Can We Ever Perceive Truth?
Transcript of Talk 4, Brockwood Park, 14 September 1975
This is the last talk. And this afternoon you will have Mr. Ravi Shankar playing sitar at three o’clock.
We have been talking about various human problems during the three talks and discussions, not merely accepting or denying certain ideas or conclusions, but rather examining closely, and committed to that examination, of our various problems: political, religious, social, and the problem of fear, pleasure and suffering. We also talked about yesterday morning, compassion, love and death. And I do not know if you have taken all those things seriously, or merely verbally, intellectually. And if one has then unfortunately it will remain at the verbal level without any deep action or commitment.
And I would like this morning, if we may, to talk about the whole question of what is sacred, what is the meaning of religion and meditation. When we enter into this very complex question we must examine, I think, what is reality and what is truth. Because man has been concerned throughout the ages to discover, or live in truth. And he has projected various forms of images, symbols, conclusions, images made by the mind or by the hand, and imagined what is truth; or tried to find out through the activity and the movement of thought, what is truth. And I think we should be wise, if I can use that word without bringing a lot of emotionalism into it, if we could differentiate between, what is reality, and when we are clear what is reality, then perhaps we shall be able to have an insight into what is truth. And to have this insight into what is truth, religion and the many religions throughout the world have said that there is an enduring truth, everlasting truth. And mere assertion of what truth is has very little significance. One has to discover it for oneself, not theoretically, not intellectually, or sentimentally, but actually find out if one can live in a world that is completely truthful. And we mean by religion, not the organised religions which are really sectarian, however many they may have, we mean by religion, gathering together all energy to investigate if there is anything sacred. That is the meaning we are giving – not the propagandists’ religion, not the religion of belief, dogma, tradition, or rituals with their hierarchical outlook. But we are using the word ‘religion’ in that sense: to gather all together, all energy, which will then be capable of investigating the possibility, or if there is a truth which is not controlled or shaped or polluted by thought.
And to do that one must go into the question of what is reality. The word ‘reality’ means, it comes from – doesn’t matter – the root meaning is ‘thing’, a thing. And so to go into that question of what is reality, one must understand what is thought. Because all the things that thought has created – our society, our religions, our so-called revelations, all that is essentially the product of thought. It is not my opinion or my judgement, but it is a fact. All religions when you look at them, investigate, observe without any prejudice, are the product of thought. That is, you may perceive something, or have an insight into truth, you communicate it verbally to me, and I draw an abstraction of your statement, into an abstraction and make that into an idea, and live according to that idea. I don’t know if you are… And that is what we have been doing for generations: drawing an abstraction from a statement, and living according to that abstraction as a conclusion. And that is generally called religion. So we must find out how limited thought is, and what are its capacities, how far can it go, and be totally aware that thought doesn’t spill over into a realm in which thought has no place. I don’t know if you are… Are we meeting each other?
Please, we are not only verbally communicating with each other, which means thinking together, not agreeing or disagreeing, but thinking together and therefore sharing together, not, the speaker gives and you take, but together we are sharing: therefore there is no authority. And also there is a non-verbal communication. And that is much more difficult because unless we verbally see very clearly the full meaning of words, how the mind is caught in words, how words shape our thinking, and can go beyond that, there is no non-verbal communication, which becomes much more significant. We are trying to do both – communicate both verbally and non-verbally. That means we must both be interested at the same time, at the same level, with the same intensity, otherwise we shan’t communicate. It is like love. Love is that intense feeling at the same time, at the same level. Otherwise you and I don’t love each other.
So we are going to observe together what is reality, what are the limitations of thought, and whether thought can ever perceive truth, or it is beyond the realm of thought. Right? May we go on?
I think we all agree, at least most do, even the scientists, that thought is a material process, is a chemical process. Thought is the response of accumulated knowledge as experience and memory. So thought is essentially a thing. There is no sacred thought, no noble thought. It is a thing. And its function is in the world of things, which is technology, learning, learning the art of learning, the art of seeing and listening. It is in that area is truth, is reality. Right? Are we meeting each other? Unless we understand this rather complex problem, we shall not be able to go beyond it. We may pretend, or imagine, but imagination and pretension have no place in a man, in a human being who is really serious and is desirous to find out what is truth.
As long as there is the movement of thought, which is time and measure, in that area truth has no place. And reality is that which we think and the action of thought as an idea, as a principle, as an ideal, projected from the previous knowledge into the future, modified and so on. All that is in the world of reality. And we live in that world of reality – if you have observed yourself you will see how memory plays an immense part. Memory which is mechanical, so thought is mechanical. It is a form of computer, a machine, as the brain is. And thought has its place. I cannot speak if I have no language. If I spoke in Greek you wouldn’t understand. And learning a language, learning to drive a car, to labour in a factory and so on, so on, so on, there thought is necessary. Psychologically thought has created the reality of the ‘me’. Me, my, my house, my property, my wife, my husband, my children, my country, my god – all that is the product of thought. And in that field we have established a relationship with each other which is constantly in conflict. So that is the limitation of thought.
And unless we put order in that world of reality we cannot go further. Right? I hope we are following each other, at least a little bit. We live a disorderly life in our daily activity. That is a fact. And is it possible socially, morally, ethically and so on to bring order in the world of reality, in the world of thought. Right? And who is to bring the order in the world of reality? You follow? I live a disorderly life – if I do – and being disorderly can I bring order in all my activity of daily life? The daily life is based on thought, our relationship is based on thought, because I have an image of you and you have an image of me, and the relationship is between these two images. The images are the product of thought, which is the response of memory, and experience and so on. Now can there be order in the world of reality? This is really a very important question. Unless there is order established in the world of reality there is no foundation for further enquiry. In the world of reality is it possible to behave orderly, not according to a pattern set by thought, which is still disorder. I don’t know… Good! So is it possible to bring order in the world of reality? That is, no wars, no conflict, no division. Order implies great virtue, virtue is the essence of order, not following a blue print, then that becomes mechanical. So who is to bring order in this world of reality? Right? So man has said, ‘God will bring it. Believe in God and you will have order. Love God, you will have order’. And this order becomes mechanical because our desire is to be secure, to survive, to find a way of living, the easiest way of living – let us put it that way.
So we are asking: who is to bring order in this world of reality where there is such confusion, misery, pain and violence and so on, a world of reality which thought has created, can thought bring order in that reality? You follow? So who is to bring order in the world of reality? The communists say, according to Marx, that control the environment, then there will be order in man. According to Marx, the State will wither away – you know all that stuff. And now they have tried to bring order but man is in disorder, even in Russia! (Laughs) So one has to find out, if thought is not to bring about order, then what will? I don’t know if this is a problem to you, if it really interests you. So one has to say can thought, which has made such a mess of life, and thought cannot bring clarity into this world of reality, then is there an observation in the field of reality, or of the field of reality, without the movement of thought? Are we meeting each other in this? A human being has exercised thought, he says, there is disorder, I will control it, I will shape it, I will make order according to certain ideas – all the product of thought. And thought has created disorder. So thought has no place in order. So how is this order to come about?
Now we will go into it a little bit. Can one observe this disorder in which one lives, which is conflict, contradiction, opposing desires, pain, suffering, fear, pleasure and all that, can one observe that, this whole structure of disorder without thought? You understand my question? Can you observe this enormous disorder that we live in, externally as well as inwardly, without any movement of thought? Because if there is any movement of thought then it is going to create further disorder. Right? So can one observe this disorder in oneself without any movement of thought as time and measure, that is, without any movement of memory? Right?
Now we are going to see whether thought as time can come to an end. Whether thought as measure, which is comparison, from here to there, all that is involved in the movement of time, can that time have a stop? This is the very essence of meditation. You understand? So we are going to enquire together if time has a stop. That is, if thought as movement can come to an end. Then only there is order and therefore virtue – not cultivated virtue which requires time and therefore not virtue, but the very ending of thought is virtue. Now, which means we have to enquire into the whole question of what is freedom. Can man live in freedom – because that is what it comes to. If time comes to an end it means that man is deeply free.
So one has to go into this question of what is freedom. Is freedom relative, or absolute? If freedom is the outcome of thought then it is relative. When freedom is not bound by thought then it is absolute. We are going to go into that. Outwardly, politically, there is less and less freedom. We think politicians can solve all our problems, and the politicians, especially the tyrannical politicians, they assume the authority of god – they know and you don’t know. That is what is going on in India, the freedom of speech, civil rights have been denied, like in all tyrannies. And democratically we have freedom of choice, choose between the Liberal, Conservative, Labour or something else. And we think that having the capacity to choose gives us freedom. Choice is the very denial of freedom. You choose when you are not clear, then there is no direct perception, and so you choose out of confusion, and so there is no freedom in choice – psychologically we are talking about. I can choose between this cloth and that cloth and so on, so on; but psychologically we think we are free when we have the capacity to choose. And we are saying that choice is born out of confusion, out of the structure of thought and therefore it is not free. And we accept the authority of the gurus, the priests, because we think they know, and we don’t know. Now if you examine the whole idea of the guru, which is becoming rather a nuisance in this country, and in America, and the world over – I am sorry, I am rather allergic to gurus! (Laughter) I know several of them, many of them, they come to see me. They say, what you are saying is the highest truth – they know how to flatter! But they say, we are dealing with people who are ignorant, and we are the intermediaries and we want to help them. So they assume the authority, and therefore deny freedom. I do not know if you have not noticed, not one single guru has raised his voice against tyranny.
So a man who would understand what freedom is must totally deny authority, which is extraordinarily difficult, which demands great attention because we may reject the authority of a guru, of a priest, of an idea but we establish an authority in ourselves – that is, I think it is right, I know what I am saying, it is my experience. All that gives one the authority to assert, which is the same thing as the guru, as the priest.
So can the mind be free of authority, which means tradition, which means the accepting of another as your guide – except in the technological field it is natural there – as your guide, as somebody to tell you what to do. If you reject that authority, as one must if there is to be freedom, and man must be free, if he is not he is becoming a serf, a slave and denying the beauty and the depth of human spirit. Now can the mind put aside all authority – in the psychological sense? If you put aside the authority of the policeman you will be in trouble! That requires a great deal of inward awareness. One obeys and accepts authority because in oneself there is uncertainty, confusion, loneliness and the desire to find something permanent, something lasting. Right? And is there anything lasting, anything that is permanent, created by thought? Or thought gives to itself permanency? And in investigating that, mind desires to have something it can cling to, some certainty, some psychological security. This is what happens in all our relationship with each other. I depend on you psychologically because in myself I am uncertain, confused, lonely and I am attached to you, I possess you, I dominate you. So is freedom possible, living in this world, without authority, without the image, without the sense of dependency and therefore independency? So is freedom from something, or is freedom per se? I wonder if you…
Now can we have freedom in the world of reality? You understand my question? Can there be freedom in my relationship with you? Can there be freedom in relationship between man and woman? Or is that impossible? Which doesn’t mean freedom to do what one likes, or permissiveness, or promiscuousness, but can there be a relationship between human beings of complete freedom? I do not know if you have ever asked this question of yourself. You might say it is not possible, or it is possible. The possibility or the impossibility of it is not an answer. But to find out whether freedom can exist, absolute freedom in our relationship. And that freedom can only exist when in our relationship there is order. Right? Order not according to you, to the man or the woman, but order in the sense, the observation of disorder, and that observation is not the movement of thought, therefore the observer is the observed, only then there is freedom in our relationship.
So. Then we can go to something else: having observed the whole nature of disorder, order comes into being in our life. That is a fact, if you have gone into this. That is a fact. From there we can move and find out whether thought can realise its own movement, see its own limitation and therefore stop. We are asking: what place has time in freedom? Is freedom a state of mind in which there is no time – time being movement of thought as time and measure? Thought is movement, and thought is movement in time, from here to there and so on, so on. That is, can the mind and the brain, which is part of the mind, can the brain which has evolved through centuries, with all the accumulated memory, knowledge, experience, is there a part of the brain which is not touched by time? You understand my question? Our brain is conditioned by various influences, by the pursuit of desires, and is there a part of the brain that is not conditioned at all? Or is the whole brain conditioned – you follow? – and therefore human beings can never escape from conditioning. They can modify the conditioning, polish the conditioning, refine the conditioning, but there will always be conditioning if the totality of the brain is limited, conditioned, and therefore no freedom. Right?
So we are going to find out if there is any part of the brain that is not conditioned. All this is meditation – not just something… we will go into that presently. As we said this is meditation, to find out. Can one be aware of the conditioning in which one lives? Right? Can you be aware of it? Conditioning that you are a Christian, that you are a Capitalist, that you are a Socialist, that you are a Liberal, that you believe in this and you don’t believe in that, that you are, oh, ten different things, that you have god, no god, there is no god, that there is only knowledge and so on, so on, so on, so on – all that is part of the conditioning. Can a human being be aware of that conditioning? That is, can you be aware of your consciousness, not as an observer but you are that consciousness – can you be aware of that? And if you are aware, who is it that is aware? Is it thought that is aware that it is conditioned – therefore it is still in the field of reality, which is conditioned? Or is there an observation, an awareness in which there is pure observation? Is there an act, or the art of pure listening? You understand? I am asking, do listen to this a little bit. The word ‘art’ means to put everything in its right place, where it belongs, the meaning of that word ‘art’ means that. Now can you observe, see purely, without any interpretation, without any judgement, without any prejudice, just to observe? And also can you listen, as you are doing now, can you listen without any movement of thought? Which is only possible if you put thought in the right place. And the art of learning, which means not accumulating, then it becomes knowledge, and thought, but the movement of learning without the accumulation. So there is the art of listening, the art of seeing, the art of learning, which means put everything where it belongs. And in that there is great order.
Now we are going to find out if time has a stop. Now this is meditation. As we said from the beginning of this talk, and the previous talks and discussions, it is all in the field of meditation. Meditation isn’t something separate from life, from daily life. Meditation is not the repetition of words, a repetition of a mantra, which now there is the fashion which is called transcendental meditation, or the meditation which can be practised. Meditation must be something totally unconscious. I wonder if you see this. If you practise meditation, that is, follow a system, a method, then it is the movement of thought, put together in order to achieve a result, and that result is projected as a reaction from the past and therefore still within the area of thought. Is this all becoming too much?
Krishnamurti: Je me demande.
So. Can there be in the brain a mutation? It comes to that. We say it is possible. That is, it is only possible, a complete psychological revolution, a mutation is only possible when there is a great shock of attention. You understand? Attention implies no control. That means have you ever asked whether you can live in this modern world, or in the ancient world – in the modern world because you are not living in the ancient world – can you live in this world without a single control: of your desires, of your appetites, of your fulfilment of desires and so on, without a single breath of control? Control implies a controller. Right? And the controller thinks he is different from that which he controls. But when you observe closely the controller is the controlled. Right? So what place has control – in the sense, restraint, suppression, controlling in order to achieve, controlling to change yourself to become something else? All that is the demand of thought. And so thought by its very nature being fragmentary divides the controller and the controlled. And we are educated from childhood to control, to suppress, to inhibit, which does not mean to do what you like. That is impossible, you can never do what you like. That is too absurd and too immature. But to understand this whole question of control demands that you examine this desire which brings about this fragment, the desire to be and not to be.
To find out whether you can live without comparison – you understand? – therefore without an ideal, without a future – all that is implied in comparison. And where there is comparison there must be control. And can you live without comparison and therefore without control. You understand? Have you ever tried to live without control, without comparison? Because comparison and control are highly respectable. The word ‘respect’ means to look about. And when we look about we see that all human beings, wherever they live, have this extraordinary desire to compare themselves with somebody, or with an idea, or with some human being who is supposed to be noble, and in that process control, suppress. Now if you see this whole movement, then you will live without a single breath of control, that requires tremendous inward discipline. Now discipline means actually to learn, not be disciplined to a pattern like a soldier. The word ‘discipline’ means to learn. Learn whether it is possible to live without a single choice, comparison, control. To learn about it, not to accept it, not to deny it, but to find out how to live.
Then out of that comes a brain which is not conditioned. And therefore there is a brain which is totally unconditioned. We won’t go into all that. So meditation then is freedom from authority, putting everything in its right place in the field of reality, and consciousness realising its own limitation and therefore bringing order in that limitation. So when there is order there is virtue, virtue in behaviour.
From there we can go now into the question whether time has a stop. Which means can the mind, the brain itself and the mind, be absolutely still? Not controlled – this is very important – please, if you control thought in order to be still then it is still the movement of thought. So can the brain and the mind be absolutely still? – which is the ending of time. Now man has always desired, throughout the ages, to control and bring silence to the mind, which he calls meditation, which is contemplation and so on, so on. Can the mind be still? Not chattering, not imagining, not be conscious of that stillness, because if you are conscious of that stillness there is a centre which is conscious of that stillness, and therefore that centre is part of time, put together by thought, therefore you are still within the area of reality and therefore it has no ending in the world of reality, of time. I wonder if you get all this! I must go on.
Because man has made what he thinks is sacred – all the images, whether made by the hand or by the mind, all the images, in churches, in temples, in the Muslim mind, all those images are still the product of thought. And therefore in that there is nothing sacred. So to find out – no, not to find out – out of this complete silence is there anything sacred?
I began by saying – we began by saying that religion is not belief, is not propaganda, is not rituals, authority and all the rest of it, but religion is the gathering of all energy to investigate if there is something sacred which is not the product of thought. We have that energy when there is order, when there is complete order in the world of reality in which we live, that is relationship – freedom from authority, freedom from comparison, control, measurement, which is all order, then the mind and the brain becomes completely still, naturally, not through compulsion. And is there anything sacred? If one sees that anything that thought has created is not sacred, nothing – all the churches, all the temples, all the mosques in the world have no truth. I was once asked in India when Ghandhiji was going around, I followed him one year, and he was saying all people can enter temples – because there was division in India, only the Brahmins could enter. And they asked me ‘What do you say to that’? I said god is not in temples, it doesn’t matter who enters. And that was of course non-acceptable. So in the same way I am saying, we are saying that anything created by thought is not sacred. And is there anything sacred? Unless human beings find that sacredness their life has really no meaning, it is an empty shell. They may be very orderly, they may be relatively free, but unless there is this thing called, absolutely something that is totally sacred, untouched by thought, life has no deep meaning. And is there something sacred? Or everything is matter, everything thought, everything transient, everything impermanent? Or is there something that thought can never touch, and therefore incorruptible, and therefore timeless and eternal and therefore sacred? You understand? And to come upon this the mind must be completely, totally still, which means thought, time comes to an end. And therefore in that there must be complete freedom from all prejudice, opinions, judgements – you follow? – completely. Then only one comes upon this extraordinary thing that is timeless, and therefore the very essence of compassion.
So meditation has a significance. One must have this meditative quality of the mind, not occasionally but all day long. And that implies another thing – what is the time now?
K: I have five more minutes. It brings another question into our mind, which is: this something that is sacred, not imagined, not fantastic, which affects our lives not only during the waking hours but during sleep. And in this process of meditation there are all kinds of powers that come into being. One becomes clairvoyant, because the body then becomes extraordinarily sensitive. Now, clairvoyance, healing, thought transference, reading, and so on, becomes totally unimportant. All the occult powers become so utterly irrelevant. And when you pursue those you are pursuing something that will ultimately lead to illusion. That is one factor.
Then there is the factor of sleep. What is the importance of sleep? Is it to spend the sleeping hours dreaming? You understand my question? And what are dreams? And is it possible not to dream at all? You understand? What are dreams, why do we dream, and is it possible for a mind not to dream, and therefore during sleep the mind being utterly restful a totally different kind of energy is built in. You understand my question? I don’t mind if you do not understand. During waking hours, if one is completely attentive to our thoughts, to our actions, our behaviour, totally aware, then are dreams necessary? Or are dreams a continuation of our daily life in forms of pictures, images, incidents, and therefore continuity of our daily conscious or unconscious movements? So when the mind becomes totally aware during the day then you will see that dreams become unimportant, and being unimportant they have no significance and therefore there is no dreaming, there is only complete sleep. That means the mind has complete rest, and therefore it can renew itself. I wonder if you are following this. Test it out. If you accept what the speaker is saying then it is futile, but if you say,’ I am going to find out if during the day I am very, very awake, watchful, aware’ – aware without choice, we went into all that, what is it to be aware – then out of that awareness when you do sleep, the mind becomes extraordinarily fresh and young.
Youth is the essence of decision. Right? Action. And if that action is merely centred round itself, round the centre of myself then that action breeds mischief, confusion and so on. But when you realise the whole movement of life as one, undivided, and are aware of all that, then the mind rejuvenates itself, and has immense energy. All that is part of meditation.
Do you want to ask any questions?
Q: Last night I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking of people who were camping. I was worried for the campers.
K: Is that the question, after all that one has said this morning? (Laughter) Probably next year we will arrange different things for the campers. (Laughter) You see, sir, look at what you are saying. We are talking of the highest things and you talk about not sleeping well! Good morning.