Impossible Question, The
The whole of Asia believes in reincarnation, in being reborn in another life. When you enquire what it is that is going to be born in the next life, you come up against difficulties. What is it? Yourself? What are you? a lot of words, a lot of opinions, attachments to your possessions, to your furniture, to your conditioning. Is all that, which you call the soul, going to be reborn in the next life? Reincarnation implies that what you are today determines what you will be again in the next life. Therefore behave! - not tomorrow, but today, because what you do today you are going to pay for in the next life. people who believe in reincarnation do not bother about behaviour at all; it is just a matter of belief, which has no value. Incarnate today, afresh not in the next life! Change it now completely, change with great passion, let the mind strip itself of everything, of every conditioning, every knowledge, of everything it thinks is `right' - empty it. Then you will know what dying means; and then you will know what love is. For love is not something of the past, of thought, of culture; it is not pleasure. A mind that has understood the whole movement of thought becomes extraordinarily quiet, absolutely silent. That silence is the beginning of the new.
What does it mean to be compassionate? Not merely verbally, but actually to be compassionate? Is compassion a matter of habit, of thought, a matter of the mechanical repetition of being kind, polite, gentle, tender? Can the mind which is caught in the activity of thought with its conditioning, its mechanical repetition, be compassionate at all? It can talk about it, it can encourage social reform, be kind to the poor heathen and so on; but is that compassion? When thought dictates, when thought is active, can there be any place for compassion? Compassion being action without motive, without self-interest, without any sense of fear, without any sense of pleasure.
So one asks not only what love is, but also what is compassion. In the Christian culture the animals have no soul, they are put on earth by God for you to eat; that is the Christian conditioning. In certain parts of India to kill is wrong, whether to kill a fly, an animal or anything else. So they do not kill the least thing, they go to the extreme of exaggeration; again, that is their conditioning. And there are people who support antivivisection, yet wear marvellous furs: such hypocrisy goes on!
Can the mind free itself from the habits it has cultivated, from certain opinions, judgments, attitudes and values? Which means, can the mind be free of thought? If this is not completely understood, then the next thing which I am going to talk, about will have no meaning. The understanding of this leads to the next question, which is inevitable, if you go into it. If thought is mechanical, if it inevitably conforms to the conditioning of the mind, then what is love? Is love the product of thought? Is love nurtured, cultivated by thought, dependent on thought?
What is love? - bearing in mind that the description is not the described, the word is not the thing. Can the mind be free of the mechanical activity of thought so as to find out what love is? For most of us love is associated, or equated, with sex. That is a form of conditioning. When you are enquiring into this really very complex, intricate and extraordinarily beautiful thing, you must find out how that word `sex' has conditioned the mind.
So thought being a mechanical, repetitive pursuit, accepts any form of conditioning which enables it to continue in its mechanical activity. A philosopher invents a new theory, an economist a new system, and we accept that groove and follow it. Our society, our culture, our religious prompting, everything seems to function mechanically; yet in that there is a certain sense of stimulation. When you go to Mass, there is a certain excitement, emotion, and that becomes the pattern. I do not know if this is something you have ever tried - do it once and you will see the fun of it: take a piece of stick or a stone, any odd piece with a little shape to it, put it on the mantelpiece and put a flower beside it every morning. Within a month you will see that it has become a habit, as a religious symbol, and you have begun to identify yourself with that.
One asks: `Can the mind ever be free of this social and cultural conditioning, of the mind measuring and comparing, the conditioning of fear and pleasure, of reward and punishment?' The whole of our moral and religious structures are based on this. Why is it that we are conditioned? We see the outward influences which are conditioning us and the inward voluntary demand to be conditioned. Why do we accept this conditioning? Why has the mind allowed itself to be conditioned? What is the factor behind it all? Why do I, born in a certain country and culture, calling myself a Hindu, with all the superstition and tradition imposed by the family, the society, accept such conditioning? What is the urge that lies behind this? What is the factor that is constantly demanding and acquiescing, yielding to or resisting this conditioning? One can see that one wants to be safe and secure in the community which is following a certain pattern. If one does not follow that pattern one may lose one's job, be without money, not be regarded as a respectable human being. There is a revolt against that, and that revolt forms its own conditioning - which all the young people are going through now. One must find out what is the urge that makes one conform. Unless one discovers it for oneself, one will always be conditioned one way or the other, positively or negatively. From the moment one is born until one dies, the process goes on. One may revolt against it, one may try to escape into another conditioning, withdrawing into a monastery as do the people who devote their life to contemplation, to philosophy, but it is the same movement right through. What is the machinery that is in constant movement, adjusting itself to various forms of conditioning?
Another form of conditioning is that of comparison. One compares oneself with what one thinks is noble or heroic, with whit one would like to be, as opposed to what one is. The comparative pursuit is a form of conditioning; again, it is extraordinarily subtle. I compare myself with somebody who is a little more intelligent or more beautiful physically. Secretly or openly, there is a constant soliloquy, talking to oneself in terms of comparison. Observe this in yourself. Where there is comparison there is a form of aggression in the feeling of achievement; or, when you cannot achieve, there is a sense of frustration and a feeling of inferiority. From childhood we are educated to compare. Our educational system is based on comparison, on the giving of marks, on examinations. In comparing yourself with somebody who is cleverer, there is envy, jealousy, and all the conflict that ensues. Comparison implies measurement; I am measuring myself against something I think is better or nobler.
Then there is the deeper conditioning, such as an aggressive attitude towards life. Aggression implies a sense of dominance, of seeking power, possessions, prestige. One has to go very deeply to be completely free of that, because it is very subtle, taking many different forms. One may think one is not aggressive, but when one has an ideal, an opinion, an evaluation, verbal and non-verbal, there is a sense of assertiveness which gradually becomes aggressive and violent. One can see this in oneself. Behind the very word `aggression' though you may say it very gently - there is a kick, there is a furtive, dominant, compulsive action which becomes cruel and violent. That aggressive conditioning one has to discover, whether one has derived it from the animal, or has become aggressive in one's own self-assertive pleasure. Is one aggressive in the total sense of that word, which means `stepping forward'?
So, first we will find out whether the mind can be totally and completely free of conditioning. It is fairly obvious how we are superficially conditioned by the culture, the society, the propaganda around us, and also by nationality, by a particular religion, by education and through environmental influences. I think it is fairly clear and fairly simple to see how most human beings, of whatever country or race, are conditioned by the particular culture or religion to which they belong. They are moulded, held within a particular pattern. One can fairly easily put aside such conditioning.
We were talking of the importance of thought and yet of its unimportance; of how thought has a great deal of action and within its own field only limited freedom. We spoke of a state of mind that is totally unconditioned. This morning we can go into this question of conditioning; not only the superficial, cultural conditioning, but also why conditioning takes place. We can enquire about the quality of mind that is not conditioned, that has gone beyond conditioning. We have to go into this matter very deeply to find out what love is. And in understanding what love is, perhaps we shall be able to comprehend the full significance of death.