What῾s on Your Mind?
In order to wake up, the one thing you need the most is not energy, or strength, or youthfulness, or even great intelligence. The one thing you need most of all is the readiness to learn something new. The chances that you will wake up are in direct proportion to the amount of truth you can take without running away. How much are you ready to take? How much of everything you῾ve held dear are you ready to have shattered, without running away? How ready are you to think of something unfamiliar?
Our Illusion About Others
A young man came to complain that his girlfriend had let him down, that she had played false. What are you complaining about? Did you expect any better? Expect the worst, you῾re dealing with selfish people. You῾re the idiot--you glorified her, didn῾t you? You thought she was a princess, you thought people were nice. They῾re not! They῾re not nice. They῾re as bad as you are--bad, you understand? They῾re asleep like you. And what do you think they are going to seek? Their own self-interest, exactly like you. No difference. Can you imagine how liberating it is that you῾ll never be disillusioned again, never be disappointed again? You῾ll never feel let down again. Never feel rejected. Want to wake up? You want happiness? You want freedom? Here it is: Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you will see through everyone. Then you will love them. Otherwise you spend the whole time grappling with your wrong notions of them, with your illusions that are constantly crashing against reality.
It῾s probably too startling for many of you to understand that everyone except the very rare awakened person can be expected to be selfish and to seek his or her own self-interest whether in coarse or in refined ways. This leads you to see that there῾s nothing to be disappointed about, nothing to be disillusioned about. If you had been in touch with reality all along, you would never have been disappointed. But you chose to paint people in glowing colors; you chose not to see through human beings because you chose not to see through yourself. So you῾re paying the price now.
The only way someone can be of help to you is in challenging your ideas. If you῾re ready to listen and if you῾re ready to be challenged, there῾s one thing that you can do, but no one can help you. What is this most important thing of all? It῾s called self-observation. No one can help you there. No one can give you a method. No one can show you a technique. The moment you pick up a technique, you῾re programmed again. But self-observation--watching yourself--is important. It is not the same as self-absorption. Self-absorption is self-preoccupation, where you῾re concerned about yourself, worried about yourself. I῾m talking about self-observation. What῾s that? It means to watch everything in you and around you as far as possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else. What does that last sentence mean? It means that you do not personalize what is happening to you. It means that you look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.
The reason you suffer from your depression and your anxieties is that you identify with them. You say, ″I῾m depressed.″ But that is false. You are not depressed. If you want to be accurate, you might say, ″I am experiencing a depression right now.″ But you can hardly say, ″I am depressed.″ You are not your depression. That is but a strange kind of trick of the mind, a strange kind of illusion. You have deluded yourself into thinking--though you are not aware of it--that you are your depression, that you are your anxiety, that you are your joy or the thrills that you have. ″I am delighted!″ You certainly are not delighted. Delight may be in you right now, but wait around, it will change; it won῾t last: it never lasts; it keeps changing: it's always changing. Clouds come and go: some of them are black and some white, some of them are large, others small. If we want to follow the analogy, you would be the sky, observing the clouds. You are a passive, detached observer. That῾s shocking, particularly to someone in the Western culture. You῾re not interfering. Don῾t interfere. Don῾t ″fix″ anything. Watch! Observe! The trouble with people is that they῾re busy fixing things they don῾t even understand. We῾re always fixing things, aren῾t we? It never strikes us that things don῾t need to be fixed. They really don῾t. This is a great illumination. They need to be understood. If you understood them, they῾d change.
Awareness and Contact With Reality
To watch everything inside of you and outside, and when there is something happening to you, to see it as if it were happening to someone else, with no comment, no judgment, no attitude, no interference, no attempt to change, only to understand. As you do this, you῾ll begin to realize that increasingly you are disidentifying from ″me.″ If someone else has cancer and I don῾t know the person, I῾m not all that affected. If I had love and sensitivity, maybe I῾d help, but I῾m not emotionally affected. If you have an examination to take, I῾m not all that affected. I can be quite philosophical about it and say, ″Well, the more you worry about it, the worse it῾ll get. Why not just take a good break instead of studying?″ But when it῾s my turn to have an examination, well, that῾s something else, isn῾t it? The reason is that I῾ve identified with ″me″--with my family, my country, my possessions, my body, me. How would it be if God gave me grace not to call these things mine? I῾d be detached; I῾d be disidentified. That῾s what it means to lose the self, to deny the self, to die to self.
Imagine that you're unwell and in a foul mood, and they're taking you through some lovely countryside. The landscape is beautiful but you're not in the mood to see anything. A few days later you pass the same place and you say, "Good heavens, where was I that I didn't notice all of this?" Everything becomes beautiful when you change. Or you look at the trees and the mountains through windows that are wet with rain from a storm, and everything looks blurred and shapeless. You want to go right out there and change those trees, change those mountains. Wait a minute, let's examine your window. When the storm ceases and the rain stops, and you look out the window, you say, "Well, how different everything looks." We see people and things not as they are, but as we are. That is why when two people look at something or someone, you get two different reactions.
Put this program into action, a thousand times: (a) identify the negative feelings in you; (b) understand that they are in you, not in the world, not in external reality; (c) do not see them as an essential part of "I"; these things come and go; (d) understand that when you change, everything changes.
Losing the Rat Race
Let's get back to that marvelous sentence in the gospel about losing oneself in order to find oneself. One finds it in most religious literature and in all religious and spiritual and mystical literature. How does one lose oneself? Did you ever try to lose something? That's right, the harder you try, the harder it gets. It's when you're not trying that you lose things. You lose something when you're not aware. Well, how does one die to oneself? We're talking about death now, we're not talking about suicide. We're not told to kill the self, but to die. Causing pain to the self, causing suffering to the self would be self-defeating. It would be counterproductive. You're never so full of yourself as when you're depressed. You're never so ready to forget yourself as when you are happy. Happiness releases you from self. It is suffering and pain and misery and depression that tie you to the self. Look how conscious you are of your tooth when you have a toothache. When you don't have a toothache, you're not even aware you have a tooth, or that you have a head, for that matter, when you don't have a headache. But it's so different when you have a splitting headache. To deny the self, to die to it, to lose it, is to understand its true nature. When you do that, it will disappear; it will vanish. To lose the self is to suddenly realize that you are something other than what you thought you were. You thought you were at the center; now you experience youself as satellite. You thought you were the dancer; you now experience yourself as the dance.
Pleasant experiences make life delightful. Painful experienes lead to growth. Suffering points up an area in you where you have not yet grown, where you need to grow and be transformed and change. If you knew how to use that suffering, oh, how you would grow. Let's limit ourselves, for the time being, to psychological suffering, to all those negative emotions we have. Don't waste your time on a single one of them. The disappointment you experience when things don't turn out as you wanted them to, watch that! Look at what it says about you. I say this without condemnation (otherwise you're going to get caught up in self-hatred). Observe it as you would observe it in another person. Look at that disappointment, that depression you experience when you are criticized. What does that say about you? Negative feelings, every negative feeling is useful for awareness, for understanding. They give you the opportunity to feel it, to watch it from the outside. Before enlightenment I used to be depressed. After enlightenment I continue to be depressed. But gradually, or rapidly, or suddenly, you get the state of wakefulness. This is the state where you drop desires. But remember what I meant by desire and cravings. I meant: "Unless I get what I desire, I refuse to be happy." I mean cases where happiness depends on the fulfillment of desire.
Desire, not Preference
Do not suppress desire, because then you would become lifeless. You'd be without energy and that would be terrible. Desire in the healthy sense of the word is energy, and the more energy we have, the better. But don't suppress desire, understand it. Don't seek to fulfill desire so much as to understand desire. And don't just renounce the objects of your desire, understand them; see them in their true light. See them for what they are really worth. Because if you just suppress your desire, and you attempt to renounce the objects of your desire, you are likely to be tied to it. Whereas if you look at it and see it for what it is really worth, if you understand how you are preparing the grounds for misery and disappointment and depression, your desire will then be transformed into what I call a preference.
When you go through life with preferences but don't let your happiness depend on any one of them, then you're awake. You're moving toward wakefulness. Wakefulness, happiness--call it what you wish--is the state of nondelusion, where you see things not as you are but as they are, insofar as this is possible for a human being. To drop illusions, to see things, to see reality. Every time you are unhappy, you have added something to reality. It is that addition that makes you unhappy. I repeat: You have added something... a negative reaction in you. Reality provides the stimulus, you provide the reaction. You have added something by your reaction. And if you examine what you have added, there is always an illusion there, there's a demand, an expectation, a craving. Always. Examples of illusions abound. But as you begin to move ahead on this path, you'll discover them for yourself. For instance, the illusion, the error of thinking that, by changing the exterior world, you will change. You do not change if you merely change your exterior world. If you get yourself a new job or a new spouse or a new home or a new guru or a new spirituality, that does not change you. Most people spend all their energy trying to rearrange their exterior world to suit their tastes. Sometimes they succeed--for about five minutes--and they get a little respite, but they are tense even during that respite, because life is always flowing, life is always changing.
So if you want to live, you must have no permament abode. You must have no place to rest your head. You have to flow with it. As the great Confucius said, "The one who would be in constant happiness must frequently change." Flow. But we keep looking back, don't we? We cling to things in the past and cling to things in the present. "When you set your hand to the plow, you cannot look back." Do you want to enjoy a symphony? Don't hold on to a few bars of the music. Don't hold on to a couple of notes. Let them pass, let them flow. The whole enjoyment of a symphony lies in your readiness to allow the notes to pass. Whereas if a particular bar took your fancy and you shouted to the orchestra, "Keep playing it again and again and again," that would be a symphony anymore.
If you don't look at things through your concepts, you'll never be bored. Every single thing is unique. Every sparrow is unlike every other sparrow despite the similarities. It's a great help to have similarities so we can abstract, so that we can have a concept. It's a great help from the point of view of communication, education, science. But it's also very misleading and a great hindrance to seeing this concrete individual. If all you experience is your concept, you're not experiencing reality, because reality is concrete. The concept is a help, to lead you to reality, but when you get there, you've got to intuit or experience it directly. A second quality of a concept is that it is static whereas reality is in flux. You've got the word "river," but the water there is constantly flowing. You've got one word for your "body," but the cells in your body are constantly being renewed. The moment you put things into a concept, they stop flowing; they become static, dead. A frozen wave is not a wave. A wave is essentially movement, action; when you freeze it, it is not a wave. Concepts are always frozen. Reality flows. Finally, reality is whole, but words and concepts fragment reality. You don't need to be a mystic to understand that reality is something that cannot be captured by words or concepts. To know reality you have to know beyond knowing.
What I'm leading you to is the following: awareness of reality around you. Awareness means to watch, to observe what is going on within you and around you. "Going on" is pretty accurate: Trees, grass, flowers, animals, rock, all of reality is moving. One observes it, one watches it. Are you imprisoned by your concepts? Do you want to break out of your prison? Then look; observe; spend hours observing. Watching what? Anything. The faces of people, the shapes of trees, a bird in flight, a pile of stones, watch the grass grow. Get in touch with things, look at them. Hopefully you will then break out of these rigid patterns we have all developed, out of what our thoughts and our words have imposed on us. Hopefully we will see.
The beauty of an action comes not from its having become a habit but from its sensitivity, consciousness, clarity of perception, and accuracy of response. I can say yes to one beggar and no to another. I am not compelled by any conditioning or programming from my past experiences or from my culture. Nobody has stamped anything on me, or if they have, I'm no longer reacting on the basis of that. If you had a bad experience with an American or were bitten by a dog or had a bad experience with a certain type of food, for the rest of your life you'd be influenced by that experience. And that's bad! You need to be liberated from that. Don't carry over experiences from the past. In fact, don't carry over good experiences from the past either. Learn what it means to experience something fully, then drop it and move on to the next moment, uninfluenced by the previous one. You'd be travelling with such little baggage that you could pass through the eye of a needle. You'd know what eternal life is, because eternal life is now, in the timeless now. Only thus will you enter into eternal life. But how many things we carry along with us. We never set about the task of freeing ourselves, of dropping the baggage, of being ourselves.
Did it ever occur to you that you could be happy in tension? Before enlightenment, I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don't make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one's tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself, the worse it gets. You are called upon to be aware. Get the feel of that jangling telephone; get the feel of jarred nerves; get the sensation of the steering wheel in the car. In other words, come to reality, and let tension or the calmness take care of itself. As a matter of fact, you will have to let them take care of themselves because you'll be too preoccupied with getting in touch with reality. Step by step, let whatever happens happen. Real change will come when it is brought about, not by your ego, but by reality. Awareness releases reality to change you.
The Death of Me
Don't ask the world to change--you change first. Then you'll get a good enough look at the world so that you'll be able to change whatever you think ought to be changed. Take the obstruction out of your own eye. If you don't, you have lost the right to change anyone or anything. Till you are aware of yourself, you have no right to interfere with anyone else or with the world. Now, the danger of attempting to change others or change things when you yourself are not aware is that you may be changing things for your own convenience, your pride, your dogmatic convictions and beliefs, or just to relieve your negative feelings. I have negative feelings, so you better change in such a way that I'll feel good. First, cope with your negative feelings so that when you move out to change others, you're not coming from hate or negativity but from love. It may seem strange too, that people can be very hard on others and still be very loving. The surgeon can be hard on a patient and yet loving. Love can be very hard indeed.
I've often said to people that the way to really live is to die. The passport to living is to imagine yourself in your grave. Imagine that you're lying in your coffin. Now look at your problems from that viewpoint. Changes everything, doesn't it? What a lovely, lovely meditation. Do it every day if you have the time. It's unbelievable, but you'll come alive. Many of you don't want to see reality. You don't want to think of death. People don't live, most of you, you don't live, you're just keeping the body alive. That's not life. You're not living until it doesn't matter a tinker's damn to you whether you live or die. At that point you live. When you're ready to lose your life, you live it. But if you're protecting your life, you're dead. If I can't get you to peep out of your little narrow beliefs and convitions and look at another world, you're dead, you're completely dead; life has passed you by. You're sitting in your little prison, where you're frightened; you're going to lose your God, your religion, your friends, all kinds of things. Life is for the gambler, it really is. That's what Jesus was saying. Are you ready to risk it? Do you know when you're ready to risk it? When you've discovered that, when you know that this thing that people call life is not really life. People mistakenly think that living is keeping the body alive. So love the thought of death, love it. Go back to it again and again. Think of the loveliness of that corpse, of that skeleton, of those bones crumbling till there's only a handful of dust. From there on, what a relief, what a relief.