When we say that we need to change as a person, what is it that we mean? Do we mean that we must change hairstyles? That we must change our make-up, our “look”? Surely, for some, this constitutes change, but not the type we really care about. Do we mean that we must change our wardrobe? Our beliefs? There are those who change their beliefs the same way they change clothes, but no, we want to go deeper. We want to change the person who is wearing the clothes, who wears the beliefs like a fresh cloth, only to discard it once it is no longer fashionable.
When we say we want to change, it is not a matter of changing beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, ideas; although these may occur. If you say ‘I must change’, I ‘must adopt a new belief, a new attitude, a new behaviour’, it is still the same stale old self that is making these requests, and therefore, there is no change, only a superficial shift, and we are not concerned with superficiality. Change, therefore, real, honest, earnest change, is something that can only occur from looking at the self, something that can only be done once you get past the clothes, which is to say, past the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that we wear to upon ourselves.
A mind that says it will achieve change through the adoption of a ‘new idea’, a ‘new principle’, or a ‘new belief’, is not a mind that is changing. To have an idea, belief or attitude, is to have these as objects of thought, as experiences that have been catalogued and deposited in the mind. They are, therefore, things of the past, which are then verbalised as something new. It is a falsity. A man who fails to satisfy his girlfriend, and says ‘I was selfish and I must be more generous in the future’, is not a man who has changed, because the selfishness which motivated him still resides and is now covered in a thin veneer of generosity. The very desire to be generous, was borne of a desire for himself, and is contradictorily, selfish. This man has not changed, he has merely applied another layer of thought from the old self. He applies past ideas of generosity to the present selfishness, and is therefore, in the process of staying the same while pretending to himself that he is changing.
Change, the deep, tectonic shift the man seeks will not come by applying prior ideas of generosity but, will come when he investigates for himself why he is selfish and through this will come learning, understanding and then, change. Because, what has changed is that the selfishness is now properly understood. Change is not achieved by counterbalancing an issue with its antithesis, because the self which implements this is the same self that is having the problem. Same thinking cannot possibly lead to different results. Change comes from understanding, and understanding is only possible without applying old attitudes, beliefs and ideas. Therefore, to change deeply and meaningfully is to require nothing less than seeing yourself as you are, right now in this very moment, and inquiring as to why.
People may say ‘I want to change but I don’t know how’. To tell you ‘how’ would be to give you a scripture, a rule book, a guide or a schedule. Then, what you are doing is not changing at all, you are following, repeating, being a second hand person. If not, ‘how’ becomes ‘what’, and people may say ‘I want to change but I don’t know what I want to change into’. The same bind arises, if I told you what to change into, you haven’t changed at all because your mind is still dull, following patterns, now not of your own but of others, which is arguably worse. To even say ‘I don’t know what I want to change into’ is to completely miss the point anyway. If you knew ‘what’ you wanted to change into, it would not be a new self, but the same old self with updated ideas, attitudes, and beliefs. The fact of the matter is, if you are told how or what form the change must make, it ceases to be change, and becomes a procedure, a dead routine, an assembly of a second hand existence. Change cannot be an application of the past – which is nothing but dead, unmoving, rigid thought of the self that is requiring the change – nor a projection onto the future – which can only be based on experience of the past – but only the active inquiry of the present. Through inquiry comes understanding, through understanding comes action, through action comes change.