The Search for Meaning
Your daily living, when you look at it very deeply, has no meaning. You are striving, wanting money, position, prestige, and when you do have it, what is it? You have not found out for yourself if life has real meaning. You ask what the purpose or goal of life is, rather than the meaning. The purpose can be invented by clever people, or you can invent purpose out of your misery, confusion and conflict. But the purpose is not the meaning. The meaning is to find out for yourself by looking at yourself, the depth of your heart, the depth of your feelings, the depth of your thought.
So, when you look at your life, the petty quarrels, the shallow mind, argumentative, brutish, narrow, when you look at all that, do you not feel shattered and shocked? Don’t you feel the life you are living daily, going to work from morning till night for forty or fifty years, coming home, quarrelling, tired out, sleeping with your wife or husband, has really no meaning? So, can you look at it without getting depressed, without wanting to change it? If you want to change it, you will change it to another pattern which will be equally confusing. When your mind is confused and out of that confusion you choose, what you choose must be the result of your confusion. This is your life, your daily travail, your anxieties, your hurts, your pain. Just look at it.
Krishnamurti Bangalore 1974, Talk 3
AUDIO: Can thought reveal the meaning of life?
The cessation of all search
Most of us have many problems. The solution to these problems lies not in searching for the solution but in listening to the actual content of the problem. We are all seeking happiness at different levels; we want permanency, security, someone to take us to the other side, to a permanent state of bliss. We are searching for something, and that is our life, moving from one object of search to another, never satisfied. Consciously or unconsciously, we are pursuing and searching. The background of this search, if we go into the process, is the urge to find satisfaction, permanency or happiness. We have made searching as inevitable as breathing, and we say life has no meaning if we do not seek. So we are everlastingly pursuing, looking for something at different levels.
We have made searching as inevitable as breathing.
As long as we are seeking, we must create authority; we must follow or have a following. It seems to me that this is one of the most crucial points: whether there is anyone—a saviour, a master, an enlightened one, it doesn’t matter who it is—who can lead us to reality. That is what each one of us is seeking, and we have accepted the search as inevitable. Without seeking, we say life has no meaning, but we never go behind that word to find out the whole significance of this urge to seek. You have been told that if you seek, you will find. But your search, if you go into the process of it, is the outcome of a desire to find security, hope or fulfilment, a bliss, a continuity in which there is no frustration. As long as you are seeking, you must create authority, the authority that will take you over, that will lead you and give you comfort.
Is it not important to ask ourselves if there is anyone, any authority who can give us that truth which we think will be satisfactory? We have never asked ourselves what the state of mind is if all search ceases. Search implies a process of time, so we use time as a means of understanding something which is beyond time. Search implies continuity, and continuity means time, a series of experiences which we hope will lead us to truth. If those experiences do not take us to that which we are seeking, we turn to somebody else; we disregard the old and take on a new leader, teacher or saviour.
As long as we are seeking, we must create authority.
So, what I am asking is not that we should deny search, because we are caught in it, but whether seeking will lead to reality. Reality is the unknown, that which is not the product of the mind, which is a state of creativeness, totally new from moment to moment, which is timeless, eternal—or whatever word can be used to indicate that it is out of time. I think it is important to ask ourselves this question. You may not find the answer, but if you are persistent with the question ‘Why do I seek?’ and let that question reveal the content of your search, perhaps there may be a moment, a second when all search ceases. Search implies effort. Search implies choice; choice among the various systems that will lead you, the various methods, practices, disciplines, saviours, masters and gurus. Your choice invariably depends on your conditioning and your gratification. Therefore your search is dictated by your conscious or unconscious desire. Please follow all this. Not that I am trying to guide your thinking, but I am just pointing out what it is we are doing. At the moment of rest from this constant struggle, is there not the freedom from search? So, inevitably, when one examines this process of search, the question arises whether anyone can lead us to what we call truth, reality, God, or whatever name you like to give it. Do you understand the problem?
We are used to being led, following a saviour or master, having someone tell us what to do. We follow what another says because they have fasted, practised a discipline, become an ascetic; we think they have arrived, found enlightenment, and so we go to them. Religions maintain that you must have someone enlightened, who knows the truth, and that in their presence, with the example of their way of life, you will find it. But is there anyone who can lead you to truth? To me, that whole process is destructive and uncreative; it will not lead to that which is timeless because the very process of seeking implies time. We use time to try to understand that which is beyond time. Can the mind not seek, the mind which for centuries, generation after generation, has been caught in this process of seeking? That is, can the search for gratification come to an end? Which doesn’t mean that you should be satisfied with what is.
Why do I seek?
You see, the difficulty in this is that when we have gone far in our questioning or inquiry, we come to an impasse and stop; but the stopping is merely a compulsion. If we could find a way out, we would pursue it. So, can you who are listening be without a guide, without seeking, and therefore understand this whole process of time? Even though one may not understand the full significance of what is being said, I think it is very important to listen to it. Because, after all, life is not merely a series of conflicts, it isn’t just a matter of earning a livelihood, of living comfortably and enjoying worldly things. That is not the whole content of life, but only part of it. If one is satisfied with the part, inevitably there is confusion leading to misery and destruction.
Life is a total process, is it not? It must be lived at all levels, completely, and a mind that is satisfied with any one particular level of existence is inviting sorrow. In its very structure, by its very nature, the mind is always curious, wanting to know, wanting to find out whether there is something beyond this thing that we call living, beyond our struggles, our efforts, our miseries, our passing joys and sensations. But can I know what is beyond through mere curiosity, by reading what someone has said who has had experience of something beyond? Or can the mind experience what is beyond only when it is uncontaminated, totally alone, uninfluenced, and therefore no longer seeking? If you are listening, not to what I am saying, but to the process of your own mind, doesn’t this question inevitably arise—the question as to whether this struggle to find reality, to discover something beyond the transient, has any meaning? If we cannot find satisfaction in one direction, don’t we turn to something else?
As long as the mind is seeking, it must create authority.
Can there be the cessation of all search, and therefore the freedom from all compulsion, all authority—the authority created by religions, the authority which each one creates in their search, in their demand and hope? We want to find a state in which there is no disturbance of any kind, a peace which is not put together by the mind. What is put together can be undone by the mind. It seems to me that as long as the mind is seeking, it must create authority; and when it is lost in fear and imitation, it can no longer find what is true. Yet that is what is happening throughout the world. Through the tyranny of governments and the tyranny of religions, there is the conditioning of each child, each human being, to a particular form of thinking, however wide or narrow, and this conditioning prevents discovery of what is true. Is it possible for each one of us to find out what is true without seeking? Search implies time; search implies gaining an end; search implies dissatisfaction, which is the motive of your search for gratification or happiness. All this implies time, the tomorrow, not only chronologically but psychologically, inwardly.
Is it possible to experience, not in terms of time but immediately, that state when the mind is no longer seeking? The immediacy is important—not how to arrive at that state when the mind is no longer seeking, because then you introduce all the factors of struggle and time. I think it is important not only to listen to that question but actually to put it to yourself and leave it, not try to find an answer to it. According to the way you put it, and the earnestness of your question, you will find the answer. For that which is measureless cannot be caught by a mind that is seeking, by a mind that is full of knowledge; it can come into being only when the mind is no longer pursuing or trying to become something. When the mind is completely, inwardly empty, not demanding anything, only then is there that instantaneous perception of what is true.
In discussing these questions, we are not trying to solve the problem; we are together taking the journey of investigation. As long as we are limited by our own experience and knowledge, the problem can never be solved. Is it possible for the mind to look at the problem, not in terms of its own cognisance, but just to look at it, without any resistance? Surely, resistance is the problem. If there is no resistance, there is no problem. But our whole life is a process of resistance; we are Christians or Hindus, communists or capitalists, and so on. We have built walls around ourselves, and it is these walls that create the problem. We then look at the problem from within our particular wall. Do not ask, ‘How am I going to get out of the enclosure?’ The moment you put that question you have brought in another problem, and so we multiply problem after problem. We don’t see the truth simply and clearly, that resistance creates problems, and leave it there. What matters is to be aware of the resistance, not how to break down the resistance.
You hope that through awareness, you will get somewhere.
Awareness is not something extraordinary, beyond; it begins very simply, by being aware of your speech and reactions, just seeing, watching all that without judgment or condemnation. It is very difficult to do this because our conditioning for centuries is preventing awareness without choice. Be aware that you are choosing, condemning or comparing, just be aware of it without asking, ‘How am I not to compare?’—because then you introduce another problem. The important thing is to be aware that you do compare, that you are condemning or justifying, consciously or unconsciously—just be aware of that whole process. You will say, ‘Is that all?’ You ask that question because you hope that through awareness, you will get somewhere. Therefore your awareness is not awareness but a process in which you are going to get something, which means that awareness is merely a coin you are using. If you can simply be aware that you are using awareness as a coin to buy something, and proceed from there, you begin to discover the whole process of your thinking, of your being in the relationship of existence.
Krishnamurti in New York 1954, Talk 6
AUDIO: What is the action of total inaction?
Seeking may be a totally wrong process
What it is that we are seeking, and why do we seek at all? Why is there this extraordinary anxiety to seek and to find, and why do we waste so much energy in this struggle? What is it that we are individually or collectively seeking? If we can go into this matter diligently, we may find that the whole process of seeking truth, perfection, God, and so on, is a hindrance; the search itself may be a distraction. It may be that the mind can find that which is beyond the measure of time only when it is no longer seeking.
Only the quiet mind finds out what is true.
In its anxiety to find, in its restless activity to discover what is truth, the mind is never quiet; and is not this process of search a hindrance to that very discovery? Is it not possible for the mind to be quiet and yet full of vigour, to be intensely aware without this constant strife, this anxiety to find? What is it that we are so anxiously seeking? Each one may differently interpret the intention or urge that lies behind this search, but what is it fundamentally that we all want to find, what is it that we hope to gain at the end of our search?
In the movement of search, we join societies or a religious body, hoping thereby to find release or quietness, and we are soon caught, enmeshed in the dogmas, beliefs, rituals, taboos and sanctions of that religion. So the search has led nowhere, only to a series of inward and outward conflicts, adjustments of conformity to a pattern. In this process of struggle and adjustment, we grow old. Or if we already belong to a group or pattern, we break away from it and join something else, leaving one cage or bondage to enter another. We continue that way year after year, struggling, conforming, taking vows, adjusting, hoping thereby to find. The earnest read the Gita or the Bible, this or that; the light-hearted, the easygoing seek on a different level—to them what is important is going to the club, listening to the radio, having a good job, a little money.
Not knowing what it is all about, we look to somebody else to tell us the purpose of life.
We are relentlessly driven to seek, and what is it we want to find? It is important for each one of us to find out what it is we are seeking. I may be able to describe it, but the verbal expression is not the actuality of your own perception of what you are seeking. So, if I may suggest, listen to what is being said, not with exclusive concentration, but listen in that silence between two thoughts. When the mind is trying to listen to a particular thought, many other thoughts come in, and then you push those thoughts away and try to listen. But instead of doing that, perhaps you can listen in the gap between two thoughts, when you are just attentive and therefore able to listen without effort.
To put it differently, what is important is not merely to listen to what is being said, but to be aware, be conscious of what you are thinking while you are listening, and to pursue that thought to the end. If your mind is occupied with resisting one thought by another thought, you are not listening. There is an art of listening, which is to listen completely without any motive, because a motive in listening is a distraction. If you can listen with complete attention, there is no resistance either to your own thought or to what is being said—which does not mean that you will be mesmerised by words. It is only the silent, quiet mind that finds out what is true, not a furiously active mind, thinking, resisting, putting out its own opinions and conclusions.
So, is it possible to listen with that ease of attention which is without motive? If you can listen in that way, you will find out for yourself the true answer to the question of what it is you are seeking. There may be an immediate response to that question, but the true answer lies much deeper than the immediate response. If you can listen silently, that is, without the intense activity of a mind ceaselessly projecting its own thoughts, perhaps you will find out what it is that you are seeking.
If we don’t seek, we think we shall deteriorate, stagnate.
We want to be happy because our lives are disturbed, anxious, fearful. There is nothing permanent, and for most of us, life is a series of conflicts in the action of survival. The very desire to survive has its own destructive by-products. What is it that we want to find, each one of us? Why do we seek? Is it because we are so disturbed, so discontented with what we are? Being ugly we want to be beautiful, being ambitious we want to fulfil, having capacity we want to make that capacity more vigorous, being good we want to be better, being mediocre we want to shine, being intellectual we want to give significance to life, being religious we seek to find that which is beyond the mind, inquiring, begging, praying, sacrificing, cultivating, disciplining, and so on. This strain, this process of conformity, is our life, an everlasting battlefield. Not knowing what it is all about, we look to somebody else to tell us the goal, end or purpose of life. We turn to beliefs, books and leaders, and when they offer us something, though we may be momentarily satisfied, sooner or later we want something else.
So, what is it that we want? Being disturbed, we want to find peace, being in conflict, we want to end conflict. If we are alert, watchful, we see the futility of ideological utopias and systems of philosophy; and yet we go on seeking to find something real, something that has no confusion, something that is not man-made or mind-made, something beyond our immediate anxieties, fears and wars. We struggle to gain something, and when we have gained it, we proceed further, wanting still more. Our life is a series of demands for comfort, security, position, fulfilment, happiness and recognition. We also have moments of wanting to find out what is truth or God. So God and truth become synonymous with our satisfaction. We want to be gratified, therefore truth becomes the end of all search and God becomes the ultimate resting place. We move from one pattern to another, one cage to another, one philosophy or society to another, hoping to find happiness, not only in relationship with people but also the happiness of a resting place where the mind will not be disturbed and will cease to be tortured by its own discontent. We may put it in different words, we may use different philosophical jargons, but that is what we all want: a place where the mind can rest, where the mind is not tortured by its own activities, where there is no sorrow. So our life is an endless search. If we don’t seek, we think we shall deteriorate, stagnate, become like animals or die.
It is possible to have an alert mind which is peaceful, not seeking?
What is the intention of your seeking? Surely, on that depends what you will find. If you intend to find peace, you will find it. But it will not be peace because the mind will be tortured in the very process of finding and maintaining it. To have peace, you must discipline, control, shape your mind according to a particular pattern—at least, that is what you have been told. Every religion, society, book, teacher or guru, tells you to be good, to conform, adjust, comply, discipline your mind not to wander, and so there is restriction, suppression and fear. You struggle because you have to achieve that which you want, the goal.
Now, does not this search seem utterly futile? To be caught in the cage of discipline, or to be driven from one cage, system or discipline to another, has no meaning. So we must inquire, not into what it is we are seeking, but why we seek at all. Seeking may be a totally wrong process. The very search may be a waste of energy, and you need all that energy to find. So it may be that your approach is entirely wrong, and I think it is, no matter what your Gita, guru, or anybody else says. You are disciplined, you meditate, you gather virtue as you gather grain, and yet you are not happy, you have not found; there is not this inward joy, this creative revolution. It may be that God can never be found by a mind which is seeking because its motive is to escape from the torture of daily existence. Whereas, the mind that ceases to struggle because it has understood this whole problem of seeking, that puts aside the conflict of search because it sees what extraordinary energy is required to be open to that which is timeless—it may be that only such a mind can discover or receive that which is truth or God.
It is possible, then, to have an alert mind which at the same time is peaceful, not seeking? A mind that is seeking is not quiet because its motive is to gain something. As long as there is a motive in search, it is not the search for reality; it is only a search for what you want. All our human search and endeavour to find out is based on a motive. As long as we seek with a motive, whether good or bad, conscious or unconscious, the mind cannot be free or still. To seek happiness is never to find happiness because one is seeking with a motive, and therefore there can be no cessation of fear.
As long as there is a motive in search, it is utterly vain.
Can one perceive and understand immediately that all search is vain when there is a motive? Can you listen to what is being said and grasp it, see the significance of it at once, not at a future date? Truth is not in the future. If in the very act of listening, you discover the futility of your search. That very act of listening is the experiencing of truth, and therefore your search stops. Then your mind is no longer caught in motives or intentions.
So, it is not a question of how to free the mind from motive. The mind can never free itself from motive because the mind in itself is cause and effect, a result of time. When the mind says, ‘How am I to free myself from motive?’, again the search with a motive begins, and again you are entering the field of strain, discipline, control and endless struggle which leads nowhere. But if you can listen and see the truth that as long as there is a motive in search, it is utterly vain, meaningless, and only leads to more misery and sorrow—if you see that and are really comprehending it now, as you are listening, then you will find that your mind has stopped seeking because it no longer has a motive. You are not being mesmerised by words or by a person; you have perceived for yourself the futility of this everlasting search with a motive, therefore your mind is still, quiet; there is no movement of search at all, and that total stillness of mind may be the state in which the timeless comes into being.
The restless mind is afraid to be still. It is afraid not to know the latest things; it is afraid not to be at all, to be simply nothing. But it is only out of nothingness that wisdom comes. Wisdom comes only to the silent mind.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1955, Talk 6
AUDIO: Why do we seek, and what is there to seek?
Question: We live, but we do not know why. To so many of us, life seems to have no meaning. Can you tell us the meaning and purpose of our living?
Krishnamurti: Now, why do you ask this question? Why are you asking me to tell you the meaning or purpose of life? What do we mean by life? Does life have a meaning or purpose? Is not living in itself its own purpose, its own meaning? Why do we want more? Because we are so dissatisfied with our life, our life is so empty, so tawdry, so monotonous, doing the same thing over and over again, we want something more, something beyond that which we are doing. Since our everyday life is so empty, dull, meaningless, boring, so intolerably stupid, we say life must have a fuller meaning, and that is why you ask this question. One who is living richly, who sees things as they are and is content with what one has, is not confused but is clear and does not ask what the purpose of life is. For them, the very living is the beginning and the end. Our difficulty is since our life is empty, we want to find a purpose to life and strive for it. Such a purpose of life can only be mere intellection, without any reality. When the purpose of life is pursued by a stupid, dull mind, by an empty heart, that purpose will also be empty. Therefore our purpose is how to make our life rich, not with money and all the rest of it but inwardly rich.
When you say that the purpose of life is to be happy, the purpose of life is to find God, surely that desire to find God is an escape from life and your God is merely a thing that is known. You can only make your way towards an object you know; if you build a staircase to the thing you call God, surely that is not God. Reality can be understood only in living, not in escape. When you seek a purpose of life, you are escaping and not understanding what life is. Life is relationship; life is action in relationship. When I do not understand relationship or when relationship is confused, I seek a fuller meaning. Why are our lives so empty? Why are we so lonely, frustrated? Because we have never looked into ourselves and understood ourselves. We never admit to ourselves that this life is all we know and that it should therefore be understood fully and completely. We prefer to run away from ourselves, and that is why we seek the purpose of life away from relationship. If we begin to understand action, which is our relationship with people, with property, with beliefs and ideas, then we will find that relationship itself brings its own reward. You do not have to seek. It is like seeking love. Can you find love by seeking it? Love cannot be cultivated. You will find love only in relationship, not outside relationship, and it is because we have no love that we want a purpose of life. When there is love, which is its own eternity, there is no search for God, because love is God.
It is because our minds are full of technicalities and superstitious mutterings that our lives are so empty, and that is why we seek a purpose beyond ourselves. To find life’s purpose, we must go through the door of ourselves. Consciously or unconsciously, we avoid facing things as they are in themselves, and so we want God to open for us a door which is beyond. This question about the purpose of life is put only by those who do not love. Love can be found only in action, which is relationship.
From the book The First and Last Freedom by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase here
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