The Mind – Vimala Thakar

As we are meeting in the morning, let us hope that all of us are more fresh, alert, and attentive perhaps than yesterday. We shall go together into an issue that is very subtle and very complex. We shall go together into the issue of what brain is, the mind is, and how the mind functions – to go into the anatomy of mind, the whole mechanism.

It is going to be difficult because you do not see your own mind. You see your body, the hands, the feet, the eyes. You can touch them. You can look at them if you sit before a mirror. But mind is that part of our body which is invisible and intangible. It is material all the same. Mind is matter. Though it is invisible and intangible, it is a part of the physical body, a very subtle part. It is one of our sense organs, like the senses that we have – the smelling, the hearing, the seeing, the touching. In the same way, brain is a sense organ located in the head, connected with the whole body, with sensory and motor nerves, and the most important part of the physical body, if you go into it really.

So what you call the mind or the brain is a part of the physical structure. It is a material structure, and one who has not looked at mind as a sense organ, one who has not looked at the brain as a part of the physical structure, does not realize that mind being matter has a kind of energy. In the physical structure, you have the glandular energy, you have the muscular energy, you have the nervous or the neurological energy. In the same way, the brain has a kind of energy which we are going to go into this morning.

When you talk about the hands, the feet, the optical nerves, the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, it is easy to communicate, to respond to what someone says unto you. But mind being invisible, to talk about the content of that invisible organ, intangible sense organ gets very difficult. So we will need all our attention this morning.

The mind, the brain is located in the human head, connected with the whole body. And as you see with the eyes and you hear with the ears, with the brain you catch ideas. There is an involuntary activity going on in our body. Whether you want it or not, the eyes see things; you cannot prevent the seeing of the eyes as long as they are open. A living human being sees thing around him. He hears the sounds around him. Whether he wants to listen to them or not is different. But the seeing is an involuntary activity of the optical nerves, the retina receiving impressions. The activity of seeing goes on. The activity of hearing goes on, not voluntarily, not out of your effort, not out of your motivation, but it is there. You do not breathe consciously with an effort all the time. You are born with a breathing process. The inhaling and the exhaling of breath is something with which you are born. It’s one of the involuntary activities. In the same way, the brain, the cerebral organ has got an involuntary activity of moving and catching ideas, catching thoughts, registering the name, the color, the kind, the shape, the size of the objects that you touch with your eyes or ears. The brain registers, goes on registering, recording, and whatever has been cognized or registered or recorded gets transferred to memory.

This goes on. You do not have to make a conscious effort for it. If there is no physical disability, and if there is no psychological inhibition, then this cerebral activity of receiving impressions, interpreting them, judging them, transferring them into memory – that goes on in your waking hours.

So mind is a sense organ, the brain, a very subtle one. Now this sense organ has been trained and educated by the human race through untold centuries. We were talking yesterday that the content of culture is patterns of behavior – physical behavior, and psychological behavior. There are patterns of cooking meals, having meals, the kind of food, the quality of food. There are patterns of going through exercises, patterns of having your clothes, houses, furniture. There are patterns of behavior, talking, shouting, crying, laughing, smiling. When does a person smile? How does he smile? The patterns of reactions and activities. This is the content of culture, conditioning for the physical, the verbal, and the mental. And there are beautiful designs in these conditionings, innumerable variety of designs and patterns.

These patterns of behavior and their code words, their symbols, their measurements, their evaluations, priorities are all contained in the brain. As the feet are taught to move on the Earth when a child grows (you teach him how to respond to the law of gravity contained in the Earth) so the movement in the feet and the law of gravity in the Earth – there is a responsive cooperation between the two, and therefore you can walk, run, climb upon the Earth. The child has to be taught how to stand up and cooperate with the Earth, and how to run, to climb. It falters, it falls down, and the mother, the father, the teacher help the child to stand up again, to feel the Earth. How much pressure to put upon the Earth when you walk, the soft earth, the hard earth, the stony surface. All this education has been given. You do not realize it today when you walk because it has become a substance of your being.

The child has been educated and trained to discriminate sounds. The noise, the sound, and organized sound that is music. The child is trained, educated to discriminate the sound of a crow from a swallow, from that of a nightingale, the note of a cuckoo bird. The child gets education in this auditory discrimination, optical discrimination. This is green color. This is blue. This is red. This is yellow, and all the nuances and various shades of colors. This is all part of conditioning. As the ears, the eyes, the nose, they are educated, this so-called mind, the brain, has been trained and educated to receive thought, to interpret it, to evaluate it, to compare it with others, to judge it, and then to put it in memory under different categories. And this process goes on today with an electromagnetic speed. You are not even conscious how such a subtle and complex process is going on every fraction of a second in your and my brain. It goes so quick. The more educated and more cultured you are, the quicker is the process of this cerebration.

You see a thing, compare it, evaluate it, judge it, reduce it to an idea, put it in your memory. It gets registered as a like. It gets registered as a dislike, as a preference, as a prejudice, as an idea, as something to be criticized, condemned, to be given up. You know, all these things go on quickly.  So the brain involuntarily registers and records the name, the shape, the color, the kind, and the more educated you are, the more refined becomes the process of discrimination, and the faster goes the process of naming, registering, recording. We have to remember this.

Now this brain has been nourished on thought. It has been nourished on symbols, ideas, and therefore we, the human beings living in this twentieth century, we live in a world of symbols. When you see an object, you cannot keep the object all the time with you whether it is a thing or a being, an animal, a bird, a human being, or a thing, you cannot keep that object with you. But the idea about the object, manufactured by the brain, is stored in the bank of memory. So the ideas and symbols are the things that become the content of the brain. As the ear has the auditory power, or the eyes together with the optical nerves have the optical powers, the power of the brain consists in the ideas, the thoughts, the symbols, the values, the likes, the dislikes, the prejudices, preferences, all contained in it. Systematically fed into the brain by different cultures, different countries, by different contexts of life.

So brain functions through the symbol, though the idea, through thought, through an emotion, a feeling, sentiment. These are all the cerebral ways of behavior. As the physical structure outwardly has a way of behavior, you know, sitting down, getting up, moving; there are ways. In the same way, the brain has ways of moving. Where it moves into relationship it has certain ways, and the eyes look at you in a certain way. That is to say, the optical instrument in the action of relationship has ways of behavior. So the brain has ways of behavior, what you call your feelings, and sentiments, the angers, the jealousies, the greed, the violence. That is a cerebellar way taught to the human brain, through untold centuries, by different cultures, religions, metaphysicians, occultists, physical scientists, economical political leaders. All of these go on feeding systematically into the brain.

Thoughts and emotions, so as the feet walk and run, the brain thinks and feels. Mind you, it is connected with the whole body, so as soon as the brain moves, the whole body moves. The brain thinks a thought, and the whole neurological system becomes tense. Brain touches an emotion or a feeling, and the whole chemical system, the liver, the spleen, the kidneys, the pancreas gland, the intestines, they respond to that emotion, and a chemical change takes place in the body. So the movement of the brain is interwoven with the whole body. When the brain moves, the body moves.

Now, we said the content of the brain is all these symbols, these thoughts, these ideas, and man lives in this ideational, conceptual world much more than the physical world. The more sophisticated, the more cultured a person is, he lives much more in the conceptual world, in the world of ideas, concepts, theories, beliefs, judgements, confusions. He lives there much more than with his senses. A primitive person who has not dealt much with the cerebration lives more with his senses. And the so-called educated person, intellectually advanced person, lives most of the time in this conceptual world. The concepts, the ideas have their own beauty. The symbols and the world of symbols have their own beauty, but one has to look at the mind, get acquainted with its anatomy, and see how we live in the world of symbols and ideas. We have to see it.

For example, all of us talk in terms of time. We measure life by time. Time is a measurement, a yardstick created by man to measure infinity. As he wanted to measure the Earth, the Space, and he made a kilometer, a mile; that’s a measurement.  There are no miles and kilometers as far as the globe is concerned. It is the invention of the human mind. When he wanted to make arrangements for collective living, he started measuring. The very idea of measuring is the creation of the human mind.  So, whether you measure a cloth by a yard or a meter, centimeter, whether you measure the Earth into kilometers, whether you measure infinity into years, and months, and days, and centuries, and hours and minutes, time is a symbol. All the measurements are symbols. You must have noticed this. The numbers with which you measure, like one, two, three, four, up to nine, which is the perfect number, the whole number. One to nine, these are the inventions of human mind. And the relationship between one and two, and two and five, and five and nine, all this is arbitrarily arrived at by the ancient man on which not only mathematics but even astronomy, astrology is based. So man having this brain, started playing around with it, and he created symbols.

We have to look at the symbols and see them for what they are. So I wonder if we look at time and see it as a symbol created by the human mind? Beautiful. You measure it, a second and 60 seconds into a minute, and sixty minutes into an hour, and 24 hours into a day. You go on measuring that, but there are no days, and hours, and minutes, and seconds in life. Life is a whole. Wherever it moves, it moves in its totality. It moves as a whole. Man cannot keep in touch with the movement of totality which is mind so he fragments it, measures it, and finds out ways of being with a fragment, with the particular. And we have become so used to this language of time, we feel that life is equal to time. We forget that it is a symbol. The yesterday, the today, the tomorrow, these are concepts. The sunset, the sunrise, it’s a poetical language. The sun never rises, never does it set. The sun is there but due to the movement of the Earth, the whole globe in relation to the sun and the whole solar system, the sun, the moon, the planets, when you see the sun, you call it the sunrise, the midday, the evening. The Earth in relation to the Sun and the movement of the Earth. But in reality, there is nothing like sunset or sunrise.

So life is timelessness. Time is a creation of the human mind, and one has to see the beauty of this creation so that one can use it efficiently wherever the use is warranted, but does not get obsessed with the idea of time. If the idea of tomorrow obsesses a person, and a person obsessed with the idea of tomorrow, the fear and anxiety of tomorrow, misses the today, then he will never live because to live is to be with what is before you here and now. If the memory of the past keeps you away from this eternity that presents itself to you in what you call the present moment, in what you call the now, in what you call the here, you meet that eternity now at this moment, or never. Eternity cannot be met with in tomorrows. What I am trying to say, my friends, is, there are very many symbols, I have taken only one, of the time. So time has to be understood as a measurement, as a symbol, beautifully, poetically, aesthetically created and cherished by the human race.

I for one have nothing against the conditions of man. The conditions are not the bondage. To mistake the conditionings for the reality of life, leads towards bondage. To see the falsity of the false thing is the beginning of seeing what is true, what is real. So the conditionings are bound to be there. They are part of our inner being. They are the content of consciousness. You cannot run away from them. You cannot deny them. You cannot wish them away. The brain, the mind, contains all these.

We have touched only one symbol, the symbol of time and around it is woven the whole structure of psychological time. And collective relationships are arranged, managed on the basis of this. If you say the life is timelessness, therefore I don’t care for the time, then there will be chaos in collective relationships. In collective relationships and living together, we have to use symbols as the children use toys and play with them. So that we meet here exactly at 10:30 or quarter past 11, knowing full well that there is nothing like quarter past 11, or 12, in life and reality. We meet here at that time. So living together, human transactions, communications, require these toys of ideas and symbols. As I said, the mathematical figures, numbers — beautiful things — if you start counting the totality of life into one or two, the God, the divine into one and two, then you are mistaking the symbol for the real.

There are the seven basic notes of music and you organize them — permutations, combinations of those notes and their arrangement — you arrive at music. But those seven basic notes, with which are associated now feelings, sentiments, emotions. If you play Symphony No. 2 of Beethoven, you get into one kind of feeling, and if you play Symphony No. 5, or Symphony No. 9, or Bach, or Schubert, or Mozart, that communion with that music stimulates certain chemical responses in you because certain note in relation to certain other has been associated with certain feelings. Or if you travel to the Orient, the ragas, the melodies, the ragas of the morning before the sunrise, after the sunrise, the mid-morning, the end of the morning, the midday and so on, for 24 hours, different ragas, different melodies. These seven notes, they are the creation and the music is the creation of human mind. But all these notes and sounds are born of that infinite substance of silence, the soundlessness of life. As time is born of the timelessness of life — and it’s only a measure, to measure the infinity — the sound is a measurement. Man tried to measure the infinity of silence, and he arrived at sound. He arrived at speech.

So the brain contains a great variety of symbols, in art, in sculpture, in music, in literature. You take a point, and with that point you get the whole science of geometry, trigonometry, engineering. You have to postulate and presume that point, having no length and no breadth. If you put a point on paper, it has both, length and breadth. But the definition, the presumption of the point is having no length and breadth. You have to presume, and on that presumption, you start. All the beautiful angles, and triangles, and circles, octaves, so many things you get out of that. You play with that.

The content of culture is this wealth of conditionings, is this wealth of symbols. If a man does not recognize them as symbols, then he becomes a prisoner of the symbols. It is the lack of acquaintance with these conditionings that puts you in bondage. If you see them, look at them in a friendly way and discover what they are, and use them in the relative field of utility. They enrich the life. You cannot strip the whole life of all the content of brain, all the content of your psyche.

So the brain, the mind, the consciousness contains all this and because of this, there is a movement going on, the thought energy, the energy of the emotions, the sentiments, the feeling, the energy of anger, energy of lust, of passion, you know. So the mind moves with the energy of all these. The meaning attached to anger, to jealousy, to greed, to lust, to sexual instinct, the meaning attached to all these by man gives the energy.  So the mind, the brain, containing all these is moving involuntarily.

There cannot be matter without motion. Wherever there is matter there is energy —energy being the property of that matter — and wherever there is energy (energy is never idle) it moves. So the mind is moving. Please do not look upon the incessant movement of mind as a problem otherwise we will create a problem out of a simple fact of life. The mind moves. When you sit down quietly winding up all your sensual activities, you notice the movement of mind. When you are busy the whole day, physically acting or reacting, then you do not notice the velocity with which the mind moves. But when you sit quietly, the first encounter is with your own mind and its movement. Then you find out in how many directions the mind moves, hops from one point to the other. Now it is with one thought and it hops over to another emotion and there, after a fraction of a second, it hops over and jumps to another thought.

The whole movement of mind, the variety of directions in which the mind tries to run simultaneously, all this you will notice. It is vitally important to look at the mind, to be with it, and to observe the movement of the mind as it goes on, without wanting to change the movement, without wanting to stop it. Without wanting to do anything about it, to look at the mind because this is only information. As I go on speaking, though I may be speaking about the facts as I have seen them, when you receive it through the brain, it becomes information for you. It will be [an] information or an idea for you until you experiment with observation.

If you just store it in memory then it will be there as a piece of information with which you agree or you disagree, which you accept or you reject. It has no value. The brain has already too much information, undigested, incoherent, unrelated to your daily living, and that undigested, unorganized, chaotic information creates mental problems. It keeps the nerves shaking all the time, that chaotic, anarchic, unorganized or disorganized information, undigested. The information remains as an idea as long as you and I do not discover the validity thereof by experimenting.

That is why a religious life is a life of constant discovery. Every minute you live, you move, you act, and through the action you discover a new ounce of life, some subtle meaning of life which you had not noticed before. And life being infinite, there is no end to this discovery. That’s why it is worth living. If you discover the whole meaning of life by the age of 25, 30, 50, life won’t be worth living at all. Life is living. Living is learning. Learning is growing, discovering. And the authenticity of personal discovery gives the vitality and passion. Information and ideas never give you passion. They can’t give you a non-cerebral energy. Knowledge gives you energy born of thought. But discovery and understanding, a personal encounter and understanding, give you a non-cerebral energy about which we shall talk later on. But this morning, let us be busy, let us investigate how the brain functions. The brain functions involuntarily, and when you add a voluntary effort to it, by providing a motive, a purpose, an intention, then you increase the velocity of that movement.

It is such a fascinating subject, you know — this mystery of mind — if you can go into it. So whether you want it or not, the brain moves. It has a momentum of millions of years behind it. The thoughts, the ideas that you and I have, are not all our creation. A tiny bit of it may be acquired by you and me since our childhood, but much of it is inherited, from the parents, from the family, from the community into which you are born, the culture of the country, the context of the life, and then also the total human race. This tiny little brain of man, this mysterious sense organ that you and I have, contains in its chemicals the total human experience and knowledge. And please, this is not a tall claim. This is a simple fact that you and I contain the knowledge and experience of the total humanity, total human race. Knowledge and experience. Because the knowledge and the experience are constantly getting converted into chemicals stored in brain cells. It is possible to extract that knowledge and memory from a brain cell and inject it into another brain.

So, in our biological and psychological inheritance, we have got it, the knowledge, the experience, and it has its momentum. You need not give it a momentum. Even without you, or in spite of you, it moves. And with the motivations that you acquire in this life, you add to the velocity already existing. Or if you try to resist the movement of the mind then also you add velocity. Every resistance increases the speed of what is contained inside. The more you try to resist it, the more you try to suppress and repress it, the more it gets motion. The momentum, the speed, the velocity increases with your every resistance. I am not a student of science so if the expressions velocity or momentum or movement, if they are not very apt expressions, please forgive me. It is not easy for me to get apt words in your language, I mean in English language. If it were Sanskrit, then there would be much more accuracy and precision. It’s difficult for me, even to satisfy myself, then I have to communicate in English language.

So the brain moves, the mind moves. The content of the consciousness is all these symbols, ideas, and thoughts. The variety of them is not a problem unless you create a problem out of it. It is there; it is the inheritance. Now, how do I see it for myself? You may say, “Alright, you have talked about it. How do I see it, and how can I get into a direct, simple, immediate encounter with my own brain?” That is a very important question. We are not taught to do that. Since childhood, we are trained to use the brain. Ideas are fed into it. Patterns of behavior are fed into it. But nobody educates us to look at the mind, its mechanism, its movement, the kind of energy that mind generates, and so on. So as enquirers, we will have to educate ourselves in looking at the movement of mind.

What does this imply? Who will look? And what is looking? What is observing? First of all, we use the word “I”, don’t we? You are listening to me, and you are aware that you are listening. This is not a simple activity of listening. But you listen, you understand, you agree or you do not agree with it, and at the same time you are aware that you are listening.

You like certain things and you are aware that you like [it] them. This human consciousness is a complex consciousness. It can move backward and forward, upward and downward, in all directions simultaneously. Inward and outward. So, a person can think and be aware that he is thinking. He can act and be aware that he is acting. If he is sensitive, why he is acting, and how he is acting, and so on. So human psyche, or consciousness, is a very much evolved consciousness and a very complex one. So “I” the experiencer, “I” the doer, sit down to observe or look at my own mind.

At present, the energy at the level of the mind, of the brain, is divided, is it not? You are listening, and at the same time, you are aware that you are listening. You are dividing it into two and using it in that duality. Every activity requires the duality.

So, I sit down to look at myself. I am using the “I”, the “me”, the “self”, the ego. Where does the ego come from? What is the “I-consciousness”? We shall go into it later on. But it is not a problem for any one of us. We always use the term “I”, the “me”. I do it. I experience it. I hate it. I like it. The same “I”, the same ego is now going to look at itself, as you look at yourself into the mirror.

Into the mirror you see a person, but that person is your own reflection. You are looking at yourself. In the same way, you are going to look at yourself, not physically, not at the tangible and physical level, but at the invisible level. But where is the mirror? The mirror is the state of observation. I sit down. Whether I sit down, or I stand up, or I walk around, it is immaterial. This is only a way of communicating, otherwise, you might think, “Oh, it is necessary to sit down.” I am not implying that way. But you have to use words. So I say you sit down. You are not looking at objects, you are not hearing sounds or listening to them, but you begin to watch the movement of the mind. You notice, you begin to notice, when there is nothing to be done, there is nothing to be acquired or obtained. The outgoing activities are all gathered unto yourself. The looking, the listening, the doing, the reacting. There is no necessity; they are not warranted. So, all the senses are gathered unto the “I”, the “me”, the “self’. They are not moving outward. So with all the faculties intact, now you remain, and you see the mind moving. Thought is a movement of mind. An emotion is a movement of mind. So when you sit quietly there comes up a thought. There comes up an idea. There comes up an emotion. Not stimulated by external objects because you are not sitting there in relation to the objects around you. You are sitting in relation to yourself, with yourself. So the ideas, the thoughts, the feelings, and their movement is felt.

What happens is, as soon as you feel the movement of the thought or the emotion, you react to it. We have been trained to feel feelings or to think thoughts, either stimulated by external objects, and immediately react accordingly, or we are educated to react to the thoughts and feelings that come from within. But this business of reacting goes on. We react so quickly, unawares, unknowingly, unconsciously. The reaction goes on, of judging it, of evaluating it, of reducing what is seen, what is felt to a conclusion, to a theory.

So when you sit down and you begin to notice the movement of mind, the first pitfall is reacting to what is being observed. You will notice it very quickly if and when you experiment with this observation. You will notice that one is not educated to remain in the state of pure and simple observation, non-reactional attention. One is not educated to be in that state of bare cognition, pure attention. That state is not sustained. The moment you are there, the reaction comes in, and the state of observation gets contaminated, gets polluted.

So when you begin to sit down and watch the movement of mind, the first thing you notice is, “I cannot observe. I cannot remain steadily in the state of non-reactional attention.” That’s a great discovery if one can arrive at that. Not as a fear, but how the human race, advanced in intellectual activity, of grasping, or acquiring ideas, interpreting, judging, and storing them in memory, has grown lobsidedly. It has lost the simplicity of remaining in the state of simple, innocent observation. Simple innocent look. A glance. We have lost that elegance of innocency. We are so busy, something seen, heard, felt, reacted, judged, compared, and put it into like or dislike, good or bad, like a business man. To be with something, just in the simplicity of being, to be with it. So one realizes that one does not know how to observe.

An encounter with the movement of mind can teach us a lot. You know, life is a teacher, and with every discovery of the factual reality, you learn something. If one has the humility to learn, the master, the teacher, this whole life is around you and within you, eager to teach you, eager to open you. So I say, “Goodness me, I don’t know how to observe. The moment I observe the reaction comes up so how do I learn to observe?”

One has to learn to observe, that is to say, to sustain the state of simple cognition, the state of non-reactional attention. When you sit in silence, you see that the mind is moving and you say, “Well I was sitting in silence and the mind was moving. There were so many thoughts.”  Obviously, there were thoughts. But when you went into silence at least you could notice. Noticing the subtle movement of mind by itself is a great act of learning.

So you sit down and watch and observe. The observation slips out of you, and you notice the state of inattention. You notice that you are in the state of inattention. You are not attentive. If you get angry with yourself and say, “Well, I sat down for observing and I can’t observe. I sat down for observing, and suddenly I lapsed into my reaction.” If you try to condemn yourself, criticize yourself, or if you give yourself a timetable that the observation much be learned within one minute or one year. If you try to imprison the growth into your schedules, your timetables, your ambitions, your comparisons with other people — the other person learned in one minute and I can’t do it — if you are comparing, if you are measuring then the growth cannot take place.

Religion is a question of total growth. It is only total growth that transforms the quality of your being, not petty little changes that we bring about intellectually or emotionally. The changes in behavior outward, they do not result in the growth of total being. When I observe and I notice in that moment of observation that the state of observation is not steady — it is shaky. And a fraction of a second, I am there / I am not there, then let me notice that I am not there. Being aware of the inner tension is itself a kind of attentiveness. But one has an image of oneself. I am very sensitive. I am very attentive. I am very quick. One has an image of oneself. And when he sits down to observe and discovers that he cannot, then the image is shattered.

You know, we all have our own images. So I have an image. “I will do things quickly. What is there in observation? I sat down. I’ll get it very quickly.” We feel as if it is something to be grasped, to be grabbed. And you know, life is something that can never be grabbed, never be grasped, never be imprisoned into your framework of experiences, cannot be imprisoned in concepts and ideas. It can enter into an idea apart and go out, like the breathing in and breathing out. You cannot arrest life. You cannot imprison life.

So when you sit there, and when you notice that you do not know how to observe, you become impatient. If your image is shattered, if you feel humiliated, if you feel self-pity, “I have lived 60 years in life and I don’t know how to observe.  Goodness me. Now what am I going to do?” “Will I be there in liberation or nirvana before I die or not?” You know, all such crazy things come up, and that builds a resistance. So when I notice that I am inattentive, that I was in the state of inattention or non-attention, let me not resist that state of non-attention. Let me not create a problem out of that momentary inattentiveness, because if I resist it, if I grudge it, if I get annoyed with it, I am complicating the matter.

It was very simple that due to a deep-rooted habit of reacting the state of observation was not sustained. When you learn to drive a car or to pilot an aeroplane, the balance is precarious in the beginning. When you learn to swim, in the same way, every learning and every growth is painful because one moment you feel you have got it and the other moment it slips. The nerves, the control about the nerves, right from your toe to the crown of your head, it doesn’t come quickly. The sensual system, the physical structure requires time for education. Not the understanding.  Understanding is not of time. But for the response to come out of your whole being, and for the sensual, the physical, to keep pace with the quickness of your understanding, that requires education.

So when you have understood what is observation, and you sit down to observe, not to experience, not to analyze, not to judge, then you sit down, you have understood what is observation, and yet when the observation takes place, it slips. So one has to be very pliable. Be in the state of observation and also go with the state of inattention without resistance, without complicating the state of non-attention any further. Then the moment you become aware that you were not attentive, the attentiveness comes back. The moment you become aware that you were not observing, you were not in the state of observation, that very recognition brings you back to the state of observation.

So one has to work upon oneself seriously, and seriousness does not mean stiffness or rigidity. It does not mean dogmatism. It does not mean becoming fanatic about it. Seriousness has its own relaxation. I say seriousness in order to remind ourselves that our impatience, our ambitions cannot affect the growth any way. It cannot escalate the speed. It is only the intensity of inquiry that can accelerate the speed. Nothing else. The heat of that intensity. The depth of the passion. That can bring about the growth quicker but not the impatience, the annoyance, the irritation, the resistance, the comparison, the self-pity. On the other hand, they create obstructions, and they slow down the pace of growth.

So I sit down to observe, observation being non-reactional attention. As I am not educated in it, and I started at the age of 15 or 20 or 50, the whole system does not cooperate. So on one hand, through proper diet and exercises, and sleep and so on, what we have talked about yesterday, by creating an inner order on the physical structure, I make the physical structure more and more sensitive. I educate it in sensitivity and that sensitivity cooperates with me when I learn observation. Spiritual life is a realm of self-education at all levels, in all fields. Dehypnotizing ourselves that we know what religion is, or spirituality is.

So now I think the time is over. So I cannot proceed any further. This morning we went into the issue of mind. The mind, the brain, including all the faculties of the brain. The faculty of imagination. The faculty of memory. The faculty of retaining ideas in memory, and so on. The brain, the mind is a sense organ located in the head, connected with the whole body, interwoven into the body.

And before I conclude, may I just remind you that this brain is interwoven very closely and intimately with all the organs contained in the stomach, the pituitary gland connected with the whole of your stomach. The slightest movement in the brain, and the liver, the kidneys, the spleen, the pancreas gland, the intestines big and small, you know, they get affected. Attention is generated in the stomach. If there is something wrong in the stomach, if the digestive process is not functioning properly, it affects the nerves in the brain. It affects the optical nerve, the auditory nerves, the points of pleasure, the point of pain located in the brain. It affects the movement of all the brain cells, the blood circulation in the brain. That is why one pays so much attention to the exercise, to the diet, and to the other parts of the physical life. The navel point and the brain located in the head, these two, unless they are balanced properly, are in a proper balance, the physical and the mental health is not easy to come by. It is only in the balance of the two that the radiance of health can be there.

So we were talking this morning about this beautiful and complex, very sensitive sense organ. It functions through symbols, ideas, thoughts, confusions, theories. It cannot function without a thought, without an emotion, without an idea, without a word, the brain doesn’t function. For the fun of it, you can find out what the movement of the brain implies — some idea, some thought, some concept, some imagination, some memory, the manipulation of knowledge, the manipulation of experiences, and so on.

Now all these are the inheritance that we have, and we have no control over the velocity, the momentum, of the inheritance. The biological and the psychological, they have their tremendous momentum. So on the conscious level, on the surface level, you have the knowledge and experience that you acquire in this life, and deeper down, what you call the subconscious or the unconscious, is contained the total inheritance.

So there are two energies moving. At the conscious level, the energy of your acquired total experience, and at the sub or unconscious level — these are not compartments, please — it is difficult for me to indicate the words. The words can give wrong ideas. Consciousness is one pole. But the subtlest movement that we are aware of in waking hours has one kind of energy and one kind of motion. That motion or energy of other theories, other values is much slower, very much slower than the motion of subconscious or unconscious. Shall I put it this way? The motion of the inheritance is much more than the movement or the momentum of what you acquired since childhood. There are two motions, two different energies, working parallel, and unless there is a harmony in these two, there is no peace. We talked about the content of the psyche, the two different momentums contained in the psyche, and we proceeded to find out how we can become aware of them.

And the last point, we saw that for a personal discovery, a direct encounter with the mind is inevitable. A direct encounter with the mind implies being with oneself, and observing the movement of the mind as it takes place, not with an idea but just as it takes place to watch it. When we went into this issue we found out, that we don’t know how to observe. We don’t know how to look. That is why education becomes necessary. Throughout the day, educate the physical being to be more sensitive, and when you spend some time with yourself to observe, not to be impatient or not to be in a hurry. But to observe and when you lapse into inobservation or inattention to go with that inattention, to go with that non-observation. And the moment you recognize it, the moment you become aware of it, you are back in the state of observation. […]

If some of you find it difficult, I am really helpless because I don’t think I could put it in simpler words, or that I could make it more easy. With consciousness is a very difficult thing to deal with through words. So we have had enough for the morning, haven’t we?

At the end of the talk, Vimala recited a mantra from the Yajurveda, Wakeup Mantra.

-Vimala Thakar

From The Mind, A talk given by Vimala Thakkar in 1974

Here you can listen to Vimala Thakar’s The Mind.

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Wake Up Mantra – Vimala Thakar

I will recite today a mantra from second Veda, Yajurveda, and it means:

“Wake up! Oh, my mind, wake up!
To the infinite divinity that surrounds you.
Those who are aware of that infinite life
Receive help from that infinity,
But those who are in the deep slumber of intellect,
Infinity waits upon them
That they also might wake up, some day.
Wake up! Oh, my mind, wake up!
To the vast infinite life
Vibrating within you and around you.”

That is a kind of free translation.

-Vimala Thakar

This was recited at the end of the talk The Mind.

Here you can listen to Vimala’s Wake Up Mantra.

For more posts on Vimala Thakar look here.

The Complexity of Life – Vimala Thakar

Life is a complex phenomenon. I would like to go into the issue of this complexity this morning as it seems that you would prefer to have a talk.

Man is born in the midst of duality, duality that seems to have two poles, having an opposition or a contradiction between them. We are born in the midst of life where there is birth and death. To be born and to die. The event of birth gives an impression that the form, with a shape, with a color, with some contents has come into existence. And the event of death gives an impression that something is being destroyed. And in the midst of the events of birth and death, which no one can avoid, man has to live. He has to live in the midst of pleasure and pain that seem to be exclusive of each other, opposed to one another, contradictory to one another, pleasure being an agreeable sensation and pain being a disagreeable one. You can’t avoid either of these.

We have got the physical structure with the sense organs, the inner senses, and whenever the sense organs or the senses receive an impression, it is registered as either agreeable or disagreeable. So, you can’t avoid pleasure, you can’t avoid pain, if you want to live. And in the midst of these contradictory things, there seems to be a tension between the pleasure and pain. There seems to be a tension between birth and death. And man has the responsibility to live in the midst of that. Joy and sorrow. He has to live in the midst of sound and silence. And you can’t escape either the sound or the silence. We have to live in the midst of light and darkness. Light and shadow. The day and the night. And the day with the glorious light, and the night with the deep darkness around it seem to be exclusory of each other.

It is not necessary to elaborate upon this point, but if you look at human life, you will see the panorama of these apparently contradictory, apparently mutually exclusive points having a tension between them. And it is the responsibility of man to live in this duality without getting stuck up either in pain or pleasure, without getting attached either to birth or death, to the day or the night, to the light or the darkness. He has to live in the so-called waking consciousness during the day, and during the night he enters the sleep consciousness, the dream consciousness, the sleep consciousness. And both are necessary and both are inevitable. You can’t avoid.

And it seems to me that man gets stuck up either in pain or in pleasure. Either he hunts pleasure, and his whole life and living becomes a game of hunting pleasure, pleasurable situations, individuals that will give the pleasure. Or, he becomes obsessed with the idea of pain, and his whole life becomes a game of finding out situations, places, where he will have no pain. Either he hunts pleasure, or obsessed with the idea of pain, he becomes busy trying to avoid pain. That doesn’t happen anyway.

Pleasure and pain go together, one is the shadow of the other. Joy and sorrow accompany each other. Birth and death cannot be isolated. Birth is the beginning of death and death is the beginning of a new birth. The day is the beginning of the evening and the darkness, and the darkness of the night is the indication of a new dawn coming towards you.

So, to live is to be aware of both ends of the duality. Not to ignore either of these. To be aware that there is this duality, that you are born in the midst of duality, and you have to walk through the corridors of duality, in each field. He has to move through relationships where he has to act, where he has to respond, and he has to live with the relaxation. Relationship and relaxation. If he ignores either of these, if he does not get acquainted with either of these, or if he gets stuck up in either of these, then he misses the beauty of living. Or if he creates a philosophy out of pleasure or out of pain, and tries to find out a direction where he will find only pleasure and no pain, only joy and no sorrow, only the waking consciousness and no sleep, or only sleep and no waking consciousness, then he is going astray.

To live is to be vulnerable to the tension between these two poles of duality and yet to move through that in a simple, innocent, relaxed way. That is really the crux of the whole issue. To be religious is to be able to move through the duality in a non-dual approach. And a nondual approach for me implies an awareness of the two. As soon as you are aware of the two, you do not get bogged down in any one of them. So, the non-dual approach, the non-dual attitude, or the perception born of non-duality implies the content of this non-duality is the awareness of the two forms of duality – their nature and the inevitability of their existence.

Another duality comes to my mind, knowledge and innocency. You can’t escape knowledge because you are born with it; you have inherited it. But if you do not get acquainted with innocency, that is freedom from knowledge and the known, then the very burden of knowledge crushes you down. If you do not get acquainted with relaxation, the dimension of total abandonment, then relationships, instead of being opportunities for expressing your own being, become such a great burden that the mind begins to crumble under the burden of relationships.

So this morning, as we shall be parting from one another tomorrow, I would like to share with you this very fundamental issue. Meditation is a way of living where you are aware of this duality. You are not afraid of the tension between the duality. It’s a way of living in which you move into relationships with relaxation. Where you move into sound and speech with the substance of silence with you. Where you wake up in the morning with the freshness of profound sleep, and where you enter the profound sleep with the humility and innocence of a child, sleeping in the lap of his mother.

So, meditation is a new way of living. It’s a new state of being. And let us look at this and let us find out how one sets about it. The perspective of total life goes a very far way to determine the quality of your inner being, and determine the quality, the texture, the caliber of your relationship with other people. So, am I aware that I have to live between the two points of birth and death? Does the word death frighten me? Am I attached to the event of birth as if it is something auspicious, and have I been conditioned to look at death as something inauspicious? Something to weep over? To shed tears?

I hope you will see that the word death does not imply the killing that man indulges in, where one human being kills another human being, in the name of religion, in the name of ideology, in the name of country, in the name of race, under any name. But where man indulges in killing the other, it is not death; it is a murder. It may result in the fact of death but it is not. It hasn’t got the beauty and the grandeur of natural death.

I was twelve years old when I saw my grandfather die. He was a religious man. And six months before he died, he wrote letters to all his relatives that on such and such a day he will be departing, that has been ordained. He has to depart from the world. Would they come to share the festivity of his departure?

He was a prince in one of the States in central India. So, all his daughters and sons-in-law and sons, daughters-in-law and cousins, you know, an Indian family, and being a prince – all his friends, about 500 people went there. And there was a big feast. And I am not going into the details, just one incident that introduced me to the beauty and grandeur of death.

So, there was a big feast and he was serving all people, standing there with folded hands, receiving everyone, joyous like anything, no sickness, nothing. And he gave presents to all the 501 persons. And then he said, “May I take your leave?” And he went to his room, where he used to sit down for meditation, sitting cross-legged like this, and he departed, with a smile on his lips.

Of course, the grandmother and others really did not believe, they thought it was the whim of an old man, so they were humoring him. After half an hour, my father and maternal uncle, they entered the room, tried to find out, but he was gone. They invited the doctors. They thought he might be in samadhi so let us wait for another hour or two. Nothing. He had just departed. So, when I entered the room and looked at that figure, I said, “Ah, can death be that beautiful? Is this the way to die?” As a leaf drops from the tree, the dry leaf dropping away through the air to the earth, have you seen it? In the autumn? How the leaves take leave of the tree, the branches, the trunk. Death is as beautiful as birth. It has its own divinity and ecstasy, if one can enter into it, not succumbing to it out of fear, not shrinking, not trying to cling to life, resenting the act of death, then it becomes ugly.

So, am I aware that everything that is born, everything that has a form, has to go through the event of death? This awareness will bring new passion, new depth, to the event of living because you don’t know when you are going to die. There are certain things beyond the logical mathematics of man and that is why life is worth living. Love, for example, incalculable, unpredictable. The moment that it will dawn upon your heart and transform your whole being, you cannot mathematically work it out. Death, beauty, you do not know where and how you will come upon beauty.

So, the awareness of the fact of death, not somewhere there out, far away from me, but here with me, as I inhale and exhale breath. Birth-and-death is the inhaling and exhaling of life because it is included in the whole complexity of life. So not knowing when one is going to die, one is very alert and on one’s toes, very attentive to live the day or the moment that he has before him and with him. When postponement of anything becomes simply impossible. You don’t have to take a vow that I shall not postpone. It is the awareness of death, that brings about an alertness and sensitivity and you live and you go through what has to be done this moment, you go through it this moment, not out of a compulsion, not out of a vow, a discipline, that is intellectually imposed upon you, but the awareness gives a new dimension to your life. Either you say, “One day man has to die and so we don’t know when, so why not live any way, any how. Why does there have to be order, beauty, and efficiency, an aesthetical keenness? Why not live any way.” That is one approach that takes away all the charm and grace and grandeur of this opportunity of living. To live is an ecstasy. Or one can say that because I do not know when I am going to be confronted with death, why don’t I make the most of what I have, why don’t I make the best of this moment because what you call the now, the here, the “this moment” is the only eternity that you can meet. You cannot meet eternity in future, because future is only in the human mind, not in reality.

The division of life into past, present, and future is the creation of human mind, and it may be very convenient for arranging collective relationships, but out of human mind there is no reality. Tomorrows, or futures, or yesterdays, have no factual reality. What has factual reality is the isness of life, this moment, here and now. Even the words here, now, present moment are very defective because the here has no meaning unless you presuppose the there. The “this moment” becomes meaningless unless you postulate the “other moment.” The today, the now, all these are relative words. You know human languages are relative. So, these words are not really satisfactory words but one has to use them for a verbal communication.

So, the awareness of death brings a new vitality and a sense of urgency in living. I have this day, the now, the moment, these circumstances before me, and I have to live with them. Either I live it or I miss it. There is no third alternative. Either you live it or you miss it. And because death is inevitable, one doesn’t become sadistic, doesn’t want to pursue pain, or want to bring the death nearer. There are people trying to use death as an escape. Goodness me. As an escape from the responsibility of living. But once you know that both these two are inevitable facts, and if you recognize that life doesn’t begin with the birth and doesn’t end with the death, it’s a much bigger whole.

But man is born between these two points, as he is born between time and space, he’s born between these two points of birth and death. He has to live a kind of framework that is there. Being aware of the timelessness, he has to live in the midst of the calculated psychological time because he is living with human beings. And he has to converse with them. He has to have relationships with them.

So on the canvas of eternity, you have the paintings of time and space. But if you are not aware of the timelessness of life, if you are not aware that time is a symbol created by man for the convenience of collective life, then you will become a prisoner of the concept of time. Then you will worry so much about the tomorrow, the future, the next moment, that you will never open your eyes and look at this moment because you are concerned with the next.

You meet a person and you are concerned with how to meet this person in such a way that he is pleased with me and the relationship of friendship, or recognition and appreciation will continue. So, you are busy and concerned with the continuity part of relationships rather than the fact of this moment. So, you try to project an image before that person that will please him. There comes another person of a different temperament and then you are busy projecting another image to him or her so that that person is pleased. You are trying to convert relationships into investment for the future, so you don’t live them at this moment.

So, if one is not aware of the timelessness then he becomes a prisoner of the concept and idea of time, and he either worries about the future, or he is brooding about the past. And the factual reality slips out of his grip. So, one has to use time, being aware of the timelessness.

I hope you see that how there can be an approach where the apparent contradiction, or the apparent mutual exclusiveness, melts away into the two poles of duality becoming complimentary to one another, complementary to each other. Birth and death becoming intrinsic parts of one’s whole life, complimentary to each other. Time and timelessness being complimentary to each other. The appearance of contradiction and opposition withers away. The appearance of tension withers away when you look at these poles of duality, these two points of duality, and get acquainted with them, discover their nature.

To live is to be related, we have seen the other day. To be related with the nature, with the animals, with the birds, with the human beings, with the things that you use, with the houses that you build, the cars that you use, the machines that you use. It’s a relationship. And no one can escape relationships because in isolation there is only existence, not life. Life vibrates in and through relationships, as peace can live and vibrate only in movements. If there are no movements, there will be dead peace. Peace for living and operating requires the field of movement.

Relaxation requires the field of relationships to move and operate. Life requires the field of relationship to express itself. When I talk with another person, when I live with other people and react or respond to their behavior, then their behavior affects me, then only I know what I am, what kind of mind I have. What kind of feelings, sentiments, lusts or desires, or anger, or violence I have. You cannot hide it in relationships. Relationships are the mirror. You may believe yourself to be a very holy person, a very pure person, a very peaceful person, and you move into relationships either at the house, or in the office, or with friends, and the slightest thing that does not please you, and there you are disturbed, perturbed. Peace is shattered. You look upon yourself as a very loving, kind person, and then in relationships, something happens and anger bursts out, through the eyes, through a glance, through a gesture, through a word. Relationships reflect your inner being because you have to be there in a relationship. You have to react; you have to respond.

Now to live is to be related. To be related is to move with the things and beings around me without losing my inner equipoise, peace, sanity. That is the challenge of relationship. And I would like to go into this issue a little bit more.

Why do relationships disturb us? Why do relationships become a problem? They are a challenge but a challenge is not a problem. Challenges are like the ripples on the waters. Relationships bring up challenge. If I do not learn how to move into relationships then I will divide life into a period of relationship and a period of solitude. A period of relationship and a period of retreat. I say, “I am tired of being with the people so let me go now to a retreat. Let me go, let me withdraw.” We divide life then, fragment, separate it, but if I learn to move through relationships without losing my inner relaxation, without losing my inner sense of freedom and equipoise, then obviously relationships would not tire me. In the midst of relationships, I would be relaxing. A relaxed relationship will become a movement of relaxation.

This can happen if I can be with people without converting them into my means of security. When I get attached to you then I am converting you as a security. I feel that I need security so I want to depend upon you. I expect things from you. I expect agreement from you, recognition from you. There is no relaxation in a relationship when I get attached. There will be no relaxation in a relationship if I want to dominate over you and try to make out of you a carbon copy of myself.

This may sound simple but this is a very fundamental and serious issue, that in relationship we want to own and to possess the other people. Not only the husband, the wife, or the boyfriend, or the girlfriend, we want to own and possess even friends. To own them to possess them as you own a car. As you own a house or a tape recorder. So that you can play the tape recorder or drive the car whenever you get into a mood of doing that; whenever you get bored, you go to the tape recorder and play it. Or you feel bored and you get into a car and you just go out for a drive. In the same way, we want to utilize the human beings, to own them, to possess them, to feel satisfied that you have them. Secondly, to escape into those human beings whenever you feel bored with life, and thirdly, to dominate over them so that the ego, the self, the me gets gratified. These are the things that spoil, pollute or contaminate the relationship. Otherwise, relationships are not a bondage at all. Whether it is the relationship of husband, wife, children, parents, or it’s a relationship of friends, colleagues, working in an office or business, it is we who create the bondage out of the relationships.

There is no life without a relationship, but when I move into it, I say, “Now is this a nice person?” I wonder if I can have him or her as a friend. This is a nice person, there seems to be some similarity between us, now if we marry or if we live together then he or she belongs to me, and I belong to him. So, the attachment begins, not love, but attachment for the sake of security. An attachment makes you very suspicious. If the other person is talking to someone then you begin to suspect. Has he more affection for her? Has she more concern for him? Is he turning away from me? Attachment makes you very suspicious because you want to keep the person to whom you are attached bound to yourself with the chains of attachment. You want to keep the person, bind him to you, as you keep the things under a lock. You want to keep the person under the lock of relationship, and feel secure. Attachment, then the fear that you may lose the person; then fear making you suspicious; suspicion bringing in jealousy; jealousy bringing in anger. The chain reaction is there.

Can I move into relationships without being attached? Without expecting attachment from the other person? That is really the challenge. The crisis in human relationships is the lack of love – that keeps both the individuals in a relationship free. The crisis in the total human life today is the crisis in society, where the person wants freedom for himself, but by being attached to the other, he wants to keep the other person under his thumb, under his domination. Denying the freedom to the other, expecting every freedom for themselves. Expecting every protection for themself, denying that protection to the other, and this goes on in family or outside family. In an individual’s life and the life of society.

So relationships by themselves are not the bondage, but we create bondage out of them and then having lived a life of lust, of attachment, of domination, jealousy, suspicion, we say, “All these are worldly relationships. Now let me go and find out an ashram, a guru, and those disciples will be my gurubais and gurubhens, and so I will create a new atmosphere, a new circle of relationships which will be unworldly, non-worldly.” If I am attached to the father, to the husband, to the mother, to the wife, to the sister, it’s a worldly relationship, and if you get attached to a guru, a master, a teacher, that is a spiritual attachment. You see the silliness of it? You create them, leaving the home, giving up the house, and the property and everything. One moves and creates a field of new relationships where the same game of attachment, suspicion, jealousy, domination begins.

Mind you, the friend who is talking to you, is born and brought up in a country which is cluttered with so-called spiritual ashrams. You can’t visit a town, a city, or a village without so-called ashrams, where the monks, or the sannyasis, or the yogis are as ambitious as any worldly man. They have their competitions. They have their jealousies. They have their fights. And the means that they use for those fights are as foul as the means of the politicians whether they profess with antara or this yoga or that yoga. And these are not words spoken out of criticism for anyone. I have gone round the whole of India three times. There is not a district out of the 316 districts of India that I have not visited. Not that I would have done it, but I was working in a movement where it was necessary for me to travel. So, three times I have gone round the whole of India, the land of religions, visited the ashrams, gone up to the Himalayas. Up to the height of 16,000 feet I have climbed.

The search began at the age of five, you know. So, whatever I am talking, please don’t think that I am trying to criticize anyone. These are words written in the ink of blood. There may be exceptions; exceptions are everywhere. I am talking about giving up one form of relationship, running away from one field of relationship, and creating another field of attachment, jealousy, suspicion. That is what happens. So by giving it the name of a religious or spiritual relationship, the essence of attachment or jealousy or suspicion, that doesn’t change. The I and the me trying to capture what is mine. The attitude of ownership towards the relationship doesn’t change. Then we can fight over whether my teacher is superior or your teacher is superior. My God or your God. The organized religions have done it on a very large scale; individuals do it on a small scale. And the field of relationships has become a field of misery and suffering unnecessarily, unwarranted. In isolation there is no life so we have to discover the secret of getting related with other people, where one can live in freedom and let the other person live in freedom.

The mystery of relationship has to be uncovered. The secret of relationship is to be uncovered, and we shall go into it this morning, and I hope you will have patience and keep pace with me.

If I can move into a relationship of any kind whatsoever, if I can move into it in the simplicity of my being, without trying to project an image upon the other person, then the relationship does not become a problem. I am what I am. Let me get acquainted with myself and then talk to other people, live with them as I am. You know what it implies? Not to compare oneself with other people. A non-comparative approach is always a non-ambitious approach. But if I look at myself and I say, “Well, I am ugly and the other person is beautiful,” then I create a hurt, a wound in my mind maybe on the conscious level, maybe on the subconscious level. I say, “I am ugly and the other person is beautiful or handsome. I am brown and the other person is fair. I am short and the other is tall. I am dull and the other is brilliant.” If my perception of other human beings is polluted by this comparative approach then I will always compare myself with others. And I would like to pretend that I am as clever as the other person, so I will try to gather ideas, thoughts from books, from talks, from individuals, decorate my brain with it and show it off because I would like to show that I am clever, knowing full well that I am stupid. Knowing full well that I am not clever. But I would like to profess then I make an effort, a struggle for gathering, for collecting, storing it in memory, then the effort to produce it whenever I am with people, show it off. And you can’t deceive all people, cheat all people for all of the time, so you are afraid. Will he find out that I know only a little and I do not know about the other aspect? Will they find it out? Then you are always very tense lest people find out the shallowness of knowledge. Lest people find out the pettiness of the mind.

So if there is a comparative approach, if you are constantly comparing yourself with other people and trying to become like them, then you as you have no scope to live, to breath freely, to breath without any pressure and burden that you have imposed upon yourself. Then you will not be able to be in the beauty of your being because you are trying to shrink somewhere to look like someone else. You are trying to blow air into yourself to look like and behave like some other person. All the time you are playing the game of becoming someone else, trying to imitate the other person’s experiences, other person’s ways of living, other person’s types of living. You go on doing that.

Whether the boys, the girls in India try to imitate the styles of the occidentals or the occidental youths, the American, the European, tries to imitate the Indian, the oriental. It’s just the same. If you try to graft upon yourselves, because of a comparison, mind you, not out of understanding. When you understand something, and the value of it, and the understanding brings about an inner change in you that is a different matter. We are talking about a comparative approach, an ambitious approach, trying always to measure oneself according to other people. According to their judgements. That way lies fear in relationship. That way lies all the tension, and shyness, and embarrassment, and hesitation in relationship. You can never sing your song like a bird, perched upon a branch of a tree, and singing into the vast space of the skies. You’ll never sing your note in the vast space of freedom because you will always be on the defensive. So, to grow into a non-comparative approach to life is vitally necessary to be what I am, not measure myself in the terms of other people.

Secondly, when I have expressed myself as I am, and I find that it has displeased the other person, the person doesn’t like it, or when I express myself and something has gone wrong, that is the opportunity for me to learn. Something has gone wrong. When you are driving the car and the pressure on the accelerator is not enough, the nerves in the feet are not educated enough, so the pressure on the brake, the foot brake or the hand brake, or the accelerator, that is not sufficient; you can find the car wobbling. And don’t you say, “I can’t drive the car,” and so here I step out of it and I go. Or you have not taken care of the choke part, or the hands are not sensitive to handle the steering. One has to investigate nerves so that the movement of the body and the mind can be in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the other people, and it doesn’t do any damage or harm to the other person. If you can’t move into a relationship without doing harm to the other, obviously you have not learned how to be related. That is to say, how to live. Without friction, causing friction. If the other person is psychologically ill or sick, or hypersensitive, and he creates a harm or a hurt out of your simple behavior, you can’t help it but otherwise, a person has to find out a sensitive way of speaking and behaving in his own simplicity. And if his expression, his uncovering of the inner being, has done some harm, then that is the moment to learn. But as soon as we find out that something has gone wrong, the first desire is to find out the fault with the other person, throw the responsibility on the other person, and feel justified in what one has done. So one goes on the defensive, trying to justify one’s mistakes, defend one’s mistakes. This is the content of bondage, the temptation to defend your own mistakes that even your own intelligence can point out to you.

The moment you try to defend, to justify, to interpret to protect yourself, then relationships become a problem. What is wrong if I commit a mistake in a relationship? I am learning, I am living, I am growing. There might be a mistake. If you are terribly concerned that you always must do the right things, in the correct way, and you get very nervous and embarrassed, then there will be a paralysis of movement. You will always hesitate to move. So, there should be the humility and the simplicity to say to oneself, “Maybe there will be a mistake. Maybe something goes wrong. Doesn’t matter. I’ll find out. I’ll learn.”

To live is to learn, you know. If you don’t learn, you become stale. If you stop learning by the age of 25 or 30 and you feel that you know everything about life, and you have just to repeat certain patterns of behavior, day after day, then the behavior becomes mechanical and the persons become stale. There is no freshness about the person.

So, a non-comparative approach, and then the simplicity and the innocence to say to oneself, “Really, I don’t know how to live. I am learning. I don’t know how to live so there might be mistakes. And I will learn from the mistakes.” One can learn from failures, from successes, from mistakes. So, there is no fear when I am willing to learn. When I am willing to be exposed in a relationship as I am, so that I find out the factual reality of myself. I get acquainted with myself, then there is no fear.

And thirdly, if I do not want to dominate upon other people through expectations. There are many ways of dominating. One way is asking the people, “Do this. Do not do this. You must do this. You must not do this.” That is an overt and an obvious and very gross way of dictating things, dictating terms. The second way is of expecting agreement, acceptance, recognition, and appreciation. All the time one is expecting these things. And the moment you find that the other people do not agree or do not accept, or do not appreciate or recognize you, you feel hurt. People misunderstand you, misinterpret you, and you feel hurt.

People born in different cultures, having different temperaments, having different constitutional and psychological idiosyncracies, they are bound to behave in so many different ways. So, if one can act or respond in a relationship, without looking for a guarantee, looking for a security of appreciation, recognition, or the security of being interpreted correctly, then the relationships become a problem. You express yourself; you move into a relationship you do what you can and there is an end to it. It is up to the other person to respond, to receive, to understand, to misunderstand, to interpret, to misinterpret. It is up to the other person.

So, if one can feel the joy of expressing oneself in a relationship, enjoy doing it, if you can enjoy moving into a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship and expressing yourself, then you express spontaneously, fearlessly, with all the humility, whatever you are, and then it is finished for you. If the other person understands, there will be a slight smile on your lips, and if the other person does not understand, for a split second, the fact that it has not been understood may bring about a breath of sadness. That is the fact and the impact of the fact being sensitive to others. But you do not make an issue out of it. You do not make a grudge out of it. You do not nurse that he did not understand, she did this, he misunderstood, he cheated, she deceived. You know, you do not go on creating issues and grudges out of it. You do not nurse the hurt within and thereby carry the wounds, ever running wounds in the heart. And on the other hand, you do not create a grudge against the other person. If you create the grudge against the other person, you meet the other person after half an hour, or after two days, and you can’t look at him, because the memory of that incident of humiliation, or insult, or the hurt, or other misinterpretation, works like a screen. It is not you but the memory that looks at the other person, and naturally there is no relationship.

So it seems to me, the mystery of relationship is having a non-comparative, non-ambitious approach, realizing that a person can’t do anything more than expressing what he is and to have the humility to express that without any hypocrisy, without any pretensions, without trying to hide something that there is and pretend to show things that are not there. You cannot borrow the act of living, you know? The movement of living cannot be borrowed. Knowledge can be bought and borrowed, but like wisdom and understanding, this act of living, you cannot pretend the style, the experience of another person and feel satisfied that you have lived. It has got to be your original act of spontaneity. So, a non-comparative, non-ambitious approach, simplicity and innocency to face the mistakes if there be any, and the consequences if there be any, to shoulder the responsibility of what is, and, my dear friends, we don’t like it. In a relationship you get angry, but you like to feel that you are not an angry person. You are not an angry person. The other person is stupid, and he has made you angry. I hope you have noticed this. You know, I am not angry by nature, you know, but when those other people, they behave in such a stupid way, they make me angry. But my dear fellow, if there was no anger in you, how could anything on the Earth, cause it at all?

They are not the originators. Those occurrences, those events, those behaviors, those words are only instruments in bringing out what is there. But a person feels very pious, very religious, and he says, “No, I am not an angry person. I am a very peaceful person. But the circumstances, the situation, made me angry.” He wants to put the blame upon the other. And nowadays, it is very easy to throw the blame upon other people with the help of theories of psychoanalysis. I won’t go into it. But you throw the responsibility upon everyone else in the world and feel “poor me.” Then this “poor me” complex, martyr complex, self-pity, always leads to depressive psychosis, melancholia.

So, to have the robustness to shoulder the responsibility whenever mistakes take place, and say, “Yes, something went wrong. I wasn’t aware. I wasn’t alert.” To shoulder the responsibility of one’s own mistake and the consequences thereof, to have that robustness, then even the mistakes that you commit make your life glorified. But if you are afraid of committing mistakes, then you hesitate from living, shrink away from the act of living. Well, I can’t go into more details, but when you thus move in daily relationships, then a non-comparative, simple, humble approach keeps you relaxed. Then there is no dichotomy between the relationship here and the relaxation there. You move into relationships and through relationships in a relaxed way. With all the relaxation you move. Spontaneity is relaxation. You know the content of relaxation is humility, innocency, and spontaneity. So, there is no dichotomy between the two. There is no opposition or contradiction between the two.

And let me take one more point before we conclude the session. It is the same with speech and silence. Silence is a dimension of life as speech is. As sound is a dimension of life, silence also is a dimension. Out of silence, sound is born. Out of the emptiness of space, movement is born. We are always with the word, with the sound, chattering with others or with ourselves, and we never spend time in the dimension of silence.

So, the words in our mouth are worn out. They are hollow, shallow. They lose the vitality to have any effect upon the heart of the person to whom you speak, because the words are not nourished. On the nutrition of silence, the speech has only one nutrition and that is silence. It is not a negative something. It is not the rigidity of saying, “I won’t speak,” and take a vow of silence. Not that, but just to gather all the words, the speech, unto yourself, binding them up, you spend some time where there is no word, no activity, but only the isness of life.

With the silence, let me connect profound sleep. We are covering some points of duality, at least some points. We work in the day and we go to sleep in the night. In the sleep, there may be either the dream consciousness or profound sleep. Now in profound sleep, the body is totally relaxed, unconditionally relaxed, every limb, every fiber, nerve, neurone, neuron all relaxed. And the mind is relaxed. In profound sleep, you are not the man or the woman, the Indian, the Swedish, the Norwegian, the Hindu, the Catholic. In profound sleep, the maleness, the femaleness, the whole identification goes into abeyance. All your identifications go into abeyance in the phenomenon of profound sleep.

The breathing continues, the blood circulation continues, the involuntary activities continue. But they are not from the center of the I, the me, the ego. You don’t know what happens in profound sleep. But when you wake up, you find yourself refreshed, rejuvenated. It is a different energy, unconditioned energy, non-personal energy that operates in profound sleep. Not the energy of the me, the I, the energy of the thought, or the emotion, but it’s an entirely different energy which is neither personal or collective, individual or collective. And without profound sleep, you can’t work in the day. If you don’t get profound sleep, you consult a doctor and you take medicines for it. Because without profound sleep, the sanity, the order, the health cannot be sustained, cannot be retained. So as in profound sleep, though you do not know what is happening, and you are not doing anything at all, you are in the state of non-doing. You are in the state of non-action in profound sleep, but the growth takes place, the transformation, the change takes place. It is a field of happening. In waking hours is the field of doing. You do. You act. You move. There is a field of happening; there is this duality of doing and happening. If you say, “I am going to remain awake to find out what happens in profound sleep,” then there is no sleep. In profound sleep, it is not you who do something or you who act, but you are in a state of total vulnerability for the happening of growth to take place.

Profound sleep is a state of total vulnerability. In the same way, when you dive into, you plunge into, the waters of silence, once you are there, then you are in the field of happening, not doing. What shall I do when I sit silently? Don’t sit silently if you want to do something. Silence is an area where you are totally, wholly vulnerable to the life and the life forces that surround you, that are within you, and that are around you. You are vulnerable to them. You are vulnerable to the happenings. Vulnerable to the movement of the unconditioned, uninherited, non-personal energy which is beyond your control. You may call it intelligence; you may call it sensitivity, but it is an energy which you do not inherit which is the very nature of motion, life.

So in silence, a person is in the realm of happening. But the ego is so rigid, the me, the self, the ego is used to acting, reacting, doing, rejecting, having, not having, all this business throughout the waking hours, it doesn’t want to leave. It says, “I would like to experience what happens in silence.” So, it wants to stick to the center, and as long as there is a center there will be a circumference. If you take a piece of paper and put a point upon it, you have already created an invisible circumference around that point. So when you stick to the point of the ego, the self, the me, the circumference of your knowledge and inheritance is already there, and the whole thing moves. You are back in the trap of the mind.

So, in silence is when one can be in total abandonment, vulnerability, and it requires humility. If man feels that he is the doer of everything in his life, then he shall never understand what life is, because life is a mystery. There is doing of course, but there is happening, and as he has to move efficiently and competently in the area of doing with the help of knowledge, the mind, the brain, and the senses, he has to be with full abandonment, openness, vulnerability in the field of happening. When these two are balanced then there is a harmony in life. Then there is an equipoise in life.

A person who doesn’t know how to relax in silence is not very good at words, or speaking, because he doesn’t have the precision, the accuracy, the beauty, the music of sound and speech. His words are born of friction, of tension. They stink. They have an odor of frustration, or depression, or vanity, or pride. To have a pure chaste word like a dew drop of the morning. But if you are introduced to silence, when you are introduced to silence, then silence extends itself into speech as sleep extends itself into waking hours. So, if we remember the fact of sleep, the sleeping hours are as important, if not more, as the waking hours. What happens in profound sleep is as much a part of your total life as what you do. Life is not all doing. More happens to us than we can ever do, or we shall ever do to ourselves, because we are organically related to the universal life.

But I think I should stop now. It’s more than an hour and a quarter. I was trying to share with you the simple fact that man is born in the field of duality. This duality has been looked upon as having a tension. Duality has two poles, or two points, and man has looked upon these two points as mutually exclusive and contradictory to each other. And I question the validity of such a traditional approach. It seems to me that they are neither mutually exclusive nor are they contradictory but the two together make the whole life. The wholeness of life will be damaged if we have an attitude of carelessness, or contempt, or fear of death. If we have fear of death, we have polluted the whole issue of life and living because death and birth together make the life. If we are afraid of pain and attached to pleasure, then we have missed the whole beauty of life because with every pleasure there is pain. And as long as there are senses, you have to go through pleasure and pain, but if in the moment of pleasure, you can enter the state of joy and leave the pleasure of thought behind, then you are free from the duality of pleasure and pain.

So, we were saying this morning that these two points of duality are complimentary and supplementary to each other. They together make the whole life, and the awareness of the two poles of duality, the two points of duality, awareness of their nature and how they supplement and complement each other, that gives you a new vitality, a new passion from within. Then one is not obsessed with the tomorrow or one does not get bogged down in yesterdays. One is not bogged down in the past and not carried away by the future, but then one can remain with the expression of eternity which is the present moment here and now. The moment before you is condensed eternity. If you can uncover that moment and meet it there, and live there, the situation, the challenge, the relationship that is here and now — if you can live it, you have lived. If you say, “No, this is a difficult situation. Let me postpone.” If you go on postponing living to tomorrows, the tomorrow never comes.

So the awareness of the duality is the content of non-duality. Non-duality is not something separate that here is it duality and there it is non-duality. Our awareness of duality itself is the content of non-duality, as the awareness of the known, the limitations, the frontiers of the known, awareness of the mechanistic nature of the movement of the known, is already being with the unknown. There are not two categories that here it is the known and then you leave and give it up and go somewhere else to the unknown. It is the piercing through the known that brings out the quality of unknown. It is living through the time, being aware of the intrinsic limitations, that time is a concept. Living in time, being aware of the conceptual reality of time and factual reality of timelessness frees you from fear.

So, life is one indivisible whole. It’s a very complex one, and if we do not look at the complexity, investigate the nature of complexity, then we find that everything is complicated. It is not complicated. It is only complex, and we cannot turn back from the complexity of life into the so-called simplicity of primitivity. Understanding of complexity brings us into simplicity. The maturity of understanding is simplicity.

-Vimala Thakar

A talk given by Vimala Thakkar in 1974

Here you can listen to Vimala Thakar’s talk The Complexity of Life.

For more posts on Vimala Thakar look here.

In the Fire of Dancing Stillness

A review of In the Fire of Dancing Stillness – Reflections with Vimala Thakar

A film by Renata Keller

Renata Keller introduces the life and teachings of Vimala Thakar in an extraordinarily accessible way, so very much in tune with Vimala herself.  The opening scene sets the stage for the intertwining of the elements and nature as both background and enhancement.  Waves form, play, and disappear. The boatman intently watches as he punts his craft along the shore, and soaring over this peaceful scene is the crystal-clear voice of Vimala.

Renata uses a delicate touch to tell Vimala’s story, guided by profound gratitude, for Vimala recognized her longing for wholeness, and by so doing changed her life.  This tribute, made some twenty years after this meeting, interweaves interviews with Vimala’s colleagues and friends; an exploration of places she worked and taught; and powerful excerpts from those teachings. Interspersing these scenes is the slow evolution of a chalk image into the goddess Durga.

Vimala is described as a philosopher, spiritual revolutionary, and social activist.  She engaged in land distribution, persuading rich landowners to donate part of their land to landless laborers so all could live in dignity.  She reached out to, and taught, girls and women, encouraging their independence and development of self-respect.  She explains her work as taking care of suffering at all levels.

Vimala’s capacity for love and light extends far beyond her social activism.  J. Krishnamurti invited her to visit him for some healing sessions after a car accident severely damaged one of her ears.  These meetings engendered an upheaval in her consciousness.  Vimalaji wrote, “Something within has been let loose. It can’t stand any frontiers. The invasion of a new awareness irresistible and uncontrollable has swept everything away. The freshness and awareness keep one ever alert, ever keen and ever insecure. Though the journey has come to an end, I have not arrived.  Perhaps there is nowhere to arrive.  Perhaps there is no static destination.  It seems to me that life is its own purpose. Life is its own direction.  Life is dynamic, and those who live are on an eternal voyage.”  Krishnamurti strongly encouraged Vimala to start giving talks from her understanding.

This movie exudes the vast love and concern Vimala felt for the whole of humanity, the global family we are becoming as so much of our way of living is changing.  Vimalaji has tremendous hope in the new generation, in all of us, that though we live in turbulent times, such challenges create the possibility to “emanate out of our being a new human culture” based on truth, love and compassion.

Vimalaji explains how we have become separate from the sacred in life due to the way we live apart from nature, apart from each other, interacting with the manmade. Vimala points out how so much of what is considered human can now be done by artificial intelligence; it has become memory, thought, and even feeling.  She asks, is there something that is untransferable, something that artificial intelligence cannot do?  And this is the search.  What is it that cannot be transferred to a machine?  Let us find out! And this dovetails into another frequent theme.  How can we relate to life without the interference of the mind? Can we learn to look at life in a fresh way born of silence, from emptiness, in touch with the sacred?  Vimala encourages us all to experiment, dive within, disinfect ourselves of knowledge, and find out.

And the threads of this tapestry – scenes of flowing rivers and still lakes, a bird aloft in the vast sky, the beauty of trees, of humanity – the interrelatedness of it all woven together with exquisite music, and the patient creation of the goddess Durga from chalk; and shortly after completion, the destruction.


In the sanctuary of silence
Beauty comes to life.
On the altar of silent beauty
Humility plays with life.
In the light of dancing humility
Innocence opens itself.
Freedom is the blossom
Love is the perfume
Compassion its graceful way of walking.

-Vimala Thakar

Download or watch the video: In the Fire of Dancing Stillness.

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To Work for Our Own Salvation – Vimala Thakar


You seem to be very optimistic about the development of the human mind, and yet the world has not changed in spite of Buddha and Christ?


The world has changed due to Buddha and Christ, in spite of the churches and in spite of the Buddhist organizations. When one is intimately and directly involved with life, related to life, there is no scope for forming an attitude towards life. Optimism is an attitude towards life, it is an approach to life which connects you with life indirectly. You do not need any optimism, pessimism, enthusiasm, or indifference towards life, when at every moment of your waking consciousness you are already in the stream itself, in the movement of life itself. Those who are afraid to swim stand on the banks of the river of life, of the river of relationships, and measure the depth, speed, momentum, coolness,  hotness, etc. of the water. But, one who plunges into life does not require any measurements at all, any attitudes, any approaches.

Could it be that the world did not change in spite of Buddha and Christ, because the human mind was in the habit of looking for a saviour, waiting for someone to work for their redemption? When you wait for a saviour to save you, to work for your redemption and set you free of your sins, you become a passive consumer of ideas, of doctrines, of theories. You accept their authority; you swallow their words without digesting them. I think the spiritual consumerism that the human race has lived by through untold centuries, accepting authority, imitating words, waiting to be saved, has caused a psychic lethargy, a psychic laziness and passivity. Now we have seen that we cannot be saved that way. We have to work for our own salvation, for our own liberation or enlightenment. Psychic or spiritual acceptance of authority has lost its relevance. That is one factor in our favour, it has created a compulsion to exercise our brains, to exercise our sensitivity, and understand life.

Secondly, it seems to me that in the East as well as in the West it was considered necessary to retire from life, to withdraw from responsibilities, withdraw from relationships, in order to live a religious life. You joined an order of monks or nuns, you became a renunciate or a disciple, and then you enquired about the meaning of life, the mystery of godhood, the secret of eternity. It was done in isolation. Every culture, every society, maintained a class of religious teachers, preachers and enquirers, and looked after them, just as you maintain an army, a militia, to save you from foreign invasion. People used to join religious orders and the rest of the society was happy to pay a weekly, or a bi-weekly visit to a temple, church, or mosque, feeling assured that they were going to be saved. This enquiry, this exploration of the divinity in isolation has become irrelevant.

We are talking about self-discovery that takes place in the midst of relationships. Do you see the change? First, no authority of individuals, one has to become one’s own saviour or redeemer. And secondly, the enquiry, the exploration, the experimentation has to be conducted in the midst of relationships, where you are, in your own home, family situation, job situation, political life, economic life. Relationships are the occasions for self-discovery. They are the occasions for the exploration of peace and love and freedom.

Thirdly, it seems to me that at the end of the twentieth century, mankind has discovered that there is nothing like an individual mind, an individual ego, an individual self or me, for whose liberation one has to work. This psychological myth has been exploded in the second half of this century. It has been discovered and accepted by the human race that there is one global human consciousness, which has been conditioned in various ways.

The movement of the mind is the movement of the conditioned neurochemical system in the body. Conditionings are fed into the human organism with the help of words, ideas, symbols and measurements, they are all imprinted on the human organism. And the mental movement is nothing but a replay of these conditionings. So the fear of mind and mental movement is disappearing from the human consciousness. The global human consciousness realizes the built-in limitations of the mechanism and anatomy of the mind, and is learning to handle this neurochemical conditioned energy in a competent way.

I think the invention of the electronic brain, the computer, the calculator, has helped the human race. Science and technology have confronted us with a new context, that was not available in the days of Buddha, Christ, Rama, or Krishna. The repetitive mechanistic nature of the mental movement has been exposed and it feels so childish to worship the movement of mind, to worship its reactions, to make a big fuss about its anxieties, worries and brooding, which are just cerebral habit patterns, neurochemical habit patterns.

So whether the world has changed or not due to Buddha or Christ, the world is changing now, right before our eyes. It is not a political or an economic change, but the quality of the human consciousness is changing rapidly.

The friend who is talking to you has wandered over the globe for the last thirty years; she has seen how the young are free from hypocrisy and pretensions. They are more honest with themselves and others, they are not so tortured by the fear of what others may say.

We are living in a transitory period of human culture, the old norms, criteria and values have collapsed and the new ones have not yet emerged. The youth all over the world are struggling to form a new ethos for the nuclear age. Having seen how thought is nothing but memory, how mental movement is nothing but a conditioned energy contained in the neurochemical system, the human race has no time to waste on pampering and worshiping the movement of mind and thought. It will learn to use it in its relevant field of action. This it has to do choicelessly, there is no alternative.

Have you seen the intermingling of races and cultures taking place, due to jet aircraft? People now travel from one end of the globe to the other. This intermingling of races, cultures, religions and temperaments, due to the economic interweaving and intertwining of the trends of life, of political interaction, has loosened the grip of identification with a nation, a race or a religion. Without our conscious effort to do so, we are no longer in the grip of those ideas. We look upon ourselves as global human citizens.

I do not know if you have noticed the emergence of a planetary consciousness? This consciousness has not yet found a language to express itself in an organized systematic way, but it is manifesting itself in a hundred and one different ways in every part of the globe. There seem to be particular efforts conducted by youth groups, not connected with one another, indicating that a change in the quality of human consciousness is taking place due to the compulsions that the human race has created for itself through science, technology, means of transport and communication, the electronic media and so on.

The events that took place in the Middle East one year ago, would have exploded into a world war twenty-five years ago. Even the events taking place in the Soviet Union would have exploded into a huge civil war, chaos and anarchy. Have you not noticed the intervention of the United Nations Security Council? What is this concern? To avoid nuclear explosions? What is this environmental consciousness doing? Yes, there are signs of growing neurosis, violence, terrorism and militancy; these are the remnants of the decaying civilization, the hangovers which are going to be extinguished under their own burden and weight.

I only wanted to say that the relationship with spirituality, the methodologies of self-discovery have changed. You don’t need a Christ or a Buddha any more, it is the human beings themselves who, with their individual and collective initiatives, in utter freedom, are going to find out what is beyond thought, beyond time and space, and live related to them in an unprecedented way.

-Vimala Thakar

From Life As Teacher, pp. 83-89

Here you can see more from Vimala Thakar

Set Them on Fire! – Vimala Thakar

A Portrait of a Modern Sage
An interview by Chris Parish

This interview was published in EnlightenNext magazine.

“I am a simple person, a human being who has loved life and who has seen life as divinity itself. I have lived in love with life, madly in love with the human expression of life as divinity!”

Her voice is deep and confident, ringing with an underlying passion. She enunciates each word very clearly and without hesitation, giving the impression of a person who meets life head-on, someone who is unapologetically and fully present. Her eyes are soft and fearless. She sits on the edge of her seat, alert and leaning towards us, dressed in a clean, crisp, white sari. Immovably still, she has an undeniable power, yet she is in a flash gentle and gracious as she serves us tea.

This is our introduction to Vimala Thakar, the well-known spiritual figure, who traveled the world teaching for over thirty years. I have eagerly awaited this moment, the chance to talk to and interview this unusual woman. I heard her speak once in London twenty years ago and her words left a lasting impression on me. It was my recollection of her integrity and understanding that made me recently resolve to meet her again. She is the only person, as far as I am aware, whom J. Krishnamurti, the great spiritual revolutionary, ever pleaded with to go forth and teach.

Together with my old friend Shanti Adams, I’ve sought out Vimala Thakar here in Mount Abu, a hill station in the remote southern corner of the Indian desert state of Rajasthan, where she spends the winter months. Her house, which has been donated, is tranquil, set among the huge rock formations that dot the landscape.

Vimala meets us punctually at 9:30 a.m. in a small study off the entrance hall of her house, and I mention the proposed interview. My heart sinks when she says that while she is more than happy to have a dialogue with us, she doesn’t wish to be published and photographed. “I’m socially dead,” she adds.

It’s a great relief to us when, after further discussion, she very kindly makes an exception and allows us to interview her for What Is Enlightenment?. It occurs to me that her dislike of publicity is one reason why she is not better known in spiritual circles. I have never seen an interview with her or an article about her. Yet she has traveled and taught in thirty-five countries, has students and friends in all continents and has published many books in a number of languages.

In 1991 she decided to stop traveling outside her native India. But at seventy-four years old, she is still busy seeing the individuals and groups who make their way to her at Mount Abu, or in Dalhousie in the Himalayan foothills, where she stays during the heat of summer. She conducts inquiry groups and meditation camps with people from all over the world, ranging from yoga teachers and Buddhists to industrialists and Indo-Pakistan peace activists.

“Let me live as an invisible teacher—not a master but a teacher,” says Vimala in a voice which commands your attention. “I have been exploring a dimension of the relationship between the inquirer and the enlightened one on the basis of equality. It’s an exploration in a revolutionary relationship. All my life it has been a sharing, like members of a spiritual family, on the basis of friendship, cooperation.”

Her words, spoken so distinctly and unwaveringly, seem to intensify the atmosphere of silence that I feel in the room. I’m aware of a single sparrow on the window ledge keeping up a constant background chirping.

Vimala Thakar’s background is an extraordinary story. She tells us about her childhood and how her spiritual search began at the unusually early age of five. Born into a Brahmin family in India, she used to see her mother engaged in the worship of God and wondered, “How can God be that tiny thing—that statue?” So she asked her grandmother, who told her that God lives in the forest. Vimala ran away from home to the forest, searching for God, imploring God to reveal himself.

She attributes her non-authoritarian approach to spirituality to her father who was a rationalist through and through. From a very early age he knew that her life would be dedicated to liberation. When she was seven he said to her that he didn’t mind her devotion to spirituality, but asked her to promise never to accept any human being as the final authority, since the light of truth was in her own heart. He encouraged her to go to ashrams, to visit every spiritual celebrity, and he himself arranged for these trips. Spirituality was accepted in her family, and her grandfather was a close friend of the famous Swami Vivekananda.

She experimented with spending time in caves doing retreats, exploring concentration and other practices. As a young woman she became involved with the Bhoodan Movement—the Land-gift Movement of Vinoba Bhave, which encouraged rich landowners to voluntarily share their land with the very poor. She toured India constantly, addressing public meetings for a number of years. It was on such a tour in January 1956, when she was in Rajghat, Kashi, that a friend invited her to come to a series of three discourses to be given by J. Krishnamurti, the renowned Indian spiritual figure.

The talks had a very powerful effect on her and she at once understood all that he spoke of. She felt carried to the fountainhead of life, and it didn’t feel like she was listening to a speech. Then she attended his talks in Madras and had private interviews with him, which deeply affected her consciousness, catapulting her into profound silence.

Of her meeting with Krishnamurti, she told us, “I was very glad that a world-famous celebrity was confirming what I had learned. Krishnamurti said nothing new to me when I heard him for the first time. It was a verification of the truth that one had understood, and I was very happy to have met such a person. The verification came through his life, through his communications.” As a result of this meeting, she ultimately felt compelled to give up her work with the Land-gift Movement.

Vimala’s small autobiographical book On an Eternal Voyage, written in 1966, contains a beautiful and moving account of her meetings and experiences with Krishnamurti. In 1959 she started to have terrible ear trouble with unbearable pain, bleeding and fevers. An operation didn’t help, and by the end of 1960 she was prepared for and resigned to death, although at the same time she felt strangely and impenetrably calm within. Her last hope was a trip to England to consult ear specialists there. At this point she met with Krishnamurti again and he offered to help her. He told her that his mother had often said that his hands had healing power. She had mixed feelings about his offer, somehow feeling that she might mar the purity of the reverence and affection she felt for him as a teacher if she were to feel obligated to him. But after reflection she did accept his offer, and his laying on of hands brought her immediate relief. The fever and bleeding ceased and she experienced precious freedom from pain. He gave her more sessions and her hearing returned to normal.

Vimala went ahead with her visit to England, where the ear specialists confirmed her cure, and then went to recuperate in Switzerland at the invitation of Krishnamurti. She spent time with him in the summer resort of Gstaad. She was concerned to understand what had happened in the healing. At the same time she was experiencing a great upheaval in consciousness. “Something within has been let loose. It can’t stand any frontiers. . . . The invasion of a new awareness, irresistible and uncontrollable . . . has swept away everything,” she wrote.

She felt this change was also associated with the healing and was uncomfortable with the sense of indebtedness to Krishnamurti that she felt. He had to convince her that they were unconnected and that he himself didn’t know how the healing had happened. He said, “You have been listening to the talks. You have a serious mind. The talks were sinking deep into your being. They were operating all the time. One day you realized the truth. What have I done to it? . . . Why make an issue of it?”

She wrote an open letter to her colleagues and friends in the Land-gift Movement to explain why she had left: “No words could describe the intensity and depth of the experience through which I am passing. Everything is changed. I am born anew. This is neither wishful thinking nor is it a sentimental reaction to the healing. It is an astounding phenomenon. . . . Everything that has been transmitted to our mind through centuries will have to be discarded. . . . I have dealt with it. It has dropped away.”

Vimala went to meet Krishnamurti in Benares in December 1961. He asked her what she had been doing and she told him that she spent most of her time speaking with friends who were interested in her life.

“That is quite natural,” he replied. “But why don’t you explode? Why don’t you put bombs under all these old people who follow the wrong line? Why don’t you go around India? Is anyone doing this? If there were half a dozen, I would not say a word to you. There is none. . . . There is so much to do. There is no time. . . . Go—shout from the house tops, ‘You are on the wrong track! This is not the way to peace!’. . . Go out and set them on fire! There is none who is doing this. Not even one. . . . What are you waiting for?”

This conversation shook her to the core, but she also felt that “putting bombs under people” was not the whole story. Surely, she felt, one must also show people the right line of action and point out the way to rebuild the house. Further talks with him convinced her, and dispelled ideas which she saw were holding her back—for example, the idea that she should have her own language before starting to speak publicly—and also her fear of making mistakes. This was a pivotal moment, and in her words, “the burning ashes became aflame.”

From this point on she started traveling and addressing meetings in various countries in Europe to which she was invited. She soon encountered opposition both from those who did not like the fact that she spoke on her own authority and not as Krishnamurti’s messenger and from those who accused her of plagiarism.

Krishnamurti was supportive: “I know the whole game. They have played it on me. They want authority. Is not the world sick? I was afraid you would have to go through it. I was hoping that you wouldn’t have to. . . . It is not easy to stand up alone. It is extremely difficult. And yet the world needs such sannyasins, true Brahmins who would stand up alone, who would stand up for truth. You know if I had money I would give it to you. But I have none. I go everywhere as a guest—I have not even a place of my own.”

After this she met with Krishnamurti now and then, but she felt the need to spend time with him was finished, “as you only want to meet a person who is away from you.” Since 1962 she has felt Krishnamurti’s presence within her. From then on she spent her life traveling all over the world giving talks, teaching wherever she was invited, up until 1991, when she decided to remain in one place. She now prefers conducting meditation camps to giving talks, finding the extended time with people a more effective way to share her understanding.

As I sip the lemon tea she has served us, I feel slightly unsure how to interview this powerful woman, but her naturalness and warmth quickly dispel my doubts. Vimala is completely available for any questions so I plow right in.

“Vimalaji,” I say, “these days a lot of people are interested in spirituality and yet it seems that only in very few is there a radical transformation of their consciousness and of their life.”

Vimala immediately responds, “My dear friend, they do not dedicate their lives to the truth they understand. They have desire for worldly pleasure, worldly recognition. Spirituality is one of the desires. It is not the supreme priority. Immediately start living the truth you understand!

“Intellectually people may aspire for emancipation or enlightenment but emotionally they love small bondages around them. They go on weaving the network of bondages. They want to belong somewhere emotionally—to the family, to their religion. In the name of security they create these emotional loyalties and a sense of exclusive belonging, while intellectually they aspire for absolute freedom, enlightenment. How can the two go together?

“They are incompatible, and yet human beings who become sadhakas, inquirers, live a double life. They are not dishonest—I’m talking about an inner division. They feel satisfied by knowing about liberation, reading about it, imagining it. They feel satisfied about this because the word ‘liberation’ has its own intoxication, the emotional feel about the meaning of the word has an intoxication. And they live by that intoxication. But there is no factual content. So this inner division causes the pathetic phenomenon that in the evening of their lives, their hands are empty. They only have the shells of words with them, not the inner substance of liberation.”

Her unequivocal words stop me short. They have the ring of truth, spoken by someone who is deeply intimate with the actual condition of human beings.

“What can a person do if they recognize this divided condition as themselves?” I ask, eager to find out what solution she has for this fundamental issue.

“One has to educate oneself. So first one discovers the division inside. Then, to eliminate the division, purification through education has to take place, because impurity is the only imbalance. Educate and sensitize and refine and purify the biological and the psychological aspects of our being—then I think the inner division disappears.” She suggests that seekers devote a minimum of three, and preferably four, hours each day to their spiritual practice.

We move on to the subject of attachment and I remark that often people can have an understanding of the truth and still remain strongly attached to certain things. Vimala stops me in midstream.

“If attachment cannot be dissolved by the understanding of truth, that understanding is only verbal. If you have had that, how can there be attachment?”

I pursue my point to clarify the matter. “I’ve heard you speak of all attachment just dropping away effortlessly when one understands the truth, but it often happens that someone has had some genuine understanding or realization of the truth and yet the totality of the attachment, all the conditioning, does not drop away immediately and completely.”

“Never mind,” says Vimala, brushing aside my objection. “Even after having understood the truth some people may cling to untruth for the sake of pleasure or security. People are afraid of living, they are afraid of dying. The intellectual aspiration for truth is there, but this fear of life and death is also there. That’s why the dropping of the attachments does not result. If that is the case then at least such a person should be conscious that there is a duality in him or her, that understanding of truth is there on one level and that attachment is also there. If there is a genuine desire that the attachment should be dissolved, eliminated, if that consciousness is there, it will work as a prick. It will keep him awake. Attachment will be there, he will act out of attachment, then he will feel sorry for it. For some time this goes on. It will be gradual. It depends on the earnestness.”

I bring up the fact that various spiritual teachings seem to view the final goal of the spiritual life as abiding in the Absolute and are then not at all concerned with the world of time and space, with relating to people. When one has discovered the limitless, how does one simultaneously live in it and relate to others and to the world?

She replies with passion, “Even after the discovery you are still there in your body, aren’t you? You have to feed it, you have to clothe it, you have to live in the world. So after the discovery, the understanding, then there is the awareness. With that awareness you behave in the limited world. Some people talk about escaping from it, withdrawing, but even after withdrawal you need a place to live.

“After the discovery of the truth—with that inner perfume of the constant awareness that life is a dance between the manifest and the unmanifest, the limited and the limitless, that which is measurable and that which is immeasurable—then you relate to both. With awareness you are related to the absolute and with your body, mind and thought you are related to the relative. Relative and absolute—there is no dichotomy, they are not opposites.

“The limited world and the absolute truth together form the wholeness of life. Life is indivisible, you cannot fragment it, you cannot divide it. So there is no problem in relating to the limited world. The crookedness, the violence—you see them as they are and you relate to them. You have to not cooperate with the violence, you have to discourage the hatred, the possessiveness, the domination. You have to encourage the sharing psychology, the attitude of cooperation, the value of friendship. By your life you do it, by living you do it.”

I ask her about living in relationship with others. Vimala has this to say: “The truth has to be lived in the movement of relationship, it can’t be lived in physical isolation. It can be appreciated, it can be talked about, but that’s not life. To live is to be related and when that truth is allowed to express itself without fear, without ambition, without the desire to assert and dominate, when the truth is allowed to flow in that movement of relationship, then there is the fulfillment that you call enlightenment. It is the consummation. It is easy to perceive the truth, it is very difficult to allow it to consummate in your life. It’s like an unconsummated marriage.” She laughs deeply and freely—whether spontaneously or because she is amused by her unusual analogy, I’m not sure.

I am interested to learn that several of her students live in her house with her and that this is a formal arrangement; they requested to live with her and she views her acceptance of them as a commitment which must be honored. “Commitments are a very precious thing—to say yes to someone, to allow someone to come and live with you. Then you have to understand the person, their likes, their dislikes, their weaknesses, their excellences.”

“Seeing the strengths and weaknesses of your students, is it part of your commitment as a teacher to respond to what you see in them?” I ask, interested to find out to what extent she is involved with students personally.

“My dear, one sees the inexhaustible potential contained in them of which they may not be aware at all. So you respond, you hit at their weaknesses so that their personality is free of that. You try to create situations where the best in them will come out. So the role of teacher and the honoring of the commitment requires that in the light of my perception I strike when striking is necessary and I cooperate where cooperation is necessary, whether they like it or not. If they don’t like it they go away, because there is no binding.

“It’s a very important question you ask, thank you. Because sometimes you have to be very strict. The purpose for which they come has to be honored. They don’t just come because they want a change of place; they come as inquirers. The relationship between the teacher and the student is something sacred. I am involved as far as correcting their imbalances is concerned. I am not involved if they cry. I just ignore their tears. If their ego is hurt, I just ignore it. I am involved to the extent that the purpose for which they come is not forgotten by them. It’s a beautiful way of living.”

I remark that while some people would appreciate this, I’m sure others wouldn’t like it.

“Some would withdraw, some would go away, that’s their right to do so. People do not like self-reliance. When I throw them back on themselves, many don’t like it, they can’t take it. They have come for security. And I say, ‘Look, if you do this, if you do that, this is the result. Now choose, make your own decision.'”

“The reflection that you’re giving reveals how truly genuine is that person’s interest in freedom,” I find myself uttering, more as a spontaneous comment than a question.

After a pause she says with gravity and feeling, “Yes, and if you come across two or three who are genuine, you have lived your life. It’s not the number that matters.”

The atmosphere in the room is vibrant. Amidst our dialogue a tangible current of meditation has come into being and the room pulsates with silence. It’s a rare experience to be with someone who is so present and available and who has such depth to share.

We discuss the value of a sangha, or community of inquirers, based on what she is speaking about. We talk about how much can be learned in such an environment, whereas on one’s own, one cannot receive an accurate reflection from others. In this way, I suggest, a spiritual community can become a very powerful vehicle for evolution.

“I would say the only one,” she says suddenly, stunning me with her absoluteness. Before I can consider the implications of this statement, she continues, “I would just go a step further because here in India, physical isolation and withdrawal have been overemphasized. Retreats and physical solitude are useful and are relevant as a process of education. They are necessary, but not as a dimension to live in.”

I suggest that if the individuals associating together in a community genuinely have a passion for the truth then it seems to me that there’s a possibility for a different dimension of relationship—it’s not just people getting together to escape something or to prop each other up because they are not strong enough to face life.

“That’s right,” she continues with passion. “If inquirers and explorers get together and begin to live together, then one presence fertilizes another presence. You’re vulnerable, exposed, so you are on your toes all the time, there is no self-deception.

“Truth is not a theory, it’s a fact of life. Truth vibrates in the movement of relationship. The perfume of peace can be there when you are with others. I have spent months alone in a cave. I know what that kind of peace means. And when we sit together, the perfume of peace that we feel in togetherness is a different quality. It’s alive.

“In spirituality there is nothing to acquire, only to understand the truth and live it. When you are honestly inquiring, truth reveals itself. The ‘I’ has everything to lose, not get. And in that sacred nothingness and nobody-ness, the wholeness gets revealed. So if the inquirers, those who live together in a sangha, realize that spirituality is not an acquisitive movement but a movement of learning, then it becomes easy. A new dynamic of human relationship will be brought about by this approach to spirituality.”

The morning has passed in what seems like a few moments and I suddenly become aware of the surroundings, of the bright sunlight glancing on the walls of the small room. I realize how enthralled I have been and looking over to my companion, I sense that this is not just my experience. What Vimala Thakar has just been speaking about—the perfume of peace that can be felt in togetherness—is literally true and palpable. And it most definitely feels alive.

Here is the companion interview The Challenge of Emptiness conducted by Shanti Adams for EnlightenNnext.

Here is a PDF of Vimala Thakar’s book On An Eternal Voyage.

In 2006, my wife and I met Vimala Thakar in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, India.  You can read my accounting of the meeting here in A Cup of Tea with Vimala Thakar.

Observation, Emptiness and Dhyan – Vimala Thakar

What is involved in being an observer of the stillness?

When we sit in silence what do we do? We sit and observe the voluntary and involuntary activities of the body and mind.  Slowly the voluntary activities come to an end, but the involuntary activities we have inherited from birth, from our family, religion, race, nationality -which fill the mind – go on, and we sit and observe their unfoldment.

Since we are used to working all the time we may find it difficult at first to sit quiet, or the body may fall asleep due to accumulated fatigue. If it happens it is desirable to rest the body for a few days till it is fresh again. While you sit in silence, thoughts will arise, as the mind has been working for 24 hours. The thoughts cannot be suppressed nor can they be thrown away anywhere, you can only watch them, not naming them as good or bad. Then you are free from the roles of an experiencer and an actor, you enter into the state of an observer of non-reactional attention.

As soon as the mind begins moving and says: “I like” or “I dislike” what it sees, there is a disturbance, a burdening of the mind and the role of the observer is lost and you are once more immersed into the roles of an experiencer and actor. If you do not react to the thoughts you are observing, if they no longer have the power to elicit any reaction from you then they will subside of their own accord.

Effects of observation in relationships

We have to extend this attitude of observation in relationships. Once the observer state is awakened it changes relationships. It is a tremendous energy that is awakened. When observation becomes a continuous state throughout the day, then:
(1) There is no self-deception. We do not hide anything from ourselves. There is nothing left as subconscious or unconscious it being all revealed in observation. There is now only the conscious level.
(2) We stop deceiving others or presenting a different image of ourselves to others. The seeing of what is, without justification or condemnation shatters the image. We now have the courage to live and be what we are.
(3) We become aware of all that is happening within us, of the different emotions arising within us, for example if we begin to get angry we are aware of it and so the grip of anger loosens its hold over us.
(4) We recognise and admit our mistakes; asking for forgiveness immediately, thus freeing the mind from the burden of residue.
(5) Through observation thoughts subside, hence the strain and pressure they cause on the neurological and chemical systems is also lifted. It is this tension that brings about anti-social behaviour.
(6) Pain and pleasure are not taken further then the present moment; thus no grudges or attachments are formed. The art of living is to live completely in the moment, not carrying any residue over to next incident, person or day.


First we sat to observe our thoughts, which not being unlimited subside after some time. When they subside there is an awareness of the emptiness within. There is a dimension of emptiness, like there is a dimension of time and space. When we touch the dimension of emptiness and stay steady in it, nothing happens, there is only emptiness. The mind is then afraid, for it has not been educated to live in that motionlessness. When there is functionlessness of the “I consciousness”, the “I” feels as if it is dying, there is fear and one wants to return to the mind, to more familiar grounds. The first touch of emptiness is like death but there is not an experiencing of emptiness, there is no one to experience it; the “I” and its functional roles not being there any more, even the observer is not necessary any more. There is only a consciousness that this is emptiness and after some time even that goes.

To surrender all activity to the emptiness requires courage. Man must be able to stick it out and not to run away from this state, he must be able to digest it. After all, what is there to be afraid of? It is a fact of the organic Reality of Life. It is a phase that does not last but it comes in life and if man stays patiently with it, it will leave him as it arose.

We are in the dimension of silence, of space. In this state there is nothing to experience, nothing to gain, nothing to see, there is only emptiness. Whenever there is work to do, you do it, when someone comes before you, you respond, and when there is no need to act then the emptiness within becomes the abode of the “I consciousness”. The home is no longer the mind but silence. One lives in silence all the time. One remains steady in the emptiness.


From the attitude of an actor, of an experiencer we moved into the attitude of an observer. From the state of observation we moved into the dimension of silence. And from silence we move into the dimension of dhyan. We shall see what dhyan is and what dhyan is not.

The light or energy within us works in many different ways and can be utilised in many different ways. Some people develop this energy by developing the powers of the mind, or the powers of concentration or psychic powers, but all these are activities and not dhyan. You can awaken energies in the body but those who want to know what Reality is are not attracted or interested in such powers.

Dhyan is not an activity but a state of being, a dimension of being. It is a state of motionlessness where the ego is dissolved and you have let it be dissolved, where there is no experiencing but only a state of non-knowing, non-doing. Some have described it as the dark night of the soul. There is no tension at all in this state; the space within is being activated. It is a very delicate state that has to be looked after. You need to be alone then and need time to adjust to it.

In the dimension of dhyan you have let the activities of the mind come to an end. The conditioned energy of the mind is quiet. The unconditioned part of the energy, which is within and without, now begins to work. There is an awakening of the Perceptive Intelligence. There is a new freshness and ecstasy. Universal Consciousness has taken over. The mystics have called it the marriage of the individual and the cosmic consciousness and in India it is described as the union of Shiva and Shakti.

This is a new dimension and in this state it is difficult to function in society for some time but after a period of adjustment the individual can live in society, the difference will be that he will live in a state of egolessness. He does not want or expect anything from others or from society. There is a divine indifference, there is so much joy within that he needs nothing from outside or from anyone. Living is its own fulfilment.

There is no centre or circumference of the mind ever to come back. Since there is no centre or ego that desires things, there are no reactions of likes and dislikes but only a response to need. Nobody can make him unhappy though he will be affected by the unhappiness of others. There is a difference between suffering and sorrow. Suffering is a reaction of the ego, which is always fragmentary. In sorrow events are seen in the context of whole humanity and the response is to the totality of life.

One of the by-products of the state of dhyan is that fearlessness is awakened. Fearlessness is very different from bravery. Bravery is an attribute of the mind, which can be and has been cultivated by the state, religion and family for their own purpose, but it is an attribute that can also be lost. Once fearlessness is awakened it can never be extinguished, fear no longer enters the mind. Fearlessness is awakened when man has faith either in his own understanding or has faith in the Universal Intelligence.

The mind obtains knowledge by grasping ideas. If this knowledge is not lived it becomes a burden. But if it is lived in relationship then the knowledge gets converted into understanding. Knowledge can be forgotten but not understanding. Nothing is as sacred as your own understanding. You should start walking in the light of your understanding no matter how small it may be. Faith in one’s own understanding awakens fearlessness and it brings about choiceless action.

-Vimala Thakar

For more posts on Vimala Thakar look here.

The Vertical Ascendance of a Sadhaka – Vimala Thakar

The following dialog took place between Vimala Thakar and Yoga teachers from all over the world in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India on the 11th of September, 2000.

Question:  What are the most difficult obstacles that a sadhaka has to overcome during his spiritual path?

It becomes very difficult to break the silence and touch the space with words; words feel very shy to encroach upon the emptiness of silence.  The science of consciousness, atma vidya has been the field of study, investigation, exploration, experimentation and verification through the act of living in Ancient India.  Naturally all the literature about atma vidya, adhyatma -Spirituality is in ancient Sanskrit language, so the students of yoga come across the Sanskrit words and terms when they study Yoga Sutras or Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga etc.

You have used the term “sadhaka” in your collective question.  But the investigation does not begin with sadhana.  Investigation begins first on the theoretical, academic, verbal level.  One has to know with the help of words about what one is going to do as sadhana.  .

This phase of investigation, this study through travelling, through reading books, through seminars, you may call it intellectual sadhana, but we call it jignasya the urge to enquire, and one who does that is jignasu.

When a person living In Europe and America or outside Asia comes to know through scriptures on Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or even Islam, when the person comes to know that there are different ways of living, where freedom from the prison-house of thought and from the clutches of the mind is possible, then the desire for liberation is born in the heart.  When he knows through that verbal investigation that a different way of living is possible, that people have lived that way, that it is possible for anyone and everyone to be liberated from the grip of the mind and the prison-house of thought structure, then the desire for liberation is born in the heart.  The desire for liberation is called mumuksha – the desire for moksha.   Moksha is liberation.  Mukti, moksha, these are the Sanskrit terms.  One who has the desire for moksha is called mumushu.

So the jignasu becomes mumukshu.  First he only wanted to know; now he says I have known that It IS possible, so why should I continue living as a slave of the thought and the mind.  If there is a consciousness beyond, if there is a life beyond, well let me explore.  So jignasu becomes a mumukshu; a person charged with the flame of enquiry, of exploration.  So he turns to those who have taken the pilgrimage, those who have followed the path of liberation and freedom.  He comes across such persons, sees their lives and he says that I want to educate myself in that way of freedom, in that life style of freedom, so he becomes a sadhaka.

A sadhaka is one who launches upon the extensive project of education, learning, discovery.  Sadhana is the process of education, the process of learning, a personal discovery of truth.  One who does that sadhana is called sadhaka.  So jignasu; mumukshu; sadhaka.  When the process of education is gone through at the physical level, at the verbal level, at the mental level, at cerebral level, and in the movement of daily relationships, then he becomes a siddha.  The education is completed, now it is mature.  Sadhana – sadhaka and then siddha.

Because you have asked the question and have used the term sadhaka one must know the background.  Sadhana, sadhaka is the third phase.  After verbal investigation, comes the phase where one is charged with the desire for liberation from mind and thought.  If that desire is not there, if the urge is not there, then one does not become a Sadhaka.  The Sadhana is for mukti, moksha, liberation, enlightenment.  That is the top priority; that is the first priority.  The person is willing to do anything and everything for that discovery of freedom and living in freedom.  So the Sadhaka is the student of life, learning and educating himself.  If the urge for liberation is not there, then you may do yoga asanas and pranayama for 20 years, they will give you health, they will give you symmetrical body, it is a physical and cultural education, very necessary -but that by itself does not lead you to freedom from the mind.  Yamah-Niyamah will give you a disciplined life, even pratyahara can give you a disciplined life.  There will be a disciplined life at the physical level, at the verbal level.  You will be speaking Truth -Sat yam, you will be non-violent –ahimsa, there will be shaucham– cleanliness at the physical, the mental and the verbal level and modesty, humility.  So the yamahs and niyamahs will create a very orderly, disciplined person.  Asanas, pranayama will change the quality of physical life and bring about a different freshness in body-brain complex but that by itself is not the totality of sadhana, it is only a part.

Many people have a misconception when they turn to Yoga; they think that yoga asanas, pranayama and yamah – niyamah, will naturally lead them to dhyanam and samadhi.  But that is a different education because with yamah- niyamah, asana-pranayama, pratyahara, dharana you have to exercise the physical, the verbal, the mental, the cerebral, you have to make an effort, you have to create an order in the chaos, in the disorder.  The “You”, the centre, the monitor is there, the method and techniques of doing away with disorder and creating order:  that is there.  Yamahs and niyamahs give you direction for the asanas, which must be done correctly, a Mantra has to be pronounced correctly, in the proper accent, intonation, punctuation, and articulation.  Even in dharana, the science and the art of concentration, there is still something to learn – concentrate on the breath, concentrate on the movement of breath, concentrate on an idol, concentrate on the flame of a candle and so on, there is the centre, the knowledge, the direction of effort, the methodology of effort.

People find it easy up to there.  Education can go on smoothly up to the step of dharana, if the person is really sincere and really very serious about changing the way of living.  It is an alternative way of living.  It is an alternative culture.  It is an alternative dynamics of relationship with your body, with nature, with human beings with non-human species.  It is a holistic change in the way of living, up to that it is comparatively easy and many serious, sincere students of spirituality in the various countries of the world have taken the journey up to there, but then comes the point of dhyanam or meditation.

You say what is the most difficult obstacle?  I will not call it obstacle, but a difficult point that you have to cross.  If you convert it into an obstacle it can become an obstacle, otherwise it is something that you have to cross, to go over.  What happens is, up to Dharana, the ‘I’, the self, the me, the Ego, the Monitor whatever you call it, can assert itself, can make an effort, can see the result, the product, the result of its effort in time, it can even manipulate the result, so it is satisfied -I have done this, I have progressed.  And naturally through yoga asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, the dormant energies in the body, in the biological organism, in the psychological structure which were not tapped before, they are stimulated.  The manifestation of those activised powers is called vibhuti.  Siddhi, vibhuti.  So up till there, the enthusiasm of the ‘l’, the ‘Me’ is tremendous, because it is doing something, it is getting something, it can measure it, people can see what you have achieved and you can teach it to others.  But then comes the point of dhyanam, where the mind and the brain are to be educated in relaxation of all movement – that is the difficult point.  The body has to be steady, the speech has to go back into its source, and the mental movement and the movement of the brain have to voluntarily discontinue.  You cannot make them stop, because you are a part of that, you are a part of the past, of the thought structure, the conditionings, you are one of it, you are its product so you can not change it, the ‘You’, the monitor which up till now has been very active has to voluntarily discontinue its movement.

The difficult part comes now of educating the mind and the brain to voluntarily discontinue its movement in every direction.  If you tell the mind there is nothing to know, nothing to experience, nowhere to go, no experiencing, it runs back into the past.  Wants to chew into the memories of the past pleasure, of the past pain, or it wants to jump towards the future that is unborn, that is not here.  It does not give up easily its addiction to motion.  It has been moving, changing itself, changing others, getting something.  It has been busy with the acquisitive movement- acquire knowledge, acquire money, acquire experience, acquire powers, and people acknowledge you, you get social respectability and you can earn money by teaching them.

This part of self-education is a very tough part, because there is no doing.  You have to be with yourself whether you sit down, you stand up, and you walk.  No books, no reading, no knowing, no experiences.  One requires tremendous patience with the cerebral organ, which has been sharpened.  It has been made very sharp and sophisticated and you have purified it through your Yamah -Niyamah etc.  It is very sensitive:  one hundred times more sensitive than any of your electronic gadgets.  So when you sit down with yourself or spend some days with yourself, you notice that immeasurable velocity, that tremendous, fantastic momentum with which the thoughts come and go, the emotions come, the memories come up and the Seer has to be there just seeing it, not looking at it.  Looking is the activity of the monitor, the ‘I’, the ‘Me’, the mind.  Seeing is the energy principle of your life.  You don’t see because you want to see, but because you can’t help it.  It IS an involuntary action.  It is not a movement like thinking, feeling, willing.  It is an instantaneous action.  So be with oneself, be with the total human past contained in your body, not even to watch it, to observe it, but just be in the state of seeing.  The seeing, the hearing goes on but you are not listening.  You listen to something when you have a motivation, but hearing goes on, you can’t help it, if you are awake, the auditory nerves respond to the sound, the optical nerves respond to the light, to the shape, to the colour of the objects.

To be in that austere state of seeing is the toughest part.  When the seen, that is the past, the known, the conditioned gets exposed to that seeing energy it gets exhausted, that is to say, the seen energy is not unlimited, it is vast, it is gigantic, but it has had a beginning and it can have an end.  One needs patience in educating oneself for being in the state of seeing without looking, without listening, without comparing, without evaluating, without passing a value judgement on what is seen.  Nobody will know, but you go on doing that inwardly.  So no value judgement, no comparison, no seeking pleasure out of it, no feeling pain out of it.  The seeing is unrelated to that which is seen.  It is not a relationship, it is co-existence of the seeing energy and the seen energy -the drashta, drashtutvam and drishya.

The body, the movement of the pranas, your breathing, the movement of the mind, the movement of the brain -all these are seen, they are not your existential essence, they are not the essence of your being.  The seeing energy is the essence, which you might call atman and chaitanya.  You might give a variety of names to it, It is just an energy, where seeing and understanding are rolled into one.  It is a perceptive sensitivity.  Looking is an activity, a joint activity of the mind and the optical nerves, but seeing is unrelated to that which is seen, because one did not want to see it, wish to see it, expect to see it, it is there, therefore it is seen.  That is the toughest part, but if that is gone through, then the seen and the seeing energy subside into their sources and there is maunam or silence or emptiness.

So the seeing and the seen are replaced by infinite silence of emptiness.   It is still tougher to be in that state if at all a sadhaka has patience and humility to be in the state.  Nothing happens, no experiences, you come out of silence after 2 or 3 hours and somebody asks you” what were you doing?”  “I don’t know, nothing”. But you were sitting there with your closed eyes for 3 hours, what happened?”  “Nothing.”  “What did you get out of it?”  “Nothing.”

The immeasurableness and indescribable-ness of that emptiness!  How can you describe emptiness? You can describe an object.  So the ‘I’ consciousness, the Ego that had gone voluntarily into discontinuity jumps back.  It wants to claim and say “I have had an experience of silence”.  The ‘I’ can never have that experience, the ‘I’ can have experience of quietness, of abstinence from speaking, it can have an experience of non-motion but silence is something that cannot be experienced.  Nothing happens to the chemical or metabolic or nervous system.

What is the obstacle on the path of a sadhaka? – This nothingness and nobody-ness.  To go through that period of solitary silence is difficult especially for those who are living in big cities, they have jobs, they have families.  Unless they move away from their working place and family atmosphere for some time this education from the doer, the experiencer to the Seer, from the Seer into the Silence and then into Meditation, this education cannot happen.  Devoting an hour a day while living in the family, while working at a job is easy, that can be done, but for the revolution to happen, for the mutation to take place, the Silence has to crystallise.  It is only when the silence crystallises as the normal dimension of consciousness that the mutation, the quantum jump into the state of dhyanam occurs.  It is not the result of any human effort.  You cannot bring it about as the result of your action.  It occurs, it happens if this period of being merged into or being immersed into the ocean of Emptiness is gone through.

You may call it in your language the most difficult obstacle.  As I see it, it is a tough phase in education, because it is going beyond mind, it is going beyond brain into another dimension of consciousness -dhyanajam anashayam (Patanjali Yoga Sutras IV.  6). Out of meditation is born a chitta which has no content of thought, emotion, feeling, which has no past, which has no conditionings. The prakrit chitta disappears with meditation and dhyanajam chittam anashayam emerges.  Chitta, which is emptiness, emptiness as a dimension of consciousness, gets born.  In the beginning it lasts for say few hours and when you are busy in movement of relationships you feel it is slipping out, because that is a period of puberty from one dimension to the other -a touch and go, it slips back into the mental or the cerebral, it becomes aware of it, again gets back into the mental or the cerebral, it becomes aware of it, again gets back into the meditative dimension and then there is a growth into samadhi, the dimension of invincible equipoise, invincible peace, invincible relaxation.  No action can damage the relaxation.  No speaking for hours can affect the inner state of silence and no relationships which one has to go through in society can even touch the solitude of the consciousness.

So it seems to me that the tough period begins in sadhana or the difficult period or obstacle period, begins when one is busy educating oneself in dhyanam.

There is a very well known sadhaka poet in India, he is still living, he wrote to me that it is better to be in the dimension of the known where you know how to handle thought, emotions, reactions, defence mechanism, patterns of behaviour.  It is much better to be there and safer to be there, than to get transported into the unknown where everything is unknowable.  So the idea of psychic security, by which one has lived, has a strong hold over one.  Even in the study of Yoga, in the subconscious there is that sense of security with the known – the known place, the known people, and the known activities

Meditation –dhyanam is a romance with the unknown.  I do not know if I have responded to your question, but this being the last meeting of this year, I thought:  let me share with you the journey from jignasa to sadhana – sadhana as a process of education –self-education, mutual education, group education.  How you do it is secondary, but it is an educational process.  Not academic education, which gives you a degree and a job at the end of it.  At the end of this education there is the maturity of samadhi, it is the consummation of human growth.  It is not an acquisitive movement but it is a movement of constant discovery of the different nuances of truth and reality, a discovery of the different nuances and shades of that cosmic energy which is playing even in your body.

-Vimala Thakar

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Explosion – Vimala Thakar


On the 14th August I had another interview with Krishnamurti. While I was waiting for him his hostess was kind enough to come and have a word with me.

‘Do you understand what Krishnaji says?’ She asked.

I said: ‘I feel I do – If I may say so. But everyone can understand if one wants to, can’t one? There is nothing difficult what he says is so simple.’

Krishnaji came out in a little while and led me to a room where we settled down for a serious talk. Here are the notes of our conversation.

Vimala Thakar: I am sharing with you my experience. I have decided after great hesitation to tell you about the present state of my mind because it concerns you in a way…

Krishnamurti: You need not hesitate at all. You can say anything to me – for or against. Do you understand?

V. I have told you about the invasion of a new awareness, irresistible and uncontrollable.

I have told you how it has swept away everything. Now – this has something to do with that healing. If it had come independently I would not have felt as I feel today. If the mind had come by it, say, while listening to you, I would not have felt what I feel today.

Today I feel that the two are related. And I feel deeply indebted to you for both.

That feeling of indebtedness makes the mind heavy and uncomfortable. Your talks have helped me and I am deeply thankful to you for the talks.

But my love for you was never burdened with a sense of indebtedness before. Today it is.

K. Wait a bit. Who told you that the two are related?

V. No one. I feel it.

K. Your feeling may be wrong. Perhaps you are confusing the two. You don’t owe me a damn thing in the world. Do you understand it? The healing has happened. It has taken two persons – you and me – for it to happen. Why not let it remain at that? It is very simple.

V. Are you sure that the two are not related?

K. Yes. Quite sure. You have been listening to the talks. You have a serious mind. The talks were sinking deep into your being. They are operating all the time. One day you realized the truth.

What have I done to it? Look here- you were walking in a forest. You came across another person.

He said: ‘If you walk this way you might arrive earlier.’ You walked. You arrived. You thanked the person. It is as simple as that.

Why should you feel you owe something to me? Why make an issue of it?

V. I can’t tell you why. But I do feel obliged to you.

K. All right why do you feel disturbed over it?

V. Because my affection feels hurt by that. Obligation and indebtedness seem to have polluted love and friendship. Our very relationship seems to be changing.

K. Goodness me. Our relationship need not and should not change. It should be as free as it was before. I wonder if you are frightened…

V. Yes – Krishnaji. I feel a kind of awe, a kind of fear…

K. That’s the crux. There is nothing to feel afraid of. I have not done anything to you. I don’t know how the healing takes place. I know as much as you do. Do you understand? Shake this off. I shall be sorry if our relationship is affected by this. Vimalaji, the earth was ready to receive the rains. She has received with full abandon. No wonder there is new life.

V. So be it Krishnaji. Let me only confess that this sudden invasion does baffle me. It is not due to anything that I have done. As if it is not related to me as an effect is related to its cause. It has descended with an irresistible force. The intensity and the depth of the force know neither increase nor decrease.

K. It happens. Why not watch it?

I prepared to leave. Krishnamurti knew that I was leaving Gstaad for Zurich the same evening. So he said:

‘I hope to find you in excellent health when we meet in India. Have a pleasant journey.’

While I was walking back to the hotel I met Mr. B. who was practicing as a psychiatrist in New York. He had come all the way to attend the talks. He was putting up in the same hotel and we had met several times during the fortnight.

B. Vimala, I have been shaken all over by Krishnamurti’s talks. We had learnt that the unconscious is indestructible. Krishnamurti says: ‘It can drop away.’ I had learned that it has taken a million years for the human mind and the brain to develop to its present state. Krishnamurti says: ‘You can jump out of this mind and brain.’ It is fantastic and incredible.

V. It is neither incredible nor fantastic. He is not presenting a theory or an idea which you could accept or reject. He communicates his experience. He is a challenge to your science of psychology.

Why should not a group of you take it up for scientific investigation? Why not make a research into whether the conscious and the unconscious can be done away with?

Krishnamurti is no fool. He knows what he says and he says what he means.

B. Do you agree with Krishnamurti, that the unconscious can be destroyed completely?

V. I am not a student of psychology. And there is nothing to agree with. I see that what he says is true.

B. Excuse me for being personal. Have you destroyed it?

V. You can’t destroy it, my dear. It gets destroyed. One sees that it has dropped. That is all.

I left Gastaad in the evening and by midnight I was in Zurich. Next day I wrote two letters, one to my father and one to Krishnamurti.

To my father I wrote:

‘Everything has dropped away. A tremendous tempest has swept away everything with one stroke. It is not ‘The cosmic evolution become conscious of itself.’ It is life anew. A journey wither I know not! Why, I know not! No excitement! No enthusiasm. But an intense flame of passion is consuming the whole being. I wish I could describe the strength of integrity which makes me walk now fearlessly. I wish I could describe how I witnessed the ego being torn to pieces and being thrown to the winds. I wish I could communicate what this denudation is! Or may one call it ex-centration? The center of thinking getting dissolved into nothingness.

The words might sound familiar. Perhaps you would say Krishnamurti – type terms and phrases. But you are well aware that borrowed phrases cannot transmit life. Nor can they enable one to see the reality. They cannot give you the moral courage to knock down and pull down your house in which you have lived until now.

Only truth liberates. Only truth transmits fresh life. Truth breathes innocence into you.

Destruction and creation mingle in that breath.’

To Krishanmurti I wrote:

‘I am not making ‘an issue’ of the event. I am trying to understand it in relation to total life. You may tell me, ‘ It is simple.’ My mind looks upon it as something strange. Is it simple to see the total mind being born anew? If one who has suddenly witnessed it happening, feels overwhelmed, would you call it an emotional disturbance?

Let me assure you that it is not the personal aspect (It’s happening in my life) that overwhelms me. Life is neither yours nor mine. Life is life. This phenomenon comes as a challenge to the medical science and to psychology. Does it not?

It is true that I have been listening to your talks for five years. I knew that they were sinking deep into the very being. But surely, that could not cause this sudden explosion. Understanding does not explode; nor does love explode. Or do they? Not that I am sorry for it. Not that I am excited about it? Far from it. I am watching everything with a passionate interest.

I do not think I shall attend anymore talks. I would love, however, to come and see you when you are in India. I would love to sit quietly with you, provided you do not mind sparing some time for a person who wants to see you without any purpose whatsoever.

Thank you very deeply indeed for everything I have received through you.’

After spending three weeks in Zurich I left for India by plane. I was in good cheer. I was relaxed and happy. There was intense alertness to understand every movement of life. Life had fanned a glowing flame of passionate interest.

One could call that state of deep attention an absolutely new experience of meditation. I am sorry it is not quite correct to call it an experience or a state. Both have a beginning and an end. In my case, however, I did not know how it came about; nor had I any idea whether it would continue forever whether it would discontinue the next moment.

-Vimala Thakar

From On an Eternal Voyage, p. 31-34

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Growing Into Silence – Vimala Thakar

Growing into Silence

The voluntary cessation, non-action of movement, can become possible if the brain, the cerebral organ, is not a restless, disorderly, chaotic brain.


One doesn’t have to begin to learn how to be silent, but one has to begin with learning to function in an orderly, clear, unconfused way.  Every cerebral movement has to be clear, precise and accurate.

Accuracy, precision, is the breath of orderliness.

So I learn to be precise and accurate.

And in learning to be precise and accurate I learn to be totally present with everything that I do.

Eliminating Reactions

One will have to learn to reduce the area and the duration of reactions seeing the futility and seeing the harmfulness of this constant game of reacting, evaluating, comparing and judging.

You reduce your rapport and contact with the past:  the memory, the knowing, the conditioning, the motivations, the defences.

If one would be with nature, even half the time that one is with human beings, machines and gadgets, there would be an opportunity to enter into a non-reactional observation, a non-reactional attention.

Then the brain would get some rest.  When you are with nature:  the birds, the lakes, the sunsets, the beautiful moonlight, when you are with the aloneness of the woods – then the comparative evaluating process has no scope.

The motivations and defence-mechanisms become absolutely irrelevant and meaningless when you are with nature.

The reactional pattern has no function, and yet there is observation.  So the cerebral organ grows into a new faculty of non-reactional sensitivity.

Act On Your Understanding

Never argue with one’s own understanding.

The whisper of intelligence is always there, whatever you do.

If you create a time lag between the whisper of intelligence and understanding in you and your action, then you are preventing the cerebral organ from growing into a new dimension.  When you argue with intelligence, when you postpone acting according to understanding then there is confusion, the brain gets confused.

The voice of understanding, the voice of intelligence has an insecurity about it.  How do you know that it is the right thing?

So we tend to ignore it.  Instead we accept authority.  We conform.

But the brain cannot be orderly, competent, accurate and precise if you do not listen to it, if you have no respect.  We are so busy with the outside world, and its compulsions, that the world that is inside us does not command that respect and reverence, that care and concern from us.

So one has to be a disciple of one’s own understanding, look upon that understanding as the master.

Sometimes one may commit a mistake, it might be the whim of the ego and we might mistake the whim, the wish of the ego for the voice of silence and intelligence, but that we have to discover.    Unless you commit mistakes, how do you learn to discriminate between the false and the true?  In learning there is bound to be a little insecurity, a possibility of committing mistakes.  Why should one be terribly afraid of committing mistakes?

So instead of accepting the authority of habits and conditionings, while one is moving one watches, and when there is a suggestion, a whisper from within, from one’s own intelligence, one does not neglect, ignore, or insult that.

To eliminate the time lag between understanding and action is the way to grow into spontaneity.

Keeping the Body and Brain Sensitive, Alert and Sharp

It is necessary to keep the body sensitive, alert and sharp, to feed it and to clothe it correctly, properly; to give it a chance to go through exercises which will mobilize not only the muscles, but also the nerves and be careful that the body does not become sluggish; to feed it correctly – not over- nor under-feeding it; to allow it to have sleep, necessary for its health – not to over- nor under-sleep; not to expose it to too much brooding, worrying, anxiety, which are impotent ways of wasting energy; not entering into excesses of indulgence and not denying and suppressing in the name of austerity, religion or discipline;  because the cerebral organ, the brain is woven into this biological structure.

It is very important, because in a sluggish body, in a lazy body, you can’t have a sharp, sensitive, alert brain, which would voluntarily go into non-action.

Self-education is vitally necessary in order to enable the cerebral organ to function in an orderly, quiet way.  When there is order, there is a quietness; an orderly person hardly gets excited.  It is disorder that leads to excitement, enthusiasm, depression which is the other side of excitement, passivity which is the obverse of enthusiasm.

When one has arrived at that orderliness in daily living, in whatever one does, then only one can talk about the brain voluntarily, relinquishing the outgoing and the ingoing movement, relinquishing voluntarily the hold upon the known and the unknown, the visible and the invisible, so that the infinite could be.

Summary: Four Approaches to Growing into Silence

  • Be precise, accurate and totally present with everything that one does.
  • Expose oneself as much as one can to nature, to the universe, all that is not man-made.
  • Be a disciple of one’s own understanding.
  • Keep the body and brain sensitive, alert and sharp.

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