The 'Nature' of Understanding
Struggle With Obstacles
Change of Being
Combination of Centres
Practical Understanding and Attitude
What Do You Want?
See also:Four Ways to Immortality
Understanding is a relative term. Everyone understands something at every moment in his own way. But understanding may be large, larger, and still larger. In this system we call understanding a certain possible maximum on a certain level of knowledge and being. As a rule this maximum is too low; people's understanding is usually limited to only one room, and they never get out of that room. But understanding of these ideas is very much beyond this one room.
What I wish you to think about refers to the whole thing. People do not ask 'why?' sufficiently often and, if they do, this 'why?' is generally very small. You should think of why you come here, what you want from this system and why, what you can learn from it, why this system exists, why I talk of this system, what I wish to achieve by talking about it. One has to have a certain point of view about it all; it may be a wrong one, but still one must have some idea.
As it is, almost every idea remains unopened, unexplored. There are boxes of books that may be opened, the contents read, and many new things added. But mostly we deal with unopened boxes. One box, knowledge; another, being; a third, understanding; and so on. First we have to learn the contents of the boxes. There is no need to limit yourself to a definite question in this respect. This is an organic system: in it you can start with anything. Start where you like, only do something with the ideas you hear. It is not enough simply to sit on those boxes of books.
Open the box with knowledge and the box with being. It is the relation between knowledge and being that is important.
There is no 'real' or 'final' understanding. Understanding is relative. It is like temperature: it may be five degrees, ten degrees, fifteen degrees. You see why ordinary language is no good and why we have to study a different language. In ordinary language all words are taken as absolutes. In reality there are different degrees of understanding. We can understand a little better and much better. Then, if we want to understand still better, we must change our being. If we can bring higher emotional centre into play we can understand much better. To understand still more needs higher mental centre.
Definitions can seldom help and, as a matter of fact, we can have very few definitions. This conviction that in order to understand something it is necessary to define it is quite wrong. Most things we cannot define; and the few that we can, we can define only relatively with the help of other things. So, among an enormous quantity of things we cannot define at all, there are small islands of things we can define.
Even if we take, for example, self-remembering as an absolute term, the question is, for how long? Whether you remember yourself in the best possible way for half an hour or for five minutes makes a very big difference. To bridge the gap between self-remembering and merely thinking about it, you have to break a certain wall, and you do not know how to do it. Learning to do something means acquiring a certain skill. For a long time you cannot do it well, you do it clumsily; then one day you find that you can do it properly. It is the same with self-remembering — not quite, but near enough.
There are thousands of way of increasing one's understanding. All that we have ever spoken about is ways to increase understanding. But the first way is by observing and studying ourselves, because this increases our capacity to understand. That is the first step. If you could understand the ideas that you have been given, your knowledge would increase. But you understand only on the surface and apart from desire. Or you may have quite a strong desire, but the machine does not work. Yet inside our machine we have better parts which at present we do not use. We can use them only by increasing consciousness. This is the only way.
Being and understanding are not the same. Understanding is a combination of knowledge and being. The limiting factor in ourselves is definitely our being, which means our capacity for understanding. It is connecting one bit of knowledge with another bit of knowledge. You will see that understanding depends on being if you take the elementary idea of being. Man is divided into different 'I's or groups of 'I's which are unconnected with one another. Then if one 'I' knows one thing, a second 'I' knows another thing, a third 'I' yet another, and they never meet, what kind of understanding is possible? From one point of view it may look as though a man has enough knowledge, but since these 'I's never meet, this knowledge can never be brought together. This is the state of an ordinary man's being, and it proves that as he is, he cannot have understanding. Understanding always means connecting things with the whole, and if one does not know the whole, how can one connect?
In this system you must try to understand; only what you understand gives positive results. If you do something without understanding it will not give much, for only what you understand is valuable.
Sometimes we understand simple things. But if something is a little more complicated, we lose ourselves and do not understand. We want to understand big things without realising that in actual fact we cannot understand the simplest things. If we begin with the simple things, then gradually we will begin to understand more. But if we begin with big things and refuse to think of or observe small things, we shall never understand anything properly.
When people speak or try to explain their views, they cannot. They cannot even repeat correctly what they have heard; they change things. And so misunderstanding grows and grows. One invents a theory: immediately five others are invented to contradict it. Thousands of years have passed from the invention of language and in all this time people never understood one another. How can we expect that they will now?
So first we must understand ourselves. We do not see our situation and realise our mechanicalness. We do not see that this not understanding is a law.
We can do nothing without trying. If you want to make sure you are not a machine, try to do something that a machine cannot do. Try to remember yourself, for a machine cannot remember itself: if you find that you can, then you are not a machine; if you find that you cannot, it will prove that you are a machine. And then, if you realise that you are a machine and want to find out whether you can cease being a machine, again the only method is to try.
If two people have an equally wrong being, they will not understand one another. It is not equality which brings understanding between people, but a certain level — not only of being but also of knowledge. Different levels, such as Men 5, 6, and 7, presuppose levels of both knowledge and being. Men 5 are supposed to understand one another, Men 6 understand better and Men 7 understand fully. Even Men 4 understand one another as compared with us; but we cannot understand one another, or we understand only occasionally for a moment, and at another moment we cease to understand. We cannot rely on such understanding. People who know one another very well may work together for years and yet on some occasions fail to understand one another. This is why the place or conditions where we are is called the place of confusion of tongues — because we all speak different languages.
Words begin to acquire objective meaning starting from the level of Man 4. Men 1, 2, and 3 are purely subjective and everyone understands every word in his own way. But if people know the language, or even a few words of it, they can use it in the same meaning.
You cannot understand one word completely and another incompletely. You have to know them all on the same level, and then your being changes and you find many more divisions. So your language will become more and more complicated. And at a certain level perhaps you will need new words, new forms, because old forms will no longer be sufficient.
Understanding of a term or a word varies in relation to the degree of being. We can already see how the same word means one thing for Man 1, another thing for Man 2, and yet another for Man 3. But on the level of Man 1, 2, and 3, this is mechanical — in the sense that people cannot help it. They understand according to their level, their capacity, not according to the meaning of things.
Man 4 knows his aim and how his aim can be attained. He goes with his eyes open, while we go with our eyes shut. Man 5 is already one: he has unity. He does not live in this constant conflict of egos that we have. He has self-consciousness. He has control of higher emotional centre.
Man 5 will know how he himself has changed. Other people will know only what he can demonstrate through being able to control himself.
If people reach the highest level, they cannot understand things differently. Since we only aspire to reach this level, we must for now take it as a principle. In a small way you can find examples of this even now. If two people really understand something, for instance if they can do something equally well, they will understand one another. But we have lost the habit of judging things from the practical side: we judge them theoretically, by words.
When we speak of ourselves, we cannot speak in absolutes. We can speak only of relative values. Complete understanding is very far, but we can speak of less understanding and more understanding. If you continue to try to remember yourself and not to identify, understanding will grow.
If you understand only a part, it is not understanding. Understanding means connecting parts with the whole. One can begin from parts or one can begin from the whole. But whatever one begins from, the more connected things are, the better one understands — if the connections are made rightly and are not merely an illusion.
Attitudes can be very different. For the moment we will take only two, positive and negative — not in the sense of positive and negative emotions but referring to the positive and negative parts of intellectual centre: the part that says 'yes' and the part that says 'no', that is, approval and disapproval. These are the two chief attitudes.
It is very important to think about attitudes because we very often take a negative attitude towards things we can understand only with a positive attitude. For instance, it may happen that people take a negative attitude towards something connected with the work. Then their understanding stops and they cannot understand anything until they change their attitude.
We must have positive attitudes in some cases and negative attitudes in others, because lack of understanding is often caused by a wrong attitude. If a man studies life, he must sometimes come to negative conclusions, for there are many things wrong in life. Trying to create positive attitudes is as wrong as having only negative attitudes. Yet some people have a negative attitude towards anything and everything, and some people try to cultivate a positive attitude towards things that need a negative attitude.
On the other hand, the moment you have a negative attitude towards things that refer to the work, to the ideas, methods, and rules of the work, you cease to understand. You can understand according to your capacity only as long as you are positive.
But this refers only to intellectual attitudes. In emotional centre, negative emotional attitudes mean identifying. Then it means a suspicious or unsympathetic or fearful attitude. Take it in the ordinary sense of accepting or not accepting.
Attitude is not the same as identification. You can have a point of view without being identified; but very often, identifying is the result of a wrong attitude. One can change one's attitudes by studying oneself and one's life on the lines of this system. It is a process of thinking, putting together all the things we already know with all the ideas and principles we have learnt, and being able to see facts from a new point of view.
To think in a new way is a very difficult thing, for the old way of thinking is kept up by old habits of thinking, old associations, old attitudes, and the influences of things themselves.
You must always remember why you started. Do you want things you can get from ordinary life, or do you seek different things? Is it worth while trying? Our capacity for imagination, generally used so wrongly, can help in this case. But you must control it all the time and never let it run away with you. If you use it rightly, it may help you to see whether you really want what you say you want; because very often we want something different, or we do not realise that one thing brings another with it. You cannot want one thing by itself; if you want one thing, you get many other things with it.
Only when you know what you want will you know where you are going, and know it rightly. It is necessary to know. From the ordinary point of view it may be quite fantastic or even impossible, and yet it may be right. Or it may look very simple and right, and yet be impossible.
In general, the only aim is change of being. The aim is to reach higher states of consciousness and to be able to work with higher centres. In order to achieve that, it is necessary to do many things that seem to have no relation to it, but they are necessary because we generally live at a subnormal level. Most people are too identified, too hypnotised by formatory ideas, lie too much, and are more mechanical than they need be. First we must reach the normal level and then we must try to develop new things and possibilities. No one can help you in this, only your own work and understanding.
You must begin with understanding. These lectures and this system are to give understanding. The next step depends on your own efforts. Change of being can be achieved only if you remember all that was said and if you do not make exceptions for yourself and leave out things you do not like. If you do this, you will not have a right relation to what was said, and even if you try to remember it, it will change nothing.