Ojai, 21 May 1960
HOWEVER MUCH PROGRESS we may make in this world, however far we may go into the skies, visit the moon, Venus, and all the rest of it, the lives of most of us are still very shallow, superficial; they are still outward. And it is much more difficult to go inward; there is no technique for it, no professor to teach it, no laboratory where you can learn to travel with. There is no teacher who can guide you and---please believe me---there is no authority of any kind that can help you to investigate this complex entity called the mind. You have to do it entirely by yourself, without depending on a thing. And as modern civilization is becoming more and more complex, more and more outward, progressive, there is a tendency for all of us to live still more superficially, is there not? We attend more concerts, we read more clever books, we go endlessly to the cinema, we gather together to discuss intellectually, we investigate ourselves psychologically with the help of analysts, and so on. Or, because we live such superficial lives, we turn to churches and fill our minds with dogmas, both unreasonable and reasonable, with beliefs that are almost absurd, or we escape into some form of mysticism. In other words, realizing that our everyday living is shallow, most of us try to run away from it. We engage our minds in speculative philosophies, or in what we call meditation, contemplation, which is a form of self-hypnosis, or if we are at all intellectual, we create a thought-world of our own in which we live satisfied, intellectually content
Seeing this whole process, it seems to me that the problem is not what to do, or how to live, or what the immediate action to be taken is when we are confronted with war, with the catastrophes that are actually going on in the world, but, rather, how to inquire into freedom. Because without freedom, there is no creation. By freedom I do not mean the freedom to do what you like: to get into a car and zip along a road, or to think what you like, or to engage yourself in some particular activity. It seems to me that such forms of freedom are not really freedom at all. But is there a freedom of mind? As most of us do not live in a creative state, I think it is imperative for any thoughtful serious man (mind) to inquire very profoundly and very earnestly into this question.
If you observed, you will see that the margin of freedom is getting very, very narrow; politically, religiously, technologically, our minds are being shaped, and our everyday life is diminishing that quality of freedom. The more civilized we become, the less there is of freedom. I do not know if you have noticed how civilization is making us into technicians, and a mind that is built around a technique is not a free mind. A mind that is shaped by a church, by dogmas, by organized religion, is not a free mind. A mind that is darkened by knowledge is not a free mind. If we observe ourselves, it soon becomes obvious that our minds are weighed down by knowledge---we know so much. Our minds are bound by the beliefs and dogmas that organized religions throughout the world have laid upon them. Our education is largely a process of acquiring more technique in order to earn a better livelihood, and everything about us is shaping our minds, every form of influence is directing, controlling us. So the margin of freedom is getting narrower and narrower. The terrible weight of respectability, the acceptance of public opinion, our own fears, anxieties---all these things, surely, if one is at all aware of them, are diminishing the quality of freedom. And this is what, perhaps we can discuss and understand: how can one free the mind, and yet live in this world with all its techniques, knowledge, experiences? I think this is the problem, the central issue, not only in this country, but in India, in Europe, and all over the world. We are not creative, we are becoming mechanical. I do not mean by creativeness merely writing a poem, or painting a picture, or inventing a new thing. Those are merely the capacities of a talented mind. I mean a state that is creation itself.
But we shall go into all that when we understand the central issue: that our minds are becoming more and more conditioned, that the margin of freedom is getting less and less. We are either Americans, with all the emotional, nationalist quality behind the flag, or we are Russians, Indians, this or that. We are separated by frontiers, by dogmas, by conflicting ways of thinking, by different categories of organized religious thought; we are separated politically, religiously, economically, and culturally. And if you examine this whole process that is taking place around us, you will see that as individual human beings we count for very little; we are almost nothing at all.
We have many problems, individually as well as collectively. Individually, perhaps, we shall be able to solve some of them, and collectively we shall do what we can. But all these problems, surely, are not the main issue. It seems to me that the main issue is to free the mind, and one cannot free the mind, or the mind cannot free itself, until it understand itself. Therefore self knowledge is essential: the knowing of oneself. That requires a certain quality of awareness; because, if one doesn’t know oneself, there is no basis for reasoning, for thought. But knowing and knowledge are two different things. Knowing is a constant process, whereas knowledge is always static.
I do not know if that point is clear; if not, perhaps I can make it clear as we go along. But what I want to do now is merely to point out certain things, and later on we can investigate them. We have to begin by seeing the overall picture---not concentrating on any particular point, on any particular problem or action, but looking at the whole of our existence, as it were. Once having seen this extraordinary picture of ourselves as we are, we can then take the book of ourselves and go into it chapter by chapter, page by page.
So to me the central problem is freedom. Freedom is not from something that is only a reaction. Freedom, I feel, is something entirely different. If I’m free from fear, that is one thing. The freedom from fear is a reaction, which only brings about a certain courage. But I’m talking of freedom which is not from something, which is not a reaction; and that requires a great deal of understanding.
I would like to suggest that those who listen should give some time to thinking over what we have been discussing. We are not refusing or accepting anything, because I am not in any way your authority; I am not setting myself up as a teacher. To me, there is no teacher, there is no follower---and please believe me, I mean this very earnestly. I am not your teacher, so you are not my followers. The moment you follow, you are bound, you are not free. If you accept any theory, you are bound by that theory; if you practice any system, however complicated, however ancient or modern it may be, you are a slave to that system.
What are we trying to do is to investigate, to find out together. You are not merely listening to what I point out, but in listening you are trying to discover for yourself, so that you are free. The person who is speaking is of no value, but what is said, what is uncovered, what one discovers for oneself, is of the highest importance. All this personality cult, this personal following, or the putting up of a person in authority, is utterly detrimental. What is of importance is what you discover in your investigation of how to free the mind, so that as a human being you are creative.
After all, reality, or that which is not expressible in words, cannot be found by a mind that is clogged, weighed down. There is, I think, a state, call it what you will, which is not the experience of any saint, of any seeker, of any person who is endeavoring to find it, because all experience is really a perpetuation of the past. Experience only strengthens the past; therefore experience does not free the mind. The freeing element is the state of the mind that is capable of experiencing without the entity who experiences. This again requires a certain explanation, and we shall go into it.
What I do want to say now is that there is a great deal of disturbance, a great deal of uncertainty, not only individually, but also in the world, and because of this disturbance, this uncertainty, there has risen every kind of philosophy: the philosophy of despair, the philosophy of living in the immediate, of accepting existence as it is. There is a breaking away from traditions, from acceptance, and the building of a world of reaction. Or, leaving one religion, you go to another; if you are a Catholic, you drop Catholicism and become a Hindu, or join some other group. Surely none of these responses will in any way help the mind to be free.
To bring about this freedom, there must be self-knowledge: knowing the way you think and discovering in the process the whole structure of the mind. You know, fact is one thing, and symbol is another; the word is one thing, and what the word represents is another. For most of us, the symbol---the symbol of the flag, the symbol of the cross---has become extraordinary important, so we live by symbols, by words. But the word, the symbol, is never important. And to break down the word, the symbol, to go behind it, is an astonishingly difficult task. To free the mind from the words---“you are an American, you are a Catholic, you are a democrat, or a Russian, or a Hindu”---is very arduous. And yet if we would inquire into what is freedom, we must break down the symbol, the word. The frontier of the mind is laid down by our education, by the acceptance of the culture in which we have been brought up, by the technology that is a part of our heritage, and to penetrate all these layers that condition our thinking requires a very alert, intense mind.
I think it is most important from the very beginning to understand that these talks are not meant in any way to direct or control your thinking or to shape your mind. Our problem is much too great to be solved by belonging to some organization, or by hearing some speaker, by accepting a philosophy from the Orient, or getting lost in Zen Buddhism, by finding a new technique of meditation, or by having new visions through the use of mescaline or some other drug. What we need is a very clear mind---a mind that is not afraid to investigate, a mind that is capable of being alone, that can face its own loneliness, its own emptiness, a mind that is capable of destroying itself to find out.
So I would point out to all of you the importance of being really serious; you are not coming to this fro entertainment, or out of curiosity. All that is a waste of time. There is something much deeper, wider, which we have to discover for ourselves: how to go beyond the limitations of our own consciousness. Because all consciousness is a limitation, and all change within consciousness is no change at all. And I think it is possible---not mystically, not in a state of illusion, but actually---to go beyond the frontiers that the mind has laid down. But one can do that only when one is capable of investigating the quality of the mind and having really profound knowledge of oneself. Without knowing yourself, you cannot go far, because you will get lost in an illusion, you will escape into fanciful ideas, into some new form of sectarianism.
SO CONSIDERING ALL these many aspects of our living, our main problem, as the speaker sees it, is this question of freedom. Because it is only in freedom that we can discover; it is only in freedom that there can be the creative mind; it is only when the mind is free that there is endless energy---and it is this energy that is the movement of reality.
To conclude I would suggest that you consider, observe, and be aware of the enslavement of your own mind. What has been said so far is merely an outline of the contents of the book, and if you are content with the outline, with the headlines, with a few ideas, then I’m afraid you will not go very far. It is not a matter of acceptance or denial, but rather of inquiry into yourself---which does not demand any form of authority. On the contrary, it demands that you should follow nobody, that you should be a light unto yourself, and you cannot be a light unto yourself if you are committed to any particular mode of conduct, to any form of activity that has been laid down as being respectable, as being religious. One must begin very near to go very far, and one cannot go very far if one does not know oneself. The knowing of oneself does not depend on any analyst. One can observe oneself as one goes along in every form of relationship, every day, and without that understanding, the mind can never be free.
AND TO KNOW yourself is the most arduous task that you can set for yourself. You can go to the moon, you can do everything in life, but if you don’t know yourself, you will be empty, dull, stupid. Though you may function as a prime minister or a first class engineer or a marvelous technician, the seriousness of knowing yourself---not what people have said about you, whether you are the supreme self or the little self. Wipe away all the things that people have said, and observe your own minds and your own hearts, and from there function.