Group Discussion 27th November, 1947 | Madras, India
Is memory, psychological and not factual, a hindrance to understanding? Let us think this out. What is memory? Let us begin with ourselves and enquire into it without involving ourselves in explanations. Going back and looking into the past pleasures and pains, or going to the future with its hopes and ambitions, are forms of memory.
Why does the mind go backwards and forwards like this? In our attempt to understand the problem of memory, we have now found that mind which is itself a result of the past and is the current of the past, the present and the future, has separated itself in the present from the current, as though it is a separate entity; it looks on itself as the thinker, the feeler, the perceiver, goes back to the past and says "I remember". It also conceives of the future, thus giving rise to three entities - the thinker, the past, and the future - as through they are different from one another.
The problem now is "Can the mind separate itself from the past?" The thinker cannot go back to the past unless he is the product of the past; therefore, he and the past are one and not separate. So, when I say "I remember", I am making a false statement. Memory is ever continuing from the past, in the present, and into the future. The past includes my parents, my forefathers and also mankind with all their accumulations, traditions, superstitions, fears and conditions - social, economic, racial, religious, etc. Thus when we enquire what memory is, we should know who the enquirer is. The enquirer is the mind which has separated itself from itself which is the past; and this division is a false action, because any product of the mind must, like the mind itself, be also a product of the past. The observer and the observed are the same; therefore, the observer is making a false statement when it says "I am looking at the stream and going back to the past". We now see the absurdity of the whole process - the observer, though the same as the observed, imagines himself to be separate from, and superior to it, and attempts to examine the observed through memory; finally, he realises that he is not separate from the observed and the separation was false.
In seeing the false as false, truth is perceived.