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Talks with American Students. Claremont College, California

Talks with American Students, Chapter 8 3rd Talk at Claremont College California 17th November, 1968

This is the last talk so, if I may, I would like to go into something which might be slightly foreign to you although perhaps you have heard the word and given it a special significance. I am speaking of meditation and it is one of the most important things to understand, so if we can, then perhaps we shall also be able to understand the whole complex problem of existence, and live it. In existence is included all relationship, not only the relationship between ourselves and our property, but our relationship with each other and also our relationship, if there is any, to reality.

In this troublesome and complex existence, understanding is absolutely essential. I am not using the word `understanding' in its literal sense because to me understanding means the very doing itself; you do not understand first and then do, but the understanding is the doing, is the action; the two are not separate. In the understanding of this whole problem perhaps we shall also come upon that word `love' and, maybe, the thing which most human beings dread, death.

So we are going to explore, look together into this question of life, of existence, in which is included all relationship, love and death. Meditation is the approach to the understanding of this problem of living, not merely as a phenomenon, but as something tremendously significant, greatly to be cherished and deeply lived, in fact meditation is the living. Many people however treat meditation as an escape from life, that is they retire into a monastery, put on a special garb and withdraw completely from this whole complex business of living. There are certain schools in India and in Asia where they offer a method, a system, a way which perhaps will give a greater sensitivity and, if you are foolish enough to have visions, will enable you to escape into some mysterious metaphysical existence which in reality is still the same old sordid life. But meditation has no way, no system, no method; it is not an abstraction of life with all its delights, its sorrows and despair, nor is it an avoidance, an escape into some mystical, nonrealistic, romantic world of one's own imagination.

So we are not, at least the speaker is not using that word as a means of escape, but rather as an approach to the understanding of the whole of existence, then meditation has great significance, then it becomes a benediction, an extraordinary thing which must be understood at the deepest level. So let us go into it together! You know, recently that word has become very fashionable; it is almost on every lip, one even sees it in The New Yorker and the long-haired gentlemen talk about it a great deal. They offer you a method, a system, give you a few words to repeat as a mantra, and assure you that through this practice you will transcend all your sorrows and achieve some extraordinary reality, which is of course obviously nonsense, because a dull, stupid mind that is so heavily conditioned, sodden by its own superstitions, prejudices and conclusions, can follow a certain method and meditate indefinitely, but it will still remain a dull, stupid mind. Through examination we can see the utter futility of the method, the `how', the pattern, whether it is laid down by the ancients, or by the modern guru with all his pretensions and the utter absurdity of offering a state which is generally called enlightenment in exchange for a sum of money, So we won't concern ourselves any further with this kind of meditation, which is a form of escape; we can objectively and intelligently put it aside.

Let us be clear from the very beginning that meditation is not a form of entertainment; it is not something you purchase from another whatever the price, neither is it the acceptance of authority of any kind, including that of the speaker, especially that of the speaker, because in understanding this extra. ordinary problem of living, there is no authority, no teacher, no master and no guru; they have all failed. Each one of us is in sorrow, is in travail; we are confused, miserable, striving after something and it is essential to understand this rather than some mysterious vision. Visions are very easily explained and through the use of drugs, through the repetition of words and phrases, through the practice of various forms of self-hypnosis, the mind can produce any fantasy, believe in anything, and play innumerable tricks upon itself.

We are concerned with life, and with the living of that life every day, with its painful struggles and fleeting pleasures, with its fears, hopes, despair and sorrow, with the aching loneliness and the complete absence of love, with the crude and subtle forms of selfishness, and with the ultimate fear of death. So it is that which directly concerns us and to understand it deeply, with all the passion at our disposal, meditation is the key, but not the meditation given by another, put together by some book, by some philosopher or specialist, because the quality of meditation is very important. The word itself means to ponder over, to think over, to enter deeply into an issue. Meditation then is not how to think or what to do to control the mind so that it becomes quiet and silent, but rather the understanding of all life's problems, so that the beauty of silence comes into being, because without this quality of beauty, life has no significance at all. I do not mean by beauty, the beauty of those mountains, of those trees, the beauty of the light over the water or the bird on the wing, but the beauty in living, to come upon it in your daily life whether you are in the office or at home, when you are walking by yourself communing with nature and the world, because without that beauty life is utterly meaningless.

So let us together go into this question, not only objectively, outwardly but also inwardly. The outward movement is the inward as well, the two are not separate; they are like the outgoing and incoming tide and to understand them, not separate or divided, is the beauty of meditation. Therefore what is required to live totally, in which there is no strife, no contradiction, is balance and harmony, and meditation is the way.

Many things are involved in meditation; I hope you are interested in all this because it is one of the most important things to understand. If you do not know how to meditate, how to live - I am afraid most of us lead a very superficial life, going to the office, having a good job, having a family and a home, being entertained either at a cocktail party or at the cinema, and this we call living - then your life becomes a very dull, empty, shallow affair. Unfortunately modern civilization, especially in this country, is becoming more and more standardized, more superficial. You may have all the luxuries in the world, good food, good houses, good bathrooms, and enjoy good health, but without the inward life, not the secondhand inward life of another, but an inward life of your own, which you have discovered for yourself, which you have cherished, which you are living and which is meditation, then life becomes a very shoddy business; then we shall have more wars, more destruction and more misery; so meditation, whether you like it or not, is absolutely essential for every human being, whatever he is, whether he is highly sophisticated or a simple person by the wayside, so I hope we can enter and take this journey together.

Meditation involves concentration, which if one observes it, is a way of exclusion; that is, concentration implies forcing thought in one particular direction and excluding everything else; that is generally what is meant by concentration. You focus and direct the mind upon something and that concentration builds a wall, erects a barrier which prevents any other thought from entering, and in doing that there is a dualistic process at work, a division, a contradiction, which is fairly obvious if you look at it. So meditation is something other than concentration and control of thought although, of course, concentration is necessary. Meditation involves attention, which is not concentration, although concentration is included in attention. To attend - that means to give your whole mind, your heart and your body passionately to something and in that attention, if you observe very carefully, there is neither the thinker nor the thought, neither the observer nor the observed, but only a state of attention; and to attend so completely, so freely, there must be freedom.

Here then is the whole problem: it is only a mind which is totally free that can give complete attention, that can attend both intellectually and emotionally, aware of all its responses, from which comes freedom. And this is not so difficult, if you don't give it an extraordinary meaning; it is really very simple. When you listen to anything - whether to music or to the weird cry of the coyotes as they call to each other of an evening, whether to the song of a bird or to the voice of your husband or wife - then give complete attention to it, and you do when the challenge is very great, immediate, then you listen with extraordinary attention. When it is painful or profitable, when you are going to get something out of it, you listen very attentively; but when there is a reward in that listening, there is always the fear of losing.

Therefore in attention there is freedom, and only a free mind is capable of that quality of attention in which there is no achieving, no gaining or losing, and no fear. And a quiet, attentive mind is absolutely essential to understand this immense problem of living and come upon that state of love. So together we are going to learn what it means to attend, for it is only the attentive mind that is the meditative mind; we are going to learn, not accumulate knowledge; accumulating knowledge is one thing and learning quite another, so we are going to learn together about this problem of living, which is relationship, which is love and which is death. What is living? Not what living should be, not what is the purpose, the goal of living, not what is the significance of living, not what is the principle upon which life should be based, but what actually is living, as it is now, at this moment, in the privacy and secrecy of our daily life, because that is the only fact, and nothing else; everything else is theoretical, unreal and illusory. So what is this life, our life, the life of a private human being? What is the life of a private human being in relationship to the society which he has built and which holds him prisoner? Surely he is the society, he is the world, and the world is not different from him, which is another obvious fact.

We are actually dealing with what is, with our own life g and not with abstractions, not with ideals which are idiotic anyway. So what is our living? From the moment we are born until we die, our life is a constant battle, a never ending struggle, full of fear, loneliness and despair, a wearisome routine of boredom and repetition and a total lack of love, relieved occasionally by a fleeting pleasure. This is our life, our daily tortured existence, spending forty years in an office or factory, or being a housewife with its drudgery and dull care, with its envy and jealousy, the utter boredom of it all, fearing failure and worshipping success, and everlastingly thinking about the sexual pleasure. So that is the pattern of our life if you are at all serious and observe what actually is. If however you are merely seeking entertainment in different forms, either in church or on the football field, then such entertainment brings its own pain, its own sorrow, its own problems, and the superficial mind does escape through the church and through football, but we are not dealing with such a superficial mind because it is not really interested.

Life is serious, but in that seriousness there is great laughter and it is only the serious mind that is living, that can solve the immense problems of existence. Our life then, as it is lived daily, is a travail; no one can deny it and we don't know what to do about it; we want to find a way of living differently; at least we say we do, and some of us make an attempt to change it. Before making any attempt to change, we must understand actually what is, not what should be; we must actually take what is in our hands and look at it, and you cannot do that, come closely and intimately in contact with it, if you have an ideal, or if you say this must be changed into that, or if you are intent on changing. If however you are capable of looking at it as it is, then you will find quite a different quality of change, so that's what we are going to investigate.

First of all, we must actually see what our daily life is at this moment, to see it, not shyly or with reluctance, but without pain and resistance. It is that - a travail! Can we look at it, live with it? Can we make intimate contact, be in direct relationship with it? Here is our difficulty! To be in direct relationship with something, there must be no image between you and the thing you observe; the image being the word, the symbol, the memory of what it was yesterday or a thousand yesterdays ago. Let us put it very simply. The relationship that you have with your wife or with your husband is the relationship based on an image, the image being the accumulation of many years of pleasure, sex, conflict, strife, boredom, repetition and domination; you have that image of her and she has a similar image of you and the contact between these two images is called relationship, and we have accepted that, whereas in point of fact it is not a relationship at all. So there is no direct contact between one human being and another; in the same way there is no direct contact with the actual, with what is.

Do please follow this a little! It may appear to be complex, but it isn't if you listen quietly. There is the observer and the thing observed, and there is a division between these two, and this division, this screen in between, is the word, the image, the memory, the space in which all conflict takes place, that space being the ego, the `me' which is the accumulation of words, of images, of memories from a thousand yesterdays, so consequently there is no direct contact with what is. You either condemn what is, rationalize it, accept it or justify it, and as this is all verbalization, there is no direct contact, therefore no understanding and consequently no resolution of what is.

Look, Sirs, there is envy, envy being measured comparison, and one is conditioned to accept it. Someone is bright, intelligent, successful and the other is not; ever since childhood one has been brought up to measure, to compare, so envy is born, but one observes that envy objectively as something outside of oneself, whereas the observer himself is that envy, there is no actual division between the observer and the observed. So the observer realizes that he cannot possibly do anything about that envy; he sees very clearly that whatever he does with regard to envy is still envy, because he is the cause and the effect. Therefore, the what is, which is our daily life with all its problems of envy, jealousy, fear, loneliness and despair is not different from the observer who says `I am those things; the observer is envious, is jealous, is fearful, is lonely and full of despair, so the observer cannot do anything about what is, which does not mean he accepts it, lives with it or is content with it. This conflict comes about through the division between the observer and the observed, but when there is no longer any resistance to what is, then a complete transformation takes place, and that transformation is meditation. So finding out for yourself the whole structure and nature of the observer, which is yourself, and also of the observed which is again yourself, and realizing the totality, the unity of it is meditation, in which there is no conflict whatsoever, and therefore a complete dissolution and the going beyond of what is.

Then you will also ask yourself: what is love? We have dealt with fear, so together we are now going to consider this question of love. You know that word is loaded; it has been abused, distorted, trodden upon and spoilt by the priest, by the psychologist and by the politician, by every newspaper and magazine; they write and talk about it endlessly. So what is love? Not what should it be, not what is the ideal or the ultimate, but what is the love that we have, that we know? The thing that we call love contains jealousy and hate, and is beset with anguish; we are not being cynical, we are merely observing actually what is, what the thing that we call love is. And, is love jealousy, is love hate? Is love possessiveness, domination of the wife by the husband or of the husband by the wife? You say that you love your family, your children, but do you? If you really loved your children with all your heart - not with your shoddy little minds - do you think there would be a war tomorrow? If you really loved your children, would you educate them in the way you do, train them, force them to conform to the established order of a rotten society? If you really loved your children, would you allow them to be killed or horribly mutilated in a war, whether it be your war or somebody else's? If you observe all this, it indicates, does it not, that there is no love at all? So love is not sentiment or some emotional nonsense and, above all, love is not pleasure.

We must then understand pleasure. To most of us love, sex and pleasure are synonymous. When we talk about love, there is the love of God, whatever that may mean - and I don't think it has any meaning even to the clergy, because they too are in conflict with their ambitions, with their desires, with their authority and possessions, with their gods, beliefs and rituals - and there is also the so-called love that is implied in sexual pleasure. Also involved in love are anguish, pain and despair; so if love is not pleasure, then what is pleasure? Please bear in mind that we are not denying pleasure! It is a great pleasure to see those lovely mountains lit by the setting sun, to see those marvellous trees, that have withstood the forest fires and the dust of many months, sparkling and washed clean by the rain; it is a great pleasure to see the stars of an evening (if you ever look at the stars). But to us this is not pleasure, we are only concerned with the sensuous pleasures, with the intellectual and emotional pleasures. So we have to ask ourselves: what is pleasure? We are not condemning it, we are trying to understand it, trying to go behind the word.

Pleasure, like fear, is engendered by thought. Yesterday you stood in the silent valley looking up at the marvel of the distant hills and at that particular moment there was great delight. Now thought comes in and says how nice it would be to repeat that experience of yesterday, so thinking about that experience of yesterday, whether it was gazing at the lovely tree, the sky and the hills, or your sexual enjoyment, is pleasure. The image, living in thought with something which gave you enjoyment yesterday, thinking about it, is the beginning of pleasure; in the same way, thinking about what might happen tomorrow, the possibility that pleasure may be denied, that you may lose your job, be taken ill or have an accident, with all the worry and pain, is the beginning of fear. So thought creates both pleasure and fear, but to us love is thought.

Please, follow this very closely! Love is thought because to us love is pleasure, which is the outcome of thought, which is nourished by thought. The pleasure is not at the actual moment of seeing the sunset or the sexual act, but the pleasure is the thinking about it. So, love is engendered by thought and also love is nourished, sustained and prolonged as pleasure by thought, which if you look at it very closely, is an obvious fact.

Then one asks oneself: is love thought? We know that thought can cultivate pleasure, but it cannot under any circumstance cultivate love, any more than it can cultivate humility. So love is not pleasure, neither is it desire - how- ever you cannot deny either pleasure or desire. When you look at the world, at the beauty of a tree or a lovely face, there is great delight, at that particular moment, then thought interferes and gives it time and space to flourish as pleasure.

When you understand the nature and structure of pleasure in relation to love and when you realize it - which is part of meditation then you will find that love is something entirely different, then you will really love your children, then you will create a new world. When you come to that state, when you know love, then do what you will, there is no wrong; it is only when you are seeking pleasure - as you are now - that everything goes wrong.

There is also the problem of death. We have considered what our actual everyday living is and we have I hope, taken a journey together deeply within ourselves to find out what love is, so now we are going to try and discover what death is. You will only understand this tremendous problem of death (not what lies beyond death) when you know how to die, and when you know how to die, what happens after death is completely irrelevant; so we are going to find out what it means to die.

Death is inevitable. The body, the organism, like any machine that is constantly in use, must eventually wear out, come to an end. Most of us unfortunately die through old age or disease without knowing what it is to die. There is the problem of old age and to us old age is a horror. I do not know if you have ever noticed how in the autumn a leaf falls from a tree, what a lovely colour it is, how full of beauty and gentleness, and yet it is so easily, so effortlessly destroyed. Whereas with us as we grow old - well, just look at us! The ugliness, the disfigurement, the pretensions! Observe it in yourselves! And because we have not lived rightly either in youth or middle life, old age becomes an enormous problem. The fact is we have never really lived at all, because we are frightened, frightened of living and frightened of dying and as we grow old, everything happens to us; so that is one of our major problems. We are, therefore, going to find out what it means to die, knowing full well that the organism must come to an end, and knowing also that the mind, in its despair at ending, will inevitably seek comfort and hope in some theory, some belief, which usually is resurrection or reincarnation.

You know, the whole of Asia is conditioned to accept the theory of reincarnation; they discuss it a great deal and write about it, and they have invested their entire lives in the hope and fulfilment of their next life, but they overlook one very important point. If you are going to be born again, surely it is very important to live rightly in this life, so it matters tremendously what you do now, what you think, how you behave, how you talk and how your thought functions because according to your actions in this life your next life will be determined; there may be retribution. However they seem to forget all this and instead talk endlessly about the beauty of reincarnation, the justice of it and all that trivial nonsense.

So we are not escaping from the fact through some theory, but facing it without fear. What does is mean to die psychologically, inwardly? In the death of the organism, there is no argument, you can't say, `Please, wait a few more days until I become boss of the business!' or `Can't you hold on a minute while they make me an archbishop?' You can't argue, it is final! So you have to find out how to die inwardly, psychologically. To die inwardly means that the past must completely come to an end - you must die to all your pleasures, to all the memories you have cherished, to all the things you hold dear, and every day you must die, not in theory but actually. To die to that pleasure you had yesterday means dying instantly to it without giving continuity to pleasure as thought. And to live this way, so that the mind is always young, fresh and innocent, always vulnerable, is meditation. Once you have laid the foundation of virtue, which is order in relationship, then there comes into being this quality of love and of dying, which is all of life; then the mind becomes extraordinarily quiet, naturally silent, not made silent through suppression, discipline and control, and that silence is immensely rich.

Beyond that, no word, no description is of any avail. Then the mind does not enquire into the absolute because it has no need, for in that silence there is that which is. And the whole of this is the benediction of meditation.

17th November 1968


Talks with American Students. Claremont College, California

Talks with American Students, Chapter 8 3rd Talk at Claremont College California 17th November, 1968

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