Ojai 4th Public Talk 29th May 1960
I am afraid this will have to be the last talk of the present series. I had intended to give another four talks, but unfortunately my physical condition will not allow me to go on. So this will be the last talk, and would you kindly tell your friends also that there will be no more talks here after today.
If I may, I would like this morning to talk about time, death, and meditation. I would like to go into these rather complex questions with you, but not just intellectually or verbally; because intellectually to grapple with these problems is of very little importance. It may amuse the intellect; but if we merely play with words, we are left with ashes. As most of us are intimately concerned with these problems, we should consider the fact and not be content with the word. The fact is much more important than the word. Time is an extraordinary fact, and it would be of great interest and significance if we could understand the whole process of time. All our life depends on time, and for the majority of us, death has tremendous significance. Either we are frightened of death, or we rationalize it, or we cling to certain beliefs which give us hope and nullify our fears and despairs. Meditation is also very important. A mind that does not know what it is to meditate, has not lived at all; it is a dull, stupid, irrelevant mind.
So, I would like to discuss these things with you. I will do the verbalizing, if you will kindly give your attention to what is being said and follow it right through to the end. By attention I do not mean enforced concentration; because a mind that is forced to concentrate is not capable of understanding. But if the mind can flow with the ideas, without accepting or denying, without correcting or translating, then perhaps our thinking will transcend mere verbalization.
Most of us think from a conclusion, from the background of experience, from a remembered past. Our thinking arises as a reaction from the past. All our thinking is the response of memory. If we had no memory, there would be no thinking. One of the faculties of the mind is to remember and to coordinate as knowledge all the things it has experienced; and from that state of conditioning, from that background of experience as knowledge, the mind responds to any challenge, to any question, to any problem. This response is what we call thinking; and our thinking, as you will see if you observe it very carefully, is the very process of time. I will go into that presently.
Unless we understand the mechanical response of thinking, it seems to me that we shall not be able to grasp the significance of time. Our thinking is not merely the everyday reactions and responsibilities, the routine of work, and so on, but it is also the process of thinking abstractly, inwardly, comprehensively, the correlating of every form of experience, knowledge, in order to bring about a decision.
So, it is important to understand the mechanism of thinking, and to see its limitations. All thinking is limited thinking; there is no freedom in thinking. Thinking is the process of a mind which has accumulated knowledge and responds from that background; therefore thinking can never be free, it is always limited. And if we respond to any human problem, however deep or superficial it may be, merely through the process of thinking, we shall not be able to resolve it, but on the contrary, we shall create more problems, more confusion, more misery. That is why it is absolutely essential to understand the mechanism of thinking.
When you are asked a familiar question, your response is immediate, is it not? If you are asked where you live, or what is your name, or what is your profession, your response is immediate, because you are very familiar with these things. But if you arc asked a more serious or complicated question, there is a lag between the question and your response. In that time interval your mind is furiously at work, looking into its accumulated memories to find the answer; and later on, as every schoolboy knows, the answer comes. If you are asked a much more complex question, involving a great deal of memory and the mechanism of inquiry, there is a still greater interval, a greater lag of time before the mind answers. And if a question is asked to which your mind, having searched the corridors of memory, can find no answer, then you say, "I don't know". But the "I don't know" is merely the state of a mind which is waiting, expecting, still trying to find an answer.
I hope you are following this, because the next statement is important to understand. You see these three steps, do you not? There is the mind's immediate response to a question; its response within a certain period or lag of time; and finally, having searched without finding an answer in the corridors of memory, it says, "I don't know". But when the mind says, "I don't know", it is waiting, expecting, looking fur an answer. With most of us, that is the state of the mind. Having thought, searched, inquired, we say, "I don't know". But in saying "I don't know", the mind is waiting, expecting. Now, there is a state in which the mind says, "I don't know", but it does not expect, is not waiting for an answer. There is no answer, there is no searching - it is in a state of complete not-knowing. Do you see the difference?
Sirs, may I say something? Please, don't take notes, for goodness' sake. This isn't a lecture. You and I are trying to discover, experience as we go along; we are trying to feel our way through. You are not capturing a phrase here and there to think over when you go home. You are doing it now - which means that you are really listening, and thereby actually experiencing what is being said. This is not a suggestion; you are not being influenced one way or the other. It is merely the statement of a fact. I am going to talk on the same subject in different ways from the beginning to the end; and if you are taking notes, or otherwise not giving your full attention, you are not going to be able to follow it right through. You have to give your whole, unenforced attention. The moment you force attention, you are blocking perception, because anything that is forced is unnatural, it is not spontaneous. So please, those of you who are serious, do give your full attention, and don't be distracted by taking down a few scattered words that have very little meaning.
As I was saying, thinking is the response of memory. The response may be immediate, or it may take time; and the mind may ultimately say, "I don't know". But when the mind says, "I don't know", it is waiting for an answer, either from its own deep-rooted experiences in the unconscious, or from a source beyond its own cognition. And there is the mind which has been through and recognizes this whole mechanical process of knowing and responding according to that knowledge, with the time-lag involved in it. When such a mind says, "I don't know", it is not waiting for an answer or expecting a solution; it has wholly stopped searching, and therefore it is in a state of not-knowing.
So, all thinking is the response of memory, the response of experience as knowledge, whether that knowledge be of the individual, or of the collective. Knowledge or experience implies accumulation, and accumulation implies time: the thing that has been and the thing that will be, the before and the after, yesterday moving through today to tomorrow, time which is static, and time as movement. Time is static as the experience of many thousands of yesterdays; and though it moves through the present, fulfilling itself in tomorrow as the future, it is still static, only modified. That is, what has been, has been added to. It is an additive, accumulative process; and that which has accumulated, and is accumulating, is always within the field of time. From this accumulative centre we function mechanically. All electronic brains function as we do, only much faster, much more brilliantly, much more accurately; but it is essentially the same process as our thinking. So our thinking is mechanical; we function from conclusion to conclusion, from the known to the known, and always within the field of time - which is fairly obvious when you begin to examine it unemotionally, as you must; because anything that we examine emotionally, is distorted. This demands mere perception of the fact; whether you like or dislike the fact, is irrelevant. To perceive the fact as it is, requires a state of mind in which there is no emotion, no sentiment - and then there is perception which is of the highest intensity.
So, thinking, being mechanical, is not the way to a life which is not mechanical. Life is not mechanical, energy is not mechanical. But we want that energy to be mechanized, so that our minds may function happily, easily, comfortably within the field of time as convenience; therefore we reduce life, with all its extraordinary vastness and depth, to a process of thinking, which is mechanical or intellectual; and then, not being able to find an answer to our problems, we become cynical, fearful, or we are in a state of despair. The more intellectual we are, the more despairing is our existence, and out of despair we invent philosophies; we say that we must accept life as it is and make the best of it, that we exist now and it is only the now that matters. Not being able to understand the totality of time, we try to cut away the past and the future, and live only in the present - which cannot be done, because there is no present. There is existence, but not an isolated present; and to create a philosophy out of this formula of the present, is so utterly immature, materialistic, limiting.
One begins to see that the mechanical process of thinking, which involves time, is not the answer; and yet all our days, our nights, our dreams - everything about us and within ourselves is based on thought. We never come to that state in which the mind, having been through all this, says, "I don't know". That is the state of innocency; it is a state in which the mind can discover something new, something which is not projected by its own desires, ambitions, fears, longings, despairs.
So, one perceives very clearly that thinking, however clever, however intelligent, however cunning, however philosophical, speculative or theological it may be, is still essentially mechanistic. Theologians the world over start from some conclusion - "Jesus is the Saviour", full stop - and from there build the whole structure of speculative philosophy. Similarly, the mind builds a vast intellectual superstructure based on the concept of existence as the now, or gets lost in speculative theories about the hereafter. And when we realize for ourselves the mechanistic nature of thinking, then arises the problem of how to put an end to it - how to die to the past. Do you understand the question?
I do not know if you have ever thought about death. You may have thought about it; but have you actually faced death? Do you understand the difference? To think about death is one thing, and actually to confront death is another. If you think about death, invariably there arises fear with its sense of frustration in the coming to an end of things irrevocably, irremediably. But if you are confronted with death, there is no answer, there is no way out, there is no measure which will give you comfort, security: it is a fact. Death in the sense of total cessation, physically and psychologically, has to be faced. It is not to be denied, accepted, or rationalized: it is there. And it must be an extraordinary experience to die, as it must be an extraordinary experience to live totally. As we do not understand what it is to live totally, without conflict, without this everlasting inward contradiction, perhaps we shall never know what it is to experience the totality of death. The older we grow, the more fearful we are of death. Being afraid of death, we go to doctors, try new medicines, new drugs, and perhaps we may live twenty or thirty more years; but there it is, inevitably, round the corner. And to face that fact - to face it, not to think about it - requires a mind that is dead to the past, a mind that is actually in a state of not-knowing.
The future, after all, the tomorrow, is still within the field of time. And the mind is always thinking and functioning between yesterday and tomorrow, with today as a connecting passage. That is all it can do: prepare for the future through the present, depending on the past. We are caught between what has been and what will be, the before and the after, and we function mechanically in that field. And is it possible to die to that whole sense of time - actually to die, and not ask how to die? Death doesn't ask you if you are willing to die. You can't compromise with death, you can't ask it questions. Death is one of the most absolute things, a finality. You can't bargain with it. I know most of us would like to. We would like to ask of it gifts, favours, the boon of escape; but death is indomitable, incorruptible.
So, can the mind die to its many yesterdays, to both the pleasant and the unpleasant memories of experience as knowledge? Can it die to the things it has gathered - die as it goes along? I do not know if you have ever experimented with that. To die to all your worries - not so that you can lead a more peaceful life, or do more business, or arrive fresh at your office, with a dead past, and thereby get a greater advantage over somebody else, or over a situation. I don't mean that kind of nonsense. To die without any future; to die without knowing what tomorrow is - after all, that is death. And that requires a mind which is very sharp, clear, capable of perceiving every thought, conscious or unconscious; a mind which is aware of every pleasure, and does not allow that pleasure to take root as memory. And is it possible so to die that there is no tomorrow? - which is not a state of despair. The moment you think in terms of hope and despair, you are again within the field of time, of fear. To go through that very strange experience of dying, not at the ultimate moment of physical death when one becomes unconscious, or one's mind is dull, made stupid by disease, or drug, or accident, but to die to the many yesterdays in full consciousness, with full vitality and awareness - surely that does create a mind which is in a state of not-knowing, and therefore in a state of meditation.
I would like to talk about this subject of meditation rather extensively, if there is time. Meditation is one of the most important things in life, as love is, as death and time are. But I do not think many of us know what it is to meditate. We know how to concentrate, as every schoolboy and schoolgirl does, how to focus our attention on something; and we also know that when something is vitally interesting, it absorbs the mind, as a child is absorbed with a new toy. The mind is then in a state of concentration, which is a state of complete absorption and exclusion; but that is not the way of meditation.
Meditation is important because it opens the door to self-knowledge. But self-knowledge becomes very superficial and rather boring if it is merely information about yourself which you have gathered and held in your mind. You may say, "Well, I know myself, and there is nothing much to know". There isn't. One is greedy, ambitious, violent, sexual, and all the rest of it; so you say, "Yes, I know myself". But to go beyond that is the knowing of oneself, not the knowledge of oneself. I hope I am making it clear.
The knowing of oneself is entirely different from the process of acquiring knowledge about oneself, because knowing is a constant movement. There is no end to knowing, to learning, and therefore there is never a moment which is not extraordinary vital and unfolding. But if, having read a few books, and having watched yourself a little here and there, now and then, you say, "I know myself", that knowledge is merely additive, accumulative; and it is stifling deadly, it brings only darkness. Whereas, knowing is an indefinite movement.
So, meditation is the process of knowing oneself, and that is the door through which you will know the universe; because you are not just you, with a name and a bank account, or a profession. You are a result of the whole of man, whether he lives in Russia or America, in India or China. We are human beings, not labels; and within each human being is this total consciousness of humanity, of suffering, of thoughts, of ambitions - here as in India or China; circumstances vary, conditions differ, but people have the same misery, the same joy, the same platitudes, the same use of slogans, and the same happy moments.
To meditate is to inquire into the process of the mind without an object. The moment you have an object which you are seeking, your search is the result of a cause, and that cause brings about the accumulation which you call knowledge; and therefore there is the darkness of knowledge.
I do not know if you have ever observed that there is a strength which has no cause. Most of our strength is the result of a cause, which is determination, the will to be or not to be something. This urge to be or not to be is in turn the result of one's various contradictory desires, ambitions, fulfilments, miseries. Every urge to be something has its roots in a cause, and it is that cause which projects, creates or develops a certain strength in the form of resistance, determination. When you remove the cause, the determination is gone; but another cause soon comes into being, and a different determination arises. Whereas, if the mind has examined and understood this whole process and therefore knows the meaning of meditation, then it will discover a strength that has no cause, a strength which is not of time.
So, meditation is essential - but not the so-called meditation of following a particular system. That is mere self-hypnosis; it is too immature, too silly altogether. Meditation is to be in a state of total awareness, so that the mind is emptying itself every moment of the day and therefore constantly discovering; because only that which is empty can receive. It is only the empty mind that has space to contemplate - not a mind that is making ceaseless effort to be or not to be, to arrive, to guard itself, to escape. Such a mind cannot be empty. It is only when the mind is empty of yesterday, of time, and is aware of that extraordinary thing called death - it is only then, being thus empty, that it can receive - not receive what you want. A mind that wants and seeks is not an empty mind. An empty mind is not just empty, it is not just blank; it is a very active mind. It has been through this whole process about which I have talked, and therefore it is vital, clear, without any sense of acceptance, denial, expectation or rejection. And without this vital emptiness of the mind, our life is very drab. You may be very clever, you may be able to write books, paint pictures, or you may be a very skilful lawyer or politician; but without knowing what it is to meditate, life becomes extremely superficial, dull; and a dull mind is always seeking a way out of its dullness, and thereby creating further dullness for itself.
Seeing this chaotic state of things within and without, one has to purge oneself of the known, not verbally, intellectually, but actually; one has to die to everything. And when the mind is empty - which is really not a good word; but when the mind is empty, as the sky is empty, then that which is not measurable by man comes into being.
May 29, 1960
Ojai 4th Public Talk 29th May 1960
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