It was a pleasant group; most of them were eager, and there were a few who listened to refute. Listening is an art not easily come by, but in it there is beauty and great understanding. We listen with the various depths of our being, but our listening is always with a preconception or from a particular point of view. We do not listen simply; there is always the intervening screen of our own thoughts, conclusions and prejudices. We listen with pleasure or resistance, with grasping or rejection, but there is no listening. To listen there must be an inward quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention. This alert yet passive state is able to hear what is beyond the verbal conclusion.
What is desire? When are we aware of it? When do we say we desire? Desire is not an abstraction, it exists only in relationship. Desire arises in contact, in relationship. Without contact, there is no desire. Contact may be at any level, but without it there is no sensation, no response, no desire. We know the process of desire, the way it comes into being: perception, contact, sensation, desire. But when are we aware of desire? When do I say I have a desire? Only when there is the disturbance of pleasure or of pain. It is when there is an awareness of conflict, of disturbance, that there is the cognisance of desire. Desire is the inadequate response to challenge. The perception of a beautiful car gives rise to the disturbance of pleasure.
‘Do you mean freedom from the conflict of desire, or from desire itself?’
Are conflict and desire two separate states? If they are, our inquiry must lead to illusion. If there were no disturbance of pleasure or pain, of wanting, seeking, fulfilling, either negatively or positively, would there be desire? And do we want to get rid of disturbance? If we can understand this, then we may be able to grasp the significance of desire. Conflict is self-consciousness; the focussing of attention through disturbance is desire. Is it that you want to get rid of the conflicting element in desire, and keep the pleasurable element? Both pleasure and conflict are disturbing, are they not? Or do you think pleasure does not disturb?
Is that true? Have you never noticed the pain of pleasure? Is not the craving for pleasure ever on the increase, ever demanding more and more? Is not the craving for more as disturbing as the urgency of avoidance? Both bring about conflict. We want to keep the pleasurable desire, and avoid the painful; but if we look closely, both are disturbing. But do you want to be free from disturbance?
Are you speaking from experience, or have you merely an idea about it? We are imagining what it would be like to have no conflict and so are preventing the experiencing of whatever that state is in which all conflict has ceased. Our problem is, what causes conflict? Can we not see a beautiful or an ugly thing without conflict coming into being? Can we not observe, listen without self-consciousness? Can we not live without disturbance? Can we not be without desire? Surely, we must understand the disturbance, and not seek a way of overcoming or exalting desire. Conflict must be understood, not ennobled or suppressed.
What causes conflict? Conflict arises when the response is not adequate to the challenge; and this conflict is the focussing of consciousness as the self. The self, the consciousness focussed through conflict, is experience. Experience is response to a stimulus or challenge; without terming or naming, there is no experience. Naming is out of the storehouse, memory; and this naming is the process of verbalising, the making of symbols, images, words, which strengthens memory. Consciousness, the focussing of the self through conflict, is the total process of experience, of naming, of recording.
It is naming that gives rise to conflict, is it not? You approach the challenge, at whatever level, with a record, with an idea, with a conclusion, with prejudice; that is, you name the experience. This terming gives quality to experience, the quality arising out of naming. Naming is the recording of memory. The past meets the new; challenge is met by memory, the past. The responses of the past cannot understand the living, the new, the challenge; the responses of the past are inadequate, and from this arises conflict, which is self-consciousness.