Freedom from the Self
Freedom from the self, and therefore the search of reality, the discovery and the coming into being of reality, is the true function of man. Religions play with it in their rituals and rigmarole – you know, the whole business of it. But if one becomes aware of this whole process, then there is a possibility for the newly awakened intelligence to function. In that, there is not self-release, not self-fulfilment, but creativeness. It is this creativeness of reality, which is not of time, that sets one free from all the business of the collective and the individual. Then one is really in a position to help create the new.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1949, Talk 7
It is only the free mind that is creative
Why does the mind accumulate knowledge or acquire virtue? Why does the mind constantly strive to become something, to perfect itself? In the process of acquisition and accumulation, the mind is burdened. All accumulation in self-knowledge is a hindrance to the further discovery of the self. Now, is it possible to discover and not be acquisitive, so that the discovery does not leave an experience which will condition further discovery?
This is really the freedom from the self, so that there is no accumulative entity, and therefore there is creative being. Accumulation is not creativeness. A mind which is constantly acquiring can obviously never be creative. It is only the free mind that is creative. There can be no freedom if every experience is stored up, because that which is accumulated becomes the centre of the “me”, of the “I”.
Krishnamurti in New York 1954, Talk 5
VIDEO: The structure of self-centred concern
The process of the self
By the self, I mean the idea, the memory, the conclusion, the experience, the various forms of nameable and unnameable intentions, the conscious endeavour to be or not to be, competition, the accumulated memory of the unconscious, the racial, the group, the individual, the clan, the whole of it, whether projected outwardly in action or projected spiritually as virtue. The whole process of that is the self; and we know actually when we are faced with it that it is an evil thing. I am using the word evil intentionally, because the self is dividing; it is self-enclosing; its activities, however noble, are separative and isolating. We know all this. We also know those extraordinary moments when the self is not there, in which there is no sense of endeavour, of effort, and which happens when there is love.
Is it possible for the mind to be quite still, in a state of non-recognition or non-experiencing?
All the various forms of discipline, belief and knowledge only strengthen the self. Can we find an element which will dissolve the self? Or is that a wrong question? That is what we want basically. We want to find something which will dissolve the “me”. We think there are various means, namely identification, belief, etc., but all of them are at the same level; one is not superior to the other because all of them are equally powerful in strengthening the self, the “me”. So can I see the “me” wherever it functions and see its destructive forces and energy? Whatever name I may give to it, it is an isolating force, it is a destructive force, and I want to find a way of dissolving it. You must have asked this yourself. I see the “I” functioning all the time and bringing anxiety, fear, frustration, despair, misery, not only to myself but to all around me. Is it possible for that self to be dissolved, not partially but completely? Can we go to the root of it and destroy it? That is the only way of truly functioning, is it not? I do not want to be partially intelligent but intelligent in an integrated manner. Most of us are intelligent in layers: you probably in one way and I in some other way. People are intelligent in different ways but we are not integrally intelligent. To be integrally intelligent means to be without the self. Is it possible?
Is it possible for the self to be completely absent now? What are the necessary ingredients or requirements? What is the element that brings it about? Can I find it? When I put that question ‘Can I find it?’ I am convinced that it is possible and so I have already created an experience in which the self is going to be strengthened. Understanding of the self requires a great deal of intelligence, a great deal of watchfulness, alertness, watching ceaselessly so that it does not slip away. I, who am very earnest, want to dissolve the self. When I say that, I know it is possible to dissolve the self. The moment I say, ‘I want to dissolve this,’ in that there is still the experiencing of the self, and so the self is strengthened.
One can see that the state of creation is not at all the experience of the self. Creation is when the self is not there, because creation is not intellectual, is not of the mind, is not self-projected, is something beyond all experiencing. So is it possible for the mind to be quite still, in a state of non-recognition or non-experiencing, to be in a state in which creation can take place, which means when the self is not there, when the self is absent? Any movement of the mind, positive or negative, is an experience which actually strengthens the “me”. Is it possible for the mind not to recognize? That can only take place when there is complete silence, but not the silence which is an experience of the self and which therefore strengthens the self.
Is there an entity apart from the self which looks at the self and dissolves the self? Is there a spiritual entity which supersedes the self and destroys it, which puts it aside? Most religious people think there is such an element. The materialist says, ‘It is impossible for the self to be destroyed; it can only be conditioned and restrained – politically, economically and socially; we can hold it firmly within a certain pattern and we can break it; and therefore it can be made to lead a high life, a moral life, and not to interfere with anything but to follow the social pattern and to function merely as a machine.’ That we know. There are other people, the so-called religious ones – they are not really religious, though we call them so – who say, ‘Fundamentally there is such an element; if we can get in touch with it, it will dissolve the self.’ Is there such an element to dissolve the self? Please see what we are doing. We are forcing the self into a corner. If you allow yourself to be forced into the corner, you will see what will happen. We should like there to be an element which is timeless, which is not of the self, which we hope will come and intercede and destroy the self, and which we call God. Now is there such a thing which the mind can conceive? There may be or there may not be; that is not the point.
If you and I as individuals can see the whole working of the self, then we shall know what love is.
When the mind seeks a timeless spiritual state which will go into action in order to destroy the self, is that not another form of experience which is strengthening the “me”? When you believe, is that not what is actually taking place? When you believe that there is truth, God, the timeless state, immortality, is that not the process of strengthening the self? The self has projected that thing which you feel and believe will come and destroy the self. So, having projected this idea of continuance in a timeless state as a spiritual entity, you have an experience. Such experience only strengthens the self, and therefore what have you done? You have not really destroyed the self but only given it a different name, a different quality. The self is still there, because you have experienced it. Thus our action from the beginning to the end is the same action, only we think it is evolving, growing, becoming more and more beautiful. But it is the same action going on, the same “me” functioning at different levels with different labels, different names.
When you see the whole process, the cunning, extraordinary inventions, the intelligence of the self, how it covers itself up through identification, through virtue, through experience, through belief, through knowledge; when you see that the mind is moving in a circle, in a cage of its own making, what happens? When you are aware of it, fully cognizant of it, then are you not extraordinarily quiet? Not through compulsion, not through any reward, not through any fear, when you recognize that every movement of the mind is merely a form of strengthening the self, when you observe it, see it, when you are completely aware of it in action, when you come to that point, not ideologically or verbally, not through projected experiencing, but when you are actually in that state, then you will see that the mind, being utterly still, has no power of creating. Whatever the mind creates is in a circle, within the field of the self. When the mind is non-creating there is creation, which is not a recognizable process.
Reality, truth, is not to be recognized. For truth to come, belief, knowledge, experiencing, the pursuit of virtue, all this must go. The virtuous person who is conscious of pursuing virtue can never find reality. He may be a very decent person but that is entirely different from being a man of truth, a man who understands. To the man of truth, truth has come into being. A virtuous man is a righteous man, and a righteous man can never understand what is truth because virtue to him is the covering of the self, the strengthening of the self because he is pursuing virtue. When he says, ‘I must be without greed,’ the state of non-greed which he experiences only strengthens the self. That is why it is so important to be poor, not only in the things of the world but also in belief and in knowledge. A man with worldly riches or a man rich in knowledge and belief will never know anything but darkness, and will be the centre of all mischief and misery. But if you and I as individuals can see the whole working of the self, then we shall know what love is. I assure you that is the only reformation which can possibly change the world. Love is not of the self. Self cannot recognize love. You say, ‘I love,’ but in the very saying of it, in the very experiencing of it, love is not. But when you know love, self is not. When there is love, self is not.
From the book The First and the Last Freedom, by J. Krishnamurti. Purchase here
VIDEO: Freedom from the self
Intelligence is possible only when there is real freedom from the self, from the “me”, that is, when the mind is no longer the centre of the demand for the “more”, no longer caught up in the desire for greater, wider, more expansive experience. Intelligence is freedom from the pressure of time, because the “more” implies time, and as long as the mind is the centre of the demand for the “more”, it is the result of time. So the cultivation of the “more” is not intelligence. The understanding of this whole process is self-knowledge. When one knows oneself as one is, without an accumulating centre, out of that self-knowing comes the intelligence which can meet life; and that intelligence is creative.
From the book Life Ahead, by J, Krishnamurti. Purchase here
VIDEO: Beauty is the quiet of the self forgotten
I and my mind are the same, there is no division between myself and my mind. The self that is envious or ambitious is exactly the same as the mind that says, ‘I must not be envious, I must be noble,’ only the mind has divided itself. Now, when I see that, what am I to do? If the mind is the product of environment, of envy, greed and conditioning, then what is it to do? Surely any movement it makes to free itself is still part of that conditioning. Any movement on the part of the mind to free itself from conditioning is an action of the self which wants to be free in order to be more happy, more at peace, nearer the right hand of God. So I see the whole of this, the ways and trickeries of the mind. Therefore the mind is quiet, it is completely still, there is no movement; and it is in that silence, in that stillness, that there is freedom from the self, from the mind itself. Surely the self exists only in the movement of the mind to gain something or to avoid something. If there is no movement of gaining or avoiding, the mind is completely quiet. Then only is there a possibility of being free from the totality of consciousness.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1955, Talk 8
The totality of the self
I do not know if you have noticed the constant effort that one is consciously or unconsciously making to express oneself, to be something, either socially, morally, or economically. This entails a great deal of striving; our whole life is based on the everlasting struggle to arrive, to achieve, to become. The more we struggle, the more significant and exaggerated the self becomes, with all its limitations, fears, ambitions, frustrations. There must have been times when each one has asked themselves whether it is not possible to be totally without the self.
Can we live in this world without any identification at all?
After all, we do have rare moments when the sense of the self is not. I am not talking of the transmutation of the self to a higher level, but of the simple cessation of the “me” with its anxieties, worries, fears – the absence of the self. One realises that such a thing is possible, and then one sets about deliberately, consciously, to eliminate the self. That is what organised religions try to do, to help each worshipper or believer to lose themselves in something greater, and thereby perhaps to experience some higher state. If you are not a so-called religious person, then you identify yourself with the State, with the country, and try to lose yourself in that identification, which gives you the feeling of greatness, of being something much larger than the petty little self. Or if we do not do that, we try to lose ourselves in social work of some kind, again with the same intention. We think that if we can forget ourselves, deny ourselves, put ourselves out of the way by dedicating our lives to something greater and more vital than ourselves, we shall perhaps experience bliss or happiness. And if we do none of these things, we hope to stop thinking about ourselves through the cultivation of virtue, through discipline, through control or through constant practice.
All this implies a ceaseless effort to be or to become something. Perhaps in listening to what is being said, we can together go into this whole process and discover for ourselves whether it is possible to wipe away the sense of the “me” without this fearful, restricting discipline, without this enormous effort to deny ourselves, this constant struggle to renounce our wants, our ambitions, in order to be something or to achieve some reality. I think in this lies the real issue. All effort implies motive. I make an effort to forget myself in something, in a ritual or ideology, because in thinking about myself I am unhappy. When I think about something else, I am more relaxed, my mind is quieter, I seem to feel better, I look at things differently. So I make an effort to forget myself. But behind my effort there is a motive, which is to escape from myself because I suffer; and that motive is essentially a part of the self. When I renounce this world and become a monk, or a very devout religious person, the motive is that I want to achieve something better; but that is still the process of the self. I may give up my name and just be a number in a religious order, but the motive is still there.
Is it possible to forget oneself without any motive? We can see very well that any motive has within it the seed of the self, with its anxiety, ambition, frustration, its fear of not being, and the immense urge to be secure. Can all that fall away easily, without any effort? Which means, really, can you and I, as individuals, live in this world without being identified with anything? I identify myself with my country, with my religion, with my family, with my name, because without identification I am nothing. Without a position, without power, without prestige of one kind or another, I feel lost; and so I identify myself with my name, with my family, with my religion, I join some organisation or become a monk – we all know the various types of identification that the mind clings to. But can we live in this world without any identification at all?
If we can think about this, if we can listen to what is being said, and at the same time be aware of our own intimations regarding the implications of identification, then I think we shall discover, if we are at all serious, that it is possible to live in this world without the nightmare of identification and the ceaseless struggle to achieve a result. Then I think knowledge has quite a different significance. At present we identify ourselves with our knowledge and use it as a means of self-expansion, just as we do with the nation, with a religion, or with some activity. Identification with the knowledge we have gained is another way of furthering the self. Through knowledge the ‘me’ continues its struggle to be something, and thereby perpetuates misery, pain.
Self-knowledge means going very deeply into oneself without assuming anything.
If we can very humbly and simply see the implications of all this, be aware, without assuming anything, of how our minds operate and what our thinking is based on, then I think we shall realise the extraordinary contradiction that exists in this whole process of identification. After all, it is because I feel empty, lonely, miserable, that I identify myself with my country, and this identification gives me a sense of wellbeing, a feeling of power. Or for the same reason I identify myself with a hero or with a saint. But if I can go into this process of identification very deeply, I will see that the whole movement of my thinking and my activity, however noble, is essentially based on the continuance of myself in one form or another.
Now, if I once see that, if I realise it, feel it with my whole being, then religion has quite a different meaning. Then religion is no longer a process of identifying myself with God, but rather the coming into being of a state in which there is only that reality, and not the “me”. But this cannot be a mere verbal assertion, it is not just a phrase to be repeated.
That is why it is very important to have self-knowledge, which means going very deeply into oneself without assuming anything, so that the mind has no deceptions, no illusions, so that it does not trick itself into visions and false states. Then perhaps it is possible for the enclosing process of the self to come to an end – but not through any form of compulsion or discipline, because the more you discipline the self, the stronger the self becomes. What is important is to go into all this very deeply and patiently, without taking anything for granted, so that one begins to understand the ways, the purposes, the motives and directions of the mind. Then the mind comes to a state in which there is no identification at all, and therefore no effort to be something; then there is the cessation of the self, and that is the real.
Although we may swiftly, fleetingly experience this state, the difficulty for most of us is that the mind clings to the experience and wants more of it; and the very wanting of more is again the beginning of the self. That is why it is very important, for those of us who are really serious in these matters, to be inwardly aware of the process of our own thinking, to silently observe our motives, our emotional reactions, and not merely say, ‘I know myself very well’ – for actually one does not. You may know your reactions and motives superficially, at the conscious level, but the self, the “me”, is a very complex affair, and to go into the totality of the self needs persistent and continuous inquiry without a motive, without an end in view. Such inquiry is surely a form of meditation.
That immense reality cannot be found through any organisation, through any church, through any book, through any person or teacher. One has to find it for oneself – which means that one has to be completely alone, uninfluenced. But we are all the result of so many influences, so many pressures, known and unknown; and that is why it is very important to understand these many pressures, influences, and be dissociated from them all, so that the mind becomes extraordinarily simple, clear. Then perhaps it will be possible to experience that which cannot be put into words.
Krishnamurti in Hamburg 1956, Talk 2
Krishnamurti Foundation Trust
Hampshire SO24 0LQ
Telephone: +44 1962 771525
Company Registration No. 1055588
Registered Charity No. 312865
© 2022 Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd