Can the Brain Be Completely Still?

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE IMPOSSIBLE QUESTION

I think this morning we should talk over together the problem of religion. Many people do not like that word, they think it is rather old fashioned and has very little meaning in this modern world. And there are those who are religious at the weekend; they turn out well dressed on Sunday morning and do all the mischief they can during the week. But when we use the word ‘religion’ we are not in any way concerned with organized religions, churches, dogmas, rituals, or the authority of saviours, representatives of God and all the rest. We are talking about something quite different.

Human beings, in the past, as in the present, have always asked if there is something transcendental, much more real than the everyday existence with all its tiresome routine, its violence, despairs and sorrow. But not being able to find it, they have worshipped a symbol, giving it great significance.

To find out if there is something really true and sacred I am using that word rather hesitantly – we must look for something not put together by desire and hope, by fear and longing; not dependent on environment, culture and education, but something that thought has never touched, something that is totally and incomprehensibly new. Perhaps this morning we can spend some time in enquiring into this, trying to find out whether there is a vastness, an ecstasy, a life that is unquenchable; without finding that, however virtuous, however orderly, however non-violent one is, life in itself has very little meaning. Religion in the sense in which we are using that word, where there is no kind of fear or belief – is the quality that makes for a life in which there is no fragmentation whatsoever. If we are going to enquire into that, we must not only be free of all belief, but also we must be very clear about the distorting factor of all effort, direction and purpose. Do see the importance of this; if you are at all serious in this matter it is very important to understand how any form of effort distorts direct perception. And any form of suppression obviously also distorts, as does any form of direction born of choice, of established purpose, created by one’s own desire; all these things make the mind utterly incapable of seeing things as they are.

When we are enquiring into this question of what truth is, whether there is such a thing as enlightenment, if there is something that is not of time at all, a reality that is not dependent on one’s own demand, there must be freedom, and a certain quality of order. We generally associate order with discipline, discipline being conformity, imitation, adjustment, suppression and so on; forcing the mind to follow a certain course, a pattern that it considers to be moral. But order has nothing whatsoever to do with such discipline; order comes about naturally and inevitably when we understand all the disturbing factors, the disorders and conflicts going on both within ourselves and outwardly. When we are aware of this disorder, look at all the mischief, the hate, the pursuit of comparison – when we understand it then there comes order; which has nothing whatsoever to do with discipline. You must have order; after all, order is virtue (you may not like that word). Virtue is not something to be cultivated; if it is a thing of thought, of will, the result of suppression, it is no longer virtue. But if you understand the disorder of your life, the confusion, the utter meaninglessness of our existence, when you see all that very clearly, not merely intellectually and verbally, but not condemning it, not running away from it, but observing it in life, then out of that awareness and observation comes order, naturally which is virtue. This virtue is entirely different from the virtue of society, with its respectability, the sanctions of the religions with their hypocrisy; it is entirely different from one’s own self-imposed discipline.

Order must exist if we are to find out if there is or is not – a reality that is not of time, something incorruptible, not depending on anything. If you are really serious about this, in the sense that it is a part of life as important as earning one’s livelihood, as seeking pleasure, that it is something tremendously vital, then you will realize that it can only be found through meditation. The dictionary meaning of that word is to ponder over, to think over, to enquire; it means to have a mind that is capable of looking, that is intelligent, that is sane, not perverted or neurotic, not wishing for something from somewhere.

Is there any method, any system, any path which you can pursue and come to the understanding of what meditation, or the perception of reality, is? Unfortunately people come from the East with their systems, methods and so on; they say ‘Do this’ and ‘Don’t do that’. ‘Practice Zen and you will find enlightenment.’ Some of you may have gone to India or Japan and spent years studying, disciplining yourself, trying to become aware of your toe or your nose, practising endlessly. Or you may have repeated certain words in order to calm the mind, so that in that calmness there will be the perception of something beyond thought. These tricks can be practised by a very stupid, dull mind. I am using the word stupid in the sense of a mind that is stupefied. A stupefied mind can practise any of these tricks. You may not be interested in all this, but you have to find out. After you have listened very carefully you may go out into the world and teach people, that may be your vocation and I hope it is. You have to know the whole substance, the meaning, the fullness, the beauty, the ecstasy of all this.

A dull mind, a mind that has been stupefied by ‘practising’, cannot under any circumstances whatsoever understand what reality is. One must be completely, totally, free of thought. One needs a mind that is not distorted, that is very clear, that is not blunted, that is no longer pursuing a direction, a purpose. You will ask: ‘Is it possible to have this state of mind in which there is no experiencing?’ To ‘experience’ implies an entity who is experiencing; therefore, there is duality: the experiencer and the thing experienced. the observer and the thing observed. Most of us want some kind of deep, marvellous and mystical experience; our own daily experiences are so trivial, so banal, so superficial, we want something electrifying. In that bizarre thought of a marvellous experience, there is this duality of the experiencer and the experience. As long as this duality exists there must be distortion; because the experiencer is the accumulated past with all his knowledge, his memories. Being dissatisfied with that, he wants something much greater, therefore he projects it as idea, and finds that projection; in that there is still duality and distortion.

Truth is not something to be experienced. Truth is not something that you can seek out and find. It is beyond time. And thought, which is of time, cannot possibly search it out and grasp it. So one must understand very deeply this question of wanting experience. Do please see this tremendously important a thing. Any form of effort, of wanting, of seeking out truth, demanding experience, is the observer wanting something transcendental and making effort; therefore the mind is not clear, pristine, non-mechanical. A mind seeking an experience, however marvellous, implies that the ‘me’ is seeking it – the ‘me’ which is the past, with all its frustrations, miseries and hopes.

Observe for yourself how the brain operates. It is the storehouse of memory, of the past. This memory is responding all the time, as like and dislike, justifying, condemning and so on; it is responding according; to its conditioning, according to the culture, religion, education, which it has stored. That storehouse of memory, from which thought arises, guides most of our life. It is directing and shaping our lives every minute of every day, consciously or unconsciously; it is generating thought, the ‘me’, which is the very essence of thought and words. Can that brain, with its content of the old, be completely quiet – only wakened when it is necessary to operate, to function, to speak, to act, but the rest of the time completely sterile?

Meditation is to find out whether the brain, with all its activities, all its experiences, can be absolutely quiet. Not forced, because the moment you force, there again is duality, the entity that says, ‘I would like to have marvellous experiences, therefore I must force my brain to be quiet’ – you will never do it. But if you begin to enquire, watch, observe, listen to all the movements of thought, its conditioning, its pursuits, its fears, its pleasures, watch how the brain operates, then you will see that the brain becomes extraordinarily quiet; that quietness is not sleep but is tremendously active and therefore quiet. A big dynamo that is working perfectly, hardly makes a sound; it is only when there is friction that there is noise.

One has to find out whether one’s body can sit or lie completely still, without any movement, not forced. Can the body and the brain be still? – for they are interrelated psychosomatically. There are various practices to make the body still, but again they imply suppression; the body wants to get up and walk, you insist that it must sit quietly, and the battle begins – wanting to go out and wanting to sit still.

The word ‘yoga’ means ‘to join together’. The very words ‘join together’ are wrong, they imply duality. Probably yoga as a particular series of exercises and breathing was invented in India many thousands of years ago. Its intent is to keep the glands, the nerves and the whole system functioning healthily, without medicine, and highly sensitive. The body needs to be sensitive, otherwise you cannot have a clear brain. You can see the simple fact, that one needs to have a very healthy, sensitive, alert body, and a brain that functions very clearly, non-emotionally, not personally; such a brain can be absolutely quiet. Now, how is this to be brought about? How can the brain, which is so tremendously active – not only during the day-time, but when you go to sleep – be so completely relaxed and completely quiet? Obviously no method will do it, a method implies mechanical repetition, which stupefies and makes the brain dull; and in that dullness you think you have marvellous experiences!

How can the brain, which is always chattering to itself, or with others, always judging, evaluating, liking and disliking, turning over all the time – how can that brain be completely still? Do you, for yourself, see the extraordinary importance that the brain should be completely quiet? For the moment it acts it is response of the past, in terms of thought. It is only a brain that is completely still that can observe a cloud, a tree, a flowing river. You can see the extraordinary light on those mountains, yet the brain can be completely still you have noticed this, have you not? How has that happened? The mind, facing something of extraordinary magnitude, like very complex machinery, a marvellous computer, or a magnificent sunset, becomes completely quiet even if only for a split second.

You have noticed when you give a child a toy, how the toy absorbs the child, the child is so concerned with it. In the same way, by their greatness, the mountains, the beauty of a tree, the flowing waters, absorb the mind and make it still. But in that case the brain is made still by something. Can the brain be quiet without an outside factor entering into it? Not ‘finding a way’. people hope for the Grace of God, they pray, have faith, become absorbed in Jesus, in this or in that. We see that this absorption by something outside occurs to a dull, a stupefied mind. The brain is active from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep; and even then the activity of the brain is still going on. That activity in the form of dreams is the same movement of the day carried on during sleep. The brain has never a moment’s rest, never does it say, ‘I have finished’. It has carried over the problems which it accumulated during the day into sleep; when you wake up those problems still go on – it is a vicious circle. A brain that is to be quiet must have no dreams at all; when the brain is quiet during sleep there is a totally different quality entering into the mind. How does it happen that the brain which is so tremendously, enthusiastically active, can naturally, easily, be quiet without any effort or suppression? I will show it to you.

As we said, during the day it is endlessly active. You wake up, you look out of the window and say to yourself, ‘Oh, awful rain’, or ‘It is a marvellous day, but too hot’ you have started! So at that moment, when you look out of the window, don’t say a word; not suppressing words but simply realizing that by saying, ‘What a lovely morning’, or ‘A horrible day’, the brain has started. But if you watch, looking out of the window and not saying a word to yourself – which does not mean you suppress the word just observing without the activity of the brain rushing in, there you have the clue, there you have the key. When the old brain does not respond, there is a quality of the new brain coming into being. You can observe the mountains, the river, the valleys, the shadows, the lovely trees and the marvellous clouds full of light beyond the mountains you can look without a word, without comparing.

But it becomes much more difficult when you look at another person; there already you have established images. But just to observe! You will see when you so observe, when you see clearly, that action becomes extraordinarily vital; it becomes a complete action which is not carried over to the next minute. You understand?

One has problems, deep or superficial, not sleeping well, quarrelling with one’s wife, and one carries these problems on from day to day. Dreams are the repetition of these problems, the repetition of fear and pleasure over and over again. That obviously stupefies the mind and makes the brain dull. Now is it possible to end each problem as it arises? – not carrying it over. Take j problem: somebody has insulted me, told me I am a fool; at that moment the old brain responds instantly, saying ‘So are you’. If, before the brain responds, I am completely aware of what has been said something unpleasant – I have an interval, a gap, so that the brain does not immediately jump into the battle. So if you watch the movement of thought in action during the day, you realize that it is breeding problems, and that problems are things which are incomplete, which have to e carried over. But if you watch with a brain that is fairly quiet, en you will see that action becomes complete, instantaneous; there is no carrying over of a problem, no carrying over of the insult or the praise – it is finished. Then, during sleep, the brain no longer carrying on the old activities of the day, it has complete rest. And as the brain is quiet in sleep, there takes place a rejuvenation of its whole structure. A quality of innocency comes into being – and the innocent mind can see what is true; not the complicated mind, not that of the philosopher, or the priest.

The innocent mind implies that whole in which are the body, the heart, the brain and the mind. This innocent mind which is never touched by thought, can see what truth is, what reality is, it can see if there is something beyond measure. That is meditation. To come upon this extraordinary beauty of truth, with its ecstasy, you must lay the foundations. The foundation is the understanding of thought, which breeds fear and sustains pleasure, and the understanding of order and therefore virtue; so that there is freedom from all conflict, aggression, brutality and violence. Once one has laid this foundation of freedom, there is a sensitivity which is supreme intelligence, and the whole of the life one leads becomes entirely different.

Questioner: I think that understanding you is very important to our understanding of what you say. I was surprised to hear what you said about Yoga, how you practise it regularly two hours a day. To me this sounds like a definite form of discipline. More important than that though, is the question of innocence – I am interested in the innocence of your mind.

Krishnamurti: To see the innocency of the mind, whether it is yours or mine, you must first be innocent. I am not turning the tables on you, Sir. To see the innocency of the mind you need to be free, you need to have no fear and a quality that comes with a brain that is functioning without any effort.

Is practising Yoga regularly every day for two hours, not a form of discipline? You know the body tells you when it is tired; the body says to you, ‘Don’t do it this morning’. When we have abused the body by driving it in all kinds of ways, spoiling its own intelligence – by wrong food, smoking, drink, all the rest of it – the body becomes insensitive. And thought says, ‘I must force it’. Such driving of the body, forcing it, compelling it, becomes a discipline. Whereas, when you do these things regularly, easily, without any effort, the regularity of it depends on the sensitivity of the body. You do it one day and the next day the body may be tired and you say, ‘All right, I won’t do it’. It is not a mechanical regularity. All this requires a certain intelligence, not only of the mind, but of the body, and that intelligence will tell you what to do and what not to do.

Questioner: We may want our minds to be quiet, but sometimes we have to take decisions,. this makes for difficulty and causes problems.

Krishnamurti: If the mind cannot decide clearly, then problems arise; the very decision is a problem. When you decide, you make a decision between this and that – which means choice. When there is choice there is conflict; from that arise problems. But when you see very clearly, there is no choice, therefore there is no decision. You know the way from here to where you happen to live very well; you follow the road which is very clear. You have been on that road a hundred times, therefore there is no choice, although you may find a short cut which you may take next time. That is something mechanical there is no problem. The brain wants the same thing to happen again so that it may function automatically, mechanically, so that problems do not arise. The brain demands that it operate mechanically. Therefore it says, ‘I will discipline myself to function mechanically’, ‘I must have a belief, a purpose, a direction, so that I can set a path and follow it; and it follows that groove.

What happens? Life will not allow that, there are all kinds of things happening; so thought resists, builds a wall of belief and this very resistance creates problems.

When you have to decide between this and that, it means there is confusion: ‘should I, or should I not do this?, I only put that question to myself when I do not see clearly what is to be done. We choose out of confusion, not out of clarity. The moment you are clear your action is complete.

Questioner: But it cannot always be complete.

Krishnamurti: Why not?

Questioner: Often it is a complex choice and you have to take time you have to look at it.

Krishnamurti: Yes Sir, take time, have patience to look at it. You have to compare; compare what? Compare two materials, blue and white; you question whether you like this colour or that colour, whether you should go up this hill or that hill. You decide. ‘I prefer to go up this hill today and tomorrow I’ll go up the other’. The problem arises when one is dealing with the psyche, what to do within oneself. First watch what decision implies. To decide to do this or that, what is that decision based on? On choice, obviously. Should I do this, or should I do that? I realize that when there is choice there is confusion. So I see the truth of this, the fact, the ‘what is’, which is: where there is choice there must be confusion. Now why am I confused? Because I don’t know, or because I prefer one thing as opposed to another which is more pleasant, it may produce better results, greater fortune, or whatever it is. So I choose that. But in following that, I realize there is also frustration in it, which is pain. So I am caught again between fear and pleasure. Seeing I am caught in this, I ask, ‘Can I act without choice?’ That means: I have to be aware of all the implications of confusion and all the implications of decision; fur there is duality, the ‘decider’ and the thing decided upon. And therefore there is conflict and perpetuation of confusion.

You will say, to be aware of all the intricacies of this movement will take time. Will it take time? Or can it be seen instantly and therefore there is instant action? It only takes time when I am not aware of it. My brain, being conditioned, says, ‘I must decide’ decide according to the past; that is its habit. ‘I must decide what is right, what is wrong, what is duty, what is responsibility, what is love’. The decisions of the brain breed more conflict which is what the politicians throughout the world are doing. Now, can that brain be quiet, so that it sees the problem of confusion instantly, and acts because it is clear? Then there is no decision at all.

Questioner: Can we learn from experience?

Krishnamurti: Certainly not. Learning implies freedom, curiosity, enquiry. When a child learns something, he is curious about it, he wants to know, it is a free momentum; not a momentum of having acquired and of moving from that acquisition. We have innumerable experiences; we have had five thousand years of wars. We have not learnt a thing from them except to invent more deadly machinery with which to kill each other. We have had many experiences with our friends, with our wives, with our husbands, with our nation – we have not learnt. Learning, in fact, can only take place when there is freedom from experience. When you discover something new, your mind must be free of the old, obviously. For this reason, meditation is the emptying of the mind of the known as experience; because truth is not something that you invent, it is something totally new, it is not in terms of the past ‘known’. Its newness is not the opposite of the old; it is something incredibly new: a mind that comes to it with experience cannot see it.