All the questions we are asking are born out of the answers that we already have.
Somewhere along the line, self-consciousness occurred in man which separated him from the totality of life around him.
The function of the brain in the body is only to take care of the needs of the physical organism and to maintain its sensitivity. But thought, through its constant interference with sensory activity, is destroying the sensitivity of the body.
There is no such thing as death at all for this body. The only death is the end of the illusion, the end of the fear, the end of the knowledge that we have about ourselves and the world around us.
There are so many freakish things in nature. If you try to copy them you are lost.
Thought is something dead and can never touch anything living. The moment it tries to touch life, it is destroyed by the living quality of life.
All that is necessary for the survival of this living organism is already there. All that we have gathered and acquired through our intellect is no match for the tremendous intelligence of the body.
Q: In listening to you and reading your two books I get the feeling that what you are saying is that there is no self, no soul, no anything whatsoever. What you are saying is that the whole of life lives in the physical form as experienced by the senses.
A: Not separate from or independent of the life around us. It is one single unit. I cannot make any definitive statement, but somewhere along the line self-consciousness occurred in man which separated us from the totality of life around us. (We do not know for sure if there is any such thing as evolution; it is an assumption on our part. We accept what those who are in the know of things say. Those people have observed certain things and have established what they call a theory of evolution.)
Q: Do you mean to say that all the life that we experience is only through the body, through the senses, and that the body contains the whole human being?
A: What exactly do you mean by 'life'? Nobody knows anything about life, and there is no point in defining it. Anything that we say of life is a speculation on our part. What we are trying to understand or experience, life or whatever, is through the help of the knowledge we have of it. But thought is something dead. It is something that can never touch anything living. The moment it tries to touch life and capture it, contain it and give expression to it, it is destroyed by the living quality of life. What we mean by life, however, is not actually life but living. Living is our relationship with the people around us, the life around us, with the whole world around us. And that is all we know. That relationship is actually not a basic relationship, but a relationship that is born out of our demand to become one with life. So, anything we do, any attempt we make to become one with it, is fruitless because there is no way we can establish any relationship with the life around us.
Q: Why do you say that we are not part of it?
A: I am not for a moment assuming or emphasizing that we are not part of it. We are part of it. But the most important question which we should ask ourselves is, "What is it that separates us from the life around us, and what is it that maintains the separateness, or division, if I may use the word, all the time?" Actually, what divides us is thought. Thought is matter. But that matter cannot stay there for long. The moment the matter is born it has to become part of the energy again. But this demand on our part, or on the part of thought, to maintain continuity, is the demand that drives us to experience the same thing over and over and over again. And thus we are maintaining this superficial, artificial, non-existent duality, division there between our life and the life around us.
Q: Thought is considered to be part of the brain. What could be the purpose of the brain? There seems to be a conflict between the body and the mind.
A: It is only an assumption on our part, and I would say it is a false assumption, that thoughts are spontaneous and self-generated. They are not. Thought is only a response to stimuli. The brain is not really a creator; it is just a container. The function of the brain in this body is only to take care of the needs of the physical organism and to maintain its sensitivity, whereas thought, through its constant interference with sensory activity, is destroying the sensitivity of the body. That is where the conflict is. The conflict is between the need of the body to maintain its sensitivity and the demand of thought to translate every sensation within the framework of the sensual activity. I am not condemning sensual activity. Mind, or whatever you want to call it, is born out of this sensuality. So, all activities of the mind are sensual in their nature, whereas the activity of the body is to respond to the stimuli around it. That is really the basic conflict between what you call the mind and the body.
Q: So you say that the mind, the brain has really no nonphysical traces.
A: I don't think there is any such thing as mind separate from the activity of the brain.
Q: Would you say that the brain has no nonphysical function?
A: It is not interested in sensual activity. It is not interested in any experiences that the mind is interested in and is demanding. It is not even interested in the so-called spiritual experiences, the religious experiences like bliss, beatitude, immensity, and happiness. Happiness is something which the body is not interested in. It cannot take it for long. Pleasure is one of the things that it is always rejecting. The body does not know, and does not even want to know, anything about happiness.
Q: Happiness is only a thinking quality, a sensual experience.
A: Happiness is a cultural input there. Is there any such thing as happiness? I would say, no. So, the quest for happiness is a cultural input, and that is the common desire that we know exists everywhere, in every part of the world. That is what we all want, and that want is the most important want in human beings everywhere. Happiness, if you want to use that word, is like any other sensation. The moment thought separates itself from what is called the sensation of happiness, the demand to keep that sensation going longer than its natural duration also occurs with it. So, any sensation, however extraordinary, however pleasant it may be, is rejected by the body. Keeping that sensation going longer than its duration of life is destroying the sensitivity of the sensory perceptions and sensitivity of this living organism. That is the battle that is going on there. If you do not know what happiness is, you will never be unhappy.
Q: If you strip the body of all the psychological factors and attributes, would you say that there is no difference between a human being and an animal?
A: Not at all. We are all like the animals. We are no different, nor are we created for any grander purpose than the mosquito that is sucking your blood.
Q: Is there any apparent difference between a human being and the normal sensate animal?
A: It is thinking that has separated us from the other species on this planet. It is thinking that we want to maintain. So it is that that is responsible for all the problems that the human mind (quote and unquote) has created.
Q: Of course, there is what is called purely biological survival. But hasn't thinking helped man to survive in a better way?
A: As I said a while ago, it is thought which has separated us from the rest of the species. Through the help of thinking, it has become possible for us to create better conditions and survive longer than the other species.
Q: Why do you think that we live in this illusion, and why does it persist?
A: The illusion persists because if the illusion comes to an end, what can be called clinical death will take place. So, if we give up one illusion, we will always replace it with another.
A: That is the thing that gives us the feeling of conquering the inevitable end called death. That is the only death that is there. Otherwise, there is no such thing as death at all. And death is the end of the illusion, end of the fear, end of the knowledge that we have of ourselves and of the world around us.
Q: Now this raises the question as to what intelligence is. There is this natural intelligence of the body, which we talked about, with the help of which the harmonious and interrelated functions of the body are carried out. But is there an area wherein intelligence has a function other than the physical?
A: No. You see the body doe not want to know anything. The body does not want to learn anything. The intelligence that is necessary for its survival is already there. We have, fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, acquired what is called the intellect. Through the constant use and reshaping of thought we have acquired this intellect. Through the help of that intellect it has become possible for us to live longer than the other species. This, in its own way, is the cause of the destruction of the whole structure that we have created for our survival. There is no way of escaping from this fact that the acquired intellect, which is the product of our thinking, has helped us to survive longer than the other species.
Q: You mean to say that the intelligence that we have is in no way distinct or distinguishable from the animal intelligence?
A: Probably in us the functioning of the body and of the brain is more evolved than in the case of animals. It does not mean that we are any better than the other species. If what they say is true, the human body, when broken into its constituent elements, is no different from the tree out there or the mosquito that is sucking your blood. Basically, it is exactly the same. The proportions of the elements may be higher in one case and lesser in the case of the others. You have eighty percent of water in the body, and there is eighty percent of water in the trees and eighty percent on this planet. So that is the reason why I maintain that we are nothing but a fortuitous concourse of atoms. If and when death takes place, the body is reshuffled, and then these atoms are used to maintain the energy levels in the universe. Other than that, there is no such thing as death to this body.
Q: Is the human brain more sensitive than, say, the tree?
A: If what they say is true, then probably the dog is far more intelligent than most of the human beings in our midst today, including me.
A: The animals don't try to change anything. That is the most important thing that we have to understand. The demand to bring about a change in us is the cultural input. What is there to be changed? That is my basic question. Is there anything to be changed, radically or otherwise? I don't know. So we have to find out, for ourselves and by ourselves "What is there? Is there an entity there? Is there a self there? Is there an 'I' there?" My answer is "No." What is seen or felt there is created by the knowledge we have of that, the knowledge of the self, the knowledge of the 'I', the knowledge of the entity there that is passed on to us from generation to generation. All that is the cultural input.
Q: Is there not a communication here between us -- the two individuals?
A: Do you think that there is any communication between us? Are we trying to establish any communication here?
Q: No, essentially no. It is more a relationship.
A: No. As long as you and I use the instrument which we are using to communicate with each other, no understanding is possible. You are always translating every statement of mine within the framework of the knowledge that you have -- that is what I call your reference point.
Q: The fact that we are talking, don't you think, shows that there is a physical or physiological relationship?
A: That relationship is already there. So, what separates you from me and me from you is the knowledge we have. But now we are trying to establish a sort of relationship on a different level. But knowledge is not the instrument for doing it, and there is no other instrument. If that is not the instrument and there is no other instrument, no understanding is necessary. That is the understanding which somehow dawned on me -- that there is nothing to understand. How it occurred I really don't know, and I have no way of knowing it. I have no way of helping somebody to understand that that is not the instrument and there is no other instrument. No instrument is necessary for us to create the realization that there is nothing to understand.
Q: There are various gurus who say that there is a soul or self....
A: I know that. That is why even a saint like Ramana Maharshi, when people pestered him with all kinds of questions like "What would you suggest for us to do?" threw back the question "Who am I?" Even this question is not an intelligent question, because we assume both that there is some 'I' there, the nature of which we do not know, and that we have to inquire into its nature. As far as I am concerned, the 'I' that I know of is the first person singular pronoun. I did not succeed and I don't think I will ever succeed in finding out for myself that there is any other 'I' which is used for the simple purposes of communication to separate you from me. I say 'I' and 'You'.
Q: The consciousness of the body....
A: The consciousness of the body does not exist. There is no such thing as consciousness at all. The one thing that helps us to become conscious of the non-existing body, for all practical purposes, is the knowledge that is given to us. Without that knowledge you have no way of creating your own body and experiencing it. I am questioning the very idea of consciousness, let alone the subconscious, the unconscious, the different levels of consciousness, and higher states of consciousness. I don't see that there is any such thing as consciousness. I become conscious of this (touching the arm of the chair) only through the knowledge that I have of it. The touch does not tell me anything except when I translate it within the framework of knowledge. Otherwise I have no way of experiencing that touch at all. The way these senses are operating here is quite different from the way we are made to believe. The eye is looking at the movement of your hand, and is not saying anything about that activity, except observing what is going on there.
Q: But you can feel....
A: No. Feeling is also a translation. This touch does not say anything about the touch per se except through the help of the knowledge that we have. You have no way of experiencing the fact that this is 'soft' or 'hard' except through the knowledge that you have of it. I don't know if this makes any sense to you.
Q: It makes sense to me. But it seems to me that when you do touch there is a sensation in the body also.
A: No. That sensation is through the sense of touch. It is translated by the activity of memory, the neurons, or whatever you like to call them, and only then you say that it is soft and not hard. So, you can kid yourself by telling yourself that this touch is one with feeling and not just a simple touch. But all that is superimposed on that.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about touch?
A: If it is left purely on the physiological level, there is no reaction on your part.
Q: Which part is it?
A: That is the physical response. It is not translated. Probably that is a kind of pleasure for the body. I don't know. I have no way of finding out whether that is the response of pleasure or a purely physical response to the touch. When people ask me "Why do you smile?" I say that it is just a response like any other response to a stimulus. "Why do you move your hand?" "Why do you make so many gestures?" You may call all these mere gestures, but they may be there because you feel that you are not expressing yourself adequately. You are backing your statements with these gestures. That is only a mode of communication. We all started that way and slowly developed language. But still you feel that you are not able to communicate things, convey to your fellow beings whatever you are trying to say. That is why you have these different gestures to back up and strengthen what you are trying to communicate to others. In India they have one kind of gestures, and Americans have a different kind of gestures. Probably even these gestures or movements of hands are transmitted through the genes.
You know I met a lady in Italy. She was separated from her husband immediately after she gave birth to her son. They never met for twenty years. The mother told us that she always observed that the boy's gestures were no different from the gestures of her husband. Of course, this may not prove anything, but merely suggests that even these gestures might have been transmitted through the genes. We don't know what part the genes play and how the whole thing is transmitted from generation to generation.
Q: All this boils down to one thing: that is, that everything in us is just physical.
A: I have no way of knowing it. Even the idea of separating the body and talking about it in terms of pure and simple physical responses may be misleading. I really don't know.
Q: Are you a materialist?
A: I don't know. People call me a materialist. People even go to the extent of calling me an atheist just because I say that God is irrelevant. But that does not mean that I am an atheist. So I am not interested in what kind of labels they stick on me. Believe it or not: it does not make one bit of difference to me. I am not trying to convince you or win you over to anything.
When once the demand to bring about a change and to be different from what actually is there is absent, what you are left with is something which you can never experience. That is the reason why I said that I am just an ordinary man. But people for their own reasons want to fit me into a framework of this, that, and a hundred different things. I say that I am just an ordinary man. Everybody thinks that I am not an ordinary man.
Go to Chapter 8