Krishnamurti on Silence
‘In silence is that quality of energy you have never touched before, and that is the transforming factor, the real creative movement of life.’
This week’s episode on Silence has seven sections.
The first extract (2:27) is from the first question and answer meeting in Ojai 1984, titled ‘Why is silence necessary?’
The second extract (9:08) is from the first question and answer meeting in Ojai 1983, titled ‘Silence needs space.’
The third extract (18:05) is from Krishnamurti’s third talk in Madras 1967, titled ‘Silence is not the ending of noise’.
The fourth extract (26:46) is from the fourth talk in Madras 1974, titled ‘Silence is not to be practiced’.
The fifth extract (35:32) is from Krishnamurti’s fourth talk in New Delhi 1973, titled ‘In silence there is a totally different kind of energy’.
The sixth extract (43:43) is from the fourth talk at Brockwood Park in 1984, titled ‘The sound of silence’.
The final extract this in this episode (52:12) is from a direct recording made by Krishnamurti in Ojai 1983, titled ‘The roots of heaven are in deep abiding silence’. This recording has not been heard before, outside of the archives.
Why Is Silence Necessary?
Question: Why is the observance of silence so important for seekers of truth?
Krishnamurti: Who said this? Who said that the observance of silence is necessary to perceive truth? Has the speaker said it, or some other person said it, or have you searched for truth and have discovered silence is necessary?
Can truth be searched for? Can truth be sought after? If you seek truth, you have already established what truth is. You are already moving in that direction. Which means truth is something fixed, and in your search for truth you find it because you believe truth is already preconceived and you go after it.
Now why do you think silence is necessary? I don’t know. Somebody says so. So I am not going to listen to another, however reputed, a great reputation and all that nonsense. I am going to find out. Can a chattering mind, the brain chattering, ever listen to anything?
You are chattering, talking to your friend, and I come along and say, ‘I want to tell you something.’ You don’t listen because you are chattering. So can a chattering mind listen? Obviously not. So to listen you have to pay attention. That is natural.
To pay attention is rather difficult because we never attend to anything completely; we listen partially, partially talk. We partially do this and never proceed to find out anything to its very end. I don’t know where the end is, but we will go on until we discover something.
So can a chattering mind, can a mind that is occupied from morning until night, and during the night, can it ever be quiet? Not to find truth, good God! It is an ordinary question; please answer it for oneself. Can a brain that is occupied with business, with sex, with pleasure, with fear, with its loneliness, occupied with something or other, with its hair, how it looks, how it doesn’t look – you know, all the rest of it; it is occupied – with God, with Jesus, with saviours, with meditation – imagine being occupied with meditation! – so the natural question then is: is it possible to stop this tremendous endless continuity of occupation?
It would be natural to stop when you are attending to something. If you are attending to what the speaker is saying now, attending, which is listening, you are not occupied, you are listening. Not in that listening you say, ‘Well, I don’t quite agree with that,’ ‘I think you are right,’ ‘I think you should put it differently,’ ‘I understand this differently, why do I understand it differently,’ and so on, but if you actually listen you are attentive. And attention is silence.
I wonder why we make everything so complex. Life is complex, tremendously – like the computer, it is a tremendously complex thing – but to understand it, one must have a very simple mind. To have a simple, clear mind, uncluttered, then attention becomes extraordinarily simple.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1984, Question and Answer Meeting 1
Silence Needs Space
Question: You have said quietness, silence, comes unsought. But can we live in ways that will allow it to come more readily?
Krishnamurti: I don’t quite know what this means. Oh yes it can, by taking a pill! By taking a drug; getting drunk.
Look at the question. He wants something readily – you don’t want to squeeze the orange; you buy the orange in a tin. Something readily, quickly.
Have you ever inquired into what silence is? What is silence? What is peace? Is peace between two wars? That is what’s happening – what we call peace is between two wars. This war, like the next war, is to end all wars. You have understood that phrase? This war, like the next war, is to end all wars! That is, is peace between two noises? Is peace between two wars? Is peace between two rows, quarrels?
So what is silence? It cannot, naturally, be bought in a shop or a pharmacy. We would like to buy it quickly and get on with it, but silence cannot be bought. Nor can peace be bought. If that is so, what is silence?
Silence must mean space, mustn’t it? I can be very silent in a small space, enclose myself, shut my eyes and put a wall around myself, concentrate on some potty little affair, and in that there can be a certain amount of peace, a certain amount of silence. I can go into my den, my reading room or quiet room and sit there, but the space is limited when I do that. Not only my little room, but in my brain also, the space is very, very limited.
So what is space? Is space from one point to another? Is space a limited dimension? Or is space without a centre? Therefore, without a centre, therefore no border. As long as I have ‘me’, my problems, my selfish demands, my, my, my, it is very limited. That limitation has its own small space, but that little space is a form of a self-protective wall, to remain in there, not to be disturbed, not to have problems, not to have all the trouble, and so on. So, as for most of us, that space of the self is the only space we have, and from that space we are asking what space is.
I wonder if you follow all this. Am I making the question clear?
Questioner: You are saying we have got to have space so that we can have an understanding of silence. We need to have space so that we can have an enjoyment, find the time for the pleasure of silent melody. Space: we can’t enjoy or understand silence or have silence without space.
K: Of course. Space to understand, space to enjoy. But always that is limited, isn’t it? So where there is limitation, there cannot be vast space. That’s all. And space implies silence. Noise doesn’t imply space. All the noise that is going on in towns, between people, and all the noise of modern music – there is no space, there is no silence anywhere, just noise. It may be pleasant or unpleasant, that is not the point.
So what does it mean to have space? Space between two notes on the piano; that’s a very small space. Or silence between two people who have been quarrelling and later on resume the quarrelling. All that is very, very limited space. So is there a space that is limitless? Not in heaven, not in the universe, but in ourselves, in our whole way of living, to have space: not imaginative, not romantic, but the actual feeling of a vast sense of space.
Now you will say, ‘Yes, I understand that intellectually.’ But to receive that question – what is space? – what is the content of that? To receive it, entirely, with all your senses, then you will find out what it is, if there is such a vast space, which is related to the universe.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1983, Question and Answer Meeting 1
Silence Is Not the Ending of Noise
Meditation is the awareness of the totality of the field of consciousness, which means the totality of the whole thought process. Not only the thought processes in learning technology, such as when you learn a language or when you learn how to use a machine, how to run a computer and so on, but also those in learning about the totality of the thinking, feeling organism. To be choicelessly aware of all that is to be in a state of meditation. In that state of meditation, the totality of the brain cells is utterly quiet, not projecting any thought, any hope, any desire, any pleasure – which are all the responses of the past. The brain cells can be completely quiet only when there is total attention of the whole of consciousness – which is thought, feeling and action. Then you will see, if you have gone that far, that there is a state of attention in which there is still movement of the brain cells without reaction.
What a lovely sunset! Look at it.
We do not know what silence is. We only know silence when noise stops. We are partially aware of the noise of consciousness. But we don’t know what silence is apart from the noise of consciousness. We are talking of a silence which is not the ending of a noise – like beauty, like love, which is not the ending of something. Love is not the ending of hate or the ending of desire. Love is something utterly different from desire and hate. You don’t come to love by suppressing desire, as you have been taught through literature, through the saints and all the rest of it.
You end a noise because you want silence. But the silence which comes into being when noise ceases is not silence at all. Last night there was a wedding going on next door. It began at about half past five, kept going till ten, began again this morning at half past four, stopped around about nine, and again began this afternoon – and they were making a hideous noise which they called music! I am not criticising the people who listened to it, who enjoyed it. And when that noise stopped, there was an extraordinary silence. And that is all we know: the silence when noise stops, the silence when thought stops. But that is not silence at all.
Silence is something entirely different, like beauty, like love. And this silence is not the product of a quiet mind, not the product of the brain cells which have understood the whole structure and which say, ‘For God’s sake, let me be quiet.’ Then the brain cells themselves produce that silence, but that is not silence. Silence is something entirely different. Silence is not the outcome of attention in which the observer is the observed, and there is no friction – that can produce another form of silence, but that is not silence. Silence you cannot describe.
You are waiting for the speaker to describe it so that you can compare it, interpret it, carry it home and bury it! Silence cannot be described. What can be described is the known; and the freedom from the known can only come into being when there is a dying every day to the known – to the hurts, to the flatteries, to the image that you have built about your wife or husband, your society, your political leader, your religious leader – so that the brain cells themselves become fresh, young, innocent. But that innocence, that freshness, that quality of tenderness, gentleness does not produce love. That is not the quality of beauty or silence. Unless the mind has become aware of that, our life becomes rather shallow, empty and meaningless.
But that silence which is not the ending of noise is only a small beginning. It is like going through a small hole to an enormous, wide, expansive ocean, to an immeasurable, timeless state. But that state one cannot understand verbally. You have to understand the whole structure of consciousness and the meaning of it – the pleasure, the despair, the whole of that – and the brain cells have to become quiet. Then perhaps you may come upon that mystery which nobody can give, nor can anybody describe.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1967, Talk 3
Silence Is Not To Be Practised
The mind that is whole is attentive, and therefore cares with a sense of deep abiding love. Such a mind is the whole. That you come upon when you begin to inquire what meditation is. Then we can proceed to find out what is sacred.
Please listen. It is your life. Give your heart and mind to find out a way of living differently. Which means, when the mind has abandoned all control – it does not mean that you lead a life of doing what you like, yielding to every desire, to every lustful glance or reaction, to every pleasure, to every demand of the pursuit of pleasure, but to find out whether you can live a daily life without a single control. That is part of meditation.
That means one has to have this quality of attention, attention which has brought about the insight into the right place of thought. Thought is fragmentary, and where there is control there is the controller and the controlled, which is fragmentary. So to find out a life, a way of living without a single control requires tremendous attention, great discipline. Not the discipline you are accustomed to, which is merely suppression, control, conformity, but we are talking of a discipline which means to learn. The word ‘discipline’ comes from the word ‘disciple’. The disciple is there to learn, but here there is no teacher, no disciple. You are the teacher and you are the disciple, therefore you are learning, and that very act of learning brings about its own order. Now thought has found its own place, its right place, so the mind is no longer burdened with the movement as a material process which is thought, which means the mind is absolutely quiet. It is naturally quiet, not made quiet.
That which is made quiet is terrorised. That which happens to be quiet, in that quietness, in that emptiness a new thing can take place. So can the mind, your mind, be absolutely quiet, without control, without the movement of thought? It will be quiet naturally if you really have the insight which brings about the right place for thought. From there thought has its right place and therefore the mind is quiet.
Do you understand what the word ‘silence’ and ‘quiet’ mean? You know, you can make the mind quiet by taking a drug, by repeating a mantra or a word, constantly repeating, repeating – naturally your mind will become quiet, and such a mind is a dull, stupid mind, and you call that transcendental meditation or whatever you like to call it. And there is a silence between two noises, there is silence between two notes, there is silence between two movements of thought, there is silence of an evening, when the birds have made their noise, chattering, and have gone to bed, and there isn’t a flutter among the leaves. There is no breeze; there is absolute quietness. Not in a city but when you are out with nature, when you are among the trees or sitting on the banks of a river. Then silence descends on the earth, and you are part of that silence. So there are different kinds of silence, but the silence we are talking about, the quietness of a mind, that silence is not to be bought, is not to be practised, is not something you gain, a reward, a compensation for an ugly life. It is only when the ugly life has been transformed into the good life – ‘the good’, I mean not having plenty but the life of goodness, the flowering of that goodness, the beauty – then the silence comes.
Krishnamurti in Madras, Talk 4
In Silence There Is a Totally Different Kind of Energy
We know energy, physical energy, moving from here to there. We know energy brought about through conflict, energy through desire, energy through imagination, sexual energy, energy of a pursuit of pleasure, becoming, wanting to be somebody here or inside. All those are forms of energy brought about through conflict. That is the energy we have, and with that energy we want to transform ourselves – the energy of ideas or ideals, the energy of wanting to change myself and conforming to the projection of what I think is the truth. That is energy. That is the energy which is created through conflict between the observer and the observed. That is the only energy we know, and that cannot ever transform man. One needs a totally different kind of energy, not the energy of controlling, not sexual energy, not indulging, you know all that tradition – I am not talking about that at all.
Now, the religious mind is the supplier of that energy, and in that silence which is not produced by thought, that silence has no direction, that silence is not observable by the observer – in that silence there is a totally different kind of energy. And that energy is the factor of creation, creating a new way of life, creating a new way of writing. It is only religion that is creative, not the artist or the literate person or the critic – they are not creative; they are still functioning within the field of knowledge, and within the field of knowledge they are very noisy.
So meditation is the beginning of order. Meditation is the awareness of the movement of thought as the ‘me’. Meditation is the freedom, the total, absolute inward freedom, in which there isn’t a single image – freedom from all the things that man has put together as reality, philosophically, psychologically, in other ways. Then when that takes place, the natural sequence is the flowering of silence. In that silence is that quality of energy that you have never touched before, and that is the transforming factor, that is the real creative movement of life. And in that silence there are a great many other things that go on because in that silence – which means not only the mind as a whole but also the brain – the brain becomes orderly. It will function when necessary; otherwise it is completely quiet. And in this, or in this sense of silence, thought has no place. Therefore there is no time, and that silence cannot be measured. If you are capable of measuring it, it is not silence – that is the silence which thought has put together, and therefore it knows; it can measure it: ‘I am silent today, I will be silent tomorrow. Tell me how to be silent tomorrow.’
So meditation is a most extraordinary thing if you know what it is. In that quiet stillness, that which cannot be described, which is nameless, which is not the product of time and thought, there is that movement, and that is all there is. And that is the creation.
Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1973, Talk 4
The Sound of Silence
We are always measuring: the better, the more, the lesser and the greater. The whole movement of measurement, which is comparison, can that completely end, both psychologically and outwardly? That is part of meditation, when you are inquiring into what meditation is. It means not only to think, ponder over, to look and observe, but also it means complete ending of all comparison. Short, tall, broad, wide, beautiful, not beautiful – all those are a pattern of the self. Where there is measurement there is self. So is it possible to live a daily life without any form of comparison? Then you will see for yourself the extraordinary quality of the brain. Then the brain itself has its own movement; apart from its own movement it has another quality. Then it is extraordinarily stable, firm. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t yield, but it yields in firmness, in strength. And meditation also means the freedom from the network of words and thought, so the brain is not entangled with words, with patterns, with systems, with measurement. Then there is absolute silence. And that silence is necessary.
Silence has its own sound. Have you ever listened to a tree? This is not some crazy question. Have you ever listened to a tree, an old tree, when the wind and the breezes have come to an end, and the tree is utterly silent, no leaf is fluttering, and then you listen to the sound of the tree? We were asked that question by a scientist. He accepted that, so you better accept it too! Because you love scientists, people who accumulate knowledge. But to find out the sound in silence, and where there is this complete, absolute, not relative silence. The relative silence can be brought about through thought, through will, saying, I must be silent. That is not silence at all. There is silence only when there is freedom from all the things that man has accumulated. In that silence there is an enormous sense of vastness and immensity. You don’t ask any questions anymore – it is.
Then we ought to ask also a question: what is creation? If you say, ‘God created the world,’ then that is the end of it. That is one of the convenient statements in various books. That is no answer. But if one begins to ask, ‘What is creation? How has all this come into being: the tiger, the deer, the marvellous tree and the majestic mountains and the great rivers of the world, and this vast population, how does all this happen?’ we must distinguish between creation and invention.
Creation is totally different from invention. Invention is still within the field of knowledge. The man who invented the jet, he moved from knowledge to knowledge. He invented. All the new inventions in the technological world are based on knowledge. Perhaps a second of not thinking and then something comes, but it is still within the area of knowledge. Creation is not invention. Creation is there only when knowledge has come to an end. Then that creation is, if we can use that word, nothing. Nothing means not a thing. A thing, in Latin and so on, is thought. When there is absolute silence of thought, there is a totally different dimension.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1984, Talk 4
The Roots of Heaven Are in Deep Abiding Silence
You had to climb hour after hour to reach the great height. Sometime you saw a bear a little way off, and it paid no attention. And the deer across the gully, they too seemed unconcerned. At last you reached the height of a rocky plateau, and across the hills to the south west you saw the distant sea, so blue, so quiet, so infinitely far away. You sat on a rock, smooth, cracked, where the sun must for century upon century, without any regret, have cracked it. And in the little cracks, you saw tiny little living things scurrying about, and there was that utter silence, complete and infinite. A very large bird – they call it a condor – was circling in the sky. Apart from that movement, there was nothing astir except these tiny little insects. But there was that silence that exists only where man has not been before; it was so peaceful.
You left everything behind in that little village so far below you. Literally everything: your identity, if you had any, your belongings, the possession of your experiences, your memories of things that had meant something to you – you left all that behind down below, there amidst the shining groves and orchards. Here there was absolute silence, and you were totally alone. It was a marvellous morning and the cool air which was becoming colder wrapped around you, and you were completely lost to everything. There was nothing and beyond nothing.
You should really forget the word ‘meditation’. That word has been corrupted. The ordinary meaning of that word, to ponder over, to consider, to think about, is rather trivial and ordinary. If you want to understand the nature of meditation, you should really forget the word because you cannot possibly measure with words that which is not measurable, that which is beyond all measure. No words can convey it, nor any systems, modes of thought, practice or discipline. Meditation, or rather if we could find another word which has not been so mutilated, made so ordinary, corrupt, which has become the means of earning a great deal of money – if you can put aside the word, then you begin quietly and gently to feel a movement that is not of time. Again, the word ‘movement’ implies time. What is meant is a movement that has no beginning or end, a movement in the sense of a wave: wave upon wave, starting from nowhere and with no beach to crash upon. It is an endless wave.
Time, however slow it is, is rather tiresome. Time means growth, evolution, to become, to achieve, to learn, to change. And time is not the way of that which lies far beyond the word ‘meditation’. Time has nothing to do with it. Time is the action of will, of desire, and desire cannot in any way… It lies far beyond the word ‘meditation’.
Here, sitting on that rock, with the blue sky – it is astonishingly blue – the air is so pure, unpolluted. Far beyond this range is the desert. You can see it, miles of it. It is really a timeless perception of that which is; it is only that perception which can say it is. You sat there watching for what seemed many days, many years, many centuries.
As the sun was going down to the sea, you made your way down to the valley and everything around you was alight, that blade of grass, that sumac, the towering eucalyptus and the flowering earth. It took time to come down as it had taken time to go up, but that which has no time cannot be measured by words. And meditation is only a word. The roots of heaven are in deep abiding silence.
Krishnamurti, Direct Recording, 1983