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Excerpts from "Letters to the School" vol 2


We ought to consider together what we mean by attention. Most of us learn what concentration is; from childhood we are compelled to concentrate on something which generally we don't like. This breeds a kind of rebellion from being forced to do something we dislike. Education has become a funnelling of many subjects into our brain, conditioning us to conform. Millions and millions throughout the world are being educated and are finding no jobs. The whole pattern of society in which we live has become so abnormal, so dangerous, that we must find a new way of living together. This requires sensitivity and very objective observation and thinking. One questions whether this concentration, which is the narrowing down of perception, will help to bring about a different quality of mind.

     For what are you being educated? What are you going to become as a human being? Mediocrity prevails from the highest political structure to the highest religious establishment. Are you being educated to fit into this pattern? Are you going to become a mediocre human being without any passion, in conflict with yourself and with the world? This is really a serious question you have to ask yourself. Can this concentrated, aggressive, competitive human being bring about a different order in our existence?

     As we said, we ought to consider what it means to be attentive. This may be the clue to a harmonious existence. As things are, the intellect, the whole activity of the brain, which is thinking, dominates our existence. This naturally brings about contradiction in ourselves, peculiar behaviour. When only one part of our whole being is in dominance, it will inevitably bring about neurotic behaviour. Attention is the awareness of this dominance of intellect, without the instinctive urge to control it, or allowing emotion to take its place. This awareness brings about subtlety, clarity of mind.

     There is a difference between concentration and attention. Concentration is to bring all your energy to focus on a particular point. In attention there is no point of focus. We are very familiar with one and not with the other. When you pay attention to your body, the body becomes quiet, which has its own discipline; it is relaxed but not slack and it has the energy of harmony. When there is attention, there is no contradiction and therefore no conflict. When you read this pay attention to the way you are sitting, the way you are listening, how you are receiving what the letter is saying to you, how you are reacting to what is being said and why you are finding it difficult to attend. You are not learning how to attend. If you are learning the how of attending, then it becomes a system, which is what the brain is accustomed to, and so you make attention something mechanical and repetitive, whereas attention is not mechanical or repetitive. It is the way of looking at your whole life without the centre of self-interest.