Can the mind be quiet? book cover

THE NEW BOOK By J. Krishnamurti

Can the mind be quiet?

Is it possible to find lasting peace in daily life? How do we empower the next generation to make the world a better place? What does it truly mean to be aware?

In these newly published personal accounts, renowned teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) once again displays timeless teaching style and profound wisdom as he explores the nature of the lived experience, the details of self-enquiry and how to live a fulfilled life.

His captivating prose turns stories of real life encounters with spiritual seekers all around the world into fable-like dialogues. Difficult times demand crystal-clear responses, and Krishnamurti’s piercing insight will inspire, challenge and provoke readers to search within themselves and approach life’s conflicts and demands with courage and equanimity.

Explorations with Krishnamurti into living, learning and meditation

Along with Krishnamurti’s public talks, his dialogues with leading 20th-century thinkers such as Renee Weber, Iris Murdoch, Jonas Salk, David Bohm and Huston Smith are well known. In between these hundreds of meetings, Krishnamurti was also available for private interviews and conversations with those who wished to meet him. These were not recorded and note-taking was discouraged.

Compiled here are sixty such conversations, previously unpublished, recalled by Krishnamurti in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This process often took place in the west wing of Brockwood Park School, his home in Europe, as well as in Rome, India and California. With his personal assistant, Mary Zimbalist, Krishnamurti would dictate these conversations, with Mary making shorthand notes and sometimes recording using a portable tape recorder. The quality is not what we are used to from most Krishnamurti audio, but reflects their informal and intimate nature. Extracts from these recordings can be listened to below.

The finalised texts contain probing inquiries into such topics as the self and consciousness, the essential qualities of good education, and the meditative and religious mind. As with all of his writings, the style is direct, eschews rhetoric and states deep truths as obvious and factual information, available to any who will listen. The pieces also include Krishnamurti’s much-loved descriptions of nature.

Can the Mind Be Quiet? is divided into three parts, representing far reaching explorations into the areas of living, learning and meditation, highlighting Krishnamurti’s radical approach to each.

Can the mind be quiet? book content

Can the mind unburden itself?

· extract from Can the mind be quiet? ·

Can the mind, which is already burdened so heavily, conditioned through centuries, unburden itself? That is what you are asking, aren’t you?

‘That is what I have asked, yes. But unless I misunderstand, you are asking if the mind can ask without any of that.’

Yes, because if it asks with all that, then there is no answer. Then the mind is caught in a trap and says it can’t get out of a trap.

‘But sir, it is as though you are saying that you must get out of the trap in order to ask the question that will get you out of the trap. This becomes a conundrum, a bewildering situation for the mind that is in the trap.’

No, first of all we are saying: what is the quality of the mind that looks at the burden? That is all we are asking; the quality, the nature of the mind that looks at the burden which it has created. If the quality of that mind is still thinking of how to get rid of the burden, how to put it away from itself, that implies resistance, time and analysis. If the mind sees that it is a false approach—sees it not verbally but actually sees it, tastes it, smells it—then does the burden exist at all?

‘Are you saying that you must cease to identify yourself with the burden?’

No, we are not saying that you must put an end to identification with the burden.

‘I am tempted to say that what you are saying is you must be healthy to get over your sickness. You see, the sane mind will not ask the insane question. But it’s an insane mind that is asked to see that. Do you see?’

The sick mind is a burdened mind; the sick mind has become aware that it is burdened, and the sick mind says, ‘What am I to do?’ When the sick mind is aware that it is sick, it is already healthy. It is the mind that is unaware that it is sick that has the burden. But when the mind sees how very sick it is with all its burdens, and that sickness is an indication of the weight of the burden, then it is aware entirely of its sickness. Aware, which means there is no choice between sickness and health—it is sick. Then that awareness has its own activity which is completely different from the activity of sickness.

‘But sir, there are many sick minds who realise that they are sick.’

That’s it—part of them thinks they are healthy, another part thinks they are sick. It is not a total awareness of sickness. Total awareness is not an awareness of choice between health and sickness.

‘Is it perhaps that we cling to the little piece that we have made as an island of sanity?’

That’s right, exactly.

‘And by separating that from the mass, which is the sick part, we perpetuate the illness.’

That is the whole issue. That is perfectly right.

The strange sense of otherness

· extract from Can the mind be quiet? ·

A curious thing happened the other day. It had been raining for many days, with a strong wind. The wind was blowing from the north-west and was quite cold though it was late spring. Many trees were still bare and the fields were not yet bright green for there hadn’t been sun for many, many days. You got wet as you walked in the field but there was beauty—all the trees, the distant view and the sodden earth. You walked ahead with the dog. Among the trees suddenly that strange sense of otherness was there. That quality of otherness seemed to precipitate itself on the earth and in one’s mind. All that evening it pursued you. You didn’t invite it, you didn’t even think about it. It came in the fullness of great beauty and an extraordinary sense of joy.

The man might be considered well read. He had travelled a great deal and seen many so-called important people. He was telling us of the different political situations in the world, expanding on the wars, the pollution, and the friendship that he was trying to cultivate between two countries. Almost unknowingly he said, ‘There is this world and the other. There is this world of everyday life and misery, and the other of liberation, moksha, nirvana, heaven, whatever you like to call it.’

It struck afterwards how we have divided this world and the world that is indescribable, that cannot be put into words. This division exists in every religion. This is the traditional approach, the traditional attitude, well established, deeply rooted in the mind of man. Really the two are indivisible; they are one. Yet we try to establish order in this world without the other. Without the other, thought cannot bring about the desired peace, a totally different way of living. Without the other, matter becomes very important. Thought is matter.

A blackbird was on the lawn near the wet tree. Across the field a large rabbit was sitting, its back to the house, its head held high, looking into the distance.

The movement of thought, however refined, is not the other.


Can the brain ever be quiet?

· extract from Can the mind be quiet? ·

We do not seem to be aware of the psychological structure of the brain. Most of us carry on mechanically in the condition in which we are born and educated, living a repetitive life, with certain modifications. We are trained from childhood until we die to function within a very small part of our brain’s capacity, whether we are scientists, engineers or anything else. A scholar, a priest, a theologian or a politician functions within a very small fragment of the brain. We all use that part of the brain which is always of yesterday. All specialisation is exclusive and fragmentary, limited and narrow. All this is the old brain which is the result of millions of years of struggle for survival, struggle to get the best out of the environment, and so on. This is all we know and with this brain we try to explore and discover something new. Therefore there is always deep-rooted frustration and despair.

This old brain is memory and memory is always fragmentary. Every challenge—which must be new if it is a challenge at all—is met by the old brain responding according to its old patterns. Being aware choicelessly of this process, the brain itself understands its own nature and structure, and so only responds in a mechanical way to mechanical demands like writing, spelling and so on. Obviously this mechanical part of the brain must function where memory is involved. But when we make a challenge out of something which is not a challenge, like meeting someone who insulted us or flattered us some time ago, this is a mechanical response which is habitual. This response is unnecessary and without it there would be no challenge at all! So what we generally consider to be challenges are simply mechanical responses to events.

This is the way we live. All these responses are from what we call the old brain. Is the whole operation of the brain old? Is there any action of the brain which is not this response of the computer? And can this brain ever be quiet? Can it be active when it is demanded and silent when it is necessary? The answer to this lies in meditation.


J. Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti is regarded globally as one of the greatest thinkers and religious teachers of all times. He explained with great precision the subtle workings of the human mind, and pointed to the need for bringing to our daily life a deeply meditative and spiritual quality. He did not expound any philosophy or religion, but rather talked of the things that concern all of us in our everyday lives, of the problems of living in modern society. He died in 1986.

Black and white portrait of J. Krishnamurti

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