“I think most of us find life very dull. To earn a livelihood we have to do a certain job, and it becomes very monotonous; a routine is set going which we follow year after year almost until our death. Whether we are rich or poor, and though we may be very erudite, have a philosophical bent, our lives are for the most part rather shallow, empty. There is obviously an insufficiency in ourselves, and being aware of this emptiness, we try to enrich it through knowledge or through some kind of social activity, or we escape through various kinds of amusement or cling to a religious belief. Even if we have a certain capacity and are very efficient, our lives are still pretty dull, and to get away from this dullness, this weary monotony of life, we seek some form of religious enrichment; we try to capture that unworldly state of being which is not routine and which for the moment may be called otherness. In seeking that otherness, we find there are many different systems, different ways or paths which are supposed to lead to it, and by disciplining ourselves, by practicing a particular system of meditation, by performing some ritual or repeating certain phrases, we hope to achieve that state. Because our daily life is an endless round of sorrow and pleasure, a variety of experiences without much significance, or a meaningless repetition of the same experience, living for most of us is a monotonous routine; therefore, the problem of enrichment, of capturing that otherness – call it God, truth, bliss, or what you will – becomes very urgent, does it not? You may be well-off and well-married, you may have children, you may be able to think intelligently and sanely, but without that state of otherness, life becomes extraordinarily empty.
So, what is one to do? How is one to capture that state? Or is it not possible to capture it at all? As they are now, our minds are obviously very small, petty, limited, conditioned, and though a small mind may speculate about that otherness, its speculations will always be small. It may formulate an ideal state, conceive and describe that otherness, but its conception will still be within the limitations of the little mind, and I think that is where the clue lies – in seeing that the mind cannot possibly experience that otherness by living it, formulating it, or speculating about it. Surely, that is a tremendous realization: to see that because it is limited, petty, narrow, superficial, any movement of the mind towards that extraordinary state is a hindrance. To realize that fact, not speculatively, but actually, is the beginning of a different approach to the problem.
After all, our minds are the outcome of time, of many thousands of yesterdays; they are the result of experience based on the known, and such a mind is the continuity of the known. The mind of each one of us is the result of culture, of education, and however extensive its knowledge or its technical training, it is still the product of time; therefore, it is limited, conditioned. With that mind we try to discover the unknowable, and to realize that such a mind can never discover the unknowable is really an extraordinary experience. To realize that however cunning, however subtle, however erudite one’s mind may be, it cannot possibly understand that otherness – this realization in itself brings about a certain factual comprehension, and I think it is the beginning of a way of looking at life which may open the door to that otherness.
To put the problem differently, the mind is ceaselessly active, chattering, planning; it is capable of extraordinary subtleties and inventions; and how can such a mind be quiet? One can see that any activity of the mind, any movement in any direction, is a reaction of the past; and how can such a mind be still? And if it is made still through discipline, such stillness is a state in which there is no inquiring, no searching, is it not? Therefore, there is no openness to the unknown, to that state of otherness.
I don’t know if you have thought about this problem at all or have merely thought about it in terms of the traditional approach, which is to have an ideal and to move towards the ideal through a formula, through the practice of a certain discipline. Discipline invariably implies suppression and the conflict of duality, all of which is within the area of the mind, and we proceed along this line, hoping to capture that otherness; but we have never intelligently and sanely inquired whether the mind can ever capture it. We have had the hint that the mind must be still, but stillness has always been cultivated through discipline. That is, we have the ideal of a still mind, and we pursue it through control, through struggle, through effort.
Now, if you look at this whole process, you will see that it is all within the field of the known. Being aware of the monotony of its existence, realizing the weariness of its multiplying experiences, the mind is always trying to capture that otherness; but when one sees that the mind is the known, and that whatever movement it makes, it can never capture that otherness, which is the unknown, then our problem is not how to capture the unknown but whether the mind can free itself from the known. I think this problem must be considered by anyone who wants to find out if there is a possibility of the coming into being of that otherness, the unknown. So, how can the mind, which is the result of the past, of the known, free itself from the known? I hope I am making myself clear. As I said, the present mind, the conscious as well as the unconscious, is the outcome of the past; it is the accumulated result of racial, climatic, dietetic, traditional, and other influences. So the mind is conditioned – conditioned as a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a communist – and it obviously projects what it considers to be the real. But whether its projection is that of the communist, who thinks he knows the future and wants to force all mankind into the pattern of his particular utopia, or that of the so-called religious man, who also thinks he knows the future and educates the child to think along his particular line, neither projection is the real. Without the real, life becomes very dull, as it is at present for most people; and our lives being dull, we become romantic, sentimental, about that otherness, the real.
Now, seeing this whole pattern of existence, without going into too many details, is it possible for the mind to free itself from the known – the known being the psychological accumulations of the past? There is also the known of everyday activity, but from this the mind obviously cannot be free, for if one forgot the way to one’s house, or the knowledge which enables one to earn a livelihood, one would be bordering on insanity. But can the mind free itself from the psychological factors of the known, which give assurance through association and identification?
To inquire into this matter, we shall have to find out whether there is really a difference between the thinker and the thought, between the one who observes and the thing observed. At present there is a division between them, is there not? We think the ‘I’, the entity who experiences, is different from the experience, from the thought. There is a gap, a division between the thinker and the thought, and that is why we say, ”I must control thought.” But is the ‘I’, the thinker, different from thought? The thinker is always trying to control thought, mold it according to what he considers to be a good pattern, but is there a thinker if there is no thought? Obviously not. There is only thinking, which creates the thinker. You may put the thinker at any level; you may call him the Supreme, the atma, or whatever you like, but he is still the result of thinking. The thinker has not created thought; it is thought that has created the thinker. Realizing its own impermanency, thought creates the thinker as a separate entity in order to give itself permanency – which is after all what we all want. You may say that the entity which you call the atma, the soul, the thinker, is separate from thought, from experience; but you are only aware of a separate entity through thought, and also through your conditioning as a Hindu, a Christian, or whatever it is you happen to be. As long as this duality exists between the thinker and the thought, there must be conflict, effort, which implies will; and a mind that wills to free itself, that says, ”I must be free from the past,” merely creates another pattern.
So, the mind can free itself – and thereby, perhaps, that otherness can come into being – only when there is the cessation of effort as the ‘I’ desiring to achieve a result. But you see, all our life is based on effort: the effort to be good, the effort to discipline ourselves, the effort to achieve a result in this world, or in the next. Everything we do is based on striving, ambition, success, achievement; and so we think that the realization of God, or truth, must also come about through effort. But such effort signifies the self-centered activity of achievement, does it not? It is not the abandonment of the self.
Now, if you are aware of this whole process of the mind, the conscious as well as the unconscious, if you really see and understand it, then you will find that the mind becomes extraordinarily quiet without any effort. The stillness which is brought about by discipline, control, suppression, is the stillness of death, but the stillness of which I am speaking comes about effortlessly when one understands this whole process of the mind. Then only is there a possibility of the coming into being of that otherness which may be called truth, or God.”
The 3rd Public Talk in Madanapalle on February 26, 1956
To see the beauty of the earth, to be cognizant of starvation and misery, to be aware of everything that is happening about us – surely, this is also a form of prayer. Perhaps this has much more significance, a far greater value, for it may sweep away the cobwebs of memory, of revenge, all the accumulated stupidities of the ‘I’.