What Is Beyond Emptiness?

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE ENDING OF TIME

Krishnamurti: We were saying that psychological time is conflict, that time is the enemy of man. And that enemy has existed from the beginning of man. And we asked, why has man from the beginning taken a ‘wrong turn’, a ‘wrong path’? And, if so, is it possible to turn man in another direction in which he can live without conflict? Because, as we said yesterday, the outer movement is also the same as the inner movement. There is no separation between inner and outer. It is the same movement. And we asked whether we were concerned deeply and passionately to turn man in another direction so that he doesn’t live in time, with a knowledge only of the outer things. The religions, the politicians, the educators have failed: they have never been concerned about this. Would you agree to that?

DAVID BOHM: Yes. I think the religions have tried to discuss the eternal values beyond time but they don’t seem to have succeeded.

K: That is what I want to get at. To them it has been an idea, an ideal, a principle, a value, but not an actuality, and most of the religious people have their anchor in a belief, in a principle, in an image, in knowledge, in Jesus or in something or other.

DB: Yes, but if you were to consider all the religions, say the various forms of Buddhism, they try to say this very thing which you are saying, to some extent.

K: To some extent but what I am trying to get at is: why has man never confronted this problem? Why haven’t we said ‘Let’s end conflict’? Instead we have been encouraged because through conflict we think there is progress.

DB: It can be a certain source of stimulus to try to overcome opposition.

K: Yes, sir, but if you and I see the truth of this, not in abstraction, but actually, deeply, can we act in such a way that every issue is resolved instantly, immediately, so that psychological time is abolished? And as we asked yesterday, when you come to? that point where there is nothing and there is everything, where all that is energy – when time ends, is there a beginning of something totally new? Is there a beginning which is not enmeshed in time? Now how shall we discover it? Words are necessary to communicate. But the word is not that thing. So what is there when all time ends? Psychological time, not time of…

DB: …time of day.

K: Yes. Time as the ‘me’, the ego, and when that completely comes to an end, what is there that begins? Could we say that out of the ashes of time there is a new growth? What is that which begins – no, that word ‘begins’ implies time too.

DB: Whatever we mean, that which arises.

K: That arises, what is it?

DB: Well, as we said yesterday, essentially it is creation, the possibility of creation.

K: Yes, creation. Is that it? Is something new being born?

DB: It is not the process of becoming.

K: Oh, no, that is finished. Becoming is the worst, that is time, that is the real root of this conflict. We are trying to find out what happens when the ‘I’, which is time, has completely come to an end. I believe the Buddha is supposed to have said ‘Nirvana’. And the Hindus call it Moksha. I don’t know whether the Christians call it Heaven…

DB: The Christian mystics have had some similar state…

K: Similar, yes. But you see, the Christian mystics, as far as I understand it, are rooted in Jesus, in the Church, in the whole belief. They have never gone beyond it.

DB: Yes, well that seems so. As far as I know anyway.

K: Now we have said belief, attachment to all that is out, finished. That is all part of the ‘I’. Now when there is that absolute cleansing of the mind from the accumulation of time, which is the essence of the ‘me’, what takes place? Why should we ask what takes place?

DB: You mean it is not a good question?

K: I am just asking myself, why should we ask that? Is there behind it a subtle form of hope? A subtle form of saying, I have reached that point, there is nothing. Then that’s a wrong question Wouldn’t you consider that so?

DB: Well, it invites you to look for some hopeful outcome.

K: If all endeavour is to find something beyond the ‘me’, the endeavour and the thing that I may find are still within the orbit of ‘me’. So I have no hope. There is no sense of hope, there is no sense of wanting to find anything.

DB: What is then moving you to inquire?

K: My inquiry has been to end conflict.

DB: Yes, we have then to be careful. We are liable to produce a hope of ending conflict.

K: No, no; there is no hope. I end it. The moment I introduce the word ‘hope’ there is a feeling of the future.

DB: Yes, that is desire.

K: Desire – and therefore it is of time. So I – the mind – puts all that aside completely; I mean it, completely. Then what is the essence of all this? Is my mind still seeking, or groping after something intangible that it can capture and hold? If that is so, it is still part of time.

DB: Well, that is still desire.

K: Desire and a subtle form of vanity.

DB: Why vanity?

K: Vanity in the sense ‘I have reached’.

DB: Self-deception.

K: Deception and all forms of illusion arise from that. So it is not that. I am clearing the decks as we go along.

DB: Essentially it seems that you are clearing the movement of desire in its subtle forms.

K: In its subtle forms. So desire too has been put away. Then there is only mind – right?

DB: Yes, but then we have to ask what is meant by nature, if all is mind, because nature seems somewhat independent.

K: But we have also said that all the universe is the mind.

DB: You mean to say nature is the mind?

K: Part of the mind.

DB: The universal mind?

K: Yes.

DB: Not a particular mind?

K: The particular mind then is separate, but we are talking of mind.

DB: You see, we have to make it clear, because you are saying that nature is the creation of universal mind, though nevertheless nature has a certain reality.

K: That is all understood.

DB: But it is almost as if nature were the thought of the universal mind.

K: it is part of it. I am trying to grope towards the particular and coming to an end; then there is only the mind, the universal mind – right?

DB: Yes. We have been discussing the particular mind groping through desire, and we said if all of that stopped…

K: That is just my point. If all that has completely come to an end, what is the next step? Is there any next? We said yesterday, there is a beginning, but that word implies part of time.

DB: We won’t say so much beginning, perhaps ending.

K: The ending, we have said that.

DB: But now is there something new?

K: Is there something which the mind cannot capture?

DB: Which mind, the particular or the universal?

K: The particular has ended.

DB: Yes. You are saying the universal mind cannot capture it either?

K: That is what we are finding out.

DB: Are you saying there is a reality – or something – beyond universal mind?

K: Are we playing a game of peeling off one thing after another? Like an onion skin, and at the end there is only tears and nothing else?

DB: Well, I don’t know.

K: Because we said there is the ending, then the cosmic, the universal mind, and, beyond, is there something more?

DB: Well, would you say this ‘more’ is energy? That energy is beyond the universal mind?

K: I would say yes, because the universal mind is part of that energy.

DB: That is understandable. In a way the energy is alive, you are saying?

K: Yes, yes.

DB: And also intelligent?

K: Wait a minute.

DB: In some way… In so far as it is mind.

K: Now if that energy is intelligent, why has it allowed man to move away in the wrong direction?

DB: I think that that may be part of a process, something that is inevitable in the nature of thought. You see if thought is going to develop, that possibility must exist. To bring about thought in man…

K: Is that the original freedom for man? To choose?

DB: No, that is, thought has to have the capacity to make this mistake.

K: But if that intelligence was operating, why did it allow this mistake?

DB: Well, we can suggest that there is a universal order, a law.

K: All right. The universe functions in order.

DB: Yes, and it is part of the order of the universe that this particular mechanism can go wrong. If a machine breaks down, it is not disorder in the universe, it is part of universal order.

K: Yes. In the universal order there is disorder, where man is concerned.

DB: It is not disorder at the level of the universe.

K: No. At a much lower level.

DB: At the level of man it is disorder.

K: And why has man lived from the beginning in this disorder?

DB: Because he is still ignorant, he still hasn’t seen the point.

K: But he is part of the whole, yet in one tiny corner man exists, and has lived in disorder. And this enormous conscious intelligence has not…

DB: Yes, you could say that the possibility of creation is also the possibility of disorder. That if man had the possibility of being creative, there would also be the possibility of a mistake. It could not be fixed like a machine, always to operate in perfect order. The intelligence would not have turned him into a machine that would be incapable of disorder.

K: No, of course not. So is there something beyond the cosmic order, mind?

DB: Are you saying that the universe, that that mind, has created nature which has an order, which is not merely going around mechanically? It has some deeper meaning?

K: That is what we are trying to find out.

DB: You are bringing in the whole universe as well as mankind. What makes you do this? What is the source of this perception?

K: Let’s begin again: there is the ending of the ‘me’ as time, and so there is no hope; all that is finished, ended. In the ending of it, there is that sense of nothingness. And nothingness is this whole universe.

DB: Yes, the universal mind, the universal matter.

K: The whole universe.

DB: What led you to say that?

K: Ah. I know. To put it very simply: division has come to an end. Right? The division created by time, created by thought, created by this education, and so on – all that. Because it has ended, the other is obvious.

DB: You mean that without the division then the other is there – to be perceived?

K: Not to be perceived, but it is there.

DB: But then how does one come to be aware that it is there?

K: I don’t think one becomes aware of it.

DB: Then what leads you to say it?

K: Would you say it is? Not, I perceive it, or it is perceived.

DB: Yes. It is.

K: It is.

DB: You could almost say that it is saying it. In some sense, you seem to be suggesting that it is what is saying.

K: Yes. I didn’t want to put it – I am glad you put it like that! Where are we now?

DB: We are saying that the universe is alive, as it were, it is mind, and we are part of it.

K: We can only say we are part of it when there is no ‘I’.

DB: No division.

K: No division. I would like to push it a little further; is there something beyond all this?

DB: Beyond the energy, you mean?

K: Yes. We said nothingness, that nothingness is everything, and so it is that which is total energy. It is undiluted, pure, uncorrupted energy. Is there something beyond that? Why do we ask it?

DB: I don’t know.

K: I feel we haven’t touched it – I feel there is something beyond.

DB: Could we say this something beyond is the ground of the whole? You are saying that all this emerges from an inward ground?

K: Yes, there is another – I must be awfully careful here. You know one must be awfully careful not to be romantic, not to have illusions, not to have desire, not even to search. It must happen. You follow what I mean?

DB: We are saying the thing must come from that. Whatever you are saying must come from that.

K: From that. That’s it. It sounds rather presumptuous.

DB: You are actually seeing it. It is not that you look at it and say, that is what I have seen.

K: Oh, no. Then it is wrong.

DB: There isn’t a division. Of course, it is easy to fall into delusion with this sort of thing.

K: Yes, but we said delusion exists as long as there is desire and thought. That is simple. And desire and thought are part of the ‘I’, which is time. When desire and time are completely ended, then there is absolutely nothing, and therefore that is the universe, that emptiness, which is full of energy. We can put a stop there…

DB: Because we haven’t yet seen the necessity for going beyond the energy. We have to see that as necessary.

K: I think it is necessary.

DB: Yes, but it has to be seen. We have to bring out why it is necessary.

K: Why is it necessary? Tentatively, there is something in us that is operating, there is something in us much more – much – I don’t know how to put it – much greater. I am going slowly, slowly. What I am trying to say is, I think there is something beyond that. When I say ‘I think’, you know what I mean.

DB: I understand, yes.

K: There is something beyond that. How can we talk about it? You see, energy exists only when there is emptiness. They go together.

DB: This pure energy you talk about is emptiness. Are you suggesting there is that which is beyond the emptiness, the ground of the emptiness?

K: Yes.

DB: Would that be something in the way of a substance? You see the question is, if it is not emptiness, then what is it?

K: I don’t quite follow your question.

DB: Well, you say something beyond emptiness, other than emptiness. I think we can follow to the energy and the emptiness. Now if we suggest something other to that, to the emptiness…

K: This something other.

DB: Yes, then that other must be different from the emptiness. Something other to emptiness, which therefore is not emptiness. Does that make sense?

K: Then it is substance.

DB: Yes, that is what is implied: if it is not emptiness, it is substance.

K: Substance is matter, is it not?

DB: Not necessarily, but having the quality of substance.

K: What do you mean by that?

DB: Matter is a form of substance in the sense that it is energy, but having the form of substance as well, because it has a constant form and it resists change. It is stable, it maintains itself.

K: Yes. But when you use the word ‘substance’, meaning beyond emptiness, does that word convey that meaning?

DB: Well, we are exploring the possible meaning of what you want to say. If you are saying it is not emptiness, then it would not be substance as we know it in matter. But we can see a certain quality which belongs to substance in general; if it has that quality, we could use the word substance, extend the meaning of the word substance.

K: I understand. So could we use the word ‘quality’?

DB: The word ‘quality’ is not necessarily the emptiness, energy could have the quality of emptiness, you see. And therefore it is something else. Something other might have the quality of substance. That is the way I see it. And is that what you are trying to say?

K: There is something beyond emptiness. How shall we tackle it?

DB: Firstly, what leads you to say this?

K: Simply the fact that there is. We have been fairly logical all along; we have not been caught in any illusions so far. And can we keep that same kind of watchfulness, in which there is no illusion, to find out – or, not find out – that which is beyond emptiness? To come down to earth. Come down to earth in the sense to be communicated. You follow what I mean?

DB: Yes. Well we could come back to the question before: why hasn’t it come down?

K: Why hasn’t it come down? Has man been ever free from the ‘I’?

DB: No. Not generally speaking.

K: No. And it demands that the ‘I’ ends.

DB: I think we could look at it this way: that the ego becomes an illusion of that substance. You feel the ego is a substance too in some way.

K: Yes, the ego is substance.

DB: And therefore that substance seems to be…

K: …untouchable.

DB: But that ego is an illusion of the true substance – it may be that the mind tries to create some sort of illusion of that substance.

K: That is an illusion. Why do you relate it to the other?

DB: In the sense that if the mind thinks it already has this substance, then it will not be open…

K: Of course not. Can that thing ever be put into words? It is not a question of avoiding something, or trying to slither out of some conclusion. But you see, so far we have put everything into words.

DB: Well, I think that once something is properly perceived, then after a while the words come to communicate it.

K: Yes, but can that be perceived? And therefore be communicable? Is this beyond.?

DB: This thing beyond, would you say also it is alive? Life beyond emptiness, is that still life? Living?

K: Living, yes. Oh, yes.

DB: And intelligent?

K: I don’t want to use those words.

DB: They are too limited?

K: Living, intelligence, love, compassion; they are all too limited. You and I are sitting here. We have come to a point and there is that thing which perhaps later on might be put into words without any sense of pressure, and so without any illusion. Don’t you see beyond the wall? – the word, I mean? We have come to a certain point, and we are saying there is something still more – you understand? There is something behind all that. Is it palpable? Can we touch it? Is it something that the mind can capture? You follow?

DB: Yes. Are you saying it is not?

K: I don’t think it is possible for the mind to capture it…

DB: Or grasp it.?

K: Grasp it, understand… for the mind even to look at it. You are a scientist, you have examined the atom, and so on. Don’t you, when you have examined all that, feel there is something much more, beyond all that?

DB: You can always feel that there is more beyond that, but it doesn’t tell you what it is. It is clear that whatever one knows is limited.

K: Yes

DB: And there must be more beyond.

K: How can that communicate with you, so that you, with your scientific knowledge, with your brain capacity can grasp it?

DB: Are you saying it can’t be grasped?

k: No. How can you grasp it? I don’t say you can’t grasp it. Can you grasp it?

DB: Look, it is not clear. You were saying before that it is ungraspable by…

K: Grasp, in the sense, can your mind go beyond theories.? What I am trying to say is, can you move into it? Not move, in the sense of time and all that. Can you enter it? No, those are all words. What is beyond emptiness? Is it silence?

DB: Isn’t that similar to emptiness?

K: Yes, that is what I am getting at. Move step by step. Is it silence? Or is silence part of emptiness?

DB; Yes, I should say that.

K: I should say that too. If it is not silence, could we – I am just asking – could we say it is something absolute? You understand?

DB: Well, we could consider the absolute. It would have to be something totally independent; that is what ‘absolute’ really means. It doesn’t depend on anything.

K: Yes. You are getting somewhere near it.

DB: Entirely self moving, as it were, self active.

K: Yes. Would you say everything has a cause, and that has no cause at all?

DB: You see, this notion is already an old one. This notion has been developed by Aristotle, that this absolute is the cause of itself.

C: Yes.

DB: It has no cause, in a sense. That is the same thing.

K: You see the moment you said Aristotle… it is not that. How shall we get at this? Emptiness is energy, and that emptiness exists in silence, or the other way round, it doesn’t matter – right? Oh, yes, there is something beyond all this. Probably it can never be put into words. But it must be put into words. You follow?

DB: You are saying that the absolute must be put into words, but we feel it can’t be? Any attempt to put it into words makes it relative.

K: Yes. I don’t know how to put all this.

DB: I think that we have a long history of danger with the absolute. people have put it in words, and it has become very oppressive.

K: Leave all that. You see, being ignorant of what other people have said, Aristotle and the Buddha, and so on, has an advantage. You understand what I mean? An advantage in the sense that the mind is not coloured by other people’s ideas, not caught in other people’s statements. All that is part of our conditioning. Now, to go beyond all that! What are we trying to do?

DB: I think, to communicate regarding this absolute, this beyond.

K: I took away that word ‘absolute’ immediately.

DB: Then whatever it is; the beyond emptiness and silence.

K: Beyond all that. There is beyond all that. All that is something, part of an immensity.

DB: Yes, well even the emptiness and silence is an immensity, isn’t it? The energy is itself an immensity.

K: Yes, I understand that. But there is something much more immense than that. Emptiness and silence and energy are immense, really immeasurable. But there is something – I am using the word, ‘greater’, than that.

DB: I am just considering. I am looking at it. One can see that whatever you say about emptiness, or about any other thing, there is something beyond.

K: No, as a scientist, why do you accept – not accept, forgive me for using that word – why do you even move along with this?

DB: Because we have come this far step by step, seeing the necessity of each step.

K: You see all that is very logical, reasonable, sane.

DB: And also, one can see that it is so right.

K: Yes. So if I say there is something greater than all this silence, energy – would you accept that? Accept in the sense that up to now we have been logical.

DB: We will say that whatever you speak of there is certainly something beyond it. Silence, energy, whatever, then there is always room logically for something beyond that. But the point is this: that even if you were to say there is something beyond that, still you logically leave room for going again beyond that.

K: No.

DB: Well why is that? You see, whatever you say, there is always room for something beyond.

K: There is nothing beyond.

DB: Well that point is not clear, you see.

K: There is nothing beyond it. I stick to that. Not dogmatically or obstinately. I feel that is the beginning and the ending of everything. The ending and the beginning are the same – right?

DB: In which sense? In the sense that you are using the beginning of everything as the ending?

K: Yes. Right? You would say that?

DB: Yes. If we take the ground from which it comes, it must be the ground to which it falls.

K: That’s right. That is the ground upon which everything exists, space…

DB: …energy…

K: …energy, emptiness, silence, all that is. All that. Not ground, you understand?

DB: No, it is just a metaphor.

K: There is nothing beyond it. No cause. If you have a cause then you have ground.

DB: You have another ground.

K: No. That is the beginning and the ending.

DB: It is becoming more clear.

K: That’s right. Does that convey anything to you?

DB: Yes, well I think that it conveys something.

K: Something. Would you say further, there is no beginning and no ending?

DB: Yes. It comes from the ground, goes to the ground, but it does not begin or end.

K: Yes. There is no beginning and no ending. The implications are enormous. Is that death – not death in the sense, I will die, but the complete ending of everything?

DB: You see at first you said that the emptiness is the ending of everything, so in what sense is this more, now? Emptiness is the ending of things, isn’t it?

K: Yes, yes. Is that death, this emptiness? Death of everything the mind has cultivated. This emptiness is not the product of the mind, of the particular mind.

DB: No, it is the universal mind.

K: That emptiness is that.

DB: Yes.

K: That emptiness can only exist when there is death – total death – of the particular.

DB: Yes.

K: I don’t know if I am conveying this.

DB: Yes, that is the emptiness. But then you are saying that, in this ground, death goes further?

K: Oh, yes.

DB: So we are saying the ending of the particular, the death of the particular, is the emptiness, which is universal. Now are you going to say that the universal also dies?

K: Yes, that is what I am trying to say.

DB: Into the ground.

K: Does it convey anything?

DB: Possibly, yes.

K: just hold it a minute. Let’s see it. I think it conveys something, doesn’t it?

DB: Yes. Now if the particular and the universal die, then that is death?

K: Yes. After all, an astronomer says everything in the universe is dying, exploding, dying.

DB: But of course you could suppose that there was something beyond.

K: Yes, that is just it.

DB: I think we are moving. The universal and the particular. First the particular dies into the emptiness, and then comes the universal.

K: And that dies too.

DB: Into the ground, right?

K: Yes.

DB: So you could say the ground is neither born nor dies.

K: That’s right.

DB: Well, I think it becomes almost inexpressible if you say the universal is gone, because expression is the universal.

K: You see – I am just explaining: everything is dying, except that. Does this convey anything?

DB: Yes. Well it is out of that that everything arises, and into which it dies.

K: So that has no beginning and no ending.

DB: What would it mean to talk of the ending of the universal? What would it mean to have the ending of the universal?

K: Nothing. Why should it have a meaning if it is happening? What has that to do with man? You follow what I mean? Man who is going through a terrible time. What has that got to do with man?

DB: Let’s say that man feels he must have some contact with the ultimate ground in his life, otherwise there is no meaning.

K: But it hasn’t. That ground hasn’t any relationship with man. He is killing himself, he is doing everything contrary to the ground.

DB: Yes, that is why life has no meaning for man.

K: I am an ordinary man; I say, all right, you have talked marvellously of sunsets, but what has that got to do with me? Will that or your talk help me to get over my ugliness? My quarrels with my wife or whatever it is?

DB: I think I would go back, and say we went into this logically starting from the suffering of mankind, showing it originates in a wrong turning, that leads inevitably…

K: Yes, but man asks, help me to get past the wrong turn. Put me on the right path. And to that one says, please don’t become anything.

DB: Right. What is the problem then?

K: He won’t even listen.

DB: Then it seems to me that it is necessary for the one who sees this to find out what is the barrier to listening.

K: Obviously you can see what is the barrier.

DB: What is the barrier?

K: ‘I’.

DB: Yes, but I meant more deeply.

K: More deeply, all your thoughts, deep attachments – all that is in your way. If you can’t leave these, then you will have no relationship with that. But man doesn’t want to leave these.

DB: Yes, I understand. What he wants is the result of the way he is thinking.

K: What he wants is some comfortable, easy way of living without any trouble, and he can’t have that.

DB: No. Only by dropping all this.

K: There must be a connection. There must be some relationship with the ground and this, some relationship with ordinary man. Otherwise, what is the meaning of living?

DB: That is what I was trying to say before. Without this relationship…

K: …there is no meaning.

DB: And then people invent meaning.

K: Of course.

DB: Even going back, the ancient religions have said similar things, that God is the ground, so they say seek God, you know.

K: Ah, no, this isn’t God.

DB: No, it is not God, but it is saying the same. You could say that ‘god’ is an attempt to put this notion a bit too personally perhaps.

K: Yes. Give them hope, give them faith, you follow? Make life a little more comfortable to live.

DB: Well, are you asking at this point: how is this to be conveyed to the ordinary man? Is that your question?

K: More or less. And also it is important that he should listen to this. You are a scientist. You are good enough to listen because we are friends. But who will listen among the other scientists? I feel that if one pursues this we will have a marvellously ordered world.

DB: Yes. And what will we do in this world?

K: Live.

DB: But, I mean, we said something about creativity…

K: Yes. And then if you have no conflict, no ‘I’, there is something else operating.

DB: Yes, it is important to say that, because the Christian idea of perfection may seem rather boring because there is nothing to do!

K: We must continue this some other time, because it is something that has got to be put into orbit.

DB: It seems impossible.

K: We have gone pretty far.