Krishnamurti: Talk 4
Transcript of Talk 4, Colombo, 15 January 1950
Surely, there is great confusion everywhere, not only within ourselves individually, but also in the world and among our so-called leaders. When there is confusion, there is a desire to find someone who will lead us out of our difficulties, and we turn to some kind of authority. We turn the responsibility over to our leaders, or seek a pattern of action, or look to the past or to the future to try to find out what ought to be done. Our morality is based on the pattern of yesterday or the ideal of tomorrow; and when tradition and the ideal of the future both fail, we turn to some authority. Because, most of us want security, we want some kind of refuge from all this turmoil, and we seek it in morality according to a pattern of the past, or in some sort of ideal; we cling to an example hoping to see our way out of our confusion, out of our uncertainty. Our ideal is a projection of ourselves created by the interpretation of various books, and our whole intention and purpose is to find something – a person, an idea, or a system – that will lead us out of this confusion. So, being confused, being uncertain, we seek external or inward authority and spend our energies in trying to conform ourselves either to the pattern of tradition or the ideal of what should be. Obviously, conformity at any level denies intelligence, which is the f capacity to adjust, the capacity of quick response to challenge; and when that intelligence is not functioning, then we conform to a pattern, to authority. That is what is happening in the world at present, is it not? We are confused individually, and being confused, being insecure in ourselves, we turn to somebody. To find out, is it not necessary to be insecure, to be uncertain? Can you find anything if you are certain? Is it not essential to be uncertain to discover reality, or what you will? There must be this state of uncertainty, this state of constant enquiry – not to find a result, but to enquire into each incident, each thought and feeling as it arises, which is to understand experience from moment to moment.
So, being confused, being uncertain, is not the following of a pattern detrimental to intelligence, to real inward integrity? Because, the pattern, the system, eventually leads to security; and how can a person who is psychologically secure ever find anything? Obviously, you must be physically secure; but physical security is destroyed as long as we are seeking psychological security. Surely, the desire for psychological security prevents creative response to life, which is intelligence. So, our problem is obviously not the substitution of one pattern for another, but how to be free of patterns, so that we can respond to every challenge anew. This is reality, is it not? – reality is to understand every moment of life as it is, without interpreting it according to our past experience. A mind that is bound by authority, whether its own or that of another, a mind that is conforming, imitating, following a particular pattern of action – how can such a mind be capable of understanding the real, of understanding what is at every moment of thought and feeling? The mind that is burdened with authority, with confusion, with discipline, obviously cannot find that which is free. Can a mind that is disciplined, controlled, subjugated, ever be free? Can a wrong means lead to a right end? To discover the real, the mind must be free at the beginning, not at some ultimate end. How can there be freedom for the mind that is conforming, that is merely imitating, following a certain course of action? And the mind will follow patterns of action, it will discipline itself, it will conform, as long as there is fear of psychological uncertainty. Physically you must have clothes, food, shelter; but when there is psychological certainty, does it not exclude enquiry and so discovery? Surely, discovery is possible only in freedom, not in a course of action disciplined according to a pattern.
So, our enquiry is about not what is discipline, or what system or course of action to follow, but how to free the mind from the fear of being insecure. Is it not essential for the mind to be insecure? Obviously, only in insecurity can there be understanding of what is false. It requires a certain alertness, the non-acceptance of any authority. So, a mind that desires to understand reality must be free at the very beginning from all compulsion, inward or outward; that is, it must be in a state of uncertainty, not tethered to any particular belief or ideal which is merely a refuge. Only then, surely, is the mind carefree, aloof, happy, and only such a mind is capable of understanding that which is true. The capacity to understand requires freedom from conformity, which is freedom from fear. After all, we conform because we do not know, and we are afraid; but is it not a fact that not-knowing is essential for the unknown to be? If you observe you will see how the mind is constantly moving from the known to the known; but only when the mind is free from the known is it possible to receive the unknown, which means it must be entirely free from all sense of conformity, authority or imitation. The major calamity of modern civilization is that we are like so many gramophone records repeating what is said in the books, whether it is the Koran, the Bible, or what you will. Surely, a mind that repeats is not really in search of understanding, for it is incapable of being uncertain; and uncertainty is essential in order to find.
Question: Why don’t you participate in politics or in social reform?
Krishnamurti: Have you noticed how politics and social reform have become extraordinarily predominant in our lives at the present time? All our newspapers and most of the magazines, except the purely escapist ones, are full of politics, economics, and other problems. Have you ever asked yourself why they are that way, why human beings are giving such extraordinary importance to politics, economics, and social reform? Reforms are obviously necessary because of the economic, social and political confusion and the general deterioration of the state of man following the two wars. So, crowds gather round political leaders; people line the streets, watching them as though they were strange animals trying to solve the problem on the economic, social or political level, independent of the total process of man. Are these problems to be tackled separately, unrelated to the whole psychological problem of man? You may have a perfect system that you think will solve the economic problems of the world, but another will also have a perfect system; and the two systems, representing two different ideologies, will fight each other. As long as you are fighting over ideas, systems, there cannot be a true, radical revolution, there cannot be fundamental social transformation. Ideas do not transform people. What brings about transformation is freedom from ideas. Revolution based on ideas is no longer revolution, but merely a continuation of the past in a modified state. Obviously, that is not revolution.
The questioner wants to know why I don’t take part in politics or in social reform. Surely, if you can understand the total process of man, then you are dealing with the fundamental issues, not merely trimming particular branches of the tree. But most of us are not interested in the entire problem. We are concerned merely with reconciliation, superficial adjustment, not with the fundamental understanding of man as a total process. It is very much easier to be an expert on one particular level. The experts on the economic or political level leave the psychological level to other experts, and so we become slaves to experts; we are sacrificed by experts for an idea. So, there can be fundamental revolution only in understanding the total process of yourself, not as an individual opposed to the mass, to society, but as an individual interrelated with society; because without you there is no society, without you there is no relationship with another. There is no revolution, no fundamental transformation, as long as we do not understand ourselves. Reformers and so-called revolutionists are really factors of retrogression in society. A reformer tries to patch up the present society, or create a new one, on the basis of an ideology and his idea is the conditioned response to a pattern; and such revolution, based on an ideology, can never produce a fundamental, radical transformation in social relationships. What we are concerned with is not reformation or modified continuity, which you call revolution, but the fundamental transformation of man in his relationship with man; and as long as that basic change does not take place in the individual, we cannot produce a new social order. That fundamental transformation does not depend on belief, on religious organizations, or on any political or economic system: it depends on your understanding of yourself in relationship with another. That is the real revolution that must take place, and then you as an individual will have an extraordinary influence in society. But without that transformation, merely to talk about revolution or to sacrifice yourself for a so-called practical idea – which is not really sacrifice at all – , is obviously mere repetition, which is retrogression.
Question: Do you believe in reincarnation and karma?
Krishnamurti: Now I suppose you will settle back in your seats and feel comfortable. What do you mean by “believe”, and why do you want to believe? Is belief necessary to find out what is true? To find out what is true, you must approach life afresh, you must have the capacity to see things anew; but the mind that is cradled in belief is obviously incapable of discovering what is new. So, before you can discover whether there is reincarnation or not, you must find out if your mind is free from belief. Most of us believe because it is convenient, because it is satisfying; in it there is a great deal of hope. It is like taking some drug or narcotic and feeling pacified. Such a belief is a projection of our own desire. So, to find out the truth of any matter, obviously there must be freedom from hypothesis, from belief, from any form of conclusion – whether of Buddha, Christ, yourself, or your grandmother. You must approach it afresh, and only then are you capable of discovering what is true. Belief is an impediment to reality, and that is a very difficult pill to swallow for most of us. We are not seeking reality; we want gratification, and belief gives us gratification, it pacifies us. So, we are essentially seeking gratification, escaping from the problem, from pain and suffering. Therefore we are not really seeking the truth. To find the truth, there must be the direct experiencing of sorrow, pain, and pleasure, but not through a screen of belief.
So, similarly, let us find out what you mean by reincarnation the truth of it, not what you like to believe, not what someone has told you, or what your teacher has said. Surely, it is the truth that liberates, not your own conclusion, your own opinion. Now, what do you mean by reincarnation? To reincarnate, to be reborn – what do you mean by that? What is it that actually comes into birth again? – not what you believe or do not believe. Please put all that aside, it is only childish stuff. Let us find out what it is that comes back again or reincarnates. To find that out, you must first know what it is that you are. When you say, “I shall be reborn”, you must know what the “I” is. That is the question, is it not? I am not dodging it. Don’t think this is a clever move of mine. You will see the problem clearly as we proceed, as we explore. You say, “I shall be reborn. “What is the “I” that is to be reborn? Is the “I” a spiritual entity, is the “I” something continuous, is the “I” something independent of memory, experience, knowledge? Either the “I” is a spiritual entity, or it is merely a thought process. Either it is something out of time which we call spiritual, not measurable in terms of time, or it is within the field of time, the field of memory, thought. It cannot be something else. Let us find out if it is beyond the measurement of time. I hope you are following all this. Let us find out if the “I” is in essence something spiritual. Now by “spiritual” we mean, do we not?, something not capable of being conditioned, something that is not the projection of the human mind, something that is not within the field of thought, something that does not die. When we talk of a spiritual entity, we mean by that something which is not within the field of the mind, obviously. Now, is the “I” such a spiritual entity? If it is a spiritual entity, it must be beyond all time, therefore it cannot be reborn or continued. Thought cannot think about it; because thought comes within the measure of time, thought is from yesterday, thought is a continuous movement, the response of the past; so thought is essentially a product of time. If thought can think about the “I”, then it is part of time: therefore that “I” is not free of time, therefore it is not spiritual – which is obvious. So, the “I”, the “you” is only a process of thought; and you want to know whether that process of thought, continuing apart from the physical body, is born again, is reincarnated in a physical form. Now go a little further. That which continues – can it ever discover the real, which is beyond time and measurement? We are experimenting to discover truth, not exchanging opinions. That “I”, that entity which is a thought-process – can it ever be new? If it cannot, then there must be an ending to thought. Is not anything that continues inherently destructive? That which has continuity can never renew itself. As long as thought continues through memory, through desire, through experience, it can never renew itself; therefore, that which is continued cannot know the real. You may be reborn a thousand times, but you can never know the real; for only that which dies, that which comes to an end, can renew itself.
The other part of the question is whether I believe in karma. What do you mean by the word karma? To do, to act, to be. Let us try to find out in spite of old women’s tales. Karma implies, does it not?, cause and effect – action based on cause, producing a certain effect; action born out of conditioning, producing further results. So karma implies cause and effect. And are cause and effect static, are cause and effect ever fixed? Does not effect become cause also? So there is no fixed cause or fixed effect. Today is a result of yesterday, is it not? Today is the outcome of yesterday, chronologically as well as psychologically; and today is the cause of tomorrow. So cause is effect, and effect becomes cause – it is one continuous movement, there is no fixed cause or fixed effect. If there were a fixed cause and a fixed effect, there would be specialization; and is not specialization death? Any species that specializes obviously comes to an end. The greatness of man is that he cannot specialize. He may specialize technically, but in structure he cannot specialize. An acorn seed is specialized – it cannot be anything but what it is. But the human being does not end completely. There is the possibility of constant renewal, he is not limited by specialization. As long as we regard the cause, the background, the conditioning, as unrelated to the effect, there must be conflict between thought and the background. So the problem is much more complex than whether to believe in reincarnation or not, because the question is how to act, not whether you believe in reincarnation or in karma. That is absolutely irrelevant. Your action is merely the outcome of certain causes, and that action modifies future action – therefore there is no escape from conditioning.
So, to put our problem differently, can action ever bring about freedom from this chain of cause-effect? I have done something in the past, I have had experience, which obviously conditions my response today; and today’s response conditions tomorrow. That is the whole process of karma, cause and effect; and obviously, though it may temporarily give pleasure, such a process of cause and effect ultimately leads to pain. That is the real crux of the matter: Can thought be free? Thought, action, that is free does not produce pain, does not bring about conditioning. That is the vital point of this whole question. So, can there be action unrelated to the past? Can there be action not based on idea? Idea is the continuation of yesterday in a modified form, and that continuation will condition tomorrow, which means action based on idea can never be free. As long as action is based on idea, it will inevitably produce further conflict. Can there be action unrelated to the past? Can there be action without the burden of experience, the knowledge of yesterday? As long as action is the outcome of the past, action can never be free; and only in freedom can you discover what is true. What happens is that, as the mind is not free, it cannot act; it can only react; and reaction is the basis of our action. Our action is not action, but merely the continuation of reaction, because it is the outcome of memory, of experience, of yesterday’s response.
So, the question is, can the mind be free from its conditioning? Surely, that is implied in this question of karma and reincarnation, As long as there is continuity of thought, action must be limited; and such action creates opposition, conflict, and karma – the response of the past in conjunction with the present, creating a modified continuity. So, a mind which has continuity, which is based on continuity – can such a mind be free? If it cannot be free, is it possible for continuity to cease? This is a most important question. To discover whether the mind can ever be free from the background implies a tremendous enquiry. Is not the mind based on the background? Is not thought founded upon the past? So, can thought ever free itself from the past? All that thought can do is to come to an end – but obviously not through compulsion, not through effort, not through any form of discipline, control or subjugation. As an observer, see the truth of what it means for thought to come to an end. See the truth, the significance of it, and the false response is removed. That is what we are trying to do in answering this particular question. When there is action not based on idea or on the past, then the mind is silent, absolutely silent. In that silence, action is free from idea. But you will want an answer to your question, whether I believe or not in reincarnation. Do you know, are you any wiser, if I say I believe in it or do not believe in it? I hope you are confused about it. To be satisfied by words of explanation indicates a petty mind, a stupid mind. Examine the whole process of yourself. That examination can take place only in relationship; and to discover the truth in any relationship there must be a state of constant watchfulness, constant, passive alertness. That will show you the truth, for which you need no confirmation from anybody. As long as thought continues, there can be no reality; as long as thought continues as the yesterday, there must be confusion and conflict. Only when the mind is still, passively watchful, is it possible for the real to be.
Question: Why are you against nationalism?
Krishnamurti: Aren’t you against nationalism? Why are you a nationalist? Is not nationalism, calling yourself English, Tamil, or God knows what else, one of the fundamental reasons for war, for the appalling destruction and misery in the world? What is this process of identifying yourself with a group, with a particular country, whether economically, socially or politically? What is the reason for calling yourself a man of Ceylon, an Indian, a German, an American, a Russian, or whatever it is? Social conditioning and economic pressure make you identify yourself with a group. That is one factor. But why do you identify yourself with something? – that is the problem. You identify yourself with the family, with an idea, or with what you call God. Why do you identify yourself with something that you consider great? I live in a little village, I am nobody; but if I call myself a Hindu, if I identify myself with a certain class or caste, then I am somebody. Psychologically I am nobody – empty, insufficient, lonely, poor; but if I identify myself with something great, I become great. (Laughter). Don’t laugh it off, this is what you are actually doing – you call it nationalism, for which you sacrifice everything. A sovereign government must always be on the defensive against attack by some enemy; but you are willing to destroy yourself for an idea, which is your desire to be something great. Actually, you are not great, you are still what you were, only you call yourself a big man. Nationalism is false; like belief, it divides people; and as long as you are nationalistic, you cannot have physical security.
Question: What do you mean when you say that the thinker and the thought are one?
Krishnamurti: This is a serious question, and you will have to be a little attentive. Now, are we not aware that there is the thinker apart from the thought, that the thinker is an entity separate from the process of thought? Because, the thinker is operating on thought, trying to control, subjugate, modify, or even find a substitute for thought. So, we say there is the thinker separate from thought. Now, is that so? Is the thinker separate from thought? If he is, why is he separate, what has brought about this separation? Is it so in reality, or is it an illusion? Is there actually a thinker separate from thought, or only thought separating itself as the thinker? Surely, thought has created the thinker: the thinker is not beyond thought, the thinker is the product of thought. So, the idea that the thinker is separate from thought, is false. It is thought that makes the thinker; and if there were no capacity to think at all, there would be no thinker. The thinker comes into being through thought; and why has this separation taken place? Obviously, for the simple reason that thought is constantly changing; that is, recognizing itself to be in transformation, in change, in constant flux, thought creates an entity, the thinker, to give itself permanency. So desire for permanency creates the thinker. Obviously, thoughts are impermanent; but the entity, the thinker, feels himself to be permanent. Actually, there is no thinker at all: there is only thought creating a permanent entity because there is fear of impermanency. Therefore, it is an illusion. Most of us think this false process is a real process, and, because there is the thinker and the thought, because there is the experiencer who is always experiencing, there is no integration. There is integration only when thought does not create the thinker, which means that thought does not identify itself as “my” thought, “my” achievement, “my” experience – for it is this “my” that separates the thought from the thinker. When there is the experience of integration between thought and the thinker, then there is a fundamental revolution in thinking. Then there is no entity dominating or controlling thought, there is no longer the idea of a “me” becoming something, growing more perfect, more virtuous. The complete integration is when there is only the thought to be understood through right meditation. There is no time now to discuss what is right meditation, we will do it next Sunday – it requires a great deal of time; but integration, that complete revolution in thinking, can be understood only in relationship.
Question: Is belief in God necessary or helpful?
Krishnamurti: As I said, belief in any form is a hindrance. A man who believes in God can never find God. If you are open to reality, there can be no belief in reality. If you are open to the unknown, there can be no belief in it. After all, belief is a form of self-protection, and only a petty mind can believe in God. Look at the belief of the aviators during the war, who said God was their companion as they were dropping bombs! So you believe in God when you kill, when you are exploiting people. You worship God and go on ruthlessly extorting money, supporting the army – yet you say you believe in mercy, compassion, kindliness. Obviously, such belief is a hindrance to the understanding of reality. All belief in any form is a hindrance, including your belief in God. Your belief is a hindrance to the discovery of the real because it is based on an idea or patterned after a tradition. As long as belief exists, there can never be the unknown; you cannot think about the unknown, thought cannot measure it. The mind is the product of the past, it is the result of yesterday; and can such a mind be open to the unknown? It can only project an image, but that projection is not real; so your god is not God, it is an image of your own making, an image of your own gratification. There can be reality only when the mind understands the total process of itself and comes to an end. When the mind is completely empty – only then is it capable of receiving the unknown. The mind is not purged until it understands the content of relationship, its relationship with property, with people; until it has established the right relationship with everything. Until it understands the whole process of conflict in relationship, the mind cannot be free. Only when the mind is wholely silent, completely inactive, not projecting, when it is not seeking and is utterly still – only then that which is eternal and timeless comes into being. This is not speculation, something which you can learn from another, it is not sentiment or sensation – it is a thing that has to be experienced. You cannot experience it as long as the mind is active. Silence of the mind is not achieved by action, it is not a thing to be gone after: it comes only when conflict ceases. To understand one’s conflict in relationship is the beginning of wisdom; and when the mind is tranquil, that which is eternal comes into being.