Bombay 3rd Public Talk 30th December 1959
I would like, this evening, to talk about knowledge, experience and time. But before we go into all that very deeply, I think it is important to inquire into the nature of humility; and to explore humility, we have to be clear that it is not something to be acquired, achieved, or cultivated. A virtue that is struggled after, cultivated, gathered by slow degrees, ceases to be a virtue. Surely, this is an important point to understand. Either you are without greed, without envy, or you are not; and if you are greedy, envious, you cannot cultivate non-greed, non-envy. This is very difficult for most of us to comprehend, because we think in terms of time. We conceive of humility as a quality to be gradually acquired, and thereby totally miss the very simple yet extraordinarily profound nature of humility; and without humility one cannot go very far.
The state of humility is essential for all inquiry. It is an `altogether' feeling, without a centre from which the mind can say, "I am humble". A person who is positively or negatively determined to be free of any particular problem, is not in a state of humility. There is humility only when the mind wishes to see the problem clearly, whatever that exploration may reveal. Such a mind is inquiring. It wishes to know all the implications of the problem both the pleasant and the unpleasant; it wishes to see things as they are, without the urge to transform, to subjugate, or to sublimate what it sees; and only such a mind is in a state of humility.
As I am thinking aloud, please listen to what is being said with a sense of ease, rather than with effort. The moment you make an effort to listen, you cease to listen. You are listening only when there is a sense of ease, a certain poise of both mind and body, a state of relaxed attention. In that state of relaxed attention the mind will comprehend much more, it will perceive far deeper subtleties, than when it says, "I want to understand, and to understand I must make an effort" - which is, I am afraid, what most people do.
I am going to talk about a very simple thing, but its simplicity will not be seen by a complicated mind. Surely, you can see that which is very delicate, which has an astonishingly subtle feeling, only when your mind is at ease, when it is not struggling to get something. I am not talking about anything that you can `get'. I want to convey the feeling, the quality of affection, of sympathy, of love - which has no words. which is not a pose, a matter of attitudes and values. I want to communicate with you about the nature of humility, and then to inquire into the process of knowing, with all its implications. But a mind that is merely trying to get or to cultivate that state of humility, cannot comprehend its nuances, its significance, its extraordinary quality.
So do please listen with a sense of affection, a sense of easy inquiry, of relaxed attention; because you are not going to get anything from me. I am not going to give you a thing, and you will be wasting your time if you come with the intention of getting something. If there is a giver, and one who takes, then both are in a state of non-humility. To comprehend the nature, or to know the feeling of humility, one must under stand this wilful determination to be free of, to resolve one's problems. That is what most of us want, is it not? We want to resolve our problems, to escape from the everyday misery, conflict, strife, from the pettiness, the ugliness, the brutality and fleeting joy of our daily existence; so we arc always groping after something. That is why we follow leaders, join various organized religions, go from one guru to another, hoping to find some means by which to transcend our anxiety, our fear, our lack of love.
We all have problems, there is no getting away from it; and as we live in this world from day to day, our problems are increasing, they are not growing less. The overwhelming weight of so-called civilization is destroying the quality of our own thinking, and we have lost the simplicity with which it is necessary to approach the innumerable problems that confront us. Because the mind desires to transcend or resolve its own problem - whether it is greed, envy, telling lies, being jealous, being lazy, fearful, or what you will - it is determined to find a way, a method, a system by which to do so; and this determination is what destroys humility.
Do please understand this, sirs. It is not something vague or cantankerous, nor is it a particular idiosyncrasy of the speaker. If you observe how your mind thinks in terms of transcending, going beyond, or resolving its problem, in that observation no effort is involved. But where there is effort - the effort to change, to transform yourself - there I is no humility, there is essentially vanity. You have the idea that you have changed, that you have gained, that you have gone beyond, all of which gives you a sense of being important; therefore you never feel the real nature of humility.
What matters is to look at the problem, simply to look at it and be familiar with all its implications. If you study the problem, however painful, ugly it may be, if you look at it, move in it, live with it and - I really mean this - embrace it, take it to your heart, then you will find that you are in a state of humility; and then the problem is quite different from what it was.
All problems are intensely complicated, there can never be an answer of `yes' or `no'. To go deeply into a problem, one must have this extraordinary quality of humility; and if you are listening, really listening, you are already in that state. As I said, I have nothing to offer you, I am only pointing out; and when something is pointed out to you, you cannot `get' it, you cannot lay your hands on it - you have to look at it, you have to perceive, feel, touch, smell it. To put away all determination, all effort to change, is not a state of negation, neither is it a positive state. You are just inquiring. It is the impulse to achieve that gives to the mind a sense of its own importance, and achievement is what we call positive action; but such action only brings further confusion and misery. Whereas, if you are inquiring into the problem, which is this state of contradiction, with its innumerable urges and influences, in which each one of us lives - if you are simply aware of it, then that very awareness is its own action.
Look, sirs. Most of us are envious, are we not? And the problem of envy is quite complex. In envy there is everlasting struggle, comparison, competition, which sharpens the will, the determination to achieve, to go beyond. This is called positive action, and your culture encourages you in it. After all, the desire for fame is based on envy; and being envious, you suffer, you feel frustrated, you are anxious, fearful. Therefore you say to yourself, "I must be free of envy". Your mind is concerned with freedom from envy - which means that it is concerned with getting rid of the pain, the frustration, transiency of joy which is implicit in envy. So there is conflict; and where there is conflict, there is inevitably a will which says, "I must go beyond". Such a mind is not in a state of humility.
When the mind is aware that it is envious, when it does not dodge that fact, when it does not cheat itself or assume a hypocritical attitude, but simply says, "It is so, I am envious", such an acknowledgement of the fact brings its own action. But acknowledgement is not acceptance of the fact - there is a difference between the two. When you acknowledge that a thing is so, there is no doubt about it. When you merely accept it, there is always the possibility of not accepting it. So, when you are aware of the fact that you are envious, which means that you see and acknowledge it, then that very acknowledgement, that very self-critical awareness creates an action which is not the action of will. And I say such action comes from the state of humility, because it is not accumulative. The moment you accumulate the quality of non-envy, your mind is no longer in a state of humility - in which alone it can learn.
I do hope I am making myself clear; because, with an understanding of the nature of humility, I would like to enter into the problem of knowledge, into this extraordinary thing called experience, and into a much more complicated problem, which is that of time. Perhaps your mind is already weary after a long day's work in the office, or you may feel worn out with the family wrangles and adjustments, and all the other things that are going on in your life. That is why I suggest that you listen with ease, without strain. You are not learning anything from me, as you would in a school, and there are no examinations to be passed. No guru is going to tell you that you are doing well, and that you may go on to the next stage. You are listening to yourself - and listening to yourself is an art. You cannot listen if you are all the time striving to be or to do something. So, I want to talk very casually about experience, and do please listen with a sense of ease. I want to explore, to look into it - and come out of that exploration, perhaps, not with experience, but with a mind that is innocent. Because it is only the innocent mind that can perceive what is true, that can understand the fullness, the quality of truth - not the experienced mind. The experienced mind is a dead mind. Whether the mind, being burdened with experience, can dissolve or wipe away all its experiences and be born afresh - that is what I want to go into.
We all have experiences. We experience irritation, jealousy, anger, hatred, violence, and so on. Going through the experience of anger, for example, the mind gathers the residue of that experience; and the residue remains, colouring all further experiencing. We are as easily flattered as we are insulted. Your mind revels in flattery, it is delighted if someone tells you how marvellous you are; and the feeling of pleasure evoked by those words is an experience which remains in your mind.. Similarly, if someone insults you, you go through essentially the same experience, but not with pleasure, and the residue of that unpleasant experience also remains in your mind.
So experience leaves a mark on the mind, which is memory. There is memory as the necessary knowledge of mechanics and technique, and memory which is psychological, which is based on the desire to be important, to be this or to be that. Experience is the accumulation of knowledge, whether it be of outward or inward things. The experienced mind says, "I know how to deal with envy, with these wrangles and quarrels", or whatever the problem happens to be. So experience is the soil in which thought grows - the thought of being important, the thought of going beyond, and so on.
Please, sirs, do observe your own minds. I am only describing, and if you are merely listening to the description, you are not living. All descriptions are secondhand, and you are living at firsthand only when you discover for yourself. A hungry man cannot live on descriptions of food, however beautiful, however enticing they may be. So you are listening, not to me, but to yourself. You are observing for yourself how the residue of experience cripples the mind.
If you live on the pleasure of flattery, or on the resentment of insult, surely your mind is dull, crippled. The person who has insulted you, you approach with antagonism, and the flatterer you regard with a feeling of pleasure; therefore your mind is not fresh to look, to inquire. You go through life gathering impressions, marks, scars, both pleasurable and painful, which remain in the mind and which you call experience; and from experience comes knowledge. So experience as knowledge prevents clarity.
Do please see this point, sirs. Character is not a matter of being obstinate in one's knowledge or strong in one's experience. There is character only when the mind, being fully aware of its accumulated experience, is free of that background and is therefore capable of clarity. Only a mind that is clear has character. Knowledge at one level of human existence is obviously imperative - I must know where I live, I must know how to do my job, I must be able to recognize my wife, and so on. But knowledge at another level prevents the movement of knowing.
So, what is knowing, and vi,hat is knowledge? What do we mean when we say we know? Do we know, or are we told, and then say that we know? Please, sirs, do go into this with me, pay a little attention. `To know' is a very interesting word. How do you know, and what do you know? Please ask yourselves, as I am asking myself. Whatever one knows is based on experience, and therefore the mind i already conditioned by it; because all experience is conditioning, is it not? You have certain experience, you go through some form of sorrow or pleasure, which leaves a mark on your mind, and with that conditioned mind you meet the next challenge. In other words, you translate that challenge in terms of your own limitations, against the background of your own experience, thereby further conditioning your mind. So the mind is more and more conditioned through experience. You don't have to accept this, sirs. If you observe your own minds, you will see it is a fact. The mind can learn only if it is not acquiring, if it is not accumulating, if it is moving. It cannot move, it cannot learn when it has acquired, accumulated, for that is a static state.
So, what is the movement of learning knowing? I see that knowledge is accumulated through experience. A man may have mechanical or technical knowledge, or he may cleverly have learnt how to avoid psychological difficulties and maintain a state of inward comfort for himself; but I see that this knowledge is not the movement of knowing. Surely, the two are entirely different. Knowing is a constant movement, therefore there is no static state, no fixed point from which to act. I wonder if I am making myself clear?
Look, sirs. Having listened and listening are two entirely different states. Fortunately or unfortunately, some of you have listened to me repeatedly for ten or more years, and having listened, you say, "Yes, I know what he will say". That is not the state of listening. You are listening only when you do not translate what you hear in terms of what you have already heard. The state of listening is entirely different from having listened, gathered, and then listening further. When you listen further to something, you have ceased to listen.
I wonder if you have ever considered the nature of love? Loving is one thing, and having loved is another. Love has no time. You cannot say, "I have loved" - it has no meaning. Then love is dead; you do not love; the state of love is not of the past or of the future. Similarly, knowledge is one thing, and the movement of knowing is another. Knowledge is binding, but the movement of knowing is not binding.
Just feel your way into this, don't accept or deny it. You see, knowledge has the quality of time, it is time-bound, whereas the movement of knowing is timeless. If I want to know the nature of love, of meditation, of death, I cannot accept or deny anything. My mind must be in a state, not of doubt, but of inquiry - which means that it has no bondage to the past. The mind that is in the movement of knowing is free of time, because there is no accumulation.
Sirs, you see, unless the mind is fresh, new, in a state of innocency, the nature of timelessness, of immortality, cannot be understood. I am not using that word `immortality' in the ordinary sense. I am using it to connote the feeling of immensity, of that which is without measure, the feeling of a mind that has no boundary, no frontier. I am not referring to the immortality that my little mind wants in its desire to live perpetually. That is not immortality at all; it is a bondage, it is enslavement to time. I want to discover the mature of that immortality which is beyond time. To do this, my mind must be in a state of inquiry, that is, in the movement of knowing from moment to moment - not in a state of having known, which puts a stop to knowing. You see, this is the source of misery with most people. You have read your innumerable books, you know what this saint or that guru has said, and when you hear the word `immortality', you immediately translate it to conform to the pattern of your thinking; and when you do that, you have stopped the movement of knowing.
Consciously or unconsciously, the mind has gathered many experiences; and can such a mind be in a state of innocency, free to look, to observe, to act without always having this background of the past, this bondage to time? I do not know if it is a problem to you. Probably it is not. But it is bound to be a problem to anyone who inquires into life, because all that we know is frustration, misery and despair, with now and then a fleeting moment of joy. Though there is pleasure in it, with an occasional touch of joy, life for most of us is a dreadful thing, and our eyes are full of tears. Life is something for which there is no answer; it must be understood from moment to moment. But we are always wanting an answer, and the answer we find inevitably conforms to the pattern of what we think we know. And when it turns out, as sooner or later it must, that the answer according to a pattern is no answer at all, again we are in despair.
So, when the mind really begins to inquire into all this, it sees the necessity, if only intellectually, of experiencing a state which is timeless. Time is despair, because in time there is only tomorrow. That tomorrow may be stretched to a hundred tomorrows, but at the end of it there is no answer; agony is still there. So our life is chaotic, and there is no end to our misery, however much we may philosophize about it. That is why the inquiry into the nature of timelessness is not a vain, useless thing.
Time is the gathering of experience, and all gathered experience engenders time - the passage of what has been through what is to what will be. Time may solve technical problems; you may presently produce machines in which to go to the moon, and all the rest of it. But our deep human problems are never resolved through time - which means that they cannot be resolved by a mind based on experience, a mind which is the result of time. When such a mind becomes aware of the impasse, the blank wall before it, there arises a sense of despair. And seeing the nature of this whole time-bound process, one must inevitably inquire into what is called the timeless, the eternal - not to speculate on whether there is an eternality, and how to arrive at it, which is a schoolboy approach, but to be in a state of inquiry, in the movement of knowing, never saying, "I know". The man who says he knows, does not know.
So the problem is, really, can the mind be free of all its accumulated experience and knowledge, and yet not be in a state of amnesia? Can it feel the state of innocency, and therefore be free to inquire? Do you understand my question, sirs? As a Hindu, a Parsi, a Buddhist, a Christian, or what you will, you have lived so many years, you have learnt so much, acquired so much, suffered so much, and your mind is petty, shallow; though it is full of many things, it is an empty mind, and you go on living that way, accumulating more and more, till you die. Seeing the inevitability of death, you ask if there is something after death. When you are told that there is heaven, and all the rest of it, with that you are satisfied; and, still burdened with sorrow, you peacefully pass away.
I feel that what matters is to be in the movement of knowing, that is, in a state of inquiry about oneself. But this requires constant attention - attention, not effort. To pay attention is to be aware of what is when you are walking, when you are talking, when you are riding on a bus, or sitting in a cinema, or reading a book. If you can be so aware, then you will discover for yourself the movement of knowing, which is the real state of humility. Only the mind that knows this state of humility, is innocent. Then you are no longer a follower, and there is nothing secondhand about you.
At present you are all secondhand; you know only what you have been told about God, about virtue, about almost everything in life. You are what you have read, what you have heard, what your culture has imposed upon you; so you don't know anything, except your job, your appetites and anxieties. Being secondhand, you follow, you have authorities, you have gurus, you have all these shoddy gods.
A mind that is in the movement of knowing, is in a state of humility, which is innocence; and it is only the innocent that know love. The innocent mind is love; it will do what it will, but it has no ego. So experience is not the teacher. Experience is the teacher of achievement, it is the teacher of mechanical things, as knowledge is. But a mind that is in the movement of knowing is free of knowledge and experience, therefore it has no past or future; and only such a mind can receive that which is not measurable by the mind.
December 30, 1959
Bombay 3rd Public Talk 30th December 1959
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