Madras 1st Public Talk 22nd November 1959
It seems that communion is a very difficult art. To commune with one another over the many problems that we have, requires listening and learning, which are both very difficult to do. Most of us hardly listen and we hardly learn. To commune with each other, which is what these meetings are intended for, requires a certain capacity, a certain way of listening - not merely to gather information, which any schoolboy can do, but rather listening in order to understand. This means being critically aware of all the implications of what is being said, as well as observing very carefully your own evaluation of what is being said. During the process of evaluating what you hear, obviously you are not listening, because the speaker has already gone beyond your idea, your opinion, your fixed thought. You have already stopped listening, and so communion becomes very difficult, especially when there is a large audience. When two or three are gathered quietly in a room, then it is possible to talk over together the meaning, the semantic significance of the word. But when one is talking like this to many people, it becomes almost impossible for us to commune with each other, to share with each other the many problems that must obviously confront every thoughtful man.
It seems to me of the most importance that we do listen in order to learn. Learning is not merely the accumulation of knowledge. Knowledge never brings perception; experience never flowers into the beauty of understanding. Most of us listen with the background of what we know, of what we have experienced. Perhaps you have never noticed the difference between the mind that really learns, and the mind that merely accumulates, gathers knowledge. The mind that is accumulating knowledge, never learns. It is always translating what it hears in terms of its own experience, in terms of the knowledge which it has gathered; it is caught up in the process of accumulating, of adding to what it already knows, and such a mind is incapable of learning. I do not know if you have noticed this. It is because we are never capable of learning that we pass our lives in sorrow and misery, in conflict and calumny; and hence the beauty of life, the vast significance of living, is lost. Each hungry generation destroys the coming generation. So it seems to me very important that we commune with each other quietly, in a dignified manner, and for that there must be a listening and a learning.
When you commune with your own heart, when you commune with your friend, when you commune with the skies, with the stars, with the sunset, with a flower, then surely you are listen- ing so as to find out, to learn - which does not mean that you accept or deny. You are learning, and either acceptance or denial of what is being said, puts an end to learning. When you commune with the sunset, with a friend, with your wife, with your child, you do not criticize, you do not deny or assert, translate or identify. You are communing, you are learning, you are searching out. From this inquiry comes the movement of learning, which is never accumulative.
I think it is important to understand that a man who accumulates can never learn. Self-learning implies a fresh, eager mind, a mind that is not committed, a mind that does not belong to anything, that is not limited to any particular field. It is only such a mind that learns.
Do please experiment with what is being said as we go along. I would like to consider with you, the vast and complex problem of freedom; but to inquire into that problem, to commune with it, to go into it hesitantly, tentatively, requires a very sharp, clear and.incisive mind, a mind that is capable of listening and thereby learning. If you observe what is taking place in the world, you will see that the margin of freedom is getting narrower and narrower. Society is encroaching upon the freedom of the individual. Organized religions, though they talk about freedom, actually deny it. Organized beliefs, organized ideas, the economic and social struggle, the whole process of competition and nationalism - everything around us is narrowing down the margin of freedom, and I do not think we are aware of it. Political tyrannies and dictatorships are implementing certain ideologies through propaganda and so-called education. Our worship, our temples, our belonging to societies, to groups, to political parties - all this further narrows the margin of freedom. Probably most of you do belong to various societies, you are committed to, this or that group, and if you observe very closely you will see how little freedom, how little human dignity you have, because you are merely repeating what others have said. So you deny freedom; and surely it is only in freedom that the mind can discover truth, not when it is circumscribed by a belief or committed to an ideology.
I wonder if you are at all aware of this extraordinary compulsion to belong to something? I am sure most of you belong to some political party, to a certain group or organized belief; you are committed to a particular way of thinking or living, and that surely denies freedom. I do not know if you have examined this compulsion to belong, to identify oneself with a country, with a system, with a group, with certain political or religious beliefs. And obviously, without understanding this. compulsion to belong, merely to walk out of one party or group has no meaning, because you will soon commit yourself to another.
Have you not done this very thing? Leaving one 'ism', you go and join something else - Catholicism, Communism, Moral Rearmament, and God knows. what else. You move from one commitment to another, compelled by the, urge to belong to something. Why? I think it is an important question to ask oneself. Why do you want to belong? Surely it is only when the mind stands completely alone that it is capable of receiving what is true - not when it has committed itself to some party or belief. Please do think about this question, commune with it in your heart. Why do you belong? Why have you committed yourself to a country, to a party, to an ideology, to a belief, to a family, to a race? Why is there this desire to identify yourself with something? And what are the implications of this commitment? It is only the man who is completely outside, that can understand - not the man who is pledged to a particular group, or who is perpetually moving from one group to another, from one commitment to another.
Surely, you want to belong to something because it gives you a sense of security - not only social security, but also inward security. When you belong to something, you feel safe. By belonging to this thing called Hinduism, you feel socially respectable, inwardly safe, secure. So you have committed yourself to something in order to feel safe, secure - which obviously narrows down the margin of freedom, does it not?
Most of us are not free. We are slaves to Hinduism, to Communism, to one society or another, to leaders, to political parties, to organized religions, to gurus, and so we have lost our dignity as human beings. There is dignity as a human being only when one has tasted, smelt, known this extraordinary thing called freedom. Out of the flowering of freedom comes human dignity. But if we do not Mow this freedom, we are enslaved. That is what is happening in the world, is it not? And I think the desire to belong, to commit ourselves to something, is one of the causes of this narrowing down of freedom. To be rid of this urge to belong, to be free of the desire to commit oneself, one has to inquire into one's own way of thinking, to commune with oneself, with one's own heart and desires. That is a very difficult thing to do. It requires patience, a certain tenderness of approach, a constant and persistent searching into oneself without condemnation or acceptance. That is true meditation; but you will find it is not easy to do, and very few of us are willing to undertake it.
Most of us choose the easy path of being guided, being led; we belong to something, and thereby lose our human dignity. Probably you will say, "Well, I have heard this before, he is on his favourite subject", and go away. I wish it were possible for you to listen as if you were listening for the first time - like seeing the sunset, or the face of your friend for the first time. Then you would learn, and thus learning, you would discover freedom for yourself - which is not the so-called freedom offered by another.
So let us inquire patiently and persistently into this question of what is freedom. Surely, only a free man can comprehend the truth, which is to find out if there is an eternal something beyond the measure of the mind; and the man who is burdened with his own experience or knowledge, is never free, because knowledge prevents learning.
We are going to commune with each other, to inquire together into this question of what is freedom, and how to come by it. And thus to inquire, there must obviously be freedom right from the start; otherwise you cannot inquire, can you? You must totally cease to belong, for only then is your mind capable of inquiring. But if your mind is tethered, held by some commitment, whether political, religious, social, or economic, then that very commitment will prevent you from inquiring, because for you there is no freedom.
Do please listen to what is being said, and see for yourself the fact that the very first movement of inquiry must be born of freedom. You cannot be committed, and from there inquire, any more than an animal tied to a tree can wander far. Your mind is a slave as long as it is committed to Hinduism, to Buddhism, to Islam, to Christianity, to Communism, or to something it has invented for itself. So we cannot proceed together unless we comprehend from the very beginning, from now on, that to inquire there must be freedom. There must be the abandonment of the past - not unwillingly, grudgingly, but a complete letting go.
After all, the scientists who got together to tackle the problem of going to the moon, were free to inquire, however much they may have been slaves to their country, and all the rest of it. I am only referring to that peculiar freedom of the scientist at a research station. At least for the time being, in his laboratory, he is free to inquire. But our laboratory is our living, it is the whole span of life from day to day, from month to month, from year to year, and our freedom to inquire must be total, it cannot be a fragmentary thing, as it is with technical people. That is why, if we are to learn and understand what freedom is, if we are to delve deeply into its unfathomable dimensions, we must from the very start abandon all our commitments, and stand alone. And this is a very difficult thing to do.
The other day in Kashmir, several sannyasis said to me, "We live alone in the snow. We never see anybody. No one ever comes to visit us." And I said to them, "Are you really alone, or are you merely physically separated from humanity?" "Oh, yes", they replied, "we are alone." But they were with their Vedas and Upanishads, with their experiences and gathered knowledge, with their meditations and japams. They were still carrying the burden of their conditioning. That is not being alone. Such men, having put on a saffron cloth, say to themselves, "We have renounced the world; but they have not. You can never renounce the world, because the world is part of you. You may renounce a few cows, a house, some property; but to renounce your heredity, your tradition, your accumulated racial experience, the whole burden of your conditioning - this requires an enormous inquiry, a searching out, which is the movement of learning. The other way - becoming a monk or a hermit - is very easy.
So, do consider and see how your job, your going from the house to the office every day for 30, 40 or 50 years, your knowledge of certain techniques as an engineer, a lawyer, a mathematician, a lecturer - how all this makes you a slave. Of course, in this world one has to know some technique and hold a job; but consider how all these things are narrowing down the margin of freedom. Prosperity, progress, security, success - everything is narrowing down the mind, so that ultimately, or even now, the mind becomes mechanical and carries on by merely repeating certain things it has learnt.
A mind that wants to inquire into freedom and discover its beauty, its vastness, its dynamism, its strange quality of not being effective in the worldly sense of that word - such a mind from the very beginning must put aside its commitments, the desire to belong, and with that freedom, it must inquire. Many questions are involved in this. What is the state of the mind that is free to inquire? What does it mean to be free from commitments? Is a married man to free himself from his commitments? Surely, where there is love, there is no commitment; you do not belong to your wife, and your wife does not belong to you. But we do belong to each other, because we have never felt this extraordinary thing called love, and that is our difficulty. We have committed ourselves in marriage, just as we have committed ourselves in learning a technique. Love is not commitment; but again, that is a very difficult thing to understand, because the word is not the thing. To be sensitive to another, to have that pure feeling uncorrupted by the intellect - surely, that is love.
I do not know if you have considered the nature of the intellect. The intellect and its activities are all right at a certain level, are they not? But when the intellect interferes with that pure feeling, then mediocrity sets in. To know the function of the intellect, and to be aware of that pure feeling, without letting the two mingle and destroy each other, requires a very clear, sharp awareness.
Now, when we say that we must inquire into something, is there in fact any inquiring to be done, or is there only direct perception? Do you understand? I hope I am making myself clear. Inquiry is generally a process of analyzing and coming to a conclusion. That is the function of the mind, of the intellect, is it not? The intellect says, "I have analyzed, and this is the conclusion I have come to". From that conclusion it moves to another conclusion, and so it keeps going.
Surely, when thought springs from a conclusion, it is no longer thinking, because the mind has already concluded. There is thinking only when there is no conclusion. This again you will j have to ponder over, neither accepting nor rejecting it. If I conclude that Communism, or Catholicism, or some other 'ism' is so, I have stopped thinking. If I conclude that there is God, or that there is no God, I have ceased to inquire. Conclusion takes the form of belief. If I am to find out whether there is God, or what is the true function of the State in relation to the individual, I can never start from a conclusion, because the conclusion is a form of commitment.
So the function of the intellect is always, is it not?, to inquire, to analyze, to search out; but because we want to be secure inwardly, psychologically, because we are afraid, anxious about life, we come to some form of conclusion, to which we are committed. From one commitment we proceed to another, and I say that such a mind, such an intellect, being slave to a conclusion, has ceased to think, to inquire.
I do not know if you have observed what an enormous part the intellect plays in our life. The newspapers, the magazines, everything about us is cultivating reason. Not that I am against reason. On the contrary, one must have the capacity to reason very clearly, sharply. But if you observe you find that the intellect is everlastingly analyzing why we belong or do not belong, why one must be an outsider to find reality, and so on. We have learnt the process of analyzing ourselves. So there is the intellect with its capacity to inquire, to analyze, to reason and come to conclusions; and there is feeling, pure feeling, which is always being interrupted, coloured by the intellect. And when the intellect interferes with pure feeling, out of this interference grows a mediocre mind. On the one hand we have intellect, with its capacity to reason based upon its likes and dislikes, upon its conditioning, upon its experience and knowledge; and on the other, we have feeling, which is corrupted by society. by fear. And will these two reveal what is true? Or is there only perception, and nothing else? I am afraid I am not making myself clear. I will explain what I mean.
To me there is only perception, - which is to see something as false or true immediately. This immediate perception of what is false and what is true is the essential factor - not the intellect, with its reasoning based upon its cunning, is knowledge, its commitments. It must sometimes have happened to you that you have seen the truth of something immediately - such as the truth that you cannot belong to anything. That is perception: seeing the truth of something immediately, without analysis, without reasoning, without all the things that the intellect creates in order to postpone perception. It is entirely different from `intuition', which is a word that we use with glibness and ease. And perception has nothing to do with experience. Experience tells you that you must belong to something, otherwise you will be destroyed, you will lose your job, or your family, or your property, or your position and prestige.
So the intellect, with all its reasoning, with its cunning evaluations, with its conditioned thinking, says that you must belong to something, that you must commit yourself in order to survive. But if you perceive the truth that the individual must stand completely alone, then that very perception is a liberating factor; you do not have to struggle to be alone.
To me there is only this direct perception - not reasoning, not calculation, not analysis. You must have the capacity to analyze; you must have a good, sharp mind in order to reason; but a mind that is limited to reason and analysis is incapable of perceiving what is truth. To perceive immediately the truth that it is folly to belong to any religious organization, you must be able to look into your heart of hearts, to know it thoroughly, without all the obstructions created by the intellect. If you commune with yourself, you will know why you belong, why you have committed yourself; and if you push further, you will see the slavery, the cutting down of freedom, the lack of human dignity which that commitment entails. When you perceive all this instantaneously, you are free; you don't have to make an effort to be free. That is why perception is essential. All efforts to be free come from self-contradiction. We make an effort because we are in a state of contradiction within ourselves; and this contradiction, this effort, breeds many avenues of escape which hold us everlastingly in the treadmill of slavery.
So it seems to me that one must be very serious - but I do not mean serious in the sense of being committed to something. People who are committed to something, are not serious at all. They have given themselves over to something in order to achieve their own ends, in order to enhance their own position or prestige. Such people I do not call serious. The serious man is he who wants to find out what is freedom, and for this he must surely inquire into his own slavery. Don't say you are not a slave. You belong to something, and that is slavery, though your leaders talk of freedom. So did Hitler; so does Khrushchev. Every tyrant, every guru, every president or vice-president, everyone in the whole religious and political set-up, talks of freedom. But freedom is something entirely different. It is a precious fruit without which you lose human dignity. It is love, without which you will never find God, or truth, or that nameless thing. Do what you will - cultivate all the virtues, sacrifice, slave, search out ways to serve man-; without freedom, none of these will bring to light that reality within your own heart. That reality, that immeasurable something, comes when there is freedom - the total inward freedom which exists only when you have not committed yourself, when you do not belong to anything, when you are able to stand completely alone without bitterness, without cynicism, without hope or disappointment. Only such a mind-heart is capable of receiving that which is immeasurable.
November 22, 1959
Madras 1st Public Talk 22nd November 1959
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