Question and Answer Session
23.05.03, P. Krishna
P.K. : I am told you have deliberated over the issues that we raised
in the two talks today and it is now your job to put questions to me and
mine to respond to them. The ball is in your court!
Question :Has there been no evolution in the human consciousness ? Then how is it we see no slavery today ?
P.K. : I think that there is a change in the manner in which the disorder in our consciousness manifests outwardly, externally. But there is no real deep change in human consciousness. So we find that the form of slavery and so on which was there in the Middle Ages is not there now but still domination continues. That crude manifestation of domination is no longer there. Actual occupation of one country by another and colonisation has ended but economic exploitation continues. So that's what I mean,when I say that the outer form which the disorder takes has changed somewhat, for the better, but inwardly the state of consciousness does not seem to have evolved. And of course the deeper question to ask is why that is so ? I think the reason is that all it takes to constitute an ego is memory, imagination and the instinct of pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain.. And these are there in all human beings. They were there 2,000 years ago, and they are there now. Plants and animals do not have this capacity to the extent to which we have it and therefore they are not capable of becoming egotistic. They respond only according to their instinct, set by nature, and they are also limited by their instinct and by their nature. Take for instance sexuality. Sexuality is there in plants, sexuality is there in animals, sexuality is there in man. It has come to us in evolution. But when coupled with our capacity to imagine and remember, it has turned into lust and pornography and rape and all kinds of manifestations, which you do not find in other species in nature. So we need to learn what is the right use of these faculties, which we have received in the course of biological evolution, and that needs self-knowledge. What is the right use of these faculties and what is wrong use of these faculties ? The faculties in themselves are not evil, but when they are used in the wrong way, they create evil.
That is why I was saying in the morning that self-knowledge is needed by every human being; because without it you will form the ego and then out of the ego comes all the violence and the greed and the selfishness and so on. How it manifests is a different matter, it is a circumstantial, cultural matter. But we are not completely trapped in this process and we have the possibility and capacity to free ourselves of this process. But we have not paid attention to this learning. And of course this learning is very personal, very individualistic; you cannot get this learning from another. Whereas the scientific learning and knowledge is constantly expanding because it can be transmitted and learnt quickly and you can build further. But Buddha's son does not receive anything from the Buddha. He has to again see the truth for himself. But since it is necessary we need to create an atmosphere in which every human being is learning and acquiring self-knowledge. But instead of cultivating such an enquiry, we have cultivated belief and we have cultivated identity and pride in one's own culture and one's own belief, and so on, which divides us. That is why the greatest amount of violence and fighting has resulted from religion, whereas the true meaning of the word 'religion' is that which binds, that which unites. So we have misunderstood religion. That's why I feel that it is something that needs to be looked at in education.
Question : Why am I so afraid of the emptiness in myself?
P.K. : Isn't it because we feel comfortable with the known? We feel secure in known surroundings, with known people. There is fear of facing the unknown. I think that is also the fact which prevents us from discovering the truth, because the truth is the unknown, whereas the illusion is the known. And we have invested in the illusion, and it gives us a sense of security and purpose and we are afraid to lose that. But this whole thing,this whole truth can be understood by personally watching how it is happening within oneself. So it is not a truth that is inevitable, it is not like gravitation, which will act on you. Put a stone there or a mass here, the gravity is inevitably going to act. But this ego-process can be understood and eliminated, because the capacity is there in us to understand that and go beyond it. We are not completely trapped in the past and in our conditioning.
That is why the whole question of what is moral and what is immoral, what is right and what is wrong, arises only for man. If you say that my actions and my decisions are completely determined by my instincts and by my past,then I am not responsible for what I do. But we do not accept that position, because we consider that for a human being he is not completely trapped in his past and in his circumstances. An animal is. When a dog barks, there is nothing else he can do but bark. But a human being decides to bark.The biologists, of course, explain the violence in man in terms of what has come to us in evolution from the animals. If you accept that explanation, then there is no possibility of being non-violent. So while the explanation of the scientists and the biologists about violence in man is true, it is not true that we are completely trapped in that. It is possible for us to go beyond that through our understanding. And that is the religious quest. That is why self-knowledge is essential, more essential than knowledge of the world.Socrates said, self-knowledge is the only knowledge. He refused to accept any other knowledge as knowledge; he considered all other knowledge as information. And the Buddha said that knowledge of the world is lower knowledge, avidya, whereas true knowledge is self-knowledge. So 2,000 years ago, when these people existed, the concern of mankind was the understanding of the self and the cultivation of wisdom. But then we went to an era of knowledge and a profuse expansion of knowledge; artistic knowledge, scientific knowledge, literary knowledge and so on. And now we are going beyond knowledge to the era of information-technology. Now nobody has time even to write like Shakespeare or write love letters like Robert Browning; you send messages by email!
This was expressed by the English poet Eliot in a poem. He said,
Where is the wisdom we have lost in our knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
In 2,000 years, the cycles of fate,
Take us away from God and unto dust.
Because mankind's concern has moved from wisdom to knowledge and from knowledge to information.
Question : Is instinct a form of physical conditioning?
P.K. : I would say instinct is biological conditioning. But freedom from conditioning does not mean the ending of conditioning. It means right relationship with the conditioning. Sexuality is there in animals,but it does not create the kind of problems we have created from it. We must learn from the animals! When you put it in its right place, it does not create problems. But we have not discovered the right place, we exploit it to serve so many ends of our own creation.
Question : Many animals fight for their food.Is it possible that people, who have a similar instinct, can ever get rid of this?
P.K. : We are far more immoral than the animal, because we fight for an idea while an animal fights only for food. If you fight also only for food, then you become equal to him ! Violence is a big affair with man, much bigger than with animals. You know, we think we are superior to animals, but it is not possible to prove that objectively. We are superior in the sense that we have more ability of remembering and planning and so on than they do, but we have not used these abilities to be kinder and more protective. We have used these abilities to destroy, to be more cruel, therefore we are not superior. We have more abilities, but we are not superior.
Question : Is there a point in our development as human beings, when we can overcome this biological conditioning?
P.K. : Overcoming it not in the sense of fighting and becoming victorious over it, but overcoming it in the sense of understanding our relationship with it and therefore being free is certainly possible.
Question : For this should one suppress or examine one's instincts while one still has them?
P.K. : If you directly want to achieve a result, such as freedom from sexuality, you will end up fighting with it and suppressing it and distorting it. Some religious people have tried that. They have tried to take vows and prevent themselves from sexual activity. It creates distortion, they are burning inside. Sexuality and instincts are part of nature and we must respect nature because it exists. But we must understand our relationship with that instinct. I will give an example. You come into contact with a person of the opposite sex, and it produces a sexual response in your body and mind -- a sexual desire arises. It is like any other desire. From where does the insistence come, that my desires must be fulfilled? If I am willing to kill, I am willing to be violent, I am willing to force another person in order to fulfil my desires then it creates a problem. From where does that insistence come? That insistence is the ego. The desire and the sexuality is not the ego. If I watch it, and if it can be fulfilled without any cruelty, I am quite happy to fulfil it. If it cannot be fulfilled, I let go. Then you are free ! So find out if all desires can be held like wishes. Wishes are innocent things, there is no addiction to their fulfilment. In fact, nothing in itself is evil, until the ego gets attached to it. The house does not create possessiveness. I have become possessive in relation to the house. My wife does not create attachment; I get attached. You take any virtue, you add the ego to it and it will turn into a vice. You take humility and you add the ego to it and it will become feeling small, inferior. You take love and you add the ego to it and it will become possessiveness, attachment, jealousy and all that. You take sexuality and add the ego to it and it will become lust and rape and all that. So the problem is not in the external thing, the problem is in the ego. Find out if it is possible to relate with everything without bringing in the ego. The ego is a beggar. It is always wanting something for itself. Stop being a beggar and just be a friend. That is all that has to be learnt. Nothing is wrong with nature, nothing is wrong with the world. But I create the ego, and then everything goes wrong. That is the only problem. You know, Bin Laden is not the enemy of Bush. Bush's ego is his enemy. And Bush is not the enemy of Bin Laden, Bin Laden's ego is his enemy. So if both these people understood that, they would become friends and fight the common enemy, which is the ego ! My enmity with you is based on illusion. We have a common enemy. It applies not only to Bush and Bin Laden, it applies to all of us when we are inimical to each other.
That is why ignorance is the cause of sorrow. Not understanding all this is ignorance. Ignorance is the cause of sorrow, but I think you are causing the sorrow, the circumstances are causing the sorrow. Ignorance not a lack of knowledge, ignorance as illusion. We take something to be true when that is not true. Or we give tremendous importance to something that is not important then that is also illusion. And because the disorder comes from illusion, therefore it can be ended. There is disorder only in human consciousness, there is no disorder in nature anywhere. Even the storms, the cyclones, the earthquakes are not disorder; there is no ego in them because there is no intention to destroy you. They are merely following the laws, which are the order of nature. And so the animal just follows its instinct, which is the order of nature. And that order is operating in our body, too. I do nothing to make the body work, it just works on its own. But we have not learned how to function with a consciousness that is in order. That learning, that wisdom is the religious quest.
Long ago, Socrates pointed out that there is only one virtue, and that is this state of order in consciousness. All virtues are then simply branches from that root. We respect these sages, but we have not investigated what they mean.
Question : Is it possible in a society like ours, in which we are all so conditioned, to bring up children without conditioning them?
P.K. : I think all human beings are conditioned. You cannot avoid conditioning, because that is just memory. Memory functions involuntarily. But I can be aware of my conditioning and I need not give tremendous importance to it. Conditioning is the past. I am the result of the past. The biological past of millions of years, the cultural past of a few thousand years, and the psychological past from my birth till today. All that is stored in memory, I cannot erase it; it is something that exists. But I can learn about it, because from there my thoughts and feelings arise and I can watch these operating in my consciousness. They come up in relationships and therefore I can watch what is going on and learn about my conditioning, without taking sides with it, without calling it a shame or getting attached to it. We do not need to get rid of all our conditioning. We need to get rid of only that which is false and which creates disorder or problems in life. Otherwise it is like the colour of our skin, you don't have to change it. It is a part of you.But if you start saying this is the most beautiful skin in the world, you create a problem ! There is such a thing as one's own personality. We need to respect that too; that is what this chap (pointing to himself) is. There is no reason to fight this chap. There is nothing very great about this chap also, he is just one of the several chaps developing and growing in this world ! You know, all life starts with a single cell with a programme, and it develops according to that programme and it ends. That is true of the tree, that is true of you, me, that's true of the dog around the corner. I can assure you that a hundred years later, some other people will be sitting here and listening to lectures ! But while we exist we make such a big hullaballoo about it. It is just an opportunity to see this world and learn about ourselves, if you want to. Otherwise, live like that tree, but don't fight! There is a poem written several hundred years ago by a poet in India. He said, O man, learn from the trees. When somebody cuts off a branch the tree does not hit back. When somebody throws stones at them, they yield fruit in exchange. They take the hot sun on their heads and provide shade to the weary traveller. They give the perfume of their flowers without asking whether you deserve it or not. O man, learn from the trees ! When they are crowded in the forest, they do not fight with each other, they adjust to each other and share the sunshine. That is what life would be like if we had no egos ! We have a bigger problem than trees and animals.Nature has completely determined life for them. We have been granted some choice, but we are misusing the choice !
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