What is something that almost nobody knows about self-discipline?
What almost nobody knows about self-discipline is that it has nothing to do with control. The original meaning of this word in Latin means to learn. And when one is controlling, one is not learning, one is confirming to a predetermined idea. The latter day French meaning of the word brings in the whole notion of control and punishment.
So let’s look at what is commonly understood as self-discipline and then we shall find if there is an altogether different way of understanding it.
The common way of understanding the word self-discipline is control. What is control? There is something which is a fact of oneself at the moment, the ‘what is’, and there is an idea/ideal of ‘what should be’. I am sitting in a class getting bored with the lecture and want to look out of the window. This is what is. It is a fact. But if I look out of the window, the teacher is going to scold me, or I am not going to get good marks in the exam, so I have to focus, control my mind and concentrate on the lecture. This is the what should be. So one can see that the whole process of control is a conflict in the mind. The mind is split into two opposing desires – one, what it is really interested in, and the other, what it should be interested in. A mind which is in conflict is wasting energy. This constant dissipating of energy makes the mind tired and exhausted. So after twenty, thirty years of such wasting of energy, the mind gets exhausted and tired. The mechanical wearing out of energy makes a human into a machine. Such a mind, which has been disciplined through force, through fear, pressure and authority becomes a dull submissive mind, unable to think anything for itself.
All our religions have talked about self discipline as control. They have built a system of ethics with a structure of reward and punishment for ethical and unethical behavior. The same is done by other systems like the political or economic systems. But with all this structure of ethics, has man fundamentally changed? We remain as divisive as we were when we were stone age hunter gatherers. This is because ethics does not solve the problem fundamentally. It is only an outward system of control that has been put in place to maintain an order in society – a mechanical, hierarchical, authoritarian order. We are burning inside with comparison, anger, jealousy inside but outside we smile, speak pleasant words and shake hands. Of course this veneer of control is never too thick, it gives way very fast. We may smile and speak politely with the rich and the powerful but we become raging monsters with the poor and the weak.
To understand the whole mechanics of control one has to go into the complex issue of the thinker and the thought. Thought creates the thinker, giving it a superior wiser position than thought. Assuming a superior, wiser position the thinker goes about controlling thought. So if even one is not having any external authority to confirm to, there is an internal authority within which is controlling thoughts all the time. This control is what we call self-discipline.
From where does the thinker come? Does it not come from memory, from ideas which were given in childhood about what is right and wrong, good and bad? It comes from all the punishments and rewards that were given to us by parents, teachers, society for our behavior. In short, the thinker is a conditioning that was given to us. So if the thinker is coming from memory, there is nothing new in the thinker. Whenever the thinker is operating, there is absolutely no learning happening. It is only making thought confirm to an established pattern. But thought is new every second. If one has to learn about thought, one has to observe thought without the thinker.
When one observes thought without the thinker, there is no control, no judgement of thought as good or bad, right or wrong. When there is no judgement there is no enforced control or discipline. There is a freedom to learn about the movement of thought. So instead of saying that anger is bad, which the thinker says, and quickly suppress anger or modify anger, there is an observation of anger without any judgement. It does not mean that one is going to become a psychopath. When one is observing anger without the thinker, there is freedom to see the actual movement of anger, something which the brain has never done. In seeing the actual movement of anger, there is a discipline. It is not the discipline of thought. It is not an ethic or idea which is saying one must not be angry. Something totally different is happening here. It is not the thinker trying to steer thought towards a known ethical destination. In the observation of anger without judgement, the entire story of anger is revealed and there is an actual seeing of the whole complex tree of anger. And because there is no control here, the brain is meeting this movement without dissipation of any energy. When a movement is seen with the total energy of the brain there is the ending of the known movement of thought and rise of an intelligence which is beyond thought: which has it’s own non-divisive intelligence.
To understand this, one must do this.