Looking at the Whole of Existence

From Krishnamurti’s Book BEYOND VIOLENCE

I would like to talk about the whole problem of existence. Probably you know as well as the speaker what is actually taking place in the world – utter chaos, disorder, violence, extreme forms of brutality, riots ending up in war. Our lives are extraordinarily difficult, confused and contradictory, not only in ourselves – inside the skin as it were – but also outwardly. There is utter destruction. All the values are changing from day to day, there is no respect, no authority, and nobody has faith in anything whatsoever; neither in the Church, nor in the establishment, nor in any philosophy. So one is left absolutely to oneself to find out what one is to do in this chaotic world. What is the right action? – if there is such a thing as right action.

I am sure each one of us asks what is the right conduct. This is a very serious question, and I hope those of you who are here are really serious, because this is not a gathering for philosophical or religious entertainment. We are not indulging in any theory, in any philosophy, or bringing from the East some exotic ideas. What we are going to do together, is to examine the facts as they are, very closely, objectively, non-sentimentally, unemotionally. And to explore in that way, there must be freedom from prejudice, freedom from any conditioning, from any philosophy, from any belief; we are going to explore together very slowly, patiently, hesitantly, to find out. It is like good scientists looking through a microscope and seeing exactly the same thing. Because if you are a scientist in the laboratory using a microscope, you must show what you see to another scientist, so that both of you see exactly what is. And that is what we are going to do. There is not your microscope, or the speaker’s: there is only one precision-instrument through which we are going to observe and learn in the observation – not learn according to your temperament, your conditioning, or to your particular form of belief, but merely observe what actually is, and thereby learn. And in the learning is the doing – learning is not separate from action.

So what we are going to do first, is to understand what it means to communicate. Inevitably we have to use words, but it is much more important to go beyond the words. Which means that you and the speaker are going to take a journey of investigation together, where each one of us is in constant communion with the other; that is sharing together, exploring together, observing together. For that word communication means partaking, sharing. Therefore there is no teacher or disciple, there is not the speaker to whom you listen, either agreeing or disagreeing – which would be absurd. If we are communicating, then there is no question of agreement or disagreement, because both of us are looking, both of us are examining, not from your point of view, or from the speaker’s point of view.

That is why it is very important to find out how to observe, how to look with clear eyes, how to listen so that there is no distortion. It is your responsibility as well as the speaker’s to share together – we are going to work together. This must be very clearly understood from the beginning: we are not indulging in any form of sentimentality or emotionalism.

If this is clear, that you and the speaker, being free from our prejudices, from our beliefs, from our particular conditioning and knowledge, are free to examine, then we can proceed; bearing in mind that we are using a precision instrument – the microscope – and that you and the speaker must see the same thing; otherwise it will not be possible to communicate. As this is a very serious matter, you must not only be free to examine it but free to apply it, free to test it out in daily life; not keep it merely as a theory or as a principle towards which you are working.

Now let us look at what is actually going on in the world; there is violence of every kind, not only outwardly but also in our relationship with each other. There are infinite nationalistic and religious divisions between people, each against the other, both politically and individually. Seeing this vast confusion, this immense sorrow, what are you to do? Can you look to anybody to tell you what to do? – to the priest, to the specialist, to the analyst? They have not brought about peace or happiness, joy, freedom to live. So where are you to look? If you assume the responsibility of your own authority as an individual, because you no longer have any faith in outward authority – we are using the word ‘authority’ advisedly in a particular sense of that word – then you as an individual, will you look for your own authority inwardly?

The word ‘individuality’ means ‘indivisible’, not fragmented. Individuality means a totality, the whole, and the word ‘whole’ means healthy, holy. But you are not an individual, you are not sane, because you are broken up, fragmented in yourself; you are in contradiction with yourself, separated, therefore you are not an individual at all. So out of this fragmentation how can you ask that one fragment assume authority over the other fragments?

Please do see this very clearly, this is what we are examining; because we see that education, science, organized religion, propaganda, politics, have failed. They have not brought about peace, though technologically man has advanced incredibly. Yet man remains as he has been for thousands of years, fighting, greedy, envious, violent, and burdened with great sorrow. That is the fact; that is not an assumption.

So to find out what to do in a world that is so confused, so brutal, so utterly unhappy, we have to examine not only what living is – actually as it is – but also we have to understand what love is; and what it means to die. Also we have to understand what man has been trying to find out for thousands of years: if there is a reality which transcends all thought. Until you understand the complexity of this whole picture, to say, ‘What am I to do with regard to a particular fragment?’ has no meaning whatsoever. You have to understand the whole of existence, not just a part of it; however tiresome, however agonizing, however brutal that part is, you have to see the whole picture – the picture of what love is, what meditation is, if there is such a thing as God, what it means to live. We have to understand this phenomenon of existence as a whole. Only then can you ask the question, ‘What am I to do?’ And if you see this whole picture, probably you will never ask that question – then you will be living and then the living is the right action.

So first we are going to see what is living, and what is not living. We have to understand what that word ‘to observe’ means. To see, to hear and to learn – what does it mean ‘to see’ ?

When we are together looking at something, it doesn’t mean ‘togetherness’. It means that you and the speaker are going to look. What does that word ‘to look’ mean? It is quite a difficult thing to look; one has to have the art. Probably you have never looked at a tree; because when you do look, all your botanical knowledge comes in and prevents you from observing it actually as it is. Probably you have never looked at your wife or your husband or your boyfriend or girlfriend, because you have an image about her or him. The image that you have built about her or him, or about yourself, is going to prevent you from looking. Therefore when you look there is distortion, there is contradiction. So when you look there must be a relationship between the observer and the thing observed. Please do listen to this because it needs great care. You know, when you care for something you do observe very closely; which means you have great affection; then you are capable of observing.

So looking together means to observe with care, with affection, so that we see the same thing together. But first, there must be freedom from the image that you have about yourself. Please, do it as it is being said; the speaker is merely a mirror and therefore what you see is yourself in the mirror. So the speaker is in no way important; what is important is what you see in that mirror. And to see clearly, precisely, without any distortion, every form of image must go – the image that you are an American or a Catholic, that you are a rich man or a poor man, all your prejudices must go. And all that goes the moment you see clearly what is in front of you, because what you see is much more important than what you ‘should do’ from what you see. The moment you see very clearly, there is action from that clarity. It is only the mind that is chaotic, confused, choosing, that says, ‘What am I to do?’ There is the danger of nationalism, the division between peoples; that division is the greatest danger because in division there is insecurity, there is war, there is uncertainty. But when the mind sees the danger of division very clearly – not intellectually, not emotionally, but actually sees it – then there is a totally different kind of action.

So it is very important to learn to see, to observe. And what is it we are observing? Not the outer phenomenon only, but the inward state of man. Because unless there is a fundamental, radical revolution in the psyche, in the very root of one’s being, mere trimming, mere legislation on the periphery, has very little meaning. So what we are concerned with is whether man, as he is, can radically bring about a transformation in himself; not according to a particular theory, a particular philosophy, but by seeing actually what he is. That very perception of what he is, will bring about the radical change. And to see what he is, is of the highest importance – not what he thinks he is, not what he is told that he is.

There is a difference between when you are told that you are hungry and actually being hungry. The two states are entirely different; in one you know actually through your own direct perception and feeling that you are hungry, then you act. But if you are told by somebody that you might be hungry, quite a different activity takes place. So similarly, one has to observe and see for oneself actually what one is. And that is what we are going to do: know oneself. It has been stated that to know oneself is the highest wisdom, but very few of us have done it. We have not the patience, the intensity or the passion, to find out what we are. We have the energy, but we have given that energy over to others; we have to be told what we are.

We are going to find this out by observing ourselves, because the moment there is a radical change in what we are, we shall bring about peace in the world. We shall live freely – not do what we like, but live happily, joyously. A man who has great joy in his heart has no hatred, no violence, he will not bring about the destruction of another. Freedom means no condemnation whatsoever of what you see in yourself. Most of us condemn, or explain away or justify – we never look without justification or condemnation. Therefore the first thing to do – and probably it’s the last thing to do – is to observe without any form of condemnation. This is going to be very difficult, because all our culture, our tradition, is to compare, justify or condemn what we are. We say ‘this is right’, ‘this is wrong’, ‘this is true’, ‘this is false’, ‘this is beautiful’, which prevents us from actually observing what we are.

Please listen to this: what you are is a living thing, and when you condemn what you see in yourself, you are condemning it with a memory which is dead, which is the past. Therefore there is a contradiction between the living and the past. To understand the living, the past must go, so that you can look. You are doing this now, as we are talking; you are not going back home to think about it. Because the moment you think about it you are already finished. This is not group therapy, not a public confession – which is immature. What we are doing is to explore into ourselves like scientists, not depending on anybody. If you trust anybody you are lost, whether you trust your analyst, your priest, or your own memory, your own experience; because that is the past. And if you are looking with the eyes of the past at the present, then you will never understand what the living thing is.

So we are examining together this living thing, which is you, life, whatever that is; that means we are looking at this phenomenon of violence, first at the violence in ourselves and then at the outward violence. When we have understood the violence in ourselves then it may not be necessary to look at the outward violence, because what we are inwardly, we project outwardly. By nature, through heredity, through so-called evolution, we have brought about this violence in ourselves. That is a fact: we are violent human beings. There are a thousand explanations why we are violent. We will not indulge in explanations, because we can get lost, with each specialist saying, ‘This is the cause of violence’. The more explanations we have, the more we think we understand, but the thing remains as it is. So please bear in mind all the time that the description is not the described; what is explained is not what is. There are many explanations which are fairly simple and obvious – overcrowded cities, overpopulation, heredity and all the rest of it; we can brush all that aside. The fact remains that we are violent people. From childhood we are brought up to be violent, competitive, beastly to one another. We have never faced the fact. What we have said is: ‘What shall we do about violence?’

Please do listen to this with care, that is with affection, with attention. The moment you put that question: ‘What shall we do about it?’ your answer will always be according to the past. Because that is the only thing you know: your whole existence is based on the past, your life is the past. If you have ever looked at yourself properly, you will see to what an extraordinary extent you are living in the past. All thinking – into which we shall go presently – is the response of the past, the response of memory, knowledge and experience. So thinking is never new, never free. With this process of thinking you look at life, and therefore when you ask, ‘What shall I do about violence?’ you have already escaped from the fact.

So can we learn, observe, what violence is? Now, how do you look at it? Do you condemn it? Do you justify it? If you do not, then how do you look at it? Please do this as we are talking about it – it is tremendously important. Do you look at this phenomenon, which is yourself as a violent human being, as an outsider looking within? Or do you look at it without the outsider, without the censor? When you look, do you look as an observer, different from the thing you look at – as one who says, ‘I am not violent, but I want to get rid of violence’? When you look that way you are assuming one fragment to be more important than the other fragments.

When you look as one fragment looking at the other fragments, then that one fragment has assumed authority, and that fragment causes contradiction and therefore conflict. But if you can look without any fragment, then you look at the whole without the observer. Are you following all this? So sir, do it! Because then you will see an extraordinary thing taking place, then you will have no conflict whatsoever. Conflict is what we are, what we live with. At home, in the office, when you are asleep, all the time, we are in conflict, there is constant battle and contradiction.

So until you understand the root of this contradiction yourself – not according to the speaker, not according to anybody – you can have no life of peace and happiness and joy. Therefore it is essential that you understand what causes conflict and therefore contradiction, what the root of it is. The root is this division between the observer and the thing observed. The observer says, ‘I must get rid of violence’, or ‘I am living a life of non-violence’ when he is violent – which is a pretence, hypocrisy. So to find out what causes this division is of the highest importance.

You are listening to a speaker who has no authority, who is not your teacher, because there is no guru, there is no follower; there are only human beings, trying to discover a life without conflict, to live peacefully, to live with a great abundance of love. But if you follow anybody you are destroying yourself and the other. (Applause.) Please do not clap. I am not trying to entertain you, I am not looking for your applause. What is important is that you and I understand, and live a different kind of life – not this stupid life that one leads. And your applause, your agreement or disagreement does not change that fact.

It is very important to understand for oneself, to see, through one’s own observation, that conflict must exist everlastingly as long as there is a division between the observer and the observed. And in you there is this division, as the ‘I’, as the ‘self’, as the ‘me’ that is trying to be different from somebody else. Is this clear? Clarity means that you see it for yourself. This is not just a verbal clarity, hearing a set of words or ideas; it means that you yourself see very clearly, and therefore without choice, how this division between the observer and the observed creates mischief, confusion and sorrow. So when you are violent, can you look at that violence in yourself without the memory, the justification, the assertion that you must not be violent – but merely look? Which means that you must be free of the past. To look means that you must have great energy, you must have intensity. You must have passion, otherwise you cannot look. Unless you have great passion and intensity you cannot look at the beauty of a cloud, or the marvellous hills that you have here. In the same way, to look at oneself without the observer needs tremendous energy and passion. And this passion, this intensity, is destroyed when you begin to condemn, to justify, when you say, ‘I must not’, ‘I must’, or when you say, ‘I am living a non-violent life’, or pretend to live a non-violent life.

That is why all ideologies are most destructive. In India they have talked about non-violence from time immemorial. They have said, ‘We are practising non-violence’ and they are just as violent as anybody else. The ideal gives them a certain sense of hypocritical escape from the fact. If you can put aside all ideologies, all principles and just face the fact, then you are dealing with something actual, not mythical, not theoretical.

So that is the first thing: to observe without the observer; to look at your wife, at your children, without the image. The image may be a superficial image or deeply hidden in the unconscious; one has not only to observe the image that one has put together outwardly, but also the images that one has deep down inwardly – the image of the race, of the culture, the historical perspective of the image that one has about oneself. So one must observe not only at the conscious level, but also at the hidden level, in the deep recesses of one’s own mind.

I do not know if you have ever observed the unconscious. Are you interested in all this? Do you know how difficult all this is? It is very easy to quote somebody, or to repeat what your analyst, or the professor has told you; that is child’s play. But if you do not merely read books about these things, then it becomes extraordinarily arduous. It is part of your meditation to find out how to look at the unconscious; not through dreams, not through intuition, because your intuition may be your wish, your desire, your hidden hope. So you have to find out how to look at the image that you have created about yourself outwardly – the symbol – and also to look deeply within yourself.

One must be aware not only of outward things, but also of the inward movement of life, the inward movement of desires, motives, anxieties, fears, sorrows. Now, to be aware without choice is to be aware of the colour that somebody is wearing, without saying, ‘I like it’ or, ‘I don’t like it’, but just to observe; as you sit in a bus, to observe the movement of your own thought without condemning, without justifying, without choosing. When you so look you will see there is no ‘observer’. The observer is the ‘censor’, the American, the Catholic, the Protestant; he is the result of propaganda; he is the past. And when the past looks, it must inevitably separate, condemn or justify. A man who is hungry, who is really in sorrow, does he say, ‘If I do this, will I get that?’ He wants to be rid of sorrow or he wants to fill his stomach; he never talks about theories. So sir, first, if I may suggest, rid yourself of the idea of ‘if’. Do not live somewhere in the future; the future is what you project now. The now is the past; that is what you are when you say, ‘I am living now’. You are living in the past, because the past is directing and shaping you; memories of the past are making you act this way or that way.

So ‘to live’ is to be free of time; and when you say ‘if’, you are introducing time. And time is the greatest sorrow.

Questioner: How can we be ourselves to each other?

Krishnamurti: Listen to that question: ‘to be ourselves’. What is ‘yourself’ may I ask? When you say ‘ourselves to another’, what is yourself? Your anger, your bitterness, your frustrations, your despairs, your violence, your hopes, your utter lack of love – is that what you are? No, sir, do not say, ‘How can I be myself with another?’ – you don’t know yourself. You are all this, and the other is also all that – his misery, his problems, his moods, his frustration, his ambitions; each lives in isolation, in exclusion. It is only when these barriers, these resistances, disappear that you can live with another happily.

Questioner: Why do you separate the conscious from the unconscious when you do not believe in separation?

Krishnamurti: That is what you do – I don’t! (Laughter.) You have been taught, during the last few decades, that you have an unconscious, and volumes have been written about it; the analysts are making fortunes out of it. Water remains water: whether you put it in a golden jug or in a earthenware pot, it is water. In the same way, not to divide but to see the whole: that is our problem, to see the whole of consciousness, not a particular fragment as the conscious or the unconscious. To see the whole if it is one of the most difficult things to do, but to see a fragment is fairly easy. To see something whole, which means to see it sanely, healthily, wholly, you must have no centre from which to look – the centre as ‘the me’, as ‘the you’, as ‘the they’, as ‘the we’.

This is not a discourse, this is not a talk or a lecture to which you listen casually and go away. You are listening to yourself; if you have the ears to hear what is being said you cannot agree or disagree – it is there. Therefore we are sharing it together, we are communicating, we are working together. In that there is great freedom, great affection, compassion, and after all, out of that comes understanding.