Bombay 6th Public Talk 10th January 1960
This afternoon I would like to talk with you, if I may, about sorrow, will, and fear. Most of us live in a world of myth, of symbols, of make-believe, which is much more important to us than the world of actuality. Because we do not understand the actual world of everyday living, with all its misery and strife, we try to escape from it by creating a world of make-believe, a world of gods, of symbols, of ideas and images; and where there is this flight from the actual to the make-believe, there is always contradiction, sorrow. If we would be free of sorrow, surely, we must understand the world of make-believe into which we are constantly escaping. The Hindu, the Moslem, the Buddhist, the Christian - they all have their make-believe world of symbols and images, and they are caught in it. To them, the symbol has greater significance and is much more important than living; it is embedded in the unconscious, and it plays an immense part in the life of all those who belong to one or other of the various cultures, civilizations, or organized religions. So, if we would be free of sorrow, I think it is important, first of all, to understand the make-believe world in which we live.
If you walk down the road, you will see the splendour of nature, the extraordinary beauty of the green fields and the open skies; and you will hear the laughter of children. But in spite of all that, there is a sense of sorrow. There is the anguish of a woman bearing a child; there is sorrow in death; there is sorrow when you are looking forward to something, and it does not happen; there is sorrow when a nation runs down, goes to seed; and there is the sorrow of corruption, not only in the collective, but also in the individual. There is sorrow in your own house, if you look deeply - the sorrow of not being able to fulfil, the sorrow of your own pettiness or incapacity, and various unconscious sorrows.
There is also laughter in life. Laughter is a lovely thing - to laugh without reason, to have joy in one's heart without cause, to love without seeking anything in return. But such laughter rarely happens to us. We are burdened with sorrow; our life is a process of misery and strife, a continuous disintegration, and we almost never know what it is to love with our whole being.
One can see this sorrowful process going on in every street, in every house, in every human heart. There is misery, passing joy, and a gradual decay of the mind; and we are always seeking a way out. We want to find a solution, a means or a method by which to resolve this burden of life, and so we never actually look at sorrow. We try to escape through myths, through images, through speculation; we hope to find some way to avoid this weight, to stay ahead of the wave of sorrow.
I think we are familiar with all this. I am not instructing you about sorrow. And it would be absurd if you suddenly tried to feel sorrow as you are sitting here listening - or if you tried to be cheerful; it would have no meaning. But if one is at all aware of the narrowness, the shallowness, the pettiness of one's own life, if one observes its incessant quarrels, its failures, the many efforts one has made that have produced nothing but a sense of frustration, then one must inevitably experience this thing called sorrow. At whatever level, however slightly or however deeply, one must know what sorrow is. Sorrow follows us like our shadow, and we do not seem able to resolve it. So I would like, if I may, to talk over with you the ending of sorrow.
Sorrow has an ending, but it does not come about through any system or method. There is no sorrow when there is perception of what is. When you see very clearly what is - whether it be the fact that life has no fulfilment, or the fact that your son, your brother, or your husband is dead; when you know the fact as it actually is, without interpretation, without having an opinion about it, without any ideation, ideals, or judgments, then I think there is the ending of sorrow. But with most of us there is the will of fear, the will of discontent, the will of satisfaction.
Please do not merely listen to what is being said, but be aware of yourself; look at your own life as if it were your face reflected in a mirror. In a mirror, you see what is - your own face - without distortion. In the same way, do please look at yourself now, without any likes or dislikes, without any acceptance or denial of what you see. Just look at yourself, and you will see that the will of fear is reigning in your life. Where there is will - the will of action, of discontent, the will of fulfilment, of satisfaction - there is always fear. Fear, will, and sorrow go together; they are not separate. Where there is will, there is fear; where there is fear, there is sorrow. By `will' I mean the determination to be something, the determination to achieve, to become, the determination which denies or accepts. Surely, these are the various forms of will, are they not? Because where there is will, there is conflict.
Do look at this, and understand not just what I am saying, but the implications of will. Unless we understand the implications of will, we shall not be able to understand sorrow.
Will is the outcome of the contradictions of desire; it is born of the conflicting pulls of `I want' and `I don't want', is it not? The many urges, with their contradictions and reactions, create the will of satisfaction, or of discontent; and in that will, there is fear. The will to achieve, to be, to become - this, surely, is the will that engenders sorrow.
Sirs, what do we mean by sorrow? You see a child with a healthy body and a lovely face, with bright, intelligent eyes and a happy smile. As he grows older, he is put through the machine of so-called education. He is made to conform to a particular pattern of society, and that joy, that spontaneous delight in life, is destroyed. It is sad to see such things happen, is it not? It is sad to lose someone whom you love. It is sad to realize that one has responded to all the challenges of life in a petty, mediocre way. And is it not sad when love ends in a small backwater of this vast river of life? It is also sad when ambition drives you, and you achieve - only to find frustration. It is sad to realize how small the mind is - not someone else's, but one's own mind. Though it may acquire a great deal of knowledge, though it may be very clever, cunning, erudite, the mind is still a very shallow, empty thing; and the realization of this fact does bring a sense of sadness, sorrow.
But there is a much more profound sadness than any of these - the sadness that comes with the realization of loneliness, isolation. Though you are among friends, in a crowd, at a party, or talking to your wife or husband, you suddenly become aware of a vast loneliness; there is a sense of complete isolation, which brings sorrow. And there is also the sorrow of ill health.
We know that these various forms of sorrow exist. We may not actually have experienced them all, but if we are observant, aware of life, we know they do exist; and most of us want to escape from them. We do not want to understand sorrow, we do not want to look at it; we do not say, "What is it all about?" All that we are concerned with is to escape from sorrow. It is not unnatural, it is an instinctive movement of desire; but we accept it as inevitable, and so the escapes become far more important than the fact of sorrow. In escaping from sorrow, we get lost in the myth, in the symbol; therefore we never inquire to find out if there is an ending to sorrow.
After all, life does bring problems. Every minute life poses a challenge, makes a demand; and if one's response is inadequate, that inadequacy of response breeds a sense of frustration. That is why, for most of us, the various forms of escape have become very important. We escape through organized religions and beliefs; we escape through the symbol, the image, whether graven by the mind or by the hand. If I cannot resolve my problems in this life, there is always the next life. If I cannot end sorrow, then let me get lost in amusement; or, being somewhat serious-minded, I turn to books, to the acquisition of knowledge. We also escape through overeating, through incessant talking, through quarrelling, through becoming very depressed. These are all escapes, and not only do they become extraordinarily important to us, but we fight over some of them - your religion and my religion, your ideology and my ideology, your ritualism and my anti-ritualism.
Do watch yourself, and please don't be mesmerized by my words. After all, what I am talking about is not some abstract theory; it is your own life as you actually live it from day to day. I am describing it but don't be satisfied by the description. Be aware of yourself through the description, and you will see how your life is caught up in the various means of escape. That is why it is so important to look at the fact, to consider, to explore, to go deeply into what is; because what is has no time, no future. What is, is eternal. What is, is life; what is, is death; what is, is love, in which there is no fulfilment or frustration. These are the facts, the actual realities of existence. But a mind that has been nurtured, conditioned in the various avenues of escape, finds it extraordinarily difficult to look at what is; therefore it devotes years to the study of symbols and myths, about which volumes have been written, or it loses itself in ceremonies, or in the practice of a method, a system, a discipline.
What is important, surely, is to observe the fact, and not cling to opinions, or merely discuss the symbol which represents the fact. Do you understand, Sirs? The symbol is the word. Take death. The word `death' is the symbol used to convey all the implications of the fact - fear, sorrow, the extraordinary sense of loneliness, of emptiness, of littleness and isolation, of deep, abiding frustration. With the word `death' we are all familiar, but very few of us ever see the implications of the fact. We almost never look into the face of death and understand the extraordinary things that are implied in it. We prefer to escape through the belief in a world hereafter, or we cling to the theory of reincarnation. We have these comforting explanations, a veritable multitude of ideas, of assertions and denials, with all the symbols and myths that go with them. Do watch yourselves, Sirs. This is a fact.
Where there is fear, there is the will to escape - it is fear that creates the will. Where there is ambition, will is ruthless in its fulfilment. As long as there is discontent - the insatiable thirst for satisfaction which goes on everlastingly, however much you may try to quench it by fulfilling yourself - , that discontent breeds its own will. You want satisfaction to continue or to increase, so there is the will to be satisfied. Will in all its different forms inevitably opens the door to frustration; and frustration is sorrow.
So, there is very little laughter in our eyes and on our lips; there is very little quietude in our lives. We seem unable to look at things with tranquillity, and to find out for ourselves if there is a way of ending sorrow. Our action is the outcome of contradiction, with its constant tension, which only strengthens the self and multiplies our miseries. You see this, sirs, don't you?
After all, you are being disturbed. I am disturbing you about your symbols, your myths, your ideals, your pleasures, and you don't like that disturbance. What you want is to escape, so you say, "Tell me how to get rid of sorrow". But the ending of sorrow is not the getting rid of sorrow. You cannot `get rid' of sorrow, any more than you can acquire love. Love is not something to be cultivated through meditation, through discipline, through the practice of virtue. To cultivate love is to destroy love. In the same way, sorrow is not to be ended by the action of will. Do please understand this. You cannot `get rid' of it. Sorrow is something that has to be embraced, lived with, understood; one has to become intimate with sorrow. But you are not intimate with sorrow, are you? You may say, "I know sorrow; but do you? Have you lived with it? Or, having felt sorrow, have you run away from it? Actually, you don't know sorrow. The running away is what you know. You know only the escape from sorrow.
Now, just as love is not a thing to be cultivated, to be acquired through discipline, so sorrow is not to be ended through any form of escape, through ceremonies or symbols, through the social work of the `do-gooders', through nationalism, or through any of the ugly things that man has invented. Sorrow has to be understood; and understanding is not of time. Understanding comes when there is an explosion, a revolt, a tremendous discontent in everything. But, you see, we seek to find an easy way in social work, we get lost in a job, a profession, we go to the temple, worship an image, we cling to a particular system or belief; and all these things, surely, are an avoidance, a way of keeping the mind from facing the fact. Simply to look at what is, is never sorrowful. Sorrow never arises from just perceiving the fact that one is vain. But the moment you want to change your vanity into something else, then the struggle, the anxiety, the mischief begins - which eventually leads to sorrow.
Sirs, when you love something, you really look at it, do you not? If you love your child, you look at him; you observe the delicate face, the wide-open eyes, the extraordinary sense of innocency. When you love a tree, you look at it with your whole being. But we never look at things in that way. To perceive the significance of death, requires a kind of explosion which instantly burns away all the symbols, the myths, the ideals, the comforting beliefs, so that you are able to look at death entirely, totally. But most unfortunately and sadly, you have probably never looked at anything totally. Have you? Have you ever looked at your child totally, with your whole being - that is, without prejudice, without approval or condemnation, without saying or feeling, "He is my child"? If you can do this, you will find that it reveals an extraordinary significance and beauty. Then there is not you and the child - which does not mean an artificial identification with the child. When you look at something totally, there is no identification, because there is no separation.
In the same way, can one look at death totally? - which is to have no fear; and it is fear, with its will to escape, that has created all these myths, symbols, beliefs. If you can look at it totally, with your whole being, then you will see that death has quite a different meaning because then there is no fear. It is fear that makes us demand to know if there is continuity after death; and fear finds its own response in the belief that there is, or that there is not. But when you can look with completeness at this thing called death, there is no sadness. After all, when my son dies, what is it that I feel? I am at a loss. He has gone away, never to return, and I feel a sense of emptiness, loneliness. He was my son, in whom I had invested all my hope of immortality, of perpetuating the `me' and the `mine; and now that this hope of my own continuity has been taken away, I feel utterly desolate. So I really hate death; it is an abomination, a thing to be pushed aside, because it exposes me to myself. And I do push it aside, through belief, through various forms of escape; therefore fear continues, producing will and engendering sorrow.
So, the ending of sorrow does not come about through any action of will. As I said, sorrow can come to an end only when there is a breaking away from everything that the mind has invented for it to escape. You completely let go of all symbols, myths, ideations, beliefs, because you really want to see what death is, you really want to understand sorrow - it is a burning urge. Then what happens? You are in a state of intensity; you don't accept or deny, for you are not trying to escape. You are facing the fact. And when you thus face the fact of death, of sorrow, when you thus face all the things you are confronted with from moment to moment, then you will find that there comes an explosion which is not engendered through gradualness, through the slow movement of time. Then death has quite a different meaning.
Death is the unknown, as sorrow is. You really do not know sorrow; you do not know its depth, its extraordinary vitality. You know the reaction to sorrow, but not the action of sorrow. You know the reaction to death, but not the action of death, what it implies; you don't know whether it is ugly or beautiful. But to know the nature, the depth, the beauty and loveliness of death and sorrow, is the ending of death and sorrow.
You see, our minds function mechanically in the known, and with the known we approach the unknown: death, sorrow. And can there be an explosion, so that the known does not contaminate the mind? You cannot get rid of the known. That would be stupid, silly, it would lead you nowhere. What matters is not to allow the mind to be contaminated by the known. But this non-contamination of the mind by the known, does not come about through determination, through any action of will. It comes about when you see the fact as it is; and you can see the fact as it is - the fact of death, of sorrow - only when you give your total attention to it. Total attention is not concentration; it is a state of complete awareness in which there is no exclusion.
So, the ending of sorrow lies in facing the totality of sorrow, which is to perceive what sorrow is. That means, really, the letting go of all your myths, your legends, your traditions and beliefs - which you cannot do gradually. They must drop away on the instant, now. There is no method by which to let them drop away. It happens when you give your whole attention to something which you want to understand, without any desire to escape.
We know only fragmentarily this extraordinary thing called life; we have never looked at sorrow, except through the screen of escapes; we have never seen the beauty, the immensity of death, and we know it only through fear and sadness. There can be the understanding of life, and of the significance and beauty of death, only when the mind on the instant perceives what is.
You know, Sirs, though we differentiate them, love, death, and sorrow are all the same; because, surely, love, death, and sorrow are the unknowable. The moment you know love, you have ceased to love. Love is beyond time, it has no beginning and no end, whereas knowledge has; and when you say, "I know what love is", you don't. You know only a sensation, a stimulus. You know the reaction to love; but that reaction is not love. In the same way, you don't know what death is. You know only the reactions to death; and you will discover the full depth and significance of death only when the reactions have ceased.
So, do please listen to this, not as a lecture, but as something which vitally concerns every human being, whether he is on the highest or the lowest rung of society. This is a problem to each one of us, and we must know it as we know hunger, as we know sex, as we may occasionally know a benediction in looking at the treetops, or at the open sky. You see the benediction comes only when the mind is in a state of non-reaction. It is a benediction to know death, because death is the unknown. Without understanding death, you may spend your life searching for the unknown, and you will never find it. It is like love, which you do not know. You do not know what love is, you do not know what truth is. But love is not to be sought; truth is not to be sought. When you seek truth, it is a reaction, an escape from the fact. Truth is in what is, not in the reaction to what is.
January 10, 1960
Bombay 6th Public Talk 10th January 1960
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