A World of Illusion and Distortion


Some of us feel that the world is so chaotic that if it had been organized by a madman it could not be worse than it is at this present moment. Many feel that there must be environmental, economic and political changes to stop wars, the pollution of the air, and to end the material inequality of the very rich and the very poor. Many consider that these things must be changed first, that if there is an environmental, peripheral transformation, then man will be capable of dealing with himself more reasonably and wisely.

I think the problem goes much deeper, is more complex, and that merely to change things outwardly will have little effect. Having observed the events in the world, the permissive society of the young and the terrible hypocrisy of the older generation, an educated and mature mind is fully aware that the problem is profound and that it demands a totally different way of dealing with it. One also observes that most believe that all human endeavour can be achieved by thought, whether outwardly going to the moon, or inwardly transforming one’s mind and heart. We have given tremendous importance to the functioning of thought. Thought, whether it be logical and objective, or irrational and neurotic, has always played an extraordinarily important role throughout the ages. Thought is measure; and in bringing about order and change in society thought has shown itself very limited. It has apparently not succeeded – it may have done so superficially but not fundamentally. The whole machinery of thinking is responsible for the present condition of the world; there is no denying that. We think that thought can change not only the outward events and happenings – the pollution, the violence and all the rest of it – but that also by careful and skilful usage it can transform human conditioning, the human way of action and our mode of living.

It is obvious that organized thought is necessary; that it requires organized thought, applied objectively and sanely, to change the environment with its pollution and to overcome poverty. The whole technological world in which we live is based on thought with its measurement; and thought can only function when there is space. Thought creates its own space, as time, the distance from here to there. On that, the whole modern world is built.

Measurement, with its space, which is the very nature of thinking, is obviously limited, because thought is conditioned. Thought is the response of memory, which is the past; the response of thought when challenged is the past. And thought apparently has not put an end to wars; on the contrary, thought has created wars, it has bred division – religious, economic, social and so on. Thought in itself is also the cause of fragmentation.

So one asks: what is the function of thought which is the response of knowledge? Knowledge is always rooted in the past and out of that thought projects the future, which is really a modification of the activities of the present. So through its knowledge, thought can project the future, what the world should be; but apparently the ‘should be’ is never realized. Every philosopher, every so-called religious teacher, has projected a world of the future based upon knowledge of the past; he has projected its opposite, or something which is a response to the past. So thought has never united man. In fact, thought has divided man, because it can only function in knowledge and knowledge is measurable. So thought can never bring about a true relationship between people.

Therefore, I am asking: what is the function of knowledge, which is the known, the past? What is the function of the response to that past, which is thought, in daily life? Have you ever put that question to yourself? One lives and acts by thought; all our calculations, our relationships, our behaviour, are based on thought, on knowledge. That knowledge is more or less measurable; and knowledge is always in the field of the known. So can you and I realize the importance of knowledge yet see its limitations and go beyond it? This is what I want to find out

I see that if you are always functioning in the field of knowledge, you will always be a prisoner; you will always be limited within either expansive or narrow borders which are measurable. Therefore the mind will be held within the frontiers of knowledge. I am asking myself whether that knowledge, which is experience, gathered in the last few days or through many centuries, can free man so that he can function wholly, differently, so that he is not always living in the past, which is knowledge. This question has been put differently by many serious people, especially in the religious world; the scholars, the pundits and gurus who have talked with me have always asked whether man can go beyond time. Action in the field of knowledge is measurable, so unless man is free of that field, he will always be a slave. He may do all kinds of things within that field, but he will always live within the limitations which are time, measure and knowledge.

Please put this question to yourself. Must man always be bound to the past? If he is, then he cannot ever be free; he will always be conditioned. He may project an idea of freedom, of heaven, and escape from the actual fact of time by projecting a belief, a concept, or escape into an illusion – but it is still an illusion. So I want to find out if man can be free of time and yet still function in this world. Obviously there is chronological time – today, tomorrow, next year and so on. If there were no chronological time I should miss my train, so I realize that there must be time in order to function, but that time is always measurable. The action of time, which is knowledge, is absolutely necessary. But if that is the only way in which I can live and function then I am entirely bound, I am a slave. My mind observes, looks, enquires and wants to find out if it can ever free itself from the shackles of time. The mind rebels against the idea of being a slave to time; being caught in this trap, it rebels against the idea of living in a culture which is based on thought, time and knowledge.

Now the mind wants to find out whether it is possible to go beyond time. Can it enter into the immeasurable – which has its own space – and live in that world, free of time and yet function with time, with knowledge and all the technological achievements which thought has brought about? This is a very important question. Can the mind enquire into the quality and nature of the immeasurable? – knowing that any projection by thought, any form of illusion, is still within the field of rime, hence of knowledge. Therefore the mind must be entirely free from any movement which might create illusion. It is very easy to imagine one is in a timeless world, to have all kinds of illusions and think one has caught God by the right hand. What is it that creates a fragmentary, neurotic mind which breeds deception, and illusion? What makes for such a state, and what is the factor of illusion?

One has to go into this question very carefully. First, you have to be watchful never to deceive yourself under any circumstances, never to be a hypocrite and have double standards – the private standard and the public standard; saying one thing and doing another; thinking one thing and saying something else. That requires tremendous honesty, which means I must find out what is the factor in the mind which brings about this deception and hypocrisy, this double talk, the various illusions and neurotic distortions; unless the mind is free of any distortion, it cannot possibly enquire into the immeasurable.

What do you think is the cause of illusions? – the illusion of grandeur, the illusion that you have achieved reality and reached enlightenment. One must see for oneself very clearly, without analysis, where distortion takes place; distortion is hypocrisy, it is the use of imagination where it has no place at all. Imagination may be in place when you are painting a picture, writing a poem or a book, but if imagination says ‘That exists’ then you are caught. So I must not only find out the factor of illusion and distortion, but be completely free of it.

I wonder if you have ever asked yourself whether the mind can be completely free of this distorting factor which governs our every action. The factor of distortion is thought; thought cultivates fear, as thought cultivates pleasure. Thought says, ‘I must enter into that timeless state because it promises freedom.’ It wants to achieve, it wants to gain, it wants a greater experience. When thought, which is knowledge, functions rationally, objectively, sanely, it is not a distorting factor. The major factors of distortion are fear and the demand for pleasure through gratification, so the mind must be completely free of fear. Can it? Don’t say yes or no – you do not know. Let’s investigate – please, see the importance of this. The factor of distortion is fear, it is the demand for pleasure, gratification, enjoyment – not the pleasure itself, but the demand for pleasure. All our moral and religious structure is based on this. So I am asking myself whether the human mind can be completely free of fear. If it cannot be free of fear then distortion takes place.

There is physical fear, the fear of darkness, the fear of the unknown, of losing what one has, the fear of death and of not being loved, the fear of not achieving, of not fulfilling, the fear of loneliness and of having no relationship – the small physical fears and the much more complex and subtle psychological fears. Can the mind be free of all fears, not only at the conscious level but at the deep, psychological levels? The mind must be completely merciless to find this out, otherwise one enters a world of illusion and distortion.

We all know physical pain through ill health and disease. Those pains leave a memory and that memory which is thought, says: you must not have that pain again, take great care. Thought, thinking about the past pain, projects the future pain and therefore is afraid of the future. Now when physical pain occurs, live with it and end it – do not carry it over. If you do not end it instantly, then fear comes in. That is, I have had great pain and I see the importance of not having fear. That is my vital, intense demand, that there must be no fear. When the pain comes you do not identify yourself with it and carry it over, but you go through with it completely and end it. To end that pain, you have to live with it, not say, ‘How can I get out of it as quickly as possible.’ When you have pain, can you live with it without self-pity and not complain? You do whatever is necessary to end the pain – but when it has gone it is finished. You do not carry it over as memory. It is thought that carries it over; the pain has gone, but thought – which is the response of memory – has established that memory and says, ‘You must not have that pain again.’ So when you have pain, is it possible not to build a memory of it? Do you know what this means? It means to be completely aware when you have pain, to be completely attentive, so that the pain is not carried over as memory. Do it, if you are interested in it.

Then there are all the psychological fears which are much more complex; again the complexity is brought about through thought. ‘I want to be a great man and I am not’ – so there is the pain of not achieving. Or I have compared myself with somebody who I think is superior, therefore I feel inferior and I suffer from that. All this is the measurement of thought. And I am afraid of death and the ending of everything I possess. There is the whole psychological complexity of thought. Thought is always wanting to be sure and always frightened of uncertainty, always wanting to achieve, knowing it may fail. There is a battle between the action of thought and thought itself. So can fear end completely?

Sitting here listening to the speaker, at this present moment, you are not afraid; there is no fear because you are listening. And you can’t evoke fear, which would be artificial. But you can see that when you are attached or dependent, this is based on fear. You can see your attachments, your psychological dependency on your wife, your husband, your books, or whatever it is. If you watch closely you will discover that the root of that attachment is fear. Not being able to be alone, you want companionship; feeling inadequate, empty, you depend on somebody else. In that you see the whole structure of fear. Being dependent and attached, can you see the involvement of fear in it? And can you be psychologically independent of anyone? Now comes the test. We can play with words, with ideas, but when it comes to the actual fact, we withdraw. When you withdraw and do not face the fact, you are not concerned with the understanding of illusion; you would rather live in an illusion than go beyond it. Don’t be a hypocrite: you love to live in an illusion, in deception, so face it. Then you will come upon fear; remain with it, don’t fight it. The more you fight it, the more there is fear. But if you understand the whole nature of fear, then, as you observe, you are not only aware of the superficial, conscious fears, but also you penetrate deeply into the inner recesses of your mind. Then fear completely comes to an end and the factor of distortion ends.

If you are pursuing or demanding pleasure, that also is a factor of distortion: ‘I don’t like this guru, but I like that one’; ‘My guru is wiser than your guru’; ‘I will go to the remote corners of the earth to find truth’ – but truth is just around the corner, here! When there is a demand for pleasure, in any form, this must be a distorting factor. Enjoyment is right, isn’t it? It is beautiful to enjoy the sky, the moon, the clouds, the hills, the shadows – there are lovely things on earth. But the mind, thought, says, ‘I must have more and more, I must repeat this pleasure tomorrow.’ On this demand is based the whole habit of drink and drugs, which again is the activity of thought. You see the mountains in the evening light, the snow peaks and the shadows in the dark valley, you enjoy the beauty, the loveliness of it tremendously. Then thought says, ‘I must see that again tomorrow, it was so beautiful.’ So thought, demanding pleasure, pursues the experience of the sunset on those hills and sustains this memory; and the next time you see the sunset that memory is strengthened. Can the mind see that sunset, live with it completely at that moment and finish with it – and begin afresh tomorrow? So that the mind is always free from the known.

There is a freedom which is not measurable. You can never say, ‘I am free’ – you understand? It is an abomination. All you can do is to enquire into the function of thought and discover for yourself if there is an action which is not measurable, which is not in the field of the known. A mind that is constantly learning has no fear, and perhaps such a mind can then enquire into the immeasurable.