Freedom and the Field
Transcript of Dialogue 19, Madras, 16 January 1971
Questioner A: You were saying the brain cells themselves are conditioned by the past, the biological and historical past, and you said the structure of the brain cells could change. Could we go into that? The brain cells seem to have an activity of their own?
Krishnamurti: I was going to ask this morning whether the professionals have ever talked of the brain cells.
R: The Indian philosophers do not mention the brain cells.
Krishnamurti: Why? Is it because when they speak of the mind, they include the brain cells?
A: They say the mind is matter. They do not go further.
Krishnamurti: Everything is recorded in the brain cells. Every incident, every impression is imprinted in the brain; one can observe the vast number of impressions in oneself. You are asking how it is possible to go beyond, to make the brain cells quiet?
A: Normally you would think that the brain would be an instrument of the intellect.
Krishnamurti: But is not the intellect the instrument of the brain rather than the other way?
A: Is it?
Krishnamurti: Let us investigate it. The capacity to reason, to compare, to weigh, to judge, to understand, to investigate, to rationalize and to act is all part of memory. The intellect formulates ideas and from that there is action.
A: The materialistic view is that thought is to the brain what bile is to the liver and that the phenomenal manifestation is the result of the movement of the non-phenomenal. What the traditionalists say is that at death there is the complete cessation of the brain, but the complete cessation of the brain leaves, in a subtle way, a residue.
Krishnamurti: A thought?
A: The residue exists independently of the brain which has become dead. Therefore, it creates another focus. Out of its activity, something new emerges.
Krishnamurti: The brain cells are the repository of memory. The reaction of memory is thought. Thought can be independent of memory. It is like throwing a stone which is independent of the hand which throws it. Whether that thought incarnates is another matter.
A: I have a mug full of water; I pour the water into the bucket and then I take out the water again. It is not the same water I threw in. It is much more than what I put in.
Krishnamurti: This is fairly simple. What are you trying to say?
R: The brain cells and their activity are not the ultimate source of all this false movement.
A: You bring us to action. Now, we are all the time involved in activity. In discussing with you, we see activity leads to mischief. To see this is the beginning of action. Are we going to take it at the level of the brain cells or at the level of the residue; the residue which triggers the brain activity?
R: The traditional description is: I eat with my hands. There is a smell of food. I wash my hand, the odour remains. So the experience during life leaves a residue impression. The body dies but some kind of odour of experience remains which seeks more experience.
A: You were saying the intellect itself is the result of the activity of the brain. But with the intellect I see what effect the accumulations of the past, as memory, have left on me. Even when the intellect sees this, the activity of the brain cells is in motion.
Krishnamurti: Are you trying to say that the brain cells are receiving all the time; they are recording all the time, in the state of sleeping and in the state of waking. That recording is an independent movement. That independent movement creates the capacity to think, to rationalize. The intellect can then observe the operation of the movement of thought. It can observe how thought has created itself. And that is again part of the whole structure of the brain cells. What is the question?
A: How is the structure of the brain cells to change?
Krishnamurti: That is quite a different matter. The brain cells are recording all the time – perception, design, colour, everything is being registered. One element assumes a tremendous importance. And these brain cells, receiving impressions all the time, consciously or unconsciously, are building the capacity to think, to rationalize. The instrument of this rationalization is the intellect. The two are not separate.
A: Without the intellect, would there be rationalization?
Krishnamurti: Is the intellect independent of the brain cells? Is the capacity to rationalize independent of the brain cells or being a part of them can it ever be independent? You cannot rationalize independently, because the brain cells and the intellect are part of cause-effect. And can the intellect observe the background of memory, which is the brain?
I believe modern scientists are trying to isolate the various cells which contain memories and to explore the cells, to investigate biologically. You can do that under the microscope and if the intellect is the product of the brain, the intellect must always be conditioned by memory, by knowledge. It can project very far but it is still tethered. The intellect can seek freedom, it can never find it. It can be free only within the radius of its own tether; in itself it is limited. And freedom must be beyond this intellectual capacity, must be something outside the field.
Now, what is it that is aware of this whole phenomenon that the intellect can never be free? It can think it is free and it can project an idea, but it is not freedom because it is the product of the brain cells which are the residue of memory.
What is it that is aware that the intellect cannot go beyond the range of its own radius? I do not know if you understand the question.
A: The intellect itself can be aware of this.
Krishnamurti: I do not know. I am asking.
R: The intellect is a fragment.
Krishnamurti: There is no freedom within the field. Therefore the intellect says there must be freedom outside the field. It is still rationalization, and therefore its search outside is still within the field. Then what is it that is aware of the whole field? Is it still rationalization?
Krishnamurti: Why not? Is it not still rationalization? It was said that the brain cells are the recording machine. They are recording everything. That record has created an instrument which is the capacity to investigate, to explore, to criticize, which you can call the intellect. Then the intellect seeks freedom outside itself. It sees that there can be no freedom within the field and that freedom is outside. So it thinks it moves outside the field of itself. After having stated that, what happens? It sees that whatever movement it makes is within the field. Whatever movement springs from it is within the field; extend the field horizontally or vertically but it is still within the field. Therefore it is always within a prison.
The intellect sees that, observes that, explores that. You are now asking how the brain cells are to change? Proceed.
This is the movement man has been caught in. And not knowing how to get out of it, he has invented the atman.
A: The Buddhists say this process which has come into existence with a cause, has an end and the perception of it is a dead-end.
Buddhism maintains that the perception of the dead-end (they use the word pudgala) is to see, that in this there is no permanency, and that rebirth is the rebirth of the ignorance of this process. So when you observe this process as impermanent, then it must create absolutely no attachment to this process. All that is given to you is to see the impermanence, and seeing this, there is no attachment to this: and this is the dead-end. Contemplate this.
The Buddha saw only once – disease, old age and death. Seeing it once, he never turned back. The boy Krishnamurti also never looked back. The Buddha said, see the impermanency of it, in that, there is no effort at all. Krishnamurti says just “see”.
Krishnamurti: Then what is the question? How are these recording instruments with their own capacity, their own movements, how are they to switch off and enter a different dimension, even for a short period? You cannot go back to the Upanishads. In that is authority.
A: We come to the point where the intellect realizes that whatever it does is within the field and therefore, what?
Krishnamurti: You see, the dead-end man has said that and stops there. But another dead-end man says I must have something more; and so the atman comes in.
A: The Buddhists said there is no soul. That which putrefies will end. It will terminate. Do not get attached. That is all that you can do. It leads to the void, or shunyata.
R: The Vedantins also said the same thing.
A: They invented maya. It absorbed the whole of their reasoning.
Krishnamurti: The distinction between the two is non-existent. The intellect itself says, this movement is within this field. Is there any other movement? It does not say there is or there is not. It cannot rationalize, because if it says there is, it is back in the same field – the positive or negative.
The question then is, is there a movement other than this movement? Otherwise there is no freedom. A thing that functions from a centre within its own radius, however wide, is never free. (Pause)
What is freedom?
A: When it asks is there another movement, I cannot know.
Krishnamurti: I know this is prison. I do not know what freedom is.
A: You have taken away one confusion, that all is maya. Tradition has made that a conclusion.
Krishnamurti: My question is, is there freedom at all? Tradition would say yes, there is moksha. It is all immature.
A: Faced with this question, I have absolutely no instrument now to deal with this.
Krishnamurti: No, you have the instrument of rationalization, the intellect. Is there no validity in this enquiry? I am asking, if there is no freedom within this field, then what is freedom?
A: The intellect can never know.
Krishnamurti: Do not say it cannot know. Intellect can only know freedom within the field, like a man knowing freedom within a prison. It then asks what is freedom? If this is not “it”, then what is freedom? Is there such a thing at all? And if there is no such thing, let us make the best of this – more toilets, more hangers, more rooms, make the interior perfect. So man can never be free.
The intellect rejects that there can be no freedom because it is inconceivable that there is no way out of this prison. The clever brains invent maya, atman, brahman. Now, I am asking myself, if there is no freedom, is the mind everlastingly condemned to live within this field? What is the point of it all? The communists, the materialists say you cannot get out. (Pause)
I have got it: I am not concerned whether the brain cells change or not. I see that this concern about freedom, freedom which is not a formula, which is not a conclusion, is not freedom. Right?
Then the mind says if this is not, then what is freedom?
Then it says I do not know.
It sees that in that non-knowing, there is an expectation to know.
When I say I do not know what freedom is, there is a waiting and an expectation to find out. That means the mind does not say it does not know, but is waiting for something to happen.
I see that and I discard that. (Pause)
So I really do not know.
I am not waiting, expecting. I am not hoping something will happen, some answer will come from an outside agency. I am not expecting a thing.
There it is. There is the clue.
I know this is not “it”. There is no freedom here. There is reformation, but not freedom. Reformation can never bring freedom. Man revolts against the whole idea that he can never be free, that he is condemned to live in this world. It is not intellect that revolts, but the whole organism, the whole perception. Right? Therefore it says that as this is not “it”, I do not know what freedom is. I do not expect a thing, I do not hope or try to find what freedom is. I really do not know.
That not-knowing is freedom. Knowing is prison. This is logically right. I do not know what is going to happen tomorrow. Therefore I am free of the past, free of this field.
The knowing of the field is the prison, the not-knowing of the field is also the prison.
Sir, look, I know yesterday. I know what happened yesterday. The knowing of what happened yesterday is the prison.
So, the mind that lives in a state of not-knowing is a free mind. Right?
The traditionalists went wrong when they said do not be attached. You see, they denied all relationships. They could not solve the problem of relationships, but they said do not be attached and so broke away from all relationships. They said “Be detached”, therefore they withdrew into isolation.
To live with the knowledge of this field is prison. And not to know the prison is also not freedom.
And so a mind that lives in the known, is always in prison. That is all.
Can the mind say I do not know, which means the yesterday has ended?
It is the knowledge of continuity which is the prison.
A: To pursue this requires ruthlessness.
Krishnamurti: Do not use the word ruthlessness. It requires tremendous delicacy. When I said I really do not know, I really do not know. Full stop. See what it does. It means a real humility, a sense of austerity. Then, yesterday has ended. So the man who has ended yesterday is really beginning again. Therefore he has to be austere. I really do not know; what a marvellous thing that is. I do not know if I may die tomorrow. Therefore there is no possibility of having any conclusion at any time, which means, never to have any burden. The burden is the knowing.
A: Can one come to this point and stay there?
Krishnamurti: You do not have to stay.
A: The mind has a way of switching back. Words take you only to a point. There is no room for switching back.
Krishnamurti: Go slow. Do not put it that way. We see this. We see the man who speaks of detachment, we see the man who invents the atman. We come along and say, look, both are wrong. In this field there is no freedom.
Then we ask, is there freedom at all? I say I really do not know. It does not mean I have forgotten the past. In the “I do not know” there is no inclusion of the past nor a discarding of the past, nor a utilization of the past.
All that it says is, in the past there is no freedom. The past is knowledge, the past is accumulation, the past is the intellect. In that there is no freedom.
In asking is there freedom at all, man says “I really do not know”. He is free of the known.
R: But the structure of the brain cells remains.
Krishnamurti: They become extraordinarily flexible. Being flexible they can reject, accept; there is movement.
A: We see something as action. So far we only know activity. We can never reject activity. It goes on. In laying down bare activity, it ceases to be a barrier to action. The normal day to day living is a process which goes on.
Krishnamurti: Are you asking what is action? What is action to a man who does not know? The man who knows is acting from knowledge and his action, his activity is always within the prison, projecting that prison into the future. It is always within the field of the known.
What is action to the man who says I do not know? He does not even ask, because he is acting.
You are missing something, which is, not to know whether tomorrow is there. Can you go into that? I will have my meal in the afternoon, I will go for a walk; apart from that all action to a man who knows is total inaction; his action is always mischievous. The activist is always committed, involved. You see action is relationship in the field of the known. It is there in detachment, in attachment, in dominance, in subservience. Life is relationship. Have the professionals talked about relationship?
Krishnamurti: To them relationship meant attachment and therefore they talked of detachment. But I have to live in this world. Even in the Himalayas, I need food. There is relationship. That may be the reason why the whole Indian movement of detachment has made the mind so stupid, repetitive.
A: The Buddha in his first sermon said that both detachment and attachment are ignoble. The two represented the Hindu idea of running away from the world.
Krishnamurti: Why did they not consider relationship? When the sannyasi renounces the world he cannot renounce relationship. He may not sleep with a woman but he cannot renounce relationship. I am asking myself, if you deny relationship, action becomes meaningless. What is action without relationship? Is it doing something mechanical?
A: Action is relationship.
Krishnamurti: Relationship is the primary thing. Otherwise what exists? If my father did not sleep with my mother, I would not exist. So relationship is the basic movement of life. Relationship within the field of knowledge is deadly, destructive, corrupt. That is the worldly.
So, what is action? We have separated action from relationships: as social action, political action, you follow? We have not solved this problem of relationship. We discard it because it is too deadly to discuss relationship, because I know I have a wife and something may happen. So I do not want to discuss it. All that I say is I must be detached. If you accept all living is relationship, then what is action? There is one kind of action of technology, of mechanical action, but every other action is non-mechanical. Otherwise I reduce relationship into turning the wheel. That is why we have denied love.
A: Can we examine our relationship with nature?
Krishnamurti: What is my relationship with nature – the birds, sky, trees, flowers, the moving waters? That is my life. It is not just relationship between man and woman, but al1 this is part of my life. I am talking of relationship to everything. How can I be attached to the forest, to the river? I can be attached to the word, but not to the waters. You see, we miss the whole thing because we confuse the word with the thing.
A: Is it a question of re-awakening sensitivity?
Krishnamurti: No. The question is what is relationship? Be related to everything. Relationship means care; care means attention; attention means love. That is why relationship is the basis of everything. If you miss that, you miss the whole thing. Yes, Sir, this is the prison. To know is the prison and to live in the knowing is also the prison.