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The Flame of Attention

Longer, Unedited Versions

Ojai 1st Public Talk 1st May 1982

I would like to point out, if I may, this is not a weekend entertainment. We are going to deal with the whole of life, with all its complex problems, and not a particular subject. This is not a lecture; that is, to talk about a particular subject in view of giving information.

I think it would be good if we could, from the very beginning of these talks - and there will be, I believe, six of them and four question and answer meetings - if we could from the very beginning understand that we are not instructing anybody anything; we are not bringing up some kind of ideas or beliefs or some conclusions to convince you of anything. This is not a propaganda; but rather, if we could, during all these talks, think over together, observe together, listen to the whole movement of one life, whether it is in South Africa, South America, Europe or America or Asia. We are dealing with a very, very complex problem that needs to be studied very carefully, hesitantly, without any direction, without any motive, to observe, if we can, the whole outward happening of our life. Because if we don't understand what is happening outside of us, which is the measure by which we will be able to understand ourselves, if we do not understand what is actually going on in the world, the external world, outside the skin as it were, outside the psychological field, we will have no measure by which to observe ourselves.

So first, if we may, let us together observe. I mean by that word to look carefully without any bias, as an America or Argentine or British, or French or Russian, to observe - or Asia, forgot, sorry - to observe without any motive; which is rather difficult. To see clearly, if we can, what is going on. As one observes and travels around the world, there is a great deal of dissension, discord, disagreement, disorder; a great deal of confusion, uncertainty; there are the demonstrations against one particular form of war. There is terrorism; the preparation for wars; spending untold money on armaments. There are the national divisions: one nation against another preparing for eventual war. And there are the religious sectarian divisions: the Catholic, the Protestant, the Hindu, the Islamic world, the Buddhist. And there is this constant division in the world. Where there is division there must be dissension, conflict. We see this all over the world.

And there is the national honour, for which one is proud and willing to kill others. There are the various sects, gurus, with their particular following. There is the spiritual authority: the Catholic world, the Protestant world, not so much in the Buddhist and the Hindu world, but there is the authority of the book in the Islam. So wherever there is this dissension, disorder, there is not only conflict, destruction of each other, and the attachment to a particular nationality, hoping thereby to find some kind of security, physical outward security. This is the phenomenon that is taking place in the world, of which one is sure that we all observe the same thing: one group against another group. And so there is isolation taking place, not only for each human being, but the isolation of groups. Which is, bound by a belief, by a faith, by some ideological conclusion, as in the totalitarian states and in the so-called democratic world with their ideals; so the ideals, beliefs, dogmas, rituals are separating mankind.

This is actually what is going on in the world. The external world is the result of our own psychological world. This outward world is created by each one of us. Because we are isolated human beings. We have our own particular profession, our own particular belief, our conclusions and experiences, to which we cling, and so gradually each one is isolating himself. There is self-centred activity, which is expressed outwardly as the nation, belonging to some religious group, whether that group has 700 million people as the Catholic world has, each one of us is isolating himself. And so we are producing or creating a world externally through nationalism, which is a glorified form of tribalism; and each tribe is willing to kill another tribe for their belief, for their land, for their economic trade and so on, and so on, and so on.

We all know this; at least, those of us who are aware; who listen to all the radios, television, newspapers and so on. And there are those who say, this cannot be changed at all, there is no possibility of human conditioning being transformed. The world has been going on like this for thousands and thousands of years and this world is created by the human condition and that condition can never possibly be transformed, bring about a mutation in itself. They assert that there can be modification, slight change, but man will ever be what he is; in conflict with each other, murdering each other; and bringing about a division in himself and in the world.

And there are those who have tried social reform of various kinds all over the world; but they too have not brought about deep fundamental mutation in the human consciousness. This is the state of the world. And how do we look at it? What is our response to it, as human beings? Not to the technological world; the computers, and all those extraordinary things the human brain is inventing; but what is actually our relationship, not only with each other but with this external world; what is our responsibility? Do we leave it to the politicians? Do we seek new leaders? Please, this is a very serious problem which we are discussing, talking over together. New saviours, or go back to the old tradition, because human beings, unable to solve this problem, return to the old habitual tradition of the past? Which is also what is happening. The more there is confusion in the world, the more desire and urge to return to some past illusions, past tradition, past leaders, past so-called saviours.

So if one is aware of all this, as one must; what is our response to all this? Not a partial but total response to the whole phenomena that is going on, taking place in the world. Do we only consider our own personal lives? How to live a quiet, serene, undisturbed life in some corner; or are we concerned with the total human existence, with the total humanity? If we are only concerned with our own particular life, however troublesome it is, however limited it is, however much it is sorrowful and painful, then one does not realize the part is the whole. So one has to look at life, not the American life or the Asiatic life, but life as a whole; holistic observation. The observation that is not a particular observation; it's not my observation or your particular observation, but the observation that comprehends the totality, the holistic view of life. Each one of us has been concerned with his own particular problems: problems of more money, no job, seeking one's own fulfillment, seeking everlastingly pleasure; frightened, isolated, lonely, depressed, suffering, and creating, being personal, a saviour outside who will transform or bring about a salvation for ourselves, for each one of us. This tradition has been going on in the Western world for two thousand years: and the Asiatic world, which is probably the explosion from India or the East, has also maintained the same thing in different words, different symbols, different pictures, different conclusions: but it is the same individual's search for his own salvation, for his own particular happiness, to resolve his many complex problems. That what each one of us is trying to do.

If we cannot solve our particular problem, there are the specialists of various kinds, psychological specialists to whom one goes to resolve our problems. They too have not succeeded. Nor the scientists. On the contrary. Technologically the scientists have helped enormously - less disease, better communication, sanitation and so on and so on. And also the scientists are maintaining the war. Scientists are responsible for all the gadgets of war. They are responsible for murdering millions and millions of people at one blow. So scientists are not going to save mankind, nor the politicians, whether in the East or West, or in the middle part of the world. They seek power, position, and they play all kinds of tricks on human thought. You know all this. And in the Western world we elect them - god knows how we elect them. And in the Russian world you don't, they are a totalitarian dictatorship, complete prison. And it is exactly the same thing in the religious world, so-called religious world. The authority of the hierarchy, the authority of the pope, the bishops, the archbishop and the local priest in the name of some image which thought has created. And we, as human beings separated, isolated, we haven't been able to solve our problems. We are highly educated, cunning, self-centred, capable of extraordinary things outwardly. But inwardly we are more or less what we have been for a million years: we hate, we compete, we destroy each other; which is what is going on actually at the present moment. You have heard the experts talking about the recent war, they are not talking about human beings being killed, but destroying airfields, blowing up this or that. So there is this total confusion in the world, of which one is quite sure we are all aware of.

And from that arises the question: what shall we do? As a friend once some time ago told the speaker, you can't do anything. You are beating your head against a wall. It will go on like this for the next million years; fight, kill, destroy each other, competition, caught in various forms of illusion. This will go on. Don't waste your life and time. This tragedy, the terrifying events that may happen by some crazy person pressing a button; or the computer taking over man's capacities, thinking much quicker, more accurately; and the computer too may destroy the human being, the human mind, the human brain; because the computer, the robot can do all kinds of things as they are doing in Japan. So what is going to happen to human beings? So this is the vast problem which we are facing.

And our education from childhood till we pass, if we are lucky, through college, university, is to specialize in some form or another, accumulate a lot of knowledge, store it up in the brain and act, get a job and hold on to the job skilfully, if you can, for the rest of one's life; going to the office, from morning till the evening and dying at the end of it all. This is not a pessimistic attitude or observation; this is what actually is going on. When one observes the actuality, the fact, one is neither depressed, optimistic or pessimistic, it is so.

And one asks, if one is at all serious and responsible: what is one to do? Retire into monasteries? Form some commune? Go off to Asia and pursue Zen meditation or other forms of meditation? One is asking seriously this question. When you are confronted with this crisis in consciousness, the crisis is not over there outside of us. The crisis is in us. You know that saying, "we have seen the enemy and the enemy is us".

So the crisis is not economic, war, the bomb, the politicians, the scientists, but the crisis is within us, the crisis is in our consciousness. Until we understand very profoundly the nature of that consciousness, and question, delve deeply into it and find out for ourselves whether there can be a total mutation in that consciousness, the world will go on creating more misery, more confusion, more horror. So our responsibility is not some kind of altruistic action, political, or economic, but to comprehend the nature of our being; why we human beings, we have lived on this beautiful lovely earth, why we have become like this.

So if you are willing, if it is your responsibility, we can perceive together the nature of our consciousness, the nature of our being. This is not, as we said, a lecture. A lecture being a dissertation on a particular subject giving or pointing out information; that's what one means by a lecture. But here we are trying together, you and the speaker together, not separately, together, to observe the movement of this consciousness and its relationship to the world, whether that consciousness is individual, separate, or that consciousness is the whole of mankind. Do you understand? We are educated from childhood to be individuals, with your separate soul - if you believe in that kind of stuff - or you have been trained, educated, conditioned to think as an individual. We think because you have a separate name, separate form, that is dark, light, tall, short, fair, black, and so on, and your particular tendency, we think we are separate individuals, our own particular experiences and so on. Now we are going to question that very idea: whether we are individuals.

It doesn't mean that we are a kind of amorphous beings, but actually are we individuals, though the whole world maintains, both religiously and in other ways, that we are separate individuals. And from that concept, and perhaps from that illusion, each one of us trying to fulfil, become something. In that becoming something we are competing against another, fighting another. So if we maintain that way of life, we must inevitably cling to nationalities, tribalism, war. Why do we hold on to nationalism? The passion behind it; which is what is happening now - the British against the Argentines, the Jew against the Arab, Arab against the Jew, and so on. Why do we give such extraordinary passionate importance to nationalism; which is essentially tribalism? Why? Is it because in tribalism, holding on to the tribe, to the group, there is certain security; not only physical security but psychological security, inward sense of completeness, fullness. If that is so, then the other tribe also feels the same; and hence division and hence war, conflict.

If one actually sees the truth of this, not theoretically; and if one wants to live on this earth, which is our earth, not yours or mine, American or the Russian or the Hindu, it's our earth to live on, then there is no nationalism at all. There is only human existence. One life; it's not your life or my life, it's living the whole of life. And this tradition of individuality has been perpetuated by religions both in the East and in the West; individual saviour for each individual, and so on, so on. Now is this so? You know, it is very good to doubt, very good to have a mind that questions, doesn't accept; a mind that says, we cannot possibly live any more like this, in this brutal, violent manner. So doubt, questioning, has extraordinary importance; not just accept the way of life one has lived perhaps for 50, 60 or 30 years, or the way one has lived for a million years. So we are questioning the reality of individuality. Is your consciousness - do we understand by the meaning of that word, to be conscious, the content of your consciousness, to be conscious means to be aware, to know, to perceive, to observe - is your consciousness with its content, the content being your belief, your pleasure, your experience, your particular knowledge which you have gathered, either through some particular external subject or the knowledge you have gathered about yourself, your fears, the attachments, the pain, the agony of loneliness, the sorrow, the search for something more than mere physical existence; all that is one's consciousness with its content, the content makes the consciousness. Without content there is not the consciousness as we know it. Here there is no room for argument. It is so. Your consciousness, which is very complex, contradictory, with such extraordinary vitality, that consciousness, is it yours? Is thought yours? Or there is only thinking, which is neither East nor West, there is only thinking, which is common to all mankind, whether they are rich or poor, technically, technicians with their extraordinary capacity, or the monk who withdraws from the world and is consecrating himself to an idea, is still thinking.

Is this consciousness common to all mankind - common in the sense not degrading? Is this consciousness yours or also the rest of mankind? Wherever one goes, one sees suffering, pain, anxiety, loneliness, insanity, fear, seeking security, caught in knowledge; the urge of desire, loneliness, it is common, it is the ground on which every human being stands. Your consciousness is the consciousness of humanity, the rest of humanity. It's logical; you may disagree; you may say, my consciousness is separate, and it must be separate; but is it so? If one understands the nature of this, that you are the rest of mankind, though we may have a different name, we may live in different parts of the world, educated in different ways, affluent or very poor, when you go behind the mask deeply, you are like the rest of mankind: aching, loneliness, suffering, despair, neurotic; belief, believing in some illusion, and so on. Whether you go to the East or West, this is so. You may not like it; you may like to think that you are totally independent, free individual. But when you observe very deeply, you are the rest of humanity. You may accept this as an idea, an abstraction, as a marvellous concept; but idea is not the actual. An abstraction is not what actually is taking place. But most of us make an abstraction of 'what is' into an idea, and then pursue the idea, which is really non-factual.

So, if that is so, that is, if my consciousness and yours, with all its content - the content in itself is contradictory, confused, struggling against each other; fact and non-fact; wanting to be happy, being unhappy; wanting peace, living without violence and yet being violent - our consciousness in itself is disorder. It is the root of dissension. And until we understand, go into it very deeply, and discover total order, we shall have always disorder in the world.

So a serious person, I mean by that word, not easily dissuaded from the pursuit of understanding, the pursuit of delving deeply into himself, into his consciousness, which is the common consciousness of all man; a man who is not easily persuaded by amusement, entertainment, which is perhaps sometimes necessary, but to pursue consistently every day into the nature of man, that is, into yourself, to observe what is actually going on within oneself; and from that observation action takes place. Not, what shall I do as a separate human being, but action which comes out of total, holistic observation of life. By that word holistic we mean, a healthy, sane, rational, logical, and a perception that is whole, which is holy, h-o-l-y. We are using that word in that sense, holistic. Now is this possible? Is it possible for a human being like us who are laymen, not specialists, laymen, is it possible for us to look at this, look at the contradictory, confusing consciousness as a whole; or must we take each part of it? Please just listen for a few minutes, if you are interested.

I want to understand myself, my consciousness. I know from the very beginning it's very contradictory; wanting one thing, and not wanting the other thing; saying one thing and doing another. I know belief separates man. I believe in whatever it is, Jesus or Krishna or something, or I believe in my own experience which I hold on to; or the knowledge which I have accumulated through 60 years or 40 years or 10 years, that becomes extraordinarily important. I cling to that. So I recognize belief destroys and divides people. And yet I can't give it up because belief has strange vitality. It gives me a certain sense of security. I believe in god, there's an extraordinary strength in that. But god is invented by man. If we are all, as some people believe, we are all the children of god, god must be an extraordinary human being, extraordinary person, because if we observe what we are, we are miserable entities, and god must be also rather miserable about all this.

So god is the projection of our own thought, our own demands, our own hopeless despair and opposite of all that. Or I believe in some form of gurus, you know, all that, belief. Why do we have beliefs at all? A mind that is crippled by belief is an unhealthy mind. There must be freedom. That's again a very complex problem; what is freedom? - which we won't go into now. So, is it possible for me, for you, to delve deeply into this consciousness, not persuaded, not guided by psychologists, psychiatrists and so on, to delve deeply into ourselves and find out; so that we don't depend on anybody, including the speaker. In asking that question, how shall we know the intricacies, the contradictions, the whole movement of consciousness? Shall we know it bit by bit, take for instance, we took just now belief. And also in our consciousness, we are hurt. Each human being from childhood is hurt. Is hurt by the parents, psychologically I am talking about. Hurt in the school, through comparison, through competition, through saying, you must be first-class at this subject, and so on, in college, university, and life, this constant process of being hurt. We all know this. We are all human beings, we are hurt, deeply; of which we may not be conscious. And, from that hurt, there are all forms of neurotic actions. That's part of our consciousness; part of our hidden or open awareness that one is hurt.

Now is it possible not to be hurt at all? Because it's a very important question to ask. Because the consequences of being hurt are building a wall round oneself, withdrawing in our relationship with each other in order not to be hurt more. In that there is fear, a gradual isolation. Now we are asking: is it possible not only to be free of past hurts but also never to be hurt again; not through callousness, through indifference, through total disregard of all relationship, but rather enquire why and what is it that is being hurt? This hurt is, as we said, part of our consciousness; from which various neurotic contradictory actions take place. So we are examining, as we examined belief, we are examining hurt, which is part of our consciousness - please, it is not something outside of us, it's part of us. Now what is it that is hurt and is it possible never to be hurt? Do you understand, a human being that's free, total, never to be hurt by anything psychologically, inwardly? Isn't it an important question? And what is that is hurt? We say, that is me, I am hurt. What is that me? From childhood one has built up, built an image of oneself. We have many, many images; not only the images that people give us, but also the images that we ourselves have built: as an American, that's an image; as a Hindu, as a specialist. So, the 'me' is the image that I have built about myself, as a great man, or I am very good at this or that, and that image gets hurt. Right?

You have an image: you are a marvellous cook, a marvellous carpenter, great talker; I am not! Great talker, writer, spiritual being, a leader; we have created these images for ourselves. We have other images, which we won't go into for the moment. These images are the whole of me; when I say I am hurt, we mean the image is hurt. If I have an image about myself - which I have not - if I have one, you come along and tell me, don't be an idiot, I get hurt. That is, the image which I have built about myself as not being an idiot, a silly ass, you come along and say, you are, and that hurts me. And I carry that image, that hurt, for the rest of my life. Careful not to be hurt, warding off any statement of my idiocy. (Laughter) Don't laugh; it's your problem, not mine. Please, it's very serious, because the consequences of being hurt are very complex. And from that hurt we may want to fulfil, we may want to become this or that to escape from this terrible hurt. So one has to understand it. And is it possible not to have an image about oneself at all? Why do you have images about yourself? You may look very nice, bright, intelligent, clear-faced, and I want to be like you; and if I am not, I get hurt. So comparison may be one of the factors of being hurt, psychologically. Then, why do we compare? You understand all these questions?

So can one live a life in the modern world without a single image? The speaker may say, it is possible; it can be done. But that requires the understanding of relationship. What is relationship? - Have we got time to go into that? We have talked over an hour. You must be tired. If you are treating this as an entertainment, intellectual or otherwise, then it is just an amusement, something to do on Saturday morning. But if you are serious, in the deep sense of that word, committed to the solution of the human problems, then your brain must be as active as that of the speaker, not just accept a lot of words. Perhaps some of you are not used to all of this; because we think along the old traditional lines, habits, and take the easiest way of life. But this requires a great deal of energy; so that you find out whether it is possible never to be hurt. And whether it is possible to live a life without a single belief; which is dividing the world and human beings and so destroying each other. The South Americans believe in one thing and the Asiatic, the Western world believes something else. The ideas, the ideals, the ideologies, are destroying human beings. So whether one can live without a single belief; and to discover, never to be hurt, which means not to have an image about yourself; as a Hindu, as a Buddhist, as a Catholic, as a Protestant, as a professor; you may profess, you may teach, you may inform, but the image you have created about yourself as a professor, not what you profess, you understand? Is that possible? That's real freedom.

And it is possible when I am called an idiot, because I've an image about myself, if I have one - to give total attention to that statement as it is said. You understand? When I have an image about myself, and you call me an idiot, I react instantly. The reaction is immediate. As the reaction is immediate, to give attention to that immediacy. You understand? Am I making myself clear? That is, to listen very clearly to the idea that I am an idiot. You called me an idiot; to listen to it attentively, when you listen completely, there is no reaction. It is the lack of listening acutely that creates the image. Have you understood this? Suppose I have an image myself about myself, because I have travelled all over the world etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I have an image about myself. You come along and say, look, old boy, you're not as good as the other guru, or the other leader, or some other teacher, some other idiot. You are in yourself an idiot. I listen to that completely, give complete attention to what is being said. When there is total attention, there is no forming of a centre. It's only inattention that creates the centre. You have understood this?

Can one give such attention? You understand? A mind which has been so slack, a brain which has been confused, disturbed, neurotic, which has never actually faced anything, which has never demanded of itself its highest capacity; which is total attention. And when there is total attention to the statement that I am an idiot, it has lost totally all its significance. Because when there is attention there is not a centre which is reacting.

I have finished for this morning. I believe we meet tomorrow morning. May I get up please?

The Flame of Attention

Longer, Unedited Versions

Ojai 1st Public Talk 1st May 1982

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