The observer and the observed

When you say, ‘I must be free from all conditioning, I must experience,’ there is still the ‘I’ that is the centre from which you are observing. Therefore there is no way out because there is always the centre, the conclusion, the memory, a thing that is watching and saying, ‘I must’ or ‘I must not.’ 

 

Is there a state of the non-observer, a state in which there is no centre from which you look? At the moment of actual pain, there is no ‘I’. At the moment of tremendous joy, there is no observer—the heavens are filled, you are part of it, there is bliss. This state takes place when the mind sees the falseness of attempts to become, to achieve. There is a state of timelessness only when there is no observer.

Krishnamurti in Bombay 1961, Talk 8

The observer is the cause of division

Question: When the observed becomes the observer, how do you remove the contradiction and conflict?

Krishnamurti: We did not say the observer becomes the observed. The observer observing the tree does not become the tree—God forbid! But when the observer understands the structure and nature of itself, there is observation without division and the observer.

The moment I try to identify with something there is division—otherwise, I wouldn’t identify myself with something. There is division, contradiction, quarrels and hatred, so I try to overcome that by identifying. Which means I have already admitted division and try to overcome that division through identification. But we are saying the observer is the cause of division. The observer is the division. There is violence right through the world, and as a human being one is violent. Realising that, one has cultivated an ideal called non-violence. So there is the fact, the ‘what is’, which is violence, the actual violence of life, and there is the idea of non-violence—‘what is’ and ‘what should be’. So there is a contradiction. One who is violent has the ideal of non-violence and so is pretending to be non-violent, which is hypocritical. But the fact is one is violent, and we hope through the ideal to remove violence. This is space and time between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’. See the absurdity of it. In trying to become non-violent, something we are not, we are spending energy and vitality.

Can you observe without the observer?

K: Can you observe a flower, a bird, the water, the beauty of the land, your wife or husband, without the observer? This means without the image you have. Do it, and you will find how extraordinarily attentive you have to be, not only now but when the image is being built, so that your mind is free to look. Have you ever looked at anybody whom you like or love? You have looked at the person through the image you have about them, and so the relationship is between these two images. That is why there is so much antagonism and why there is no relationship at all.  

So relationship becomes extraordinarily important to understand because all life is relationship, living is relationship. But we have made this relationship such a horror. That horror we call love, because in it there is occasional tenderness, perhaps when you are sexual or when you see something pitiful. So one has to find out what relationship is, not from a dictionary, professor, analyst or religious organisation, but find out for yourself in yourself. Then you will see in yourself is the whole world. You don’t have to read a thing, because you are the whole of humanity. Until one understands that deeply, love does not exist, only pleasure. 

Q: How does one go about freeing oneself from accumulated knowledge so that one can observe?

K: If you had no accumulated knowledge, you would not be able to get home or recognise anyone. You need to have accumulated knowledge to function in your job or speak a language. But see how knowledge destroys relationship—knowledge being the image you have built about the other through years or a day. That image is preventing right relationship. So you need knowledge to function, but be aware of the danger of knowledge accumulating and building an image in relationship. To be aware of this, where knowledge is essential and its danger, is to have a very good, intelligent mind. One has to be extraordinarily alert. 

Krishnamurti in San Diego 1970, Talk 1

 

AUDIO: To live a life that is whole

Question: I would like to understand the significance of a space in which the observer and the observed are not.

 

Krishnamurti: We only know the space as the observer and the observed. I look at this microphone as an observer, and there is the object which is the microphone. There is a space between the observer and the observed. This space is distance, distance being time. There is the observer and the distance between him and a star or mountain. You are asking what the other space is, which is not this. I cannot tell you; I can only tell you that as long as this space as the observer and the observed exists, the other is not. There is a way of freeing the observer who creates the space as the observer and the observed.

 

However much you may extend that space, it will always exist. There is an aeroplane overhead. You, as an observer, as a listener, listen to that sound. You are the listener, and the sound is there—there is a gap. The gap is a time interval. There is the observer and there is the observed: you and your wife or husband; you and your house; you and the river; you and your country; you and the government; you and your religion. As long as this space exists, as long as there is contradiction, there must be conflict. 

 

To free the mind of the observer, no escape is possible. Don’t escape, don’t seek. Face the fact of what you are; don’t translate in terms of what you think you are, of what you ‘should be’. When you face the fact of what you actually are, without escaping, without naming it, without the word, then the fact becomes totally different. When you do that with every reaction, with every movement of thought, there is a freedom from the observer. Then there is a totally different dimension of space.

 

Q: How can one experience this different dimension of space?

 

K: You are sitting there, I am sitting here—that’s all. All you know is the space between you, there, and me, or between you and the mountain, you and a tree, you and another. When you know that space, you know you are not in contact with anything. You are in isolation.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1966, Talk 10

AUDIO: To look without a concept is to be aware of the observer and the thing observed

Division between the observer and the observed

Time by the watch we know is a fact. We also know time as will, which is also a fact. We also know the gradual process when thought says, ‘Do it tomorrow, that’s good enough’—which again is time. Now, what is time beyond this? Is there such thing as time? To find out, not merely theoretically or intellectually or emotionally but actually to feel your way into it, one has to go into the question of the observer and the observed.

As long as there is the observer and the observed there is time.

When you look at a sunset, there is the observer and the fact, the observed. There is a division between the observer and the observed. That division is time. The observer is not a permanent entity. Let me caution you here. Don’t say that the observer existed first—look at it as though you have not read a single sacred book. (Sacred books are not important anyhow.) Look at it as though you are looking for the first time, do not translate what somebody else said, that there is the original observer, the original entity, the silent watcher. You can spin a lot of words and theories, but you are missing the whole point.

As you watch anything, there is the observer, the censor, the thinker, the experiencer, the seeker, and the thing observed: the observer and the observed, the thinker and the thought. So there is always a division, and this division is time. This division is the very essence of conflict and contradiction. There is the observer and the observed, which in itself is a contradiction and separation. When there is conflict, there is the urgency to get beyond it, conquer it, overcome it, escape from it, or do something about it—and all this activity involves time.

So, as long as there is the observer and the observed as two separate entities, there is time. If the observer identifies himself with the observed, in that process time is involved too. If you say you believe in God, you try to identify yourself with that, which involves time because you have to make an effort, struggle, give up this, do that, etc. Or you blindly identify yourself and end up in an asylum.

The observer is watching, judging, censoring, accepting, rejecting.

So, one sees division within oneself. And one sees that as long as this division exists, time will inevitably continue, cannot come to an end. And is it possible for division to cease to exist? Which is, the observer is the observed; the seeker is the sought. Don’t translate it into your own terminology, that the seeker is God, a spiritual entity or whatever it is; thought saying, ‘I am the Atman,’ or some other entity. If you say this, you are deceiving yourself; you are not feeling your way into discovery, you are merely stating or asserting something which has no validity at all.

So, is it possible for this division between the observer and the observed to come to an end? As long as there is this division, time will go on, and time is sorrow. One who will understand the end of sorrow must understand this, must go beyond the duality between the thinker and the thought, the experiencer and the experienced. So what is one to do? I see within myself the observer is watching, judging, censoring, accepting, rejecting, disciplining, controlling, shaping. That observer, that thinker, is the result of thought. Thought is first; not the observer, not the thinker. If there were no thinking there would be no observer, no thinker; there would only be complete, total attention.

So, is it possible for the division between the thinker and the thought, the observer and the observed, to come to an end? No time must be involved. If I do certain practices in order to break down this division, time is involved and therefore I perpetuate the division as the thinker and the thought. So, what is one to do? Put that question, not verbally but with astonishing urgency. You are urgent only when you feel something very strongly; when you have physical pain, you act, there is an intensity. Man has lived for so many millennia, suffering, tortured, never finding a way out. To find a way out is an immensely urgent question. So one must understand this question very deeply, which is to listen to it, listen to what is being said.

See that the division between the observer and the observed is non-existent.

Do you know what it is to listen, to listen to that breeze among the leaves without resistance, interpretation or distraction? There is no such thing as distraction when you are listening. When you listen to that breeze among the leaves, you listen with complete attention, and therefore there is no time involved at all. You are listening, not translating, not interpreting, not agreeing or disagreeing, not saying, ‘I’ll think about it tomorrow—you are in a state of actual listening, which means you are so concerned, if I may use that word, because you are in sorrow. So you give your whole mind, your whole body, your whole nerves, everything you have, to listen.

If you have listened that way, we can go to another problem which will help the understanding and end of the division between the observer and the observed. There must be order, not only social order but order in the room, order in the street. Without order, you cannot function. Order is virtue, order is righteousness, and without order you cannot function efficiently. So order inwardly and outwardly is essential. Society and the human being are not two different entities; when there is order in the human being, there will be order externally. Because there is disorder in all of us, there is disorder outwardly. The mere patching up of order outside—and there must be social order—will not solve this inward disorder.

So, order is virtue, and virtue cannot be cultivated any more than you can cultivate humility. If you cultivate humility, you are covering up your vanity. Humility is something that must blossom naturally. Without humility, there is no learning. When you cultivate virtue, it is no longer virtue. You cannot cultivate love, can you? You can cultivate hate, greed, envy; you can be more polite, more gentle, more kind, more generous, but that is not love. Love is something which is not of time or memory. That quality of love is compassion, in which is included tenderness, kindness, generosity, and so on. But generosity and kindliness are not love. As you cannot cultivate love or humility, so you cannot possibly cultivate virtue. And yet our habit and tradition are to cultivate virtue—which is merely resisting the fact. The fact is, in spite of what you have said for centuries, you are violent. You may not hit another, but you are violent because you are ambitious, greedy, envious, and when your country is attacked, you sit up and take notice. Now, to bring order in violence is to end violence, and the ending of violence must be immediate, not tomorrow. The ending of violence, which is order, does not involve time. If time is involved, which is will, postponement, gradualness—gradually, through ideas and conformity, I will get rid of violence—you are not really free of violence. To be free of violence is now, not tomorrow.

Time ceases when there is space without the centre, without the observer.

So, there must be a feeling of righteousness, which comes into being without motive when you understand the nature of time. When you are good because you are going to be punished or rewarded, there is a motive. Therefore it is not goodness; it is fear. Righteousness is always without motive, and in that field of human relationship, of righteousness, time does not exist. When you love somebody, what does it mean? To love somebody, an animal, a tree or the sky—what does it mean? It means not intellection, not the reaction of memory, but an intensity between two individuals or between two objects, intensity at the same level and at the same time. Then there is a communication, non-verbal, non-intellectual, non-sentimental. Love is not sentiment, love is not emotion, love is not devotion.

So when one understands the nature of time, what is involved in it, there is order and virtue, which is immediate. When you understand this virtue, which is order, which is immediate, then you see that the division between the observer and the observed is non-existent. Therefore time has come to a stop. It is only such a mind that can know what is new.

We know space only because there is the object which creates space around it. There is this microphone, and because of that, there is space around it. There is space inside the house because of the four walls, and there is space outside the house, which the house as an object creates. When there is space which an object has created, there is time. Is there space without the object? You have to discover this; this is a challenge. You have to find out because one’s mind is petty and small, always functioning within the limits of its self-centred activities. All the activities are within that centre and around that centre, in the space which the centre creates within itself and round itself. Therefore when there is space which an object, thought or image has created, that space can never give freedom because in that space there is always time.

Time ceases when there is space without the centre, without the observer and therefore without the object. It is only such a mind that can know what beauty is. Beauty is not a stimulant; it is not brought about or put together by architecture, paintings, by looking at the sunset or by seeing a beautiful face. Beauty is something entirely different; it can be understood only when the experiencer is no longer there, and therefore experience ceases to exist. It is like love—the moment you say that you love, you cease to love because love then is merely mentation, a feeling, an emotion, in which there is jealousy, hate, envy, greed.

Krishnamurti in Madras 1966, Talk 4

 

VIDEO: The division between the observer and the observed is illusory

The observer is the observed

When I build an image about you or about anything, I am able to watch that image, so there is the image and the observer of the image. I see someone, say, with a red shirt on and my immediate reaction is that I like it or don’t like it. The like or dislike is the result of my culture, my training, my associations, my inclinations, my acquired and inherited characteristics. It is from that centre that I observe and make my judgement, and thus the observer is separate from the thing he observes.

The observer is both the past and the present.

But the observer is aware of more than one image; he creates thousands of images. But is the observer different from these images? Isn’t he just another image? He is always adding to and subtracting from what he is; he is a living thing weighing, comparing, judging, modifying and changing as a result of pressures from outside and within—living in the field of consciousness which is his own knowledge, influence and innumerable calculations. At the same time when you look at the observer, who is yourself, you see that he is made up of memories, experiences, accidents, influences, traditions and infinite varieties of suffering, all of which are the past. So the observer is both the past and the present, and tomorrow is waiting and that is also a part of him. He is half alive and half dead, and with this death and life he is looking. In that state of mind which is within the field of time, you (the observer) look at fear, at jealousy, at war, at the family, and try to solve the problem of the thing observed which is the challenge, the new. You translate the new in terms of the old, and therefore you are everlastingly in conflict.

One image, as the observer, observes dozens of other images around himself and inside himself, and he says, ‘I like this image, I’m going to keep it,’ or ‘I don’t like that image, so I’ll get rid of it.’ But the observer himself has been put together by the various images which have come into being through reaction to various other images. So we come to a point where we see the observer is also the image, only he has separated himself and observes. This observer has come into being through various other images and thinks himself permanent. Between himself and the images he has created, there is a division, a time interval. This creates conflict between himself and the images he believes to be the cause of his troubles. So then he says, ‘I must get rid of this conflict,’ but the very desire to get rid of the conflict creates another image.

Awareness of all this, which is real meditation, has revealed that there is a central image put together by all the other images, and the central image, the observer, is the censor, the experiencer, the evaluator, the judge who wants to conquer or subjugate the other images or destroy them altogether. The other images are the result of judgements, opinions and conclusions by the observer, and the observer is the result of all the other images—therefore the observer is the observed.

What takes place when the observer is aware that the observer is the observed?

So awareness has revealed the different states of one’s mind, has revealed the various images and contradiction between the images, has revealed the resulting conflict and the despair at not being able to do anything about it and the various attempts to escape from it. All this has been revealed through cautious hesitant awareness, and then comes the awareness that the observer is the observed. It is not a superior entity that becomes aware of this; it is not a higher self. The superior entity, the higher self, are mere inventions, further images; it is the awareness itself which had revealed that the observer is the observed.

If you ask yourself a question, who is the entity who is going to receive the answer? And who is the entity who is going to inquire? If the entity is part of consciousness, part of thought, then it is incapable of finding out. What it can find out is only a state of awareness. But if in that state of awareness there is still an entity who says, ‘I must be aware, I must practise awareness,’ that again is another image.

This awareness that the observer is the observed is not a process of identification with the observed. To identify ourselves with something is fairly easy. Most of us identify ourselves with something—with our family, our husband or wife, our nation—and that leads to great misery and great wars. We are considering something entirely different, and we must understand it not verbally but in our core, right at the root of our being. In ancient China before an artist began to paint anything—a tree, for instance—he would sit down in front of it for days, months, years, it didn’t matter how long, until he was the tree. He did not identify himself with the tree, but he was the tree. This means that there was no space between him and the tree, no space between the observer and the observed, no experiencer experiencing the beauty, the movement, the shadow, the depth of a leaf, the quality of colour. He was totally the tree, and in that state only could he paint.

If something is you, what can you do?

Any movement on the part of the observer, if he has not realised that the observer is the observed, creates only another series of images, and again he is caught in them. But what takes place when the observer is aware that the observer is the observed? Go slowly, go very slowly, because it is a very complex thing we are going into now. What takes place? The observer does not act at all. The observer has always said he must do something about these images, suppress them or give them a different shape; he is always active in regard to the observed, acting and reacting passionately or casually. This action of like and dislike on the part of the observer is called positive action: I like, therefore I must hold; I dislike therefore I must get rid of. But when the observer realises the thing about which he is acting is himself, there is no conflict between himself and the image. He is that. He is not separate from that. When he was separate, he did or tried to do something about it, but when the observer realises that he is that, there is no like or dislike, and conflict ceases. For what is he to do? If something is you, what can you do? You cannot rebel against it or run away from it or even accept it. It is there. So all action that is the outcome of reaction to like and dislike has come to an end.

Then you will find there is an awareness that has become tremendously alive. It is not bound to any central issue or any image—and from that intensity of awareness there is a different quality of attention, and therefore the mind, because the mind is this awareness, has become extraordinarily sensitive and highly intelligent.

From the book Freedom from the Known by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase here

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