Does Self-knowledge Come Through Searching?

Transcript of Talk 1, Ojai, 16 July 1949

I think it is very important that we should be most earnest. Those who come to these gatherings, those who go to various meetings of this kind, think they are very earnest and serious. But I would like to find out what we mean by being earnest, by being serious. Is it earnestness, does it show seriousness, if we go from one lecturer or talker to another, from one leader to another, from one teacher to another; if we go to different groups, or pass through different organizations, in search of something? So, before we begin to find out what it is to be earnest, surely we must find out what it is that we are seeking.

What is it that most of us are seeking? What is it that each one of us wants? Especially in this restless world, where everybody is trying to find some kind of peace, some kind of happiness, a refuge, surely it is important to find out, isn’t it?, what it is that we are trying to seek, what it is that we are trying to discover. Probably most of us are seeking some kind of happiness, some kind of peace; in a world that is ridden with turmoil, wars, contention, strife, we want a refuge, where there can be some peace. I think that is what most of us want. And so we pursue, go from one leader to another, from one religious organization to another, from one teacher to another.

Now, is it that we are seeking happiness, or is it that we are seeking gratification of some kind, from which we hope to derive happiness? Surely, there is a difference between happiness and gratification. Can you seek happiness? perhaps you can find gratification; but, surely, you cannot find happiness. Happiness is derivative, surely; it is a by-product of something else. So, before we give our minds and hearts to something which demands a great deal of earnestness, attention, thought, care, we must find out, must we not?, what it is that we are seeking; whether it is happiness, or gratification. I am afraid most of us are seeking gratification. We want to be gratified, we want to find a sense of fullness at the end of our search.

Now, can you seek anything? Why do you come to these meetings? Why are you all sitting here and listening to me? It would be very interesting to find out why you are listening, why you take the trouble to come from long distances on a hot day, and listen. And, to what are you listening? Are you trying to find a solution for your troubles, and is that why you go from one lecturer to another, and through various religious organizations, and read books, and so on and on; or, are you trying to find out the cause of all the trouble, the misery, contention and strife? Surely, that does not demand that you should read a great deal, that you should attend innumerable meetings, or search out teachers? What it demands is clarity of intention, isn’t it?

After all, if one is seeking peace, one can find it very easily. One can devote oneself blindly to some kind of a cause, to an idea, and take shelter there. Surely, that does not solve the problem. Mere isolation in an enclosing idea is not a release from conflict. So, we must find, must we not?, what it is, inwardly, as well as outwardly, that each one of us wants. If we are clear on that matter, then we don’t have to go anywhere, to any teacher, to any church, to any organization. So, our difficulty is, is it not?, to be clear in ourselves regarding our intention. Can we be clear? And does that clarity come through searching through trying to find out what others say, from the highest teacher to the ordinary preacher in a church round the corner? Have you got to go to somebody to find out? And yet, that is what we are doing, is it not? We read innumerable books, we attend many meetings and discuss, we join various organizations – trying thereby to find a remedy to the conflict, to the miseries in our lives. Or, if we don’t do all that, we think we have found; that is, we say that a particular organization, a particular teacher, a particular book satisfies us; we have found everything we want in that; and we remain in that, crystallized and enclosed.

So, we have to come to the point when we ask ourselves, really earnestly and profoundly, if peace, happiness, reality, God, or what you will, can be given to us by someone else. Can this incessant search, this longing, give us that extraordinary sense of reality, that creative being, which comes when we really understand ourselves? Does self-knowledge come through search, through following someone else, through belonging to any particular organization, through reading books, and so on? After all, that is the main issue, is it not?, that as long as I do not understand myself, I have no basis for thought, and all my search will be in vain. I can escape into illusions, I can run away from contention, strife, struggle; I can worship another; I can look for my salvation through somebody else. But as long as I am ignorant of myself, as long as I am unaware of the total process of myself, I have no basis for thought, for affection, for action.

But that is the last thing we want: to know ourselves. Surely, that is the only foundation on which we can build. But, before we can build, before we can transform, before we can condemn or destroy, we must know that which we are. So, to go out seeking, changing teachers, gurus, practising yoga, breathing, performing rituals, following Masters, and all the rest of it, is utterly useless, is it not? It has no meaning, even though the very people whom we follow may say: Study yourself. Because, what we are, the world is. If we are petty, jealous, vain, greedy – that is what we create about us, that is the society in which we live.

So, it seems to me, that before we set out on a journey to find reality, to find God, before we can act, before we can have any relationship with another, which is society, surely it is essential that we begin to understand ourselves first. And I consider the earnest person to be one who is completely concerned with this, first, and not with how to arrive at a particular goal. Because, if you and I do not understand ourselves, how can we, in action, bring about a transformation in society, in relationship, in anything that we do? And it does not mean, obviously, that self-knowledge is opposed to, or isolated from, relationship. It does not mean, obviously, emphasis on the individual, the me, as opposed to the mass, as opposed to another. I do not know if some of you have seriously undertaken to study yourselves, watching every word, and its responses; watching every movement of thought and feeling – just watching it, being conscious of your bodily responses, whether you act from your physical centres, or whether you act from an idea; how you respond to the world condition. I do not know if you have ever seriously gone into this question at all. Perhaps sporadically, as a last resort, when everything else has failed and you are bored, some of you have tried it.

Now, without knowing yourself, without knowing your own way of thinking, and why you think certain things, without knowing the background of your conditioning, and why you have certain beliefs about art and religion, about your country and your neighbour, and about yourself, how can you think truly about anything? Without knowing your background, without knowing the substance of your thought and whence it comes – surely, your search is utterly futile, your action has no meaning, has it? Whether you are an American, or a Hindu, or what your religion is, has no meaning either.

So, before we can find out what the end purpose of life is, what it all means – wars, national antagonisms, conflicts, the whole mess – surely, we must begin with ourselves, must we not? It sounds so simple, but it is extremely difficult. Because, to follow oneself, to see how one’s thought operates, one has to be extraordinarily alert: so that, as one begins to be more and more alert to the intricacies of one’s own thinking and responses and feelings, one begins to have a greater awareness, not only of oneself, but of another with whom one is in relationship. To know oneself, is to study oneself in action, which is relationship. But, the difficulty is that we are so impatient; we want to get on, we want to reach an end. And so we have neither the time nor the occasion, to give ourselves the opportunity, to study, to observe. Or, we have committed ourselves to various activities – to earning a livelihood, to rearing children – or have taken on certain responsibilities of various organizations; we have so committed ourselves in different ways, that we have hardly any time for self-reflection, to observe, to study. So, really, the responsibility of the reaction depends on oneself, not on another. And the pursuit, as in America and all the world over, of gurus and their systems, reading the latest books on this and that, and so on, seems to me so utterly empty, so utterly futile; for you may wander all over the earth, but you have to come back to yourself. And, as most of us are totally unaware of ourselves, it is extremely difficult to begin to see clearly the process of our thinking and feeling and acting. And that is the thing I am going to deal with during the weeks that are to follow in which I am to talk.

The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river. And as one studies it, as one goes into it more and more, one finds peace. Only when the mind is tranquil – through self-knowledge and not through imposed self-discipline – only then, in that tranquillity, in that silence, can reality come into being. It is only then that there can be bliss, that there can be creative action. And it seems to me that without this understanding, without this experience, merely to read books, to attend talks, to do propaganda, is so infantile – just an activity without much meaning. Whereas, if one is able to understand oneself, and thereby bring about that creative happiness, that experiencing of something that is not of the mind, then perhaps there can be a transformation in the immediate relationship about us, and so in the world in which we live.

Question: Do I have to be at any special level of consciousness to understand you?

Krishnamurti: To understand anything – not only what I am saying, but to understand anything – what is required? To understand yourself, to understand your husband, your wife, to understand a picture, to understand the scenery, the trees, what is required? Right attention, isn’t it? Because, to understand something, you must give your whole being to it, your undivided, full, deep attention, must you not? And how can there be deep, full attention, when you are distracted? – for example, when you are taking down notes as I am talking, you catch a good phrase, probably, and you say, “By Jove, I am going to take that down, I am going to use it in my talk.” How can there be full attention when you are merely concerned with words? That is, you are concentrated on the verbal level, and so are incapable of going beyond that verbal level. Words are only a means of communication. But, if you are not capable of communicating, and merely stick to words, obviously there cannot be full attention; therefore, there is no right understanding.

So, listening is an art, is it not? To understand something, you must give full attention, and that is not possible when there is any kind of distraction: taking notes, or when you are sitting uncomfortably, or when you are struggling to understand by making an effort. Making an effort to understand is obviously a hindrance to understanding, because your whole attention has gone into making the effort. I do not know if you have ever noticed that when you are interested in something that another is saying, you are not making an effort, you are not building up a wall of resistance against distraction. There are no distractions when you are interested; you are giving your full attention eagerly, spontaneously, to something that is being said. When there is vital interest, there is spontaneous attention. But most of us find such attention very difficult; because, consciously, on the upper level of the mind, you may want to understand, but inwardly there is resistance; or, inwardly there may be a desire to understand, but outwardly, superficially, there is resistance.

So, to give full attention to something there must be integration of your whole being. Because, at one level of consciousness you may want to find out, you may want to know; but at another level, that very knowing may mean destruction, because it may make you change your whole life. So, there is an inward contention, an inward struggle, of which you are perhaps unaware. Though you think you are paying attention, there is really a distraction going on inwardly or outwardly; and that is the difficulty.

So, to understand anything, one must give complete attention; and that is why I have been suggesting at various meetings that no notes should be taken, that you are not here to do propaganda, for me or for yourself; that you should listen only in order to understand. Our difficulty in understanding, is that our mind is never quiet. We never look at anything quietly, in a receptive mood. A lot of rubbish is thrown at us by newspapers, magazines, politicians, tub-thumpers; every preacher around the corner tells us what to do and what not to do. All that is constantly pouring in; and, naturally, there is also an inward resistance to it all. There can be no understanding as long as the mind is disturbed. As long as the mind is not very quiet, silent, tranquil receptive, sensitive, it is not possible to understand; and this sensitivity of the mind is not merely at the upper level of consciousness, in the superficial mind. There must be tranquillity right through, an integrated tranquillity. When you are in the presence of something very beautiful, if you begin to chatter you will not sense its meaning. But the moment you are quiet, the moment you are sensitive, its beauty comes to you. Similarly, if we would understand anything, not only must we be physically still, but our minds must be extremely alert yet tranquil. That alert passivity of the mind does not come about through compulsion. You cannot train the mind to be silent; then it is merely like a trained monkey, outwardly quiet, but inwardly boiling. So, listening is an art; and you must give your time, your thought, your whole being, to that which you want to understand.

Question: Can I understand easier what you are saying by teaching it to others?

Krishnamurti: You may learn, by telling it to others, a new way of putting things, a clever way of transmitting what you want to say; but, surely, that is not understanding. If you don’t understand yourself, how in the name of names can you tell it to somebody else? Surely, that is merely propaganda, isn’t it? You don’t understand something, but you tell others about it; and you think a truth can be repeated. Do you think, if you have an experience, you can tell it to others? You may be able to communicate verbally; but can you tell others of your experience – that is, can you convey the experiencing of a thing? You may describe the experience, but you cannot convey the state of experiencing. So, a truth that is repeated, ceases to be a truth. It is only the lie that can be repeated; but the moment you `repeat’ a truth, it loses its meaning. And most of us are concerned with repeating, but are not experiencing. A man who is experiencing something is not concerned with mere repetition, with trying to convert others, with propaganda. But unfortunately, most of us are concerned with propaganda; because, through propaganda, we try not only to convince others, but also gain a living by exploiting others; it gradually becomes a racket.

So, if you are not caught up in mere verbalization, but are really occupied with experiencing, then you and I are in communion. But, if you want to do propaganda – and I say truth cannot be propagandized – then there is no relationship between us. And I am afraid that is our difficulty at the present time. You want to tell others, without experiencing; and in telling, you hope to experience. That is mere sensation, mere gratification; it has no significance. It has no validity, no reality behind it. But, a reality experienced, if communicated, creates no bondage. So, experiencing is much more important, has greater significance, than communication on the verbal level.

Question: It seems to me that the movement of life is experienced in relationship with people and ideas. To de tach oneself from such stimulation is to live in a depressing vacuum. I need distractions to feel alive.

Krishnamurti: In this question is involved the whole problem of detachment and relationship. Now, why do we want to be detached? What is this instinct in most of us that wants to push away, that wants to be detached? It may be, that for most of us this idea of detachment has come into being because so many religious teachers have talked about it: “You must be detached in order to find reality; you must renounce, you must give up, and then only will you find reality.” And can we be detached in relationship? What do we mean by relationship? So, we will have to go into this question a little carefully.

Now, why have we this instinctive response, this constant looking to detachment? The various religious teachers have said, you must be detached. Why? First of all, the problem is, why are we attached? Not how to be detached, but why is it that you are attached? Surely, if you can find the answer to that, then there is no question of detachment, is there? Why are we attached to attractions, to sensations, to things of the mind or of the heart? If we can discover why we are attached, then perhaps we will find the right answer – not how to be detached.

Why are you attached? And what would happen if you were not attached? If you were not attached to your particular name, property, position – you know, the whole mass of things that makes up you: your furniture, your car, your characteristics, your idiosyncrasies, your virtues, your beliefs, your ideas – what would happen? If you were not attached, you would find yourself to be as nothing, would you not? If you were not attached to your comforts, to your position, to your vanity, you would be suddenly lost, would you not? So, the fear of emptiness, the fear of being nothing makes you attached to something – whether it is to your family, to your husband, wife, to a chair, to a car, to your country – it doesn’t matter what. The fear of being nothing makes one cling to something; and in the process of holding on, there is conflict, there is pain. Because, what you hold onto soon disintegrates, dies; your car, your position, your property, your husband. So, in the process of holding, there is pain; and in order to avoid pain, we say we must be detached. You look into yourself and you will see that this is so. Fear of loneliness, fear of being nothing, fear of emptiness, makes us attach ourselves to something: to a country, to an idea, to a God, to some organization, to a Master, to a discipline, what you will. In the process of attachment, there is pain; and to avoid that pain, we try to cultivate detachment, and so we keep up this circle which is always painful, in which there is always a struggle.

Now, why can’t we be as nothing, a nonentity? Not merely on the verbal level, but inwardly? Then there is no problem of attachment or detachment, is there? And, in that state, can there be relationship? Because that is what this questioner wants to know. He says that without relationship to people and to ideas, one lives in a depressing vacuum. Is that so? Is relationship a process of attachment? When you are attached to somebody, are you related to that person? When I am attached to you, hold on to you, possess you, am I related to you? You become a necessity to me because, without you, I am lost, I am made uncomfortable, I feel miserable, I feel lonely. So, you become a necessity, a useful thing, a thing to fill my emptiness. You are not important; what is important is that you fill my need. And is there any relationship between us, when to me you are a need, a necessity, like a piece of furniture?

To put it differently, can one live without relationship? And is relationship merely a stimulation? Because, without that, which you call distraction, you feel lost, you do not feel alive. That is, you treat relationship as a distraction, which makes you feel alive. That is what the questioner says.

So, can one live in the world without relationship? Obviously not. There is nothing that can live in isolation. Some of us, perhaps, would like to live in isolation; but one cannot do it. Therefore, relationship becomes merely a distraction, which makes you feel as though you were alive: quarrelling with each other, having struggles, contention, and so on, gives one a sense of aliveness. So, relationship becomes merely a distraction. And, as the questioner says, without distractions, you feel you are dead. Therefore, you use relationship merely as a means of distraction; and distraction, whether drink, going to cinemas, accumulating knowledge – any form of distraction – , obviously dulls the mind and heart, does it not? A dull mind, a dull heart – how can it have any relationship with another? It is only a sensitive mind, a heart that is awakened to affection, that can be related to something.

So, as long as you treat relationship as a distraction, you are obviously living in a vacuum, because you are frightened to go out of that state of distraction. Hence you are afraid of any kind of detachment, any kind of separation. Relationship then is a distraction which makes you feel alive. Whereas, true relationship, which is not a distraction, is really a state in which you are constantly in a process of understanding yourself in relation to something. That is, relationship is a process of self-revelation, not of distraction; and that self-revelation is very painful, because in relationship you soon find yourself out, if you are open to discover it. But as most of us do not want to discover ourselves, as most of us would rather hide ourselves in relationship, relationship becomes blindly painful, and we try to detach ourselves from it. Relationship is not a stimulation. Why do you want to be stimulated through relationship? And if you are, then relationship, like stimulation, becomes dull. I do not know if you have noticed that any kind of stimulation eventually dulls the mind and the sensitivity of the heart.

So, the question of detachment should never arise; because only the man who possesses, thinks of renouncing; but he never questions why he possesses, what is the background that has made him possessive. When he understands the process of possessing, then there is naturally freedom from possession – not the cultivation of an opposite, as detachment. And relationship is merely a stimulation, a distraction, as long as we are using another as a means of self-gratification, or as a necessity, in order to escape from ourselves. You become very important to me, because in myself I am very poor; in myself I am nothing therefore you are everything. Such a relationship is bound to be a conflict, a pain; and a thing that gives pain is no longer a distraction. Therefore, we want to escape from that relationship, which we call detachment.

So, as long as we use the mind in relationship, there can be no understanding of relationship. Because, after all, it is the mind that makes us be detached. When there is love, there is no question of attachment or detachment. The moment there is the cessation of that love, then the question of attachment and detachment begins. Love is not the product of thought: you cannot think about love. It is a state of being. And when the mind interferes, by its calculation, by its jealousies, by its various cunning deceptions, then the problem in relationship arises. Relationship has significance only when it is a process of revealing oneself to oneself; and if, in that process, one proceeds deeply, widely and extensively, then in relationship there is peace – not the contention, not the antagonism between two people. Only in that quietness, in that relationship in which there is the fruition of self-knowledge, is there peace.