New York 1954
New York 1st Public Talk 22nd May 1954
I think it is important that each one of us should not merely listen to the words that are being spoken, but should actually experience the things we are talking about as we go along; and it seems to me that the words should convey their significance without resistance. Most of us listen to a talk and go away without directly experiencing what is being said, and it would be a great pity if you merely listened without experiencing. But if we can really experience what is being said, then perhaps the essential change will come about which is so obviously necessary at the present time of crisis throughout the world.
I do not believe in ideas, because ideas can be met with other ideas, and mere argumentation, refutation, or acceptance takes place. Merely to listen to ideas, to accumulate new forms of knowledge, or to acquire a particular technical capacity - all those things are really of no avail to meet life. What is necessary, it seems to me, is to be able to live in this mad, confused world with surety, with clarity and simplicity, meeting life as it arises without a thought of tomorrow. That is a very difficult thing to do, because most of us live in ideas - ideas being knowledge, experience, or tradition. To us, ideas are very important, they guide our life, they shape our thinking and our future action, and so we never live a complete life, but are always overshadowed by the past. Surely, what is important is not a change which is merely a continuity of what has been in a different form, but a total revolution in our thinking, which means letting go of the things that we have known and being in a state of the unknown.
It seems to me that most of us are utterly confused, and there are so many new ideas, so many influences, so many experiences, so many teachers, each telling us what we should do, what pattern of life, what philosophy, what teaching we should follow; or if these fail, we go back to the old, to the traditional. From among all these confusing and contradictory influences and ideas we are forced to choose what we think is the truth and follow it; but in the very process of following what we consider to be the truth, there is also confusion. If we consider our lives closely and fairly seriously, we will see that we are confused. I think it is very important to start from there, and not to seek clarity. A confused mind can never find clarity, because whatever it finds will still be confused. I think it is very important to understand that.
After all, you and I are trying to find out what is true, and the discovery of that may bring about a revolution, a liberation in our thinking, in our being; but that discovery, that liberation cannot take place until we know what we actually are - not what we would like to be, but actually what is. And it is very difficult for most of us to accept what is, to see what we actually are. We would like to change what we are, and with that desire, with that impulse, we approach the state of what we are. So, we never see what we actually are.
I think that is the real basis of uncovering or discovering what is true: to know exactly what we are, to know actually what is, without any modification, without judging, without trying to alter or shape it. What is is not a permanent state, it is a constant movement, because we are never the same from moment to moment, and to find out what is true it is essential to see what we are from moment to moment.
So, it is important to see what we are, is it not? And if we look we will see that we are confused human beings. We are unhappy. We are caught in innumerable beliefs, experiences. We are always seeking some authority to point out the right direction, the right action that will lead us to some future hope, to some happiness, to some tranquillity. Being confused, the very search to find reality, to find truth, to find happiness, to find clarity, will only lead to further confusion. That is an obvious psychological fact, is it not? If my mind is confused, whatever action, whatever decision, whatever book, whatever teacher I may follow, or whatever discipline I may impose upon myself, will still be within the field of confusion. That is very difficult for most of us to accept. Being confused we think, "If I can only find the right teacher, the right method, the right discipline, if I can only understand, it will help me to evolve, to grow, to change, to transform." But a confused mind, whatever its action, must always be confused. Whatever decision it may take will still be within the field of confusion. As that state of confusion is the reality, the actual fact, I think we ought not merely to see it intellectually or verbally, but to actually experience the state of confusion and proceed from there, observing the whole process of how the mind, being confused, seeks help.
After all, that is why most of you are here, is it not? Most of you are here to be told, to be encouraged, or to be confirmed in your own particular experiences. You want to be helped. Other teachers, other books, other philosophies may have failed, so you turn to a new person; but the mind that is seeking is still the confused mind, and a confused mind can never understand what is put in front of it. It will translate what it sees according to its idiosyncrasies, its particular pattern of thought, or its own experiences. Therefore it is incapable of seeing truly.
So, if I may suggest, it is very important to know how to listen. Our minds are incapable of listening as long as they are translating, justifying, condemning, accepting or rejecting something. Surely, any such activity is not listening. If you observe your own mind - and I hope you will, during the talks that are to take place here - you will see how difficult it is to listen. Your knowledge, your experiences, your prejudices, your fears for the American Way of Life, your fear of communism, and so on - all that is preventing you from listening not only to what I am saying, but to everything in life. What is important is that you should listen in the right way, not only to me, but to everything, because life is everything, and it is in constant movement. if you listen partially, with a particular prejudice or bias, if you listen as a capitalist, as a communist, as a socialist, as a member of any particular religion, or God knows what else, obviously you are only listening to what you want, and therefore there is no liberation, no understanding of the new, there is not the breaking away, the complete revolution which is so essential. Surely, it is only when the mind is in a state of the unknown that there can be the creativity of reality; but a mind that is caught continuously in the field of the known, it is not possible for such a mind to change itself, to bring about its own transformation and thereby find a new significance to life.
So, is it not important from the outset that as we are talking we should know how to listen? I think the whole problem is solved if one knows how to listen, not only to what is being said here but to all the hints, the unconscious urges, the influences, to the words of a friend, or your wife or husband, of the politician and the newspaper. If you know how to listen, then that very listening is a complete action in itself. I think it is important to understand this, if I may, labour the point, because I am not giving out new ideas. Ideas are not at all important. One may have new ideas, or you may listen to something which you have not heard before; but what is important is how you listen, not only to ideas, to something new, but to everything, because if you know how to listen, that very act of listening is a liberation.
If you really experiment with what I am saying you will discover the truth of it for yourself. A mind that is capable of listening without translation, without interposing its own particular ideas experiences, knowledge, or desires, is surely a tranquil mind, a quiet mind. It is only when the mind is still that the new can take place, the new being the eternal, or whatever name you may like to give to it, which is not important. But, you see, most of us have innumerable ideas, desires and longings, and so there is never a moment when the mind is really still.
So, it seems to me, what matters in all these talks - which are going to take place here this weekend and next weekend - is to know the art of listening, and you can be aware of that art only in observing your own reactions to what is being said; because you will have reactions, you are bound to have them. The mind must be aware of its reactions and yet be capable of going beyond those reactions, so that they do not impede further discovery.
Being confused, most of us want to find a way out of that confusion. We turn to books, we turn to leaders, we seek political or religious authority, or the authority of a specialist of some kind, to help us clarify our own thinking. Is that not what each one of us is trying to do? We want to find somebody who will help us out of our confusion, out of our frustrations, out of our misery and turmoil, so we seek authority. But is not that very authority the cause of our confusion? And is it not important to shed all authority? After all, the mind seeks authority in different forms in order to be sure. That is what we want: to find a refuge where we can be safe, where we shall not be disturbed, because for most of us thinking is a pain, every action brings its own confusion, its own misery. Knowing that, being aware of it, we seek authority in order to find shelter. It may not be the authority of a person, but it may be the authority of an idea.
Please follow all this, do not reject it. You may ask, is not the authority of a policeman, of the government, and so on, essential? But if we understand the whole significance of the creation of authority, how authority is bred in each one of us, then we shall understand the details of authority and be free of authority.
Now, the world is being broken up into several authorities, the left and the right, into various political pressure groups, all having the sanction of some book, of some teacher, of some idea. And is it possible for each one of us to find out how to be free from authority of every kind, not only external authority, but the inward authority of experience, of knowledge? Can we find out what is true, not through somebody, but directly for ourselves, so that there are no teachers, no pupils? It seems to me that this is what is necessary, not only now but at all times.
As long as the mind is seeking security of any kind, whether in a leader, in a particular way of life, in a particular nationality or group, or in any belief, such a mind can only create confusion in the world and more misery, which is being shown at the present time. So, it is important for each one of us to find out for ourselves what is by shedding all authority, which is extraordinarily difficult; and seeing what is, the very discovery of what is, will be the liberating process. But, you see, most of us are afraid to be naked, completely alone, one avoids standing by oneself to find out for oneself.
If that is not understood, I am afraid you will go away from these talks disillusioned and disappointed, because what I am saying is not anything new; but what will be new is your discovery of what is being said. Isn't it important to bring about a different way of thinking? Isn't it important to find out for yourself how to live in this extraordinarily confusing, brutal and aggressive world? And can anyone tell you how to live. or what pattern of action you should adopt, or which leader or group you should follow, or what belief you should hold? All such things seem so utterly infantile when you are confronted with an extraordinary crisis. This crisis has been brought about by the leaders, and it is we who have created the leaders - the leaders being the embodiment of some particular idea or belief, whether religious or economic.
So, is it not very important for each one of us to free the mind from all sense of authority? - which really means, if you go into it very deeply, from all sense of knowledge, so that the mind is new, fresh, and can therefore function in a totally different way.
You see, we rely so much on knowledge. The man who writes a book about the mind, or speaks about the mind, we accept. We call his thought by some name, and we accept it. We never investigate into the whole process of our own thinking and discover it for ourselves. That is why we have innumerable leaders, each asserting and dominating. And can one put away all that and find out for oneself? Because, you see, knowledge becomes a hindrance to understanding. When you want to build a bridge, for that you must obviously have knowledge, you must have a certain technical capacity. But can one have knowledge of a living thing - that is, the understanding of it beforehand? That which you call "me", the self, is a living thing, and you cannot have previous knowledge about it. You may have experiences concerning it, or the information of what others have said about it, but when you approach yourself with previous knowledge, you never discover what you actually are. If you are religiously inclined, you say, "I am the eternal I am a son of God" and so on; and if you are not, you assert that the self, the "I", is merely the result of environmental nature.
So, we approach everything with knowledge, with conclusions which have already been made, and with these patterns of thought we go through life; therefore knowledge becomes a hindrance in the discovery of truth. If I want to know the truth about myself, surely I must discover myself every minute as I am, not as I have been or as I should be. Please listen to this, because more and more books are being written, more and more lectures are being given, everything - the radio, the television, the newspapers, the speeches, the politicians, the teachers - everything is conditioning you, shaping you to a certain pattern, and with this conditioning you are trying to find out what is true. Conditioning is knowledge, tradition, it is what has been, the past, both the past of yesterday and of a thousand years ago. That is our mind, and with that mind we try to find out what is true. Surely, to find out what is true there must be freedom from conditioning, the conditioning as an American or as a Russian, as a Catholic or a Protestant, as an artist or a poet; there must be freedom from the conditioning of a particular capacity, because identification with capacity gives pride.
So, a mind that is to find out what is true must be free of knowledge. But if you observe you will see how your mind is constantly gathering knowledge, storing it away; every experience becomes a further strengthening of knowledge. Our minds are never free to be still because they are too crowded with information. We know far too much, and really about nothing and through this immense weight we are trying to be free. But you see, we are unconscious of all this; and if we are made conscious of it, we resist, because we say that knowledge is essential to liberation. Surely, knowledge is an impediment, a hindrance to the discovery of what is true. Truth must be something that is living, it must be totally new each second, and how can a mind that has accumulated knowledge, information, ever find out what is the unknown? Call it God truth by whatever name you like, it is not to be sought after, because if you seek it, you already know it, and knowing it is the denial of it.
Please listen to all this. All religions are based on the idea of knowing, experiencing, believing, and so from childhood we are conditioned to believe. We already know, and we worship that which we already know. We are always frightened of the unknown. The unknown may be death, the unknown may be tomorrow. A mind that is living with the known can never be in a state of revolution, it can never bring about that state when truth can come into it.
Our particular job, then, is not to seek God or truth, because when we seek it we have already destroyed it. What we seek is what we want, it is something gratifying, satisfying - which means, really, the projection of our own desires into the future. We project our own past into the tomorrow, and worship the past in the tomorrow.
If you would really understand this, listen to it without making an effort to free the mind from the past; merely listen to it, see how the mind is the result of the past, not only the conscious mind, but also the unconscious mind, the mind which functions whether we are awake or asleep. The many layers of the unconscious, the hidden fears, the impulses, the motives, the hindrances - all that is the result of the past, as well as the conscious mind which is struggling with the immediate.
In listening to all this, if one makes an effort, it is still a result of the known. After all, most of us live through the action of will, do we not? To us, will is very important, that is, will to be or to become. The will to become, to be, is the action of the known, is it not? Therefore the action of will can never find what is real. Just see the fact that all knowledge, all experience, only strengthens the will, the known, the "me", the self, and that such a will, such a "me" can never perceive clearly what is true, can never find God, however much it may try, because its God is the known. It is only when the mind is in a state of the unknown, when the mind itself is the unknown, only then is there a possibility of creativity, which is truth.
What we are talking about is not conformity to any particular pattern of thought, the acceptance of any particular belief, or the joining of any particular group, but a total revolution which can come about only when the mind is totally still. It comes when one understands the ways of the self. With self-knowledge alone comes true stillness of the mind. Without self-knowledge, stillness of the mind is merely a deception, a convenience, a thing put together by the mind for its own security, and in such a stillness the mind is not capable of perceiving, of realizing or receiving the unknown.
So, as we shall be discussing these things during the coming talks, what is important at all times is to know how to listen, and you cannot listen if there is an argumentation going on between you and me. If you belong to any society, to any group, to any religion, if you accept any belief, you are incapable of listening, because your mind is already conditioned. A conditioned mind cannot listen; it is not free to listen. But if one can listen totally, then I think a fundamental change, a fundamental revolution will take place which is not brought about by an action of the "me", and therefore it will be a true transformation. That is the only problem we have: how to bring about a complete change in ourselves, not mere adjustment to a particular society, which is infantile. It is immature to desire to adjust oneself to a particular society, because the society is created by environmental influences, by our own reactions and relationships, and merely to adjust oneself to a particular pattern of society is not freedom.
What is necessary, it seems to me, is this fundamental transformation that comes about through no volition, no authority, but only when we understand the total process of our own being. To know ourselves as we are, to see ourselves clearly as we see our faces in the mirror, without any distortion, is the beginning of truth. That requires a great deal of awareness, an awareness in which there is no choice. The moment you choose, you are already acting according to your conditioning. But to know that you are acting according to your conditioning, and to see the truth of it, is already the beginning of that awareness in which there is no choice.
All this one can observe in oneself. You don't have to go to any philosopher, to any teacher, or belong to any group. Your various groups are limiting, confusing, contradicting each other, they create animosity though they talk of brotherhood. If one knows, that truth cannot be found through any person, through any book, through any religion, that reality comes into being only when the mind is utterly still, that stillness can come only with self-knowledge, and that self-knowledge cannot be given to one by another but has to be discovered for oneself from moment to moment - then, surely, there comes a tranquillity of mind which is not death, a peace which is really creative, and it is only then that the eternal can come into being.
May 22, 1954
New York 1954
New York 1st Public Talk 22nd May 1954
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