Why have we not been able to resolve suffering?
Meditation is the transformation of the mind
3rd Public Talk, San Francisco, California
March 23, 1975
I hope you can hear me, can you? May I again repeat that this gathering is not a diversion, it is not a form of intellectual or emotional, or the so-called religious entertainment. We are talking about very serious things, serious in their content, serious in their approach. And it is only the earnest mind that lives, that can be happy, that can enjoy the beauty of the earth and the skies and the sea. It is only the serious mind that can possibly investigate, observe itself in action, follow the movement of its own thoughts. And it is only the serious mind that is wholly committed, not to some fragment of life but the totality of life, the wholeness, the complete movement of life. So I would like to remind you again that this is not mere verbal understanding, a verbal communication, though words are necessary one must go beyond the word, see the significance of words. And when one does that there is really then communion, which is more than communication. Communication implies, doesn't it, that one thinks together, shares together, creates together, examines together: it is not one particular entity, human being having examined shares with another what he has examined. Here we are trying, and we are communicating not only verbally, but beyond the word at the same time, at the same level, otherwise communion and communication comes to an end.
We were going to talk this morning, weren't we, about the question of suffering, of human beings right throughout the world, and whether there is a possibility of ending that. And also the immense question, and it is rather complex, death. In uncovering the structure and the nature of suffering, one must have a free mind, an enquiring mind, not a prejudiced mind, not a mind that is seeking an end. It is examining what actually is, and in the penetration of 'what is', one discovers a great many things. Reality, the word, reality means that which you think about, the root meaning of reality is that, that which is thought about, which is entirely different from what is truth. Truth cannot be thought about, and we are trying, we are doing it this morning, not only to understand, penetrate the thought that thinks about and creates reality, which ultimately leads to illusion, but also we are trying to find out what is truth, which is totally different from the process of thought.
So, let us begin, if one may, to find out why human beings, with their so-called education, with their technological advancement, with their understanding, perhaps intellectually, of centuries upon centuries, why human beings have not been able to resolve totally this question of suffering, to go beyond it, to transcend it, so that the mind is no longer in the shadow of ache, anxiety, and all the travail of human beings. Why is it that we have not solved this problem? And is it our laziness, our incompetence, our sense of accepting suffering as inevitable? One can understand the physical suffering because we misuse our body, various forms of indulgence, drink, alcohol, drugs, excessive indulgence in every form - that one can understand and perhaps go beyond it. But psychologically, inwardly, we have not been able to resolve this problem. And we are proposing this morning, whether it is possible to totally be free of suffering, which does not mean indifference, callousness, concern with oneself. Because when there is freedom from sorrow then there is the beginning of wisdom. And wisdom is something that you cannot possibly buy in books, through any school or college, or discipline yourself in order to come upon this jewel which is called wisdom.
So we are going to, together, this morning, examine, not through analysis which we have gone into, but observe why you, as a human being, with all the centuries behind you of knowledge, experience, work, responsibility, have not been able to dissolve this darkness. And suffering, it is maintained, brings understanding, brings sympathy, brings love, compassion. And in the Christian world suffering is elevated, worshipped. And if we can this morning go into this question, not hoping to find a realm in which there is no suffering. Hope breeds faith, and faith enduring becomes a dogma, an entrenched belief. And we are not hoping to go beyond it. Because you will see when examining it, in being aware of the whole nature of sorrow, its nature, structure, skeleton, the bones of it, being aware of it then one can transcend it.
From childhood, in school, college and university, and later on through life, we are hurt, we have a great many wounds; psychological, inward wounds, bruises, hurts. And being hurt through comparison when we are children, through the authority of the older, of the elders, through the other students, other friends, this wound gets deeper and deeper and we begin to resist, build a wall around ourselves - please observe this for yourself. Be aware of it for yourself, not because the speaker is pointing it out; because it is there - every human being is hurt in different ways. But in school you are compared with another, that you are not so bright as the other, and there begins the process of hurting, wounding. And so through school, university, if you are lucky to go to school and a university, and then later on in life, in the office, in the factory, in the family, this wound becomes a source of sorrow, of resistance and the sense of deep loneliness. I do not know if you are ever aware of the sorrow of loneliness. And most human beings because they have been hurt, because they have built a wall around themselves, have no communication with another, are not deeply in relationship, because the other might hurt you, and this resistance, this building a wall around oneself, and out of that the feeling of great loneliness, is one of the reasons of suffering. And out of this loneliness, out of this great inward poverty, one tries to escape from it. Please observe it in yourself, if one may point out. One escapes into all kinds of neurotic beliefs, activities and professions of theories. Because the mind - the brain rather - can only function in complete security, most efficiently, clearly. The brain, as it can only function in that sense of complete certainty, efficiently, seeks that security in belief, in hopes, in some kind of neurotic, unreasoned structure of thought. And that is exactly what is happening in the world - if you have observed it. All belief is neurotic. Do you accept this? Whether you believe in god, whether you believe in your nationality, whether you believe in your own structure, in your own brilliant, or not brilliant mind and activity, all belief is a form of neurotic, unbalanced activity. Do look at it, don't accept it or reject it. Look at it, observe it, taste it, put it in your hand and see it.
Because one of the reasons of suffering is this loneliness, this self-centred isolation, and you fill that loneliness with knowledge, with entertainment, religious or otherwise. And the more you try to fill that emptiness, that poverty, that vacuum of the self, the more pain, the more isolation. And from that lack of communication, lack of relationship, arises suffering. And also there is physical suffering because we have misused our bodies; overeaten, indulging in every form of tasteful habits - alcohol, drugs, smoking, you know what you are all doing. And the stress and the strain of modern civilisation, with its shocks, does affect the mind, the consciousness, your being. And when there is that physical suffering one can deal with it without affecting the rational, clear, intelligent mind. But that again demands an awareness of the body, the organism, to see that it has the right nourishment - and I don't know why you all eat meat. I don't know if you have gone into the whole question of cruelty, compassion, but when one is addicted to a particular form of taste, and it is as difficult and perhaps more difficult than to give up a particular habit of thought. And to observe, to be aware that this sickness of the organism does not affect the mind, it is not a psychosomatic disease.
And there are other forms of suffering - suffering in relationship. Have you ever gone into this question of what it means to be related to another? Man, woman, and the family, and all the nagging, the domination, the criticism, the conflict between the man and the woman, the hurts, the pettiness, the shallowness. And if one examines it very closely, relationship is one of the greatest things in life, to be related rightly. And where there is no relationship you create a society, a culture that becomes immoral, that leads to war and every kind of conflict. So it is very important to find out whether in this relationship between man and woman, and therefore with the world, whether it be a thousand miles away or near you, to find out for oneself whether that relationship is based on the image, the picture that you have built about another, and the image of the other, and the image that you have about yourself - whether these images, these pictures, these structures have any relationship at all? Or are they merely verbal, a structure of memory and therefore something dead, past, mechanical and therefore no relationship at all? And is it possible to have a relationship with another which is not based on memory, remembrance of things past and the freedom from every kind of image? You know what I mean by 'image'? If you live with another for a number of years, sexually, in close contact, you inevitably build an image about the other. You remember the things that the person has said; the hurts, the irritants, the indifference, the demands, the possessions, the domination and so on. And whether there can there be a relationship in which there is no image whatsoever - you understand my question? I will elaborate that point if I may, not as a repetitive thing but to examine it more deeply.
First we are hurt, there are these wounds, and can one be free of these wounds? That is one problem. And is it possible not to be hurt at all? Is it possible, though we have images built about another, to be free of them and never create an image about another? So that is the problem: being hurt, how to go beyond it and never to be hurt. Not building a wall around oneself - that is absurd, it is rather infantile. But not to be hurt, to have a mind that is really innocent. The word 'innocency' means not what the Christians have made it, the root meaning of that word means a mind that is not capable of being hurt. So we have got these problems: being hurt, what to do with it, and also never to be hurt. Is this possible - having an image about another and never to create another image? So let's find out if it is at all possible.
What is hurt? What is the thing that is being hurt when somebody says something harsh, brutal, hurts your own vanity - what is that? Is it not an image that you have built about yourself? You might think that you are an extraordinarily intelligent man, and somebody comes along and says, 'Don't be a fool' and you get hurt. You think you are extraordinarily bright, intelligent, awake, and by your activities they say, 'Don't be foolish, don't be an ass, you are just like everybody else' and you get hurt, and so on. Can this hurt be wiped away? If I may, if one may, I'll point it out to you and go into it with me and share the resolution of the hurt and the prevention of further hurts.
When the mind is attentive there is no hurt. When the mind is capable of observing without any reaction, to listen attentively, giving all your attention, at the moment of discredit, at the moment of disparagement, at the moment of insult, to be completely aware, then you will see there is no recording in the brain as hurt or flattery. Do it sometime and you will see the response from that. Then you will see that the images that you have built about another disappear completely. And in the latter there is no recording of any insult and therefore there is no hurt. Have you understood this? At least verbally? Perhaps some of you may have gathered it intellectually, but that is no good, because you will be hurt again, but if you go into this, be aware of your hurt, look at it, not wanting to wipe it away, to go beyond it, resist it, and all the rest of it, just to observe 'what is', choicelessly. Which is to be completely attentive and then out of that attention every form of hurt and flattery come to an end, because hurt and flattery are the two sides of the same coin. And the same thing in relationship, when in that relationship your wife or your girl says something to you, or he says something to you, to be attentive at that moment, to give your ear wholly. Then you will find no past hurts and there is no possibility of being hurt further, therefore your mind is astonishingly fresh, innocent and free.
And there are the other forms of suffering: you know what is happening in Vietnam, thousands homeless, and you are responsible for it, the wounds, the cries, the misery that is going on there. And the poverty in India, in Asia, in certain parts of Europe. And there is the collective suffering for which you are all responsible. And there is separate human suffering, you lose somebody whom you think you have loved, with whom you have companionship. So there is this vast shadow of suffering created by man, the wars, maiming, destroying people - you have seen it in cinemas, on television. So there is that immense suffering of the world going on throughout the ages. And then there is the suffering of yourself. Can that mind be free of this suffering? Because when there is suffering there is no love. It is like a darkness, like a cloud that envelopes you and holds you and you cannot see clearly. However much you may try to escape from it, it is always there. So is it possible to go beyond it? It is possible, only when you suffer in different ways - there are so many ways to suffer - not to escape from it, just to look at it, be with it, remain without any movement of thought away from it, verbally, rationalise it or suppress it - all those are forms of escape and therefore a waste of energy, which is inattention. And to remain with that suffering choicelessly, without any movement of thought because thought is the very process which fragments, brings about fragmentation, but when there is no movement of thought but merely that feeling of sorrow, to remain with it completely, then you will see out of that non-action of thought, where there is sorrow comes passion. But you have no passion; you have lust; you have enjoyment; you have enthusiasm; you have got plenty of energy. But passion, there isn't any and it is only when there is passion you can create. And that passion comes only when you understand and live, and without any movement away from that thing called sorrow.
Now we can go into the question of what is death. Do you want to go into all this? Sure you are not tired? Or you are merely listening to words, carried away by words. If you are listening with your heart, with your mind, with your whole being attentively, then you must be tired. But we will go on into this question of what is death. You know it is a very complex problem, like all human problems. Death is one of the most complex, despairing, unavoidable, aching problems. And the ancient people in different parts of the world tried to solve it. The ancient Egyptians tried to solve it in their own way' they said, 'Live in order to die so that you can carry on with what you have had' - all their tombs are filled. And every other group or community, people, tried to solve this problem. The Christians, their idea of resurrection that they would be revived in heaven or in hell. And there is that thing called death, the ending, and man doesn't want to end because he has built a house; he has lived in that house, lived with his family, with his children, with his enjoyments, with his troubles, with his anxieties, fears, pleasures, with all the accumulated knowledge, and he says, 'Why should I die? It is unfair' why should it happen to me, let it happen to somebody else'. And because there is this death one hopes that there is something of you continuing after you die. The Asiatics exploded over Asia many centuries ago, as the Greeks exploded over Europe - their ideas, their beauty, their philosophy, their rationalisation and so on. India said there is hope, you will be reborn next life, which is reincarnation. Please listen to this carefully. You will be re-incarnated depending on how you live now. If you live wrongly, mischievously, without consideration, if your behaviour isn't righteous, true, honest, then you will suffer more in the next. And those who believe in it, and there are billions, naturally lead a stupid, immoral life. Because their belief is just a verbal comfort, it gives them a solace. And so they lead a life that is cruel, dishonest, double thinking, talking, you know what is happening. And in this part of the world you have your own theories, if you are at all concerned about death, and I'm afraid you are not, because you try to avoid it. You try to decorate death. Your gurus, your teachers, all those people who talk about religion and all that, never talk about the enormity, the beauty, the vitality, the strength of death because you are not interested in it. What you are interested in is the immediate, the immediate satisfaction, pleasure, the fulfilment of certain desires. So when you are concerned with death you must be concerned with the ending. And you are afraid, naturally, because you are so attached - to your belief, to your profession, to your family, to your books, to your knowledge, and to let all that go does breed fear.
So that is actually what is, if you observe it yourself. Then we can ask: what is the significance, the meaning of death? What is it that dies? And is there an ending - which is incarnating now, not in the future? You are following this? There is an ending, whether you will like it or not, willy-nilly there it is, dying through old age, disease, accident, at the last moment totally unconscious. And it is there, ending, the organism comes to an end. And you who have identified with that organism, 'you' psychologically, what is that you? Please go into this with the speaker, because that is what one is basically afraid of: this sense of ending the 'me', the 'me' that has lived, the ;me' that has fought, struggled; the 'me' that has accumulated, cultivated certain qualities, the 'me' that has gone through every form of travail, suffering, torture, anxiety - what is that 'me'? Is it a verbal skeleton put together by thought - please listen to this - put together by thought and therefore has no reality whatsoever? Reality, as we explained, is that which thought thinks about. You have thought about yourself - your comforts, your position, your work, your advancement, your enjoyment, your beliefs, your grief, your success, you are so terribly concerned about yourself. So yourself becomes the reality of thought, and that thought says, 'I am coming to an end, there is no tomorrow', and naturally the thought that has created that reality is frightened, and it must have hope. And hope then becomes a thing some time in the future, a belief.
So time is the process of thought. And if you suddenly realise for yourself now, sitting there, psychologically there is no tomorrow - you understand? - psychologically realise that there is no tomorrow, that means that you won't fulfil your desires; that you won't meet your friend and so on, no tomorrow - what will you do? You will be in despair, you will be shocked. And that is death.
So first look at the life that we are leading, actual life, not a life of ideals, a life of something we should do, or ought not to do, but the life that we live actually, daily. It is one of constant inward struggle, conflict outwardly, anxiety, worry, problems, the problem of poverty, losing position, losing a job, wanting greater success, spending years and years and years in an office, or in a factory, disease, old age, fear, that is your daily life. And to that you cling desperately. And death is there - please listen to this. We are speaking of something that we have actually done, not theorising about it, not speculatively imagining, fancy, but what actually has been done. That is, to end psychologically everything that you want tomorrow, because that is what death is, to end your desire, not control your desire, not suppress it, see what death means. That is, you have made an artificial gap between living and dying, a gap of time, psychological time. The living with all that misery, confusion, mischief, and death something far away, to be put away, to be run away from. So there is this time interval, time gap created by thought. And to shorten completely that gap, to have no gap, which means living and dying. You understand? Not to die some time in the future when you are diseased, unconscious, but living with vigour, vitality, full attention, knowing what exactly is happening inside your consciousness, and to shorten or not to have that gap at all between the living and the dying. Therefore there is an incarnation each moment, there is a newness. And that is creation.
And man has sought immortality. A writer, if he is a good writer, seeks immortality through his books, through his words, through his thoughts. He is there, at least he is there, he thinks, permanently. There is nothing permanent. There is no permanency of you. Others seek immortality in history - the politicians, the kings. But you and I are not writers; we are not kings; we don't make history. We are ordinary people, living with trouble, pain, anxiety, not knowing, confused, with a little affection, we are the ordinary people. And also we want immortality. We have never asked what is immortality. That is, not mortality, immortality means no dying. And if one has gone into it very deeply, one sees there is nothing permanent, nothing, either on earth or in yourself. Which isn't a despair, which isn't something to be frightened of. And when you see there is nothing permanent, that very observation, that very perception is the highest form of intelligence. And intelligence, which is not personal, which is not yours, or mine, is the everlasting. And from there the mind becomes infinite, because it is no longer caught in attachment, it is no longer seeking anything, any experience. It is completely a light to itself and therefore eternal.
Do you want to sit quietly, or ask questions? If you want to sit quietly, sit quietly and I will leave you. But if you want to ask questions, ask something that relates to your life, not some theory.
Q: What do you think of the position of Frederick Teacher who maintains that much of suffering comes about trying to live up to the dictates of grief and twisted morality?
K: Right. Ideals corrupt man. Ideals are the projections of thought which have no substance. Therefore when you are trying to live up to something according to an ideal, according to a conclusion, whether Christian or Hindu or Buddhist or what you will, you are leading a double life, a hypocritical life and therefore there is suffering. But if you observed what actually is, what is actually going on in your daily life, then having no contradiction, you can look.
Q: If innocent action, although I don’t understand it, is necessary to acquire a change; is there any way I may invite this change without entering into thought, or striving, without it becoming premeditated?
K: You are speaking too close to the microphone. Please don't take photographs. This isn't an amusement park, for God's sake! You are grown-up people, serious people.
Q: If action is required for change, not intellectual understanding, is there any way I may invite this change without entering into thought, or becoming too premeditated? Or am I wrong?
K: I'm afraid I don't understand American voices or American language. It may be my shortcoming but would you put it very simply and clearly.
Q: To lead a better life requires a change. And I think I don’t quite understand you fully how to do this. You said it required an action not an understanding that is intellectual.
K: The lady asks, to lead a better life there must be change, and an action corresponding to that change. Right? You know this idea of 'better' is the enemy of the good. Do you understand what I am saying? You cannot become good. There is no 'better good'. You are either good or not good. But we are so conditioned to better ourselves, to become something. So to be good now is to think non-comparatively, to observe without comparison. I am not good, suppose, I am not good. I am greedy, I am violent, I am stupid. Is my stupidity - please listen to me - is my stupidity the result of comparison because you are clever and I am dull therefore I call myself stupid? If I have no comparison, am I stupid? Or am I, what I am? And the observation of what I am brings about a radical revolution.
Q: Sir, when you mention the cessation of the ‘me’, and the coming to an end of the organism, now when there is a dying every moment, there is the cessation of me. Now at that moment there is no me, not like what we call death, now is that death immortality? And if that is immortality whenever there is the cessation of the ‘me’ and there is ending of the living organism, what then is immortality?
K: Sir, are you asking a question of a theory, a theoretical question? Or are you asking actually what happens if there is no me? Can I live in this world surrounded by a thousand 'me's', who are all working for themselves, who are all concerned with their own petty little happiness, desires, fulfilments, 'me', how can I live in this world without I also being aggressive, violent, stupid? Are you asking that question? If you are, if there is no 'me', then there is intelligence. Not the intelligence of the intellect, but that supreme excellent intelligence in which there is compassion, there is love, there is no sense of fear, then that intelligence is, because it is supreme, it is everlasting to everlasting.
Sir, look there are so many questions all in a row, would you mind putting your question very briefly?
Q: I hope to make my question very clear. I observe that sleeping sickness is an outgrowth of a germ. And I see that our way of life has its roots in Europe and in Asia. And I see that in Europe and in Asia tradition has made deserts out of their land, they have made animals extinct, and trees extinct, and there has been over-population. These are world-wide problems today.
K: Are you saying, sir, to make it brief, that you are the result of the traditions, troubles, the churches and all the rest of it over Europe, and you are the result of all that?
Q: No, that is not what I said. I am saying that our way of life has its roots...
K: I understand, sir, you are the result of all that.
Q: I am not. I don’t regard myself personally as the result of this, otherwise I don’t think I would be asking this question of you, or listening to you. I never said that our predecessors, the whites, in Europe and in Asia, there has been customarily mercy. Unlike Mayans and the people of Africa and Australia and North and South America, exclusive of course of the Indians. I think we are communing. I hope so.
K: Would you ask your question, sir?
Q: What I am really concerned with is the European, Asiatic community has come in contact with our predecessors of Australia, Africa, North and South America.
K: What is happening?
Q: I understand the question.
K: She is telling you, my darling, be quiet. (laugher and applause)
Q: You know when you were talking about mortality and immortality, you came to the point where you said one must examine immortality to see if it is worthwhile, and you began...
K: Not worthwhile. Sir, it is not a question of worthwhile. This has been the problem of man for centuries. What happens after death, is there a continuity, or is there not? Is there something permanent, or is there nothing permanent? It is not 'worthwhile', it is not that you are going to get something out of it.
Q: I didn’t mean it that way exactly. What I meant was, you were saying let us examine immortality and it seemed that there was an implication, I didn’t understand how you got to the place where you said the mind becomes infinite. I just lost you there.
K: I am sorry I can't go into it all again sir.
K: Please let the others have some chance. sir?
Q: Do you mind if I make myself clear. I asked you a question.
K: Ask your question, sir.
Q: Did you understand what I was saying before?
K: Yes sir. But ask your question sir.
Q: I appreciate your patience.
K: Not my patience. It is not my patience, the lady that came up, she is asking you for patience too.
Q: As I said, when European and Asiatics...
Q: I have considered some of what you said yesterday and today and I thank you for coming to talk to us. I have taken some of what you said for myself in a very brief way. Historically the development of Asia and Europe have developed sophisticatedly which has caused much suffering, while the undeveloped tribal countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia have developed religions which have played very positive roles in their communities. Do you believe there is any current relationship between progress and society, thought and violence?
K: Do I believe in progress...
Q: A relationship between progress and society.
K: Would you put it in my language?
Q: In other words, if a human being is thinking, and trying to make progress, does he have a chance of living without destroying himself? It seems that the religions of developed countries, which have developed the religions on the basis of their thought have also gone about thinking and have also gone about killing themselves.
K: Would you like me to put in French? I don't know what you are saying. Sir, please forgive me, I really don't understand what you are asking.
Q: Is he asking: is it possible to have progress in a society without having a counterpart of violence with it? Isn’t that the question?
Q: Yes, that’s what I am asking.
K: Can you have progress in society without having violence? Oh, my God is that all? (laughter) Can you have progress without violence. Do you know what that word 'progress' means, originally? To enter into the enemy's country fully armed. (laughter and clapping)