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3rd Public Question & Answer Meeting - Thursday, 25th July, 1985

3rd Public Question & Answer Meeting - Thursday, 25th July, 1985

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Last Talks at Saanen 1985

There are too many questions to be able to answer all of them, but some of them have been chosen. I repeat, the speaker has not seen them. Before we go into those questions may I comment on something? People have been talking a great deal about art, about what is art. I believe the root meaning of that word is to put everything in its proper place. Can we talk a little bit about that first?

What do you think is the greatest art, the supreme art? Is it the art of listening, hearing, seeing, observing, perceiving and learning? Please, together we are investigating into this question, not the speaker talking to himself.

Let us begin with the art of hearing. We not only hear with the ears – words conveyed, vibrated to the brain; surely it is much more than that. Do we ever listen to anybody? Do you listen to your wife or husband, or your girl friend, really listen to what they are conveying, trying to say? Or do you translate what is being said into your own terminology, compare it with what you already know, judging, evaluating, agreeing, disagreeing? is that listening? The speaker is talking now, unfortunately; are you listening, actually paying attention to the meaning of words, to the content of the words, not translating, comparing, judging, agreeing, disagreeing – but just listening? Are you doing that now? Isn’t it one of the most important things, how we listen to another? That other may be wearing too strong a perfume and you are repelled by it, or you like it, and this like and dislike of a perfume, or other factors, may prevent you from listening to what the other person has to say.

If you have gone into this question rather deeply you will find it is one of the most difficult things to listen to another, completely. Are you doing it now? Or are you fidgety and so on?

So there is an art of hearing, of listening – right? And there is an art of seeing – seeing things as they are. When you look at a tree, do you translate it immediately into words and say, ‘Tree’? Or do you look at it, perceive it, see the shape of it, see the beauty of the light on a leaf, see the quality of that tree? It is not man-made fortunately; it is there. So do we see ourselves as we are, without condemnation, without judgement, evaluation and so on, just see what we are, our reactions and responses, our prejudices, opinions – just see them, not to do anything about it but just observe them. Can we do that?

So there is an art of seeing things as they are, without naming, without being caught in the network of words, without the whole operation of thinking interfering with perception. That is a great art.

And also there is an art of learning, isn’t there? What do we mean by learning? Generally learning is understood to mean memorizing, accumulating, storing up to use skilfully or not, learning a language, reading, writing, communicating and so on. The modern computers can do most of that better than we can. They are extraordinarily rapid. So what is the difference between us and the computer? The computer must be programmed. We also have been programmed in various ways: tradition, so-called culture, knowledge. And we have also been programmed to be Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Communist and all the rest of it. Is this all there is to learning? We are questioning. We are not saying that it is not. It is necessary to learn how to drive a car; to learn a language, and so on. But we are asking, is learning something much more? Are we together in this? Don’t just look at me, please – the person is not very interesting. We are asking something, which is: is learning merely memorizing? for if that is all, then the computer can do better than us. But isn’t learning something much more? Learning means constantly learning, not accumulating, not gathering in what one has seen, what one has observed, heard, learnt and storing it up.

Learning means, to the speaker, a constant observation, listening, moving, never taking a stand, never taking a position, never going back to memory and letting memory act. That is a great art.

Then there is the art of discipline. That word comes from disciple, one who learns from someone else, not necessarily from the teacher, from the guru – they are generally rather stupid – but to discipline oneself according to a pattern like a soldier, like a monk, like a person who wants to be very austere and disciplines his body: the whole process of control, direction, obedience, subservience and training. To me, to the speaker, discipline is a terrible thing. But if there is acute hearing, not only by the ear, but also deep listening to yourself, to everything that is happening around you, listening to the birds, to the river, to the forest, to the mountain, and observing the minutest insect on the floor, if you have good eyes to see it – all that constitutes a form of living which in itself becomes the discipline, there is constant movement.

I will go back to the question. Phew! It is pretty hot here! We have had most marvellous days, three weeks of it, lovely mornings, beautiful evenings, long shadows and the deep blue valleys and the clear blue sky and the snow. We have had a marvellous three weeks. A whole summer has never been like this. So the mountains, the valleys, the trees and the river, tell us goodbye. Can we go on with our questions?

I see that thought is responsible for my confusion. And yet in going into it, more thought is generated and there is no end to it. Please comment on this.

Thought is associated with other thoughts – right? There is no single thought. It is a series of movements which we call thinking. I think about my shoes, then how to keep them clean; I polish them (which I do). So thought by itself cannot exist – that is, one thought without all the associations in connection with it. And thinking is the very life of us. That is so obvious. You couldn’t be there and the speaker couldn’t be here if we hadn’t thought about it. We thought about it because there have been previous associations – reputation, books and all the blah, and you come here and I come, the speaker comes. So there is no single thought by itself. This is important to uncover. Thought is always in relation to something else; and in pursuing one thought other thoughts arise. The speaker is polishing his shoes and looks out of the window and he sees those mountains and he is off! And he has to come back and polish his shoes. I want to concentrate on something and the thought shoots off in another direction. I pull it back and try to concentrate. This goes on all the time from childhood until we die.

And the more I think about thought, the more thought there is: ‘I shouldn’t think along those lines, I must think rightly, is there right thinking, is there wrong thinking, is there purposeful thinking, what is the purpose of my life’, and so on? The whole process of thinking begins and there is no end to it. It has done the most extraordinary things. Technologically it has done the most appalling things, terrifying things. It has built all the rituals of every religion, and it has tortured human beings. It has expelled people from one part of the world to another, and so on and so on. Thought, whether Eastern or Western, is still thinking. It is not Eastern thinking and Western thinking, two separate things. Because thought is the thread – right? We are together?

So the question is: is there an end to thought – not your way of thinking, or my way of thinking, or saying we are all thinking together, we are all moving in the same direction? We are asking whether thought can ever stop. Which is, is there an end to time? Thinking is the result of knowledge, memory. To acquire knowledge, one needs time. Even the computer, which is so extraordinary, has to be given a split second before it gallops out what it wants to say. So when we are asking whether thought can ever end, we are also asking whether there is a stop to time. It is a rather interesting question if you go into it.

Time, what does that mean to us, not only psychologically but outwardly – sunset, sunrise, learning a language and so on and so on? You need time to go from here to there. Even the fastest train or aeroplane needs time to get here or there. So... please follow this – as long as there is a distance between ‘what is’ and ‘what might be’, ‘what I am’ and ‘what I will be’ – it may be a very short distance or centuries of distance – that distance can only be covered by time. So time implies evolution – right? You plant the seed in the earth, it takes a whole season to mature, grow, or a thousand years to become a full tree. Everything that grows or becomes needs time. Everything. So time and thought are not two separate movements. They are one solid movement. And we are asking whether thought and time have an end, a stop? How will you find out? This has been one of the problems confronting the human being from the beginning of man. This movement of time is a circle; time is a bondage. The hope, I hope, involves time. So man has asked not if there is timelessness but rather if there is an end to time. You understand the difference?

This is really a very serious question. We are not enquiring into the timeless. We are enquiring whether time, which is thought, has a stop. Now how will you discover that? Through analysis? Through so-called intuition? That word intuition, which has been used so much, may be most dangerous, it may be our hidden desire. It may be our deeply rooted motive of which we are not aware. It may be the prompting of our tendency, our own idiosyncrasy, our own particular accumulation of knowledge. So we are asking if you put all that aside, has time a stop? And we asked, how will you find out? You, not the speaker or anybody else, because what others say has no importance.

So, we have to enquire very, very deeply into the nature of time, which we did during the last few talks. We also went very deeply into the nature of thinking. Can all that come to an end? Or is it a gradual process? If it is a gradual process, the very gradualness is time, so it cannot be gradual – right? It cannot be ‘eventually’. It cannot be next weekend or tomorrow, or a few minutes later. It cannot be the next second either. All that allows time. If one really grasps all this, deeply comprehends the nature of thought the nature of time, discipline, the art of living – stay with it quietly, not cover it up by all kinds of movements, but stay with it – then there is a glimpse of its nature, an insight into it which is not related to memory, to anything. find out! The speaker can easily say, yes there is. That would be too childish. Unless we experiment – not just say yes, yes, or agree – unless we actually investigate, experiment, push it, go into it deeply, we can’t come upon a strange sense of timelessness.

The second question says: Please speak further on time and death.

We have talked a great deal about time, thought, and what relationship time has to death. What relationship has thought, thinking, to this extraordinary thing called death? If one is frightened of death then one will never see the dignity, the beauty and the depth of death. Fear is caused by thought and time. We have been into that very carefully. Fear doesn’t exist by itself. fear exists where there is a demand for security, not only biological, physical, security but much more. Human beings apparently insist, demand, require, to be psychologically secure.

So we have to enquire into security, that is being safe, protected. Security means protection – right? I have to protect that which gives me security, whether it is security of position, security of power, security of a great many possessions. To have millions in the bank gives you a great sense of security. To possess a good chalet gives you security. Security also implies having a companion who will stand by you, who will help you, who will comfort you, who will give you what you want and what she wants. So in the family we seek security. In the community we seek it. In the nation, in the tribe, and that very tribalism, nationalism, prevent that security because there is war, one tribe killing another tribe, one group destroying another group. So physically it’s becoming more and more difficult to be secure. The terrorists might come into this tent and blow us all up.

We not only need physical security but also psychological security. Psychological security is the greatest demand. But we are asking: is there psychological security at all? Please ask yourself this really very, very serious question: is there inwardly, subjectively, inside the skin as it were, any security at all? I can rely on you as an audience and you can rely on me as the speaker. If the speaker seeks security in you and has nobody to talk to, then he feels terribly insecure. So is there psychological security at all?

The world is changing constantly from day to day, it is in tremendous flux. It is so obvious. Physically one needs a little security to sit here, talk together, but that is gradually being restricted. You cannot do that in Communist countries. So one recognizes the fact that psychologically there is no security. That is the truth; there is no psychological security. I can believe, I can have faith, but you come along and tear it to pieces. The more I strengthen myself in belief the more that belief can be torn to pieces. I may have faith in something, in a symbol, in a person, but that can be pulled to pieces by argument, logic. So there is no psychological security at all. Though we have sought it, though we have tried to fulfil ourselves, done everything to be secure psychologically, at the end of it there is death.

There is death. And death is the most extraordinary thing. Putting an end to long continuity. In that continuity we hope to find security because the brain can only function excellently when it is completely secure – secure from terrorism, secure in a belief, secure in knowledge and so on and so on. All that comes to an end when there is death. I may have hope for the next life and all that stuff, but it is really the ending of a long continuity. I have identified myself with that continuity. That continuity is me. And death says, ‘Sorry old boy that is the end.’ And one is not frightened of death, really not frightened, for you are living constantly with death – that is, constantly ending. Not continuing and ending, but ending every day that which you have gathered, that which you have memorized, that which you have experienced.

Time gives us hope, thought gives us comfort, thought assures us a continuity, and we say, ‘Well, in the next life...’

But if I don’t end this silliness now, the stupidity, the illusions, and all the rest of it, they will be there in the next life – if there is a next life.

So time, thought, give continuity, and we cling to that continuity and therefore there is fear. And fear destroys love. Love, compassion and death. They are not separate movements.

So we are asking: can we live with death, and can thought and time have a stop? They are all related. Don’t separate time, thought and death. It is all one thing.

Is it not violence and corruption to have physical security while others are starving?

Who is asking this question? Please, the speaker is asking you, who has asked this question? Is it the man with physical security considering the poor, the starving, or is it the starving who are asking this question? If you and I are comfortable we can ask this question. If you and I are really very poor would we ask this question? You see, there are so many social reformers in the world, the do-gooders. I won’t go into it now because we haven’t time for it. Look at it carefully. Are they fulfilling themselves in social work, doing something for the poor? This question has been put to the speaker when he is in India – what are you doing for the poor? They are starving, you seem to be well fed, what do you do? So I am asking, who puts this question? The speaker is not avoiding the question. He has been brought up in poverty. Is it then the speaker when he was young, living in poverty, asking this question?

There is poverty in the world; there are slums, appalling conditions. (There are no slums in Switzerland apparently. Thank God!) There are slums, ghettos, the very, very, very poor, one meal a day and all that. What do we do about it? That is really the question, isn’t it? You may be wealthy, I may not be so wealthy, but the question is: what do we human beings, seeing all this, do about it? What is our responsibility? Are we concerned – please, we are not avoiding the question – are we concerned with poverty? Poverty. What does that mean? Physical poverty? Or psychological poverty? You understand? Being poor, psychologically, in the sense that you may have a lot of knowledge about the psyche but are still poor. The analyst is poor, and he is trying to correct the other person who is also poor.

So what is poverty? To be poor, not to be sophisticated, to be ignorant. So what is ignorance? Is it the lack of reading a book, of writing, having only one meal a day, one cloth a day? Or does poverty begin first psychologically? If I am rich inwardly I can do something. If I myself am poor inwardly, poverty means nothing outside.

So we have to understand not only what poverty is, but all that is involved in it – sympathy, generosity. If you have one shirt, you give it. Once the speaker was walking in the rain in India and a little boy came up and said, ‘Give me your shirt.’ I said, ‘All right.’ So I gave it to him. Then he said, ‘Give me your undershirt.’ I said, ‘Just a minute. Come with me to the house. You can have anything you like, food, clothes, anything you like, within limits of course.’ So he came with me, holding my hand; he was very poor, dirty. It was pouring and we walked together to the house. I left him, and went upstairs to get some clothes for him. And the boy went round the house, looking into every cupboard, all over the place. The person with whom the speaker was staying caught him and said, ‘What are you doing in this part of the house?’ ‘He asked me to come in,’ he said. ‘But he didn’t ask you to come upstairs and look into everything. So why are you doing it?’ And the boy got rather frightened and said, ‘My father is a robber.’ He was casing the house.

So we have to deal with poverty not only externally but also inwardly. Probably there would be no poverty in the world if all the nations got together and said we must solve this problem. They could. But nationalities divide them, communities divide them, religious beliefs divide them. So the whole world is opposed to the kind of action that puts aside all our nationalities, beliefs, religions and really helps by working all together to solve this problem of external poverty. Nobody will do this. We have talked to politicians, to higher people, but they are not interested. So begin with ourselves.

How, can our limited brain grasp the unlimited, which is beauty and truth? What is the ground of compassion and intelligence and can it really come upon each one of us? Right? Question clear?

How can our limited brain grasp the unlimited? It cannot, because it is limited. Can we grasp the significance, the depth, of the quality of the brain and recognize the fact – the fact not the idea – that our brains are limited by knowledge, by specialities, by particular disciplines, by belonging to a group, a nationality, and all the rest of it, which is basically self-interest, camouflaged, hidden, by all kinds of things – robes, crowns, rituals? Essentially, this limitation comes into being when there is self-interest. That is so obvious. When I am concerned with my own happiness, with my own fulfilment, with my own success, that very self-interest limits the quality of the brain and the energy of the brain – not, as we explained, that the speaker is a specialist in brains though he has talked to several professional people about it.

That brain, for millions of years, has evolved in time, death, and thought. Evolution means, does it not, a whole series of time events? To put all the religious rituals together needs time. So the brain has been conditioned, limited by its own volition, seeking its own security, keeping to its own backyard, saying, ‘I believe’, ‘I don’t believe’, ‘I agree’, ‘I don’t agree’, ‘This is my opinion’, ‘This is my judgement’ – self-interest. Whether it is in the hierarchy of religion, or among the various noted politicians, or the man who seeks power through money, or the professor with his tremendous scholastic knowledge, or the gurus, all of whom are talking about goodness, peace, and all the rest of it, it is part of self-interest. Face all this.

So our brain has become very, very, very small – not in its shape or its size, but we have reduced the quality of it which has immense capacity. Immense. Technologically, it has improved, and it also has immense capacity to go inwardly very, very, very deeply, but self-interest limits it. To discover for oneself where self-interest is hidden, is very subtle. It may hide behind an illusion, in neuroticism, in make-believe, in some family name. Uncover every stone, every blade of grass to find out. Either you take time to find out, which again becomes a bondage, or you see the thing, grasp it, have an insight into it instantly. When you have a complete insight it covers the whole field.

So the questioner says, how can the brain, which is conditioned, grasp the unlimited, which is beauty, love and truth? What is the ground of compassion and intelligence, and can it come upon us – upon each one of us? Are you inviting compassion? Are you inviting intelligence? Are you inviting beauty, love and truth? Are you trying to grasp it? I am asking you. Are you trying to grasp what is the quality of intelligence, compassion, the immense sense of beauty, the perfume of love and that truth which has no path to it? Is that what you are grasping – wanting to find out the ground upon which it dwells? Can the limited brain grasp this? You cannot possibly grasp it, hold it, though you do all kinds of meditation, fast, torture yourself, become terribly austere, having one cloth, or one robe. The rich cannot come to the truth, neither can the poor, nor the people who have taken a vow of celibacy, of silence, of austerity. All that is determined by thought, put together sequentially by thought; it is all the cultivation of deliberate thought, of deliberate intent. As a person said to the speaker, ‘Give me twelve years and I’ll make you see God.’

So, as the brain is limited, do whatever you will, sit cross-legged, lotus posture, go off into a trance, meditate, stand on your head, or on one leg – whatever you do, you will never come upon it. Compassion doesn’t come to it.

Therefore one must understand what love is. Love is not sensation. Love is not pleasure, desire, fulfilment. Love is not jealousy, hatred. Love has sympathy, generosity and tact, but these qualities are not love. To understand that, to come to that, requires a great sense and appreciation of beauty. Not the beauty of a woman or of a man, or a cinema star. Beauty is not in the mountain, in the skies, in the valleys, or in the flowing river. Beauty exists only where there is love. And beauty, love is compassion. There is no ground for compassion; it doesn’t stay at your convenience. That beauty, love, truth is the highest form of intelligence. When there is that intelligence there is action, clarity, a tremendous sense of dignity. It is something unimaginable. And that which is not to be imagined, or the unlimited, cannot be put into words. It can be described; philosophers have described it, but the philosophers who have described it are not that which they have described.

So to come upon this great sense, there must be the absence of the me, the ego, egocentric activity, the becoming. There must be a great silence in one. Silence means emptiness of everything. In that there is vast space. Where there is vast space there is immense energy, not self-interested energy – unlimited energy.