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The Beauty of Death as Part of Life

Fourth Public Talk at Brockwood Park

Sunday, September 5, 1982

This is the last talk. I suppose you will be glad and I'll be glad too.

I think one should go over briefly what we have been talking about the last two talks and the two question meetings. We talked about the chaos in the world, the great uncertainty for all of us. Life is becoming more and more dangerous, unpredictable, and the future, from what one observes as things are politically, economically, even socially, it is rather grim. One is not pessimistic or optimistic, but these are facts. They are preparing for war. Man apparently has not learned from past history that killing another human being is of no value, doesn't solve any problems, but apparently that is the fashion, that is the national inheritance and accepted orthodoxy. And nobody seems to demonstrate, and there have been a great many demonstrations about nuclear war, about this and that, but nobody, from the highest to the lowest, seems to demonstrate to end all wars, not a particular kind of war, atomic or a conventional war, or other types of war, but one has not given one's energy, or the drive, or the intensity to stop all wars. Of course the politicians would never agree to that, nor the gurus, nor the highest Christian authorities. If they did they wouldn't be the highest authorities.

And also we talked about the general disorder outwardly and the inward disorder that we live with. We talked about hatred spreading throughout the world more and more, and there seems to be no end to that. We talked also about human beings wounded psychologically from childhood and the consequences of that hurt, the wounds that one receives while being educated, in the family. Education, college, university, and the whole process of living seems to breed this kind of inward hurt, which breeds isolation, fear and the kind of neuroticism that seems to be common.

And also we talked about, perhaps the most important thing, is relationship, how essential it is to find out for oneself to live a life in which conflict doesn't exist in relationship – sexual, the individual search for his own fulfilment, pursuing his own ambitions and therefore the relationship is never complete, it is always divided, like two parallel lines never meeting. And that is what we call relationship, and therefore in it there is perpetual conflict. And the cause of that conflict, that lack of deep fundamental relationship is this sense of isolation, not only the individual isolation – the very word indicates isolation, but that word too has a different meaning – indivisible, a human being who is not broken up, living at different levels of his life: business life, religious life, social life, family life and so on. Such a human being cannot possibly have deep abiding, lasting, a relationship in which there is love. We have talked about it quite a lot.

And also we have enquired together into the nature of fear, whether it is possible for human beings living in this ugly world, to be totally... free completely of all fear. Fear is a terrible thing, it darkens, shortens, it makes one's mind so brittle. And whether it is possible to be free of all fear, both psychologically and outwardly. Where there is fear there cannot be generosity, cannot be that sense of great affection.

We also talked about love and compassion and intelligence. We said that that which is love cannot be approached positively but that which is not can be put aside – jealousy, ambition, antagonism, ambition, competition, deny the very nature and the beauty of love. And we talked also about compassion. There can be no compassion obviously if one is anchored in a belief, in a faith, in a dogma, or belonging to some group, some sects. Such a person may have pity, sympathy, generosity, but it is not compassion. Where there is compassion there is intelligence. We went into that. We enquired into what is the nature of a human being that is intelligent. If intelligence is based on knowledge, is the outcome of knowledge, then we have a great deal of knowledge of most things in life, but that knowledge has not transformed us, has not made us intelligent. The very antagonisms, national divisions and racial and religious divisions indicate how unintelligent we are. Somebody should write a history about stupidity, (laughter) and I believe they have, perhaps in the thirties somebody wrote a book. But such books are easily forgotten, put aside.

And we talked about yesterday the nature of suffering, why human beings, who apparently have such extraordinary skill, extraordinary capacity in the technological field, have not used that capacity, that energy, that quality of intensity to wipe away all human suffering, both physically and psychologically. Perhaps they will succeed wiping away physical pain, disease and so on, but man has lived for millennia upon millennia and yet he suffers. And we went into that very carefully and it would be not the occasion again to repeat what was said yesterday morning.

So we ought to talk over together this morning, and please don't consider it rather morbid or unnecessary on a lovely morning like this to talk about death, because it is part of our life, as all the other characteristics of our life like hate, jealousy, violence and occasional flare of the beauty of love; it is all part of our life. And also we ought to talk over together, not that you are listening to the speaker, copying his words, or his statements or try to understand what he is talking about, but rather together investigate these problems and find out the truth of them. And so please we are talking over together, you are sharing, partaking, co-operating, not just listening and then agreeing or disagreeing and walk off, do your T'ai chi endlessly or your yoga, or some practice of some guru which he thinks will enlighten you, but we are concerned with our daily life, not some exotic, fanciful religious concepts but actual daily life of conflict, the confusion we live in, the uncertainty, the search for security. We have been through all that, it is part of our life. And also death is part of our life, though we may not acknowledge that fact. We may try to avoid it, slur over it, or only be concerned at the last minute, as most people are. So we should together enquire into the nature, into that extraordinary fact, as life is an extraordinary fact, we ought to consider that also.

And we should too consider, before death and meditation, what is beauty. It is important too. Does beauty lie in the eye of the observer? Is beauty a state of mind that has studied all the paintings, the poets and the statuary of the world and come to a certain conclusion. The architecture of the most extraordinary buildings in the world, from the deep pyramids to the Parthenon, to the cathedrals, to the temples and the mosques. And when one observes those marvellous trees, the sequoias who have lived five to six thousand years, some of them, what is beauty, where is beauty? In the poet... in the poems, in the literature, in the painting? Or when you see a beautiful person, well-formed, beautiful features. What do you consider to be beauty? This is important because love goes with beauty.

So one must enquire into this nature of what is beautiful. When do you perceive beauty? You see a marvellous mountain with deep valleys and shadows, against the blue sky, with all the light of heaven upon it, and for a moment you are struck by this grandeur, by the greatness of that enormous solid rock, and for a second you are absent, you have forgotten your problems, your petty quarrels and all the rest of it, and you are facing this tremendous beauty. Does beauty exist only when the self is not? Please do ask these questions of yourself. The self, the me, the person, the name, the form, all those words of fear, violence and problems and deep loneliness with its despairs, that is the self, the me, striving, striving to become something. When that self is absent completely, is that... state of mind, being, perceives beauty. As you do when you see a great monument, great mountains. For a second the self is driven away by an accident, by a crisis, then perhaps one sees that which is beautiful. It happens to all of us; this is nothing extraordinary. When you see a lovely sunset, indescribable light, golden, orange, green, and for a second everything is forgotten. There is the startling clarity of beauty, of light. At that moment the self is not.

Now, can one live that way? – not be absorbed by something enormous, something majestic, like a toy with a child... child with a toy, rather. The child is absorbed in the toy and forgotten all his eager mischief. For the moment the toy has taken him over, till he breaks that toy. So he depends on that toy to make him forget. And we depend on some toy also – grown up people. The toy of a symbol, the toy of a word, the toy of a mantra. The word « mantra » in Sanskrit, I believe, means meditate or think over not becoming and absolve all self-centred activity. That is the root meaning of that word – and what we have made of it.

So is it possible to live a life without causation? Please enquire together into this. Our life, our whole existence has a cause. I do this because. I love you because. I worship because I am afraid that my life is empty and perhaps some outside agency will help. There is always a cause in our life. And where there is a cause there is an ending. If I love because you offer me sex, pleasure, companionship, because it has a cause that kind of relationship soon ends. But to live a life without any causation is to live a life that is measureless, because such a life has no ending. It isn't my life that I am ending. Those people who have a cause will always find an end. Perhaps that may be immortality. Not my immortality or yours, but to live a life that has no beginning, which is a cause, and therefore it has no end. If one sees the beauty of that then life has a totally different meaning. Please, as we said, we are talking over together. It is not the speaker is stimulating you, then the speaker becomes a drug, then you depend and all the mischief begins. But if we are together enquiring into this, probing very, very carefully, sceptically with a great deal of doubt of everything you have examined, because that may not be complete examination – doubt, scepticism are great factors in life.

And so we should together go into this question of death. What is it that dies? And what is it that lives? Both of them go together. When you use the word « death », dying, it means that you have also lived. The two cannot be separated. That is a basic truth, that it cannot be separated, as you cannot possibly separate relationship as though by itself, like a hurt, like a wound, like a fear. They are all interrelated. There is no one problem. One problem if it is properly understood psychologically, then in that problem all problems are included. But if you separate and say this is one problem I must solve, then you are reducing life into a shoddy little affair. But if one examines one problem completely, and that to understand the nature of that completeness one must understand how one approaches a problem. So we must be very clear that life and death go together. They are not something in the distant. When one is young, full of life, enjoyment and a great deal of energy, one doesn't ever think about the other end. As one grows a little bit older, watches one's son die, then you begin to question, then you begin to shed tears and the anxieties of life. Death is there for all of us.

So what is it to die? And so what is it to live? One cannot ask what it is to die without asking what it is to live. If we don't understand the living then we will be frightened of the other, naturally. But if we understand the nature of living then we will comprehend also, deeply, the nature of dying. Not what happens after death but rather what happens before one dies. That is far more important to find out what happens before dying rather than what happens after. Volumes have been written of what happens after. And we are all eagerly searching or waiting, or rationalizing what happens after but we never look at what happens before. So we are going together look at what happens before. What happens to all of us before? – the thing called living, the thing called becoming, the struggles, the pains, the anxieties, the loneliness, the deep endless sorrow, working from morning till night till we are sixty and then retire to die. This is what we call living. And we are questioning whether that is living at all. Please, you must question this, not I, not the speaker, but each one of us must question. Question, not find an answer. It is a challenge and we must know how to meet a challenge. This is a challenge. What is our life, the living? The acquisition of money, search for power, sexual fulfilment, the striving, the conflict, the fears, the anxieties, the loneliness and the deepening sorrows – is that our life? It is our life. It is everlasting becoming something. That is why you all belong – not all – some of you belong to some group hoping to become something, to become illumined, to become rich. So the becoming has a cause and if you don't become in a certain direction you go to the other and keep this strain of becoming all the time. That is our daily life, in the business world, in the political world, in the religious world – think of it, absurd, in the religious world – the priest becoming the bishop, the bishop and cardinal, and the cardinal eventually became the top dog. (Laughter) No, no, you see, please don't laugh, see the fact, see the extraordinary cruelty of it all. And this is what we call living, and of course then we are frightened of death.

So we are going to find out, if we can, whether in this living whether it is possible to be free completely of all the burden of man. That's what we have been discussing for the last sixty years or so, whether it is possible to be free totally from all fear, from all the wounds that man has given to man, the agonies, the loneliness, the utter separation of existence; whether we are individuals at all, because our consciousness with all the things that thought has put there, like fear, faith and so on, is the common lot of all mankind. Our consciousness, though we think is ours, individual consciousness, it is not when you examine it very closely. It is the common lot, common ground of all human beings. So one questions whether there is individuality at all, though on the peripheral, on the outward existence you may be better educated, more money, better fed, better clothes, more power, but inwardly we are all the same. You belong to one sect, or one group, one commune, call yourself or robe yourself differently but inwardly, inside the skin, psychologically, you are humanity. And so you are basically not an individual – that is one of our illusions. We think, we also say thinking is my thinking. Thinking is never personal, individual, it's thinking... thinking is common to all mankind from the great philosophers to the mathematicians, to the scientists and to the poor ignorant man never knowing how to read or write or travel. Thinking is, again, common to all of us. So thinking is neither East nor West. That is our life.

When there is no freedom from this kind of travail and agony, and occasional sense of beauty, then what is death? Why are you frightened, why are we all so scared? The Hindus, the ancient Hindus, have invented a theory that you will live after, carry on with your misery this life, next life if you behave properly it will be better. You will have more money, better houses, better clothes and you will have better power, or you will be a great saint. And the Christians too have their own rationalization – resurrection, you know all the rest of it. Those who believe in reincarnation, that is to incarnate next life, what is it that incarnates next life? Go into it, sirs, don't accept the tradition – go into it, what is it that incarnates next life? Your thoughts? Your loneliness? Your striving? Your utter confusion and sorrow? And is sorrow, anxiety, loneliness and agony to be dispelled through time, which is evolution? We like to think so. We like to think violence will end; give me time. While you have time you sow the further seeds of violence, obviously. So those who believe in this theory, though some of them say, « Oh no, it is very actual » – maybe – one has to be very careful of all these beliefs. It isn't one belief that is going to solve all the problems. If you believe in that, that means you must live now a righteous life, a good life, an intelligent life, a life of love and compassion. But you don't. That is just a theory to comfort you at the last minute.

So what is it that dies? Please answer this question to yourselves. Not what the books say, not what your tradition says, because that just may be another form of illusion. It doesn't matter who says it, the Buddha or anybody who says it, Shankara according to the ancient Hindus, they may be deceived, and human beings are deceived very, very easily because the root of it is they all want comfort.

So, what is it that dies? Obviously your attachments, your bank account, though you may like to have it till the last minute, it is your bank account, your belief, your loneliness, your relationship, intimate and otherwise – all that dies. Just see what happens. That what is dying. You have collected a great deal of art treasure, wealth, good houses, your character, cultivated this and that, not only the garden but you have cultivated your own mind, your own heart. At the end of it all death is there. That is, all these qualities is you. You may call it the soul, the Hindus give it a different name but it is that centre of the self – the name, the form, the qualities, the wounds, the hurts – all that is me. And through disease, old age or accident, all that is cut off. And that is death. Right? So we have separated living and death is somewhere far round the corner.

Now the next question to that is: can death take place while living? Please understand what we mean. I am attached to my family, to my wife, to my house, to the beautiful furniture I just bought the other day – I haven't bought it but – and I'm attached to all that. Death is the ending of that. Now can I, living in this life with all my vitality, end the attachment, which is death? You understand? Are you following all this? I am attached to my wife, or to my children, more to my bank account, and death wipes all that away. While living with my clear mind, with her clarities, with my vitality, end that attachment. So I am living with death all the time. Do you understand the beauty of it? Do you understand? That is, ending that which psychologically I have accumulated. Therefore the living and the dying go together. Do you understand what it means? I wish... Would it be possible to do this? Have you ever tried, if one may ask most respectfully, have you ever tried to end something without any cause? Ordinary things – smoking, drinking, chattering, end following somebody, your leader, your guru, your priest, your specialist – specialist psychologically, I am not talking... we are not talking of the specialist, physical specialist, the doctors and so on – have you voluntarily, without any cause, end something? You may dislike somebody, hate somebody – end it. That is death. So one begins to understand, if one goes into it very deeply, that death is not something at the end of one's life, however brief, however long, but death is a movement of life. Death is closely related to life. And so where there is an ending, complete ending, without causation, then there is a beginning without end, that is immortality. That is a state of timelessness. But if I am frightened of death, which is frightened of losing, to end that fear, lose now. You understand? In that there is great beauty.

So we ought next talk about – we haven't finished the subject of death because it is much too complicated. One has to go into it very, very deeply. That is, what happens to all of us, whose consciousness is common to all mankind, what happens to the one who is out of that consciousness? What relationship has that person to the rest of mankind. You understand? I won't go into it now because we haven't got time. As I said death with all its meaning it's a very complex, needs very careful observation, Cannot observe when there is fear. It requires great hesitancy, affection, seeing what life and death are.

Now we ought to talk about also, as this is the last meeting, what is meditation? In relation to that we ought to talk over together what is religion? Go to the smallest Indian village – poor, hungry, probably one meal and that meal is not sufficient, and they have also the feeling of religiosity. They worship a tree, a stone. And you come to a more complicated, sophisticated society, it is the same movement. They may put a garland round a stone with great reverence. In a sophisticated society it is much more polished. There you have got marvellous cathedrals, churches, painted windows, solemnity, chanting, candles, the strange dress. That also creates a great atmosphere. If you have been to some of the old cathedrals where cardinals are performing it is really an extraordinarily beautiful thing. It may be nonsense. All the words and all the things that go on, it may all be ridiculous but the atmosphere, the beauty of those vast pillars reaching up to the heavens. That is the same quality only polished, clean, healthy, two thousand years of repetition. It is the same as the man or the woman in the village who puts a garland, a flower in front of a stone. Both are so-called religious. Don't call the other a heathen, an ignorant man; he is doing exactly the same thing as you are, worshipping something outside, something, an agency, a god with all the paraphernalia of religious orthodoxy. So what is religion? This is necessary to understand before we go into the question of meditation.

Is all that is going on in the name of religion, the Judaic, the Arabic, the Islamic world, their brutality, their whippings – you know what is happening there. And all the vast superstitions of India with their three hundred thousand gods or more. You can invent as many gods as you like and that is more fun than having one god! But all gods are invented, as all the rituals. But the longing, the feeling that there must be something beyond all this, beyond all the human suffering, beyond all the human sorrow, work, labour, all the materialistic world with their marvellous technology, there must be something beyond all this, otherwise life has become... life has very little meaning as it is now. So, man invents: my life is empty, shallow, meaningless and I must have something more. So he invents gods. And gods are invented. God hasn't created us – if he has he must be rather a crummy god, because he has made our life into such appalling misery, hate and all the rest of it. So we have made god after our image, which is the opposite of what we are – kind, benevolent, all-knowing, protecting, great comforter, and so on. Is all that religion? Man has always searched for something sacred. You may not believe in anything sacred. That is your affair. But there are many millions and millions, including oneself, if one is serious, one asks is there something sacred, imperishable, not measurable? And to come upon that, meditation is necessary. So we must ask what is meditation?

To find out what meditation is, the beauty of it, not the word – the word means to ponder over, meaning of that word, to ponder, to think, to recollect – so to find out what is meditation we must approach it negatively. That is to find out what it is not. You understand? Most of us are so positive, and we think meditation is something that we have to do, practice, but if we can approach it with intelligence, not with desire, but with intelligence, which is to see what it is not. So shall we do it together? What it is not.

First of all it is not a system. If you practice a system your brain becomes more mechanical than it is. Right? So obvious. If I practise some Tibetan, Zen, or recent money-makers of meditation, then this repetition, whether it twenty minutes afternoon, morning, afternoon and evening, repeat mantras – knowing the meaning of that word, if you knew the meaning of that word you would never repeat the mantra. It is so ridiculous. So any practice – it is like practising a wrong note on the piano. You may practice, practice, practice (laughs) – so please go into this. The Eastern world has brought this unfortunate word here. So meditation is not practising a method. So obvious. Whether it is the Zen, which is extraordinarily put together – from ancient India it went to China, from China to Japan. They couldn't pronounce a certain Sanskrit word « dhyana », which became – so on and so on. Nor is it a becoming. Right? Meditation is not a becoming. That means meditation is not a process of time. Right? Is this clear? That is, according to all the people who have advocated meditation, it is a process of achievement. I am here, I am building layer by layer, brick by brick, day after day, till I am illumined, whatever that may mean. So it is a practice, a becoming in time. See the implications of this. We are talking over together, you are not accepting what the speaker is saying. See what is involved in this, that illumination is a matter of time. Is it? They say the Buddha went through all kinds of trials, sat under a tree and suddenly got illumined – which I question. Illumination is not a matter of time, which means gradually becoming something, gradually putting away all the miseries of one's life, step by step like you peel an onion, shedding tears one after the other. See what that means: this constant conscious effort to achieve a result. The result being that which has been promised, that which has something totally different from my daily miserable life. I will, in spite of all the misery, I will work for that. It is like building a house on sand. And this is called meditation.

Meditation is also called great awareness. Be aware of your breathing, your control, step by step, control. That is, becoming aware of yourself, of your thoughts, of your feelings, of your reactions. Is that meditation? You can do all that very easily, why call it meditation?

So if all that is not meditation, which means meditation is not a conscious effort. Where there is conscious, deliberate effort there is the action of will. Will is the summation of desire, as one desires to become prominent in the business world, what is the difference? You call this more holy, the other is mundane. But it is the same movement. So if you... if meditation is not a conscious process, which is will of action – I will practise, I am lazy this morning, I must get up, and all the rest of it, sit cross-legged, breathe properly, do this kind of yoga, that kind of yoga – you follow? – it all becomes so childish if you look at it all. That is not intolerance; why should you be tolerant about ugliness? That means you put up with it. So if all this is nonsense – they are all making quantities of money out of all this, they are rich beyond words, some of them are – so if all this is not meditation, then what is meditation?

That is, a mind, a human being understands this world, the world outside of us, and the world inside. And in the understanding of the world outside and the understanding of the inside, they are like tides going out and coming in. Please understand the reality of this. It is a tide. Right? The tide has gone out, created the world, the world outside of us – wars, all the rest of it – and then the tide comes in carrying the same movement within us, and we modify it, we cherish it, we do something to it, and goes out. This is the movement. They are not separate movements. My movement is not separate from the world. It is this eternal movement that has been going on. Man has created society and then he becomes slave to society. This is the movement.

Now, please go into this. To have no such movement. Have you captured this? To end such a movement, without any cause, because if there is such a movement it is the perpetual reaction, perpetual response to the outer, then that response creates another reaction in me and I react and create another outward – so this movement of the outer and the inner, when that stops, comes to an end, not consciously, then you are back – if you do it consciously then you are back into the same movement. That is to see the truth of this, to perceive the nature of this movement, the logic of it, the sanity of it, the truth of it. When one perceives that then there is the ending of that.

Put it differently – I hope you are not tired – to put it differently: we depend on experience, that is what all the meditative people, who have all these kind of strange experiences, that is experience, to recognise an experience as an experience you must have already known about it. I read a book about some strange experience of another, he may be all cuckoo, and he has written a marvellous book and I read it, and I say, « By Jove, I have got some pain in my head » – or in my somewhere – « and I am beginning to have that experience ». So, to live – please understand this – to live without a single experience, which means to be a light to oneself. Right? And seeing all the religious circus that is going on in the world, in the name of god, in the name of whatever it is, is meaningless, having perceived the truth of all that, having set aside completely all that, that means there is no outside agency, except you. And meditation is the ending of this movement of action and reaction, the outer and the inner. And then such an ending, because it has no cause it is endless – you understand? – it is timeless.

Then also we should go into this question of mind, a brain that is quiet. This is part of meditation. Not make the brain quiet through breathing, through repetition, through various tricks, but to make the whole physical, psychological entity to be absolutely quiet, to bring about this quietness, which is to bring about the silence of the brain. There are various types of silence: silence between two terrible noises, silence between two thoughts, silence between two efforts, silence between two notes. It is like silence, peace between two wars. That is what we are having. There is quietness, there is peace between two wars. That is not silence, that is not peace.

So one has to enquire what it is to have a deep, causeless silence. When the brain is totally free from its conditioning, then only there is that quality and the great depth of that silence. Then in that silence there is the flowering of that which is eternal. But that requires, all this requires great seriousness, not just an hour separated from the rest of one's life, but life is serious and if one wants to be serious it is up to all of us. The world demands such a group of beings who are tremendously serious. In that seriousness there is humour too. So a small group can affect the whole world, as one human being can affect the whole world. So this whole movement is meditation and the happening of that which is timeless, nameless, measureless. Meditation means also to have no measure. That is also part of the root meaning of that word « meditation », to have no measurement, to have no comparison. That which has happened is finished. You don't build on that which has happened. There must be constant emptiness so that there is a movement without any cause.

May I get up please?

Fourth Public Talk at Brockwood Park

Sunday, September 5, 1982

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