One of our most difficult problems is what we call discipline, and it is really very complex. You see, society feels that it must control or discipline the citizen, shape his mind according to certain religious, social, moral and economic patterns.
Now, is discipline necessary at all? Please listen carefully, don’t immediately say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Most of us feel, especially while we are young, that there should be no discipline, that we should be allowed to do whatever we like, and we think that is freedom. But merely to say that we should or should not have discipline, that we should be free, and so on, has very little meaning without understanding the whole problem of discipline.
The keen athlete is disciplining himself all the time, is he not? His joy in playing games and the very necessity to keep fit makes him go to bed early, refrain from smoking, eat the right food and generally observe the rules of good health. His discipline is not an imposition or a conflict, but a natural outcome of his enjoyment of athletics.
Now, does discipline increase or decrease human energy? Human beings throughout the world, in every religion, in every school of philosophy, impose discipline on the mind, which implies control, resistance, adjustment, suppression; and is all this necessary? If discipline brings about a greater output of human energy, then it is worthwhile, then it has meaning; but if it merely suppresses human energy, it is very harmful, destructive. All of us have energy, and the question is whether that energy through discipline can be made vital, rich and abundant, or whether discipline destroys whatever energy we have. I think this is the central issue.
Many human beings do not have a great deal of energy, and what little energy they have is soon smothered and destroyed by the controls, threats and taboos of their particular society with its so-called education; so they become imitative, lifeless citizens of that society. And does discipline give increased energy to the individual who has a little more to begin with? Does it make his life rich and full of vitality?
When you are very young, as you all are, you are full of energy, are you not? You want to play, to rush about, to talk; you can’t sit still, you are full of life. Then what happens? As you grow up your teachers begin to curtail that energy by shaping it, directing it into various moulds; and when at last you become men and women the little energy you have left is soon smothered by society, which says that you must be proper citizens, you must behave in a certain way. Through so-called education and the compulsion of society this abounding energy you have when you are young is gradually destroyed.
Now, can the energy you have at present be made more vital through discipline? If you have only a little energy, can discipline increase it? If it can, then discipline has meaning; but if discipline really destroys one’s energy, then discipline must obviously be put aside.
What is this energy which we all have? This energy is thinking, feeling; it is interest, enthusiasm, greed, passion, lust, ambition, hate. Painting pictures, inventing machines, building bridges, making roads, cultivating the fields, playing games writing poems, singing, dancing, going to the temple, worshipping – these are all expressions of energy; and energy also creates illusion, mischief, misery. The very finest and the most destructive qualities are equally the expressions of human energy. But, you see, the process of controlling or disciplining this energy letting it out in one direction and restricting it in another becomes merely a social convenience; the mind is shaped according to the pattern of a particular culture, and thereby its energy is gradually dissipated.
So, our problem is, can this energy, which in one degree or another we all possess, be increased, given greater vitality – and if so, to do what? What is energy for? Is it the purpose of energy to make war? Is it to invent jet planes and innumerable other machines, to pursue some guru, to pass examinations, to have children, to worry endlessly over this problem and that? Or can energy be used in a different way so that all our activities have significance in relation to something which transcends them all? Surely, if the human mind, which is capable of such astonishing energy, is not seeking reality or God, then every expression of its energy becomes a means of destruction and misery. To seek reality requires immense energy; and, if man is not doing that, he dissipates his energy in ways which create mischief, and therefore society has to control him. Now, is it possible to liberate energy in seeking God or truth and, in the process of discovering what is true, to be a citizen who understands the fundamental issues of life and whom society cannot destroy? Are you following this, or is it a little bit too complex?
You see, man is energy, and if man does not seek truth, this energy becomes destructive; therefore society controls and shapes the individual, which smothers this energy. That is what has happened to the majority of grown-up people all over the world. And perhaps you have noticed another interesting and very simple fact: that the moment you really want to do something, you have the energy to do it. What happens when you are keen to play a game? You immediately have energy, have you not? And that very energy becomes the means of controlling itself, so you don’t need outside discipline. In the search for reality, energy creates its own discipline. The man who is seeking reality spontaneously becomes the right kind of citizen, which is not according to the pattern of any particular society or government.
So, students as well as teachers must work together to bring about the release of this tremendous energy to find reality, God or truth. In your very seeking of truth there will be discipline, and then you will be a real human being, a complete individual, and not merely a Hindu or a Parsi limited by his particular society and culture. If, instead of curtailing his energy as it is doing now, the school can help the student to awaken his energy in the pursuit of truth, then you will find that discipline has quite a different meaning.
Why is it that in the home, in the classroom and in the hostel you are always being told what you must do and what you must not do? Surely, it is because your parents and teachers, like the rest of society, have not perceived that man exists for only one purpose, which is to find reality or God. If even a small group of educators were to understand and give their whole attention to that search, they would create a new kind of education and a different society altogether.
Don’t you notice how little energy most of the people around you have, including your parents and teachers? They are slowly dying, even when their bodies are not yet old. Why? Because they have been beaten into submission by society. You see, without understanding its fundamental purpose which is to find extraordinary thing called the mind, which has the capacity to create atomic submarines and jet planes, which can write the most amazing poetry and prose, which can make the world so beautiful and also destroy the world – without understanding its fundamental purpose, which is to find truth or God, this energy becomes destructive; and then society says, ‘We must shape and control the energy of the individual.’
So, it seems to me that the function of education is to bring about a release of energy in the pursuit of goodness, truth, or God, which in turn makes the individual a true human being and therefore the right kind of citizen. But mere discipline, without full comprehension of all this, has no meaning, it is a most destructive thing. Unless each one of you is so educated that, when you leave school and go out into the world, you are full of vitality and intelligence, full of abounding energy to find out what is true, you will merely be absorbed by society; you will be smothered, destroyed, miserably unhappy for the rest of your life. As a river creates the banks which hold it, so the energy which seeks truth creates its own discipline without any form of imposition; and as the river finds the sea, so that energy finds its own freedom.