Can the mind free itself from its conditioning?
- The capacity to be free surely does not depend on another. I see that my mind is the result of innumerable experiences, that its responses are determined by an already conditioned state; and if I am interested to find out whether my mind can free itself, not partially but totally, at the unconscious as well as at the conscious level, then I do not have to ask another; I can watch myself. I may free myself from the idea of my country, from stupid nationalism, from the beliefs in which I have been brought up; but in the very process of freeing myself, I may fall into another set of patterns. Instead of being a Hindu I may become a Christian, a Buddhist, a Communist, or what you will – which is still a pattern. So, is it possible to break away from one pattern without falling into another? If one is very alert and observant of the habit-forming process of the mind, it is possible superficially to free the mind from the formation of habits. But the problem is not so simple, because there is the whole unconscious, which is also conditioned, and its conditioning is much more difficult to see. After all, through talk, through reasoning, through various forms of observation, I can free my mind from the superficial conditioning of being a Hindu or a Catholic – and this is obviously necessary. If I am to seek out what is real, I must first have a mind which is unconditioned. A conditioned mind can project its own ideas, and then experience those ideas. The Christian who is very devout and heavily conditioned can experience a vision of Christ; but he is experiencing his own projection from the background in which he has been brought up, and such experience has no validity at all. But if we can go beyond all the superficial responses of the mind, then perhaps we can penetrate much more deeply into the unconscious, which is ceaselessly projecting its conditioning.
So, is it possible consciously to go into the unconscious and discover its various forms of conditioning? I do not know if you have thought about this at all. You may have opinions about it, you may assert that it is possible or impossible; but I do not think a student who is really inquiring into the whole question will ever make assertions of that kind. He must be in a state of inquiry. And he cannot inquire with regard to someone else, he can only inquire into his own mind.
Inquiry, it seems to me, must be without a motive, without a compulsion in any direction. If I have a motive for my inquiry, that motive dictates what I shall find. So real inquiry does not exist so long as there is a motive. And most of us have a motive of some kind, have we not? We want to be happy, we want to be inwardly rich, we want to find God, we want to achieve this or that. And can the mind strip itself of all motive and be in a state of inquiry? I think this is really a fundamental question; because it is only when we are free of motive that we shall be able to inquire into the totality of the unconscious.
After all, the unconscious is the repository of many motives of which we are unaware – fears, anxieties, and the racial residue. To inquire into all that, the conscious mind, at least, must be free of motive. And to cleanse even the conscious mind of motive demands a great deal of watchfulness, observation of oneself. It means being aware of the whole process of thinking, finding out how thought springs into the mind, and whether it can ever be free; or whether thought is merely the reaction of a particular background through memory, and therefore is never free. One may be able to reason very intelligently, very cleverly; but that reasoning has the background of a particular conditioning.
So, if the conscious mind is to inquire into the unconscious, where all the motives, the urges, the compulsions of centuries are stored, then the conscious mind must surely begin by being free of motives and patterns. And it is only in that inquiry, it seems to me, that we begin to dissolve the collective influences of which we are now made up. We are not individuals now; though we may have a distinctive name, a personal bank account, and all the rest of it, that does not constitute individuality. But what does bring about the true individual is this state of mind in which there is freedom from conditioning. Only then is it possible to find out whether there is a reality beyond the limitations of thought, beyond the inventions and theories of the mind.
Until we come to this state, what we believe or do not believe about God, or truth, has very little significance. Our beliefs and disbeliefs will merely be the repetitive, imitative ideas and thoughts which we have learned from some book, or from another person, or which we have projected out of our own desire for comfort. The truly religious man is not the one who clings to certain beliefs and dogmas, or who strictly practises morality, but rather the man who begins to understand the whole process of his own thinking, the unconscious as well as the conscious. Such a man is an individual, for his mind is no longer repetitive; although there is the memory of the things it has known, they do not interfere. Such a mind becomes extraordinarily quiet, without any movement of desire, without any projection or motive. In that state there is the creativity of reality.
But this is not a thing that you can hear about and repeat, like a boy learning and repeating his lessons. To do that has no meaning at all. One has to go into oneself very deeply, pushing aside all the trivial fears, the envies, the ambitions, the desire to be secure, to be attached, to be dependent, which for most of us is very important – pushing all that stupid nonsense aside, not just temporarily, but actually being free of it. Only then is it possible to find out if there is a reality or not, if there is God if there is something which is beyond time. Until we find that out for ourselves – not through somebody else, not through saviours or teachers, but directly experience it for ourselves – , life is a very superficial thing. We may have immense riches, great influence, and be able to travel all over the world; we may have vast knowledge and be very clever in our talk; but without that direct experience, life becomes very trivial, and underneath there is always misery, struggle, pain. Then we are everlastingly trying to give life a meaning, we are forever asking what is the purpose of life; so we invent a purpose – a cynical purpose of despair, or a purpose of delight.
But if we are capable of this constant inquiry, which is really a form of meditation, then we are bound to come to the point when we realize that all our thinking is conditioned, and that our beliefs and dogmas have no value at all. And when we see that they have no value, they drop away without our struggling against them. The totality of our conditioning can be broken – not bit by bit, which takes time, but immediately, by directly perceiving the truth of the matter. It is the truth that liberates, not time, or your intention to be free. That is why the mind must be extraordinarily open, receptive. For truth is not to be pursued and caught; it must come.
So it is important to inquire into this whole question of conditioning, and not merely accept another's assertion as to whether the mind can be free or not. One has to inquire and free oneself. Then I think we shall find something beyond all words, about which there can be no possible communication. The man who has realized, experienced that thing for himself, is a truly religious man, for he is no longer influenced by society – society being this structure of ambition, of acquisition, of envy, the self-centred activity of the collective.