will do this, I won't do that, I will believe this, I won't believe that, this is true, this is false, I pursue what I want. All that creates more problems - right? So it behoves us first to find out whether our brains can be free of problems, to understand and resolve problems. Right? Don't look at me. Perhaps one has not thought, or gone into this question. One will ask, 'Give me time to think over it. Let me carefully observe, look and then decide.' If you allow time, that is, I will think about it, I will weigh pros and cons, where it is necessary to have problems, where it is not necessary to have problems, and so on. If you take time over it - right? - what happens? You answer. What happens if I take time over some problem which has to be resolved immediately, instantly? If it is not possible to resolve it instantly there will be other problems creeping up - right? Right? So will you instantly solve the problem? Solve the question, the challenge, that your brain which has been trained for so many years to live and move among the problems, so that your brain is never free. Isn't that the first problem? Because we have got to face several complicated issues as we go along. Why we human beings all over the earth, which is extraordinarily beautiful, why we have lived two and half million years on this earth, or more, or less, psychologically, subjectively, we have changed very little, we are still barbarians in the real sense of that word. Why haven't we moved away from the set pattern after all these million years? That is a problem. Why the world is divided into nationalities, into religious activities; why the world has been fighting each other, killing each other, the appalling things that wars have done from the club to the atom bomb, why we are going on still like that. Why we elect these politicians. Why we are so frightened of the future. We have got many, many, many problems - right?
So it is important to understand, it appears, if you will permit it, that each one of us talking to each other, weighing, considering, what shall we do? What will you do? Of course if you are stuck on diet, or yoga, or some kind of fanciful, imaginative, cranky thing, then you are lost obviously. You are hooked to something. But you will never solve any of the problems. So what shall we do together, knowing that there is no help outside - right? Knowing you can attend all the camps in the world, all the gurus in the world - the speaker is not a guru - or come here, nobody can help, except physically, otherwise nobody can help us - your husband, your wife, your girl friend and so on, or the priests, or the future scientists - you follow? Here we are. So can we put aside altogether the idea of wanting to be helped, wanting to be told, wanting to follow somebody, believe in something. All that becomes irrelevant when you have got to deal with something actual. The actual is what we are: the multiple problems, the tears, the laughters, the agony, the anxiety, jealousy, hate, the psychological hurts, wounds.
So what shall we do together, not separately? Right? We can't live separately. Even the monks organised with their abbeys, monasteries in the Western world, they depend on each other. In the Asiatic world, especially in India, the monk is by himself wandering all over the earth, all over India. And they have their problems. I don't know if you have ever followed a group of monks. Once the speaker was following a group of monks in India, in the Himalayas, and they were chanting, reading their books, never looking at the beautiful stream that went by, heard the song of that stream, the flowers, the extraordinary skyline with snow, mountains twenty five thousand feet, never looked at all the beauty of the earth. They were just concerned with themselves and their little gods! So please answer this question about yourself: whether your brain can be free so that you can understand, dissolve problems. If one sees that it is not - that it is actually conditioned - right? - which one sees it, not be told about it, not read something in a book, or convinced by another, but if one sees directly for oneself that our brain is so conditioned - right? Can we do that? Don't... Sir, we are going to ask questions on Tuesday - or is it Tuesday, yes Tuesday. Because if you all ask questions now - you don't mind, sir?
Can we do it? Can we talk over together, deliberate together, weigh, consider: is our brain, are we aware of it, our brain living with problems? Not as an observer looking through a microscope, either the right way or the wrong way, but to be aware of it, that our brains are so terribly conditioned to live with problems. The speaker hasn't to repeat it over and over again.
Suppose I am not aware of it, I never even thought about it, I never heard such a thing before: is it possible or not possible? But you have raised a question - right? And my brain being fairly active, not too dull, not hooked to something, my brain then begins to say, can the brain observe its own activity - you follow? You understand what I am saying? Can the brain be aware of its own limitation, conditioning? As you observe yourself in a mirror when you shave, or do up your face - sorry! - (laughter) can you so observe your brain? Not as an observer looking at something - right? If you observe as an outsider, the outsider is also the observed - right? There is no difference, the outsider, and the insider. Clear? You don't say when you shave your chin that you are looking at your face from the outside, you are there in the mirror. You might have difficult hairs to cut but you are there, your image is you - right? You don't say, 'Well I look different there from me', you are what you are. So can the brain become aware of itself, its thoughts, its reactions, its way of living? Because that is the centre of all our activity - right? Do we realise that? It is the centre of all our nervous responses, all our reactions, all our conditionings, our feelings, our pleasures, pains, fears, anxieties, loneliness, despair and the search for love, all the rest of it, it is there. Right? If - when there is no understanding of that what can I do? Anything I do will be meaningless - right? I wonder if you capture all this? Never mind.
So are we aware of the activity of the brain? Why you think such a thing, what your reactions are, why you are so cranky, psychopathic, why you cling to something, why is there this loneliness, the sorrow, the pain, the grief and the anxiety, the uncertainty? Right? We are deliberating together, please. What shall I do if I am not? I know I am not. I am not aware of myself, myself being the brain, the thing that is restless, the thing that is always living in shallow valleys, and deep valleys, that is always seeking self-interest, whether it is in the name of god, in the name of love, in the name of social reform or seeking power, position, there is always the background of this element. Are we aware of all this? If I am not, what shall I do? Help me! Sorry - I forgot that word! (laughs) I am not asking your help but let's talk it over.
We have sought help from everybody: from books, from priests, from psychologists, from politicians, from every angle, every corner, we have sought help. And that help has been useless because we are what we are now, we may have changed a little bit here and there but actually we are what we are. In spite of all the help, in spite of all the leaders, the gurus, the ancient prophecies, the ancient books - oh, for God's sake! - right? So could we put out altogether from us the idea of seeking help? It doesn't mean you shouldn't be here and I shouldn't be here. You know when you see a beautiful thing, you look at it, take delight in the glory of a something beautiful, but you never say, 'Well, I will never come back here again.' On the contrary. You come back to look at it often. Not that you are going to be helped by looking at the mountain - the beauty of it, the simplicity of an extraordinary sight.
If my brain is not aware of itself, which is an extraordinary problem, where you are aware of your own thoughts. That is, is thought aware of itself thinking? You understand? This is not intellectual. Do you understand my question? I wonder! Can your thought be aware of itself? Right? If it is not, then what will you do or not do, to become completely aware of every movement of thought? Pray? Ask? You can't do any of those things. So can one remain quiet and watch? We mean by watch, to observe without a single movement of the word, the picture, the symbol, which is in essence thought. Can you observe first? Observe without a single activity of the past? Go on sirs, come with me. Can you observe? Can I observe my pain, physical pain? You understand my question? Can you observe your physical pain, be aware of it? Not say, well I must rush to the doctor, take a pill, take this, just be aware of it. Psychologically be aware of it without any movement. Can you? And in the same way observe the activity of the brain, not with lots of words and denials or assertions, just to observe. Have you ever observed your wife or your husband, or your girl friend, really observed, not with the images you have built about her, or him, then that's - those images are not observation, they are merely projection of the activities which you have gradually built up which becomes the image between you and her or him and so on. So one is not actually observing.
What is the relationship - can I go on? - between observation and love? Is love merely pleasure, merely a desire, a constructed thought? Is there division in that love, as, I love you and nobody else? Or I love you but I am jealous of you - right? So is that love? We will go into that when we talk about all these things. But we are now asking when there is perception, and that perception can only take place when there is no motive - right? If I have a motive in that perception, in that observation, then that motive controls, shapes, moulds the perception. So is there an observation without any motive? Motive generally is deeply hidden self-interest.
So we come to another very complicated problem - issue rather, or any other word you like to use - how far, how deep, is the self-interest? To what lengths can it be abandoned? Where do I put a stop to it? You understand? Or is it possible to live in this modern world without any self-interest - you understand? - the whole spectrum of it? How deeply can the brain be free, absolutely free of self-interest? Or in what ratio to the activities of life, daily life? Or merely superficially be without self-interest? You understand? The whole depth and the shallowness of self-interest. It is a very complex problem this. And if self-interest, which is the beginning of all corruption - right? Do we see that? It is the beginning of all corruption. It is the beginning of all divisive process, which is corruption. It is the beginning, or the origin of conflict - right? So how far, how deep, or how shallow, can conflict come to an end? Not making it a problem, then we are lost again. Can conflict ever end between human beings, whether they are very close to each other, or very far from each other, can conflict, struggle, the pain of it, can it ever end? Go on sirs, please. What do we mean by conflict? Conflict essentially is a distortion. Conflict in any form brings a distorted point of view. Conflict is essentially disorder. Right? Are we together, deliberating this, weighing it, considering it, with a view to act? The word means that. So can conflict end? So the brain is then free and can fly. The brain has immense capacity, immense. And we are restricting it, narrowing it down with self-interest and conflict. So can conflict end?
Why is there in us this divisive element? You and I, we and they, and, oh, we are this and you are that, what is the origin of it? Is it this contrariness of desire? Is it the opposing elements of thought? Is it the ideal and the fact? The 'should not be' and 'what is' - you understand? So is it conflict begins when there is this dualistic process in all of us? Please we are going together on the same path in this, we are together in the same boat. Are we aware of this central fact that in all of us there is this dualistic force at work, the good and the bad - right? This is an important question. Is the good related to the bad? The speaker is putting a lot of eggs in one basket this morning, a lot of things together, which is part of our life. We have only four talks and two questions and answers, we must cram everything (laughs) we can into these talks, these deliberations. Are we aware of this central fact? We are always - our morality is balanced between the good and the bad. So one has to ask is the good related to the bad? Is the noble related to the ignoble, and so on? When one is rather cowardly and the desire to be courageous, that courage is it really courage, or partly born out of cowardice? You understand my question? So we are asking together: the bad, what is the bad? And what is the good? If the good is related to the bad then it is not good - right? We said - we are together in this? If - when, rather, not if, when that which is beautiful is related to that which is ugly, then the beauty is born out of ugliness - right? Then it is not beautiful. I don't know if you are following. So if the good is born out of that which is not, then that good is partial, it is not whole, so it is not good.
So morality is not the balance of these two. Right? I wonder if you see this? So can one be free of this duality, the dualistic process? This question, the good and the bad in conflict with each other, has been there for forty, fifty thousand years and more. You see those paintings in the ancient caves, both in France and in other parts of the world, the good is always fighting the bad, and the bad is fighting the good. You know all this. And the outcome of that fight, that struggle, is considered the highest morality. Right? The good can never be related to the bad. Love cannot be related to hate, to anger, to jealousy. If it is related then it is not love, it is part of pleasure, desire and so on.
So can we live on this earth, some of us, for God's sake, can some of us, or all of us live without a single conflict? You can't answer this question, but let the seed of that question operate. You understand? If the seed is alive, not just the theory of it, then it has its own tremendous vitality, not your thinking about it, not saying, 'Well I must understand what the devil he is talking about'. But if the seed that the good is totally unrelated to the bad... let, if one may suggest, let that seed grow. You have planted a seed in the earth, the peach tree, or whatever it is, you have planted it, an oak. You don't pull it up every day to see if it is growing, you leave it in the earth and let that question, if it has vitality, energy, then that very question begins to grow, act. You don't have to do anything, the thing itself is moving. Can we do that together? You help to plant a seed and I dig the earth. It is a work together. It is not you plant and I cultivate but together. So the question has tremendous significance in itself, not the answer, not the result, but the question: is it possible to live in this world with all the complications, without a single shadow of conflict? You have planted it in your brain, let it remain there, let it see what happens. So we are asking: have you planted that seed? That means have you, has each one of us listened to the question? Not only with the hearing of the ear but the actual fact of it. The fact that we have lived on this earth for two or three million years, or forty five thousand years, not certainly four thousand years, which the fundamentalists like to think. We have lived on this earth for so long. And we are still living in conflict. And as this is a very serious question, not only the brutal conflict of war but conflict between ourselves. I must understand what does he mean. He doesn't mean a thing. He means we are together. And is the seed, to live without any conflict, planted deep, in the deep valley of the brain, so that there is soil there, much richer soil than the soil of the earth. And from there it can grow, the answer, the decision, the execution of it.
I think that is enough for this morning, isn't it? May I get up?