We all want experiences of some kind – the mystical experience, the religious experience, the sexual experience, the experience of having a great deal of money, power, position, domination. As we grow older we may have finished with the demands of our physical appetites but then we demand wider, deeper and more significant experiences, and we try various means to obtain them – expanding our consciousness, for instance, which is quite an art, or taking various kinds of drugs. This is an old trick which has existed from time immemorial – chewing a piece of leaf or experimenting with the latest chemical to bring about a temporary alteration in the structure of the brain cells, a greater sensitivity and heightened perception which give a semblance of reality. This demand for more and more experiences shows the inward poverty of man. We think that through experiences we can escape from ourselves but these experiences are conditioned by what we are. If the mind is petty, jealous, anxious, it may take the very latest form of drug but it will still see only its own little creation, its own little projections from its own conditioned background.
Most of us demand completely satisfying, lasting experiences which cannot be destroyed by thought. So behind this demand for experience is the desire for satisfaction, and the demand for satisfaction dictates the experience, and therefore we have not only to understand this whole business of satisfaction but also the thing that is experienced. To have some great satisfaction is a great pleasure; the more lasting, deep and wide the experience the more pleasurable it is, so pleasure dictates the form of experience we demand, and pleasure is the measure by which we measure the experience. Anything measurable is within the limits of thought and is apt to create illusion. You can have marvellous experiences and yet be completely deluded. You will inevitably see visions according to your conditioning; you will see Christ or Buddha or whoever you happen to believe in, and the greater a believer you are the stronger will be your visions, the projections of your own demands and urges.
So if in seeking something fundamental, such as what is truth, pleasure is the measure, you have already projected what that experience will be and therefore it is no longer valid.
What do we mean by experience? Is there anything new or original in experience? Experience is a bundle of memories responding to a challenge and it can respond only according to its background, and the cleverer you are at interpreting the experience the more it responds. So you have to question not only the experience of another but your own experience. If you don’t recognize an experience it isn’t an experience at all. Every experience has already been experienced or you wouldn’t recognize it. You recognize an experience as being good, bad, beautiful, holy and so on according to your conditioning, and therefore the recognition of an experience must inevitably be old.
When we demand an experience of reality – as we all do, don’t we? – to experience it we must know it and the moment we recognise it we have already projected it and therefore it is not real because it is still within the field of thought and time. If thought can think about reality it cannot be reality. We cannot recognize a new experience. It is impossible. We recognize only something we have already known and therefore when we say we have had a new experience it is not new at all. To seek further experience through expansion of consciousness, as is being done through various psychedelic drugs, is still within the field of consciousness and therefore very limited.
So we have discovered a fundamental truth, which is that a mind that is seeking, craving, for wider and deeper experience is a very shallow and dull mind because it lives always with its memories.
Now if we didn’t have any experience at all, what would happen to us? We depend on experiences, on challenges, to keep us awake. If there were no conflicts within ourselves, no changes, no disturbances, we would all be fast asleep. So challenges are necessary for most of us; we think that without them our minds will become stupid and heavy, and therefore we depend on a challenge, an experience, to give us more excitement, more intensity, to make our minds sharper. But in fact this dependence on challenges and experiences to keep us awake, only makes our minds duller – It doesn’t really keep us awake at all. So I ask myself, is it possible to keep awake totally, not peripherally at a few points of my being, but totally awake without any challenge or any experience? This implies a great sensitivity, both physical and psychological; it means I have to be free of all demands, for the moment I demand I will experience. And to be free of demand and satisfaction necessitates investigation into myself and an understanding of the whole nature of demand.
Demand is born out of duality: ‘I am unhappy and I must be happy’. In that very demand that I must be happy is unhappiness. When one makes an effort to be good, in that very goodness is its opposite, evil. Everything affirmed contains its own opposite, and effort to overcome strengthens that against which it strives. When you demand an experience of truth or reality, that very demand is born out of your discontent with what is, and therefore the demand creates the opposite. And in the opposite there is what has been. So one must be free of this incessant demand, otherwise there will be no end to the corridor of duality. This means knowing yourself so completely that the mind is no longer seeking.
Such a mind does not demand experience; it cannot ask for a challenge or know a challenge; it does not say, ‘I am asleep’ or ‘I am awake’. It is completely what it is. Only the frustrated, narrow, shallow mind, the conditioned mind, is always seeking the more. Is it possible then to live in this world without the more – without this everlasting comparison? Surely it is? But one has to find out for oneself.
Investigation into this whole question is meditation. That word had been used both in the East and the West in a most unfortunate way. There are different schools of meditation, different methods and systems. There are systems which say, ‘Watch the movement of your big toe, watch it, watch it, watch it; there are other systems which advocate sitting in a certain posture, breathing regularly or practising awareness. All this is utterly mechanical. The other method gives you a certain word and tells you that if you go on repeating it you will have some extraordinary transcendental experience. This is sheer nonsense. It is a form of self-hypnosis. By repeating Amen or Om or Coca-Cola indefinitely you will obviously have-a certain experience because by repetition the mind becomes quiet. It is a well known phenomenon which has been practised for thousands of years in India – Mantra Yoga it is called. By repetition you can induce the mind to be gentle and soft but it is still a petty, shoddy, little mind. You might as well put a piece of stick you have picked up in the garden on the mantelpiece and give it a flower every day. In a month you will be worshipping it and not to put a flower in front of it will become a sin.
Meditation is not following any system; it is not constant repetition and imitation. Meditation is not concentration. It is one of the favourite gambits of some teachers of meditation to insist on their pupils learning concentration – that is, fixing the mind on one thought and driving out all other thoughts. This is a most stupid, ugly thing, which any schoolboy can do because he is forced to. It means that all the time you are having a battle between the insistence that you must concentrate on the one hand and your mind on the other which wanders away to all sorts of other things, whereas you should be attentive to every movement of the mind wherever it wanders. When your mind wanders off it means you are interested in something else.
Meditation demands an astonishingly alert mind; meditation is the understanding of the totality of life in which every form of fragmentation has ceased. Meditation is not control of thought, for when thought is controlled it breeds conflict in the mind, but when you understand the structure and origin of thought, which we have already been into, then thought will not interfere. That very understanding of the structure of thinking is its own discipline which is meditation.
Meditation is to be aware of every thought and of every feeling, never to say it is right or wrong but just to watch it and move with it. In that watching you begin to understand the whole movement of thought and feeling. And out of this awareness comes silence. Silence put together by thought is stagnation, is dead, but the silence that comes when thought has understood its own beginning, the nature of itself, understood how all thought is never free but always old – this silence is meditation in which the meditator is entirely absent, for the mind has emptied itself of the past.
If you have read this book for a whole hour attentively, that is meditation. If you have merely taken away a few words and gathered a few ideas to think about later, then it is no longer meditation. Meditation is a state of mind which looks at everything with complete attention, totally, not just parts of it. And no one can teach you how to be attentive. If any system teaches you how to be attentive, then you are attentive to the system and that is not attention. Meditation is one of the greatest arts in life – perhaps the greatest, and one cannot possibly learn it from anybody, that is the beauty of it. It has no technique and therefore no authority. When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy – if you are aware of all that in yourself, without any choice, that is part of meditation.
So meditation can take place when you are sitting in a bus or walking in the woods full of light and shadows, or listening to the singing of birds or looking at the face of your wife or child.
In the understanding of meditation there is love, and love is not the product of systems, of habits, of following a method. Love cannot be cultivated by thought. Love can perhaps come into being when there is complete silence, a silence in which the mediator is entirely absent; and the mind can be silent only when it understands its own movement as thought and feeling. To understand this movement of thought and feeling there can be no condemnation in observing it. To observe in such a way is the discipline, and that kind of discipline is fluid, free, not the discipline of conformity.