If you think it is important to know about yourself only because I or someone else has told you it is important, then I am afraid all communication between us comes to an end. But if we agree that it is vital that we understand ourselves completely, then you and I have quite a different relationship, then we can explore together with a happy, careful and intelligent enquiry.
I do not demand your faith; I am not setting myself up as an authority. I have nothing to teach you – no new philosophy, no new system, no new path to reality; there is no path to reality any more than to truth. All authority of any kind, especially in the field of thought and understanding, is the most destructive, evil thing. Leaders destroy the followers and followers destroy the leaders. You have to be your own teacher and your own disciple. You have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary.
If you do not follow somebody you feel very lonely. Be lonely then. Why are you frightened of being alone? Because you are faced with yourself as you are and you find that you are empty, dull, stupid, ugly, guilty and anxious – a petty, shoddy, second-hand entity. Face the fact; look at it, do not run away from it. The moment you run away fear begins.
In enquiring into ourselves we are not isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. It is not an unhealthy process. Man throughout the world is caught up in the same daily problems as ourselves, so in enquiring into ourselves we are not being in the least neurotic because there is no difference between the individual and the collective. That is an actual fact. I have created the world as I am. So don’t let us get lost in this battle between the part and the whole.
I must become aware of the total field of my own self, which is the consciousness of the individual and of society. It is only then, when the mind goes beyond this individual and social consciousness, that I can become a light to myself that never goes out.
Now where do we begin to understand ourselves? Here am I, and how am I to study myself, observe myself, see what is actually taking place inside myself? I can observe myself only in relationship because all life is relationship. It is no use sitting in a corner meditating about myself. I cannot exist by myself. I exist only in relationship to people, things and ideas, and in studying my relationship to outward things and people, as well as to inward things, I begin to understand myself. Every other form of understanding is merely an abstraction and I cannot study myself in abstraction; I am not an abstract entity; therefore I have to study myself in actuality – as I am, not as I wish to be.
Understanding is not an intellectual process. Accumulating knowledge about yourself and learning about yourself are two different things, for the knowledge you accumulate about yourself is always of the past and a mind that is burdened with the past is a sorrowful mind. Learning about yourself is not like learning a language or a technology or in the present and knowledge is always in the past, and as most of us live in the past and are satisfied with the past, knowledge becomes extraordinarily important to us. That is why we worship the erudite, the clever, the cunning. But if you are learning all the time, learning every minute, learning by watching and listening, learning by seeing and doing, then you will find that learning is a constant movement without the past.
If you say you will learn gradually about yourself, adding more and more, little by little, you are not studying yourself now as you are but through acquired knowledge. Learning implies a great sensitivity. There is no sensitivity if there is an idea, which is of the past, dominating the present. Then the mind is no longer quick, pliable, alert. Most of us are not sensitive even physically. We overeat, we do not bother about the right diet, we over smoke and drink so that our bodies become gross and insensitive; the quality of attention in the organism itself is made dull. How can there be a very alert, sensitive, clear mind if the organism itself is dull and heavy? We may be sensitive about certain things that touch us personally but to be completely sensitive to all the implications of life demand that there be no separation between the organism and the psyche. It is a total movement.
To understand anything you must live with it, you must observe it, you must know all its content, its nature, its structure, its movement. Have you ever tried living with yourself? If so, you will begin to see that yourself is not a static state, it is a fresh living thing. And to live with a living thing your mind must also be alive. And it cannot be alive if it is caught in opinions, judgements and values.
In order to observe the movement of your own mind and heart, of your whole being, you must have a free mind, not a mind that agrees and disagrees, taking sides in an argument, disputing over mere words, but rather following with an intention to understand – a very difficult thing to do because most of us don’t know how to look at, or listen to, our own being any more than we know how to look at the beauty of a river or listen to the breeze among the trees.
When we condemn or justify we cannot see clearly, nor can we when our minds are endlessly chattering; then we do not observe what is we look only at the projections we have made of ourselves. Each of us has an image of what we think we are or what we should be, and that image, that picture, entirely prevents us from seeing ourselves as we actually are.
It is one of the most difficult things in the world to look at anything simply. Because our minds are very complex we have lost the quality of simplicity. I don’t mean simplicity in clothes or food, wearing only a loin cloth or breaking a record fasting or any of that immature nonsense the saints cultivate, but the simplicity that can look directly at things without fear – that can look at ourselves as we actually are without any distortion – to say when we lie we lie, not cover it up or run away from it.
Also in order to understand ourselves we need a great deal of humility. If you start by saying,
I know myself', you have already stopped learning about yourself; or if you say,There is nothing much to learn about myself because I am just a bundle of memories, ideas, experiences and traditions’, then you have also stopped learning about yourself. The moment you have achieved anything you cease to have that quality of innocence and humility; the moment you have a conclusion or start examining from knowledge, you are finished, for then you are translating every living thing in terms of the old. Whereas if you have no foothold, if there is no certainty, no achievement, there is freedom to look, to achieve. And when you look with freedom it is always new. A confident man is a dead human being.
But how can we be free to look and learn when our minds from the moment we are born to the moment we die are shaped by a particular culture in the narrow pattern of the `me’? For centuries we have been conditioned by nationality, caste, class, tradition, religion, language, education, literature, art, custom, convention, propaganda of all kinds, economic pressure, the food we eat, the climate we live in, our family, our friends, our experiences – every influence you can think of – and therefore our responses to every problem are conditioned.
Are you aware that you are conditioned? That is the first thing to ask yourself, not how to be free of your conditioning. You may never be free of it, and if you say,
I must be free of it', you may fall into another trap of another form of conditioning. So are you aware that you are conditioned? Do you know that even when you look at a tree and say,That is an oak tree’, or `that is a banyan tree’, the naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has so conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and actually seeing the tree? To come in contact with the tree you have to put your hand on it and the word will not help you to touch it.
How do you know you are conditioned? What tells you? What tells you you are hungry? – not as a theory but the actual fact of hunger? In the same way, how do you discover the actual fact that you are conditioned? Isn’t it by your reaction to a problem, a challenge? You respond to every challenge according to your conditioning and your conditioning being inadequate will always react inadequately.
When you become aware of it, does this conditioning of race, religion and culture bring a sense of imprisonment? Take only one form of conditioning, nationality, become seriously, completely aware of it and see whether you enjoy it or rebel against it, and if you rebel against it, whether you want to break through all conditioning. If you are satisfied with your conditioning you will obviously do nothing about it, but if you are not satisfied when you become aware of it, you will realize that you never do anything without it. Never! And therefore you are always living in the past with the dead.
You will be able to see for yourself how you are conditioned only when there is a conflict in the continuity of pleasure or the avoidance of pain. If everything is perfectly happy around you, your wife loves you, you love her, you have a nice house, nice children and plenty of money, then you are not aware of your conditioning at all. But when there is a disturbance – when your wife looks at someone else or you lose your money or are threatened with war or any other pain or anxiety – then you know you are conditioned. When you struggle against any kind of disturbance or defend yourself against any outer or inner threat, then you know you are conditioned. And as most of us are disturbed most of the time, either superficially or deeply, that very disturbance indicates that we are conditioned. So long as the animal is petted he reacts nicely, but the moment he is antagonized the whole violence of his nature comes out.
We are disturbed about life, politics, the economic situation, the horror, the brutality, the sorrow in the world as well as in ourselves, and from that we realize how terribly narrowly conditioned we are. And what shall we do? Accept that disturbance and live with it as most of us do?
Get used to it as one gets used to living with a backache? Put up with it?
There is a tendency in all of us to put up with things, to get used to them, to blame them on circumstances.
Ah, if things were right I would be different', we say, or,Give me the opportunity and I will fulfil myself’, or, `I am crushed by the injustice of it all’, always blaming our disturbances on others or on our environment or on the economic situation.
If one gets used to disturbance it means that one’s mind has become dull, just as one can get so used to beauty around one that one no longer notices it. One gets indifferent, hard and callous, and one’s mind becomes duller and duller. If we do not get used to it we try to escape from it by taking some kind of drug, joining a political group, shouting, writing, going to a football match or to a temple or church or finding some other form of amusement.
Why is it that we escape from actual facts? We are afraid of death – I am just taking that as an example – and we invent all kinds of theories, hopes, beliefs, to disguise the fact of death, but the fact is still there. To understand a fact we must look at it, not run away from it. Most of us are afraid of living as well as of dying. We are afraid for our family, afraid of public opinion, of losing our job, our security, and hundreds of other things. The simple fact is that we are afraid, not that we are afraid of this or that. Now why cannot we face that fact?
You can face a fact only in the present and if you never allow it to be present because you are always escaping from it, you can never face it, and because we have cultivated a hole network of escapes we are caught in the habit of escape.
Now, if you are at all sensitive, at all serious, you will not only be aware of your conditioning but you will also be aware of the dangers it results in, what brutality and hatred it leads to. Why, then, if you see the danger of your conditioning, don’t you act? Is it because you are lazy, laziness being lack of energy? Yet you will not lack energy if you see an immediate physical danger like a snake in your path, or a precipice, or a fire. Why, then, don’t you act when you see the danger of your conditioning? If you saw the danger of nationalism to your own security, wouldn’t you act?
The answer is you don’t see. Through an intellectual process of analysis you may see that nationalism leads to self-destruction but there is no emotional content in that. Only when there is an emotional content do you become vital.
If you see the danger of your conditioning merely as an intellectual concept, you will never do anything about it. In seeing a danger as a mere idea there is conflict between the idea and action and that conflict takes away your energy. It is only when you see the conditioning and the danger of it immediately, and as you would see a precipice, that you act. So seeing is acting.
Most of us walk through life inattentively, reacting unthinkingly according to the environment in which we have been brought up, and such reactions create only further bondage, further conditioning, but the moment you give your total attention to your conditioning you will see that you are free from the past completely, that it falls away from you naturally./.