The Quality of Simplicity

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 3

The rain-washed hills were sparkling in the morning sun and the sky behind them was very blue. The valley, full of trees and streams, was high up among the hills; not too many people lived there, and it had a purity of solitude. There were a number of white buildings with thatched roofs, and many goats and cattle; but it was out of the way, and you wouldn’t ordinarily come upon it unless you knew or had been told of its existence. At its entrance a dustless road went by, and as a rule no one came into this valley without some definite purpose. It was unspoiled, secluded and far away, but that morning it seemed especially pure in its solitude, and the rain had washed away the dust of many days. The rocks on the hills themselves seemed to be watching, waiting. These hills extended from east to west, and the sun rose and set among them. There was one which rose against the blue sky like a temple sculptured out of a living rock, square and splendid. A path wound its way from one end of the valley to the other, and at a certain point along this path the sculptured hill could be seen. Set further back than the other hills, it was darker, heavier, endued with great strength. By the side of the path was stream gently whispered, moving eastward towards the sun, and the wide wells were full of water which held hope for the summer and beyond. Innumerable frogs were making a loud noise all along the quiet stream, and a large snake crossed the path. It was in no hurry and moved lazily, leaving a trail in the soft damp earth. Becoming aware of the human presence, it stopped, its black, forked tongue darting in and out of its pointed mouth. Presently it resumed its journey in search of food, and disappeared among the bushes and the tall, waving grass. It was a lovely morning, and pleasant under a big mango tree which stood by an open well. The fragrance of fresh washed leaves was in the air, and the smell of the mango. The sun didn’t come through the heavy leaves, and you could set there for a long time on a slab of rock which was still damp.

The valley was in solitude and so was the tree. These hills were some of the oldest on earth, and so they knew what it is to be alone and far away. Loneliness is sad with the creeping desire to be related, not to be cut off; but this sense of solitude, this aloneness was related to everything, part of all things. You were not aware that you were alone, for there was the trees, the rocks, the murmuring water. You are only aware of your loneliness, not of your solitude; and when you are aware of your solitude, you have become lonely. The hills, the streams, that man passing by, were all part of this solitude whose purity held all impurity within itself, and was not soiled by it. But impurity could not share this solitude. It is impurity that knows loneliness, that is burdened with sorrow and pain of existence. Sitting there under the tree, with large ants crossing your leg, in that measureless solitude there was the movement of timeless age. It wasn’t a space-covering movement, but a movement within itself, a flame within the flame, a light within the emptiness of light. It was a movement that would never stop, for it had no beginning and no cause to end. It was a movement that had no direction, and so it covered space. There under that tree time stood still, like the hills, and this movement covered it and went beyond it; so time could never overtake this movement. The mind could never touch the hem of it; but the mind was this movement. The watcher could not race with it, for he was able only to follow his own shadow and the words that clothed it. But under that tree, in that aloneness, the watcher and his shadow were not.

The wells were full, the hills were still watching and waiting, and the birds were still flying in and out among the leaves. A man and his wife and there friend were sitting in the sunlit room. There were no chairs, but only a straw mat on the floor, and we all sat around it. Of the two windows, one looked out on a blank, weather-beaten wall, and through the other were visible some bushes which needed watering. One was in bloom, but without sent. The husband and wife were fairly well-to-do, and they had grown-up children who were living there own lives. He was retired, and they had a little place of there own in the country. They rarely came to town, he said, but they had come especially to hear the talks and discussions. During the three weeks of the meetings there particular problem had not been touched upon, and so they were here. There friend, and oldish, grey-headed man who was growing bald, lived in town. He was a well-known lawyer with an excellent practice.

‘I know you don’t approve of our profession, and sometimes I think you are right,’ said the lawyer. ‘Our profession is not what it should be; but what profession is? The three professions of lawyer, soldier and policeman are, as you say, detrimental to man and a disgrace to society – and I would include the politician. Being in it, I can’t at this late date get out of it, though I have given considerable thought to the matter. But I am not here to talk about this, though I would like very much to avail myself of another opportunity to do so. I came with my friends because there problem interests me too.’

‘What we want to talk about is rather complex, at least as far as I can see,’ said the husband. ‘My lawyer friend and I have been interested for many years in religious matters – not in mere ritualism and conventional beliefs, but in something much more than the usual paraphernalia of religions. Speaking for myself, I may say that I have meditated for a number of years on various questions pertaining to the inner life, and I always find myself wandering about in circles. For the present I do not want to talk over the implications of meditation, but to go into the question of simplicity. I feel one must be simple, but I’m not sure I know what simplicity is. Like most people, I am a very complex being; and is it possible to become simple?’

To become simple is to continue in complexity. It is not possible to become simple, but one can approach complexity with simplicity. “But how can the mind, which is very complex, approach any problem simply?” Being simple and becoming simple are two entirely distinct processes, each leading in a different direction. Only when the desire to become ends is there the action of being. But before we go into all that, may one ask why you feel that you must have the quality of simplicity? What is the motive behind this urge?

‘I really don’t know. But life is getting more and more complicated; there is greater struggle, with growing indifference and wider superficiality. Most people are living on the surface and making a lot of noise about it, and my own life is not very deep; so I feel I must become simple.’

Simple in outward things, or inward?

‘In both ways.’

Is the outward manifestation of austerity – having few clothes, taking only one meal a day, doing without the usual comforts, and so on – an indication of simplicity?

‘Outward austerity is necessary, is it not’

We will find the truth of the falseness of that presently. Do you think it is simplicity to have a mind cluttered with beliefs, with desires and there contradictions, with envy and the pursuit of power? Is there simplicity when the mind is occupied with its own advancement in virtue? Is an occupied mind a simple mind?

‘When you put it that way, it becomes obvious that it is not a simple mind. But how can one’s mind be cleansed of its accumulations?’

We haven’t come to that yet, have we? We see that simplicity is not a matter of outward expression, and that as long as the mind is crowded with knowledge, experiences, memories, it is not truly simple. Then what is simplicity?

‘I doubt that I can give a correct definition of it. These things are very difficult to put into words.’

We are not seeking a definition, are we? We will find the right words when we have the feeling of simplicity. You see, one of our difficulties is that we to find an adequate verbal expression without feeling the quality, the inwardness of the thing. Do we ever feel anything directly? Or do we feel everything through words, through concepts and definitions? Do we ever look at a tree, at the see, at the sky, without forming words, without a remark about them?

‘But how is one to feel the nature or quality of simplicity?’

Are you not preventing yourself from feeling its nature by asking for a method which will bring it about? When you are hungry and there is food before you, you do not ask, ‘How am I to eat?’ You just eat. The ‘how’ is always a digression from the fact. The feeling of simplicity has nothing to do with your opinions, words or conclusions about that feeling.

‘But the mind, with its complexities, is always interposing what it thinks it knows about simplicity.’

Which prevents it from staying with the feeling. Have you ever tried to stay with the feeling?

‘What do you mean by staying with the feeling?’

You stay with a feeling of pleasure, don’t you? Having tasted it, you try to hold onto it, you scheme to continue with it, and so on. Now, can one stay with the feeling which the word ‘simplicity’ represents?

‘I don’t think I know what the feeling is, so I can’t stay with it.’

Is there the feeling apart from the reactions aroused by that word ‘simplicity’? Is there the feeling separate from the word, the term, or are they inseparable? The feeling itself and the naming of it are almost simultaneous, aren’t they? The word is always put together, made up, but the feeling is not; and it is very arduous to separate the feeling from the word.

‘Is such a thing possible?’

Is it not possible to feel intensely, purely, without contamination? To feel intensely about something – about the family, about the country, about a cause – is comparatively easy. Intense feeling or enthusiasm may arise through identifying oneself with a belief or ideology, for example. Of this one knows. One may see a flock of white birds in the blue sky and almost faint with the intense feeling of such beauty, or one may recoil with horror at the cruelty of man. All such feelings are aroused by a word, by a scene, by an act, by an object. But is there not an intensity of feeling without an object? And is not that feeling incomparably great? Is it then a feeling, or something entirely different?

‘I’m afraid I don’t know what you are talking about sir. I hope you don’t mind my telling you so.’

Not at all. Is there a state without cause? If there is, then can one feel it out, not verbally or theoretically, but actually be aware of that state? to be thus acutely aware, verbalization in every form, and all identification with the word, with memory, must wholly cease. Is there a state without cause? Is not love such a state?

‘But love is sensual, and beyond that is the divine.’

We are back in the same confusion, are we not? To divide love as this and that is worldly; from this division there is profit. To love without the verbal-moral hedge around it is the state of compassion, which is not aroused by an object. Love is action, and all else is reaction. An act born of reaction only breeds conflict and sorrow.

‘If I may say so, sir, this is all beyond me. Let me be simple, and then perhaps I shall understand the profound.’