The Learned or the Wise?

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 1

The rains had washed away the dust and heat of many months, and the leaves were sparklingly clean, with new leaves beginning to show. All through the night the frogs filled the air with their deep croaking; they would take a rest, and start again. The river was swift-flowing, and there was softness in the air. The rains were not over by any means. Dark clouds were gathering, and the sun was hidden. The earth, the trees and the whole of Nature seemed to be waiting for another purification. The road was dark brown, and the children were playing in the puddles; they were making mud-pies, or building castles and houses with surrounding walls. There was joy in the air after months of heat, and green grass was beginning to cover the earth. Everything was renewing itself.

This renewal is innocence. The man considered himself vastly learned, and to him knowledge was the very essence of life. Life without knowledge was worse than death. His knowledge was not about one or two things, but covered a great many phases of life; he could talk with assurance about the atom and Communism, about astronomy and the yearly flow of water in the river, about diet and overpopulation. He was strangely proud of his knowledge and, like a clever showman, he brought it to impress; it made the others silent and respectful. How frightened we are of knowledge, what awesome respect we show to the knower! His English was sometimes rather difficult to understand. He had never been outside of his own country, but he had books from other countries. He was addicted to knowledge as another might be to drink or to some other appetite.

‘What is wisdom, if it is not knowledge? Why do you say that one must suppress all knowledge? Is not knowledge essential? Without knowledge, where would we be? We would still be as the primitives, knowing nothing of the extraordinary world we live in. Without knowledge, existence at any level would be impossible. Why are you so insistent in saying that knowledge is an impediment to understanding?’

Knowledge is conditioning. Knowledge does not give freedom. One may know how to build an airplane and fly to the other end of the world in a few hours, but this is not freedom. Knowledge is not the creative factor, for knowledge is continuous, and that which has continuity can never lead to the implicit, the imponderable, the unknown. Knowledge is a hindrance to the open, to the unknown. The unknown can never be clothed in the known; the known is always moving to the past; the past is ever overshadowing the present, the unknown. Without freedom, without the open mind, there can be no understanding. Understanding does not come with knowledge. In the interval between words, between thoughts, comes understanding; this interval is silence unbroken by knowledge, it is the open, the imponderable, the implicit.

‘Is not knowledge useful, essential? Without knowledge, how can there be discovery?’

Discovery takes place, not when the mind is crowded with knowledge, but when knowledge is absent; only then is there stillness and space, and in this state understanding or discovery comes into being. Knowledge is undoubtedly useful at one level, but at another it is positively harmful. When knowledge is used as a means of self-aggrandizement, to puff oneself up, then it is mischievous, breeding separation and enmity. Self-expansion is disintegration, whether in the name of God, of the State, or of an ideology. Knowledge at one level, though conditioning, is necessary: language, technique, and so on. This conditioning is a safeguard, an essential for outer living; but when this conditioning is used psychologically, when knowledge becomes a means of psychological comfort, gratification, then it inevitably breeds conflict and confusion. Besides, what do we mean by knowing? What actually do you know?

‘I know about a great many things.’

You mean you have lots of information, data about many things. You have gathered certain facts; and then what? Does information about the disaster of war prevent wars? You have, I am sure, plenty of data about the effects of anger and violence within oneself and in society; but has this information put an end to hate and antagonism?

‘Knowledge about the effects of war may not put an immediate end to wars, but it will eventually bring about peace. People must be educated, they must be shown the effects of war, of conflict.’

People are yourself and another. You have this vast information, and are you any less ambitious, less violent, less self-centred? Because you have studied revolutions, the history of inequality, are you free from feeling superior, giving importance to yourself? Because you have extensive knowledge of the world’s miseries and disasters, do you love? Besides, what is it that we know, of what have we knowledge?

‘Knowledge is experience accumulated through the ages. In one form it is tradition, and in another it is instinct, both conscious and unconscious. The hidden memories and experiences, whether handed down or acquired, act as a guide and shape our action; these memories, both racial and individual, are essential, because they help and protect man. Would you do away with such knowledge?’

Action shaped and guided by fear is no action at all. Action which is the outcome of racial prejudices, fears, hopes, illusions, is conditioned; and all conditioning, as we said, only breeds further conflict and sorrow. You are conditioned as a Brahmin in accordance with a tradition which has been going on for centuries; and you respond to stimuli, to social changes and conflicts, as a Brahmin. You respond according to your conditioning, according to your past experiences, knowledge, so new experience only conditions further. Experience according to a belief, according to an ideology, is merely the continuation of that belief, the perpetuation of an idea. Such experience only strengthens belief. Idea separates, and your experience according to an idea, a pattern, makes you more separative. Experience as knowledge, as a psychological accumulation, only conditions, and experience is then another way of self-aggrandizement Knowledge as experience at the psychological level is a hindrance to understanding.

‘Do we experience according to our belief?’

That is obvious, is it not? You are conditioned by a particular society – which is yourself at a different level – to believe in God, in social divisions; and another is conditioned to believe that there is no God, to follow quite a different ideology. Both of you will experience according to your beliefs, but such experience is a hindrance to the unknown. Experience, knowledge, which is memory, is useful at certain levels; but experience as a means of strengthening the psychological “me,” the ego, only leads to illusion and sorrow. And what can we know if the mind is filled with experiences, memories, knowledge? Can there be experiencing if we know? Does not the known prevent experiencing? You may know the name of that flower, but do you thereby experience the flower? Experiencing comes fist, and the naming only gives strength to the experience. The naming prevents further experiencing. For the state of experiencing, must there not be freedom from naming, from association, from the process of memory?

Knowledge is superficial, and can the superficial lead to the deep? Can the mind, which is the result of the known, of the past, ever go above and beyond its own projection? To discover, it must stop projecting. Without its projections, mind is not. Knowledge, the past, can project only that which is the known. The instrument of the known can never be the discoverer. The known must cease for discovery; the experience must cease for experiencing. Knowledge is a hindrance to understanding.

‘What have we left if we are without knowledge, experience, memory? We are then nothing.’

Are you anything more than that now? When you say, ‘Without knowledge we are nothing,’ you are merely making a verbal assertion without experiencing that state, are you not? When you make that statement there is a sense of fear, the fear of being naked. Without these accretions you are nothing – which is the truth. And why not be that? Why all these pretensions and conceits? We have clothed this nothingness with fancies, with hopes, with various comforting ideas; but beneath these coverings we are nothing, not as some philosophical abstraction, but actually nothing. The experiencing of that nothingness is the beginning of wisdom.

How ashamed we are to say we do not know! We cover the fact of not knowing with words and information. Actually, you do not know your wife, your neighbour; how can you when you do not know yourself? You have a lot of information, conclusions, explanations about yourself, but you are not aware of that which is, the implicit. Explanations, conclusions, called knowledge, prevent the experiencing of what is. Without being innocent, how can there be wisdom? Without dying to the past how can there be the renewing of innocence? Dying is from moment to moment; to die is not to accumulate; the experiencer must die to the experience. Without experience, without knowledge, the experiencer is not. To know is to be ignorant; not to know is the beginning of wisdom.