The Nature of a Religious Life

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE WAY OF INTELLIGENCE

A.P.: What is the nature of a religious life? A paradoxical situation has developed during the last fifty years or more; there has been an explosion of knowledge that has led to specialization, with the result that the wholeness of life is lost in the multiplicity of information. The problem has become more acute because development of knowledge leads us further away from the religious life. Can we explore this problem?

P.J.: Is the problem one of perception which is total? When there was not this plethora of knowledge, was man’s capacity to see the whole greater than it is today? Is it the extension of the frontiers of knowledge which has made the problem more difficult, or is it that knowledge which has made the problem more difficult, or is it that the basic problem of man is his incapacity to see in a total sense? Is it that the very nature of seeing is fragmentary, whether there is vast knowledge or limited knowledge?

G.N.: There is also the modern view that with knowledge we are ascending in terms of living conditions, comfort, equality, which some people feel has made for a greater sense of well-being and awareness. This is the ascent of man through knowledge, through specialization.

P.J.: But Achyutji’s statement suggests that when knowledge was not so intricate, so complex, then man’s capacity to see wholly was to that extent greater.

A.P.: What I felt was that there is an assumption that if we could know more, we would come nearer to the heart of wholeness. The assumption itself is totally illusory because the greater the knowledge, the further away we move from the centre.

P.J.: But when you say illusory, is it actually illusory or conceptually illusory?

D.S.: I think that is a completely erroneous assumption. I don’t think anyone ever thought that technology or knowledge would bring greater happiness. It is all within the operation of knowledge – more knowledge, more technology, leading to an instant response, a greed, a curiosity. Curiosity is a form of greed. Knowledge operates from one greed to the next: You want to know more and more. It is the same with technology. This I think is complete illusion. We don’t think technology will ever provide happiness. An engineer is infatuated with creating more and more. With the facility of aeroplane designing, we can get from Delhi to London in a few hours. Nobody thinks that this is going to make you happier.

P.J.: Today, in a developing country like India, in making technology available to a vaster number of people, there is an inbuilt assumption that you are going to bring happiness.

D.S.: I think you will have to evaluate what you mean by happiness.

P.J.: Happiness is not the same thing as seeing this wholeness. These two are totally different.

D.S.: That’s it. Technology may not be looking for a deeper form of happiness, but looking for more comfortable living.

P.J.: What is the basic question here?

S.P.: Are we saying that in the pursuit of a so-called religious life, we are using the intellect, and the intellect itself is fragmentary and, therefore, it cannot comprehend the holistic?

A.P.: I don’t want to start with the assumption that the intellect is an inadequate tool. I say it is the only tool I have. Whatever powers of understanding I have, have been secured largely by the development of my intellect, and I say that whatever I have gained through the intellect seems to lead me away from my religious base, from that centre.

K: What do you mean by a religious life, and why do we deny the influence of knowledge on a religious life? Bronowski maintains that only through knowledge is there the ascent of man. He traced the development from the stone age to the modern age and pointed out that man has evolved from savagery. That is, the ascent of man is only possible through knowledge, and you are saying knowledge is detrimental, or prevents or distorts a religious life.

A.P.: A religious life is absolutely essential to restore sanity to human existence. When we approach the question of a religious life in the context of contemporary society, we are not seeking a religious life in terms of what the church did or the people who went in search of Brahman did.

K: Sir, would you define what you mean by a religious life, the nature of a mind that is religious?

A.P.: A religious life is that perception which gives us a view of human well-being undistorted by contradictory, self-destructive tendencies. We are not seeking some kind of a theoretical moksha, or a metaphysical moksha. What we want is a capacity to see human well-being as an indivisible fact, and ourselves as agents of that human well-being.

K: You are saying that a religious life is concerned with human dignity, human well-being, human happiness. Right?

A.P.: Yes, sir. Development of the human potential.

K: When you use the word ‘religious’, I wonder what the depth of that word is, the significance of that word, the quality of the mind which says that it is enquiring into a religious life. Sir, you said that knowledge is the major factor which prevents a religious life. Let us hold on to that for a few minutes. Does knowledge interfere with a religious life? Does a religious life have no knowledge, or, having knowledge, does not allow that knowledge to interfere with a holistic life?

A.P.: Without a religious life, knowledge seems to lose its direction.

K: Yes sir, you have more or less defined what you mean by knowledge. But I have not quite understood what you mean by a religious life.

A.P.: A religious life is a life in which one feels that no harm would come to another through one’s knowledge, one’s capacity. It really means that you are part of humanity, that through you humanity is fulfilling itself.

P.J.: I find this very difficult to understand.

K: We are discussing not what a religious life should be, we are investigating, exploring into the nature of a religious life. Therefore, you cannot presuppose that you must not hurt another.

A.P.: Sir, it is out of deep anguish – when you see that man’s knowledge is becoming an instrument of his own destruction – that you come to a religious life.

P.J.: I cannot say that. I would say that what has led me to even enquire has been sorrow, loneliness, inadequacy. These are the three things which have led me to enquire. I don’t even know the nature of a religious life.

K: I think we are not enquiring. We are making statements. What do you mean when you say that we must not hurt another human being?

A.P.: Is it possible for knowledge not to be a source of destruction?

P.J: Achutji, before you can come to this question, what do you do with the nature of the self which is so inadequate that it cannot even pose this question? It cannot pose the question about humanity.

A.P.: I feel that for a man like me who is witness to appalling cruelty, appalling threats to human well-being arising out of human knowledge, there is no self here at all. I am not bothered about the self. I am bothered about a situation of which I am an integral part. I cannot separate myself. I am part of that.

R.R.: I find all this a little too abstract. I say I wish to be religious, and also I wish to be in contact with some knowledge or at least not be destroyed by it. So, this is a problem of knowledge. This is one way in which I would like to raise it, because the question of general human knowledge is too abstract. Now, how can I be religious and still be a physicist? As a physicist, there are certain sets of laws, certain operations that I teach and I see that some of these relationships in terms of energy or time do not necessarily relate to my sense of time or energy or momentum, as I experience it inwardly. And one way of understanding a religious life is by a balancing of what I see as external time or energy, and what I see as the flow inwardly; time and energy moving. In the rare moments I can see them related to each other. At the moment, I am in touch with the religious life. Now, the question that arises from this is, how does one continue with activities like physics and lead a religious life?

K: I would like first of all to find out what you mean by a religious life. Achyutji has pointed out, that it is not to hurt a human being and also that it has to be holistic, if you can use that word; that is, a life that is complete, whole and not fragmented. And he also said that knowledge misused, as it is now, is destroying humanity, and knowledge also prevents or becomes a distraction to a religious life. But we have not yet gone into the question of what you mean by a religious life.

D.S.: Krishnaji, is there not something wrong with even the whole of religious life? If I take the proper drug, I am going to be religious; the religious life is traditional nonsense.

K: I would like to go into it a little more. Achyutji has pointed out that man wants happiness. Happiness at what level? Physical level? At the psychological level so that he has no problems, no conflicts and so on? And at a still higher level, if you can so call it, a sense of absolute relaxed peace? Would you call that a religious life? Is that what we want? That is what every human being craves for because he knows what knowledge has done in the world. Then the question is, what place has knowledge in our human existence, in our human daily life? Let us for the moment forget the religious life; let us find out if it is possible to live a daily life here on this earth, which is ours, with an extraordinary sense of freedom from all problems. Can you start from that?

P.J.: My only query would be, is it valid that there should be a movement ‘towards’, once you posit this movement?

K: I am not positing anything; I am enquiring.

P.J.: I was saying, is it valid for any movement ‘towards’? To meet the movement ‘towards’ is a denial of the religious life.

S.P.. I would put it this way: That I who am in contradiction, moving from this to that, want to end the conflict. So, it is a very valid thing which I am seeking, and when you say a movement from here to there is an invalid movement, I ask the question: How do I end this whole turmoil?

P.J.: But there is a movement.

K: I am not moving from here to there.

P.J.: There is no movement ‘towards’?

4D.S.: Krishnaji, you are moving in the sense that you are saying: Can we live in peace?

K: No. All that I am saying is, this is my life.

S.P.: It is not finished. I will say a person who says this is my life, this is not how I want to live, naturally asks the question: Is there something different? That movement is valid.

K: I do not even ask if there is something different. I live in conflict, misery, confusion. This constant battle is going on inside and outside. It is terrible to live that way, and I say, please help me to live differently.

S.P.: Seeing that, most people ask the question: Is there anything different?

K: The validity lies in their escape from it.

S.P.: Before they escape, the movement is there.

K: The movement away from the fact is an escape.

S.P.: So, that is the insight which man has to have. But before he has that insight, both are facts.

K: I am facing facts. The facts are, my life is in a dreadful mess. That is all.

R.R.: Sir, the fact also is that I wish to change it.

K: First, I must acknowledge the fact. To change it may be an escape from the fact.

D.S.: Is not your statement, ‘My life is a dreadful mess,’ a kind of value judgment that you make?

K: I am not making a value judgment. It is a fact. I get up at six o’clock, go to office for the rest of my life, ten hours a day. There is insecurity, the terrible mess of living. That is not a value judgment; it is a fact.

D.S.: I think there is a kind of judgment in it the way you say, ‘It is a terrible mess.’

K: It is not a value judgment. It is a fact which I observe in my life. There is a constant struggle, there is fear. That is a fact which I call a mess.

P.J.: I say that is a fact. Now what relationship has the query about the religious life to this?

S.P.: There have been people who have talked about the religious life, and I see a person who I think leads a religious life, and when I see, I cannot remove that impression from my consciousness.

K: That may be your tradition, your wish, an illusion you are living in because it is tradition.

R.D.: Sir, there is an actual position of a man who is in contradiction. Recognising the contradiction as a fact, he says I want to change it, but does not know what to change into.

K: The changing into is a movement away from the fact. I find I am in conflict with my wife or husband or whatever it is, and I want to understand the nature of the conflict, not change it into something else. Now, how do I change this fact that I cannot get on with my wife? To me a religious life is a life in which all these problems have completely ceased.

D.S.: That is an assumption.

K: No. It is not a fact to you; it is a fact to me. So I say, don’t let us jump into what a religious life is. Here I am, a human being, caught up in this rat race, and I say to myself: How am I to change this? Not into something else, because I am intelligent enough to know that changing into something else is an avoidance of ‘what is’.

D.S.: That is where the subtle leap takes place. Is the mind or the brain changing into something better?

K: I am not changing into something better. Better is the enemy of the good.

D.S.: You are dodging this subtle point that right here it happens.

K: Sir, I see very clearly, logically, rationally, that the movement away from the fact does not bring about the understanding of the fact. That is all my point.

R.R.: But sir, I see my conflict, I have also heard J. Krishnamurti say, there is a state of non-conflict. Perhaps that is my trouble – I have heard that.

K: He has always said, ‘Face the fact, don’t move away from the fact.’ There is another way of living. This man says very clearly the other way cannot be found or come upon or reached or moved into unless you have faced the fact and resolved the fact.

S.P.: But the true state is that this statement has been conceived by the mind as an idea.

K: Therefore, it is valueless. As long as it is an idea, it is valueless. Let us be clear. The fact is I am afraid: I don’t face the fact that there is this feeling arising, but I create an idea about the fact and act according to that idea. I say don’t do that, look at the fact without making it into an abstraction. Stay with fact, don’t move away under any circumstances.

S.P.: I don’t act from that idea, but the idea is there. It is in my consciousness.

K.: Our conditioning is, hearing a statement and making that statement into an idea. Now, you make a statement to me; I hear it and from that form a conclusion or an idea. I say don’t do that, but just listen to what is being said.

M.Z.: Suffering as such is not an idea; suffering is real.

K: No. I want to go into it more clearly and not say real or not real. When there is suffering, is that suffering a concept, an idea, a remembrance, or is it an actual moment of suffering? Please find out. At the moment of sorrow, there is nothing else. It is possible to remain with that movement without making an abstraction of it and say, ‘I am suffering.’

M.Z.: Sir, would you say that it is a continuation of suffering the moment it moves into an abstraction?

K: It is not suffering; it is just an idea of suffering. I am very clear.

A.P.: If we may compare this suffering with pain, there is an impulse of pain followed by another impulse of pain, followed by a third impulse of pain, etc. Therefore, that pain may be intermittent but it is repetitive and, therefore, it can never become an idea. It is a physical pain.

K: Physical suffering is of a different nature. Repetition of psychological pain is the memory of that which has happened. Go into it slowly. You have physical pain; you have a toothache and you do something to stop it, but it recurs. Now, the continuation of pain is the registration of a first pain in the mind, in the brain. It is simple enough, isn’t it?

P.J.: It can become psychological.

A.P.: The moment you register, it becomes psychological.

P.J.: But the physical pain as such is of a different nature from psychological pain. The psychological pain seems to be the shadow of physical pain. It does not arise for any one particular reason. It shows itself with many faces: One day I am depressed, one day I am alone, one day I feel inadequate. These are all manifestations of that deep, inner inadequacy, pain, which is psychological. The point is, Krishnaji posits that at the very instant when pain arises, there is action which comes through the cord of continuity, that which connects this pain or suffering to the next pain. And he implies that there can be a cutting of it the instant it arises. Now, I would like to go into the nature of this cutting.

M.Z.: Can you say that the cutting is between the actual pain and the leap of abstraction?

K: Is that what you are saying, Pupul?

P.J.: I say, sir, that you seem to imply that at the instant of the arising of psychological suffering, there is a cutting so that continuity ends.

K: No, there is no cutting.

P.J.: Is there no action at all?

K: I think it is fairly simple. Are we discussing physical pain or psychological pain? I sat in a dentist’s chair for four hours – drilling, all the rest of it. When I got out of that chair, there was no registration of that drill.

D.S.: But you remember it now.

K: Suffering is an actual fact. It takes place at the moment of arising. Apparently we don’t seem to be able to see anything else but that suffering. When you are not moving away from it at all, there is no registration of it. Have you listened to the statement? That is, when there is no movement away from that moment, that thing called suffering, there is no registration of that, no remembrance. Can the mind, the brain, remain absolutely with that feeling of suffering and nothing else?

S.P.: At this moment, I have no quality of suffering in my mind. When you ask this question, there is no reality to it. The mind is operating, but it does not catch the quality of it. You are asking, can the brain remain with the moment of suffering? It is not an idea, it is an actual fact that all human beings are suffering. It is not I alone who am suffering.

R.R.: Sir, are you suggesting that this fact does not register for you because you are not running away from it?

K: In the second of suffering there is no registration. It is only when thought takes it up and moves away from the second that registration takes place. At this movement you are not suffering but there is suffering around you, there is immense suffering. Are you in contact with that? Or is it an idea that human beings are all suffering?

S.P.: There is no contact.

K.K.: It is only an idea that humanity suffers.

K: Explore that. What does it mean? An idea is not factual. Then why do you have it?

S.P.: What is the nature of this contact?

D.S.: How are we in contact with that?

K: We are not in contact with that. It is there. Let us put it differently: Do you feel that you are the rest of mankind, that you are the whole of mankind?

R.R.: Sometimes.

K: I am not talking about sometimes, sir.

P.J.: I would like to go back. There is something else at the moment of suffering. Can there be no movement away from it? That is what K said. The movement away from there is the movement of registration.

K: The movement is the registration.

D.S.: I want to raise another question: To what degree is the very act of being in the condition of suffering, or conflict, some implication of movement? Someone suffers because someone who was important to him dies. He is already caught in a movement. You suggest to Dr. Ravindra to look at it as a fact, a condition in which there is no conflict.

K: No. I am saying, sir, all human beings suffer. That is a fact, and in investigating the whole thing – or rather, not investigating, but having an insight into it, which is not an investigation – you see that suffering continues. When it is registered, then the whole problem arises: How am I to escape from suffering, and all the rest of it? I am asking, investigating: Is it possible for a non-registration to take place?

D.S.: I am not arguing with you. The fact of suffering, to me, seems to be already the act of registration.

K: Of course, that is our conditioning. If I am aware of this conditioning, aware of what is actually taking place, then the very perception of that ends it.

D.S.: That is the paradox.

K: Not paradox; that is a fact.

P.J.: You have asked whether there can be an insight into the movement of suffering. Then the question arises, can there be a total non-movement away from it? What is the nature of this insight? Let us negate what it is not. It is obvious that it is not in the nature of thought.

K: Go on step by step. It is not a movement of thought. It is not a movement of memory. It is not a movement of remembrance. Which means what? A complete freedom from the known.

P.J.: How does this freedom from the known arise which is insight? How does insight take birth?

K: Freedom from the known can only take place when one has observed the whole phenomenon of working in the field of the known. Then, in the very investigation of the known, from that comes freedom from the known. It is not the other way round.

P.J.: What is the nature of this insight?

K: I say, the nature of this insight is freedom from the known first, which implies no remembrances of the past. It is not a state of amnesia; it is complete, total attention in which there is no memory operating, no experience operating.

D.S.: Sir, the movement that I come upon is the tangle of a movement of registration; it is the movement of memory. You will register it if you are attached.

K: I have an image about myself and you come along and insult me, and that is immediately registered. If I have no image, you can call me anything you like.

M.Z.: But sir, we were talking about the pain of sorrow.

K: Shock, a psychological shock.

M.Z.: Am I correct in understanding that in the registration of pain there is the impact, the shock, and we experience it as pain ?

K: It is the continuation of remembrance of that shock.

M.Z.: There is the fact of registration. So, what you suggested was that the blow as pain remained, without the vibration entering into it as registration. Then something else happens. Would you call this the action of insight? You also talked about remaining with the pain, with the blow, not moving into registration.

K: Consider a millpond which is absolutely quiet, and you drop a stone into it. There are the waves, but when the waves are over, it is completely quiet again; the normality is the non-registration, because there is no stimulus at that point.

M.Z.: Normality is not quiet. Why don’t you call the waves normality?

K: I purposely used the word ‘mill-pond’. That is its natural state – quietness. You drop something into it and there are waves. It is an outside action.

M.Z.: Take the fact, you have a shock for various reasons. Can the mind remain with that shock, not let waves arise – which is the registration – but remain with the shock?

S.P.: Normally what happens is that there is a shock and the observation of that shock is in the nature of duality, the observer feeling the shock.

K: I have a shock. For the moment I am paralysed; I can’t move. My son is dead. That’s tremendous shock and a day or so later begins the whole movement of saying, ‘I have suffered, I have lost, I am lonely.; that movement takes days. I am suggesting, can one remain entirely with that pain? Then the waves won’t come in.

S.P.: Do you mean to say, if it is understood there would not be loneliness, pain?

K: No. I am only saying, do you look at suffering holistically, which includes everything, or do you break it up as suffering, pain, pleasure, fear, anxiety. That’s why I am suggesting that a religious life is a life which is holistic, in which there is total insight into the whole structure and nature of consciousness and the very ending of that. Have we answered this question or not at all?

P.J.: We have started probing into the question.

K: Where are we now after probing? After probing I must come to something.

P.J.: I can remain with the nature of probing.

K: Which means I probe into the whole nature of knowledge and place it, put it in its right place, and, therefore, it is no longer interfering with my perception. Knowledge is creating havoc in the world, destroying humanity, and without living a religious life, knowledge inevitably destroys humanity.

We are saying that the very ascent through knowledge is the destruction of man, and to prevent that destruction, knowledge must be put in its right place, and in the very placing of it, is the beginning of the religious life. That is what our investigation so far has come to.