Lecture, May 23, 2003, International Theosophical Centre, Besant Hall, Naarden, The Netherlands
Inner and Outer Change
In the talk this morning we saw that our society is facing several deep-rooted problems. Some are of more recent origin, but others like war have been with us for thousands of years. I would like to consider in the talk now how we could bring about the ending of these problems or a transformation in society. We can either deal with these problems from the outside and then hope it will also bring about a change in the individual, in his attitudes and in his life.Or we can try to bring about a change in the individual and hope that will bring about a transformation in society. In other words, the question I want to address is: will outer change bring about an inner change, or will the inner change bring about the outer change?
The communists tried to bring about a change in society from the outside. They tried to create equality by giving the same amenities to everybody, the same salary and so on.They tried to eliminate any belief in God and prevent any form of religion in society by forbidding them legally. They also tried to eliminate evils like prostitution and crime by the state suppressing it with stringent laws.We have seen this experiment happening in Russia and its accessory states for nearly 70 years. At the end of it, there has not been any significant transformation of the individual in Russia, and the society there is not free from crime or prostitution or any of those evils which they tried to suppress externally.
In the so-called democratic societies too, we have tried to handle crime by creating a police force and instituting a system of courts and laws, which punishes the criminal. All this may have controlled the manifestation of crime to some extent but it has not eliminated it. So it is clear that external control only deals with the symptoms, the manifestation of the disease. It does not cure the disease. The human individual has also used his own conscience as an inner policeman and tried to control the violence within him as well as other evils like greed,anger and hate. He has tried to follow the commandments given by his particular religion, the do's and don'ts, but he has constantly failed in living up to his ideals. The externally imposed discipline apparently does not resolve the problem at its source; it only controls its manifestation.
Therefore it is not reasonable for us to expect a fundamental transformation in society on account of changes brought about by the government, or through religious authority and sermons. These have not changed human beings. And society is the way it is, because we are the way we are. So for us to expect that society can be fundamentally different without our changing, does not seem to be reasonable. But that is what we have been attempting in all societies in the world. We think that a new organisation, a new form of government, another set of laws or a new religion is going to bring peace, harmony,non-violence and welfare in society.We have had great religious teachers and we have had great political leaders and at the end of all that the state of our society is what I described this morning.
I think it is important to understand the relation between the individual and society. After all a society is a collection of millions of individuals. So if each individual is violent, greedy, self-centred, hateful, is it possible to organise them into a society that is peaceful, harmonious, where there is no crime, no violence? We may control the violence in some directions, but it will erupt in other directions.The violence manifests itself differently in a democratic, free society and it manifests differently in a communist society,but it does not go away. We may prefer certain forms of manifestation to others but you cannot have freedom from violence unless the individual ceases to be violent. It is a little like chemistry: we teach students that if you start with calcium, carbon and oxygen atoms then you will end up with calcium carbonate. The properties of the material are determined by the nature of the constituent atoms in it. In the same way the characteristics of the society are determined by the characteristics of the individuals comprising it !. That is why, fundamentally, there is not too much difference between one society and another. The problems of groupism,violence, conflict and ecological imbalances, which we talked about this morning, exist in all societies.They may be more rampant in one society at a particular time than in another society but that is usually just a matter or circumstance.If each individual is violent, you create in society a sea of violence, and in that sea a storm arises, sometimes in Kashmir and sometimes in Ireland and sometimes in Yugoslavia, but the potential for it exists everywhere.
Krishnamurti was once giving a talk in Varanasi, soon after the murder of Gandhi and the question was put to him: what was responsible for the murder of Gandhi? And he said,"Each one of you who is divided on the basis of caste, on the basis of religion, on the basis of language, is responsible for that murder." The law, of course, considers that the man who pulled the trigger is responsible and he is the one who was arrested and hanged. But what produced that man? A child is not born a murderer; it is the society that converts him into a criminal. And so on the one hand society is producing criminals,and on the other hand it is creating a mechanism for eliminating them ! In the same way, we are creating through hatred and division the causes of war and we have also created an organisation called the United Nations whose job it is to prevent the war ! And the same thing you can notice also in our own individual life. If I am violent, I want to practice non-violence. I create a concept of non-violence and I try to suppress the manifestation of violence within me. But real non-violence is not merely a question of not hitting somebody. The feeling of hatred that we feel within us is also violence. After all, when do we call the fighting a war? If groups of people are hating each other, there is psychological warfare going on all the time but we call it a war only when it reaches a certain level of physical manifestation with guns shooting and aeroplanes dropping bombs.We are not objecting to the psychological warfare, we are objecting only to its manifestation as physical warfare. Similarly we are not objecting to the division between human beings, but we object to rioting between them.
The extent to which the manifestation will take place is dependent on circumstances. When the hatred grows intolerable, then it results in physical killing and violence. Recently there has been this war in Iraq, and it was carried out presumably to solve some problems. But thousands of innocent people have been killed in that process and they feel that tremendous injustice has been done to them. And this hatred in the human being sows the seeds of the next war.If you study history intelligently you will see that every war has sown the seeds of the next war. That is why it is said that wars begin in the minds of men. But that is not where we are handling it, we are handling it only at the level of the outer manifestation.It is like continually getting boils in different parts of your body and applying medicine to heal one boil at a time but never asking, why one is getting boils all over the body ! Also,to some extent, the external system which we create in order to cope with the problem maintains the problem. If there were no doctors to cure us, we would be much more careful about keeping ourselves healthy and keeping our body trim ! . But now we can afford to lead a wasteful life, and when the body breaks down it is the doctor's job to fix it. Which means the medical system is not just curing my disease but it is also helping me to continue in the wrong lifestyle. In the same way we do not take responsibility for creating the causes of war, or for producing criminals in society.That is why our problems never end. So long as we are satisfied with only dealing with them outwardly and controlling them, then they will never end. Because unless the deeper cause is eliminated, the effect will not disappear.
Therefore a fundamental transformation in society is only possible without the transformation of the individual. And the individual does not transform only through the transformation of ideas. It appears to us that a man who believes in communist ideas is very different from the man who believes in capitalist ideas or in democracy. But if you look at it deeply, you will see that there is not a tremendous difference between the two. Both are greedy, both are selfish, both are wanting to succeed in life, both are wanting to amass wealth and both are seeking comfort, both are ambitious, but one is wanting that to happen in one way and another in another way. There is a joke, which illustrates this, which I would like to share with you. The joke says, Brezhnev had a mother, who was very old and lived in her village. He was very fond of her so he used to go and meet her every weekend. And she had tremendous affection for him, so she would enquire,"My dear, do you have enough food to eat?" And he would reassure her," Mama, do not worry, the granaries are full and I can eat as much food as I want." "Yes, my dear, but do you have a car to go around?" And he said," Yes, mama, I have a whole fleet of cars at my disposal, and I can choose whichever car I want to go in." "But do you have a house to live in ?" and he said," Yes, I have a palacial house in which I live and it has 20 bedrooms with bathrooms, so mama just don't worry. You can always come and live with me." So she says,"Yes, my dear, but what if the communists come?" He was living like the czars though he stood for communism!
So never judge a man by his speech and by his ideas. The actuality of a human being lies in his consciousness. To look at that, you must denude him of all his property and acquisitions, both the material property and the mental property, the knowledge and ideas he has in his head. Then what you see is the consciousness of that man. And that depends on the wisdom that he actually has. You find wise people among all cultures, and you find violent and ignorant people in all cultures and in all religions.We give tremendous importance to the belief, which a man has,the ideas which a man possesses but is that deeply relevant at all? If a human being is wise and loving and compassionate and non-violent, does it matter whether he is a Hindu or a Jew or a Christian or an atheist? And if he is narrow-minded and selfish and hateful and violent, does it matter whether he is a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or an atheist?
I read a parable, which I would like to share with you. It says: Jesus Christ had not seen a football match. So he asks Saint Peter, can you take me to see a football match? And Saint Peter said, yes, my lord, I'll arrange it. And he took him to see a football match in Ireland. The Catholics were playing against the Protestants. Christ was watching the game very animatedly, feeling very interested, and the Catholics made the first goal. So Jesus was thrilled and he clapped and he threw his hat up in the air and he said, " Hurrah!". Then the game started again, and again Jesus was watching with great interest. And this time it was the Protestants who made the goal. And again Jesus was very excited and he clapped and he threw his hat up in the air and he said," "Hurrah!" So a man sitting behind him was puzzled by this behaviour. He tapped on his shoulder and said," Just a minute, sir. Which side are you on?" And Jesus said,"I am not on any side, I am just enjoying the game !" So the man looked at him and said," Ah, an atheist!"
That's what happens when we give tremendous importance to the labels.We have put labels on human beings ---Islamic, Christian, Hindu, American, Indian, British and so on. So that does not change a human being ! I can tomorrow join a Christian church and become Christian but nothing will change within me because of that. There is a fundamental change in a human being only when his consciousness is transformed from within and the transformation of consciousness is not the same as the transformation of ideas.
After all, the professor of philosophy knows everything about the Buddha and what the Buddha said and what Jesus said, but he does not have love and compassion like Jesus, nor is he free from violence like the Buddha.
So the religious quest is not an intellectual quest. It is a quest for transformation of consciousness. It is only when you have ended violence in your consciousness, that you are non-violent. In fact, when we try to discipline ourselves, it means, actually we are lazy, because if I am not lazy, why do I need to discipline myself? In the same way, it is when you are fearful that you are trying to cultivate courage. Because if you have no fear, where is the need to cultivate courage? So we actually are the opposite of what we are trying to cultivate, and that is not the intelligent way to come upon a transformation.We must look at the fact. The fact is that there is violence in me. That fact has a cause. And if I eliminate that cause, the violence will be eliminated. Exactly as if I'm falling ill constantly, there is a cause for the ill health, and if we discover the cause and set it right the ill health will disappear.So when I don't have enough energy and I feel lazy, I must find out the causes of this laziness and eliminate them, rather than cultivate activity and cultivate energy. Otherwise one is caught in this corridor of the opposites and there is no real transformation in that.
If there is no transformation of consciousness in the individual, there is no transformation in society. So you can see that there is violence in Hindu society, there is violence in Christian society, and there is violence in Jewish society. The violence is not destroyed by those concepts. The division, which we feel between other people and ourselves, is based on this illusion produced by giving importance to labels. In actual fact, we are not different from the other person. We only imagine that we are terribly different. A human being is his body and his consciousness. Are we different in our body? We can ask a biologist or a medical man and he will tell us, everything is the same, the blood circulation, the respiration, the way your inner organs function. But outwardy, the skin colour is different, the hair is different, because you live in different climates. Similarly,we must ask if we are very different in our consciousness ? Ask a psychologist that, he will say, basically the instincts are the same, the feelings of fear and sorrow and desire and jealousy and possessiveness are all the same in all human beings, but your little complexes are a little different from my particular complexes in life.So the fact is that we are not different from each other, that we are brothers. And the division that we feel is based on illusion, which is based on our own imagination and our giving tremendous importance to some stupid details. So the universal brotherhood of man is not an ideal to be achieved in the future, it is a fact to be perceived now !
If we put the brotherhood of man as something to be achieved in the future,it means we have given ourselves the licence to remain divided until then ! The Buddha He said,"Two human beings differ from each other only as much as two candles differ from each other, and that difference is not more than the difference between what one candle is now, and what it was half an hour ago." Because, what is the difference between you and me? We share one million years of our evolutionary past in common, therefore the instincts are the same, the body functions the same way, the emotions function the same way. But from birth till now, you went through some other experiences, and therefore your memory has some other experiences stored in it. And mine went through some other experiences in this life and so some other experiences are stored in my memory. But ten years ago, I had not had the experiences, which I have had in the last ten years. So Krishna of today and Krishna of ten years ago differ in his memory and that is also the difference between you and me ! So, actually there is not a tremendous difference between you and me. The feeling of difference and separation is an illusion born out of the fact that I have identified with this body and this mind, and you have identified with your body and your mind. When I identify with something and call it mine, it becomes extremely important in my consciousness, because it's my property, it's my religion, and it's my opinion. So the importance does not come from the difference, the importance comes from calling it ‘mine', which is the ego, and that ego is our own creation. It is precisely because it is my own creation that it can also be uncreated. I cannot uncreate something which nature has created.I can only cease to create something, which I created through my own imagination ! I can learn not to create it. But that requires that I must learn to understand the way my thoughts function, my feelings emerge within me. And this learning about oneself cannot be done from a book, because books give us only ideas. So we need to learn about this by watching ourselves. The ideas in the book can be useful, provided we take them like questions. But if I accept what the Buddha said, it becomes only an idea for me. But if I ask myself the question, what did the Buddha mean by this, and I want to find out if that is true, then I have to investigate it in my own life and rediscover whether it is true.
There is an interesting comment I read from Krishnamurti. He said, Buddhism exists because nobody really understood what the Buddha meant! If you really deeply understood what Jesus is saying, why do you need Christianity? Christianity exists to make you a Christian, to make you understand what Christ has said. Who did Jesus learn from? Who did the Buddha learn from? They learned for themselves. A fundamental truth cannot be learnt from another because it lies at the level of perception, not at the level of ideation. No book, no other individual can give you the truth. Knowledge is merely the idea of the truth. And the idea of the truth is something completely different from the perception of the truth. It is only the perception of the truth, which ends illusion in the mind. And it's the ending of the illusion, which actually transforms consciousness.
If I have the illusion of casteism, because I have grown up in in Indian society, then my mind looks at people through that casteism, it looks down on the shudra and it looks up at the Brahmin. But if I have freed myself of that illusion, then I do not look at people that way; then, I'm not interested in finding out what caste he is. So when the label is not there, I have to look at the human being. So I am actually related to what that man is, not to the image. That is the problem of being human, that we can hate a human being whom we have never met, with whom we have no quarrel, merely because we are told that he is Islamic or he is Hindu or Jew. We can generate hatred within our consciousness through ideological differences. And because it is based on ideology, therefore it can be undone. You can see the damage it does and refuse to go with the ideology. That is self-knowledge --- when you perceive the falseness or the danger of an illusion and therefore it drops away.When that happens it has actually transformed your consciousness,not merely controlled it. That is the quest for self-knowledge and it is only out of self-knowledge that there is wisdom. It is wisdom that transforms; knowledge does not transform consciousness.
The professor of Buddhist philosophy is in his consciousness exactly like any other man. And the great thing about the Buddha is not that he gave the talks which he gave. He would be equally great if he gave no talks. The special thing about him is that he came upon that consciousness which ended sorrow, which ended violence, which ended hatred in him. And the same is true of Jesus or any of these sages that we talked about. Socrates even overcame the fear of death. So it is possible for a human being to free himself, but it requires this quest for self-knowledge. Without that there is no actual change or actual transformation of consciousness. And so long as consciousness does not change, there is no change in the individual. And so long as there is no change in the individual, there is no fundamental change in society. You can improve your roads and your bathrooms but you will not get rid of the hatred in your heart. And as we saw in the morning, the problem is not the bathroom, the problem is this hatred in the heart, the division.
So what we need is this quest for wisdom, which is the essence of theosophy. Theosophy is literally divine wisdom. You may call it divine, but it exists only when it is in the human consciousness, because the human being and all of nature is a manifestation of the divine.It is not a specialisation meant only for the department of theology. It is something that every individual requires, and these truths are not different for different human beings. Just as the scientific truths are the same, the religious truths are the same. Either desire produces frustration and sorrow, or it doesn't. It cannot be that it does so for the Indian but not for the American ! And either the pursuit of pleasure leads to happiness or it does not lead to happiness. These truths are not different for different human beings because we share the same consciousness. Therefore there is no such thing as a Christian truth and a Buddhist truth.That is why the Theosophical Society has the motto: There is No Religion Higher Than Truth. But we have ignored this quest for truth in education and therefore we are creating minds, which are filled with ideas, with skills and with knowledge, but which has very little understanding of itself. There is a sentence in Krishnamurti's book called Education and the Significance of Life, which I want to share with you before I end this talk. It says, ‘The ignorant man is not the unlearned, but he who does not know himself, and the learned man is stupid when he relies on books, on knowledge and on authority to give him understanding.'