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Talks with American Students. University of Puerto Rico

Talks with American Students, Chapter 1 1st Talk at The University of Puerto Rico, San Juan 10th September, 1968

Most of us in this confused and brutal world try to carve out a private life of our own, a life in which we can be happy and peaceful and yet live with the things of this world. We seem to think that the daily life we lead, the life of struggle, conflict, pain and sorrow, is something separate from the outer world of misery and confusion. We seem to think the individual, the `you', is different from the rest of the world with all its atrocities, wars and riots, inequality and injustice and that this is something entirely different from our particular individual life. When you look a little more closely, not only at your own life but also at the world, you will see that what you are - your daily life, what you think, what you feel - is the external world, the world about you. You are the world, you are the human being that has made this world of utter disorder, the world that is crying helplessly in great sorrow. It is you, the human being that has built this world. So that world outside you is not different from the world in which you live your private life.

This division between the individual and society does not really exist at all. When one tries to carve out a life of one's own, the individual is not different from the community in which he lives. For the individual, the human being, has constructed the community, society. I think we ought to be very clear from the beginning that this division is artificial, utterly unreal.

In bringing about a radical change in the human being, in you, you are naturally bringing about a radical change in the structure and the nature of society. I think it must be very clearly understood, that the human mind, with all its complexity, its intricate work, is part of this external world. The `you' is the world and, in bringing about a fundamental revolution - neither Communist, nor socialist, but a totally different kind of revolution, within the very structure and nature of the psyche, of yourself - you will bring about a social revolution. It must begin, not outwardly but inwardly, because the outer is the result of our private, inner life.

When there is a radical revolution in the very nature of thought, feeling and action, then obviously there will be a change in the structure of society. This complete change in the structure of society must come about. Social morality is not moral. To be completely moral one must deny social morality. This means that the individual, the `you' has to go into the whole structure of himself; he must understand himself, not according to any philosopher, nor priest, nor analyst, whoever he may be. He must understand himself as he is, not according to somebody else. When we understand ourselves, the authority of any specialist, psychological or any other, comes to an end. I feel this must be understood by each one of us before we go any further. Because most of us, unfortunately, are slaves to other people's ideas. Most of us are so easily persuaded, influenced by the specialist, by authority. Especially when we are going into this question of understanding ourselves, which is of primary importance, there is no authority whatsoever, because you have to understand yourself and not somebody else or what somebody else says about you. I think this is really a very important thing to grasp, because, as I said just now, we easily accept, we so easily obey, conform, and acquiesce in authority, whether it is the authority of the Church or of some spiritual leader or some analytical specialist. I think one has to discard all that, totally, because the authority that has been exercised and the obedience on the part of each one of us to a con- ceptual ideal, has brought about a great deal of misery in the world.

I do not know if you have observed how the world is divided into nationalities, religious groups, various categories of races, prejudices, with one religion against another, one God opposed to another God. You must have observed this. And yet having observed, knowing how this creates misery, conflict and division throughout the world, you go on adhering to your particular nationality, your particular religious concepts, your beliefs which all bring about division between man and man. Unfortunately, we accept the authority established by the tradition of society or the Church, the dictates of the authoritarian hierarchy of organized religion. But we do refuse to accept political tyranny. We do not accept that anybody should deny us the right to speak freely or to think what we wish to think. Unfortunately we do not exercise that same freedom with regard to spiritual matters. This has led throughout the world to untold misery and division among people.

If we would understand ourselves, which is absolutely essential - because without understanding ourselves we have no basis for thought or for clear perception - if we want to think rationally, sanely, we have to know ourselves, we have to search out the causes which make us think and do certain things, to find out why we are aggressive, brutal, acquisitive, dominating, possessive, as these characteristics are all causes of conflict between human beings. And when we wish to bring about a social change, which must take place, surely it must begin in the human mind, not in the outward structure of society. Once again, this must be clearly understood, that to bring about a radical change in the social structure - so that human beings can be free, so that there are no more wars, no more division of peoples into Christians, Hindus, Muslims and so on - there must be true self-understanding, through understanding ourselves, how we are made, both biologically and psychologically. Then in the very process of understanding ourselves we shall bring about a change which will be natural, not a bloody revolution. All political, religious and economic revolutions, have produced great misery and confusion in the world. You see what is going on in the Communist world, the repression, and the return to a bourgeois state.

Seeing all this, wars, tyranny, oppression, social injustice, starvation in the East, contrasted with extreme riches, seeing all this, not merely intellectually but actually, observing it in yourself, in your daily life, you must inevitably see that there must be a radical revolution in the very activity of your daily existence. And to bring about such a change there must be self-knowledge - knowing yourself as you are, the causes of your actions, why you are aggressive, brutal, envious, full of hate, which expresses itself in the outer world. I hope this is clear, not only logically, verbally, rationally, but also because you feel it. If you do not feel acutely, intensely, the actual state of the world, the actual state of your own life, then there is escape into ideologies and theories.

You know, ideologies have no meaning whatsoever, whether they are Communist, socialist, capitalist, or religious. Ideologies - conceptual thinking with its words - have separated man and man. You all have different ideologies, and do not see clearly for yourselves the idiocy of having ideologies. They prevent seeing what actually takes place, what actually is. Why should we have ideologies of any kind, knowing how they have divided man against man, whether of Christian, Hindu, Muslim or any other religion, each holding desperately to his belief? Why? We never question, we accept ideologies. If you question and probe deeply into this problem of ideologies you will see that they exist in order to escape from the actual.

Take for instance the whole question of violence, which is spreading throughout the world at an astonishing speed. We are violent: human beings, right through the world are violent aggressive, brutal. That is a fact, derived, inherited from the animal world. We are violent people. We do not deal with that violence, we do not find out why we are violent and go beyond it. But we have ideas about violence, ideologies about it. We say that we should be non-violent, we should be kind, we should be gentle, we should be tender and so on; this is merely conceptual thinking, which prevents us from coming into contact with ourselves when we are violent. That is fairly clear, isn't it?

We are asking why human beings indulge in ideals, and we think it is a most extraordinary thing if we do not have ideals. To live without a principle - please listen to this carefully - to live without principles, to live without beliefs, to live without ideals, you think is very worldly, that it is materialistic. On the contrary, those of you who have ideals, beliefs, principles, are the most materialistic people in the world, because you are not dealing with actuality, you are not dealing with violence, you are not dealing with facts as they are. I am sure many of you believe in God, although some of you may not. You may say you are an atheist, which is another form of belief. You never question why you believe in God; you accept Him because this is part of tradition, part of the authority of propaganda, you have this ideal and say, `Your God and my God, your particular form of ritual and mine'. These beliefs and rituals have divided man. To find out reality, to find out if there is such a thing as God, to find out, to discover it, to experience it, to come upon that extraordinary state, one must completely set aside every form of belief. Otherwise one is not free to find out and it is only a mind that is free to enquire, to observe, that can come upon that reality which is not put together by the mind in fear.

Why does one have these many ideals and principles ac- cording to which one tries to live? In modern times people do not very much bother about principles and beliefs. In the modern world one is concerned with having a very good time, getting on, having success and so on. But when you go into the matter more deeply, you will see that fear is at the bottom of all this. It is fear that makes us aggressive. It is fear that demands that you have an escape through ideals. And it is fear that makes us hold on to our particular form of security in belief. If a man is not frightened, if a man lives completely, totally, without any contradiction within himself, observing the world with all its contradiction within himself, observing the world with all its brutality, and so going within himself and ridding himself of fear, then he can live without a single belief, a single conceptual thought. And I think that is the principle feature of our life: fear, not only fear of such things as losing a job but the fear of being psychologically, inwardly insecure.

I want now to say something which I consider important; it matters very much how you listen. Either you listen to words, intellectually, agreeing or disagreeing, or you listen with a mind that is interpretative, translating what you hear according to your own particular prejudices. You listen comparatively, that is you compare what you hear with what you already know. All listening of this kind obviously prevents you from listening. Doesn't it? If you say, `Well! what you are talking about is nonsense', you are not listening. After all, you have come here and I have come here to talk things over together, to listen. And if you have your own particular prejudices, conclusions, definite opinions, which prevent you from listening to the speaker, then you will go away with a lot of words which have no meaning at all. Whereas, if you listen, without condemning or accepting, listen with a certain quality of attention, as you listen to the wind among the trees, if you listen with your whole being, with your heart and with your mind, then perhaps we shall establish communication between ourselves. Then we shall understand each other very simply and very directly, although we are dealing with a very complex human problem. We are concerned with the whole structure of our daily life, we are involved with our sorrow, with our misery, with struggle and pain. And if we know how to listen, not only to the speaker now, but also when we go home, then we shall be actually listening to wife, husband, children, or anyone else, then we shall begin to discover for ourselves the truth of the matter. The mind then becomes very simple and clear; it becomes a very clear mind, which can observe, and learn, is not confused or frightened. And we have very complex problems. Our life is very complex and to understand this very complex structure of ourselves we need to observe ourselves very closely, to see why we believe, why we hate, why we are aggressive, why we separate ourselves into nationalities.

So as I said, if you would listen with care, with that quality of affection which is attention, then you will see that what the speaker is speaking about is the discovery of yourself. The speaker is merely painting a picture of yourself. To observe that picture you have to give attention, care, neither condemning, nor justifying, nor being ashamed of what you see. It is only by seeing what is actually taking place in your life and observing it very closely, without any condemnation, or evaluation, that you will see it as it is. To see is the greatest miracle. Please see that. We do not see because we look at ourselves with eyes that are always condemning, comparing, evaluating, and therefore we never see ourselves as we are. And to see ourselves as we are is to bring about a radical change in ourselves, and therefore in the social order and structure.

In ourselves we are very confused and disorderly. There is no order within us. I do not mean the seeming order obtained by imitating and conforming; this is disorder, and you can see for yourselves that life is fragmentary, broken up. You are a businessman, you are a husband, you are a wife, you are this and that, your life is broken up in fragments. Each fragment has its own desire, its own purpose, motive, one in opposition to the other, and so there is contradiction. Our life is a contradiction, one desire in opposition to the other desire, one pleasure pulling us in one direction and another pleasure pulling us in another, making our life contradictory, confused and disorderly. That is an obvious fact, and we have to bring about order, not according to some blueprint, or according to some theory, but according to that order which comes into being when we observe the causes of disorder in ourselves. I hope I am making this clear. This is not a question of rhetoric or theories, we are concerned with what is actually taking place in ourselves. Because in ourselves is the world. We cannot separate ourselves from the world. We are the world. And to change the world-and there must be change - one must change oneself. To bring about an orderly change we must understand the causes of the disorder that exists in us; and that is all. We have nothing more to do than to observe the causes of disorder in ourselves.

To observe there must be freedom. You know, most of us are very heavily conditioned by the society in which we live, by the culture in which we have grown up. The society in which we live is the product of our life, of our way of thinking. Culture is what we have made. Society has conditioned us, has told us what to think and how to think, what our beliefs must be and how we must behave. We are heavily conditioned and therefore we are not free. This is an actual, obvious fact. With a conditioned mind we are obviously not free to observe. And, being conditioned, when we observe the actual state we are in we are frightened. We do not know what to do. The question then is whether it is at all possible for the human mind to uncondition itself - please listen to this - for the human mind to uncondition itself so that it can be free. If you say it is not possible, that no human mind can ever be free of its conditioning, then you have blocked yourself, you have prevented further investigation into the problem. And if you say it is possible, that again blocks you, prevents you from examining the question.

So, to understand this conditioning - it is clear what we mean by that word `conditioning' - you are conditioned as a Christian, you have been brought up in a particular culture, a culture that accepts war, that pursues a particular pattern of existence and so on. That is your conditioning in the same way as people in India are conditioned by their culture, their religion and superstition, their way of life. And that word `conditioning' is a very clear, simple word with a great depth of meaning.

Now, is it possible to uncondition the mind, uncondition your mind so that it is free? You know, freedom is one of the most dangerous things, because freedom implies for most people that they can do what they want to do. Freedom for most people is an ideal, it is something far away, it cannot be had. And there are those who say, to be free you must be greatly disciplined. But freedom is not at the end; freedom is at the very first step. If you are not free you cannot observe the tree, the clouds, the flashing waters, you cannot observe your relationship with your wife, your husband, or your neighbour. Most of us do not want to observe, because we are frightened of what will happen if we observe very closely.

I do not know if you have ever observed your relationships, for instance your relationship with your wife or your husband. This is a very dangerous subject. Because if we observe very closely we see that there must be a different kind of life that we never observe. What we observe is the image that we have built about each other and that image establishes a certain relationship between man and woman. That relationship between the images is what we regard as being in contact, being in relation with another. So when we are enquiring into this question of unconditioning, freeing the mind from its own conditioning, first of all, we want to know if this is possible. If it is not possible then we are forever slaves. If it is not possible then we invent a heaven, a God. In heaven alone we can be free, but not here. And to free the mind from its conditioning - and I say this is possible, it can be done - we must become aware, aware of how we think, and why we think, and what our thoughts are. To be aware - not to condemn, not to judge but just to observe, as one observes a flower. It is there in front of you - it is no good your condemning it, it is no use your saying `I like it' or `I dislike it' - it is there, for you to look at. And if you have the eyes to see you will see the beauty of that flower. In the same way, if you are aware of yourself, without condemning, without judging, then you will see the whole structure and the cause of your conditioning; if you pursue it deeply, then you will discover for yourself that the mind can be free.

This brings to view another problem: we are used to thinking in terms of time, that is, we are used to the gradual process of change, the gradual process of achievement, the time involved in changing from this to that. That is time. There is time not only by the watch, chronologically, but there is also psychological time, the inward time, which says,`I am angry, jealous, and I will gradually get over this'. That constitutes gradation, the slow process of change, but there is no such thing psychologically, inwardly, as gradualness. Either you change immediately or you do not change at all. To change gradually from violence to non-violence implies that you are sowing the seed of violence all the time, doesn't it? If I say to myself that being violent I will gradually, some day, become non-violent, time is involved. In that interval of time I am continually sowing the seeds of violence; this is very obvious.

So, the question is, speaking very seriously in a world that is disrupted, is shattering itself, and is distracted by amusement, this question is one not only of time but of the whole conflict of effort. I hope this is not becoming too difficult? Perhaps it is, if we are not used to this kind of intensive thinking and feeling. But there it is, and it's up to you. You see, when a house is burning, as our house - our world - is burning, you do not discuss about theories, nor ask who set it on fire, (Communist, capitalist, socialist or the Catholics or the Protestants or anything). You are concerned with putting out the fire and seeing to it that you build a house that can never be set on fire again. And that demands great seriousness and intensity, not merely engaging in action for action's sake or doing some good or making some change from one religion or one concept to another.

So, one has to be serious and this means being free to observe life, to observe the way of your life, to observe your relationship with others, and to see very clearly what is happening. You know, you cannot observe if there is space between you and the thing observed. Does that make any sense to you? I will show you what I mean. To observe, to see very clearly, you must be very closely in contact with the thing you observe. You must be able to touch it, you must be able to feel it, you must be able to be completely in contact with it. And if there is a space between you, the observer, and the thing observed, then you are not in contact. So to observe yourself as you are - please listen to this, just listen - to observe yourself there must be no division between the observer and the thing observed. Does this make sense? You will see it. If I look at myself and there is a separation between myself and the thing observed, and I see that I am jealous, angry, violent, the observer and the thing observed are two different things, aren't they? There is violence and the observer who says `I am violent'. They are two different things. This separation between the observer and the thing observed causes conflict. Do watch it in yourself and you will understand it very simply. If you separate yourself from fear then you must overcome it, you must fight it, you must struggle against it, you must escape from it. But when you see that you are the fear, that the observer is the observed, then the conflict between the two comes to an end. And when the observer is the observed then time comes to an end.

What we are saying is, man has travelled for so long, his life is a battlefield, not only within himself but outwardly, all his relationships are in conflict, in the factory, in the office, at home, it is a constant struggle and battle. And we are saying that such a life is no life at all. You may have your gods, you may have your riches, you may have an extraordinary capacity, but you are not living, you are not happy people. There is no happiness, no bliss in life. And to come upon this happiness, this bliss, one must understand oneself, and to understand oneself there must be freedom to look. To look properly there must be no division between the observer and the observed. And when this takes place, this whole sense of struggle to become something, to be something, disappears. You are what you are. In observing this, there comes an immediate, radical change. That puts an end to the idea of time and gradualness.

10th September 1968


Talks with American Students. University of Puerto Rico

Talks with American Students, Chapter 1 1st Talk at The University of Puerto Rico, San Juan 10th September, 1968

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