Krishnamurti: Talk 2

Transcript of Talk 2, New Delhi, 17 February 1960

Most of us must be aware that a fundamental change is necessary. We are confronted with so many problems, and there must be a different way – perhaps a totally different way – to approach all these problems. And it seems to me that unless we understand the inward nature of this change, mere reformation, a revolution on the surface, will have very little significance. What is necessary, surely, is not a superficial change, not a temporary adjustment or conformity to a new pattern, but rather a fundamental transformation of the mind – a change that will be total, not just partial.

To understand this problem of change, it is necessary, first of all, to understand the process of thinking and the nature of knowledge. Unless we go into this rather deeply, any change will have very little meaning, because merely to change on the surface is to perpetuate the very things we are trying to alter. All revolutions set out to change the relationship of man to man, to create a better society, a different way of living; but through the gradual process of time the very abuses which the revolution was supposed to remove recur in another way with a different group of people, and the same old process goes on. We start out to change, to bring about a classless society, only to find that, through time, through the pressure of circumstances, a different group becomes the new upper class. The revolution is never radical, fundamental.

So, it seems to me that superficial reformation or adjustment is meaningless when we are confronted with so many problems; and to bring about a lasting and significant change, we must see what change implies. We do change superficially under the pressure of circumstances, through propaganda, through necessity, or through the desire to conform to a particular pattern. I think one must be aware of this. A new invention, a political reformation, a war, a social revolution, a system of discipline – these things do change the mind of man, but only on the surface. And the man who earnestly wants to find out what is implied in a fundamental change, must surely inquire into the whole process of thinking, that is, into the nature of the mind and knowledge.

So, if I may, I would like to talk over with you what is the mind, the nature of knowledge, and what it means to know; because, if we do not understand all that, I do not think there is any possibility of a new approach to our many problems, a new way of looking at life.

The lives of most us are pretty ugly, sordid, miserable, petty. Our existence is a series of conflicts, contradictions, a process of struggle, pain, fleeting joy, momentary satisfaction. We are bound by so many adjustments, conformities, patterns, and there is never a moment of freedom, never a sense of complete being. There is always frustration, because there is always the seeking to fulfil. We have no tranquillity of mind, but are always tortured by various demands. So, to understand all these problems and go beyond them, it is surely necessary that we begin by understanding the nature of knowledge and the process of the mind.

Knowledge implies a sense of accumulation, does it not? Knowledge can be acquired, and because of its nature, knowledge is always partial, it is never complete; therefore all action springing from knowledge is also partial, incomplete. I think we must see that very clearly.

I hesitate to go on, because, if we are to understand as we go along, we must commune with each other; and I am not sure there is any communion between us. Communion implies understanding not only the significance of the words, but also the meaning beyond the words, does it not? If your mind and the speaker’s mind are moving together in understanding, with sensitivity, then there is a possibility of real communion with each other. But if you are merely listening to find out at the end of the talk what I mean by knowledge, then we are not in communion. You are merely waiting for a definition; and definitions, surely, are not the way of understanding.

So the question arises, what is understanding? What is the state of the mind that understands? When you say, “I understand”, what do you mean by it? Understanding is not mere intellection, it is not the outcome of argumentation, it has nothing to do with acceptance, denial or conviction. On the contrary, acceptance, denial and conviction prevent understanding. To understand, surely, there must be a state of attention in which there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for a further development of the thing we are talking about in order to agree or disagree. There is an abeyance or suspension of all opinion, of all sense of condemnation or comparison; you are just listening to find out. Your approach is one of inquiry, which means that you don’t start from a conclusion; therefore you are in a state of attention, which is really listening.

Now, is it possible, in such a large crowd, to commune with each other? I would like to go into this problem of knowledge, however difficult, because, if we can understand the problem of knowledge, then I think we shall be able to go beyond the mind; and in going beyond or transcending itself, the mind may be without limitation, that is, without effort, which places a limitation on consciousness. Unless we go beyond the mechanistic process of the mind, real creativeness is obviously impossible; and what is necessary, surely, is a mind that is creative, so that it is able to deal with all these multiplying problems. To understand what is knowledge and go beyond the partial, the limited, to experience that which is creative, requires, not just a moment of perception, but a continuous awareness, a continuous state of inquiry in which there is no conclusion – and this, after all, is intelligence.

So, if you are listening, not merely with your ears, but with a mind that really wishes to understand, a mind that has no authority, that does not start with a conclusion or a quotation, that has no desire to be proved right but is aware of these innumerable problems and sees the necessity of solving them directly – if that is the state of your mind, then I think we can commune with each other. Otherwise you will merely be left with a lot of words.

As I was saying, all knowledge is partial; and any action born of knowledge is also partial, and therefore contradictory. If you are at all aware of yourself, of your activities, of your motivations, of your thoughts and desires, you will know that you live in a state of self-contradiction: `I want’, and at the same time `I do not want’, `This I must do, that I must not do’, and so on-and so on. The mind is in a state of contradiction all the time. And the more acute the contradiction, the more confusion your action creates. That is, when there is a challenge which must be answered, which cannot be avoided, or from which you cannot escape, then, your mind being in a state of contradiction, the tension of having to face that challenge forces an action; and such action produces further contradiction, further misery.

I do not know if it is clear to each one of us that we live in a state of contradiction. We talk about peace, and prepare for war. We talk about non-violence, and are fundamentally violent. We talk about being good, and we are not. We talk about love, and we are full of ambition, competitiveness, ruthless efficiency. So there is contradiction. The action which springs from that contradiction only brings about frustration and further contradiction. Knowledge being incomplete, any action born of that knowledge is bound to be contradictory. Our problem, then, is to find a source of action which is not partial – to discover it now, so as to create an immediate action which is total, and not say, “I will find it through some system, at some future time”.

You see, sirs, all thought is partial, it can never be total. Thought is the response of memory, and memory is always partial, because memory is the result of experience; so thought is the reaction of a mind which is conditioned by experience. All thinking, all experience, all knowledge is inevitably partial; therefore thought cannot solve the many problems that we have. You may try to reason logically, sanely about these many problems; but if you observe your own mind you will see that your thinking is conditioned by your circumstances, by the culture in which you were born, by the food you eat, by the climate you live in, by the newspapers you read, by the pressures and influences of your daily life. You are conditioned as a Communist, or a Socialist, as a Hindu, a Catholic, or what you will; you are conditioned to believe or not to believe. And because the mind is conditioned by its belief or non-belief, by its knowledge, by its experience, all thinking is partial. There is no thinking which is free.

So we must understand very clearly that our thinking is the response of memory; and memory is mechanistic. Knowledge is ever incomplete, and all thinking born of knowledge is limited, partial, never free. So there is no freedom of thought. But we can begin to discover a freedom which is not a process of thought, and in which the mind is simply aware of all its conflicts and of all the influences impinging upon it.

I hope I am making myself clear.

After all, what is the aim of education as we have it now? It is to mould the mind according to necessity, is it not? Society at the present time needs a great many engineers, scientists, physicists, so through various forms of reward and compulsion the mind is influenced to conform to that demand; and this is what we call education. Though knowledge is necessary, and we cannot do without being educated, is it possible to have knowledge and not be a slave to it? Being aware of the partial nature of knowledge, is it possible not to allow the mind to be caught in knowledge, so that it is capable of total action, which is action not based on a thought, an idea?

Let me put it this way. Is there not a difference between knowledge and knowing? Knowledge, surely, is always of time, whereas knowing is not of time. Knowledge is from a source, from an accumulation, from a conclusion, while knowing is a movement. A mind that is constantly in the movement of knowing, learning, has no source from which it knows. Am I only making it more complicated?

Sirs, let us try another way. What do we mean by learning? Is there learning when you are merely accumulating knowledge, gathering information? That is one kind of learning, is it not? As a student of engineering, you study mathematics, and so on; you are learning, informing yourself about the subject. You are accumulating knowledge in order to use that knowledge in practical ways. Your learning is accumulative, additive. Now, when the mind is merely taking on, adding, acquiring, is it learning? Or is learning something entirely different? I say the additive process which we now call learning, is not learning at all. It is merely a cultivation of memory, which becomes mechanical; and a mind which functions mechanically, like a machine, is not capable of learning. A machine is never capable of learning, except in the additive sense. Learning is something quite different, as I shall try to show you.

A mind that is learning never says, “I know”, because knowledge is always partial, whereas learning is complete all the time. Learning does not mean starting with a certain amount of knowledge, and adding to it further knowledge. That is not learning at all; it is a purely mechanistic process. To me, learning is something entirely different. I am learning about myself from moment to moment, and the `myself’ is extraordinarily vital; it is living, moving, it has no beginning and no end. When I say, “I know myself”, learning has come to an end in accumulated knowledge. Learning is never cumulative; it is a movement of knowing which has no beginning and no end.

Sirs, the problem is this: is it possible for the mind to free itself from this mechanistic accumulation called knowledge? And can one find that out through the process of thinking? Do you understand? You and I realize that we are conditioned. If you say, as some people do, that conditioning is inevitable, then there is no problem; you are a slave, and that is the end of it. But if you begin to ask yourself whether it is at all possible to break down this limitation, this conditioning, then there is a problem; so you will have to inquire into the whole process of thinking, will you not? If you merely say, “I must be aware of my conditioning, I must think about it, analyze it in order to understand and destroy it”, then you are exercising force. Your thinking, your analyzing is still the result of your background; so through your thought you obviously cannot break down the conditioning of which it is a part.

Just see the problem first, don’t ask what is the answer, the solution. The fact is that we are conditioned, and that all thought to understand this conditioning will always be partial; therefore there is never a total comprehension; and only in total comprehension of the whole process of thinking is there freedom. The difficulty is that we are always functioning within the field of the mind, which is the instrument of thought, reasonable or unreasonable; and as we have seen, thought is always partial. I am sorry to repeat that word, but we think that thought will solve our problems; and I wonder if it will?

To me, the mind is a total thing. It is the intellect; it is the emotions; it is the capacity to observe, distinguish; it is that centre of thought which says, “I will” and “I will not”, it is desire; it is fulfilment. It is the whole thing, not something intellectual apart from the emotional. We exercise thought as a means of resolving our problems. But thought is not the means of resolving any of our problems, because thought is the response of memory, and memory is the result of accumulated knowledge as experience. Realizing this, what is the mind to do? Do you understand the problem?

I am full of ambition, the desire for power, position, prestige, and I also feel that I must know what love is; so I am in a state of contradiction. A man who is after power, position, prestige, has no love at all, though he may talk about it; and any integration of the two is impossible, however much he may desire it. Love and power cannot join hands. So what is the mind to do? Thought, we see, will only create further contradictions, further misery. So, can the mind be aware of this problem without introducing thought into it at all? Do you understand, or am I talking Greek?

Sirs, let me put it in still another way. Has it ever happened to you – I am sure it has – that you suddenly perceive something, and in that moment of perception you have no problems at all? The very moment you have perceived the problem, the problem has completely ceased. Do you understand, sirs? You have a problem, and you think about it, argue with it, worry over it, you exercise every means within the limits of your thought to understand it. Finally you say, “I can do no more”. There is nobody to help you to understand, no guru, no book. You are left with the problem, and there is no way out. Having inquired into the problem to the full-extent of your capacity, you leave it alone. Your mind is no longer worried, no longer tearing at the problem, no longer saying, “I must find an answer; so it becomes quiet, does it not? And in that quietness you find the answer. Hasn’t that sometimes happened to you? It is not an enormous thing. It happens to great mathematicians, scientists, and people experience it occasionally in everyday life. Which means what? The mind has exercised fully its capacity to think, and has come to the edge of all thought without having found an answer; therefore it becomes quiet – not through weariness, not through fatigue, not by saying, “I will be quiet and thereby find the answer”. Having already done everything possible to find the answer, the mind becomes spontaneously quiet. There is an awareness without choice, without any demand, an awareness in which there is no anxiety; and in that state of mind there is perception. It is this perception alone that will resolve all our problems.

Again, let me put the problem differently. When we are concerned with the mind, we have to inquire into consciousness, have we not?, because the mind is consciousness. The mind is not only intellect, feeling, desire, frustration, fulfilment, despair, but also the totality of consciousness, which includes the unconscious. Most of us function superficially on the conscious level. When you go to the office day after day fromto 5, or whatever it is, year in and year out, with a terrible sense of boredom, you are functioning automatically, like a machine, in the upper layers of consciousness, are you not? You have learnt a trade or a profession, and your conscious mind is functioning at that level, while below there is the unconscious mind. Consciousness is like a deep, wide, swift-flowing river. On the surface many things are happening and there are many reflections; but that is obviously not the whole river. The river is a total thing, it includes what is below as well as what is above. It is the same with consciousness; but very few of us know what is taking place below. Most of us are satisfied if we can live fairly well, with some security and a little happiness on the surface. As long as we have a little food and shelter, a little puja, little gods and little joys, our playing around on the surface is good enough for us. Because we are so easily satisfied, we never inquire into the depths; and perhaps the depths are stronger, more powerful, more urgent in their demands than what is happening on top. So there is a contradiction between what is transpiring on the surface, and what is going on below. Most of us are aware of this contradiction only when there is a crisis, because the surface mind has so completely adjusted itself to the environment. The surface mind has acquired the new Western culture, with its parliamentarianism, and all that business, but down below there is still the ancient residue, the racial instincts, the silent motivations that are constantly demanding, urging. These things are so deep down that we do not ordinarily feel them, and we do not inquire into them because we have no time. Hints of them are often projected into the conscious mind as dreams – which I am not going into for the time being.

So, the mind is that whole thing, but most of us are content to do no more than function on the surface. It is only in moments of great crisis that we are aware of this deep contradiction within ourselves; and then we want to escape from it, so we go to the temple, to a guru or we turn on the radio, or do something else. All escapes, whether through God or through the radio, are fundamentally the same.

There is, then, a contradiction in consciousness; and any effort to resolve that contradiction, or to escape from it, places a further limitation on consciousness.

Sirs, I am talking about the same thing all the time in different ways. We are concerned with the mind, and how the mind, being educated in knowledge, in the partial, is to be aware of the total; because only when the mind is aware of the total is there a comprehension in which the problem ceases.

Am I explaining it sufficiently clearly, so that we can proceed without further labouring the point?

All thinking is limited, because thinking is the response of memory – memory as experience, memory as the accumulation of knowledge – and it is mechanistic. Being mechanistic, thinking will not solve our problems. This does not mean that we must stop thinking. But an altogether new factor is necessary. We have tried various methods and systems, various ways – the Congress way, the Socialist way, the religious way – and they have all failed. Man is still in misery, he is still groping, seeking in the torture of despair, and there is seemingly no end to his sorrow. So there must be a totally new factor which is not recognizable by the mind. Do you follow?

You don’t understand, sirs, so please don’t nod your heads.

Surely, the mind is the instrument of recognition, and anything that the mind recognizes is already known; therefore it is not the new. It is still within the field of thought, of memory, and hence mechanistic. So the mind must be in a state where it perceives without the process of recognition.

Now, what is that state? It has nothing to do with thought; it has nothing to do with recognition. Recognition and thought are mechanistic. It is, if I may put it this way, a state of perception and nothing else – that is, a state of being.

Am I only complicating it further?

Look, sirs: most of us are petty people, with very shallow minds; and the thinking of a narrow, shallow mind can only lead to further misery. A shallow mind cannot make itself deep; it will always be shallow, petty, envious. What it can do is to realize the fact that it is shallow, and not make an effort to alter it. The mind sees that it is conditioned, and has no urge to change that conditioning, because it understands that any compulsion to change is the result of knowledge, which is partial; therefore it is in a state of perception. It is perceiving what is. But generally what happens? Being envious, the mind exercises thought to get rid of envy, thereby creating the opposite as non-envy; but it is still within the field of thought. Now, if the mind perceives the state of envy without condemning or accepting it, and without introducing the desire to change, then it is in a state of perception; and that very perception brings about a new movement, a new element, a totally different quality of being.

You see, sirs, words, explanations and symbols are one thing, and being is something entirely different. Here we are not concerned with words, we are concerned with being – being what we actually are, not dreaming of ourselves as spiritual entities, the Atman and all that nonsense, which is still within the field of thought, and therefore partial. What matters is being what you are – envious and perceiving that totally; and you can perceive it totally only when there is no movement of thought at all. The mind is the movement of thought – and it is also the state in which there is complete perception, without the movement of thought. Only that state of perception can bring about a radical change in the ways of our thinking; and then thinking will not be mechanistic.

So, what we are concerned with is, surely, to be aware of this whole process of the mind, with its limitations, and not make an effort to remove those limitations; to see completely, totally what is. You cannot see totally what is unless all thinking is in abeyance. In that state of awareness there is no choice, and only that state can resolve our problems.