What, then, do we mean by understanding? Understanding means giving right significance, right valuation, to all things. To be ignorant is to give wrong values; the very nature of stupidity is the lack of comprehension of right values. Understanding comes into being when there are right values, when right values are established. And how is one to establish right values – the right value of property, the right value of relationship, the right value of ideas? For the right values to come into being, you must understand the thinker, must you not? If I don’t understand the thinker, which is myself what I choose has no meaning; that is if I don’t know myself, then my action, my thought, has no foundation whatsoever. Therefore self-knowledge is the beginning of meditation – not the knowledge that you pick up from my books, from authorities, from gurus, but the knowledge that comes into being through self-inquiry, which is self-awareness. Meditation is the beginning of self-knowledge and without self-knowledge there is no meditation. If I don’t understand the ways of my thoughts, of my feelings, if I don’t understand my motives, my desires, my demands, my pursuit of patterns of action, which are ideas – if I do not know myself, there is no foundation for thinking; the thinker who merely asks, prays, or excludes, without understanding himself, must inevitably end in confusion, in illusion.
The beginning of meditation is self-knowledge, which means being aware of every movement of thought and feeling, knowing all the layers of my consciousness, not only the superficial layers but the hidden, the deeply concealed activities. To know the deeply concealed activities, the hidden motives, responses, thoughts and feelings, there must be tranquillity in the conscious mind; that is the conscious mind must be still in order to receive the projection of the unconscious. The superficial, conscious mind is occupied with its daily activities, with earning a livelihood, deceiving others, exploiting others, running away from problems – all the daily activities of our existence. That superficial mind must understand the right significance of its own activities and thereby bring tranquillity to itself. It cannot bring about tranquillity, stillness, by mere regimentation, by compulsion, by discipline. It can bring about tranquillity, peace, stillness, only by understanding its own activities, by observing them, by being aware of them, by seeing its own ruthlessness, how it talks to the servant, to the wife, to the daughter, to the mother and so on. When the superficial, conscious mind 1s thus fully aware of all its activities, through that understanding it becomes spontaneously quiet, not drugged by compulsion or regimented by desire; then it is in a position to receive the intimation, the hints of the unconscious, of the many, many hidden layers of the mind – the racial instincts, the buried memories, the concealed pursuits, the deep wounds that are still unhealed. It is only when all these have projected themselves and are understood, when the whole consciousness is unburdened, unfettered by any wound, by any memory whatsoever, that it is in a position to receive the eternal.
Meditation is self-knowledge and without self-knowledge there is no meditation. If you are not aware of all your responses all the time, if you are not fully conscious, fully cognizant of your daily activities, merely to lock yourself in a room and sit down in front of a picture of your guru, of your Master, to meditate, is an escape, because without self-knowledge there is no right thinking and, without right thinking, what you do has no meaning, however noble your intentions are. Thus prayer has no significance without self-knowledge but when there is self-knowledge there is right thinking and hence right action. When there is right action, there is no confusion and therefore there is no supplication to someone else to lead you out of it. A man who is fully aware is meditating; he does not pray, because he does not want anything. Through prayer, through regimentation, through repetition and all the rest of it, you can bring about a certain stillness, but that is mere dullness, reducing the mind and the heart to a state of weariness. it is drugging the mind; and exclusion, which you call concentration, does not lead to reality – no exclusion ever can. What brings about understanding is self-knowledge, and it is not very difficult to be aware if there is right intention. If you are interested to discover the whole process of yourself – not merely the superficial part but the total process of your whole being – then it is comparatively easy. If you really want to know yourself, you will search out your heart and your mind to know their full content and when there is the intention to know, you will know. Then you can follow, without condemnation or justification, every movement of thought and feeling; by following every thought and every feeling as it arises you bring about tranquillity which is not compelled, not regimented, but which is the outcome of having no problem, no contradiction. It is like the pool that becomes peaceful, quiet, any evening when there is no wind; when the mind is still, then that which is immeasurable comes into being.