Most of us are idealists; we have some form of ideal which we have established through habit, through custom, through tradition, through our own volition, and we hope that by conforming to this ideal, we shall radically change. But after all, the ideal is merely a projection of the opposite of what is. Being violent, I project the ideal of nonviolence and try to transform my violence according to that ideal, which creates a constant conflict within me between what is and what should be.
We think conflict, effort, is necessary to bring about this change. Such effort obviously implies discipline, control, constant practice, adjusting oneself to 'what should be'. Most of us are accustomed to this way of thinking, and our activities, our outlook, and our values are based on it; the 'what should be', the ideal, has become extraordinarily dominant in our lives. To me, this way of thinking is completely erroneous, and since you are here to find out what the speaker has to say, please listen to it, do not reject it.
I feel that a radical change can come only when there is no effort, when the mind is not trying to become something, not trying to be virtuous - which does not mean that the mind must be nonvirtuous. As long as there is effort to achieve virtue, there is a continuation of the self, of the 'me', who is trying to be virtuous, which is merely another form of conditioning, a modification of what is. In this process is involved the question of who is the maker of effort and what he is striving after, which is obviously self-improvement; and as long as there is effort to improve oneself, there is no virtue. That is, as long as there are ideals of any sort, there must be effort to conform, to adjust to the ideal, or to become this ideal. If I am violent and I have the ideal of nonviolence, there is a conflict, a struggle going on between what is and 'what should be'. This struggle, this conflict, is the state of violence; it is not freedom from violence.
Now, can I look at what is, the state of violence, without making an ideal of the opposite? Surely, I am only concerned with violence, and not with how to become nonviolent, because the very process of becoming nonviolent is a form of violence. So, can I look at violence without any desire to transform it into another state? Please follow patiently to the end what is being said. Can I look at the state which I call violence or greed or envy or whatever it is without trying to modify or change it? Can I look at it without any reaction, without evaluating or giving it a name?
Are you following all this? Please experiment with what I am saying, and you will see it directly, now, not when you go home.
Fourth Talk in Sydney, November 19, 1955