Madras 5th Public Talk 5th November 1958
I think it would be very interesting if we could find out for ourselves if there is any teaching at all and if there is a teacher. Most of us think we learn from life and we give a particular significance to life. We say we learn through the various experiences, incidents and accidents of life. We accumulate experiences and this accumulation further conditions our thinking and all future experience. So we say we learn from life and we give significance to life. The greater the significance we give it, the more rich we think our life is in pursuit of that significance. I do not know if you have noticed how most of us crave to give to life a significance; we say life must have a purpose, must have an end gain, otherwise what do we live for? These questions invariably arise, do they not?, from the desire to establish a fuller, deeper, wider significance. And also we say we learn from life, and this gathering is called knowledge or experience. So either we are satisfied with gathering knowledge, experience, and enriching that accumulation, or else we try to give significance to life. So we are always seeking a purpose, a significance, a meaning.
Now, is there a meaning to life at all, in the sense of a significance which we can grope after, and is there a teaching and a teacher in life at all? There is, of course, a teacher in the mechanical sense, in a school, for those who are seeking specializations, special techniques and specialized knowledge, such as mechanics. All such knowledge, surely, is a process of acquiring and storing up a technique and utilizing that memory for the purpose of a livelihood. But I am asking myself whether there is anything to be learnt from life, and if there is anyone who can teach me about life. Someone can teach me the mechanical process of living but I can also see that so long as we are accumulating knowledge we do not seem able to go beyond the limitations of that knowledge. Obviously we must have knowledge - know some mathematics, how to run cars, aeroplanes, how to do a job, and all the rest of it - and for that there must be teachers. But can there be `teaching' apart from that? And if there is no teaching apart from that kind then what is the function of a talk like this? This is really quite an important question if you will put it to yourself. One can learn dancing, to play the violin, or how to read and write, how to fly a machine, how to go to the moon and all the rest of it and obviously for that, one must learn from somebody. But are we learning from this talk, and what do we mean by learning? If I say I am learning to drive a car, that is very simple, - I am accumulating knowledge and the more I drive the more expert I become, until without much thought I can drive. There knowledge is necessary. To apply a technique I must store up knowledge. So are we learning here, in that mechanical sense? Do you learn from the Gita or the Bible and what is it you learn? How to interpret or how to conform your life to what is said, is it not so? That is again mechanical. That is, you think that there you might find a significance to life which means that life in itself has no meaning except for the significance you choose to give to it.
Please let me here remind you, if I may do so without boring you, that you are not just listening to a talk by someone else. We are journeying together, if we can, into the whole problem of living. I am not teaching you and you are not learning from me. All that business is too immature, puerile. But what we are trying to do, is really and actually to experience this enquiry into the whole process of learning and to discover if the mind can free itself from the limitation of knowledge and experience, or learn something which is beyond the field of knowledge. I will try and go into it a little because I want, if I can, to talk presently about what we mean by creation.
So, what do we mean by learning? Or is there no such thing at all apart from the mechanical learning? Surely there is no learning because one can see very clearly that all experience only conditions further experience; all experience makes the next experience mechanical. For instance, when one has had an experience of a sunset, of anger, of greed or this or that, that experience leaves a residue in the mind, does it not? The mind is that residue; it is not a separate thing, it is the mark of that experience. Then I immediately translate that experience in terms of previous experience. So every experience is translated, modified and given significance by the mind. All experience is really a mechanical process, the mind translating it according to its desires and memories, calling it pleasurable or painful, enriching or not enriching sorrowful or beautiful.
So one can see that there is learning where mechanical things are concerned and one can also see that so-called learning from experience or from a teaching is again a mechanical conditioning of the mind. And is there any other form of learning? Can I learn anything from you otherwise than in those two categories? One can see, can one not?, that those two categories are mechanical; the learning from experience is a little more subtle but it is still within the field of habit, habit being memory. Then is there any other form of learning?
You are listening to me and I wonder why? Is it in the hope of learning something, to find a purpose in life, to clarify your problems or to enrich your memories? Or is it that without using that word learning we are both in a state of attention in which we are seeing things very clearly? I hope you understand what I mean. In that state of attention you do not learn - you are merely attentive. It is the mind which is not attentive that tries to learn, that wants to be taught, and this process merely cultivates memory. And then it becomes mechanical and establishes habits - habits of thought, habits of ideas, habits of values. So we want to find out what is this attention which is not accumulative because the moment the mind is the machine of accumulation it ceases to be attentive. Then it is merely functioning mechanically, which most of us want because it is much easier to live that way. It is like laying down rails and running on them for ever and ever because it is not disturbing. So our mind is always cultivating habits in order to be secure. In order to be secure we try to learn - from the teacher, the book, from this and that - and that learning is a process of establishing habits. If you watch your own mind, if you are aware of yourself you will see that this is so. We want to be secure in all circumstances - in our ideas, our jobs, our experiences, our emotional states, and so on. We want a permanency which means, actually, a continuity of habit. And is there any other form of learning, or is there only attention?
You see this question is important because they are doing extraordinary things, chemically, to our bodies. You can take various forms of pills - pills to bring the mind to great attention, pills that make the mind extraordinarily alert, pills that stimulate an astonishing intensity of perception, of bright colours and tremendous effects. So chemically the mind can be made into whatever it wants. You can get into almost any state emotionally, or so-called spiritually, or with that extraordinary sense of alertness to everything about you. It is said that one can wipe away the unconscious too through a chemical process. These things are being done, and with the mind so controlled by chemistry - and you don't have to just accept my word for it - then where does this enquiry, this liberation, the search for something beyond the mind, the urge towards God, the Eternal - where does it all come in? If I can make my mind stop worrying through some pill, be extraordinarily attentive for the moment in which it is operating, surely I have solved a great many difficulties? I can produce various forms of experience that way, see visions, and so on.
So, knowing all this, one asks, is there such a thing as Eternity? Is there such a thing as Truth? Is there such a thing as being beyond the reaches of the habit-ridden mind? Because, you know, one can be made to believe anything; they have pills for that also. So beliefs, knowledge, experience, have very little meaning any more since you can be made to believe anything. Taking all this into consideration, looking at it all with a really profound enquiry, with a sense of wanting to find out, of feeling one's way into the unknown, is there any learning at all? Or is there only a state of attention which is not induced by any pill? You can make yourself attentive by a pill or by various means and it again becomes a habit.
So since mechanically you can remove conflict, get complete relaxation through a pill, then what is the function of the mind? Are we merely to live adjusting ourselves to our environment, going to our job and not getting worried because one has taken a pill? This is actually taking place. If the mind can be induced to have no worries, to be quiet, peaceful, silent, to forget the past, then what is the function of the mind? Is the mind to be merely a plaything of pills, not only pills from a bottle but the pills of habit, of memory, of experience? If one can break through all that, then what is the function of the mind?
Surely one can only ask that question when one has broken through, when you have, through self-knowledge and very careful observation, broken through. When you have thrown off certain habits of thought, certain attitudes and certain beliefs, even then the mind can be made more intense in that freedom by a pill. Knowing of all these extraordinary things which are going on in the chemical world in relation to the human organism, one naturally asks oneself if there is Reality, God or whatever it is, or is all that mere invention? Is it the mere desire of the mind to escape into some permanent, everlasting, irrefutable security? Because that is what most of us want - to be led to that state. And how is the mind to purge itself of all these ideas, these habits, these mechanical and chemical things and find out if there is truth? Can I learn to look at Reality and understand its significance, or can I not learn anything about it at all? Or can the mind only perceive Reality without being able to translate it into action? I do not know if I am making myself clear. I am afraid I am not.
You see I have been thinking a great deal about what is creation. When I say `thinking', let us be clear about that. For most of us, thinking is merely reaction. Thought is merely the reaction of what you know; thought is the result of your experience, of your conditioning. So there is no thought which is free. But I use the word `thinking' as meaning investigating. And I have been thinking what this creation is, which is not mere talent, gift or the ability to invent? What is this creative state without which the mind will always be bound to a world of mechanics, of habits? Let me put it differently.
Our lives are mechanical, a movement from the known to the known, and in that there is no creation, there is no sense of that immense, immeasurable state which is beyond the reach of the mechanical mind. Without the awareness of that, without the perception of that, without being attentive to that, life must remain mechanical. So how is a mechanical mind to break through itself and realize, feel the other? Obviously all limitation must go, all thought must cease, because thought is merely the response of memory, the response of knowledge; it is still within the field of the known. So I see that thought must cease, the limitation must be broken through, there must be no sense of having a purpose, and the mind must be astonishingly active without being active about something. Because most of our minds are active about something. The mind must be extraordinarily attentive. I see that these things are necessary, essential and that they cannot be brought about through any inducement, through any pill, through any trick of belief, mode of conduct or way of virtue - which are all habit-forming.
So, how is the mind to be aware of all these mechanical habits and not be caught in them? How is the mind to purge itself of the known without any inducement? Sirs, you may not have put all these questions to yourself but I am putting them to you so that you can answer them for yourself. Because it is only such an enquiring mind that can perceive instantly, for a timeless second, that which is Immeasurable. It is there, always there, timelessly. But the mind can never find it because it only knows about learning, which is accumulation; it only knows habit, which is of time. And whatever it thinks is still within the field of time. So how is the mind to drop all this? I hope you understand what I am asking, Sirs, because unless this takes place, do what you will, have a perfect social state, a perfect welfare state, a perfect organization, it is like having a marvellous house without anything inside. And that is what we are becoming - good minds, healthy bodies, stimulated emotions, all controlled by pills, and not being able to go beyond that.
So, how is the mind to allow that thing to come to it? Obviously the mind cannot go to it. It must come, and how is it to come? You cannot invite it, you cannot make a habit of it, you cannot sacrifice yourself for it or make yourself into this or that to get it. It must come; and the `how', in the sense of by what conduct, by what path, by what system, by what process of thinking - is not the problem. You see, to put this question seriously to yourself, you must be aware, totally, of the full implications of the question. Knowing all the habits of the mind, knowing that you can do anything now with the mind through drugs which will have no after effects, then surely you see that such a mind, which has been influenced, cannot possibly receive that which has no measure, which is nameless? And yet without that other, it is like having a perfect body, a beautiful mechanical mind, which is but an empty shell. So how is that Unknown to come? You cannot induce it; you cannot buy it through any means. It is too vast, immeasurable and so fleeting that the mind cannot capture it. It cannot be held within the field of time.
Do please listen to this. How is the mind, which has established borders, frontiers, to break through those frontiers? How is the mind which functions only in the habits of knowledge, how is it to cease instantly, not in the future? I hope you are actually listening - not listening to learn something which you can think about when you get home, for then you will never discover. Because thinking about it in the future is merely to be caught in time again. But if you can listen now, very simply, then your mind will see for itself that the very question contains its own answer. You do not have to seek an answer; the question is the answer.
Creation is something which the mind cannot use. It cannot use it to paint, or write a poem, or make an invention, or have visions. It is far beyond all that. The mind, on the instant, must be free for that extraordinary thing to take place.
So, Sirs, what is important is the state of full attention in which there is no border, no frontier, no limit. All concentration is based on limitation; but not attention. When there is that attention which is not induced in any way, then you will see that it is the Limitless. But it cannot be captured by the mind nor can the path of time lead you to it. Seeing all this - and there is much more to it - , seeing this whole extraordinary process of the mind, then all that the mind can do is, as in front of a magnificent mountain, as in front of anything that is really beautiful, to be wholly attentive, and verbally, intellectually, in thought, completely silent. It is in that state of attention that there is no question. Therefore that which has no time, is.
So, Sirs, that is why I feel so strongly that a revolution in the quality of the mind is necessary. Not merely a change of ideas, thoughts and beliefs but a revolution in the quality of the mind itself. This quality of the mind cannot be learnt, cannot be cultivated, can be seen only on the instant and forgotten on the instant, cannot be accumulated. But once the mind sees this quality, this revolution in itself, then it will never lose it. That is why it is very important not to be merely respectable, not to be petty, but to cease all this activity, to break away from this terrific weight of respectability - which does not mean to become disreputable. To break through everything, on the instant, so that the mind lives all the time in a state of non-continuity - that is full attention.
November 5, 1958
Madras 5th Public Talk 5th November 1958
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