Can the Brain Move Out of Time?

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE ENDING OF TIME

Krishnamurti: I see what psychological knowledge is doing and I see the waste; I see what is taking place if I follow that line. It is obvious. So I don’t follow that avenue at all. I discard analysis altogether. That is a pattern we have learnt, not discard analysis altogether. That is a pattern we have learnt, not only from the recent psychologists and psychotherapists but also through the tradition of a million years of analysis, of introspect, or of saying, ‘I must’, and ‘I must not’, ‘This is right and that is wrong’. You know the whole process. I personally don’t do it, and so I reject that whole method.

We are coming to a point, which is direct perception and immediate action. Our perception is generally directed by knowledge, by the past, which is knowledge perceiving, and with action arising, acting from that. This is a factor of shrinking of the brain, of senility.

Is there a perception which is not time binding? And so action which is immediate? Am I making myself clear? That is, as long as the brain, which has evolved through time, is still living in a pattern of time, it is becoming senile. If we could break that pattern of time, the brain has broken out of its pattern, and therefore something else takes place.

N: How does the brain break out of the pattern of time?

K: We will come to that, but first let’s see if we agree.

DB: Well, you are saying that the brain is the pattern of time, and perhaps this should be clarified. I think that what you mean by analysis is some sort of process based on past knowledge, which organizes our perception, and in which we take a series of steps to try to accumulate knowledge about the whole thing. And now you say that this is a pattern of time, and we have to break out of it.

K: If we agree that this is so, the brain is functioning in a pattern of time.

DB: Then we have to ask, what other pattern is possible?

K: But wait…

DB: What other movement is possible?

K: No. First let’s understand this, not merely verbally, but let’s actually see that it is happening. That our action, our way of living, our whole thinking, is bound by time, or comes with the knowledge of time.

DB: Certainly our thinking about ourselves, any attempt to analyse ourselves, to think about ourselves, involves this process.

K: This process, which is of time. Right?

N: That is a difficulty: when you say knowledge and experience, they are a certain cohesive energy or force that binds you.

K: Which means what? Time binding!

N: Time binding and…

K: …and therefore the pattern of centuries, of millennia, is being repeated.

N: Yes. But I am saying that this has a certain cohesive force.

K: Of course, of course. All illusions have an extraordinary vitality.

N: Very few break through.

K: Look at all the churches and what immense vitality they have.

N: No, apart from these churches, one’s personal life, it has a certain cohesive force that keeps one back. One can’t break away from it.

K: What do you mean, it keeps you back?

N: It has a magnetic attraction, it sort of pulls you back. You can’t free yourself of it unless you have some instrument with which you can act.

K: We are going to find out if there is a different approach to the problem.

DB: When you say, a different instrument, that is not clear. The whole notion of an instrument involves time, because if you use any instrument, it is a process which you plan.

K: Time; that’s just it.

N: That is why I use the word ‘instrument; I mean, it is effective.

K: It has not been effective. On the contrary, it is destructive. So do I see the very truth of its destructiveness? Not just the theory, the idea, but the actuality of it. If I do, then what takes place? The brain has evolved through time, and has been functioning, living, acting, believing in that time process. But when one realizes that all this helps to make the brain senile, when one sees that as true then what is the next step?

N: Are you implying that the very seeing that it is destructive is a releasing factor?

K: Yes.

N: And there is no need for an extra instrument?

K: No. Don’t use the word instrument.

There is no other factor. We are concerned to end this shrinkage and senility and in asking whether the brain itself, the cells, the whole thing, can move out of time? I am not talking about immortality, and all that kind of stuff. Can the brain move out of time altogether? Otherwise deterioration, shrinkage and senility are inevitable, and even when senility may not show, the brain cells are becoming weaker, and so on.

N: If the brain cells are material and physical, somehow or other they have to shrink through time; indeed it can’t be helped. The brain cell, which is tissue, cannot in physical terms be immortal.

DB: perhaps the rate of shrinkage would be greatly slowed down. If a person lives a certain number of years, and his brain begins to shrink long before he dies, then he becomes senile. Now if the deterioration would slow then…

K: …not only slow down, Sir.

DB: …Well, regenerate…

K: …be in a state of non-occupation.

DB: I think Narayan is saying that it is impossible for any material system to last for ever.

K: I am not talking about lasting for ever – though I am not sure if it can’t last for ever! No, this is very serious, I am not pulling anybody’s leg.

DB: If all the cells were to regenerate in the body and in the brain, then the whole thing could go on indefinitely.

K: Look, we are now destroying the body, through drink, smoking, overindulgence in sex and all kinds of things. We are living most un-healthily. Right? If the body were in excellent health, maintained right through – which means no heightened emotions, no strain, no sense of deterioration, the heart functioning normally – then why not!

DB: Well…

K: …which means what? No travelling, and all the rest of it….

DB: No excitement.

K: If the body remains in one quiet place I am sure it can last a great many more years than it does now.

DB: Yes, I think that is true. There have been many cases of people living for a hundred and fifty years in quiet places. I think that is all you are talking about. You are not really suggesting something lasting for ever?

K: So the body can be kept healthy, and since the body affects the mind, nerves, senses and all that, they also can be kept healthy.

DB: And if the brain is kept in the right action…

K: …yes, without any strain.

DB: You see the brain has a tremendous affect on organizing the body. The pituitary gland controls the entire system of the body glands; also all the organs or the body are controlled by the brain. When the mind deteriorates, the body starts to deteriorate.

K: Of course.

DB: They work together.

K: They go together. So can this brain – which is not ‘my’ brain – which has evolved through millions of years, which has had all kinds of destructive or pleasant experiences…

DB: You mean it is a typical brain, not a particular brain, peculiar to some individual? When you say ‘not mine’, you mean any brain belonging to mankind, right?

K: Any brain.

DB: They are all basically similar.

K: Similar: that is what I said. Can that brain be free of all this? Of time? I think it can.

DB: Perhaps we could discuss what it means to be free of time. You see, at first the suggestion that the brain be free of time might sound crazy, but, obviously, we all know that you don’t mean that the clock stops.

K: Science fiction and all that!

DB: The point is, what does it really mean to be psychologically free of time?

K: That there is no tomorrow.

DB: But we know there is tomorrow.

K: But psychologically…

DB: Can you describe better, what you mean when you say ‘no tomorrow’?

K: What does it mean to be living in time? Let’s take the other side first, because then we come to the other. What does it mean to live in time? Hope; thinking and living in the past, and acting from the knowledge of the past; images, illusions, prejudices – they are all an outcome of the past. All that is time, and that is producing chaos in the world.

DB: Well, suppose we say that if we are not living psychologically in time, we may still order our actions by the watch. The thing that is puzzling is if somebody says, I am not living in time, but I must keep an appointment. You see?

K: Of course; you can’t sit here for ever.

DB: So you say, I am looking at the watch, but I am not psychologically extending how I am going to feel in the next hour, when I have fulfilment of desire, etc.

K: I am just saying that the way we are living now is in the field of time. And there we have brought all kinds of problems and suffering. Is that right?

DB: Yes, but it should be made clear why this necessarily produces suffering. You are saying that if you live in the field of time suffering is inevitable.

K: Inevitable.

DB: Why?

K: It is simple. Time has built the ego, the ‘me’, the image of me sustained by society, by education, which has built through millions of years. All that is the result of time. And from there I act.

N: Yes.

DB: Towards the future psychologically; that is, towards some future state of being.

K: Yes. Which means that the centre is always becoming.

DB: Trying to become better.

K: Better, nobler, or anything else. So all that, the constant endeavour to become something psychologically, is a factor of time.

DB: Are you saying that the endeavour to become produces suffering?

K: Obviously. It is simple. All that is divisive. It divides me from others, and so you are different from me. And when I depend on somebody, and that somebody is gone, I feel lonely and miserable. All that goes on.

So we are saying that any factor of division, which is the very nature of the self, must inevitably cause suffering.

DB: Are you saying that through time the self is set up, and then the self introduces division and conflict and so on? But that if there were no psychological time, then perhaps this entire structure would collapse, and something entirely different would happen?

K: That’s it. That is what I am saying. And therefore the brain itself has broken up.

DB: Well, that is the next step – to say that the brain has broken out of that rut, and perhaps could then regenerate. It doesn’t follow logically, but still it could be so.

K: I think it does follow logically.

DB: Well, it follows logically that it would stop degenerating.

K: Yes.

DB: And are you adding further that it would start to regenerate?

K: You look sceptical?

N: Yes, because the whole human predicament is bound to time.

K: We know that.

N: Society, individuals, the whole structure.

K: I know, I know.

N: It is so forceful that anything feeble doesn’t work here.

K: What do you mean – ‘feeble’?

N: The force of this is so great that what has to break through must have tremendous energy.

K: Yes.

N: And no individual seems to be able to generate sufficient energy to be able to break through.

K: But you have got hold of the wrong end of the stick, if I may point this out. When you use the word ‘individual’, you have moved away from the fact that our brain is universal.

N: Yes, I admit that.

K: There is no individuality.

N: That brain is conditioned this way.

K: Yes, we have been through all that. It is conditioned this way through time. Time is conditioning – right? It is not that time has created the conditioning, time itself is the factor of conditioning.

So can that time element not exist? (We are talking about psychological time, not the ordinary physical time.) I say it can. We have said that the ending of suffering comes about when the self, which is built up through time, is no longer there. A man who is actually going through agony might reject this. But when he comes out of the shock of it, if somebody points out to him what is happening, and if he is willing to listen, to see the rationality, the sanity of it, and not to build a wall against it, he is out of that field. The brain is out of that time-binding quality.

N: Temporarily.

K: Ah! There again when you use the word ‘temporary’, it means time.

N: No, I mean that the man slips back into time.

K: No, he can’t. He can’t go back if he sees that something is dangerous, like a cobra, or any other danger, he cannot go back to it.

N: That analogy is a bit difficult, because the structure itself is that danger. One inadvertently slips into it.

K: When you see a dangerous animal, there is immediate action. It may be the result of past knowledge and experience, but there is immediate action for self-protection. But psychologically we are ware of the dangers. If we become as aware of these dangers as we are aware of physical dangers, there is an action which is not time-binding.

DB: Yes, I think you could say that as long as you could perceive this danger you know you would respond immediately. But you see, if you were to use that analogy of the animal, it might be an animal that you realize is dangerous, but he might take another form that you don’t see as dangerous!

K: Yes.

DB: Therefore there would be a danger of slipping back if you didn’t see this. Or illusion might come in some other form.

K: Of course.

DB: But I think the major point you are making is that the brain is not belonging to any individual.

K: Yes, absolutely.

DB: And therefore it is no use saying that the individual slips back.

K: No.

DB: Because that already denies what you are saying. The danger is rather that the brain might slip back.

K: The brain itself might slip back, because it has not seen the danger.

DB: It hasn’t seen the other forms of the illusions.

K: The Holy Ghost taking different shapes! All this is the real root of time.

DB: Time, and separation as individuality, are basically the same structure.

K: Of course.

DB: Although it is not obvious in the beginning.

K: I wonder if we see that.

DB: It might be worth discussing that. Why is psychological time the game illusion, the same structure as individuality? Individuality is the sense of being a person who is located here somewhere.

K: Located and divided.

DB: Divided from the others. He extends out to some periphery, his domain extends out to some periphery, and also he has an identity which extends over time. He wouldn’t regard himself as an individual if he said ‘Today I am one person, tomorrow I am another’. So it seems that we mean by individual somebody who is in time.

K: I think that this idea of individuality is a fallacy.

DB: Yes, but many people may find it hard to be convinced that it is a fallacy. There is a common feeling that, as an individual, I have existed at least from my birth if not before, and go on to death, and perhaps later. The whole idea of being an individual is to be in time. Right?

K: Obviously.

DB: To be in psychological time, not just the time of the clock.

K: Yes, we are saying that. So can that illusion that time has created individuality be broken? Can this brain understand that?

DB: I think that, as Narayan said, there is a great momentum in the brain, which keeps rolling, moving along.

K: Can that momentum stop?

N: The difficulty comes here. The genetic coding is intrinsic to a person. He seems to function more or less unconsciously, driven by this past momentum. And suddenly he sees, like a flash, something true. But the difficulty is that it may operate only for a day – and then he is again caught in the old momentum.

K: I know that. But it says the brain will not be caught. Once the mind or the brain is aware of this fact, it cannot go back. How can it?

N: There must be another way of preventing it from going back.

K: Not preventing: that means also time. You are still thinking in terms of prevention.

N: Prevention, in the sense of the human factor.

K: The human being is irrational. Right? And as long as he is functioning irrationally, he says of any rational factor, ‘I refuse to see it’.

N: You are suggesting that the very seeing prevents you from slipping back. This is a human condition.

DB: I wonder if we should go further into this question about prevention. It may be important.

N: There are two aspects. You see the fallacy of something, and the very seeing prevents you from slipping back, because you see the danger of it.

DB: In another sense you say you have no temptation to slip back, therefore you don’t have to be prevented. If you really see it, there is no need for conscious prevention.

N: Then you are not tempted to go back.

K: I can’t go back. If for example I see the fallacy of all the religious nonsense, it is finished!

DB: The only question which I raise is that you may not see this so completely in another form.

N: It may come in different shapes…

DB: …and then you are tempted once again.

K: The mind is aware, it is not caught. But you are saying that it is.

N: Yes, in other shapes and forms.

K: Wait Sir. We have said that perception is out of time, is seeing immediately the whole nature of time. Which to use a good old word, is to have an insight into the nature of time. If there is that insight, the very brain cells, which are part of time, break down. The brains cells bring about a change in themselves. You may disagree, you may say, ‘prove it.’ I say this is not a matter of proof, it is a matter of action. Do it, find out, test it.

N: You were also saying the other day, that when the consciousness is empty of its content…

K: …the content being time…

N: …that leads to the transformation of the brain cells.

K: Yes.

N: When you say consciousness is empty of the content there…

K: …there is no consciousness as we know it.

N: Yes. And you are using the word insight. What is the connection between the two?

DB: Between what?

N: Consciousness and insight. You have suggested that when consciousness is empty of its content…

K: Be careful. Consciousness is put together by its content. The content is the result of time.

DB: The content also is time.

K: Of course.

DB: It is about time as well, and it is actually put together by time, also it is about time. But if you have an insight into that, the whole pattern is gone, broken. The insight is not of time, not of memory, is not of knowledge.

N: Who has this insight?

K: Not ‘who’. Simply, there is an insight.

N: There is an insight and then the consciousness is empty of its content…

K: No, Sir. No.

N: You are implying that the very emptying of the content is insight?

K: No. We are saying time is a factor which has made up the content. It has built it up, and it also thinks about it. All that bundle is the result of time. Insight into this whole movement, which is not ‘my’ insight, brings about transformations in the brain. Because that insight is not time-binding.

DB: Are you saying that this psychological content is a certain structure, physically, in the brain? That in order for this psychological content to exist, the brain over many years has made many connections of the cells, which constitute this content?

K: Quite, quite.

DB: And then there is a flash of insight, which sees all this, and that it is not necessary. Therefore all this begins to dissipate. And when it has dissipated, there is no content. Then, whatever the brain does is something different.

K: Let us go further. Then there is total emptiness.

DB: Well, emptiness of the content. But when you say total emptiness, you mean emptiness of all this inward content?

K: That’s right. And that emptiness has tremendous energy. It is energy.

DB: So could you say that the brain, having had all these connections tangled, has locked up a lot of energy?

K: That’s right. Wastage of energy.

DB: And when they begin to dissipate, that energy is there.

K: Yes.

DB: Would you say that it is as much physical energy as any other kind?

K: Of course. Now we can go on in more detail, but is this principle, the root of it, an idea or a fact? I hear all this physically with the ear, but I may make it into an idea. If I hear it, not only with the ear, but in my being, in the very structure of myself, what happens then? If that kind of hearing doesn’t take place, all this becomes merely an idea, and I spin along for the rest of my life playing with ideas.

If there was a scientist here, bio-feedback or another brain specialist, would he accept all this? Would he even listen to it?

DB: A few scientists would, but obviously the majority would not.

K: No. So how do we touch the human brain?

DB: All this will sound rather abstract, to most scientists, you see. They will say, it could be so; it is a nice theory, but we have no proof of it.

K: Of course. They would say it doesn’t excite them very much because they don’t see any proof.

DB: They would say, if you have some more evidence we will come back later, and become very interested. So you see, you can’t give any proof, because whatever is happening, nobody can see it with their eyes.

K: I understand. But I am asking, what shall we do? The human brain – not ‘my’ brain or ‘your’, the brain – has evolved through a million years. One biological ‘freak’ can move out of it, but how do you get at the human mind generally to make it see all this?

DB: I think you have to communicate the necessity, the inevitability of what you are saying. Say if a person sees something happening before his eyes he says, ‘That’s so’. Right?

K: But it requires somebody to listen, somebody who says, ‘I want to capture it, I want to understand this, I want to find out.’ You follow what I am saying? Apparently that is one of the most difficult things in life.

DB: Well, it is the function of this occupied brain – that it is occupied with itself and it doesn’t listen.

N: In fact one of the things is that this occupation starts very early. When you are young it is very powerful, and it continues all through your life. How can we, through education, make this clear?

K: The moment you see the importance of not being occupied – see that as a tremendous truth – you will find ways and methods to help educationally, creatively. No one can be told, copy and imitate, for then he is lost.

DB: Then the question is, how is it possible to communicate to the brain, which rejects, which doesn’t listen? Is there a way?

K: Not if I refuse to listen. You see, I think meditation is a great factor in all this. I feel we have been meditating although ordinarily people wouldn’t accept this as meditation.

DB: They have used the word so often…

K: …that its meaning is really lost. But true meditation is this: the emptying of consciousness. You follow?

DB: Yes, but let’s be clear. Earlier you said it would happen through insight. Now are you saying that meditation is conducive to insight?

K: Meditation is insight.

DB: It is insight already. Then is it some sort of work you do? Insight is usually thought of as the flash, but meditation is more constant.

K: We must be careful. What do we mean by meditation? We can reject the systems, methods, acknowledged authorities, because these are often merely traditional repetitions – time-binding nonsense.

N: Do you think some of them could have been original, could have had real insight, in the past?

K: Who knows? Now meditation is this penetration, this sense of moving without any past.

DB: The only point to clear up is that when you use the word meditation, you mean something more than insight, you see.

K: Much more. Insight has freed the brain from the past, from time. That is an enormous statement…

DB: Do you mean that you have to have insight if you are going to meditate?

K: Yes, that’s right. To meditate without any sense of becoming.

DB: You cannot meditate without insight. You can’t regard it as a procedure by which you will come to insight.

K: No. That immediately implies time. A procedure, a system, a method, in order to have insight is nonsensical. Insight into greed or fear frees the mind from them. Then meditation has quite a different quality. It has nothing to do with all the gurus’ meditations. So could we say that to have insight there must be silence?

DB: Well, that is the same; we seem to be going in a circle.

K: For the moment.

DB: Yes, my mind has silence.

K: So the silence of insight has cleansed, purged, all that.

DB: All that structure of the occupation.

K: Yes. Then there is no movement as we know it; no movement of time.

DB: Is there movement of some other kind?

K: I don’t see how we can measure that by words, that sense of a limitless state.

DB: But you were saying earlier that nevertheless it is necessary to find some language, even though it is unsayable!

K: Yes – we will find that language.