Sensation and Happiness

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 1

We were high up over the green sea, and the noise of the propellers beating the air and the roar of the exhaust made talking difficult. Besides, there were some college boys going to a athletic meet on the island; one of them had a banjo, and he played upon it and sang for many hours. He egged on the others, and they all joined in singing together. The boy with the banjo had a good voice, and the songs were American, songs of the crooners and the cowboys, or jazz. They did it all very well, just like the gramophone records. They were an odd group, concerned only with the present; they had not a thought of anything but immediate enjoyment. Tomorrow held all the troubles: job, marriage, old age and death. But here, high over the sea, it was American songs and picture papers. The lightning among the dark clouds they ignored, and they never saw the curve of the land as it pursued the sea, nor the distant village in the sun.

The island was almost below us now. It was green and sparkling, freshly washed by the rains. How neat and orderly everything was from that altitude! The highest hill was flattened, and the white waves had no movement. A brown fishing boat with sails was hurrying before the storm; she would reach safety, for the port was in sight. The winding river came down to the sea, and the soil was golden brown. At that height one saw what was happening on both sides of the river, and the past and the future met. The future was not hidden, though it lay around the bend. At that height there was neither the past nor the future; curving space did not conceal either the time of sowing or the time of reaping.

The man in the next seat began to talk of the difficulties of life. He complained of his job, the incessant travelling, the inconsiderateness of his family, and the futility of modern politics. He was on his way to some far-off place, and was rather sad at leaving his home. As he talked he became more and more serious, more and more concerned about the world ad particularly about himself and his family.

“I would like to go away from it all to some quiet place, work a little, and be happy. I don’t think I have been happy in all my life, and I don’t know what it means. We live, breed, work and die, like any other animal. I have lost all enthusiasm, except for making money, and that too is becoming rather boring. I am fairly good at my job and earn a good salary, but what it is all about I haven’t the vaguest idea. I would like to be happy, and what do you think I can do about it?”

It is a complex thing to understand, and this is hardly the place for a serious talk. “I am afraid I have no other time; the moment we land I must be off again. I may not sound serious, but there are spots of seriousness in me; the only trouble is, they never seem to get together. I am really quite serious at heart. My father and my older relations were known for their earnestness, but the present economic conditions don’t allow one to be completely serious. I have been drawn away from all that, but I would like to get back to it and forget all this stupidity. I suppose I am weak and grumbling about circumstances; but all the same, I would like to be really happy.”

Sensation is one thing, and happiness is another. Sensation is always seeking further sensation, ever in wider and wider circles. There is no end to the pleasures of sensation; they multiply, but there is always dissatisfaction in their fulfilment; there is always the desire for more, and the demand for more is without end. Sensation and dissatisfaction are inseparable, for the desire for more binds them together. Sensation is the desire for more and also the desire for less. In the very act of the fulfilment or sensation, the demand for more is born. The more is ever in the future; it is the everlasting dissatisfaction with what has been. There is conflict between what has been and what will be. Sensation is always dissatisfaction. One may clothe sensation in religious garb, but it is still what it is: a thing of the mind and a source of conflict and apprehension. Physical sensations are always crying for more; and when they are thwarted, there is anger, jealousy, hatred. There is pleasure in hatred, and envy is satisfying; when one sensation is thwarted, satisfaction is found in the very antagonism that frustration has brought.

Sensation is ever a reaction, and it wanders from one reaction to another. The wanderer is the mind; the mind is sensation. The mind is the storehouse of sensation, pleasant and unpleasant, and all experience is reaction. The mind is memory, which alter all is reaction. Reaction or sensation can never be satisfied; response can never be content. Response is always negation, and what is not can never be. Sensation knows no contentment. Sensation, reaction must always breed conflict, and the very conflict is further sensation. Confusion breeds confusion. The activity of the mind, at all its different levels, is the furthering of sensation; and when its expansion is denied, it finds gratification in contraction. Sensation, reaction, is the conflict of the opposites; and in this conflict of resistance and acceptance, yielding and denying, there is satisfaction which is ever seeking further satisfaction.

Mind can never find happiness. Happiness is not a thing to be pursued and found, as sensation. Sensation can be found again and again, for it is ever being lost; but happiness cannot be found. Remembered happiness is only a sensation, a reaction for or against the present. What is over is not happiness; the experience of happiness which is over is sensation, for remembrance is the past and the past is sensation. Happiness is not sensation.

Have you ever been aware of being happy? “Of course I have, thank God, otherwise I would not know what it is to be happy.”

Surely, what you were aware of was the sensation of an experience which you call happiness; but that is not happiness. What you know is the past, not the present; and the past is sensation, reaction, memory. You remember that you were happy; and can the past tell what happiness is? It can recall but it cannot be. Recognition is not happiness; to know what it is to be happy, is not happiness. Recognition is the response of memory; and can the mind, the complex of memories, experiences, ever be happy? The very recognition prevents the experiencing.

When you are aware that you are happy, is there happiness? When there is happiness, are you aware of it? Consciousness comes only with conflict, the conflict of remembrance of the more. Happiness is not the remembrance of the more. Where there is conflict, happiness is not. Conflict is where the mind is. Thought at all levels is the response of memory, and so thought invariably breeds conflict. Thought is sensation, and sensation is not happiness. Sensations are ever seeking gratifications. The end is sensation, but happiness is not an end; it cannot be sought out.

“But how can sensations come to an end?”

To end sensation is to invite death. Mortification is only another form of sensation. In mortification, physical or psychological, sensitivity is destroyed, but not sensation. Thought that mortifies itself is only seeking further sensation, for thought itself is sensation. Sensation can never put an end to sensation; it may have different sensations at other levels, but there is no ending to sensation. To destroy sensation is to be insensitive, dead; not to see, not to smell, not to touch is to be dead, which is isolation. Our problem is entirely different, is it not? Thought can never bring happiness; it can only recall sensations, for thought is sensation. It cannot cultivate, produce, or progress towards happiness. Thought can only go towards that which it knows, but the known is not happiness; the known is sensation. Do what it will, thought cannot be or search out happiness. Thought can only be aware of its own structure, its own movement when thought makes an effort to put an end to itself, it is only seeking to be more successful, to reach a goal, an end which will be more gratifying. The more is knowledge, but not happiness. Thought must be aware of its own ways, of its own cunning deceptions. In being aware of itself, without any desire to be or not to be, the mind comes to a state of inaction. Inaction is not death; it is a passive watchfulness in which thought is wholly inactive. It is the highest state of sensitivity. When the mind is completely inactive at all its levels, only then is there action. All the activities of the mind are mere sensations, reactions to stimulation, to influence, and so not action at all. When the mind is without activity, there is action; this action is without cause, and only then is there bliss.