Krishnamurti: Talk 3
Transcript of Talk 3, New York, 24 May 1954
As I was saying yesterday and the day before, I do not think that ideas fundamentally change our activities, though they may modify them. Ideas play a certain superficial part, but they obviously do not affect the deeper motives, purposes, the things that we really want, they do not bring about a radical transformation or revolution in our attitude towards life. And so it seems to me that what is important is to understand the total process of our thinking, of our consciousness, and perhaps in that very understanding a change can take place, not according to any particular pattern of thought, or according to any desire, but a change from the known into the unknown.
When we are confronted, as we are, with an enormous crisis which is probably unprecedented in history, it seems to me that a transformation, a radical revolution is necessary, but not in the political or the economic sense, because I do not think we can meet this crisis with ideas. A totally different process must be born in us in order to meet this crisis, and that birth cannot be brought about by the conscious mind.
I would like, if I can, this evening to discuss the problem of what it is that we are seeking, what it is that most of us are groping after in trying to find out how to meet this constant movement of life. Life actually has no resting place, though we try to enclose it by our own conditioned thinking, by our peculiar upbringing as Christians, as Catholics, as Protestants, as Hindus, or what you will.
It seems to me that it is very important to listen to this talk, not in order to gather information, knowledge, or more ideas, or in order to refute what is said by cunning arguments, greater information and knowledge, but rather to investigate together the process of our own thinking. And as I am talking, if we can follow together the ways of our own mind, which is really self-knowledge, then perhaps that transformation, that radical change can come into being without volition. Any act of will is conditioned by our experience, by our education, by our social influences, and being conditioned, limited, it cannot bring about this change, however much it may try. And yet that is what we are used to: this constant effort, this constant struggle of ambition, of trying to change, or trying to bring about a reformation. But if we can approach this whole problem of living, this extraordinary crisis, without the action of will, then perhaps we shall be able to bring about a different understanding, a different set of values, values which are not based on nationalism or on any particular religion.
To understand this freedom from will, one must understand, follow the movements of one’s own thinking, and that process is not to be learned from any book, it does not depend on any psychologist, but one has to discover it anew every day in one’s relationship with life. And to discover it, there must surely be the understanding of how the mind is constantly seeking some form of security. That is what most of us want, is it not? We want to be secure in order to have peace. We want to be secure in order to be able to fulfil, to live our beliefs, our morality. The various efforts that we make to achieve, to fulfil, do they not all imply the fundamental demand of the mind to be safe, to have a security in which there will be no disturbance, an experience or a form of knowledge which will be permanent, unchanging? Some kind of permanency is what most of us want; that is what most people are seeking, is it not? There is this urge to find security, security in relationship, security in things, in property, in people; and if it is not found in people or in property, then we turn to ideals, self-projected urges, demands, and there take shelter, either in the idea of God, in a belief, in a dogma, or in virtue.
When you look into your own mind closely you will find, I think, this constant demand to be secure. But does peace come with security? Or must one find peace first, which will then bring security? The effort to be something is a form of ambition, because social ambition and so-called spiritual ambition are the same, and as long as there is this constant effort to be something, which brings about the importance of the self, surely there cannot be peace. And yet, if we observe the ways of our thinking, our searching, our beliefs, they all lead to this one constant demand to have some kind of permanence. And when that permanency is disturbed, as it is being disturbed all the time, we develop a resistance which creates innumerable problems.
So, is it not important to find out for ourselves if there is such a thing as permanency? The mind, the self, the “me”, is constantly demanding, seeking to establish permanency for itself through memory, through experience, through relationship, through the so-called search for reality. The constant urge of the mind is for permanency, and effort is made to maintain this permanency, and so we develop will. The will is essentially the “me”, the self, and whether it pursues virtue or denies virtue, or creates various forms of experience for itself, its constant struggle is for permanency, security. Identification with any form of thought, with any idea, or experience, will give this sense of security, of permanency, and that is why we identify ourselves with a nation, with a group of people, with a religion, with knowledge, or with an experience. This constant process of identification with something is all that we know, this constant battle is our life, and our whole culture, all our values are based on it.
Now, it seems to me that peace is not the result of this battle. A mind that is ambitious, a mind that is identified with any particular group, nation, class, belief, religion, or dogma, is incapable of having peace, because it is seeking security and thereby emphasizing, strengthening the will of the “me”, of the self, which must naturally be an everlasting conflict.
So, if one is to see that, not merely as an idea, but actually, as one is listening one must be aware of this process of the mind that is seeking. And what is it that we are seeking? Some kind of fulfilment, is it not? A fulfilment in which there will be some permanency. There is this constant urge to fulfil, to be, to achieve, and after achieving, to further achieve. And a mind which is constantly seeking, struggling, endeavouring to understand, to establish itself in some form of permanence, can such a mind be at peace at any time? And is it not essential that the mind should have complete tranquillity without effort, so that that creative thing which we call God, or what you like, can come into being?
You see, what I mean is that all our life is a struggle; and through struggle will we find that thing which we call the real? After all, that is what we all want: a permanent state of bliss, of happiness, call it God, truth, or by whatever name you will. But that is a thing which cannot be imagined by the mind, because the mind is the result of time, and any projection of time, of the mind, is still limited, it is the result of the past, and therefore there is nothing new in it, it is not the real, the creative.
Now, can all of that process, – not only the conscious but the unconscious struggle to be, to fulfil, the ambition which has actually created such havoc in the world – can that whole process come to an end so that the mind can be truly peaceful? It is only then that there is a possibility of true security.
You see, what is happening in the world is that each individual is identifying himself with a nation, with a group, with a religion, and so creating for himself an artificial permanency, a security as opposed to other nations, a group opposed to other groups, because each one of us wants to be identified with something greater, something nobler, something much more immense than the petty little “me”. The State, the belief, the religion, offers an escape from the “me”, and through this escape we hope to find a permanent peace. But that permanency is the result of our desire to be secure in some form of identification, and therefore there is a constant battle going on between individuals, between groups, religions and nations.
As I was saying yesterday, what is important in listening to what is being said is that you should not merely accept or reject, but actually listen without any form of judgment – which is not to put oneself in a hypnotic state. To listen without judgment is to listen in order to find out, which means listening to the operation of one’s own mind, to one’s thoughts, so that the mind becomes astonishingly separate and apart. When the mind is still, not artificially made to be still, then you will find that there is a sense of total insecurity in which there is complete security, because there is the absence of the “me”, of the self which is constantly battling. That is why it is so very important to have self-knowledge, to know for oneself the many thoughts, the many urges, the ambitions, the frustrations in which one is caught, and be aware of them.
When most of us are aware, our awareness consists in judging, condemning, choosing, accepting or denying. That is not awareness, that is merely the action of will upon thought. But if you can observe, be aware without any choice, just see what is happening, then you will find that the whole process of the unconscious, which is hidden, dark, kept underground, will come to the surface through dreams, through hints, through various forms of spontaneous reaction, and as they arise they too can be observed without any sense of condemnation or justification, without acceptance or rejection. Then the mind is not merely an instrument of evaluation, of analysis; and such a mind, being no longer moved by the will of the “me”, of the self, with all its conditionings, demands and pursuits, is really still. In that stillness, every thought, every response, every reaction, every movement of the self is turned away, and that, it seems to me, is important if we are to solve any of our problems in life.
The understanding of the “me”. the understanding of oneself, is not a thing that can be learned immediately, all at once. But to say, “I shall learn it gradually” is again wrong, because it is not through the process of time that one understands. You see, we think understanding comes through accumulation, the accumulation of experience or knowledge. Does understanding come through knowledge, or does understanding come when the mind is no longer burdened by the past?
As I say, experiment, think as I am talking, directly experience what I am saying and you will find out for yourself. You may have a problem, and the mind has gone into it, worried over it; but the moment the mind is still, not concerned, as it were, with the problem, then a feeling of understanding comes into being. In the same way, if one can understand the mind, if one can simply be aware of its movements when one is riding in a bus, when one is sitting at a table and talking, the way one talks, the way one gossips; the escapes, the worship, the prayers, then all those things reveal the depth of one’s consciousness. Surely, to find that which is eternal, that which is beyond the futile projections of the mind, the mind must come to an end, not artificially, not through any discipline, but through awareness of the process of thinking. So, the mind itself, though capable of the highest reason, in its reason comes to an end; and then only is it possible to have that inward peace which alone can stop these monstrous wars and bring salvation to the world.
But the difficulty is that we say, “We are nobodies, we are just ordinary people. What can we do?” I think we all ought to be very thankful that we are people without any power, without any position, without any authority, because those who are in power, who have position or authority, do not want peace. They want political peace, which is entirely different. And I think it depends on us, who are very simple people, though we have a great many conflicts and miseries, though we are in travail – it is for us to start, as it were, in our own backyard to experiment with ourselves, to know the various activities of our mind so that each one of us becomes a centre of real peace, not the phony peace which the armies and governments create between two wars.
Without that real peace there will be no security, there will be only fear. Fear is the very nature of the self, for it is the self that is being threatened in different ways continuously, especially in crises; and being frightened, we have no answer, we run away into various forms of escape, or turn to leaders, political or religious. This problem cannot be solved through any leader, through any dogma. No army, no nation, no idea is going to bring peace to the world. When each one of us understands oneself as a total process – not merely the economic problem, or the mass problem, but the whole process of ourselves as individual people – in the understanding of that process there comes peace. It is only then that there can be security. But if we put security first, if we regard it as the most important thing in life, then there will be no peace; there will be only darkness and fear.
As I was saying yesterday, I shall be answering some questions; but may I again point out, that what is important is to understand the problem, and not seek an answer to the question. If we seek an answer, it is an escape from the problem; but in understanding the problem itself, the problem ceases. So, there are only problems, not answers. It is the immature mind that seeks answers. If we know how to think, how to look at the problem – the problem of war, the problem of relationship, it does not matter what the problem is – if we can look at it and not try to dissolve it or find a solution for it, then we shall discover that the mind itself is the creator of the problem; but that requires a great deal of understanding, penetration, insight and awareness. You see, most of us are crippled with ideas and explanations; we know so much, and that very knowledge is impeding a simple, direct understanding.
So, in discussing the problem, I am not answering it, but rather we are exploring it together. After all, that is the function of talking things over. You are not merely listening to a talk, but together we are trying to find out how to resolve the problem, and that requires a great deal of interest, attention.
Question:I gave my son the very best of education, and yet he does not seem to be happy and cannot find his place in society. What is the cause of his failure?
Krishnamurti: Why should one fit into society? (Laughter). It is not just something to be laughed off. That is the wish of every parent: that his son or daughter should fit into society. Why? Why should the child fit into society? What is this marvellous society that we have? Please, this is not a mere superficial remark to be brushed off by laughing it away. In India they want their children to fit into society. Here it is the same. In Russia it is the same. Everywhere we want the present state to continue, and we want our children to fit into it.
What is this thing called society? Let us think about it simply, not in the grand economic or philosophical sense. What is this society? This society is the outcome of acquisitiveness, of ambition, greed, envy, of the individual’s pursuit of his own fulfilment, and of his search, his everlasting search to find some permanency in this impermanent world. Of course, in this society there are also passing joys, various forms of amusement, and so on. That, crudely, in a few words, is our society, and we want our sons to fit into it and make a success. We worship success. Our education is a process of teaching children to conform, is it not? It conditions them to fit into a certain pattern, it teaches them certain techniques so they will have jobs. And there is a constant threat of war.
So, that is our society. And why do we educate our children? What is it all about? We never investigate. What is the purpose of education if our sons are ultimately going to be killed or kill others in a war?
Surely, it is important that we think of this whole thing totally anew, and not do patchwork reform here and there. Should we not try to solve our problems, not in terms of America or Russia, or any other particular country, but as a whole? Should we not approach this problem of man’s existence, not as Americans or as Englishmen, but in terms of human relationship? Until we do that we shall have constant wars, there will be starvation in the world. There is starvation, perhaps not in America, but in Asia, and until that problem is solved, there will be no peace here. And you cannot solve it as an American or a Russian, as a communist or a capitalist; you can solve it only as a human being.
Please don’t brush all this off as though you had heard it ten thousand times before. If you really understand this as a simple individual, then you will be solving the problem. But if you are merely concerned with trying to help your son to fulfil himself in a particular society, if you are merely concerned with a particular problem – which of course must be dealt with, but which cannot be dealt with unless you tackle the problem as a whole – , then you will find no answer, and therefore you will have more complications, more misery.
So, we have to tackle really fundamentally the problem of what is education. Is it merely to teach a technique so that the young person will have a job? Or is it to create an atmosphere of true freedom, not to do what one likes, but freedom to cultivate that intelligence which will meet every experience every conditioning influence – meet it, understand it, and go beyond it? That requires a great deal of perception, a great deal of insight and intelligence on the part of each one of us. But, you see, we are all so frightened, because we want to be secure. The moment we seek security, the shadow of fear is cast, and in trying to overcome that fear we further condition ourselves, we condition our minds and create a society which is bound to limit our thinking. And the more efficient a society becomes, the more conditioned it is.
To really tackle the problem of what is true education, to understand the whole significance of education, why we are educated, what it is all about, is an immense thing, not just to be talked about for a few minutes. You may have read or be capable of reading many books you may have great knowledge, an infinite variety of explanations; but surely that is not freedom. Freedom comes with the understanding of oneself, and it is only such freedom that can meet without fear every crisis, every influence that conditions; but that requires a great deal of penetration, meditation.
Question: How can I have peace of mind in this disturbed world?
Krishnamurti: Probably, if we want peace, it is of the kind that is a complete escape from the world, and to escape is something which most of us can successfully do. We escape through the radio, through dogma, through belief, through activity. To become completely absorbed in some form of activity gives us what we consider to be peace. Surely, that is not peace. You see, peace is not the opposite of disturbance. But if I can understand what causes disturbance and not seek peace, if I can understand what is the process that brings about disturbance in me, in my relationships, in my values, and therefore in society – if I can understand the whole process of disturbance, then in freeing myself from that disturbance, there is peace. But to seek peace without understanding the total process of myself, which is the cause of disturbance, merely becomes an illusion. That is why the people who meditate in order to be peaceful, who read, who do various practices, who take drugs in order to be peaceful, are really seeking sleep.
What brings about peace, real tranquillity and stillness of the mind, is to understand the total process of oneself – which is not to seek peace, but to understand the “me” that is causing the disturbance. This understanding of the “me”, of the self, with all its ambitions, its envies, greeds, acquisitiveness, violence – to understand all that is the way of meditation, is it not? It is the meditation in which there is no condemnation, no choice, but heightened awareness, an observation without any sense of identification.
You see, for most of us peace is a withdrawal, it means entering into a cave of darkness, or holding on to some belief, some dogma, in which we find security; but that is not peace. Peace comes only with the total understanding of oneself, which is self-knowledge, and that self-knowledge cannot be bought. You need no book, no church, no priest, no analyst. You can observe the process of yourself in the mirror of your relationship with your boss, with your family, with your society. If the mind is alert, watchful, without choice, then there is freedom from the limitation of the self, and therefore there is peace, which brings its own security.