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POONA 1948 FIRST TALK


We have so many problems, political, economic, social and religious, all demanding action; but before we can act, we must know what the problem is. It would be really absurd merely to act without knowing the whole sequence of a problem. But most of us are concerned with action, we want to do something. There are communal problems, national problems, problems of war, problems of starvation, of linguistic differences, and innumerable other problems; and being confronted with them, we want to know what to do. Our whole impulse, our motive, is not to study the question or the problem, but to do something about it. After all, a problem like starvation requires a great deal of study, a great deal of understanding. In understanding, there is action. Merely to act on some superficial response is utterly futile, leading to greater confusion.


Now, what is our problem? The common daily problem of existence is obviously one of suffering, is it not? Suffering in different forms is the common lot of all of us, whether it be economic, social, the suffering that death brings, and so on. There is naturally a desire to be secure in the midst of the insecurity, the uncertainty about us. We want to have security with regard to food, clothing, and shelter; we want security in our relationships, in our ideas. Is that not what we are seeking? We want to be certain in our possessions, whether those possessions be things, people, or ideas; and for our possessions, we are willing to battle, maim, destroy. In order to be secure in our relationships, secure in our possessions, secure in our ideas, we have created national frontiers, beliefs, Gods, leaders, and so on. When each one of us is thus seeking security, naturally there must be opposition, and this opposition creates conflict in our life. When we are seeking security, existence is one constant battle, one constant conflict; and being in conflict, being in misery, we want to find the truth. Put succinctly, that is our position, and we will work out the details as we go along. The important thing in our life is how to avoid conflict, how to have no resistance - surely, that is our problem, is it not? 


Throughout the world there are wars, starvation, strife, conflict between peoples, between families, in the family and outside the family; there is division between Brahmins and non-Brahmins, between Indians and Europeans, between Japanese and Americans, and so on and on. Our immediate problem is that of food, clothing and shelter, and whether these necessities can be produced for everybody so that there is no starvation in the world. Each party, each system, whether of the left or of the right, offers a conflicting solution, and you and I are equal in the strife, politically, economically, and socially. Our life is one of constant struggle to maintain our position, to accumulate money and to hold on to it; and we are beset with innumerable other problems - the problem of death and what happens after death, the problem of whether there is God, what truth is, and so on. How are you and I to approach these complex problems? All the intellectual people of the world, who have gone into these problems and have tried to show us the way, have failed. That is the calamity of modern civilization, is it not? The intellectual people have collapsed, their formulas are unworkable, and we are directly confronted with the problem of starvation and of right relationship. So, our concern is with action, with relationship, with finding out how you and I can approach anew all these problems. We have seen that approaching them along the old and routine lines has not produced any fundamental change, but has only increased the confusion. So, how can you and I approach these problems anew? Obviously, we cannot wait for somebody else, a guru or a leader, to resolve our difficulties. That is infantile, it is immature thinking. The responsibility is yours and mine; and since leaders have failed, since system and formulas have no meaning, we cannot sit back as onlookers and expect to be told what to do. So, how are you and I going to act with regard to these problems?


Now, how do you set about thinking rightly? To think rightly, you must know yourself, must you not? If you do not know yourself, you have no basis for right thinking, and therefore what you think has no value. You are not different from the world; the world problem is your problem, and the process of yourself is the total process of the world. That is, you have created the problem, which is both individual and universal, and to bring about the right action which will solve it, you must be able to think rightly; and to think rightly, you must obviously know yourself. So, our chief concern is not mere personal salvation, but to know how to think rightly through self-knowledge. Individuals, you and I, create the world; therefore, the individual is of the highest importance. You and I are responsible for the brutal confusion in the world - the patriotism, the conflicting nationalism's, the absurd divisions of people. We will go into all this later. But obviously, you and I are responsible for the world's misery, not some mysterious force. It is our direct responsibility, and to bring about the right action, there must be right thinking. Therefore, you and I are of the utmost importance. As I said, as long as you do not know what you are, you have no basis for right thinking; and that is why it is essential to know yourself before you do something. The clever people who are here may say, `We know all about the world's problem'. When they say that, it is because they do not want to act. To offer a solution for the world's problem without knowing oneself is merely a postponement of the inevitable, because the world's problem is one's own problem, and the individual is not apart from the world.


In understanding yourself, you are not withdrawing from the world. There is no such thing as existence in isolation. Nothing lives in isolation, and I am not proposing an escape from life, an avoidance or a withdrawal from life. On the contrary, you can understand yourself only in relationship with things, with people, and with ideas, and that relationship is always in existence, it is never absent. Relationship is a process of self-revelation. You cannot deny relationship; if you deny it, you cease to be. So, what I am saying is practical, it is not something vague. But you must first see the problem, and then find out how to approach it; and in approaching it rightly, you will be able to solve the problem. That is why you are of the highest importance.