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New Delhi 1959

New Delhi 6th Public Talk 25th February 1959

May I suggest that we talk over together this evening the question of what is self-knowledge. It is a rather complex problem, and like many other problems of life, it has no final answer. Most of us easily accept the explanations of self-knowledge which we hear from another, or read in psychological or religious books, and it would be a great pity if we merely remained at that level. Instead, let us this evening see if we can penetrate into the depths of our own consciousness, which is to experience directly the total process of our own thinking and feeling, the totality of our hopes and our fears.

Before we go further, I think it is important for you to be aware of how you are listening to what is being said. I shall try to go into this whole question of self-knowledge; but if you merely listened to the explanations and were satisfied with words - that, it seems to me would be a most fruitless thing to do. It would be like a hungry man listening to a lot of words and explanations about the harvest, or the preparation of food, hoping that his hunger would thereby be satisfied. Actually, most of us are in that position. We are not hungry in the deep sense of the word, we are not really eager to understand the whole process of the mind, the totality of our own thoughts and feelings. That is why we are so easily satisfied by explanations and approach our many problems at the explanatory level; and I think that both the man who merely explains, and the person who is satisfied with explanations are living very superficially.

Do explanations ever resolve any vital problem? I may explain to you the falseness of nationalism, its corrupting, destructive and deteriorating effect; but though you may see the validity of such an explanation, it obviously does not free you from nationalism. The fact is that you enjoy the feeling of being nationalistic; you like belonging to a particular group, it is profitable to you both emotionally and economically. So explanations never bring about understanding, they never really solve any vital problem. A dentist may tell you that taking too much sugar is very bad for your teeth, and he may even show you a great deal of evidence in support of his statement; but you like sugar, and you go on taking it in large quantities. So explanation is one thing, and direct action is quite another. Either you are merely following the words, the explanations, or in the very process of listening you are directly experiencing what is being described - which has much more significance, far greater validity, greater vitality than being satisfied with words.

So let us be very clear about where explanations end, and real perception or experiencing begins. You can go only so far with explanations, and the rest of the journey you must take by yourself. Most of up are not willing to take that journey, because we are lazy and easily satisfied with the obvious, which is always the explanation. But the vitality of direct action, experience, lies beyond the explanation, however obvious or subtle it may be.

That is why it is very important to experience directly the things that we are talking about, and not merely stop at the verbal level. I think it would be really fascinating if we could go into this whole problem of self-knowledge and find out what is the real basis of our thinking, the basis of all our actions, of our very being. If one can inquire into this step by step, in minute detail, and directly experience it, then I think one will go very far. After all, to go far one must begin near, and the near is the `me', the self, this whole process of the mind. You may be a scientist or an engineer and master the technology of space travel; but the real journey is inward, and that is much more difficult, much deeper and more significant than mechanically going to the moon. The immeasurable is still within oneself.

So it is very important to comprehend where the verbal or intellectual explanation ends, and direct perception or experiencing begins. Explanation can never lead to reality. However satisfactory the explanation may be, it cannot give you the understanding that is born of direct perception, direct experience.

If you realize this very clearly, then you will never be satisfied with explanations, you will never quote, you will never turn to the authority of the Gita or the Bible. You may read as a mere intellectual amusement; but direct experience is worth infinitely more than what is taught in the books. A living dog is better than a dead lion. All the heroes in the books are dead lions, and their authority is disastrous. What you directly experience and know for yourself is far more valid than the explanations of all the various authorities, whether ancient or modern.

With that in mind, let us inquire into the process of self-knowledge. Like a sign-post, I am merely pointing the direction. The sign-post is not important at all. What is important is the man who is journeying. The speaker is not a guru, he is not an authority, he is not a guide. One has to take the inward journey alone - not as a reaction away from outward things, but as the inevitable process of trying to understand. The outer must lead to the inner, that is, to an understanding of the whole process of existence, in which there is no division as the outer and the inner.

To understand the whole process of existence, outwardly as well as inwardly, you must comprehend the ways of your own thinking; you must find out why you think what you think, which is to see the source of your thought. Without the discovery of that source, you have no real basis for inquiry, for action. Your action now is based on habit, on routine, on discipline, on your particular conditioning. There is an action which is entirely different from the habitual action of routine, of discipline, of conditioning; but such action comes only through self-knowledge, and that is why it is so necessary to understand oneself.

Now, what do we mean by knowledge? When we say "I know", what does it mean? I know you because I have been introduced to you. Having once met you, a picture of you remains in my mind, and when I meet again I recognize you. So knowing is a process of recognition, and we recognize through the background of past experience, which means that knowing is cumulative, additive; knowledge can be added to. And when we say "I must know myself", we think the self is something stationary, static, fixed, and therefore recognizable. Or we have been told what the self is and have come to certain conclusions about it, and from that background we begin to recognize the self. So knowing is always a process of recognition, without which there is no knowledge. Knowledge is additive through recognition. This may seem complex, but it is actually very simple.

Knowing is one thing, and understanding is another. Knowing implies accumulation; it is a process of recognition through past experience. Each new experience is conditioned by and adds to previous knowledge. So knowing is additive, whereas understanding never is. When you say "I know you", you know me only from the background of a previous, static experience. You know me by my features, by my name, by what I have said to you, or by what others have said to you about me, and so on. All that knowledge is of yesterday. Since then I have undergone many experiences, many varieties of influence, and I may have changed tremendously. But you retain the memory of yesterday, and from that background you judge me today. So you say "I know you", when in fact you do not know me at all; but you find it very convenient to say "I know you", and move on.

Perhaps I am not making myself clear. Unless you understand this one simple thing, it is going to be very difficult for you to see the significance of this whole movement of self-knowledge.

When the mind says "I know", all that it knows is what has happened yesterday, or at some other time in the past. With that knowledge it approaches the present; but the present is changing from moment to moment. So the mind can never say I know; and this is very important, psychologically, to understand. The man who says "I know", does not know. You can never say "I have found truth", because truth is moving, living, dynamic, it is never still, never static, never the same; and that is the beauty, the splendour of truth.

To understand this thing called the `me', the self, you must come to it without saying "I know", without accepting any authority. All authority is dead, and it does not bring about this creative search. Authority can guide you, shape you, tell you what to do and what not to do, but all that is still within the field of knowing; and burdened with the known you cannot follow that which is living, vital, moving. So the mind that sees the truth of this and wishes to inquire into itself will never say "I know; therefore, being in a state of constant movement, it is able to observe that which is also never the same. This is the beginning of self-knowledge. I do not know if I am making myself clear.

Look, sirs, the self as we know it is a limited thing, but it is also living, moving, and a mind that is conditioned, bound by tradition, a mind that says "There is a higher self and a lower self" and all the rest of it - such a mind cannot possibly understand the self. I am not using the word `self' in any significant spiritual sense; I mean by that word the self which functions daily, which thinks, feels, invents, hopes, wants, and is caught in conflict; the self which is biased, which speculates, judges, seeks.

Is all this too difficult? I hope not. If it is, you can skip it, and perhaps I can put it differently.

We know the self as the `me' which has property, which has qualities, which has certain relationships, which is conditioned by a particular culture, by the many environmental influences, by the books it reads, the philosophies it studies, the techniques it learns. The mind which is jealous, which knows love and hate, hope and fear - all that is the self. The self is not only at the superficial level, it is not only the conscious mind functioning in our daily activities, but it is also the unconscious mind, which functions at a much deeper level. The totality of that consciousness is the self.

Now, from that centre, which is the self, all our thinking begins, Where there is a centre there is also a circumference, a frontier. The centre is the conscious as well as the unconscious thinker who knows, and the frontier is that which he seeks and which is also within the field of the known. So there is the thinker and the thought, the experiencer and the experienced, the observer and the observed. Don't accept or deny this, rather follow it, not just verbally, but through the explanation actually see how your own mind is working.

I want to know myself. Why? Because without knowing myself I have no ground upon which to build anything. I do not know whether my thoughts are valid, whether I am living in illusion, whether I am deceiving myself; I do not know why I struggle, why I have certain habits, and so on. Without knowing myself I am incapable of seeing clearly. So I must know myself, which means that I must understand my own mind. I must be aware of every reaction, of every thought, without any sense of condemnation or justification. I must be in a state of inquiry, which means looking at every thought, every feeling without prejudice, without the background of previous experience which says "This is good, that is bad; this I must keep, that I must discard".

All this is obvious, is it not? If I want to understand my son, I have to be aware of him as he is, study him without condemnation or comparison; I have to observe him when he is playing, when he is crying, when he is overeating, and so on. In the same way, if I want to understand myself, I must watch myself, without judgment in the mirror of relationship; I must be aware of what I say to you and how you react to me; I must observe how I talk to my servant, how I talk to my wife or husband, how I treat the bus man and the coolie; I must know what I feel, what I think, and why. I must see the whole process of my thinking and feeling. This does not demand discipline at all. When you discipline yourself to observe, the discipline prevents you from observing, because discipline then becomes your habit. Where there is a real concern to find out, there is a constant observation which does not require the habit of discipline.

So this is the first thing to realize: that it is absolutely essential to know yourself, otherwise you have no basis for thought at all. You may be very erudite and have a big position, but that is all nonsense as long as you do not know yourself, because you will be walking in darkness.

To understand yourself there must be an awareness, a watchfulness, a state of observation in which there is not a trace of condemnation or justification; and to be in that state of observation without judging is an extraordinarily arduous task, because the weight of tradition is against you; your mind has been trained for centuries to judge, to condemn, to justify, to evaluate, to accept or deny. Don't say "How am I to get rid of this conditioning?", but see the truth that if you want to understand yourself, which is obviously of the highest importance, you must observe the operation of your own mind without any condemnation or comparison. Now, why do you compare, why do you condemn? Isn't that one of the easiest things to do - to condemn? If you are a capitalist you condemn the communist, just as the communist condemns the capitalist. If you are a devout Christian, you obviously condemn Hinduism, or Islam, because it is the easy thing to do - to condemn and get on with it. Condemnation is really a reaction, and it is one of the indications of a lazy mind.

The same is true of comparison, is it not? Can a mind that compares ever understand? Sirs, don't agree or disagree, but watch yourself. When you compare your younger son with his older brother, do you understand the younger boy? And in the classroom, in so-called education, is not the sensitive child destroyed by comparing him with those who are older or more clever? Surely, comparison is also one of the indications of a slack mind, a thoughtless mind, a mind that is inherently lazy; and such a mind can never understand.

The next question is, what is thinking? Surely, what we call thinking is a reaction of memory, of one's conditioning. If I ask you a question with which you are familiar, your response is immediate, because the mechanism of memory operates instantly. There is no gap between the question and the answer. If I ask you a much more complex question, then between the question and the response there is a gap, a lapse of time during which the mind is looking in the storehouse of memory, going over all the things it has learnt to find an answer. Surely, that is what we call thinking - the response of memory.

Now, memory is always conditioned, is it not? You are conditioned as a Hindu, a Moslem, a communist, a capitalist, or whatever it is, and when I ask you a certain question, you reply according to your conditioning. If you are a devout Hindu and I ask "Do you believe in God?", you will say yes, because for centuries you have been educated, conditioned to believe. And if the same question is put to someone who has been conditioned not to believe in God, he will say "What nonsense are you talking?" So all our thinking, from the most superficial to the most complex, is a response of memory according to its conditioning.

The mind that says "I am going to inquire into myself", is already conditioned; it is conditioned as a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Christian, this or that. It is only in understanding this conditioning that the conditioning can be broken down. And obviously it must be broken down. It is absurd to be a Hindu, or a Christian, or a communist, or a socialist. We are human beings, and to solve the problems of life we must approach them as human beings, not as members of these conflicting groups. No system, no belief or ideology is going to solve our human problems. Starvation is a human problem, and we must tackle it together, not divided as capitalists and communists. Systems are no good at all in solving the basic problems of life; they only further condition our minds, which are already conditioned by tradition, by environmental influences, and so on.

Now, how is the conditioned mind to resolve its conditioning? Do you understand the question? You are conditioned as a Hindu, let us say, and you are totally unaware of that conditioning because you live in a society where practically everybody is Hindu and you have accepted it; so you never question it at all. But now someone is telling you that your mind is conditioned, and you have begun to see that it is true; so you say "How am I to be free from this conditioning?" Sirs, freedom from a particular conditioning is still a conditioned state, is it not? Please follow this. To be free from something is a reaction, therefore it is not freedom at all. I will show you what I mean. Merely to free myself from nationalism is a reaction, because I want to be something else. My conditioning gives me pain, sorrow, and I say I must be free from it in order to be happy, that is, in order to be something else. In other words, I free myself from something in order to be in a more gratifying state, which is obviously a reaction; therefore it is not freedom. Freedom is not born of reaction, it is a state of mind in which there is no desire to be or not to be something.

If you see the truth of that, then the next question is, what does it mean to be free of conditioning? It means, surely, not freedom from something, or freedom to be something, but seeing the fact as it is. Let us say I am conditioned as a Hindu. I do not want to be free from my conditioning; I want to see it. And the moment I see it as it is, there is freedom, not as a reaction. I do not know if I am making myself clear on this point. I don't want to take examples, because examples can be refuted by other examples. But what is important is to think of it negatively, because negative thinking is direct thinking.

You see, there is positive thinking and negative thinking. Positive thinking is deciding what to do, how to break down one's conditioning by practising a system, a method, a discipline. In practising a method or a discipline in order to be free of conditioning, one has merely introduced a further conditioning, a new habit. That is positive thinking. Whereas negative thinking is to look at the fact of one's conditioning, and see the truth that no system or discipline can bring freedom from conditioning.

Sirs, many of you practise non-violence, you worship the ideal of non-violence, you everlastingly preach non-violence. That is the positive approach, which you know very well. But the truth is that you are violent; and the negative approach is simply to perceive that truth. To perceive the truth that you are violent is enough in itself. You don't have to do anything. The moment you act upon violence, you have introduced the fictitious ideal of non-violence.

I don't know if you see this. Let us say I am greedy. That is a fact, and I know it. I don't want to change greed into non-greed, to me that has no meaning, because I see that becoming non-greedy still has the qualities of greed. All becoming is obviously a form of greed. The mind is aware of the fact that it is greedy, and it also perceives that any move on its part to change greed is still within the field of greed. This very perception of what is is the resolution of it.

So the inquiry into the self must begin with a negative approach, because you don't know what the self is. You may think you know the self as a greedy man, as this or that; but the self is being influenced, it is undergoing constant change, and to understand it you must approach it, not positively, but negatively, obliquely.

Most minds are conditioned, and the breaking down of that conditioning does not come about through any resolution or determination, through any practice of discipline. It comes about only when there is a negative approach to one's conditioning. The mere perception of what is is enough in itself. Follow this and you will see why. When you understand the negative approach, which is to see the truth of it, its uselessness, its fictitious nature, then your mind, which is greedy, is no longer caught in the fictitious process of trying to become non-greedy. Therefore it is free to look at what is, which is greed; and because the mind is free to look at greed, it is capable of dissolving greed. Try this the next time you are angry or violent. Don't condemn it, don't say it is right or wrong, but look at it. Just to look at the feeling, without naming it, without condemning or justifying it, is an extraordinary thing. The very word `anger' is condemnatory, and when you look at the feeling without naming it, the verbal association with that feeling, through the word `anger', ceases.

Go along with this, sirs; don't accept or reject what is being said, but just follow it whether you understand it or not.

To understand the whole process of the self, there must be a negative approach; because the conscious mind can never go consciously into the deep unconscious. You may be a great technician outwardly, on the conscious level, but inwardly, in the deep layers of the unconscious, there is the everlasting pull of the racial, instinctual, traditional responses; there all your ambitions, your frustrations, your hidden motives and fears are rampant, and you have to understand all that. To understand it, you must approach it negatively. The positive approach is always within the field of the known. But the negative approach frees the mind from the known, and therefore the mind can look at the problem anew, afresh, in a state of innocency.

Then you will discover that the self is not only the seeker, but also the process of seeking as well as that which is sought. The seeker is seeking peace of mind, and he practises a method by which to find what he seeks. The seeker, the seeking and the sought are all one and the same thing. When the seeker seeks what he wants, which is peace of mind, it is still within the field of the known. His seeking is a reaction from the conflicts of life, so the peace he is everlastingly pursuing is a projection of the known. Whereas, if the mind, seeing for itself the fictitiousness of that pursuit, is not concerned with peace at all, but with understanding its own conflicts, and therefore approaches them negatively, then there is the beginning of self-knowledge.

The understanding of oneself is a constant, timeless process. There is no end to self-knowledge. The moment you see the truth that the understanding of oneself is limitless, your mind is already freed from the known and therefore able to penetrate into the unknown. A mind that is tethered to the known can never move into the unknown. All your Gods, your Bibles, your Gitas, your Marxist books will not lead you very far. To go far you must begin near, which is to see that a mind hedged about, bound by the known, cannot proceed into the unknown.

The unknown is the total negation of the known, it is not a reaction from the known. So there must be an end to the game of the seeker and the sought. In other words, there must be an end to all seeking. Then only is there something new. All profound discoveries are made in this state, not when the mind is pursuing a projection of the known. It is when the mind ceases completely to move in the field of the known, when it does not project the known into the unknown - it is only then that there is the coming into being of an extraordinary state of creative newness which has nothing to do with the known. That is truth, that is reality, that is God, or whatever name you care to give it. But the name is not the thing.

So one must begin near, which is to empty the mind of all the things it has known - inwardly, psychologically, not factually. You cannot forget where you, live, that would be amnesia. But you have to wipe away, in the psychological sense, all that you have known as a man of experience, as a man of knowledge, as a man who has read, read, read, and who is controlled by what is known - all that must come to an end. What is known has always a centre, and therefore always a circumference, a recognizable frontier. The frontier ceases only when the centre ceases. Then the mind is unlimited, not measurable by man.

February 25, 1959.


New Delhi 1959

New Delhi 6th Public Talk 25th February 1959

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