Krishnamurti: Talk 6
Transcript of Talk 6, London, 17 June 1962
To ask the right question is not easy; but in the very asking of the right question, if you know how to face it, you have already the answer. The difficulty with most of us is, I think, that we are not very clear what we want to ask. We are very confused, and in our confusion we fumble, we try to put a question or two, hoping for clarity. But I don’t think a confused mind can find clarity. Being confused, it cannot find light, it cannot find understanding; but what it can do is to find out why it is confused, what is the source of its confusion, and grapple with that. We must start with confusion, not with the desire to find understanding or clarity. How can a confused mind find clarity? Whatever it finds will still be confused.
So it seems to me that merely to try to find an answer to a problem is an avoidance of the understanding of the problem itself. If I have a problem my instinctive response is to find an answer, to stumble my way somehow or other out of that problem; and generally I do find some kind of answer that momentarily satisfies me. But the problem comes back again in a different way. Now, if instead of seeking an answer to the problem I begin to understand, to unravel the problem itself, then in that very process the answer is there. I don’t have to seek an answer outside the problem.
With that in mind, let us proceed.
Questioner: Sir, am I right in understanding you to say that attention is in time, and awareness is in eternity? And that by laying the foundation of attention in time, we are led to glimpses of an awareness which is timeless?
Krishnamurti: First of all, may I point out that you are not here merely to understand what I am talking about. You are trying to understand yourself, not what I am saying to you. We are trying to see ourselves as we are, to know ourselves, if possible, totally. We are trying to understand the extraordinarily complex entity that each one of us is, with all its subtle changes, conflicts, urges, compulsions.
I have said that to understand ourselves completely a certain kind of awareness is necessary, an awareness of ourselves as we are; and we cannot be so aware if we condemn or justify what we see in ourselves. Surely, that is fairly simple. If I condemn myself, there is no understanding. I am not aware of the implications of what I see, I just condemn it. If I condemn another or compare him with someone else, I don’t understand that person.
So, to understand ourselves – however noble or ignoble we may be, however sensitive or unfeeling – requires awareness. That awareness implies no justification, no condemnation, no comparison. Justification, condemnation and comparison are within the field of time; they are dictated by our conditioning. We look at things as an Englishman, as an Indian, as a Christian, as a Communist. Our observation and our thinking are conditioned by our particular cultural, educational, environmental influences, and if we are not aware of this conditioning we cannot see what is, we cannot see the fact. That is fairly simple iii itself, isn’t it? It is not something you are trying to learn from me. To see and to understand the extraordinarily complex entity that you are, you must look at yourself without this background of condemnation, justification and comparison. And when you do look at yourself without this background, you will see yourself totally.
I think it is very important to understand this question of awareness and not make of it something very mysterious. There is no mystery at all about awareness. It is infinitely practical and applicable to everyday existence. If one is aware that one is comparing, judging, evaluating, aware of one’s likes and dislikes, aware of one’s contradictions without condemning or trying to get out of those contradictions – if one is aware of all this, just aware of the fact, what happens? What happens if I am aware of the fact that I am a liar – aware of the fact without condemning it, without saying how terrible it is, how evil, how unrighteous and all the rest of that nonsense? If you are simply aware of the fact that you lie, then what is talking place?
Please, you are not learning anything from me. I refuse to he your teacher, I refuse to be followed. That is detrimental, that is a hindrance, it destroys all capacity to find out for yourself. But if you observe you will see that when you are simply aware of the fact, you come to it without opinion. You look at it afresh, not with all the memories and associations connected with the fact.
I hope I am making this clear.
The difficulty is that you never look directly at the fact, you look only at the values and opinions associated with the fact; and this prevents you from seeing the fact.
Now, what takes place when I see the fact that I lie, or that I am ambitious, or that I am envious, or that I am greedy? When I look at the fact without opinion, without past remembrances about the fact, then there is no longer any hindrance in my perception of that fact. I can look at it without any deviation or distortion; and then that fact itself creates energy so that I can deal with it. I can find out why I lie and what I can do about it. Do you understand? If I have no opinion, judgment or evaluation concerning the fact, then the fact itself creates the energy with which it can be faced.
All this is part of awareness, it is part of time. Don’t please speculate about the timeless. To discover what is beyond time you can’t just spin a lot or words, nor can you find out from me. You have to work hard at this to find out.
Awareness implies being fully conscious of your reactions when you are confronted with a fact. It implies watching all your responses to challenge – not to some supreme challenge, but to the challenges of every day, the little challenges which occur when you are riding in a bus, when you are talking to the boss, and so on. You have to be aware not only of your conscious, educated, modern responses, but also of the unconscious motives, compulsions, urges; because both the conscious and the unconscious are within the field of conditioning and therefore of time. The unconscious is the past, it is the accumulated racial inheritance, and one has to be aware of all that.
Now, to be choicelessly aware of this total process of the unconscious as well as the conscious, there mL,st be a negative state of mind; and I think it is fairly clear by now what I mean by a negative state of mind. The positive state is that of condemning, judging, evaluating, approving, denying, agreeing or disagreeing, and it is the result of your particular conditioning. But the negative approach is not the opposite of the positive.
If you wish to understand what the speaker is saying, you have to listen negatively, have you not? To listen negatively is not to accept or reject what he is saying, or compare it with what is said in the Bible, or with what your analyst says. You just listen. In that state of negative listening you are aware of your own reactions without judging them; therefore you begin to understand yourself, not just what the speaker is saying. What the speaker is saying is only a mirror in which you are looking at yourself.
Now, this awareness implies attention, does it not? And in the state of attention there is no effort to concentrate. The moment you say, “I must concentrate”, you have engendered conflict, because such concentration implies contradiction. You want to concentrate on something but your thought wanders away, so you try to pull it back and you keep this battle going. And when this battle is going on, you are not listening. If you go into it a little I think you will find that what is being said is an actual fact. It is not a thing to be applied to yourself because you have heard somebody say something about it.
So, awareness is a state of choiceless attention. And without this awareness, this choiceless attention, to talk about what is beyond, what is the timeless, and so on, has no meaning whatsoever. That is mere speculation. It is like sitting at the foot of a hill and asking somebody what is beyond it. To find out, you have to climb the hill. But nobody wants to climb the hill, at least very few want to. Most of us are satisfied with explanations, with concepts, with ideas, with symbols. We try to understand merely verbally what is attention, what is awareness. But this understanding of oneself is quite an arduous task. I am using that word `arduous’, not in the sense of a conflict or an effort to achieve something. One has to be really interested in all this. If you are not interested, it is all right, you can just leave it alone. But if you are interested, you will find it arduous to pursue the understanding of yourself to the very end. All human problems arise from this extraordinarily complex, living centre which is the `me’, and a man who would uncover its subtle ways has to be negatively aware, choicelessly observant. Any effort to see, any form of compulsion, distorts what is seen, arid therefore there is no seeing at all.
Questioner: What do you mean when you say that to free oneself from sorrow one must shatter totally all memory? I have recently lost my wife. When she was dying she said, “Death is the spark to life”. How can I ever forget this?
Krishnamurti: I hope we can look at it factually and not personally.
We have all had death in the family, or we have seen it passing in the street. Here the lifeless body is placed in-a coffin and covered with flowers; it is transported to the cemetery in a hearse, with Rolls-Royces following. In the East it is carried naked with a cloth over it and burnt at the most convenient place. And how is one to meet, without sorrow, this extraordinary thing called death? That is the first point. How is one to understand it? We are all growing old, and it is going to happen to all of us. How am I to meet it? I have seen it, it has happened in my family, but I don’t know anything about it. My son is dead and I am in tears; there is loneliness, misery. Being unhappy, I run away; I want to be comforted. Wanting comfort, the mind finds an easy way out: it believes in life after death, in reincarnation, in resurrection. Those are all escapes from the fact of death.
Death seems to be an absolute end to everything one has known: to all the conversations, the experiences, the relationships one has had, to the pleasures and remembrances one has stored up; and there are the last words, the loss of companionship, the agony of loneliness and separation.
Now, all this implies sorrow. And how am I to understand death while living? I can’t understand it at the last moment, because I am too weak, too ill, too upset, too fearful of the whole process called death. I have to understand death while I have vitality, energy, the capacity to think clearly. That is so, is it not?
What am I to think about the fact of death? How am I to approach it? Death is the unknown. Though a lot of literature has been written about it and many people have said that there is life hereafter – that they have proofs and are convinced – , death is still the unknown. Now, how do I approach it? What am I to think about it? I may have a feeling about death, but such feelings can be very deceptive. If I have what is called an intuition about life after death, which many people say they have, it may be my desire for comfort, or my urge to continue, which I call `intuition’.
So there is the fact of death; and how do I approach it? I seek an answer, an explanation, or I try to forget it, or I cling to the memory of the last words of the friend who is gone, the memory of all the things we once did together. Death is a challenge, and I respond to it with thought as memory; or out of my desire for comfort I believe in reincarnation, in this or in that. We are not discussing whether there is reincarnation or not. We are looking at the fact of death, and how we approach it. Our approach to the fact is important, not whether there is reincarnation, whether there is a continuity after death, and so on.
When I look at the fact of death, I think about it, and my thinking is the result of my fears, my remembrances, my hopes, my despairs, my loneliness. That is the background from which I think. Now, in looking at the fact, can I die to my background? Do you follow what I mean? Surely, to understand the fact, to live with the fact so hat the fact itself gives me the intensity, the vitality, the energy to go into it, I must die to my background of fear, hope, despair, remembrance. I have to be aware of the fact without fear, without saying, “I can’t forget her, I can’t forget him. How disloyal that would be!” I have to be free of the photograph, the picture, the image that is on the mantelpiece or in my mind. I must be free of everything I have known to understand something which cannot e met with the known. Isn’t that so?
We are afraid, not of the unknown, but of losing or giving up the known. If my brother dies, am I really so concerned about my brother? Or am I concern with my own loneliness, my n emptiness, my own anxiety at having to live alone in this dreadful, isolated world? Isn’t it this that is so disturbing to me, and not the unknown. That comes much later.
So, can I give up the known completely, give up the remembrance of pleasure, the remembrance of the things we did together – just die to it easily, without effort? Can I simply drop all that without any compulsion, without any demand, without any motive? Because if I give it up with a motive, I am still within the field of the known.
If you die to the known, to the image of your wife, your husband, your son, to the memories of everything that you did together, what have you left? You are left with nothing, are you not? And it is the conscious or unconscious knowledge of this fact that makes you afraid. To be left with nothing is a brutal state, and most of us don’t want to go through it; but that is death. Very few can go through that state because the mind is so frightened, so conditioned by its own fear, by its own anxieties. But if one has gone that far, then there is the unknown, a movement which is beyond the measure of time, beyond thought and the conceptual pattern of existence. It is very difficult to describe that state. But if you come to it you will find out for yourself that you are living from moment to moment – not accepting the moment with all its illusions, pleasures and despairs, but living without knowing the next moment, and therefore living with an astonishing sense of immensity.
Questioner: Why is it so difficult to live without the hunger to be?
Krishnamurti: Sir, you would not ask this question if you had listened to what was said previously. We are doing this all the time. Somebody asks a question, and we are so wrapped up in our own problems that we don’t listen. If you had listened to the question about death, you would have answered this question for yourself.
The question is: why is it so difficult to live without the hunger to be or to become?
There is the hunger to be, the hunger for publicity or fame, the hunger to become somebody in this world or in the so-called spiritual world, the hunger of compulsive eating, of compulsive sexuality, and so on. And have you ever tried giving up any of these hungers? Have you ever tried giving up something which affords you pleasure, or which has become a habit – just dropping it? So many of you smoke. It is a common habit. Have you ever tried dropping that habit, just dying to it without effort, without compulsion, without the battle that is engendered by saying, “I must not”? How do you meet that habit – if you do?
I don’t smoke, but I see many people smoking, for whom it has become a gripping habit. If they don’t want to give it up, that is perfectly all right. There is no problem. But if I want to give up a habit which has been going on for years, what am I to do? Can I give it up without effort, just let it drop away from me? If I introduce effort by resisting a habit, you know what happens: there is a perpetual battle with that habit. One day I give it up, the next day I am a slave to it again, and I keep up this game for years.
So I must first understand the futility of resistance or effort in breaking a habit. If that is clear, what happens? I become aware of the habit – fully aware of it. If I smoke, I observe myself doing it. I am aware of putting my hand in my pocket, bringing out the cigarettes, drawing one from the package, tapping it on my thumb-nail or other hard surface, putting it in my mouth, lighting it, extinguishing the match, and puffing. I am aware of every movement, of every gesture, without condemning or justifying the habit, without saying it is right or wrong, without thinking, “How dreadful, I must be free of it”, and so on. I am aware without choice, step by step, as I smoke. You try it next time – that is, if you want to break the habit. And in understanding and breaking one habit, however superficial, you can go into the whole enormous problem of habit: habit of thought, habit of feeling, the habit of imitation – and the habit of hungering to be something, for this too is a habit. When you fight a habit, you give life to that habit; and then the fighting becomes another habit, in which most of us are caught. We only know resistance, which has become J habit. All our thinking is habitual; but to understand one habit is to open the door to understanding the whole machinery of habit. You find out where habit is necessary, as in speech, and where habit is completely corruptive.
Most of us function in a series of habits. In the turmoil, the anxiety, the tremendous agony of our existence, we seek comfort by turning to what we call God, and we function in that habit. We have habits of food, habits of thought, habits of feeling, and we say, “If I don’t function in habit, what will I do? How am I to live?” which is really the fear of being uncertain. Most of us don’t know what it is to live in a state of uncertainty without going off the deep end. When we feel intensely uncertain, we become neurotic, which is merely a reaction born of wanting to he certain. Thought has always functioned in habit, therefore it is afraid of being uncertain, insecure. To live in uncertainty is a healthy not a neurotic state, but we don’t know what it means.
So, to understand the hunger to be or to become, you have to bc concerned with and understand the whole process of habit.
Questioner: As we grow older, the mind seems to harden into layers. Is this process natural and inevitable?
Krishnamurti: Physically, as we grow older, we become more rigid, less supple. That is a fact which we can observe very easily. Of course, by eating rightly, doing certain exercises, and so on, you can keep the body fairly supple; but that is not the entire problem. How is one to keep inwardly young, supple, alive, without growing rigid mentally and functioning in fixed patterns. That is really the issue.
You know, it is one of the most difficult thing, to be free of an idea. Take the idea of God. So-called religious people are terribly burdened with this idea. It is an idea to which you have been conditioned and in which you have grown rigid. The Christian believes in the Saviour, in Jesus with his cross. That is the result of two thousand years of propaganda. It is propaganda that makes you believe or not believe that there is only one Saviour. Certain ideas have been dinned into each one of us from infancy, a-nd most of us continue to function in those ideas. You may become an atheist, but your mind is still held by an idea, a belief. There is the idea of nationalism, the idea of right and wrong – we are not discussing whether there is right and wrong, that is not the point. We are examining idea, belief, and how it takes hold of us. As long as one is living in pattern; of thought, in fixed ways of thinking and feeling, the.mind is bound to grow rigid, hard.
Take the question of relationship – relationship with one’s husband, wife, son, mother, father, and so on. One of the mo;t difficult things in relationship is never to be certain of that relationship. The moment you have a husband, a wife, a child, that person is yours. You have set the pattern of possession, and this possession – in which there is jealousy, anxiety, fear – is called love; it becomes that hardened and respectable thing, the morality of society.
So, as you see, all our acting, thinking, living is in patterns, and naturally our minds grow hard. And the mind grows hard also because there is conflict. To be aware of all this in oneself is to have a mind that is neither hard nor supple – it is something entirely different. But to experience that state one must understand and be free of habit.
Virtue cannot be practised.. Virtue that is born of constant practice, is not virtue. It is not humility that practises humility. It is not love that says, “I must love”. The moment one is aware that one is virtuous, virtue is destroyed. Virtue comes without discipline, without effort, without imitation, without practice, when there is no accumulation but only a state of learning.
Questioner: Would it not be valuable to look with awareness into the historical past?
Krishnamurti: I wonder what we mean by the word `valuable’? It is like that word `useful’. Most of us want to bc useful, God knows why; and we want to do the valuable thing, we want to look into the past so that it will have some value. I think it is fairly simple to find out about the historical past. You can read the history books. But I am not talking of history books. I am talking of the past that is you and me. You and I are the residue of all human beings, whether they live in the East or in the West. The `me’ is the psychological summation of the historical process. And when you examine the `me’, when you are aware of it, what do you find? You don’t find God, you don’t find the soul, you don’t find the eternal, and all that. What you find is untold memory. We have been conditioned to believe that we are the soul, that in us there is God, or that there is no God and that we exist for the State. We have had it dinned into us that we must do the right thing, we must be useful, we must be good, we must be this and not that. Surely, to find out if there is God, you have to destroy this terrible respectability; you have to strip yourself of the character which you have built up as being somebody in the pattern of virtue, in the morality of society – break it up completely. That is the only real revolution. The crisis is not at the economic or social level, but at the psychological level; it is a crisis in consciousness, and that is where the challenge has to be met. And when you have gone into the whole psychological structure of society, which is the `me’, when you have observed it, understood it and broken it up, you are left with nothing; you are lonely, completely isolated.
Sir, what relation has truth, love, or the unknowable, with this world of jealousy, envy, passing pleasures, beliefs, dogmas, passion? I am sorry to use the word `passion’. Passion is a lovely thing, it is a good thing. I do not mean the passion of ambition, of lust, and all that sort of thing. The passion I am talking of is something entirely different. But what relation has that immensity – if there really is such a thing – with our pettiness? None whatsoever. But we always want to establish a relationship between the known and something unknowable.
Truth is not to be sought after. There is no seeking. How can a petty mind seek truth? A petty mind, a mind that is ambitious, envious, psychologically confused, may imagine, conceive or formulate what truth is; but what it formulated will still be petty, small, narrow. What is important is not to seek truth, but to be free of pettiness, for then you leave the window open, you leave a space.in which that immensity, if there is such a thing, may come.