SRI LANKA 3RD PUBLIC TALK 15TH NOVEMBER 1980
We have only this talk and tomorrow, so we have to make a rapid survey, and we cannot possibly go into all the details of what we are going to talk about. But I am sure you will fill the gaps.
As we were saying last Saturday and Sunday, one has to learn the art of listening, the art of seeing and the art of learning. Listening is not to interpret what you hear according to your own accustomed, easy ways, but rather try to find out not only what the speaker is saying, but also to listen to your own thoughts, to your own emotions, to your own reactions; not try to change them, not try to suppress them, but merely watch them. And so listening plays an important part if you are willing and serious enough to listen very attentively, patiently and quietly.
And also, as we said, the art of seeing, not only with your visual eyes, with the optic responses, but also to see beyond the words, to read between the lines as it were, to see what lies behind the words, because the words are not the actuality. A description of the mountain is not the mountain, the flowing river, with all its vitality and the volume of water behind it, that river, the word 'river' is not that which is alive. So one has to observe very acutely, with great care, attentively. And the art of learning is quite a complex affair. The the art of listening, the art of seeing and the art of learning. We are accustomed to accumulate knowledge; knowledge through experience, memory stored up in the brain, and we are always functioning, learning within that field of the known. The known is the past modified by the present and continues in the future. Within that area, within that field we always function. And learning through action, through experience, storing it up as memory and functioning with that memory, skilfully or not. This is what our minds are always doing. From the known, the knowledge, act, learn, and from that action of learning, accumulating more. This is the cycle in which we are always functioning. If you observe this, this is an obvious fact. But there is a totally different kind of learning, a learning which is not accumulation. That we shall go into as we go along in our talk today and tomorrow.
As we were saying, we have to read that book of which we are. We are the whole content of mankind, each one of us - mankind being the sorrow, pleasures, desires, anxieties, the pain, fears, nationalities, cultures: all that is in the book, the book which is us. The book is not different from us. We are the book. And I think it is very important if I may - if one may point out, to understand this: what you read is you, you are not different from that which you read; and if you interpret what you read according to your desire, according to your pleasure or fear, then you won't read the book at all. That fear, that anxiety, that suffering is part of you. So if one wants to read that book actually, one has to see that the observer, the reader, is that which he is reading. I wonder if we understand this. The observer is the observed. The thinker is the thought. There is no thinker apart from thought. This is a fact. The experiencer who thinks he must experience, and that which he experiences is the experiencer. But most of us think that thought is different from the thinker; so the thinker is always trying to control, suppress thought and so on. When one actually observes the thinker is the thought, then the division between the thinker and thought comes to an end and therefore conflict comes to an end. One hopes that we are together going into this, that you are not merely, if one may point out, that you are merely listening to a talk, to a series of words, but rather we are together walking on the same path, with the same step, with the same quietness and enquiry. So we can go into this, that there is no separation between the thinker and the thought. Thought makes the thinker and thought separates the thinker. The thinker then becomes a master who controls thought. And this control, this suppression, this discipline in thought is by the thinker which thought has created. Therefore thought is the thinker.
So if this is clear, that there is no division between the thinker and thought. Where there is division, there must be conflict. That is a law. As there is division between the Muslim and the Hindu, the Buddhist and the other Buddhist, the division between the Catholics and the Protestants and so on. Where there is division nationally, religiously there must be conflict. Our minds are accustomed to conflict; from the moment we are born till we die, it is a perpetual struggle, perpetual strife, constant battle within oneself and outwardly, and if one realizes, not verbally, not intellectually, but the fact that the thinker is the thought and that there is no division between the two, therefore one begins to understand the nature of conflict and the ending of conflict.
This evening we shall go into desire, pleasure, suffering and if there is time and the whole meaning and the significance of death. A man who is greatly concerned with humanity, with man's suffering, man's conflict, man's violence, and all the travail that man goes through in life, he must begin to enquire, as we are doing now together, into the nature and the structure of desire. Desire plays an immense part in our life. Desire as we grow a little more mature varies; the object varies, but desire is the same: whether you desire for a car, for a woman, for god, for an illumination, that desire is the same. There is no noble desire and ignoble desire, but only desire. Are we coming together? Are we understanding each other? So we are going together to examine very carefully the nature of desire. Because for us desire, with its will is the constant factor in life. Desire is will. Will is the summation of desire, and we operate, function with will: I must and I must not. This constant activity of will is the essence of desire. Right? May we go along? So together we are going to investigate and learn: learn, not merely repeat, but learn as we are investigating and moving. Do you understand what I mean?
We are going to look into desire. In the very looking into desire you begin to see, have an insight into the nature of it. When you have an insight, comprehension of it, there is no need or necessity to repeat the structure of desire, which will become merely verbal. Am I making myself clear? No? If it is not very clear we will talk more about it before we go into it. When you look, examine a watch, undo it, look into it, see how it works, you are learning the movement of the watch. The learning how the watch works is not mere memory, you are learning the operation of it as it moves. Right?
So we are now looking into desire. You know what desire is. Most people do. Desire, and non-desire. First, what is desire which plays such an important role in our life? Most religious groups, monks of various religious denominations, have always said, suppress or transmute desire: if you want to serve god, you must have no desire for the world, for a woman, for a man and so on. It has always been a suppressive process, a disciplining of desire. We are neither suppressing it, avoiding it or transmuting it. We are examining the nature of desire. There is no question of trying to avoid it, trying to look at it in order to escape from it. We are together going into the nature and structure of desire. So please understand that. We are not suppressing it, we are not avoiding it, we are not rationalizing it. We are merely examining very closely what is desire. If you understand the nature of it, there will be no question of suppressing it or avoiding it or rationalizing it. Is this clear? So we are asking what is desire. Obviously the word is not the feeling, the reaction. So we must be clear when we are using the word 'desire', that the word is not the reaction, that feeling of wanting.
These are nice flowers, aren't they. You know we have so little beauty in life. There are beautiful trees around in this country, lovely clouds, marvellous flowers and orchids. We never see the beauty in them. We are too occupied with our own worries and problems and desires and anxieties. We never look at a sunset and enjoy the beauty of the light. We are losing not only the appreciation of outward beauty, but also perhaps very few of us have the inward beauty, the beauty that does not depend on things, on pictures, on statues, or on a sunset or on a tree. That beauty comes only when there is great love, compassion; not for something, in itself, per se. That is only a side issue. Though beauty one must have to enquire what is truth. Without that great sense of beauty you can never come upon that which is truth.
So, what is desire? Man has been haunted by this and the conflict that lies in desire itself. We are together examining, exploring, learning the nature of this. Is not desire the beginning of perception, seeing? I will go into it very carefully, slowly. The seeing with your eyes, optical perception, seeing the flowers, the trees, the cars, the women, seeing the world. That is the beginning of desire: seeing, tasting, smelling. So, seeing a tree, a house, a car, a woman, a man, a lovely garden, seeing and touching it, contact with it, then sensation. Then thought, please listen, thought creates the image of you owning that garden, that car, this and that. Right? That is, seeing, contact, touching, then sensation. Then thought says or creates an image of you sitting in that car and driving it. Right? Is that clear? Seeing, contact, sensation, thought creating the image; then desire is born. When thought creates the image, that is the beginning of desire. Have you understood? Are we together, or not at all? No?
K: Sir, look at it, go into yourself, you will see this. It is a very simple fact: that the very seeing, contact, sensation, that is natural, normal, and also it is normal for thought to create an image of you having that shirt, the blue shirt or that particular robe and at that moment, creating the image, at that moment desire is born. You can see it for yourself. You see a nice trousers or robe, or something in the window - the seeing, going inside the shop, touching it, then thought saying, how nice it will look on me; you have formed the image, at that moment desire flowers. Right? So if you understand this very carefully that when thought creates an image, that is the beginning of desire, then can that image come to an end? Are you following? Are we together, again, or going off? I am not talking to myself. I can do this if I want to, the speaker wants to, in his room. But we are together going into this. You may not be accustomed to this explanation of what desire is. If you are not accustomed, then please listen, put away all your conditioning which says you must not desire, or you must desire, and all that. For the moment put all that aside and look at it very carefully. The moment thought creates the image of you in that car, in that shirt, in that robe, then desire begins.
Now, can one learn the fact of seeing, contact, sensation and only that and not let thought create the image? Have you understood this? Come on sirs! Have you understood this? There is a discipline, that is, seeing, contact, sensation and the moment thought creates the image, desire. The discipline is to learn. The word 'discipline' comes from the Latin, disciple, a disciple is one who learns. What we have made of that word is to discipline means to copy, to imitate, to conform, to obey, to follow. All those deny totally learning. All right? So if one learns the fact that desire begins when thought interferes with sensation. You have had a great pleasure, suppose, yesterday, that incident of pleasure is recorded in the brain and desire says, I must have more of that pleasure. Right? So discipline means to learn. And we are learning together the nature of desire. Right? Have you understand, if one may ask, whether you have seen how the nature of desire comes? If you once see it, actually, there is never a question of suppression or trying to control it, or trying to change it. If you have understood how desire arises and be aware at that moment, to pay complete attention at that moment when thought creates the image, then there is no question of suppression, avoidance or rationalizing desire.
Desire is pleasure. We are all slaves to pleasure - pleasure of possession, pleasure of power, not the power of great politicians, but the power you have over your wife, on your children, or your clerks, your underlings. The desire for power which most people have. That is a form of pleasure. And this pleasure man pursues endlessly. If you are not pleased with one thing, you go after another. If you are not pleased with your wife or husband, you change them. And this pursuit of pleasure is totally different from enjoyment. May I go on? Are you all awake, or asleep? Pleasure has been one of the driving factors in human life. Please understand because we are coming to something which is quite difficult. So we must understand pleasure; sexual pleasure, the pleasure of possession, the pleasure of money, pleasure that an ascetic has when he trains his body, completely controls it, the pleasure of belief; and the ultimate pleasure of a man is apparently what he believes in: he believes in god and that is such great pleasure that he doesn't want to be disturbed. We are now going to look into the nature of pleasure.
As the speaker said, enjoyment is totally different from pleasure. When you see a beautiful sunset or a vast running river, there is a delight, there is beauty in it. The mind has recorded that water, the beauty in that water, the light in that water, the swift current in that water, and it has given great pleasure, and he wants it again, comes back to morrow to see that river again, hoping to have the same pleasure; or when you see a sunset, the glory of a flower. Enjoyment is not pleasure, because you enjoy and it is finished, but the moment it is recorded there is pursuit of what you have enjoyed, of what you have had pleasure in, is the continuation of the past through the present to the future. Have you understood this? This is our constant movement in life: desire and pleasure. Pleasure means the avoidance of punishment and holding on to that which is pleasurable. Therefore our minds function always within punishment and reward. If you are a religious person you think heaven is the ultimate pleasure because heaven then is the reward for doing good and living rightly and so on. If you are not doing the right thing there is the other place. There is always this reward and punishment. And is pleasure and desire love? That word 'love' has been so misused, so degraded, so spat upon, that it has lost its beauty. We associate love with sex. So we must ask whether love is pleasure or desire? Ask it, sirs. I am asking, the speaker is asking it, you have to ask yourself that question, and honestly answer it for yourself. We will go into it still further after going into the question of suffering.
Man has lived with suffering, through centuries upon centuries and apparently he has never been able to end it. That is one of our accustomed ways of bearing with something unpleasant, something that gives us great pain and never finding a solution for suffering. There are various ways of suffering: not only loss of those whom you think you love, through death, but suffering is also losing a position; poverty, injustice, sense of incompleteness in oneself, the utter state of ignorance that man lives in though he has accumulated vast knowledge about the heavens and earth and of matter and technology, he is still ignorant and so breeds great suffering. So we live with suffering and we have accepted it. We have never said: can it end? There are those who give all kinds of explanations how to go beyond suffering: have faith in god, faith in your saviour, faith in the Buddha, faith in Krishna or whatever it is. So we have borne suffering endlessly and we are asking if suffering can end, not temporarily but completely, so that the mind which has struggled in pain, in sorrow has a totally different state, a different movement. A mind that suffers cannot think clearly, a mind that suffers cannot have love, a mind that suffers escapes into some fanciful images, a mind that suffers has no relationship with another, however intimate, they may live together, a mind that is suffering has no relationship. Suffering becomes an isolation. There is not only personal suffering, but also there is universal suffering, mankind suffering: suffers after the war, the shedding of tears of millions and millions of people, the mother losing a baby, the man who want to fulfil his ambition, who wants to be a great man and is incapable of it and therefore suffers. We have found comforting solutions for suffering. When one suffers one seeks comfort and that comfort may be an actuality or an illusion, in some romantic illusory fancy. We are asking if there is an end to sorrow. Don't say, please,if you are a Buddhist, we have heard this before: the Buddha said - which means what? You are merely repeating what someone else has said. But you haven't solved the problem. You are merely quoting somebody, however great he may be, he is not the solution of suffering. So please find out if sorrow can end. Without the ending of sorrow, there is no compassion.
Why does one suffer? You all know what suffering is, but you have never asked why, and gone into it, not depending on anybody, not depending on the Buddha or what he said or what other religious leaders have said in another country. Put all that aside, because what they have said may be true or may not be true, but you as a human being suffer and if you don't solve that problem, end it, resolve it, your life becomes more and more mechanical, more and more repetitive and rather superficial. You may repeat, or read sacred books, and repeat the sacred statements, life becomes superficial more and more and more, which is what is happening. So it is important to enquire if sorrow will end.
What is sorrow? Is it the loss of something - the loss of a job, the loss of your so-called loved ones, loss of prestige, power, position, money? What is sorrow? Is it self-pity? Examine it, please, as we are talking. The speaker is only a mirror expressing that which is in you, the book. And when you look at the mirror, the mirror is not important, but what you see in the mirror is important. Then you can throw away the mirror, destroy it, break it up, otherwise you make the mirror into an image. So what is sorrow? The loss of someone, the loneliness of man, the isolation of man, the grief that comes with having no relationship with another, and ultimately death. As we said,is it self-pity? Examine it, sir, don't be shy of these things. One has to be very precise in examining these things. Is it self-pity? The loss of someone in whom you have put all your affection, your care, your so-called - all that in someone, and that someone dies, goes away, runs away, rejects you and you feel so utterly miserable. That is one form of grief. The other, your mind has become so traditional, so repetitive, mechanical and you can't see something immediately, something that is true instantly. That is also great sorrow. As one grows older, there is disease, the body withers and the mind slowly loses its capacity. These are some of the factors, and looking at all these factors you will have to find out what is your reaction to these factors, how you respond, that is, you want power, you want money, you want position, you want justice, you want social revolution. You want to find, if you are really a serious, religious person, you want to find that timeless which is truth. And a mind that is confused, uncertain, insecure is always suffering. Is that also a factor that the mind has never found security? One may have security in a job, one may have security in the family, which I doubt, which one doubts always, a security in your belief, but there is no security in belief whatsoever, or in faith, because doubt destroys faith. Doubt tears apart all belief. But man at the end of all these explanations is suffering, not only for himself, but also sees the world with all its misery, confusion, poverty, ugliness, violence, wars. When one sees all that, that is also great sorrow. Can sorrow end? The speaker says it can. You cannot accept what he says, he is not an authority, he is not a guru, you are not his followers. The follower destroys the guru, the guru destroys the follower. So can one see the nature of suffering and not run away from it, not try to find comfort, not try to rationalize it by saying, in my last life I did this therefore I am paying for it. You know all those kind of tricks that man plays. Which all means, can you remain with that suffering without any movement of thought? The moment thought comes into being and says "I must find a way out of this", suffering still remains, you are merely running away from it. But if you remaIn completely immovable with that thing which you call suffering, then you will see that suffering completely ends and there is a totally different beginning.
And we ought also to enquire together into what is death. Because that is part of our life - the living and the dying; the living with all its ugliness, its beauties, travail, anxieties, struggle, and death is an ending of the organism through disease, old age or an accident. Most human beings, whether religious or otherwise, are frightened of death. That is, they are living and so they say death can be postponed. Do you understand what I am saying? There is a gap between living, and a wipe gap of death. This is a fact. Why have we done this? Why has the mind separated death and living? Please find out. This is your problem. Find out in your heart, in your mind, if you are thinking, if you are alive, if you are active, not merely traditionally repeating, repeating, active, why has man throughout the ages separated living and the dying. Which means, time come in between. You understand, time? The time may be years or two days. There is an interval between living and dying, which is time. Right? Come on, sirs! Why? To find this out one has to enquire what is living and what is dying. You understand, sirs? Are we together, moving together? Or do you have explanations already about death, or you already believe in reincarnation, in karma, that you will be resurrected in heaven, and so on and so on. Which means you are so conditioned, your mind is so narrowed down to a belief, to a conclusion, that you are incapable of answering this question; which means your mind has become a slave to words, slave to beliefs, slave to some kind of comforting conclusions, ideas. So you will never understand why human beings have done this throughout millennia upon millennia, this division, this conflict, this fear. Therefore to enquire into that you must enquire what is living.
Is there in living, in our daily life, the job from morning till night, 9 o'clock till 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock, day after day, month after month, and year after year, repeat, repeat, repeat: that is one part of living. The living with your family, with your wife, with your neighbour, conflict between you and your wife or husband, the sexual desires, their fulfilment, their pursuit, and the conflict that exists between two human beings everlastingly, and the conflict between 'what is' and 'what should be', the holding on to power, political, religious - think of a religious person having power. Do you understand how ridiculous it has become. So what is living? Please answer to yourselves. What is living? One continuation of strife, with occasional joy, the pursuit of pleasure, fear. That is, the whole of life, is that. Nobody can deny it. You don't have to go to any priest, any psychologist, to any guru, that is your life; mechanical, repetitive, traditional, believing in something which has no value. What is important is what you are doing, how you are acting, how you behave, all that.
So that is what we call life: the living, the attachment to another with its fears, anxieties, jealousies. Where there is attachment there is corruption. When a man holds power and is attached to that power, he is breeding corruption. When a high priest holds a position, becomes the authority, he is inevitably cultivating corruption. You see all this happening under your eyes, under your nose. That is what our life is. You are afraid to let that go. The letting go of that is death. Right? That is what we consider death. You are attached to your money, your position, or you are very poor, where there is no justice, nothing, you are empty in yourself, insufficient. That is the living and you hold on to that. And that is the known. Right? That is the known, everybody knows that. And the unknown is death. You may say there is reincarnation, there is proof and so on and so on - we will go into that a bit later if we have time. So this is our life. While living can you end attachment? Attachment to a belief, to a person, to a family, to an ideal, to a particular tradition; can you let that go? Death is going to make you do that. One may be attached to a person very deeply because you are lonely, you need comfort, you need companionship, you can't stand alone. Therefore you depend, and dependence means attachment, and where there is attachment there is jealousy, anxiety, fear and all the action arising from that, which is corruption. Now death says end, you are going to die. While living can you end it? Do you understand my question? Oh, yes, you understand it very well. It is fairly simple. Suppose the speaker is attached to his position - god forbid! - he is not, but suppose he is, think of the corruption, how the mind gets corrupted. He must need an audience, he depends on an audience, he draws energy from the audience, the larger the better, so there is competition and all the horror involved in that. So the ending is the beginning of something totally new. The ending of attachment completely which is death; when you end it completely there is a totally different dimension of existence. Then what is death?
We have looked into what is living with its chaos, misery, confusion, slight order, and the labour, endless labour. What is death? Death is not only the physical organism, the body getting old, diseased or accident, being misused, indulging endlessly, sensation, appetite, excitement and gradually withering, consciously, or withering in great pain, with various kinds of diseases. So is that what is death? The dying of the organism? We know that. We recognize it. We see it. But also we say there is something that cannot die, the soul, the Atman, that something which is permanent - these are the various beliefs - which, when you die, reincarnates. Some of you very deeply believe in all this, though some of you are Buddhists, etc. All religions offer various kinds of comfort; comfort is not truth, comfort is not the understanding of a mind that penetrates through all kinds of illusions, dogmas, rituals. So, is there something permanent in man, in you? If there is something permanent in you then that has a possibility of being born next life. Merely to believe in reincarnation has no meaning. If you believe in it, then what you do now today matters infinitely. Right? If you believe in reincarnation, because then what you do now either you will have a better position, a bigger house, you know all that - or be nearer heaven, which are all the same.
So, is there something permanent in you, the 'me', the you, the mind that says I am permanent? Is there anything lasting, or is everything is moving, changing, there is nothing permanent? Is your relationship with another permanent, are your gods permanent, gods being put there by thought for your comfort, to escape from your mischief of daily life into something precious, which is an illusion? We are asking together, to find out for yourself if there is anything permanent in your life? The house is permanent, permanent unless an earthquake comes. The trees are permanent, the ocean, the rivers, the mountains are permanent. Apart from that is there anything permanent, lasting, enduring, in your life? The 'me', the 'I' the ego, has been put together by thought: The name, the form, the quality, the character, the idiosyncracies, the capacities, the talents and so on, all that is the result of your culture and certain forms of education. As there is nothing permanent, you are not permanent; a physical body you have, but your thoughts are not permanent, they are changing, constantly modifying; your beliefs, you take comfort in your beliefs and think there is security in your belief. That is why it is so hard to give up your beliefs. Belief is just a word, just an idea, a concept and you take refuge in that concept. That is not security. Have you watched your religious people, how secure they are in their position, in their belief, in their dogma? And that security is a form of illusion. So there is nothing whatsoever permanent. To realize that may be very depressing, melancholic, but it is not. When you see that fact that there is nothing enduring, that very seeing is intelligence, and in that intelligence there is complete security. That is not your intelligence or my intelligence, it is intelligence. As long as there is attachment, there must be corruption: to see the truth of it immediately and the ending of it immediately is intelligence. That intelligence is the only factor of security - not security, that's the wrong word - that intelligence, not being yours or another's is that intelligence of something infinite.
Perhaps tomorrow we will talk about the nature of affection, love and compassion, and meditation. As we said, where there is suffering, there is no compassion; where there is compassion it has its own intelligence.