We Have Been Programmed to the Sense of Individuality

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE NETWORK OF THOUGHT

We were saying that human consciousness is similar in all human beings. Our consciousness, whether we live in the East or West, is made up of many layers of fears, anxieties, pleasures, sorrows and every form of faith. Occasionally, perhaps, in that consciousness there is also love, compassion, and from that compassion a totally different kind of intelligence. And always there is the fear of ending, death. Human beings throughout the world from time immemorial have tried to find out if there is something sacred, beyond all thought, something incorruptible and timeless.

There are the various group consciousnesses; the businessmen with their consciousness, the scientists with theirs and the carpenter with his, these are of the content of consciousness and are the product of thought. Thought has created wonderful things; from the extraordinary technology of computers, to telecommunication, to robots, surgery and medicine. Thought has invented religions; all the religious organizations throughout the world are put together by thought.

Thought has invented the computer. You must understand the complexity and the future of the computer; it is going to outstrip man in his thought; it is going to change the structure of society and the structure of government. This is not some fantastic conclusion of the speaker, or some fantasy, it is something that is actually going on now, of which you may not be aware. The computer has a mechanical intelligence; it can learn and invent. The computer is going to make human labour practically unnecessary – perhaps two hours work a day. These are all changes that are coming. You may not like it, you may revolt against it, but it is coming.

Thought has invented the computer, but human thought is limited and the mechanical intelligence of the computer is going beyond that of man. It is going to totally revolutionize our lives. So what will a human being be then? These are facts, not some specialized conclusions of the speaker.

When we consider what the capacity of the computer is, then we have to ask ourselves: what is a human being to do? The computer is going to take over most of the activities of the brain. And what happens to the brain then? When a human being’s occupation is taken over by the computer, by the robot, what becomes of the human? We human beings have been ‘programmed’ biologically, intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, through millions of years, and we repeat the pattern of the programme over and over again. We have stopped learning: and we must enquire if the human brain, which has been programmed for so many centuries, is capable of learning and immediately transforming itself into a totally different dimension. If we are not capable of that, the computer, which is much more capable, rapid and accurate, is going to take over the activities of the brain. This is not something casual, this is a very very serious, desperately serious matter. The computer can invent a new religion. It could be programmed by an expert Hindu scholar, by a Catholic, by a protestant or a Muslim, and it would turn out a marvellous structure for a new religion! And we, if we are not aware of what is happening, we will follow that new structure which has been turned out by the computer. See the seriousness of all this, please.

Our consciousness has been programmed for thousands and thousands of years to think of ourselves as individuals, as separate entities struggling, in conflict from the moment we are born until we die. We are programmed to that. We have accepted that. We have never challenged it; we have never asked if it is possible to live a life absolutely without conflict. Never having asked it we will never learn about it. We repeat. It is an innate part of our existence to be in conflict – nature is in conflict: that is our argument – and we consider that progress is only through conflict. Religious organizations throughout history have maintained the idea of individual salvation. We are questioning very seriously whether there is an individual consciousness; whether you, as a human being, have a separate consciousness from the rest of mankind. You have to answer this, not just play with it.

Having been brought up, programmed, conditioned, to be individuals, then our consciousness is all this activity of thought. Fear and the pursuit of pleasure are the movement of thought. The suffering, anxiety, uncertainty and the deep regrets, wounds, the burden of centuries of sorrow, are all part of thought. Thought is responsible for what we call love, which has become sensual pleasure, something to be desired.

As we said, and we will repeat it over and over again until we are quite sure of it, we are thinking together, the speaker is not telling you what to think. He is not making propaganda – it is a horrible thing, propaganda. He is not telling you how to act, what to believe, but together, we are investigating the catastrophe that is taking place in the world outside of us, the utter ruthlessness and violence, and also inwardly in each human being the extraordinary conflict that is going on. Together we are examining. It is not – if one may point out – that you are merely listening to some ideas or conclusions; we are not talking about ideas, conclusions or beliefs. We are looking at this world that human beings have produced, for which all of us are responsible. We must be clear in our understanding – at whatever level that understanding be, whether it is intellectual understanding, which is merely verbal, or the understanding of deep significance so that that understanding acts – that we have come to a point where we have to make a decision, not by the exercise of will, but the decision that will naturally come when we begin to understand the whole nature and structure of the world, both externally and internally. That perception will bring about a decision, an action.

Thought has created the problems which surround us and our brains are trained, educated, conditioned, to the solving of problems. Thought has created the problems, like the division between nationalities. Thought has created the division and the conflict between various economic structures; thought has created the various religions and the divisions between them and therefore there is conflict. The brain is trained to attempt to solve these conflicts which thought has created. It is essential that we understand deeply the nature of our thinking and the nature of our reactions which arise from our thinking. Thought dominates our lives, whatever we do; whatever action takes place, thought is behind that action. In every activity, whether it is sensual or intellectual, or biological, thought is operating all the time. Biologically, through centuries, the brain has been programmed, conditioned – the body acts in its own way, the action of breathing, the beat of the heart and so on – so, if you are a Catholic, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, you repeat that conditioning over and over again.

Thought is a movement in time and space. Thought is memory, the remembrance of past things. Thought is the activity of knowledge, knowledge which has been gathered together through millions of years and stored as memory in the brain. If you observe the activity of your thinking you will see that experience and knowledge are the basis of your life. Knowledge is never complete, it must always go together with ignorance. We think knowledge is going to solve all our problems, whether the knowledge of the priest, the guru, the scientist, the philosopher, or the latest psychiatrist. But we have never questioned whether knowledge in itself can solve any of our problems – except perhaps technological problems.

Knowledge comes through time. To learn a language you need time. To learn a skill or to drive a car efficiently takes time. The same movement of time is brought over to the psychological field; there too we say, ‘I must have time to learn about myself.’ ‘I must have time in order to change myself from ‘what I am’ to ‘what I should be.’ Bringing over the activity of the external world into the psychological world means that time is a great factor in our life – tomorrow, the past and the present. Time is thought. Time is required in the acquisition of knowledge through experience, both externally in the world and inwardly. That is the way we have been programmed.

Being so programmed we consider time is necessary to bring about a deep, fundamental change in the human structure. We employ time as thought – ‘I am this, I shall be that.’ You would also say in the technical world: ‘I do not know how to construct a computer but I will learn., Time, knowledge, memory, thought, they are a single unit; they are not separate activities but a single movement. Thought, the outcome of knowledge, must everlastingly be incomplete and therefore limited, because knowledge is incomplete. Whatever is limited must bring about conflict. Nationality is limited. Religious belief is limited. An experience which you have had, or which you are longing for, is limited. Every experience must be limited.

Questioner: Why?

Krishnamurti: Because there are more experiences. I may have an experience sexually, or the experience of the possession of wealth, the experience of giving everything up and going into a monastery – those experiences are all limited.

Thought, being limited, creates problems – national, economic and religious divisions; then thought says, ‘I must solve them.’ So thought is always functioning in the resolution of problems. And the computer, a mechanism which has been programmed, can outstrip all of us because it has no problems; it evolves, learns, moves.

Our consciousness has been programmed as an individual consciousness. We are questioning whether that consciousness, which we have accepted as individual, is actually individual at all. Do not say: ‘What will happen if I am not an individual?’ Something totally different may happen. You may have an individual training in a particular trade, in a particular profession, you may be a surgeon, a doctor, an engineer, but that does not make you an individual. You may have a different name, a different form – that does not make individuality; nor the acceptance that the brain through time has affirmed: ‘I am an individual, it is my desire to fulfil, to become through struggle.’ That so-called individual consciousness, which is yours, is the consciousness of all humanity.

If your consciousness, which you have accepted as separate, is not separate, then what is the nature of your consciousness? part of it is the sensory responses. Those sensory responses are naturally, necessarily, programmed to defend yourself, through hunger to seek food, to breathe, unconsciously. Biologically you are programmed. Then the content of your consciousness includes the many hurts and wounds that you have received from childhood, the many forms of guilt; it includes the various ideas, imaginary certainties; the many experiences, both sensory and psychological; there is always the basis, the root, of fear in its many forms. With fear naturally goes hatred. Where there is fear there must be violence, aggression, the tremendous urge to succeed, both in the physical and the psychological world. In the content of consciousness there is the constant pursuit of pleasure; the pleasure of possession, of domination, the pleasure of money which gives power, the pleasure of a philosopher with his immense knowledge, the guru with his circus. pleasure again has innumerable forms. There is also pain, anxiety, the deep sense of abiding loneliness and sorrow, not only the so-called personal sorrow but also the enormous sorrow brought about through wars, through neglect, through this endless conquering of one group of people by another. In that consciousness there is the racial and group content; ultimately there is death.

This is our consciousness – beliefs, certainties and uncertainties, anxiety, loneliness and endless misery. These are the facts. And we say this consciousness is mine! Is that so? Go to the Far East, or the Near East, America, Europe, anywhere where human beings are; they suffer, they are anxious, lonely, depressed, melancholic, struggling and in conflict – they are just the same as you. So, is your consciousness different from that of another? I know it is very difficult for people to accept. You may logically accept it, intellectually you may say, ‘Yes, that is so, maybe.’ But to feel this total human sense that you are the rest of mankind requires a great deal of sensitivity. It is not a problem to be solved. It is not that you must accept that you are not an individual, that you must endeavour to feel this global human entity. If you do, you have made it into a problem which the brain is only too ready to try to solve! But if you really look at it with your mind, your heart, your whole being totally aware of this fact, then you have broken the programme. It is naturally broken. But if you say, ‘I will break it,’ then you are again back into the same pattern. To the speaker this is utter reality, not something verbally accepted because it is pleasant; it is something that is actual. You may have logically, reasonably and sanely examined and found that it is so; but the brain which has been programmed to the sense of individuality is going to revolt against it (which you are doing now). The brain is unwilling to learn. Whereas the computer will learn because it has nothing to lose. But here you are frightened of losing something.

Can the brain learn? That is the whole point; so now we have to go into this question of what learning is. Learning for most of us is a process of acquiring knowledge. I do not know the Russian language but I will learn it. I will learn day after day, memorizing, holding on to certain words, phrases and the meanings, syntax and grammar. If I apply myself I can learn almost any language within a certain time. To us, learning is essentially the accumulation of knowledge or skill. Our brains are conditioned to this pattern. Accumulate knowledge and from that act. When I learn a language, there knowledge is necessary. But if I am learning psychologically about the content of my mind, of my consciousness, does learning there imply examining each layer of it and accumulating knowledge about it and from that knowledge acting – following the same pattern as learning a language? If the brain repeats that pattern when I am learning about the content of my consciousness, it means that I need time to accumulate knowledge about myself, my consciousness. Then I determine what the problems are and the brain is ready to solve them – it has been trained to solve problems. It is repeating this endless pattern and that is what I call learning. Is there a learning which is not this? Is there a different action of learning, which is not the accumulation of knowledge? You understand the difference?

Let me put it differently: from experience we acquire knowledge, from knowledge memory; the response of memory is thought, then from thought action, from that action you learn more, so the cycle is repeated. That is the pattern of our life. That form of learning will never solve our problems because it is repetition. We acquire more knowledge which may lead to better action; but that action is limited and this we keep repeating. The activity from that knowledge will not solve our human problems at all. We have not solved them, it is so obvious. After millions of years we have not solved our problems: we are cutting each other’s throats, we are competing with each other, we hate each other, we want to be successful, the whole pattern is repeated from the time man began and we are still at it. Do what you will along this pattern and no human problem will be solved, whether it be political, religious or economic, because it is thought that is operating.

Now, is there another form of learning; learning, not in the context of knowledge, but a different form, a non-accumulative perception-action? To find out we have to enquire whether it is possible to observe the content of our consciousness and to observe the world without a single prejudice. Is that possible? Do not say it is not possible, just ask the question. See whether, when you have a prejudice, you can observe clearly. You cannot, obviously. If you have a certain conclusion, a certain set of beliefs, concepts, ideals, and you want to see clearly what the world is, all those conclusions, ideals, prejudices and so on will actually prevent it. It is not a question of how to get rid of your prejudices but of seeing clearly, intelligently, that any form of prejudice, however noble or ignoble will actually prevent perception. When you see that, prejudices go. What is important is not the prejudice but the demand to see clearly.

If I want to be a good surgeon I cannot do so with ideals or prejudices about surgeons; I must actually perform surgery. Can you see that a new form of action, a new form of non-accumulative knowledge, is possible which will break the pattern, break the programme, so that you are acting totally differently?

The way we have lived, over millions of years, has been the repetition of the same process of acquiring knowledge and acting from that knowledge. That knowledge and action is limited. That limitation creates problems and the brain has become accustomed to solving the problems which knowledge has repeatedly created. The brain is caught in that pattern and we are saying that that pattern will never, in any circumstance, solve our human problems. Obviously we have not solved them up till now. There must be a different, a totally different, movement, which is a non-accumulative perception-action. To have non-accumulative perception is to have no prejudice. It is to have absolutely no ideals, no concepts, no faith – because all those have destroyed man, they have not solved his problems.

So: have you a prejudice? Have you a prejudice which has something in common with an ideal? Of course. Ideals are to be accomplished in the future, and knowledge becomes tremendously important in the realizing of ideals. So, can you observe without accumulation, without the destructive nature of prejudice, ideals, faith, belief and your own conclusions and experiences? There is group consciousness, national consciousness, linguistic consciousness, professional consciousness, racial consciousness, and there is fear, anxiety, sorrow, loneliness, the pursuit of pleasure, love and finally death. If you keep acting in that circle, you maintain the human consciousness of the world. just see the truth of this. You are part of that consciousness and you sustain it by saying, ‘I am an individual. My prejudices are important. My ideals are essential’ – repeating the same thing over and over again. Now the maintenance, the sustenance and the nourishment, of that consciousness takes place when you are repeating that pattern. But when you break away from that consciousness, you are introducing a totally new factor in the whole of that consciousness.

Now, if we understand the nature of our own consciousness, if we see how it is operating in this endless cycle of knowledge, action and division – a consciousness which has been sustained for millennia – if we see the truth that all this is a form of prejudice and break away from it, we introduce a new factor into the old. It means that you, as a human being who is of the consciousness of the rest of mankind, can move away from the old pattern of obedience and acceptance. That is the real turning point in your life. Man cannot go on repeating the old pattern, it has lost its meaning, – in the psychological world it has totally lost its meaning. If you fulfil yourself, who cares? If you become a saint, what does it matter?

Whereas, if you totally move away from that you affect the whole consciousness of mankind.