Why does the mind live in concepts?
The seed of a million years
5th Public Talk, Madras
January 05, 1980
I wonder what you're waiting for. And it would be rather interesting also if you could find out for yourself why you come to these talks, what impels you, why you sit here an hour or so and listen to something. And if you could find out the art of listening, perhaps one would have learnt a great deal. Not only listen to what is being said, but listen to the whisper among the leaves, listen to that so-called music, listen to your wife or husband totally, completely, with that quality of attention, which is not attending to something, that is, directing your attention to listening, but rather, the way you listen, with complete attention, not to what is being said, but to have this quality of attention. And if we could, as we have been doing for the last four talks or dialogues, whatever one likes to call it, I think we would learn a great deal, not from somebody, not from books, not from hearsay or follow a particular tradition, but really to attend. That implies not directing your thought in a particular direction, with a particular motive or intention, but merely to observe with total, complete attention. When you so attend, there is no centre from which you are attending. I don't know if you follow this point. Because what we are going to talk over together this afternoon or evening is why we live on concepts, on theories, on assumptions. Why the mind, your mind, human mind, whether in India or in Europe or in America and so on - whether the human mind can be free of concepts, and why we live in concepts. A scientist, for example, has a hypothesis, tests it and becomes either a fact or a non-fact. There it's beneficial, necessary. But in the psychological world, that is, in our daily life, in our struggles, in our miseries, confusions and so on, why the mind lives in concepts. That is, to conceive an idea as one has a child, baby to conceive - why does the mind, your mind, mind, the human mind of which we are part, why we live in concepts. Either the concepts have been thrust upon us through education, through tradition or we conceive life as a problem and try to resolve that problem. First conceive, make an idea, a concept and then try to resolve through that concept our problems. I don't know if you have noticed this.
Please, give a little attention if you don't mind. That is, most people throughout the world, specially the philosophers and the so-called religious people, so-called moral people who have great values, you know, and all the rest of it, first have theories and then concepts, and then twist life to those concepts. Marxism, Marx conceived a society after historical study and so on, and then tried to fit man into that concept, into that framework. Mao, all scientists, all philosophers, everybody does this. I don't know if you are aware that we are doing it now. And what takes place when we act through concepts - you are following this? Please, as we said the other day and I hope you will not mind if I repeat it again, this is not a lecture by the speaker, you are not being told what to think or what not to think, it's not propaganda. We are together trying to observe and therefore act with the extraordinarily complex society in which we live, the complexity of our own minds, the narrowness of our own minds which have become specialised, we are concerned with that - whether it's possible to bring about a mutation in the very nature of the mind, which means the senses, emotions, affections, care and the capacity to think very clearly, objectively, non-personally. And we are asking why the human mind conceives an idea from study, from reading, from listening to philosophers and listening as you are now, first you conceive an idea and try to put that idea into action. Why does the mind do this? All the great, so-called great philosophers have done it. All the religions - Christianity, Buddhism and so on, Zen, all those are based on concepts. Concept means to conceive - concipere - I won't go into the etymological meaning of the word - it means being either thrust upon by the specialists, the philosophers, the social experts and so on, or you yourself observing, hearing, make an abstraction of it and from that abstraction act. This is obvious, isn't it? May we go on from there?
Now, why does the mind do this? If you observe your own mind - I am not being disrespectful or impudent - if you observe your own mind, you live in concepts. The word 'idea' comes from Greek, which means to observe; to observe, not make an abstraction of what you have observed into a concept. Now, why do we do this? Because I think it's very important, because unless we understand this very, very deeply, the culture in which we have lived for three thousand years, whether you like that culture or not, the so-called Brahmanical culture - please, the speaker is not either for or against, so don't - some of you are anti-Brahmin, don't jump up and fight it or those who are rabid Brahmins, whatever that may mean, don't be encouraged by what is being said. We are enquiring why a civilisation, a culture which has existed for three thousand years and more disappeared overnight. You follow the question? Why? The speaker has discussed this question with a lot of professors, so-called scholars, politicians - they are the last people, of course - the various gurus, I don't know why they come to see me, but they do. And one has asked all these people, experts, philosophers, why? Please, follow all this carefully. I am not taking sides. I am neither pro nor anti. We are enquiring why a civilisation pre-Buddha, has completely disappeared. Is it the western culture with all its vast technological knowledge: communication, railways, aeroplanes, science, medicine, the western culture, which is, the technological output has smothered this country, or they really had no culture at all? They have tradition, they have all kinds of theories.
So, one asks - please, ask yourself. If you are anti-Brahmin or pro-Brahmin, that is totally irrelevant - why? If you observe, your religion, like the rest of the world's religions, is purely conceptual, put together by thought, which means this culture has lived on words. And a human being that lives on words obviously goes down the drain. And that's what is happening in this country, and elsewhere. So, it's very important to find out when we are in a crisis of consciousness - it's not an economic crisis or moral crisis or a population crisis, but a crisis of consciousness, of the mind, a mind that lives on words. Just think of it, sirs! - what kind of mind it is. You specialise as an engineer or a scientist or a sociologist or a businessman, fixed there, for the rest of your life you don't look at the skies, you never look at the beauty of the trees, you never look at a human being properly, even your wife or your husband.
So, one is always asking why the human mind is living on concepts. What is the process of it, why you live on words? Hindu, Christian, Buddhist or any conceptual activity - why? It's very interesting if you go into it very carefully that concept, we believe, will lead to action. That is, first conceive or plan a pattern of action and then act. You are following this, I hope, all this. Why does the mind do it, your mind? Is it an avoidance of action, because you can postpone it. That is, you have an idea what you should do and you never completely act according to the idea. So there is a contradiction between conceptual action and action. Right? You are following? So, is that what is the root cause of any civilisation which lives on words? All the symbols of Christianity, are just symbols, ideas. When you call yourself a Muslim or a Hindu or a Sikh or a, God knows what else, it is just a concept. You are essentially a human being first. So, is the making of concept an escape from action? Is it conceptual activity has become much more important than action, a conceptual movement has cultivated the brain, the intellect, and the intellect dominates everything. The function of the intellect is to discern, to understand, to gather information to act. And when intellect, that is, the capacity to think conceptually, when that becomes all important, as it has in the world, because all our education is based on that, both in schools, colleges and universities, then the rest of the area of the mind is disregarded. You can observe it in yourself.
So, what then is action without the formulation of concepts? You understand what I am saying? I hope you are. Are we in communication with each other? I hope so. Otherwise, I'll be talking to myself, it's not great fun. Is there an action which isn't born out of concepts? The word 'action' means acting, not having acted or will act. Please, understand this. We are used to this idea of acting according to a principle, to a belief, which are all concepts. And when you act according to an ideal which thought has created, your action is limited - you're following all this? - your action is born out of the past and therefore it's not action. I wonder if you understand this. Because apparently we are incapable of applying. You hear, say for example, that it is possible to bring about transformation in the very structure of the brain cells and the mind. You hear that, if you at all pay attention, you hear that. If you watch yourself, your immediate reaction is, 'how'? Which is, when you ask 'the how', you have already entered into the field of concepts. Right? So then you have systems, methods, practices, discipline, and the whole circus begins.
Now, can you listen and not make a concept, but apply? You understand what I mean? That is, most of us, practically, probably ninety-nine per cent of the people of the world are caught in fear of some kind or another. We'll go into it. And whether you can apply it instantly, immediately and not make a concept of it and then try to translate that concept into action. You are following all this? I wonder. Right, sir? Can I talk to you? (Laughs) Is fear a concept? Go very slowly, please. This is a very complex problem. Is fear born of a concept? If it is, and therefore we have never been able to resolve the problem - you are following this? - because we have carried this burden of fear for generation upon generation. It's born in us, part of our brain, part of our life, part of our activity. And from time immemorial this question has not been resolved. Man through fear goes to the temples and all the whole business - fear of the future, fear of losing a job, fear of losing your wife, fear of not fulfilling, fear of not becoming a success, fear of the past, fear of what you have done might catch you up and do something, and so on - this enormous movement of fear. Now, we are asking whether it is a word - please, listen carefully - which is a concept or is there that reaction without the word? Vous avez compris? You are following this?
Look, sir, if you are a Hindu, the word has tremendous meaning, like a Christian - the word, not the fact. Now, we are saying, we are enquiring together, observing - observing. Now wait a minute, careful, we are not analysing fear, we are not enquiring into the cause of fears, because if you do, that involves time. Right? That is, to analyse implies time. To find the cause also invites time, and each one will say, my cause is different from yours and so on. We'll everlastingly struggle about it; but a man who says: is there an end to fear in every way, both physically as well as psychologically, is there an end to it? If you enquire, then is fear a word? That is - I'll explain - that is, there is this reaction and that reaction is associated with the memory of a word called 'fear'. You are following all this? So, the response to that reaction, violence, fear and so on is immediately taken over by thought as the word, and then the word becomes more important than the fact. Are you following all this? Please, do it as we are talking, otherwise it's no fun, it just becomes a tawdry lecture. That is, can you look, observe without an abstraction of what you observe - you are following this? - which is going to be rather - it needs great attention. You're afraid. That is the common lot. Can you observe it? That is, to look at the arising of fear and then watch it, whether it is the product of a concept, a word, an association with previous fears, which means knowledge, and that knowledge then says, it is fear. I wonder if you follow all this. This is very important to understand, please, spend a little time on this. Because it is possible to be totally free of fear - fear of examinations, (laughs) if you are a student and I hope you are not that kind of student who merely studies in order to pass an examination, then your brain is very limited and you end up as a glorified clerk or a glorified something or other. So, it's very important to understand this question. One recognises, if one observes, that the brain in its very process of responding to memory which is thought, is thinking in words. Right? And the nervous response to any emotion is immediately translated in terms of concepts and those concepts then act upon the fact. I wonder if you meet this. Right, sir?
So, can you observe this reaction without the word? The moment you observe it with the word of 'fear', then the past memory, past reactions, past knowledge has taken over, so then the past cannot act. I wonder if you meet this point. The past can only act according to its experience, knowledge, therefore, it's always limited. Whereas if you observe fear without the word - can you observe your wife or your husband without the word? You understand? The image, the associations, the quarrels, the whole implications of a relationship between man and woman which has been built up through a million years - can you observe your wife or your husband or your friend without the image that you have, image being the word, the concept. Right, sir? Can you do it? No, don't please.
We have learnt in this country, I think mostly, when we say yes, we don't mean it. We say it, let's get on, which leads to total dishonesty. So, to have integrity, don't say anything that you don't know yourself, that is not your own direct perception, not taken over by somebody else's experience. Because we have no integrity, we have lost it in this country, right from the top to the bottom. With money apparently you can do anything. So, integrity means saying things that you actually mean. So, we are saying that there is the possibility of wiping out totally - I mean by the word absolutely, all sense of fear. You might say that is nonsense, because you haven't tried it, you haven't applied. So, can you observe your fear without its associations? Can you observe your wife or husband without the past associations of pleasure, of comfort, of bullying, of nagging, of, you know all the rest of the stuff that goes on between man and woman. And physical fear - we generally don't meet a tiger, so we are pretty safe - but the fear of pain, physical pain, which one has had - please follow this, a little bit - you may have been to a dentist, to a doctor, had some kind of illness which gives a great deal of pain. The mind, the brain registers that pain, because the function of the brain is to register in order to protect itself. You are following all this? So, you have physical pain and it is registered as pain in the brain and you are frightened that it might happen again - follow? Now, can you end the pain as it arises, as it is when it is over, finished, not carry it over? You understand what I am saying? Please, do it, you will see what extraordinary things take place. This is not a reward. I'm pointing out, if you are interested, if you are concerned with the freedom of fear which burdens your lives, it narrows, it is the greatest shadow in life, it's the most destructive reaction. If you're interested and if you feel the utter importance of being free from fear, you have to look at it without any sense of association. That requires a great deal of attention, not attending to fear but the quality of attention that observes. You understand what I am saying?
Now, you have heard this. Have you made it into an abstraction, into a concept and then say, please, tell me how to carry it out, how am I to be free of fear? You follow? You don't hear the whole thing, but your mind is so trained, caught in this conceptual world and when you hear this about fear, you have already moved into an abstraction; from that abstraction you say, please tell me what to do, how am I to get rid of fear about my wife? That is, you have not, if I may point out, you have not listened. When you make a concept, you are not acting. When you hear this whole movement of fear, the root of it, which is obviously put together by thought, fear is time - right? - fear of the past, fear of the future, fear of - time is involved. And somebody like the speaker says, you can end it completely - what's your reaction to it? You understand my question? How do you respond to it? Or you are so caught up in concepts that you cannot free yourself from it? Therefore, you cannot act immediately about fear. Please, examine your own minds. Time will not solve the problem of fear. Time, you say, will quieten the fear. It hasn't, like having cancer, it is there. You might postpone it, because you may say, wait, but the disease is there. So fear is there. Time will not solve it. On the contrary, time will complicate the issue. So, when you listen - if you at all listen - completely, then there is no movement of thought, but merely observation. You understand this? As we said, observation is action, not, observation, concept, action.
And it is the same with pleasure. It's one of your problems. The mind that is seeking pleasure is invariably attached - right? - attached to the action that brings pleasure. That's why sexually you depend, sexually it's a mutual exploitation based on pleasure and therefore the attachment begins. And if you observe the various forms of pleasure: pleasure of possessions, pleasure of achievement, pleasure of being able to control your body extraordinarily, the pleasure of knowledge, the pleasure of those professors and philosophers who have carved out a corner of this universe into a little hole and there they remain - you know this. So, pleasure takes multiple forms. That is, what? There is an action that brings pleasure - please, observe it yourself - there is an action that brings pleasure and that pleasure is registered in the brain and the thought says 'continue, have more of it'. That is, pleasure is always within the field of time. I don't know - am I making it complicated?
And then, one enquires what is time? You're following? What is time? There is time which it takes for you to go from here to your house. Time is necessary for a seed to grow into a tree. Biologically, time is necessary. That is, to cover the distance from here to there, horizontally or vertically. Right? And we have introduced time as a means of psychological progress. Right? One is violent, I'll take time to be non-violent. Like the League of Nations, I mean, United Nations, all nations they are separate, but one day we will all be international, which never takes place. So, time is a movement to cover from one point to another, both physically as well as psychologically. Now, we are questioning whether there is time at all psychologically. You understand? Question it, sir, ask it. Or it's one of our concepts that time is necessary. That is, if one is violent, one invents non-violence which is non-fact and pursues the non-fact, which is illusion. The word 'illusion' means - ludere - it means to play with something which is not actual. (Laughs) You understand? Come on, sirs! The dictionary doesn't say so, I say so. So, is there time psychologically? Just listen - is there time for fear to end, which is a psychological process. That is, can fear end immediately, the whole of it, not just one fragment of it? You understand my questions? You are following all this? Are you all tired? I hope you are working. That is, our brain is conditioned to the idea of time, the brain itself has evolved through time from the anthropoid ape down to now. And that same concept of time is taken over psychologically. That is, I will be or I have been and I shall be.
Now, our brain has used time as a means of healing the wound of fear. And we are asking, can the brain free itself from its tradition? You follow what I am saying, sir? You can free yourself from your puja, your rituals and all the rest of it, that's fairly simple. You see the nonsense of it, a lot of words which have very little meaning, whether a Christian garbed in marvellous clothes or the man who is half naked, it's the same thing. So, the brain has been conditioned, handed down from generation to generation: fear can be resolved only through time. Now, can you break that tradition - you understand what I mean? - and see if fear, the complexity of it, not just one part of it, can be completely dissolved, immediately. The speaker says, it can, otherwise you are you are playing with words. That means your mind must be extraordinarily alert. Right? Your senses must be fully active. No? Are you all asleep? Are you being mesmerised by the speaker? (Laughter) Sir, look, our senses which we kind of disregard, or cultivate one special sense; we have never looked or encouraged all the senses to be active, which means to be highly sensitive. Because we have never been able, because of religious doctrines, various forms of inhibitions, have never been able to say, now let me, let's find out if all our senses, everything can be physically extraordinarily active. When there is such clear, sensory, total sensory response, there is no centre from which you are observing. You are following this? Do, do do this, sir. When you look at a sunset or at a tree or at water, the sea, look at it with all your senses, not just with your eyes, optical response, hear, smell, taste, the whole thing is operating, then you will see that the centre which has been associated with the self, the self-centred activity comes to a total end. Now, wait a minute, it may come to a total end for a second, but we say, can that second continue? Because immediately, what has happened. You have made a concept of that second into a concept and want to carry that concept out. You are following all this? Which means, you have moved away from the actuality.
So, pleasure, like fear, is the movement of time. Got it? Look, go into it very carefully, you will see it yourself. Sexual pleasure, the image, the thought, the thinking about it - you follow? - being associated with that, being attached to that. Then what happens? Where there is attachment, there is no love. Right? (Laughs) Now, just a minute. The speaker says, where there is any form of attachment, there is no love. Now, you hear that. How do you hear it? You understand my question? What is your response to that statement? Do you say, it's nonsense or what do you mean by it? Which means explain. Explanations, commentaries about that statement is what you live on, because you live on commentaries. So you haven't listened to that statement: where there is attachment, there is no love. I'll explain why, go into it, but the explanation has no meaning if there is not the immediate response to that. Right?
Sir, there is so much to talk about this, today and tomorrow. I want to cram everything in these two days. So, can you listen to that statement: where there is attachment of any kind, any dependency, any memory of pleasure, it's not love. Now, if one asked you, do you love your wife or your friend, then you will say, of course! And perhaps here in this country you don't even know that word, because if you loved your wife really, you would treat her differently. Right? Women's place in India is really quite terrible. You have no 'women's lib' here. So, when you ask what is love, are you asking it to have a concept about it, to have an explanation about it? Then, if you do, you're off. Right? And as we don't know what love is, because if we do there will be no jealousy, no hatred, no competition, the sense of ambition is gone, personal desire for fulfilment and all the rest of it, both sexual and otherwise, all that goes. So, if there is to be that love, one must be completely free of jealousy. Can you? Completely free of attachment? But you don't want to be free of either attachment or all the complications of your personal relationship. You would rather tolerate all that, put up with anything, as you do put up with everything in this country from the extraordinary squalor, dirt, a government that's so corrupt; you put up with anything. So, you say, 'Well, it is all right, what about love, why should I have it? Don't bother. I have carved myself a nice, an unpleasant corner in this universe with my wife, with my job, with my little children, that's good enough.' And that is death. That's why you are all dying. Right, sir?
So, how will you have this flower, the great beauty of love? Beauty is not mere form, the beautiful tree with its form, with its trunk, with its leaves, the outward show of it. Beauty comes with integrity, with freedom. The word 'freedom' originally, etymologically, meant love. So, either you want to come to that water which is everlastingly pure, it can never be polluted by thought and therefore your life then becomes like a flower, beauty or you want to live in the squalor that you are living. Perhaps your house is very clean - but I doubt it - but the squalor of our minds. So, can all this end - you understand, sir? - concepts, lack of integrity. Having no fear of any kind - you don't know what it means even. And having this extraordinary jewel which is incorruptible - love - either that or remain with this confusion, misery, sorrow. It is not a matter of decision, it's not a matter of choice, saying, I will choose this or that. But a man who is serious, who is concerned with the world, with all the terrible things that are going on in the world and also the ugliness and the pettiness and the shoddiness of our own lives, and seeing that, observing that, out of that comes complete action. And, what's the relationship of love to our daily life? Right? You know, that's one of the most absurd questions ever put. What is the relationship of your breathing to your life? Right? Exactly!
And also, there is this vast question, very complex question of death, sorrow. I don't know if we have time, not now. Sirs, human beings right throughout the world are at crossroads, whether one is aware of it or not. And all these scholars and all those people say - scientists included - that the ascent of man depends on his knowledge, the more he has knowledge, the greater the ascent. Knowledge is memory, past experience collected in the brain, memory, which is, if you are living on the past everlastingly, the past is ascending. Right? Human beings are not ascending. They ascend only when there is no fear, and they have understood the nature of pleasure and desire, and when there is love there is real explosion of the mind. And it's up to you whether you want to break the shackles of time or live in it. Right, sir?