Knowledge and Thought Are Always Limited

From Krishnamurti’s Book MIND WITHOUT MEASURE

When there is great disturbance outwardly, uncertainty, insecurity, man turns back to tradition like the Muslim world is doing. They go back to the Koran, and in the Christian, Hindu world there are so many books that they cannot go back to the books, but they go back to tradition. We have now got tribal gods at every corner because the world has become uncertain, dangerous, and we are all doing the same. We want to belong to some group, some sect, some local god. Now, how does one enquire into the psychological world, that is, into the world of consciousness? The content of that consciousness is what you are. That is not a dogmatic statement. That is not a conclusion but is a fact. What you are, is the content of your consciousness. Your beliefs, your opinions, your experiences, your illusions, superstitions, your gods, your fear, your pleasure and the loneliness, the sorrow, and the great grief and the fear of death. That is what you are. That is, the content of your consciousness is what you are. You can divide that content of your consciousness into various parts, invent a super consciousness, but it is still the content of your consciousness. You can meditate, sit cross-legged, do all those things, but it is part of your consciousness. And the content of your consciousness is put together by thought. Please examine this situation. We are saying, the content of your consciousness is put together by thought, by thinking, the thinking that you are a Hindu or a Christian, Marxist, Maoist or whatever you want to think. Thought, which is limited, has brought about limitations in consciousness. It can expand consciousness by thinking that it can expand and experiment in expansion. But it is still the activity of thought.

The question is, whether your consciousness which is the activity of the brain – brain with all its sensory responses, brain which is the centre of thought – whether that thought has not brought about fear, whether thought which is also movement in time is not responsible for the whole content of our consciousness. We are saying thought is limited because it is the outcome of knowledge. It is the result, the end product of experience, knowledge stored in the brain as memory; the response of any challenge is thinking. And knowledge is always limited. There is no complete knowledge about anything. The scientific knowledge is limited. Every kind of knowledge in any field is limited – biological, sociological, technological, and in the world of religions with all their gods, and all gods are invented by thought. Examine it, please. Thought has invented all the gods on earth, and then thought worships that which it has invented, and this you call religion. The root meaning of that word is quite difficult, and it has not been established what the root of that word is. So, thought is limited and whatever its activity, it is always limited, and being limited, it must inevitably create problems – not only problems in the technological world but also problems in human relationship which is far more important to understand than the technological world because, we human beings are perpetually in conflict with each other, agreeing, disagreeing, believing, and not believing. It is a perpetual war between human beings. It is created by thought. And having created the problems, then thought tries to solve them and so increase the problems, which is what is actually happening.

If one sees that, not intellectually, not as an idea or a conclusion but as an actuality, as a fact, then one can see that the only instrument that we have is thought. Please understand the nature and the content of thought. Thought is all the sensory responses, the imaginations, all the sexual symbols, the sexual pictures, and so on, the feeling of depression, elation, anxiety; all this is the result of limited thought, because thought is the outcome of limited knowledge.

There is no complete knowledge about anything. We ask a totally different question, which is, ‘Is there a different instrument?’ If thought is not the instrument to solve human problems, then what is the instrument? Thought is a worn out instrument, blunt instrument. It may be clever, it may solve certain problems; but the problems it has created in human beings and between human beings, the instrument of thought that we have used to solve our problems in our daily life, in relationship, that instrument is blunt, limited, worn out. Unless we find a new instrument, there can be no fundamental, radical, change of human psyche. So, we are going together to enquire into the nature of that instrument, the quality of it, the structure of it, the beauty of it. But before we can enquire, one must be absolutely clear that the instrument which we have now as thought, has reached its tether. It cannot solve the problem of human relationship, and in that human relationship there is conflict, and out of that conflict we have created this society through our greed, through our brutality, through our violence.

We have to be absolutely, irrevocably, clear that thought is not the instrument to solve our human problems. We have tried every method of solving our human problems, surrendering ourselves to some ideals, to some guru, to some concept, to some conclusion – we have done all these things. We have followed all kinds of leaders – political, religious, various quacks, many gurus. And we are still what we are, slightly modified, little more observant, little more kindly, but basically, millennia after millennia, we are what we have been from the beginning of time. And the instrument that we have had, which is thought, can no longer solve our problems. This is very clear, and that requires great observation, questioning, doubting, asking, never accepting authority – the authority of the books, the hierarchical structure of our society, the authority of institutions, the authority of those who say , ‘I know.’ A mind which is enquiring into the nature of a new quality and structure of a new instrument must be entirely free from authority, not the authority of the policeman, not the authority of the governments.

So, a mind that is enquiring into something requires great sensitivity, freedom; that demands a brain that is stable, not wobbly, sloppy. I do not know if you have noticed how our minds are sloppy. We go from one guru to another, specially in this country. We tolerate anything – the dirt, the squalor, the corruption, the tradition that is dead, and all the temple buildings which are absolutely meaningless, spreading all over the world. You watch all this and you observe all this, and a mind, a brain, that is enquiring must be extraordinarily free, have great sensitivity. I don’t know if you have not noticed how limited our senses are; senses, which is, the observing optically, visually, hearing – to hear another so completely that you understand immediately what is being said, to have sympathy, empathy, the feeling of cooperation, feeling of affection, feeling of love. We have not got it here. But you love god, you love going to a temple, putting on ashes, belonging to some tribal god, because you are frightened, and where there is fear, there is no freedom of enquiry.

So, we are talking about our daily life, our conflicts, our loneliness, our despair, and none of those can be solved by thought. Then what is the instrument that will solve our problems? Don’t wait for the speaker to tell you. Then the speaker becomes your guru, your leader, and the speaker does not want to be your guru, your authority; but go together, as two human beings concerned with humanity, because after all you are the rest of humanity. ‘The rest of humanity has also the same consciousness as yours. Every human being in the world suffers, is anxious, uncertain, confused, in tears, lonely. Your consciousness is not yours, it is as the rest of mankind. So you are mankind. It is not a mere intellectual, logical, analytical conclusion. It is a fact to be felt, realized, lived, that you are not a separate human being, that you are not an individual. That is a hard pill to swallow because we all think we are separate individuals with our own little brains. That is our conditioning, to think that each one of us is separate, but we are not. We are the result of thousands of years of humanity – their suffering, their loneliness, their despair, their excitement. their joy, their sex. What you think, others think, the great scientist thinks; so does the uneducated villager, poor and hungry, labouring from morning till night.

So thinking is not your individual thinking. There is only thinking. You may think in one way, another may think another way. It is still thinking. So the thinking, consciousness is shared by all human beings. And when one really realizes the fundamental truth of it, then your whole activity changes. Then you are concerned with the whole humanity, which means your son, your neighbour, your wife, your husband, the man who is miles away.