The way we live on this earth is terribly wrong. Perhaps, if one can listen to this statement in its totality, there may be no need to proceed further through this article, for that is all that this article really is saying. Its only message is that there is something inherently and deeply wrong in the way we live, the way we educate our children, the way we organise our time and the way we do things together as a society.
Nonetheless, let?s ask a question. Is there an action ? born out of this awareness or feeling or sense of humanity going terribly wrong ? that is in no way guided by an idea of what would put it right? Is it possible to move from the fact that we are living terribly wrongly to the fact of living terribly rightly? That is, is it possible to move only from one fact to another fact? If so, that may mean that there is really no movement at all, for if one doesn?t move away from the fact that human beings live terribly wrongly ? in inequality, conflict, war, struggle, uncertainty and brutality ? what happens? Surely one begins to face the fact as it is and not as it has been translated and explained over centuries and centuries.
Faced with this fact, then, is there any need to think about it? Is there a need to think about any problem of this kind? Or can we not just see where we are and act from that seeing? When we face danger, we don?t stop to think ? we act immediately. When we see a friend is hurt or upset, there is often an immediate action without thought getting in the way. Thought tends to come into play only when we believe we don?t know what to do about a certain situation. But have we ever stopped to consider what it is that is telling us that we don?t know what to do? Isn?t it thought telling us? Whereas, if we really don?t know ? and we don?t ? of what earthly use is thought going to be? If we knew what to do about the state of humanity, then we would have acted on that knowledge years or weeks or hours ago. Instead, we say, ?I don?t know? but still look to some sort of knowledge to solve the many problems of living.
Why do we avoid facing this fact that we are living terribly wrongly? Why do we avoid facing the fact that we are violent human beings? That word ?violence? encompasses so many obvious things ? jealousy, envy, greed, guilt, anger ? as well as less apparent aspects like the violence of compromise, the violence of hypocrisy and the violence of control. Feeling that we have no easy answers to our questions and that we don?t know what to do, we have invented many forms of control. Unfortunately, the moment one has a method of controlling violence or social disorder ? by rules, creeds, constitutions, ideals ? one has to allow violence to remain at the centre of the picture, because a rule has meaning only when there is the real possibility of punishment. The violence of the rule-breaker is often a form of stupidity or ignorance, or due to a lack of respect and care. The violence of the rule-maker arises from an apparently different source, i.e. from a sense of righteousness, of knowing what is right, correct and acceptable. From the ?what is? of ignorance we have abstracted the ?what should be? of civil and legal society. But if there is no ?what should be?, what then happens to ?what is?? And it must be obvious that there never is a ?what should be? ? ?what should be? can never exist except as an idealistic abstraction invented by thought.
Why do we constantly avoid facing this unpleasant ?what is? about ourselves? And who is the one who is doing the avoiding? Isn?t it also another abstraction invented by thought, which we call the self? And I wonder if we then start to see that there is bound to be violence when thought operates in the psychological field and when it forms this centre known as the ego, the psyche or the ?me?. Because what is thought when it operates psychologically? For one thing, it is a reaction based on its previously collected and stored knowledge ? which means the past is interpreting the present and never just seeing it. But the other far more important point is that when thought operates psychologically it is only ever the operation of learned behaviour established through imitation.
Psychological thought is never free, never independent of its environment, its culture and its own historical background. Thought can never arise freely from within. It is only ever a reflection caught from outside then copied inside as a series of images. This is the essence of mechanical learning or conditioning. And the salient point is that we start to build up our psychological images ? our so-called central self-image ? because, in our relationship with the rest of society, the process of psychological image-making has been our greatest role model, our strongest example. If I may put it another way, we have learned to use psychological images as a form of protection because from our earliest days that is what those around us have been doing. In short, no psychological learning has ever taken place except as imitation.
Do we see the uselessness of everything we have learned about ourselves and about another? Learning has no value if it is carried over into tomorrow. Only an image ? a dead residual projection ? can be carried over. Learning has no interest in either yesterday or tomorrow. Learning is an act of love that never moves away from itself, whereas thought has poured poison into the chalice of the human soul for thousands upon thousands of years ? and only thought can empty that poison with one gesture, with one whole and healthy action. No other faculty can do this except the faculty that pours the poison. And the moment thought realises what it is doing to itself ? what we are doing to ourselves ? it has begun really to learn. It has not become intelligent, it has simply seen that it is acting stupidly. Therefore, its action is immediate.
There is a corollary to all this, which is that everything to do with the psychological self has no cause: fear, thought, time and violence have no cause; there is only one effect after another. We have copied our fears from others and they have copied their fears from us. We have caught fear inwardly just as we might catch a contagious disease outwardly, physically. The cause of measles is not in me; someone else gave me measles. It is exactly the same with fear ? in which is included anger, jealousy, envy, hatred, loneliness and all the other forms of human violence ? but we spend our lives looking for an inward cause when one has never existed and never could exist. Seeing this, one is free from fear forever. And when one is free from fear, all are free from fear ? that is, within our human relationships. Then we will find that we can say anything, do anything and go anywhere without ever saying goodbye. We truly belong to one another. It is very simple, very beautiful and very true ? and it is always so, it is quite irreversibly so.