Let me start by a little bit of backtracking and revision, which I shall do with the help of A.N. Whitehead. I’ve been talking about the situation of man, of the individual, in the world of nature, and the complexity introduced into this by technology, and further troubled by the way in which individuals generally experience themselves as confronting an alien universe. A form of experiencing our existence which is in flat contradiction to the scientific description of man as an organism-environment rather than an organism IN an environment. Whitehead puts it in this way: “The doctrine which I am maintaining is that the whole concept of materialism only applies to very abstract entities. The products of logical discernment. The concrete, enduring entities are organisms. So that the plan of the whole influences the very characters of the various subordinate organisms which enter into it. In the case of an animal, the mental states enter into the plan of the total organism and thus modify the plans of the successive subordinate organisms until the ultimate smallest organisms, such as electrons, are reached. Thus an electron within a living body is different from an electron outside it by reason of the plan of the body. The electron blindly runs either within or without the body. But it runs within the body in accordance with its character within the body. That is to say in accordance with the general plan of the body, and this plan includes the mental state. But the principle of modification is perfectly general throughout nature and represents no property peculiar to living bodies. In subsequent lectures it will be explained that this doctrine involves the abandonment of the traditional scientific materialism. And the substitution of an alternative doctrine of organism.” In this passage, he is stating in another way what he calls “the fallacy of misplaced concretion”. That is to say, of attributing physical reality to the abstractions in terms of which we describe the natural world. Such as things which are, as I showed you, units of thought. THINKS, as inches, for example, are units of measurement. And through the confusion of the, as Korzybski would have said, “he map with the territory”. Or, as it Wittgenstein would have said, the network with the world which we try to catch with the network. You see, in a certain sense, we throw networks over everything. Just as we throw the lines of latitude and longitude over the surface of the globe in imagination, just as we have celestial latitude and longitude, an imaginary net which we cast over the stars and discuss all the features of the physical world in terms of their positions within the network, which are easily measurable as was as if we had, for example, graph paper printed on cellophane. So, in doing this we tend increasingly to confuse the structure of the net with the structure of the world that the net is used to measure. And it is as a result of that, that we are, as it were, hypnotized by the abstract sense of individuality, or rather the abstract definition of individuality. And are less and less aware of what it is to be an individual concretely. And so, in this sense, he says: My own criticism of our traditional educational methods is that they are far too much occupied with intellectual analysis and with the acquirement of formularised information. What I mean is that we neglect to strengthen the habits of concrete appreciation of the individual facts and their full interplay of emergent values and that we merely emphasise abstract formulations which ignore this aspect of the interplay of diverse values. We are too exclusively bookish in our scholastic routine. The general training should aim at eliciting our concrete apprehensions and should satisfy the itch of youth to be doing something. There should be some analysis even here but only just enough to illustrate the ways of thinking in diverse spheres. In the Garden of Eden, Adam saw all the animals before he named them. In the traditional educational system, children named the animals before they saw them. But when you understand all about the sun and all about the atmosphere and all about the rotation of the Earth, you may still miss the radiance of the sunset. There is no substitute for the direct perception of the concrete achievement of a thing in its actuality. We want concrete fact with a highlight thrown on what is relevant to its preciousness. I don’t always approve of Whitehead’s style of English, I think it’s a little pompous. But it’s very well said here. He is a saying in a kind of pedantic and academic way what the Zen Buddhists demonstrate. For one of their principles is that when you ask a question about the abstract, that is to say, about philosophy or religion, you get an answer in the concrete. And when you ask a question about the concrete, you get an answer in terms of the abstract. So then, when those old Chinese masters were asked what is the fundamental principle of Buddhism, they would say something like “three pounds of flax”. And when working in the fields they were pruning tea bushed and the monk said to the Master, “Will you give me the knife?”, the master hands hi, the knife blade first. He says “Please give me the other end.” Question is, what would you do with the other end? And the conversation, as it were, switches in that way. Byt when he says, in answer to “What is the part fundamental principle of Buddhism?”, “Three pounds of flax.”, one is not to suppose, as one might if habituated to ordinary philosophical or religious ways of thinking, one must not suppose that this is some kind of symbolism. As if three referred to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, the three treasures of buddhism, or to the three bodies of Buddha, or anything like that. Three pounds of flax is just three pounds of flax. And even that is saying too much. It’s very difficult to point, you see, to Reality itself. When you try to get a dog to go and look at something by pointing at, it the dog will come to your finger. And will not understand the meaning of pointing. So it is with humans. And if we consider, that various kinds of religion, the teachings of religion, the rights, or the sacraments of religion are fingers pointing, human beings all too readily suck those fingers for comfort, instead of following or looking in the direction of the pointing. So, such stranger answers as three pounds of flax, or whatever it may be, try to jolt us out of our excessive thinking. As Whitehead says, our education is too bookish to come into direct contact with physical, material reality. But of course when I say these words, physical and material, they’re abstract. And this isn’t abstract. Nor, in that sense, is it material. In so far as material is an abstract idea, it’s a concept. This is not a concept.
So, to wake people up, to look at that, requires, among other things, interior silence. Now, I’ve said some of this to you before, or said it to some of you before, but it cannot be stressed too often: The Chinese sage who was a Taoist, Zhouangzi, said once: “The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing. It refuses nothing. It receives but does not keep.” And this attitude in Zen Buddhism is called mushin, which in Japanese means “no mind”. We would say mindlessness or thoughtlessness. Except that those words in our cultural context have a pejorative sense. To say that someone is thoughtless is to say that he’s inconsiderate or moronic. But in the Chinese sense of the term thoughtless, it means having a mirror-like mind. There’s a verse which says:. “The wild geese do not intend to cast their image. The water has no mind to retain their reflection.” The same is sometimes said of the relationship of the moon to the water. Now this “no mind” means, really, mental silence. In the sense that the mind is highly alert and highly aware. But without talking to itself. When it hears whistling, it doesn’t think bird. It doesn’t think song, it doesn’t think music it just thinks– whistling. And so that means the absence of chattering to yourself constantly inside your head. Whether you’re doing it in words, whether you’re doing it in numbers, or whether you’re doing it in abstract images of some other kind. To become still, and to reflect the world as a clear pool reflects the sky. Well why is that important? Well I can give at least two reasons. One is, that if I am to talk all the time, I will not have anything to talk about except my own verbiage. Because I won’t listen to what anybody else has to say. In exactly the same way, if I think all the time, I won’t have anything to think about except thoughts. So just as i have to stop talking occasionally to hear what others have to say, so I have to stop thinking occasion to have something to think about. Otherwise I’m sort of like a bookworm, a person who never gets out of the library, who reads and reads and reads, but has no contact with the life that the books are about. Now, it’s very difficult, you see, to have a silent mind, because we are creatures of habit. And we think incessantly. Now the second reason is, that we are very bothered by our thoughts. One reason why Americans in particular don’t like to be alone, and like, even if they are alone, they turn on the radio or the television or read a magazine, is that they’re disturbed by their thoughts. I’m left alone with my thoughts and I start worrying. Why? Because you live according to a world of conceptions. For example, let’s say what we worry about. We worry about the future or we regret things we’ve done in the past. But the future is not here. And the past has disappeared. The future and the past, as it were, do not belong to the physical world. They are abstractions.
And what we remember of the past is a very attenuated image of it and what we predict for the future is never quite like what happens. In fact it’s very unlike it. If I say to someone: “What did you do yesterday?”, they say “Oh well I got up in the morning, I had some coffee, I went for a stroll, then I had breakfast and I dressed, then brush my teeth and I went up to the office and I saw Mr So-and-So” and so on, you know. But this is, you see, you’re thinking of you of your past day in terms of abstractions which have are like the bones of events and have none of the flesh on them. When you draw an abstract picture of a human body in stick figures, you know, you draw a round blob for the head then arms and legs, but everybody knows at once: that’s a human being. Or meant to be, or represents a human being but it’s not really very like one. It has none of the color, none of the flesh, none of the beautiful texture of a human organism. So in thinking of our past as these rather attenuated, dried out memories, we always seem to have had a life of deprived richness. And therefore, the more we identify the succession of our days with these abstractions, the more we feel that it was something we’re missing. As if you were to make a diet of dollar bills. You would suffer from malnutrition. And if you were stubbornly convinced that what you needed was more, you would have not only have malnutrition, but serious indigestion. And so, in the same way, if you think that what you need is more time, then you panic about the future. You want more future. And you say of something which is no good, “it has no future”. But what you should say is, “it has no present”. Because when, you see, you have a silent mind, you are not thinking about the future. You are not thinking about the past. You are experiencing the present in a very complete way. You are not stopping to analyze each detail. You couldn’t possibly ever do that. But you are getting all the details without focusing on certain details which exclude your apprehension of the whole. And so you are beginning to live a rich life and a real life that is completely here and now. Now, neither Whitehead certainly, nor I,- I’m taking in this an anti intellectual position- we are saying that if you do not know completely how to live in the present, you have no use for plans for the future. Because you will never be able to enjoy those plans when they mature, because you won’t be there. You’ll be thinking about some other future. So what’s the point? And in the same way there is no purpose in the intellectual life unless you are fully aware of that, which the intellectual life is about. That is to say present, vivid, real life. The intellectual life is a commentary on that, is a way of measuring it, and as all measurements are useful for prediction and for control. That’s fine. But don’t get so involved in prediction and control that all you’re doing is controlling, controlling. You know, like, “Is the meaning of life just to find out what the meaning of life is?” But that’s what happens.
And one of the things that is explored in the meditations of the disciplines of Zen people and other types of Eastern philosophy, is the exploration of power. We’ve been into this a little. Would you really like to control everything, supposing you could. And every wise person of course comes to the conclusion, that that’s not what they want. Because if you controlled everything, there would be no surprises. But we are at present, you see, dangerously living into an era of our civilization, in which we are over-controlled. In which, for example, the laws cannot operate because there is too much law. In which you cannot do the simplest thing in the way of an enterprise or of business or of anything, without having a battery of lawyers to tell you whether you may do it and how you may do it and the paperwork that goes with everything you do is absolutely intolerable. Academic paperwork is overwhelming. And you will notice that the records in a registrar’s office are kept in safes, they are so precious. But the books in the library are easily stolen. That the recording of what is done is more important than what is done. It’s like some people who don’t believe anything happens unless they’ve got a picture of it. And who obsessively take pictures of everything. We’re having a lovely time and somebody comes in beautifully dressed and so on and we say, “oh what a pity no one brought a camera!” And I know the Japanese are obsessed with this because they, you see, they’re reacting, they’re copying all the terrible features of Western culture. When they go to a great monument, they photograph incessantly. They don’t see a thing, except through the the viewfinder of the camera. And this little box is going, grab, grab, grab, grab. Instead of enjoying the gorgeous presence of this temple, this garden, this mountain landscape they’re waiting till they get home and go through these measly little reproductions of. I sometimes wonder about this thing. I have myself never never listened to it, but I know other people like to have recordings of these things so that they they miss some point they can catch up with it again. I don’t know, I sometimes have nightmares about a world of echoes. In which there are only echoes and echoes of echoes and echoes of echoes of echos. Reverberating forever down the empty corridors of my mind. Now, here comes a problem though. How do you make your mind still? The method in Zen is a method of exasperation. They of course advocate various technical aids to making your mind still, such as the practice of Zazen, which is sitting, usually cross-legged, on cushions in a long hall and counting your breath. So as to eliminate from consciousness any other thoughts than that of the counting of the breath. And this eventually results in a state of stillness. Only that’s not enough. Because the skillful teacher feels that this kind of stillness is not yet true stillness. It’s forced. And he’s trying to get you to a point where it will never be necessary for you to force your mind to be still, but where it can be so quite naturally. And he can only do that by tricks which are called Upaya in Sanskrit, Hoben in Japanese, which means skillful means. In pedagogy, Upaya means the tricks of the teachers trade. How he gets attention, how helps you to understand something. In politics, Upaya means cunning, deceit. Has a sort of a bad meaning in politics. And so the Zen teacher uses all sorts of tricks to get you away from the fallacy of trying to make your mind still by force, which is like trying to smooth rough water with a flat on. All you do is stir it up. I’m thinking that I’m trying not to think. I’m annoyed with myself because I’m not successful, etc etc. I should be successful. All these are disturbances. All these considerations, they’re off the point. But how to get people off them You have to reach a point, in other words, where you learn to leave your mind alone as you leave rough water alone, so that it becomes smooth of itself. But while you conceive your waiting for this to happen, you’re still staring it up. You therefore have to get rid of the sensation that there is you, the thinker, watching the thoughts. You, the feeler, separate from and trying to control the feelings. Because so long as that separation exists, you will have trouble. And therefore the function of the koans, the problems, like, what is the sound of one hand?, is to lead you to the natural seeing-through of, the debunking of the concept of the separate thinker and the separate experiencer. So that, when you find out that the thinker on the thoughts are not different, then you will have less and less trouble in allowing the thoughts to become quiet. It’s difficult for us to understand this simply because of our language. When we say knowing or thinking, we always feel that this is a function or activity of someone who thinks and knows. That’s because we are tied up with this subject-verb-predicate language structure.
Now, the same problem is approached from a somewhat different point of view and with a different style, but essentially the same principles, are being used in the philosophy of Krishnamurti. Only it comes from, it comes in a very different way. Because, although Krishnamurti is an Indian, and thus we would say in the United States, a Hindu, he doesn’t present himself as affiliated with any kind of religious or philosophical organization. He comes on simply as Mr Krishnamurti. And he doesn’t present any gimmicks, any obvious techniques. Because, according to his view, all these special practices are hindrances. In other words, supposing a group of people take up Zen Buddhism. Before you know where you are, they have become a club, a special in group, and they’re the Zen people and they’re gonna sell this thing. They’re going to say: “You should try our Zen.”, you know, you may be a Christian scientist, you may be a Catholic, you may be a Seventh Day Adventist, you may be a Theosophist, and all these ways have something to be said for them, BUT the real thing is our Zazen! And then of course they all start sitting in meditation posture and they put up hanging scrolls and burn incense and have Buddhas and gongs and so on, and all that can be used. Just as a sort of social or cultural one-up-manship. And this is a very serious obstacle. Now then, Krishnamurti comes on without any bells or robes. He addresses his audience wearing gray flannel pants and a wide open shirt. That’s it. And he talks without any spiritual technicalities or even philosophical technicalities. Absolutely dispenses with them. All he really does is ask questions. And therefore he seems to many people as a total debunker who has nothing positive to offer. His approach is invariably one of this: You propose the question. In other words, you asked him to come here. Why? What is it you’re looking for? And you ask a question. For example, because, actually, many of his original followers came out of a Theosophical background, they perpetually asked the question like “Is there such a thing as reincarnation?”, “Will I, did I have a past life?”, “Will I have a future life?” And instead of either saying yes or no, he comes back with “Why do you ask?” “Is there a god?”,? Why do you ask?” Go into it, go into the state of mind you have when you voice that question. Why are you voicing it? Well people will defend themselves for a long time when faced with that. They’ll say, “Well I’m curious.” Or isn’t it one’s purpose in life to find out these things? He said “What makes you think it’s your purpose in life? Does someone tell you so and you believe that? Why do you think that’s your purpose in life?” And you have to back off a little bit. Say “Well, I suppose the real reason why I want to know whether there’s going to be a future life. is that I’m afraid of death.” “Why are you afraid of death?” “Well I don’t want to lose my continuity.” AH-HA! So that’s the reason, is it? You are clinging to yourself. Yea. Well he would say, “How can you possibly understand God or anything of a spiritual nature while you’re clinging to yourself? Aren’t these two activities mutually exclusive? If you want to know what truth is, you must be open to truth, whatever it is. But if you are, If you say, only that truth will be acceptable to me, which supports my conception of my ego then you are not open.” And you say “Yes, I see.” But then you say “How can I be open?” He says “Why do you want to be?” See, you’re just doing the same old thing again.You ask me how to be unselfish. But what is your reason for only for wanting to be unselfish? You don’t want to be unselfish at all. You want to find a new way of getting around it all. Now. In this manner he absolutely exasperates people. Because he’ll never agree with anything anybody says. If they formulate it and say “Mr Krishnamurti, is that what you mean?” He says “No no no no! No, no. No, no. No. Now, look, go into it again. Don’t, don’t, don’t make a formulation,” he says, “don’t come to a conclusion. Don’t want to have a resolution of this. Just be, if you can, open to to what is. To what you actually feel. Now. Don’t judge it, don’t say it should be, shouldn’t be.” What is. Say, when you’re in a state of grief. What is grief? Now, don’t say a word. Don’t try to pin it down. Don’t give a definition. Just experience whatever you have labeled as grief. I often ask people when they say they’re anxious. “Where are you anxious?” And they say “All over.” I say, “Come now. How do you know you are anxious? What symptoms are there going on when you that tell you you’re anxious?” Then they begin to notice things in this stomach and headachy things, or whatever it may be. And then they come to a more concrete apprehension of the state of affairs that they have labelled anxiety. And in this way, which is really it isn’t really very like Zen because it’s frustrating, people come to see: there’s absolutely nothing they can do at all to stop being selfish.
So they see after a while, that trying to stop being selfish is the same thing as selfishness. Trying to get rid of grief is grief. And so, when you see that, there comes a point at which we could best call giving up. Surrender. William James pointed this out likewise in a study of the varieties of Religious Experience in the psychology of conversion. There’s the point of absolute frustration, followed by surrender. And then, in that moment of surrender when you see you just can’t do anything about it, you suddenly have quiet mind. There is no further effort, you see, to say the thinker and the thoughts are one. That’s a formulation. The experiencer and the experience are one experiencing. You don’t need to say that. Because that’s not the point. The formulation of it is not the point. It is the actual experiencing itself that is the point. But you can’t come to that while you are going over in your mind all this chatter about: I should accept my experience I should not accept my experience etc. As a matter of fact when psychologists sometimes say, you should accept yourself: A lot of people just don’t, you know, they’re always fighting with themselves, clubbing themselves and their allegedly disciplining themselves. And then they get into a tremendous clutch-ups inside and a psychologist says “Now come, you’re human, you should accept yourself,. You shouldn’t feel guilty if you get angry, it’s very natural to get angry. Accept yourself.” So people try to accept themselves. Then they come across the fact that there are certain things they do not and cannot accept. And they have to accept the fact that they can’t accept them. Accept that you don’t accept. And then that’s the same bind that Buddha put people in when he said “In order not to suffer you must get rid of desire.” But then people find out that they desire to get rid of desire. So you see, that saying “Accept yourself” is a gimmick. It’s an Upaya. And the object of it is to bring you to the state where you see that the self which does the accepting is the one you need to accept. And in this state where you’re confronted with the necessity of looking your own tongue, you suddenly see that what you thought was to be accepted and what was to do the accepting are all one. It’s a very awkward feeling at this moment. R.H. Blythe described it beautifully: You’re about to swat a fly. But the fly jumped up and sat on the swatter. You were about to punch the world in the nose. And the nose became the same as the fist. And of course in that moment one feels awkward, just as I described in the first talk that the situation of feeling that you in the environment are all one process- at first that is non-classic. You’re just not used to feeling that way. Because if the stream of thought, or the stream of experience is the same as the experiencer- who is in control? Well, it controls itself it’s what the Chinese call zi-ran- of itself so. Which is their word for nature. And in their organic theory of nature there is no one in control who stands outside and above the organic system itself. The organic consistent it controls itself. It’s full of the same sort of balances that any organic system has. Because if it didn’t have that it wouldn’t be organic it would be merely chaotic. So we get back, you see, to what is fundamental in Chinese far eastern psychology. That any ongoing system must trust itself. And therefore the attitude of these people to human nature is rather different from ours. They would say human nature is basically to be trusted. Not that there’s anyone outside it to trust or mistrust it. But they would say if you don’t trust your own nature, how can you trust your mistrust? How can you know that even that’s reliable? Because that’s all part of you.
Now they will say, yes, in the in human nature there are passions. There is greed there is anger, there is an aggressive tendency. But what is good about human nature is it’s good and bad. Confucius once said the goody-goodies are the thieves of virtue. And he exalted above mere goodness, in the sense of following a legal righteousness, something called in Chinese ren, which means human heartedness. Being a complete human. Now a complete human is always a little bit of a rascal. Not too much of a rascal. The point is that you have a little rascality in you like you put salt in the stew. Now you certainly don’t want the steel to be all salt. But when it’s without salt it’s sort of flat. And don’t you feel that with very good people, they’re awfully dull? You know where there’s a certain kind of oppressive goodness about people of a certain kind. I won’t make any labels. But when you come into that there’s something about it that you know you’re sitting on the edge of your chair. Jung once said that he met a man in whom he could find no human failings whatsoever. And he was terribly disturbed because he thought, really, if that’s possible I should put my own life in order. But he said “Never again will I be deceived. A few days later I met his wife.” Now it wasn’t that his wife sad “Ha! You think my husband is good. You should see him when no one else is around except me.” Oh no, it wasn’t that at all. It was the wife was living her husband’s shadow. she was living out in her life all the things that he repressed in his. And that can easily happen in a very close human association. She, in other words, was the incarnation of his shadow. We all cast a shadow. And it’s better to carry our own than to stick it on someone else. So. In talking to a great Zen master. He once said: “I really have no other ideal than to be a complete human being.” And so that means not only flowers on the top, but manure around the roots. The totality. True humility is, after all, the recognition of this situation. And it’s only when we get to be proud of our humility, you see, that we are in difficulty. So. I sometimes wonder a little bit with Krishnamurti. Whether he may not be sometimes too earnest. But I realize that that is his public facade. Because of the tremendous earnestness with which he is trying to get his listeners to be fully here and now. And when they escape from the moment either by comments, attempting to get definitions, or even by laughing, he keeps pulling them back to the absolutely immediate experience. Therefore he’s really at his best in rather intimate sessions with people. Where he likes to sit around in a ring with people and instead of giving a lecture conduct this dialogue. Back and forth the questions come and then he throws the question back to the questioner. “Why did you ask? Look at it. Are you really listening?” He said most people don’t listen. They wait for the speaker to express their own opinion. And when he doesn’t, they don’t listen. They try to make sense out of the words and I was saying to you earlier on: sometimes it’s very important to listen to the sound of the speaker’s voice rather than trying to follow the meaning of the words. Indians, American Indians very often do that. They want to know what a man really is like and what his true character is. They listen to the sound of his voice, no matter what he has to say. You can be off to distracted by what a person has to say, and not see what kind of a villain is coming up against you. So in both these cases in the case of Zen and in the case of the work of Krishnamurti, we have two examples of, we could say, methods in a certain sens,e or methods of non method, by which we can do something to correct and overcome the divorce of the mind, the human mind from the physical world. But let me repeat: by saying the physical world I’m using a word for want of anything better. Korzybski called it the unspeakable world. It is really rather funny. That is to say the non-verbal world. Which is of course in a profound sense the spiritual world, because it’s immaterial. That is to say immaterial in the sense of unmeasured. So these studies, practices, disciplines or whatever you want to call them, that are of very great and special value to a culture as powerful as ours, which is seriously suffering from alienation, splitness, divorce of consciousness from reality.