Madras 3rd Public Talk 29th October 1958
I wonder what is the function, the meaning of a talk like this? It would be very interesting, I think, if one could ask oneself that question and find not a superficial answer, not a convenient answer but the deep, true response to a question of that kind. If we looked very deeply into ourselves I think we would find, almost invariably, that we want to get something. We come here to listen to somebody who has something to say because we think that perhaps it will help us, enlarge our comprehension, and so on. But I am wondering if that is the right purpose. I am asking myself - and I think you should ask yourselves also - whether one wants to be influenced to think in a certain way. Because I think if one starts with that intention - to get something, to be influenced - you and I will not meet; we will not be able to communicate with each other. I certainly do not want to influence you at all, in any manner, to think this way or that because I think that is immature, that is merely propaganda and we can leave that to the politicians, the Communist and the other brain-washers. I do not want to influence your thinking or your action one way or the other, and if you come with the intention of being influenced then you and I won't meet. But I think this talk will have a significance if we can find out why the mind allows itself to be influenced, and why our whole culture, society, environment, education is a series of influences all of which condition the mind. It is a fact, is it not?, that everything is influencing us - what we eat, what we read, the newspapers, cinemas, radio, political speeches, books - everything is influencing us consciously or unconsciously. We are being influenced much more unconsciously than consciously. The mind may quickly read through something because it is occupied with something else, but what you have read soaks in, seeps in and remains. This is also a form of propaganda, perfected advertising, so that your mind unconsciously conforms to a pattern of ideas, thoughts, suggestions. With all this we are fairly familiar.
Now why does this happen? Why is it invariably that the mind gets conditioned, shaped, and having been shaped, has then to be broken down? After all, that is what is happening; our entire culture, the whole challenge of life is met by that process. There is a conditioned state, then a challenge, then a response according to the conditioning and then a modification of our conditioning as a result of the challenge. That is what is actually happening in the world, is it not?
Please, as I said the other day, this is not just a talk. We are communicating, you and I, communing with each other, thinking aloud. It is not a matter of merely listening and then going home, agreeing or disagreeing. Understanding does not come through agreement or disagreement. One cannot agree or disagree about a fact; you can only agree or be convinced if I am asserting something or giving an opinion. But what we are doing is actually examining a fact and we must be very clear that to examine a fact does not demand that you should agree or disagree with it.
It is a fact that the mind is influenced to an extraordinary extent, profoundly, is it not? Environmental, religious, social, cultural, climatic, dietetic influences condition the mind; the challenge comes to it and it responds according to its capacity. Its capacity is invariably limited, inadequate and therefore there is a conflict between the challenge and the response. And if the response is not adequate, full, deep, then the entity, in whom the culture, the race is embodied, gradually disappears. This is what has happened throughout history, and it is happening to all of us every day. So why is the mind a slave to environment, a slave to culture? Because a mind so conditioned must obviously be broken. That is, I cannot remain a Hindu, go to the temples, go to some saint, and so on; it becomes impossible because the movement of life is constantly breaking the patterns down. Every culture has been broken - the Roman, the Greek, it is a historical fact - because it can no longer respond to the challenge adequately. So they all go under. But our whole tendency is to conform to a culture and, having conformed, when the challenge comes I do not respond. I say I must remain a Hindu, or a Mussulman, a Christian, Catholic or Communist and so there is a continual battle of adjustment between myself and the challenge, myself and a new idea, myself and a new perception of what life is. This is what is actually happening, is it not? There is no argument about it, there is no opinion about it. This is actually happening now in India. The whole Western culture, all the things the West has brought here - parliamentarianism, militarism, scientific investigation and so on - these things have come, and they have brought a challenge. The West has imposed part of its culture upon Indian culture, and the Western being more potent, more dynamic, this culture is gradually going under. Though you may put on namams, do puja, carry on in the old way, the end of it is inevitable. The more dynamic destroys the weaker, and either we conform to the new pattern or we are destroyed. And what generally happens is that we are destroyed, because the other being stronger and more vital, conquers. That is precisely what is happening.
Now we want to find out why the mind allows itself to be influenced. Have you ever asked yourself this question? It is not a question of a good influence or a bad influence, but of any kind of influence; because, one can see that the mind is shaped by every thought, by every action and reaction. Whether the reaction is conscious or unconscious, the mind is being shaped; it is being conditioned by every influence around us. Now why is that? One can see the obvious fact that if you do not conform to the pattern of society, of a particular culture, you are broken by the society, the culture throws you out. You depend on the pattern for your livelihood, for your family, your marriage and all the rest of it. So I am afraid that if I do not conform, if I do not allow myself to be influenced, if I become a revolutionary, then I shall be outside the pale, regarded as a malcontent, a person who has no balance. So being afraid - of losing the job, of not having stability, security, a reasonable sense of well-being - the mind allows itself to be influenced, to conform. Again, this is an obvious fact, that through the fear of insecurity we conform. We have played this game all the time for centuries.
So I see that conformity, imitation, adjustment are absolutely necessary for so-called survival. But I also see very clearly that a mind that is only seeking survival can never be creative. Please, I hope you are following all this, not merely intellectually because words and intellect are of no avail in this. It is the man who feels, however weakly, however tentatively, gropingly, that breaks through. So we are asking, in this world of adjustment, in this world of constant conformity, is there a mind that breaks through and is creatively revolutionary? I think it is a valid question and I hope that you are asking it. Must the mind always proceed in conformity, little by little breaking away and conforming, conforming and breaking away, endlessly? In that process there is no revolution at all and therefore there is no creative release. Or has the breaking through, nothing to do with adjustment? Please, I am thinking aloud. I feel that the release into the Unknown, from which there is a new outburst of creative thought - that release is not progressive. Technique is progressive, but not the new elan, the new creative release which discovers something fresh, unlimited. After all, the technician, the specialist, along whatever line, is never the creative person. He does not discover something entirely new. He may more and more perfect the technique in this and that, but it is only the really creative mind that can break through totally and really discover whether there is God, and so on. It is not the progressive, calculating, knowing mind, the technical mind, the specialized mind that can discover - and I am using the word discover in its enormous sense, not in a petty little sense of some new invention. This release, this discovery is what I am concerned with, and I think it means the really religious mind. The religious mind is not the phoney mind that goes to the temple, repeats and conforms. That is not religion at all. To me religion is the full perception of this progressive and immoral virtue, if I may use the term, which leads to mere respectability and pettiness of mind, from which there is no release. After all, if your mind is not precise, clear, clean, strong, vital, how can it break through all conditioning? A confused mind cannot possibly break through.
To break through, certain qualities are obviously necessary but do not let us give emphasis to those because if you can first see the necessity of breaking through then you will have the vitality to do so and at the same time you will establish the virtues - which will not be intellectual but actual.
Let us look at it again. I am asking myself: What is a true revolution? Because obviously the Communist revolution is not a revolution. It is a reaction. All the previous revolutions, all forms of religious revival are still nothing but reaction. The petty little mind has a reaction and we get very thrilled about it. To me that is not religion at all. Because, as you can see, such revolutions only throw up a new form of conditioning for the mind. Then what is true revolution? I don't know if this is an important question to you. I think it should be, if I may say so. Because the way we are going - little by little cultivating a few virtues, reforming a bit here and a bit there, reading a few sacred books, attending a few classes, meditating or praying every morning, repeating words - all this, to me, has no meaning at all. It is merely self-improvement or self-adjustment to a pattern. A religious mind cannot adjust to a pattern, so it is this breakthrough that is so important.
I wonder if we understand each other? Because I feel, if I may point it out, that if you can really listen to me, really listen, then you will see the breaking through for yourself. You will break through; you cannot help it. What is destructive of understanding is the positive assertion of opinion, and the positive assertion of opinion is all that we have, is it not? All the sacred books, all that the politicians say, all the things you believe are merely positive assertions of opinion, and a mind so filled is incapable of listening. It can argue, but argument, however logical, however sane, however correct in the realm of conformity has no place when you want to find out about something entirely new. Therefore if you want to listen you cannot bring all that in. First you must listen, as you would listen to a piece of music. Later you can say you like it or do not like it but first you must be in a state of mind that is capable of reception. Such a mind says, `I will listen to you, I will go into it, I will not argue, bring up all my opinions, experiences and knowledge and smother you with them, I will first listen'.
Now, if you can so listen, then I feel the thing is done. I don't know if you have ever listened to anybody. Actually we are always throwing up defences; we seldom listen. What I am saying is neither pleasant nor unpleasant so there need be no defence. I am just stating a fact; you will decide later if you like it or not but first you must listen. Propaganda and listening are entirely different processes. The propagandist, political or religious, does not want you to actually listen. They merely want to emphasize your prejudices, your opinions, your particular tendencies, and so on. I want you to listen with all your attention, and having listened, to bring to bear all your critical capacity, all your doubts, your enquiries, the whole vitality of your mind.
So I am asking you, what is this total revolution in the quality of the mind - which is not merely a shaping of the mind to a new series of ideas? Can you listen in such a way that you feel the quality of this revolution, which is not additive but a total breaking - through the environmental conditioning? I am doing my best to explain something which is very difficult to explain. It is like saying to a man: `Listen, and keep quiet'. And to that he says: `What am I listening to, and why should I keep quiet?' But it is only a mind that will keep very quiet - not with enforced quietness, not with a disciplined quietness - that can listen in order to understand. Such a mind is totally attentive without any compulsion.
What I am saying is this - that there is a revolution which is not a reaction, which is not additive in the sense that by adding many, many details of knowledge the whole problem will be resolved. By putting many spokes together you can never make a wheel; you must have the feeling, the perception of the wheel first and then the spokes are useful. So this breakthrough is not a matter of ideation, of breaking through one form of conditioning to another form of conditioning. You see, our thinking, if you examine it very closely, is a movement from the known to the known, is it not? Just watch your own mind. The known is the conclusion, the experience, what you have thought, the idea and so on, and you move from the known to the known. After all, the so-called religious person has his idea of what God is, what Truth is, what this or that is; he has moved from previous knowledge to the present knowledge and he calls it progress. All revolutions come about in this way also. Examining the facts of the known, reacting to them and creating a new pattern, is called a revolution, a new society, Utopia, but it is merely moving from the known to the known. With this process we are familiar.
Now the revolution I am talking of, or feeling my way into, is not this at all. It is the perception, the understanding of the totality of the known, and leaving it, not carrying it on. The mind, being aware of its own content, of its own store of knowledge, by its own self-critical capacity, seeing its own movement from the known to the known, from conclusion to conclusion - leaves it all and makes a jump, as it were, into the Unknown. But if you ask: "How am I to jump into the Unknown?', you have already stumped yourself, because then you are back in the pattern of wanting to know the way, the path, the method. There is no such thing. The moment you say what am I to do, what practice, what virtues, what action will bring about this jump, this breakthrough, you have merely made a breakthrough into another known. You are again asking to be led from the known to the known. The moment you ask for a prescription for breaking through the known you have not left it. I say you must be fully aware of the known. You must be fully aware of the whole operation of the mind, know all its intricacies, the way it reacts, both the conscious and the unconscious which is hidden, concealed. If I know myself totally, completely, know all the tricks, the deceptions, the subtle manoeuverings of the mind in order to be secure, to be this or that, when I know all that and yet I do not find any release - then the mind leaves it alone. Therefore self-knowledge is essential.
To break through, the mind must know the operations of itself like a mathematical problem. The real mathematician, I am sure, thinks of a problem most acutely, in detail, with profound enquiry he searches for a true way out, and he does not find it. So he leaves it, and suddenly, as he gets into a bus or as he walks, the whole thing is shown. But it is essential that I know this whole content of myself, why I think as I do, why I am influenced, what is the purpose of this extraordinary mind. I must enquire not intellectually but with feeling. There is verbal enquiry and there is enquiry with feeling. The verbal enquiry is mere curiosity or merely concerned with adjusting, conforming, changing. Such a mind is not a feeling mind. With most of us the intellect, the capacity for words is very strong. All our education, social upbringing, religious reading, religious dictums and disciplines, are only on the verbal level. I do not know if you have noticed it, but they have no feeling. As you read the Bible, the Gita or the Koran, they themselves are just paper with words printed on it, but you bring the feeling to these words, the words themselves have no feeling. So this enquiry into the whole process of the mind, requires not a verbal intellection but there must be a feeling with it.
I wonder, Sirs, if you have any feeling about anything? Have you any strong feeling about anything? Do please look at the question, play with it a little and you will see. Apart from the small feelings for self-improvement, self-interest, the petty little worries and hopes, have you any strong, vital feeling about anything? And if you have, how soon it is translated into petty action! Am I making myself clear? Unless you are passionate, with intense feeling, self-knowledge means nothing at all. Then self-knowledge is merely a further instrument for the exploitation of yourself and your neighbour. That is why it is very important to find out if you have feeling. Do please ask yourself seriously and earnestly, if you have a strong feeling about something - or are we all so dead, so respectable, so petty, so bourgeois that we never have a strong, burning feeling? See whether it is really vital or only petty. I know you get frightfully angry if your neighbour throws something over your wall, and occasionally you are a little passionate, sexually, but is that all? I mean passion in the sense of the total abandonment of oneself, because out of that comes true simplicity - not the calculated simplicity of the loincloth. So if the mind itselF can be fully aware of itself, with the greatest of feeling, then you will see that you can let go, then you will see that you can break through. The feeling is in itself disciplinary, whereas all the so-called religious people have destroyed their feelings, disciplined their desires out of existence. Their Gods are cheap Gods to whom they come with nothing. But the mind with intense feeling, deep enquiry - not throttled feeling - will begin to create its own discipline. The mind which is confused, disorderly, influenced can never be a clear instrument to search itself out. Whereas the very intensity of the feeling of enquiry into yourself will release the conditioning, break the conditioning.
Unfortunately I am talking Greek because none of you has tried any of this. You see, I am trying to say so much in one talk. What I want to say is this. The mind is conditioned, whether you recognize it or not. And must you go through all the layers of the conditioning, analyze it all, dissect it, or is there a way of breaking through right away? I think there is. I say that if you are aware that the mind is conditioned and if you are aware that a conditioned mind, whatever it does, whatever its Gods, rituals, ideations, virtues, is still limited, conditioned - then you will see that it can break through. But you must first grasp the totality of that, feel the whole implication of it without going into detail. You know it is like seeing the whole vast horizon, the beauty of it, the vitality, the purity, the distance and the nearness of it. The mere depth of feeling, when you are aware of it all, will act. But this is not a trick; this is not some mysterious experience or poetic imagination. If I can realize that my mind is petty, that my Gods are petty, my Gita, my Koran, my Bible is petty, the temples I build, the stupid images which have no meaning except the meaning the petty mind gives to them, if I realize without despair, without cynicism, that my whole life and thoughts are petty - then the very truth of that realization makes the mind completely still, completely quiet; and it is necessary to be quiet to break through. You can repeat some words and mesmerize yourself into quietness but you might just as well take tranquillizer pills. But when you see the vastness of your conditioning it is like seeing something enormously beautiful, a splendid sky. At the sight of itself, so completely conditioned, knowing itself so, the mind becomes totally still - not only the conscious mind but the unconscious also. Then you will find that creative release takes place; not because you want it but because that is the movement of Life.
October 29, 1958
Madras 3rd Public Talk 29th October 1958
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