BENGALURU: What is freedom? As you and I know, everywhere in the world authoritarianism is spreading, not only at the political, social, and economic levels, but also at the so-called spiritual level. Everywhere there is a compelling environmental influence; newspapers tell us what to think, and there are so many five, ten, or fifteen-year plans. Then there are these specialists at the economic, scientific, and bureaucratic levels; there are all the traditions of everyday activity, what we must do and what we must not do; then there is the whole influence of the so-called sacred books; and there is the cinema, the radio, the newspaper - everything in the world is trying to tell us what to do, what to think, and what we must not think. I do not know if you have noticed how increasingly difficult it has become to think for oneself. We have become such experts in quoting what other people say or have said, and in the midst of this authoritarian welter, where is the freedom? And what do we mean by freedom?
First, I think we must realise that our minds are really not free. Everything we see, every thought we have, shapes our mind; whatever you think now, whatever you have thought in the past and whatever you are going to think in the future - it all shapes the mind. You think what you have been told, either by the religious person or the politician, by the teacher in your school, or by books and newspapers. Everything about you influences what you think. What you eat, what you look at, what you listen to, your wife, your husband, your child, your neighbour – everything is shaping the mind. I think that is fairly obvious. Even when you think that there is a God or that there is no God, that also is the influence of tradition. So our mind is the field in which there are many contradictory influences which are in battle, one against the other.
Unless we directly experience for ourselves, your coming to a talk of this kind has no value at all. Please believe me that unless you experience what is being said, not merely follow the description but be aware, be cognizant, know the ways of your own thinking and thereby experience, these talks will have no meaning whatsoever. Because obviously we are now slaves, either the Hindu slave, the Catholic slave, the Russian slave, or slaves of one kind or another. We are all slaves to certain forms of thought, and in the midst of all this, we ask if we can be free and talk about the anatomy of freedom and authority, and so on. I think it must be fairly obvious to most of us that what we think is conditioned. Whatever your thought – however noble and wide, or however limited and petty - it is conditioned, and if you further that thought there can be no freedom of thought.
Thought itself is conditioned because thought is the reaction of memory, and memory is the residue of all your experiences, which in turn are the result of your conditioning. So if one realises that all thinking, at whatever level, is conditioned, then we will see that thinking is not the means of breaking through this limitation - which does not mean that we must go into some blank or speculative silence. Actually the fact is, is it not, that every thought, every feeling, every action is conformative, conditioned, influenced. For instance, a saint comes along and by his rhetoric, gestures, looks, by quoting this and that to you, influences you. And we want to be influenced and are afraid to move away from every form of influence and see if we can go deeply and discover if there is a state of being which is not the result of influence.