Can We Be Free of Images?

From Krishnamurti’s Book TRUTH AND ACTUALITY

Krishnamurti: Doesn’t relationship mean to respond accurately? To be related, the meaning in the dictionary is, to respond—relationship comes from that word. Now how do I respond in my relationship to you, or to my wife, husband and all the rest of it? Am I responding according to the image I have about you? Or are we both free of the images and therefore responding accurately?

Q: Isn’t it largely subconscious?

K: First let us see what the word in itself means.

Q: What do you mean by accurate?

K: Accurate means care—the word accurate means to have great care. If you care for something you act accurately. If you care for your motor you must be very well acquainted with it, you must know all the mechanical processes of it. Accurate means infinite care; we are using that word in that sense. When there is a relationship with another, either intimate, or distant, the response depends on the image you have about the other, or the image the other has about you. And when we act or respond according to that image, it is inaccurate, it is not with complete care.

Q: What is a love and hate relationship?

K: We will come to that. I have an image about you and you have an image about me. That image has been put together through pleasure, fear, nagging, domination, possession, various hurts, impatience and so on. Now when we act or respond according to that image, then that action, being incomplete, is inaccurate, or without care, which we generally call love. Are you aware that you have an image about another? And having that image you respond according to the past, because the image has been put together and has become the past.

Q: And also it is according to one’s selfish desires.

K: I said that, fear, desire, selfishness.

Q: You can’t think of another person without an image; how can you write a letter without an image?

K: How quickly you want to resolve everything, don’t you? First of all, can we be aware that we have an image, not only about ourselves but about another?

Q: The two images are in relation, images of the other are in relation with the image of yourself.

K: You see what you are saying—there is a thing different from the image.

Q: The image of the other is made from the image of yourself.

K: That is what we said.

Q: Would anything practical help?

K: This is the most practical thing if you listen to this. The practical thing is to observe clearly what we are and act from there. Is one aware that one has an image about another? And is one aware that one has an image about oneself? Are you aware of that? This is a simple thing. I injure you, I hurt you, and you naturally have an image about me. I give you pleasure and you have an image about me. And according to that hurt or pleasure you react, and that reaction, being fragmentary, must be inaccurate, not whole. This is simple. Can we go on from there?

Now what do you do with the image you have built about another? I am aware that I have an image about myself and I have an image about you, so I have got two images. Am I conscious of this? Now if I have an image, why has this image been put together? And who is it that has put the image together? You understand the question?

Q (1): Is it fear that creates the image?

Q (2): Is experience a necessary imaginative process?

Q (3): Previous images.

Q (4): Lack of attention.

K: How does it come? Not through lack of something, but how does it come? You say through experience, through various incidents, through words…

Q: Retaining it all as memory.

K: Which is all the movement of thought, isn’t it? So thought as movement, which is time, put this image together, created this image. It does it because it wants to protect itself. Am I inventing, or fabricating this, or is this actual?

Q: Actual.

K: That means ‘what is’. Actuality means ‘what is’. (Sorry, I am not teaching you English!)

Q: It means that it then can see itself.

K: No, no. You have an image about me, haven’t you?

Q: Well, it is changing.

K: Wait, go slow (laughter). You have an image about me, haven’t you, if you are honest, look into yourself, you see you have an image. How has that image been brought about? You have read something, you have listened to something, there is a reputation, a lot of talk about it, some articles in the papers and so on. So all this has influenced thought and out of that you have created an image. And you have an image, not only about yourself but about the other. So when you respond according to an image about the speaker you are responding inaccurately; in that there is no care. We said care implies attention, affection, accuracy. That means to act according to ‘what is’. Now let’s move from there.

Q: Is not an image a thought form?

K: We said that, a thought.

Q: Thought has created images and it seems to imply that thought has created thought so…

K: Wait, we will get very far if we go slowly. So thought has built this image through time. It may be one day or fifty years. And I see in my relationship to another this image plays a tremendous part. If I become conscious, if I don’t act mechanically, I become aware and see how extraordinarily vital this image is. Then my next question is: is it possible to be free of the image? I have an image as a Communist, believing in all kinds of ideas, or as a Catholic—you follow? This whole cultural, economic, social background has built this image also. And I react according to that, there is a reaction according to that image. I think this is clear.

Now is one aware of it? Then one asks: is it necessary? If it is necessary one should keep it, one should have the image. If it is not necessary how is one to be free of it? Now, is it necessary?

Q: Images form the whole chaos in the world where we live, so it is not necessary.

K: He says this whole image-making is bringing about chaos in the world.

Q: Aren’t we making a lot of judgements?

K: Are we making a lot of judgements?

Q: In making an image there is a lot of judgement.

K: Yes, but we are asking a little more. We are asking whether it is necessary to have these images.

Q: No, we can be free of it.

K: Is it necessary? First let us see that.

Q: No.

K: Then if it is not necessary why do we keep it? (laughter).

Q: I have a feeling, being what we are, we can hardly help it.

K: We are going to find out whether it is possible to be free of this image, and whether it is worthwhile to be free of this image, and what does it mean to be free of the image.

Q: What is the relation with the chaos? Is it judging that is wrong?

K: No, no, sir. Look, I have an image about myself as a Communist and I believe in Marx, his economic principles, I am strongly committed to that. And I reject everything else. But you think differently and you are committed to that. So there is a division between you and me, and that division invariably brings conflict. I believe that I am Indian and I am committed to Indian nationalism, and you are a committed Muslim and there is division and conflict. So thought has created this division, thought has created these images, these labels, these beliefs and so there is contradiction and division, which brings conflict and therefore chaos. That is a fact. So if you think life is a process of infinite conflicts, never-ending conflicts, then you must keep these images. I don’t say it is, we are asking. I believe there have been more than five thousand wars within the last two thousand years and we have accepted that. To have our sons killed because we have these images. And if we see that is not necessary, that it is really a tremendous danger to survival, then I must find out how to be free of the images.

Q: I think something else is involved in this, because you say we always react from the past, but what difference does it make—the past is a cyclic phenomenon that repeats so you can’t prevent yourself, you know it is a fact that you will repeat it in the same way all the time.

K: We are talking about the necessity…

Q: (interrupting) You are pitting yourself against necessity…

K: …of having an image, or not having an image. If we are clear that these images are a real danger, really a destructive process, then we want to get rid of them. But if you say: I keep my little image and you keep your little image, then we are at each other’s throat. So if we can see very clearly that these images, labels, words, are destroying human beings…

Q: Krishnamurti, doesn’t spiritual commitment give us the penetration or energy? I mean if I am a committed Buddhist and I channel my energy in that direction, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am in conflict with those who aren’t Buddhists.

K: Just examine that please. If I am a committed human being, committed to Buddhism, and another is committed to the Christian dogma, and another to Communism…

Q: That is not my concern.

K: Isn’t this what is happening in life? Don’t say it is not my business if you are a Communist. It is my business to see if we can live in security, in peace in the world, we are human beings, supposed to be intelligent. Why should I be committed to anything?

Q: Because it gives energy, the power of penetration.

K: No, no.

Q: The danger is that we are moving away from the central fact.

K: Yes, we are always moving away from the central fact.

Q: We are doing that right now: the image is not necessary.

K: People think it is necessary to be an Englishman, a German, a Hindu, a Catholic, they think it is important. They don’t see the danger of it.

Q (1): Some people think it is not necessary.

Q (2): Why don’t we see the danger?

K: Because we are so heavily conditioned, it is so profitable. My job depends on it. I might not be able to marry my son to somebody who is a Catholic. All that stuff. So the point is: if one sees the danger of these images, how can the mind free itself from them?

Q: Can ‘I’ be there when no image is formed?

K: Images, whether they are old or new, are the same images.

Q: Yes, but when an image is formed can I be aware?

K: We are first of all going to go into that. How is an image formed? Is it formed through inattention? You get angry with me and if at that moment I am totally attentive to what you say there is no anger. I wonder if you realize this?

Q: So the image and the image-former must be the same in that case.

K: Keep it very simple. I say something that doesn’t give you pleasure. You have an image instantly, haven’t you? Now at that moment, if you are completely aware, is there an image?

Q: If you don’t have that new image, all the other images are gone.

K: Yes, that is the whole point. Can one be attentive at the moment of listening? You are listening now, can you be totally attentive? And when someone calls you by an unpleasant name, or gives you pleasure, at that moment, at that precise moment, can you be totally aware? Have you ever tried this? You can test it out, because that is the only way to find out, not accept the speaker’s words. You can test it out. Then if there is no image-forming, and therefore no image, then what is the relationship between the two? You have no image about me, but I have an image about you; then what is your relationship to me? You have no image because you see the danger of it, but I don’t see the danger of it, I have my images and you are related to me, as wife, husband, father, whatever it is. I have the image and you have not. Then what is your relationship to me? And what is my relationship to you?

Q: There is a barrier somewhere.

K: Of course there is a barrier, but we are asking what is that relationship. You are my wife; and I am very ambitious, greedy, envious, I want to succeed in this world, make a lot of money, position, prestige, and you say, ‘How absurd all that is, don’t be like that, don’t be silly, don’t be traditional, don’t be mechanical, that is just the old pattern being repeated’. What happens between you and me?

Q: Division.

K: And we talk together about love. I go off to the office here I am brutal, ambitious, ruthless, and I come home and am very pleasant to you—because I want to sleep with you. What is the relationship?

Q (1): No good.

Q (2): No relationship.

K: No relationship at all. At last! And yet this is what we call love.

So what is the relationship between you and me when I have an image and you have no image? Either you leave me, or we live in conflict. You don’t create conflict but I create conflict because I have an image. So is it possible in our relationship with each other to help each other to be free of images? You understand my question? I am related to you by some misfortune, sexual demands and so on and so on. I am related to you and you are free of the images and I am not, and therefore you care infinitely. I wonder if you see that? To you it is tremendously important to be free of images—and I am your father, wife, husband or whatever it is. Then will you abandon me?

Q: No.

K: Don’t say ‘no’ so easily. You care, you have affection, you feel totally differently. So what will you do with me?

Q: There is nothing you can do.

K: Why can’t you do something with me? Do go into it, don’t theorize about it. You are all in that position. Life is this.

Q (1): It depends if this person has the capacity to see what the truth of the matter is.

Q (2): See through it all and don’t take any notice of it (laughter).

K: When I am nagging you all the time? You people just play with words. You don’t take actuality and look at it.

Q: Surely if you have no image in yourself and you look at another person, you won’t see their image either.

K: If I have no image I see very clearly that you have an image. This is happening in the world, this is happening in every family, in every situation in relationship—you have something free and I have not and the battle is between us.

Q: I think that situation is in everything.

K: That is what I am saying. What do you do? Just drop it and disappear and become a monk? Form a community? Go off in meditation and all the rest of it? Here is a tremendous problem.

Q (1): I tell you how I feel, first of all.

Q (2): But surely this is fictitious, because we are trying to imagine.

K: I have said that if you have an image and I have an image, then we live very peacefully because we are both blind and we don’t care.

Q: That situation you have created for us because you want us to be free of images!

K: Of course, of course, I want you to be free of images because otherwise we are going to destroy the world.

Q: I see that.

K: The situation is not being created for you: it is there. Look at it.

Q: I have an image about you, and I have had it for a long time. And there are different kinds of images. I have been trying to get rid of those images because I have read that they have created problems for me. Now every time I try to work it out with you; and yet it hasn’t helped.

K: I’ll show you how to get rid of it, how to be free of images.

Q: I don’t believe you, sir.

K: Then don’t believe me (laughter).

Q: All the time you are just sitting there talking. Abstractions and abstractions. Me having an image about you means you are sitting up on the platform being an enlightened person. I am here as a listener, let’s say a disciple or a pupil. Now I feel very strongly that is not actuality or reality because we are two human beings. But still you are the king of gurus, you are the one who knows and… (laughter).

K: Please don’t laugh, sirs, be quiet, he is telling you something, please listen. May I show you something?

If that image of the guru has not created a problem you would live with that guru happily, wouldn’t you? But it has created a problem, whether it is the guru, the wife, or the husband—it is the same thing. You have got the image about the

speaker as the supreme guru (Krishnamurti and others laugh)—the word means, one who dispels ignorance, one who dispels the ignorance of another. But generally the gurus impose their ignorance on you. You have an image about me as the guru, or you have an image about another as a Christian and so on. If that pleases you, if that gives you satisfaction you will hold on to it—won’t you? That is simple enough. If it causes trouble then you say, ‘It is terrible to have this’ and you move away, form another relationship which is pleasant; but it is the same image-making. So one asks: is it possible to be free of images? The speaker sits on the platform because it is convenient, so you can all see; I can equally sit on the ground but you will have the same image. So the height doesn’t make any difference.

The question is whether the mind—the mind being part of thought, and thought has created these images—can thought dispel these images? Thought has created it and thought can dispel it because it is unsatisfactory and create another image which will be satisfactory. This is what we do. I don’t like that guru for various reasons and I go to another because he praises me, gives me garlands and says, ‘My dear chap, you are the best disciple I have’. So thought has created this image. Can thought undo the image?

Q: Not if you are looking at it intellectually. But looking at it intellectually, you are not using your senses.

K: I am asking that first. Look at it. Can the intellect, reasoning, dispel the image?

Q: No.

K: Then what will?

Q: The thing that stands in the way is merely self, the ‘I’. If you overcome this…

K: I know; but I don’t want to go into the much more complex problem of the ‘I’.

Q: You say the image is what he means by the ‘I’, but what do you mean by the ‘I’?

K: Of course, of course. How does thought get rid of the image without creating another image?

Q: If the guru causes trouble and it feels uncomfortable with the image, if one can see the trouble then perhaps that guru can help?

K: You are not going into it at all, you are just scratching on the surface.

Q: Thought cannot get rid of the image.

K: If that is so, then what will?

Q: Understanding.

K: Don’t use words like understanding. What do you mean by understanding?

Q: Getting rid of the thoughts.

K: Now who is going to get rid of thought?

Q: Is it a question of time? Could it be that our energies are all in the past, and we need to think now?

K: All the images are in the past. Why can’t I drop all that and live in the now?

Q: That is what I meant.

K: Yes. How can I? With the burden of the past, how to get rid of the past burden? It comes to the same thing.

Q: If one lives in the present, do the past images still come through?

K: Can you live in the present? Do you know what it means to live in the present? That means not a single memory, except technological memories, not a single breath of the past. Therefore you have to understand the totality of the past, which is all this memory, experience, knowledge, imagination, images. You go from one thing to another, you don’t pursue one thing steadily.

Q (1): Please keep going with one having no image and the other having an image.

Q (2): Yes, but we don’t answer it.

K: I’ll answer it, all right. You have no image and I have an image. What happens? Aren’t we eternally at war with each other?

Q: What am I going to do with you?

K: We are living on the same earth, in the same house, meeting often, living in the same community, what will you do with me?

Q: I would try to explain to him what I’ve learned.

K: Yes, you have explained it to me, but I like my image (laughter).

Q: Sir, we cannot know because we have these images of ourselves.

K: That is all I am saying! You are living in images and you don’t know how to be free of them. These are all speculative questions.

So let’s begin again. Are you aware that you have images? If you have images that are pleasant and you cling to them, and discard those which are unpleasant, you still have images. The question really is, can you be free of them?

Q: Go and listen to some music.

K: The moment that music stops you are back to those images. This is all so childish. Take drugs, that also creates various images.

Q: Isn’t there division between wanting to hold on to the images and wanting to let them go?

K: What is the line, the division? The division is desire, isn’t it? Listen, sir. I don’t like that image, I am going to let it go. But I like this image, I am going to hold on to it. So it is desire, isn’t it?

Q: I feel there is a pleasure-motive even in…

K: Of course. You don’t stick to one thing, sir.

Q: If I have no image, then the other has no image at all.

K: How inaccurate that is. Because I am blind therefore you are also blind! This is so illogical; do think clearly.

What should I do so that there is no image-forming at all? Let us think together.

Q: I think most people—I am sorry—I think most people here are looking for consolation in your words, rather than anything else…

K: I am aware that I have images, I know. There is no question of it, I know I have images. I have an image about myself and I have an image about you—that is very clear. If I am satisfied with you and we have the same images, then we are both satisfied. That is, if you think as I think—you like to be ambitious, I like to be ambitious—then we are both in the same boat, we don’t quarrel, we accept it, and we live together, work together, are both ruthlessly ambitious. But if you are free of the image of ambition and I am not, the trouble begins. What then will you do, who are free of that image, with me? You can’t just say, ‘Well it is not my business’—because we are living together, we are in the same world, in the same community, in the same group and so on. What will you do with me? Please just listen to this. Will you discard me, will you turn your back on me, will you run away from me, will you join a monastery, learn how to meditate? Do all

kinds of things in order to avoid me? Or will you say, ‘Yes, he is here in my house’. What will you do with regard to me, who has an image?

Q: First I would ask you politely to listen.

K: But I won’t listen. Haven’t you lived with people who are adamant in their beliefs? You are like that.

Q: It is best not to waste one’s time.

K: We are going to find out, sir. You see this is really a hypothetical question because you have got images and you live in those images, and the other person lives in images. That is our difficulty. Suppose I have no images, and I haven’t, I have worked at this for fifty years, so I have no image about myself, or about you. What is our relationship? I say please listen to me, but you won’t. I say please pay attention, which means care, to attend means infinite care. Will you listen to me that way? That means you really want to learn—not from me, but learn about yourself. That means you must infinitely care and watch yourself, not selfishly, but care to learn about yourself—not according to me, or to Freud, or Jung, or to the latest psychologist, but learn about yourself. That means, watch yourself; and you can only do that in your relationship with each other. You say, ‘You are sitting on that platform and you have gradually assumed, at least in my eyes, a position of authority, you have become my guru’. And I say to you, ‘My friend just listen. I am not your guru. I won’t be a guru to anybody.’ It is monstrous to be a guru. Are you listening when I say this? Or do you say, ‘I can’t listen to you because my mind is wandering’. So when you listen, listen with care, with affection, with attention, then you begin to learn about yourself, actually as you are. Then, from there we can move, we can go forward; but if you don’t do that, but keep on repeating, ‘Oh I have got my image, I don’t know how to get rid of it’ and so on, then we don’t move any further.

Now you have an image with regard to sex, that you must have a girl or a boy. We are so conditioned in this. I say to you please listen, are you aware that you are conditioned?—don’t choose parts of the conditioning: be totally aware of your whole conditioning. We are conditioned much more at the deeper levels than at the superficial levels—is that clear? One is conditioned very deeply, and superficially less so. Listening with your heart, not with your little mind, with your heart, with the whole of your being, is it possible to be totally aware of all this, the whole of consciousness? To be totally aware implies no observer. The observer is the past and therefore when he observes he brings about fragmentation. When I observe from the past, what I observe brings about a fragmentary outlook. I only see parts, I don’t see the whole. This is simple. So I have an insight that says, ‘Don’t look from the past’. That means, don’t have an observer who is all the time judging, evaluating, saying, ‘This right, this is wrong’, ‘I am a Christian, I am a Communist’—all that is the past. Now can you listen to that, which is a fact, which is actual, which is not theoretical? You are facing actually what is. Are you facing in yourself what actually is going on?

And can you observe another without the past—without all the accumulated memories, insults, hurts—so that you can look at another with clear eyes? If you say, ‘I don’t know how to do it’, then we can go into that.

As we said, any form of authority in this matter is the reaction of submission to somebody who says he knows. That is your image. The professor, the teacher knows mathematics, geography, I don’t, so I learn from him, and gradually he becomes my authority. He knows, I don’t know. But here, psychologically, I think I don’t know how to approach myself, how to learn about it, therefore I look to another—the same process. But the other is equally ignorant as me, because he doesn’t know himself. He is tradition-bound, he accepts obedience, he becomes the authority, he says he knows and you don’t know: ‘You become my disciple and I will tell you’. The same process. But it is not the same process psychologically. Psychologically the guru is ‘me’. I wonder if you see that? He is as ignorant as myself. He has got a lot of Sanskrit words, a lot of ideas, a lot of superstitions; and I am so gullible I accept him. Here we say there is no authority, no guru, you have to learn about yourself. And to learn about yourself, watch yourself, how you behave with another, how you walk. Then you find that you have an image about yourself, a tremendous image. And you see these images create great harm, they break up the world—the Krishna-conscious group, the Transcendental group, or some other group. And your own group; you have your own ideas, you must have sex, you must have a girl, you must have a boy, and all the rest of it, change the girl, change the boy, every week. You live like that and you don’t see the tremendous danger and wastage of life.

Now we come to the point: how am I to be free of all image-making? That is the real question. Is it possible? I will not say it is, or it is not, I am going to find out. I am going to find out by carefully watching why images are made. I realize images are made when the mind is not giving its attention at the moment. At the moment something is said that gives pleasure, or something that brings about displeasure, to be aware at that moment, not afterwards. But we become aware afterwards and say, ‘My god, I must pay attention, terrible, I see it is important to be attentive and I don’t know how to be attentive; I lose it and when the thing takes place it is so quick; and I say to myself I must be attentive’. So I beat myself into being attentive—I wonder if you see this—and therefore I am never attentive. So I say to myself, ‘I am not attentive at the moment something is said which gives pleasure or pain’, I see that I am inattentive. I have found that my whole mind, make-up, is inattentive, to the birds, to nature, to everything, I am inattentive—when I walk, when I eat, when I speak, I am inattentive. So I say to myself, ‘I am not going to be concerned with attention, but pay attention to inattention’. Do you get this?

Q: Yes.

K: I am not going to be concerned with being attentive, but I am going to see what is inattention. I am watching inattention, and I see I am inattentive most of the time. So I am going to pay attention to one thing at a time, that is, when I walk, when I eat, I am going to walk, eat, with attention. I am not going to think about something else, but I am going to pay attention to every little thing. So what has been inattention becomes attention. I wonder if you see that?

So I am now watching inattention. That is, I am watching that I am not attentive. I look at a bird and never look at it, my thoughts are all over the place—I am now going to look at that bird; it may take me a second but I am going to look at it. When I walk I am going to watch it. So that out of inattention, without any effort, there is total attention. When there is total attention, then when you say something pleasant or unpleasant there is no image-forming because I am totally there. My whole mind, heart, brain, all the responses are completely awake and attentive. Aren’t you very attentive when you are pursuing pleasure? You don’t have to talk about attention, you want that pleasure. Sexually, when you want it, you are tremendously attentive, aren’t you? Attention implies a mind that is completely awake, which means it doesn’t demand challenge. It is only when we have images that challenges come. I wonder if you see this. Because of those images challenges come and you respond to the challenge inadequately. Therefore there is a constant battle between challenge and response, which means the increase of images; and the more it increases the more challenges come, and so there is always the strengthening of images. I wonder if you see this? Haven’t you noticed people when they are challenged about their Catholicism or whatever it is, how they become more strong in their opinions? So by being completely attentive there is no image formation, which means conditioning disappears.