On Teaching and Learning

Teacher: We realize that we cannot see a fact unless the mind is empty of thought. But even if it is empty for a while, thought seems to arise again. How do we end thought? Can we discuss this?

Krishnamurti: I wonder if all of us understand the importance of the role of thinking? Is thought important, and at what level is it important? What is thinking? What makes us think? Where is thought important and where is it not important, and how do you answer that question? And what is the machinery that is set going when a question is asked?

Is thinking merely the habitual response to a habitual pattern? You live here in this school in a certain groove, with certain patterns of thoughts, habits, feelings. You live, you function in those habits, patterns and systems, and the functioning of the brain, thought is very limited. And when you go out of the valley you live in a little wider field. You have certain grooves of action and you follow them. It is all a mechanical process really, but in that pattern of mechanical activity there are certain variations. You modify, change, but always in that pattern, wherever you are, whatever position you may have – minister, governor or doctor, or professor – it is always a groove with varying changes and modifications. You function in patterns. I am not saying it is right or wrong, I am just examining it. You have beliefs but they are in the background and you go on with your daily activities, with your envy, greed, jealousy. Whenever your beliefs are questioned you get irritated but you go on.

Children are being educated to think, to form grooves of habits and to function in those habits for the rest of their lives. They are going to get jobs, they are going to be engineers, doctors, and for the rest of their lives, the pattern will be set. Any deviation from that is what is disturbing. That disturbance is lessened through marriage, responsibility, children; and so gradually the mould is set. And all thinking is between what is convenient, what is not convenient, what is beneficial, what is worthwhile – it is always within that field.

Teacher: That is not thinking, sir, it is a repetition.

Krishnamurti: But that is how we live, that is our life. That is all we want. Everything is repetition and the mind gets duller and more stupid. Is that not a fact, sir? We do not want to be disturbed; we do not want to shatter the pattern.

What makes us shatter the pattern or break through the pattern? And is it possible not to fall into a groove? But why should I end the making of patterns? I begin to think about ending them when the pattern does not satisfy me, when the pattern is no longer useful to me or when there are in the pattern certain incidents like death, the husband leaving the wife, or losing a job. In the breaking of that particular pattern there is a disturbance called sorrow and I move away from that into another pattern. I move from pattern to pattern, from one framework into which circumstances, environment, family, education have put me, to another. The disturbance makes me question a little, but I immediately fall into another groove and there I settle. That is what most people want, what their parents want, what society wants. Where does this idea of ending thought come in?

Teacher: Sir, there are times when one is discontented with the whole pattern and everything in it.

Krishnamurti: What makes us see the futility of this pattern? When do I see it and what makes me see it? A pattern is set if there is a motive. If I break from this pattern with a motive, the motive will mould the new pattern. Now, what makes me change, what makes me do something without a motive?

Teacher: It is very difficult to be free from motive.

Krishnamurti: Who tells you to be free? If it is difficult, why bother about breaking the pattern? Be satisfied with a motive and continue with it, why bother if it is difficult?

Teacher: It leads me nowhere, sir.

Krishnamurti: But if it led anywhere, would you pursue it?

Teacher: Which means there is a motive again.

Krishnamurti: What makes you break through and give up the motive? What do you mean by motive? You teach here because you get some money, that is a motive. You like somebody because he can give you a position or you love god because you hate life. Your life is miserable, and love of god is the escape from that. These are all motives.

Now, what makes a mind, a human being, live without a motive? If you can pursue that and go into it, I am sure you will find the answer to your question.

Teacher: The question, ‘Do I know my motives?’ seems to come before the question ‘Do I do something without a motive?’

Krishnamurti: Do we know our motives? Why do I teach, why do I hold on to a husband, wife? Do I know my motives, and how do I find out? And if I do find out, what is wrong with having motives. I love somebody because I like to be with that somebody physically, sexually, as a companion, what is wrong with that?

Teacher: When I teach because I must have money, motive is not a hindrance. I must have money, so I must take to some profession, and I take to teaching.

Krishnamurti: First of all, do we know our motives, not only the conscious but the unconscious motives, the hidden motives? Do we do anything in our lives without a motive? To do something without a motive is love of what one is doing, and in that process thinking is not mechanical; then the brain is in a state of constant learning, not opinionated, not moving from knowledge to knowledge. It is a mind that moves from fact to fact. Therefore, such a mind is capable of ending and coming to something it does not know, which is freedom from the known.

You asked at the beginning: How do we end thought? I said: What for? We do not even know what thinking is, we do not know how to think. We think in terms of patterns. So, unless we have investigated or understood all that, we cannot possibly ask that question: How do we end thought?

Teacher: How can we enquire into thinking and how to think?

Krishnamurti: Not only enquire into how to think but also into what is thinking. Can I, as a human being, as an individual, find out what is the way of my thinking? Is it mechanical, is it free? Do I know it as it is operating in me?

To end thought I have first to go into the mechanism of thinking. I have to understand thought completely, deep down in me. I have to examine every thought, without letting one thought escape without being fully understood, so that the brain, the mind, the whole being becomes very attentive. The moment I pursue every thought to the root, to the end completely, I will see that thought ends by itself. I do not have to do anything about it because thought is memory. Memory is the mark of experience and as long as experience is not fully, completely, totally understood, it leaves a mark. The moment I have experienced completely, the experience leaves no mark. So, if we go into every thought and see where the mark is and remain with that mark, as a fact – then that fact will open and that fact will end that particular process of thinking, so that every thought, every feeling is understood. So the brain and the mind are being freed from a mass of memories. That requires tremendous attention, not attention only to the trees and birds but inward attention to see that every thought is understood.

Teacher: That seems to be a vicious circle. The mind is involved in getting rid of a pattern of thinking and in order to understand the process of thinking it needs a certain sensitivity which the mind does not have.

Krishnamurti: Take a thought, any kind of thought. Go into it. See why you have such a thought, what is involved in it, understand it, do not leave it till you have completely unearthed all the roots of it.

Teacher: That can only be done if the instrument which is doing it, is sensitive.

Krishnamurti: As you go into one particular thought you are beginning to understand the instrument which is examining that thought. Then what is important is not the thought but the observer who is examining the thought. And the observer is the thought which says, ‘I do not like that thought, I like this thought.’ So you attack the core of thought and not just the symptoms. And as you are a teacher, how will you create this or bring about this attentive observation, this examination without any judgement, in a student?

If I may ask: How do you teach? What is the environment, the condition, the atmosphere, in which teaching and learning are possible? You teach, say, history, and the student learns. What is the atmosphere, the environment, the quality in the room in which teaching and learning are taking place?

Teacher: There is a special atmosphere when the teacher and the student are both attending.

Krishnamurti: I do not want to use the word ‘attention’. If you learn anything from the teacher, what is the nature of that communication, of receiving and learning? For a flower to grow it must have rain, do you understand?

Teacher: Could we approach it negatively?

Krishnamurti: In any way you like. I am asking you to teach science. What is the atmosphere in the room where you teach science? Where the teacher and the student are learning, teaching? What is the quality necessary, what is the atmosphere, the smell, the perfume?

Teacher: A quiet and calm environment.

Krishnamurti: You are idealistic and I am not. I have not one ideal inside me, I just want to know the fact. You are moving away from the fact, that is what I object to. When you teach and they learn, in the class room, what is the atmosphere? The atmosphere is the fact.

Teacher: Friendliness between the teacher and the student.

Krishnamurti: You are not facing the fact. You teach and you also know and when the student is to learn, there must be a certain quality, and I am asking what is that quality? Have you actually experienced the quality where this communication is mutual, where the learning is the teaching?

Teacher: In the beginning I thought that when I teach, I am handing over some facts to the students, but now I understand that when I am teaching there is also a learning. This happens at rare moments when there is exploration, when both the teacher and the student are exploring together.

Krishnamurti: What is the state when that exploration together takes place? What is the atmosphere, the relationship? What is the word you would use to express that state in which communication is possible?

Teacher: Curiosity.

Krishnamurti: What do you teach?

Teacher: Hindi.

Krishnamurti: The children are anxious to know and you are anxious to teach. Now, what atmosphere does it create? What takes place?

Teacher: The children listen to me.

Krishnamurti: You say children listen to you. You want to tell them something. What has happened, I wish you would examine this.

Teacher: There is a state of alertness.

Krishnamurti: I want to go a little bit more into the matter. The moment you say it is alertness you have already put it in a framework. I am trying to prevent you and myself from defining it.

Teacher: When the object is there, the object of learning and teaching, both operate; from this there is a fluidity, a movement; and temporarily, this state is slightly different from the other states I know.

Krishnamurti: There is attention when the teacher and the taught, both have a drive to learn and to teach. You have to create a feeling, an atmosphere, in the room. Just now we have created an atmosphere – because I want to find out and you want to find out. Is it possible to maintain this atmosphere, in which alone teaching and learning are possible?

We started by asking how to communicate this sense of enquiry into thinking, into motive, to the student. I asked you, how do you teach, that is, how do you convey anything? And I asked what takes place when you actually teach. What is the atmosphere when you are teaching? Is it a slack atmosphere or a tense atmosphere? Now, if you have not examined your thinking, the mechanism of thinking, to convey the sense of enquiry to the student is impossible. But if you have done it in yourself, you are bound to create the atmosphere. And I feel that atmosphere, that attention, is the essential quality of teaching and learning.

Teacher: You have said that definition of a fact is something quite different from the experiencing of that fact. Now in all this there seems to be a gap between the definition and the actual doing of something. You also asked: Have you ever done something for its own sake because you love it? How does one, without examining one’s motives, without all these ramifications, get to the heart of something?

Krishnamurti: That is just what I was trying to get at. To see something totally is the ending of time or the comprehending of it. Can one see if there is a motive in teaching and learning at any level? Life is a constant process of teaching and learning: To teach and to learn is not possible if there is a motive, and when we have a motive the state of teaching and learning is not possible. Now, watch this carefully: In the very nature of teaching and learning there is humility. You are the teacher and you are the taught. So there is no pupil and no teacher, no guru and no sishya, there is only teaching and learning, which is going on in me. I am learning and I am also teaching myself; the whole process is one. That is important. That gives vitality, a sense of depth, and that is prevented if I have a motive. As teaching-learning is important, everything else becomes secondary and therefore, motive disappears. What is important drives away the unimportant. Therefore it is finished: I do not have to examine my motives day after day.

Teacher: It is not very clear to me, sir.

Krishnamurti: First of all, life is a process of learning. It is not saying, ‘I have learned,’ and a settling back. Life is a process of learning and I cannot learn if there is a motive. If that is very clear, that life is a process of learning, then motive has no place. Motive has a place when you are using learning to get something. So the essential fact drives away all the unessential trivialities, in which motive is included.

Teacher: Should there be a concern for the essential, as a fact?

Krishnamurti: But the fact is the essential. Life is the essential. Life is ‘what is’. Otherwise it is not life. If motive is not, ‘what is’ is. If you understand the fact of sorrow, the ‘other’ comes into being. You cannot come to the other without understanding motive, the unessential.

Teacher: So there cannot be concern for the essential.

Krishnamurti: Understand the fact, which is important, and go into it. If you are ambitious, be completely ambitious. Let there be no double thinking. Be either ambitious or see the fact of ambition. Both are facts, and when you examine one fact, go into it completely. If you go into the fact completely, the fact will begin to show what is involved in ambition. The fact of ambition will begin to unravel itself and then there is no ambition.

Most religious people have invented theories about facts. But they do not understand the fact. Having established a theory they hope it will ward off the actual fact; it cannot. So do not try to establish any essential fact. See how you slip into wrong action. There is no essential fact, there is only fact – you see the point? And one fact does not conform to another fact. The moment it is conforming, it is not a fact. If you look at the fact with a referent, with what you can get out of that fact, then you will never see the fact. To look at the fact is the only thing that matters. There is no fact that is superior or inferior, there is only fact. That is the ruthless thing. If I am a lawyer, I am a lawyer. I do not find excuses for it. Seeing that fact, going into it, seeing the motives, the fact and its complexities are revealed, and then you are out of it. But if you say, ‘I must always speak the truth,’ that is an ideal. That is a false assumption. So do not move from what you consider the unimportant fact to what you consider the more important fact. There is only fact, not the less or the more. It really does something to you to look at life that way. You banish all illusion, all dissipation of energy of the mind, the brain, at one stroke. The mind then operates in precision without any deception, without hatred, without hypocrisy. The mind then becomes very clear, sharp. That is the way to live.