Can the mind be free of conditioning?
Self-knowledge, or the learning about yourself every day, brings about a new mind. You have denied the old mind. Through self-knowledge, you have denied your conditioning totally. The conditioning of the mind can be denied only when the mind is aware of its operations, how it works, what it thinks, what it says, its motives.
There is another factor involved. We think it is a gradual process, that it will take time to free the mind from conditioning. We think that it will take days or years to uncondition our conditioned mind, gradually, day after day. This implies acquiring knowledge in order to dissipate conditioning, which means you are not learning but acquiring. A mind that is acquiring is not learning. A mind that uses knowledge to achieve a sense of liberation must have time. Such a mind thinks it must have time to free itself from its conditioning, which means it is going to acquire knowledge, and as the knowledge expands, it will become freer and freer. This is utterly false.
Through time, through the multiplication of many tomorrows, there is no liberation. There is freedom only in the denial of the thing seen immediately.
Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1962, Talk 5
AUDIO: How is a mind so heavily conditioned to be made new?
There is no gradual process towards freedom or peace
As long as the world is broken up into nationalities, as long as it is divided by faiths, beliefs and dogmas, there can be no peace at all. There can be peace only when all nationalism ceases, when all beliefs which divide man come to an end. This can happen only when the mind is free from all conditioning, when the mind no longer thinks in terms of America or Russia, communist, socialist or capitalist, Catholic, Protestant or Hindu. We can only deal with the many problems that arise when we approach them as human beings, that is, when we are not conditioned in any of these patterns cultivated for generations. It is arduous, really difficult to break down the enclosures that the mind has built around itself.
To be free from all conditioning is not to seek better conditioning.
If we are to survive in this mad, chaotic world, surely it is imperative that each one of us should consider this problem of freeing the mind from its conditioning. This does not mean the cultivation of better conditioning, but freedom from all conditioning. It is impossible to be aware of the total process of our being as long as we are not aware of our own conditioning. Each one of us is conditioned by the climate, the food we eat, and other physiological influences. Those we know how to deal with. But of the deeper conditioning of the psyche, the inward, very few of us are aware, and it is that which dictates, controls and shapes our actions.
As most of us are unconscious of our conditioning, is it not first of all essential to be aware of it? Each one of us is conditioned, as a Christian or as belonging to some other group with certain ideas, beliefs and dogmas contrary to other ideas, beliefs and dogmas. These very beliefs and dogmas create enmity and maintain division between man and man. So is it not important to ask ourselves whether it is possible for the mind to free itself from all conditioning? Is it possible not to belong to any group or religion? Which does not mean entering another conditioned state, becoming an atheist, a communist or something else. To be free from all conditioning is not to seek better conditioning. I think that is the real crux of the matter, because only when the mind is unconditioned can it tackle the problem of living as a total process, not just on one sectionalised level of our existence.
To have peace, the mind must be totally unconditioned.
Can you and I be aware of our conditioning? Is it possible to be free of it? Can any action of the will bring about that freedom? I realise I am conditioned, as a Hindu or what you will, and I see the effects of that conditioning in my relationship with others, which is really a relationship of resistance, creating its own problems. Can I break down that conditioning by an act of will, by saying to myself I must not be conditioned, I must think differently, I must consider human beings as a whole, and so on? Can the conditioning be broken down through any action of the will? After all, what is it that we call the will? Is it not the process of desire centred in the ‘me’ that wants to achieve a result?
I see I am conditioned, and I want to know how to break it down because that conditioning prevents me from thinking clearly. It prevents a direct relationship with people. It creates resistance, and resistance creates its own problems. So, seeing the whole implication of the effects of conditioning, how is my mind to free itself from conditioning? Do you understand the problem? Is the entity that desires to free the mind from conditioning different from the mind itself? If it is different, the problem of effort and the action of will come into being. Is the ‘I’, the thinker, the person who says, ‘I am conditioned, and I must be free,’ the ‘I’ who makes an effort to be free, is that ‘I’, that will, that desire, different from the conditioned state? Please, this is not complicated. You are bound to ask yourself this question when you look at the problem. Am I, who wishes to free myself from conditioning, different from the conditioning, or are they both the same? If they are the same, which they are, then how is it possible for the mind to free itself from conditioning?
Is there a part of the mind not conditioned?
Your mind is conditioned, and this conditioning is preventing peace and creating war, destruction and misery. Unless you resolve your conditioning completely, there will be no real peace in the world; there will be the peace of politicians, between two immense powers, which is terror. To have peace, the mind must be totally unconditioned. One must realise that, not superficially and not as insurance for your security. Peace is a state of mind; it is not the development of monstrous means of destroying each other and then maintaining peace through terror. To have real peace in the world is to be able to live happily, creatively, without any sense of fear, without being secure in any thought or any way of life. To have such peace, the mind must be totally free from all conditioning, either externally imposed or inwardly cultivated. Can your mind, which is conditioned—because all minds are conditioned—can such a mind free itself from its own effects, desires and conditioned state?
So, is there a part of the mind not conditioned, which can take over, control or destroy the conditioned mind? Or is the mind totally conditioned at all times, and therefore cannot act upon itself? When it realises that it cannot act upon itself, will not the mind be utterly still, without movement towards its conditioning? For most of us, freedom implies freedom from something. Freedom from something is resistance against something and therefore is not freedom. I am talking not of freedom from something, but of being free. Being free is not becoming free; being peaceful is not becoming peaceful. There is no gradual process toward freedom or peace—either you are peaceful, or you are not peaceful. What we are trying to find out is whether the mind which has been conditioned for centuries, generation upon generation, can free itself. Surely, it can be free only when there is no action of will, when it realises that it is conditioned and does not make any effort to free itself from its conditioning. When my mind knows that its way of thinking is oriental, whatever that may mean, when it fully realises that, will it then think along the Western line, which is another form of conditioning, or will it cease thinking in any particular pattern and therefore be free to think?
Is any action on my part necessary to break down that limitation?
This is a very important point to understand; it is the crux of the matter, because a conditioned mind can never find out what is true, a conditioned mind can never discover what God is. It can project its own images, dogmas and beliefs, thinking it has found God, but that is still the action of a limited, conditioned mind. If I see that, perceive it as a fact, will any action on my part be necessary? If I know I am blind, I have quite a different approach to life, I develop a different perception. In the same way, when I know that I am conditioned, that my thinking is limited, and that a limited mind, whatever its experiences, however much knowledge it acquires, is still limited; when I realise that, is any action on my part necessary to break down that limitation? Will not that limitation break down of itself when I know the mind is limited? Therefore, is there not an instantaneous freedom from conditioning? Most of us think that an analytical process will ultimately bring about the freedom of the mind because we are so used to thinking in terms of making an effort. We say, ‘I must break down this conditioning, I must produce a result, I must do something.’ But the ‘I’ who is acting is itself conditioned. The ‘I’ is the conditioned mind, and therefore it cannot break down that conditioning.
When the whole of me realises that I cannot break down conditioning, that whatever I do about it—discipline, worship, prayer, anything through which the ‘me’ makes an effort to break down any part of itself—is still limited, then does not the action of the ‘me’ come to an end? And the very ending of this effort is the cessation of conditioning.
The ‘I’ is the conditioned mind.
Please, experiment with this. If you have listened rightly, you will see that the mind cannot do a thing about its conditioning. It can explore, it can analyse, it can achieve certain results, but it is always limited. Whatever its projections, hopes or fulfilments, they are always the result of its background and therefore limited. When the mind realises that, is there not an instantaneous cessation without any compulsion of this ‘I’ which is seeking, searching, hoping, gaining? After all, that is meditation, which is not through any action of will. It is the meditation of the mind, which is tranquillity. A mind that is merely caught in desires, in achieving a result, in knowing, in experiencing can never be a still mind. When a limited mind meditates, when it thinks of God, its God and its meditation are still petty. However much a mediocre mind may be expanded, however much it knows, it is still mediocre, small, petty, and therefore its problems will always remain petty, unsolvable.
So, what is important is to realise all this, not merely through hearing what I am saying, but through seeing it for yourself, experiencing directly that your mind is small, limited. And being limited, however much it may know, whatever experiences it may have, it is still limited, and therefore can never find out what is true, what is real. Reality comes into being only when there is a total cessation of all conditioning, that is, when the mind is free and therefore still.
Krishnamurti in New York 1954, Talk 2
AUDIO: Change without analysis
The mind is the result of the past, which is the process of conditioning. How is it possible for the mind to be free? To be free, the mind must not only see and understand its pendulum-like swing between the past and the future but also be aware of the interval between thoughts. That interval is spontaneous; it is not brought about through any causation, wish or compulsion.
If you watch very carefully, you will see that though the response, the movement of thought, seems so swift, there are gaps, there are intervals between thoughts. Between two thoughts is a period of silence unrelated to the thought process. If you observe, you will see that that period of silence, that interval, is not of time and the discovery of that interval, the full experiencing of that interval, liberates you from conditioning—or rather it does not liberate ‘you’ but there is liberation from conditioning. So the understanding of the process of thinking is meditation. We are not only discussing the structure and the process of thought, which is the background of memory, experience and knowledge, but we are also trying to find out if the mind can liberate itself from the background. It is only when the mind is not giving continuity to thought, when it is still—a stillness not induced, that is, without any causation—only then can there be freedom from the background.
From the book The First and Last Freedom by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase here
Any movement of the mind to be free is the result of its conditioning
Our many problems cannot be solved except through a fundamental revolution of the mind. Such a revolution alone can bring about the realisation of that which is truth. Therefore it is important to understand the operation of one’s mind, not analytically or introspectively but by being aware of its total process. If we do not see ourselves as we are, if we do not understand the thinker—the entity that seeks, that is perpetually asking, demanding, questioning, trying to find out, the entity that is creating the problem, the ‘I’, the self, the ego—then our thought and search will have no meaning. As long as one’s instrument of thinking is not clear, is perverted, conditioned, whatever one thinks is bound to be limited, narrow.
We are not discussing self-improvement in any way.
It is possible to find out what is real, or if there is such a thing as God, only when the mind is free from all conditioning. The mere occupation of a conditioned mind with God, truth or love, has no meaning at all, for such a mind can function only within the field of its conditioning. The communist who does not believe in God thinks in one way, and the man who believes in God, who is occupied with dogma, thinks in another way. But the minds of both are conditioned, therefore neither can think freely and all their protestations, theories and beliefs have very little meaning. So religion is not a matter of going to church, of having beliefs and dogmas. Religion may be something entirely different, the total freeing of the mind from this vast tradition of centuries. It is only a free mind that can find truth, reality, that which is beyond the projections of the mind.
This is not a theory of mine. As we can see from what is happening in the world, the communists want to settle the problems of life in one way, the Hindus in another, the Christians in still another—their minds are conditioned. Your mind is conditioned, whether you acknowledge it or not. You may superficially break away from a tradition, but the deep layers of the unconscious are full of that tradition, conditioned by centuries of education according to a pattern. A mind that would find something beyond, if there is such a thing, must first be free of all conditioning.
Attention brings about the miracle of change.
We are not discussing self-improvement in any way, nor are we concerned with the improvement of the pattern; we are not seeking to condition the mind in a nobler pattern, or a pattern of wider social significance. On the contrary, we are trying to find out how to free the mind, the total consciousness, from all conditioning, for unless that happens, there can be no experiencing of reality. You may talk about reality, you may read volumes about it, read the sacred books of the East and the West, but until the mind is aware of its process, until it sees itself functioning in a pattern and can be free from that conditioning, all search is vain.
So it seems to me of the greatest importance to begin with ourselves, to be aware of our own conditioning. It is only the mind that is capable of patiently observing its conditioning and being free from it that is able to have a revolution, a radical transformation, and thereby to discover that which is infinitely beyond the mind, beyond all our desires, vanities and pursuits. Without self-knowledge, without knowing oneself as one is—not as one would like to be, which is merely an illusion, an idealistic escape—without knowing the ways of one’s thinking, all one’s motives, thoughts and innumerable responses, it is not possible to understand and go beyond this whole process of thinking.
It is important to understand the difference between attention and concentration. Concentration implies choice, trying to concentrate on what I am saying, so your mind is focused, made narrow, and other thoughts intervene. So there is not an actual listening, but a battle going on in the mind, a conflict between what you are hearing and your desire to translate it, to apply what I am talking about, and so on. Whereas, attention is something entirely different. In attention, there is no focusing, no choice; there is complete awareness without any interpretation. If we can listen so attentively, completely, to what is being said, that very attention brings about the miracle of change within the mind itself.
Be deeply aware of ‘what is’ without condemnation, judgment, evaluation or comparison.
What we are talking about is something of immense importance, because unless there is a fundamental revolution in each one of us, I do not see how we can bring about a radical change in the world. And surely that radical change is essential. Mere economic revolution is of no importance at all. There can be only a religious revolution, and the religious revolution cannot take place if the mind is merely conforming to the pattern of previous conditioning. As long as one is a Christian or a Hindu, there can be no fundamental revolution in this true religious sense of the word. And we do need such a revolution. When the mind is free from all conditioning, you will find that there comes the creativity of reality, of God, and it is only such a mind, a mind constantly experiencing this creativity, that can bring about a different outlook, different values, a different world.
So it is important to understand oneself. Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom. Self-knowledge is not according to any psychologist, book or philosopher, but it is to know oneself as one is from moment to moment. To know oneself is to observe what one thinks, how one feels, not just superficially, but to be deeply aware of ‘what is’ without condemnation, judgment, evaluation or comparison. Try it, and you will see how extraordinarily difficult it is for a mind that has been trained for centuries to compare, condemn, judge and evaluate, to stop that whole process and simply observe ‘what is’. Unless this takes place, not only at the superficial level but right through the whole content of consciousness, there can be no delving into the profundity of the mind.
Our problem is not what societies you should belong to, what kind of activities you should indulge in, what books you should read, and all that superficial business, but how to free the mind from conditioning. The mind is not merely the waking consciousness occupied with daily activities, but also the deep layers of the unconscious in which there is the whole residue of the past, tradition and racial instincts. All that is the mind, and unless that total consciousness is free right through, our search, inquiry and discovery will be limited, narrow and petty.
Freeing the mind from conditioning is the ending of sorrow.
So the mind is conditioned right through—there is no part of the mind not conditioned. Can such a mind free itself? And who is the entity that can free it? The mind is the total consciousness, with all its different layers of knowledge, acquisition, tradition, racial instincts, memory. Can such a mind free itself, or can the mind be free only when it sees that it is conditioned and that any movement from this conditioning is still another form of conditioning?
The mind is completely conditioned. This is an obvious fact if you come to think about it. It is not my invention; it is a fact. We belong to a society; we were brought up according to an ideology, with dogmas and traditions. The vast influence of culture and society is continually conditioning the mind. How can such a mind be free, since any movement of the mind to be free is the result of its conditioning and must bring about further conditioning? There is only one answer. The mind can be free only when it is completely still. Though it has problems, innumerable urges, conflicts and ambitions, if—through self-knowledge, through watching itself without acceptance or condemnation—the mind is choicelessly aware of its own process, then out of that awareness comes an astonishing silence, a quietness of the mind in which there is no movement of any kind. It is only then that the mind is free. It is no longer desiring anything, no longer seeking, no longer pursuing a goal or ideal—which are all the projections of a conditioned mind.
If you ever come to that understanding, in which there can be no self-deception, you will find that there is a possibility of the coming into being of that extraordinary thing called creativity. Then only can the mind realise that which is measureless, which may be called God or truth. You may be socially prosperous, you may have possessions, cars, houses, superficial peace, but unless that which is measureless comes into being, there will always be sorrow. Freeing the mind from conditioning is the ending of sorrow.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1955, Talk 1
AUDIO: When I say I must know myself, what is ‘myself’?
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