Without change won’t we destroy ourselves?
Where there is total attention there is no self
1st Public Talk, Madras
December 29, 1984
We would like to point out this is not an entertainment, either emotionally, romantically, or ideologically. And this is important to understand, if you will. We are not propagating any ideas, ideals, no system, or philosophical concepts, theories. We are going together to not only investigate but also to observe without analysis, without prejudice, without any kind of previous conclusions, observe very carefully, objectively what human beings throughout the world have become.
Psychologically after according to the scientists and the archaeologists and biologists and so on - we have lived on this earth for perhaps a million years and definitely between forty five and fifty thousand year as human beings. During this long interval of time (I hope you don't mind getting slightly wet) we are, after this so-called evolution - not only biologically but psychologically which is much more important to understand than biologically - it appears that we are as barbarous, as cruel, as vicious, hating, violent, superstitious as we were fifty thousand years ago. We have perhaps become more sophisticated in our superstitions, in our worship, in our temples, in our churches and mosques and so on, but essentially we are what we have been many thousands of years ago. Religiously we are broken up, we belong to various sects, gurus, believing all kinds of rot. And also we have broken up the earth geographically and nationally. You are all Indians, I believe, or you are all British, Catholics, Americans or Russians. We are tribal worshippers. These are all facts. We are not exaggerating. These are obvious perceptible, objective realities.
And we have had wars for the last fifty thousand years. There you took a club and killed a man, now we have evolved, you can kill millions and millions with one bomb. We have progressed technologically. Technologically we have advanced tremendously, incalculably, and there is no end to technology - the most complicated machines, the computers, and the terrible things of war. But as human beings we are what we are: narrow, bigoted, superstitious, petty, concerned with ourselves. And in all this, self-interest is the major factor of all the people in the world.
One hopes that you are listening to all this carefully. Not that one must accept what is being said, one must have a certain quality of doubt, scepticism, question, demand to find out, not remain in our own petty little aggressive believing, and not believing, worshipping our petty little gods whom we have invented. We must look at the world as a whole, holistically, not as Hindus, Buddhists, Tibetans, you know, all that business. Can we do this? Because we have reached a point in our evolution where there must be tremendous change, otherwise we are going to destroy ourselves, not only through wars, through poisonous gases. We have had an example of it recently in this country. We are very deliberately destroying the earth, the earth which is so beautiful, so productive, that is nourishing us.
And also we have lost touch with nature, with the trees, with the flowers, with the vast valleys and the dark rivers. It means nothing to us. We are so willing to cut down any tree for our convenience, especially in this country, desert is spreading because of lack of fuel, over-population and so on. These are all obvious, daily facts.
And so we have reached a point as human beings where we must wipe the slate clean and begin again. We mean by 'beginning again', not looking back into history - history is after all the story of ourselves - and that story of past humanity is in us, each one of us. It is a vast complex book, which is ourselves, each one of us. This book we must read for ourselves, nobody on earth or in heaven can teach you how to read that book, nobody can help you, including the speaker - most emphatically. Because we have all been helped down the ages - various teachers, various gurus, various faiths, complicated, sophisticated theories, and we want to be helped, not only by the psychotherapists, which is perhaps natural, but also we want to be helped from the outside, some outside agency, from a book. If you observe yourself very carefully I am sure you want to be helped. Don't you? Don't you want to be helped? If you really faced it, looked at it, you all want to be helped. And that's why perhaps you are here - to solve your problems, to find a new way of living, to find truth through somebody else, how to meditate, what to think. You all want to be helped. That's why temples in India are increasing, vast sums of money are spent because you are seeking help from an outside agency called god, which you have invented, and there are others who are willing to help you: the priest, the analyst, psychologists and the various gurus.
One hopes that you are actually listening to all this, not just putting it out of your mind not to listen to all this. Because when you are helped you become weak. One has the energy, the capacity to read the book, which is the history of mankind, which is yourself. This is very serious what we are saying, so please don't brush it aside. There is nobody that can help you except yourself. You can join any society, any community, form a little clique, a sect, accept some theology, hoping for salvation or hoping your problems, daily problems of life, the strife, the struggle with the pain, the anxiety, the sorrow, and all the travail of mankind. We have always looked to others to help us. You have invented the masters, you have invented every kind of theory, ideal, gurus, gods, and none of them have helped you actually. You are still in pain, you still have problems, not only technological problems which are fairly simple to solve, but also psychological problems, the problem that is within the brain, the problems of the psyche, the problems of our relationship with another, the problems of ending fear, sorrow, anxiety, uncertainty. We want to find what happens after death, and the fear of death. And we have worshipped, prayed, believed, had deep faiths, and none of that has helped us. They may cover us, they may help us to escape from ourselves. And we have done that excellently, to escape from ourselves.
And we have reached a point when we must not only see these facts as actual, not theoretical, but also totally, completely rely on ourselves, because nobody on earth or in heaven or in hell can save us. That's a fact. You may not like to believe it because we like comfort, both physical as well as the comfort of certainty, the comfort of clarity. But we are confused human beings. Our brains have been programmed to be a Catholic, to be a Protestant, to be a Hindu, to be a communist and so on and so on, so on. One wonders if you actually realise all this, not verbally, not something as though it were out there, but actually in ourselves.
And one wonders whether one is serious at all. The word 'serious' has many meanings: to apply whole-heartedly to something, to something that is very serious, earnest, that demands a great deal of attention, that demands a clear, objective, non-personal brain. Whether one is capable of all this. When you want money, when you want power, status, you work, you become a businessman, a lawyer, and if you will, a politician. You work, see how many hours you spend in a factory, or in an office, perhaps for fifty years in an office, and you spend enormous energy. And with that very same energy you are unwilling to look at yourself, read the book of yourself. Right? Would you consider all this? I know you will come back tomorrow if you are willing or if you want to, not to be harangued, not to make you clear, nobody on earth can make your brain clear, sharp, awake, not to accept anything, so that you begin to question your own thoughts, your own activities, the way of your relationship with your wife or husband or a friend.
So can we go together - the speaker means together, you and the speaker examine our existence, our daily existence. And that existence is very, very complicated. There is no immediate answer. Oh yes, there is! There is an immediate answer to all our problems. Don't wait for me to explain it. I'll explain, I'll go into it. But one must see for oneself the long, the immense space of time which is called evolution. And evolution has not solved anything except biologically, technologically. It hasn't solved our human problems, psychological issues. (I am sorry there is that noise, which is modern civilisation and vulgarity. You can't stop it. They have voted and they are now free to express themselves.)
You see most of us believe in gradation, gradually. Of course you need time to learn a language, to learn a skill, to become an expert in programming a computer. There you need gradual process of accumulation of knowledge. There time, gradation, gradualness, is necessary. But psychologically, inwardly, we carry the same principle. That is, gradually we will achieve brotherhood, which is nonsense. Gradually there will be international naming of all nations. This gradual process is the extension of the technological knowledge, to be achieved gradually. Right? Is this clear? No? Sir, don't you have to learn, don't you have to have time to learn any skill? You need time, many months to learn really a new language. And that same sense of time, gradation, gradualness is carried over to the psychological world: we are this but we will become that. Right? We are violent now, but give us time, we will become non-violent. Which is, you accept time as a factor of change. The speaker questions that, doubts that. Because we have had time, we have had forty, fifty, hundred thousand years - you have had a long time, human beings, and they have not changed; they are still self-centred, they are still anxious, uncertain, seeking security, fearing death, fighting each other, killing each other for an idea. If you don't like something which the neighbour does you kill him. The terrorists. All this is the result of long centuries of human existence. Right? This is the result of gradualness, which is called evolution, psychological evolution.
Are we clear on this matter? At least what the speaker is saying. You may not accept this. But as we said, we are together examining it. Examining the whole question of psychological evolution. Right? Are we together in this? Or are you just going off with your own thoughts, occupied with your own problems? Or are we actually listening to the obvious fact that time has not solved any of our human problems - time being evolution, psychological evolution. Perhaps biologically you have reached the point, there is no further progress, or evolution, you can't develop a fourth arm. But you have gods with a dozen arms. So we are saying clearly, definitely: psychological evolution, it doesn't exist at all. You understand? That's why if you see the truth of that, the actuality of that, that you who have lived on this earth for fifty thousand and more years and we are still as brutal, violent, suspicious, accepting theories, this tremendous self-interest in the name of god, in the name of meditation, and so on. That self-interest was at the beginning of time and now. Right? So time has not changed us. Evolution, psychological evolution has not brought about a radical revolution psychologically. We have had revolutions physically: the communist revolution, the Bolshevists revolution, the French revolution and so on. Physical revolution has not changed a thing. Look at the communist world, Russia: they have got elitism and so on. I don't have to tell you all that, you know all about it.
So do we actually, clearly see this? As I said, time has not changed us, gradualness is not going to change us. That's a fact. So we have to enquire very carefully into the nature of time and thought. What is time? Please question all this, don't accept anything, from your books, from your literature, from your sacred Upanishads and all the rest, don't accept a thing but find out for yourself, because that brings freedom. It is only in freedom, complete freedom psychologically, that there is truth. Freedom, beauty and truth are together, they are not separate. They are interrelated.
And so we are together, please don't go to sleep, we are together, you with your brain, look, listen, to find out if the speaker, what he is saying is true. Don't accept a thing. Doubt, examine.
First of all our brain is conditioned to the idea of gradualness. That's a fact. And so we are going together to question, doubt, which means put aside everything that you have thought about time: time as a means of psychological achievement, psychological becoming something, you meditate in order to find and so on, psychologically, inwardly, subjectively, inside the skin as it were.
So we are going together to examine carefully what is time. Because we are used to time: time when you are living and time as death. Right? The long interval between life and death, living and death, which is many years, or one day. So what is time? Time by the watch is totally different: time as sun rising and sun setting, the time of the new moon and the full moon, the time that is necessary to climb a hill, time to paint, time to write a poem, time to talk. We are talking not of that time, not the chronological time, but the whole concept, the feeling, the inward sense 'I have time to evolve, to become, to reach, to achieve'. We are questioning that time, not the time by the watch, chronological time. Right, is that clear? If that is not clear, please, we cannot go any further. Perhaps some of you will pay a little attention to what is being said. I hope all of you will.
Time is the past: all our memories, all the incidents and experiences, the pain of a thousand yesterdays. That is the memory, all that memory which we carry in our brain, that is the past. Right? The present is now. The 'now' is you are sitting there, I am sitting here. But coming to this meeting, to this talk, sitting here, is the result of your past, memories. Right? So time, the past, modifies itself in the present and goes on into the future. Right? This is our life: past memories, which are carried in the brain, in the very brain cells themselves, and the past slightly adjusts itself to the present, modifying itself, slightly changing itself, and the past goes through the future. Right? This is clear, simple. The past is now, modified slightly, and the future is what we are now. Right? Are we seeing this? The future, tomorrow is the future, tomorrow is what we are now, so tomorrow is now, psychologically. Don't go to sleep, sirs, please. This is a serious matter. Please apply your brain, your energy to find this out.
The past is now. And the now is the future. Right? I am angry today, if I don't change that anger, the root of anger, I will be angry tomorrow. So tomorrow is now. So the future is now. Right? Do you see this? Not as a theory, not as something you hear vaguely, inattentively and perhaps you have come here because of some silly reputation, but this is a very important question, because man, and the scientists too, have thought of time as a series of movements, which is so. But we are talking of the inward sense of being, the inward sense of demanding 'I will change gradually'. That is what we are questioning, doubting.
So we are saying that the past, slightly changed in the present by circumstances, by sociological changes, economic, and so on, slightly modified, and goes on tomorrow. Tomorrow therefore is what we are now. Right? Do please see this. Therefore there is no future for me, or for you, to become something. Right? You are what you are now. After thousands of millennia upon millennia you have become what you are. And we look to time, tomorrow, a thousand tomorrows to find out, or to become something. So now, the present, contains all time. Right? See the fact of it. All the now, that is what you are now, whether you are young, or a student learning a language, learning mathematics, geography, history and all that business, and what you are now, as a human being, inwardly: your anxieties, your fears, your sorrows, your pain, your uncertainty, that is what you are now. And if you don't change now completely, tomorrow will be exactly the same, slightly modified but you will be what you are. Right? If you doubt what the speaker is saying about time, examine it quietly, take time to look, forget all that you have learnt about time, that is, gradualness. The speaker is saying there is no gradualness at all, because you are the past with all the accumulated memories and you are now what you have been, and if there is no fundamental change now you will be exactly tomorrow what you are. You will be afraid, you will have no security, or you want to gradually find security, all that business.
So if there is no tomorrow psychologically then what is change? You understand my question? Let me look at it, I'll put it differently. I don't know why you don't capture it quickly. It is a fact. Why don't you take it to your heart and see the truth of it instantly? Our brains are so dull, so mechanical, so repetitive, so accustomed to our particular pattern of thinking. So we are saying if all time is now, which is immense reality if you understand it fully, then what is change? I am violent today, I have been violent for the last thousand days, thousand years, million years. And I have invented, or the clever people have invented non-violence. That is, something there to be achieved. And my tradition, my conditioning says, work for it, struggle for it, be aware of your violence and so on and so on, you know all the inventions. And then one day you will become non-violent. This has been preached by all your gurus, and your mahatmas, and your gods; and the speaker is saying you have had time psychologically, and you haven't changed, therefore gradualness has no meaning at all. That's an actuality. So how do you end violence immediately, instantly? Right? That is the question. Are you listening? Do you want to find out?
Are we all working together as the speaker is working? Are you working actually with your brain to find out? Or you are merely so used to talks, so used to being told, waiting for somebody to help you to understand the nature of time? Well, sir, I must go on, otherwise it is no good.
We are asking: I have been violent, I am still violent - violence is not merely physical but it is also much more psychological. Imitation, conformity - except in the physical world - in the psychological world conformity, imitation, acceptance, obedience is a form of violence, because you are denying the truth of your own understanding. So can this violence, with which one has lived for millennia, end now completely, because if there is no complete ending of it tomorrow I will still be violent? Clear? Now is that possible? We are asking you that question: is that possible? Psychologically with all the implications of violence, aggression, self-interest, the division of class, division of religions, nationalities, economic divisions and so on, all breeding violence, can all that end completely now? The speaker says, yes, it can end now, completely. And you wait to hear, you want to know how. Right? That's one of the most horrible things on earth to ask: 'how', psychologically. Because if you ask 'how' then there are a thousand people who will help you or tell you what to do. So please, if I may most respectfully, friendly, point out, don't ever ask 'how'. I can ask a carpenter how to hold a tool, I can ask him about the nature of the wood. If I want to study medicine I have to find out, I can ask others; but inwardly the sense of understanding one's own being, existence, in that understanding there is no 'how'. So please, most respectfully, don't ask 'how'. If you ask 'how' you will never be free, because freedom is necessary. So we are going to find out, discover for ourselves, not be told, whether it is possible to change, end violence completely now.
What is the nature of attention? Now we are sitting here together - fortunately the rain has stopped - we are sitting here together and listening to somebody speaking. Are you listening actually? Find out, sirs, are you actually listening? That means as a child listens to a good story, he isn't thinking about anything else, he is listening, he is so curious, so excited, wants to know who is the hero, who is the hero and who is the villain. He is full of curiosity, attention. Are you like that? Or you listen casually, pick up something here and there and at the end of it say, 'I don't know what you are talking about. Would you kindly repeat that again'? Or are you, if I may ask most politely, are you listening at all, not interpreting, not comparing, but giving your mind, your heart, all your energy to find out: listen. That is attention. Attention is like a flame. Right? Attention is like turning on a very, very bright light. And you need that attention, that complete attention in which there is no resistance, not saying, 'I will attend', 'I must learn how to attend' - which means gradualness, therefore you are not attending. Do you see all this? I wonder - one wonders if you are taking the same journey together.
So we are saying, violence can end completely with all its implication; how to live in this world without violence, without aggression, without competition, without beating somebody in your success, without hate, anger, all that violence - which is all violence - can end if you give complete attention. Attention is like a flame that burns out violence. And that attention is now, not tomorrow, not the next moment. You will say, 'Yes, I'll take it home and think it over. I understand what you mean verbally but it hasn't entered my being so I will go home and think about it'. Then when you think about it you are not attentive. Right? You think about it. Attention means now: to what you say, how you say it, whether it is double talk, say one thing and do another. So we are saying this violence, which is only one of the various complexities of human existence, that violence can totally end when there is complete attention. Please do it now as you are sitting there. Don't do it tomorrow, there is no tomorrow, psychologically. There is tomorrow because you have got to go to the office, or whatever you are going to do, but psychologically, inwardly, there is no tomorrow. That's a most marvellous thing to discover for yourself.
And where there is this total attention there is no self, there is no centre from which you attend, there is only attention. Therefore that attention has no limit, it has no border, because in that attention there is no resistance. Attention is not something to be achieved. You attend.
Can we go on? Are you tired? May I ask, are you tired? Why not? Have you merely listened to the words, to some idea, to some concept, or have you worked, worked in the sense watched yourself, see what you are thinking, feeling, your reactions to what is being said, therefore your whole energy is now attentive. And your brain must become tremendously active. So shall we go on? If you keep silent, I will keep silent. What we are going into next is not only what we have dealt with, time, which is so tremendously important - you understand what it means? That all existence is now. All enlightenment is not in the future, it is now. All meditation is now. Do you understand the depth of that? For god's sake!
You know, our brains are the most extraordinary things. The speaker has discussed this with scientists and others. Our brain has infinite capacity. Look what it has done in the technological world: it has gone to the Moon, it has invented a bomb that can kill millions of people at one blow, it can destroy the earth. And, it has depth, a great surgeon, see what extraordinary things he has done, new heart, new liver, and so on. And also look what man has done in communication, the rapidity of a telephone call to New York, or to California, in a minute. Extraordinary capacity the brain has! Right? Agree? Do you see the extraordinary capacity? And that capacity which is so immense has been limited by our self-centredness.
Corruption doesn't begin with black marketing, passing money under the table, bribing. That's a mere symptom. Corruption begins when there is self-interest. Yes, sir, when there is concern with your own achievement, with your own passion, with your own urges of desire and so on, when there is self-interest the root of corruption is there. And that corruption as self-interest is limiting the psychological capacity of the brain. You understand, sirs, all this? The mirror in which you see yourself exactly as you are, the mirror that reveals everything about you. A good mirror doesn't distort. And that mirror exists, not outside; that mirror is your relationship with another, with your wife, with your husband, with your boss, with your servants, if you have them, unfortunately. That mirror is the most marvellous thing in which you see yourself. And if you pay attention to that mirror, completely watching every movement of thought, every movement of selfishness, every movement of desire, which we will go into presently, then that mirror not only shows what you are but you can then go beyond, much deeper. For the brain has the capacity to delve infinitely.
Truth is something that is not fixed, therefore there are no paths to truth. Right sirs.