Krishnamurti on Uncertainty
‘When you live in a state of complete inward uncertainty, you will see that you meet any challenge with clarity and swiftness.’
This week’s episode on Uncertainty has two sections.
The first extract (2:44) is from Krishnamurti’s first question and answer meeting in Saanen 1980, titled ‘We move from certainty to uncertainty to certainty’.
The second and final extract (14:04) in this episode is from the second talk in Bombay 1964, titled ‘Be free and live in a state of uncertainty’.
We Move From Certainty to Uncertainty to Certainty
We move from certainty to uncertainty, then from that uncertainty to another certainty – trust this person and then, later on, discover that he is not worthy of your trust and move to another, and again put your trust in him, then discover he is untrustworthy. That is our life.
Please, you are not putting your trust in me. Be very clear. I won’t have it. To me, that is the beginning of corruption. I have avoided all this life not to be corrupted. I won’t be corrupted.
Various types of experiments have been made on animals – pigeons, monkeys, rats – and these monkeys, pigeons and rats, by pressing a button they get their food. But if you keep changing the buttons all the time, the bird, the monkey or the rat gives up and they die. This constant movement from certainty to uncertainty, from trust to trust. This is what has happened to human beings. This has been the movement from time immemorial.
You trusted the priest, the whole hierarchical structure of organised religion. You discard that and then go to another – it is the same thing in a different garb. There you put your trust, and again discover later on: ‘Good lord, what have I done?’ And always seeking somebody who will give you hope, trust, certainty – either in books, in philosophers, in priests, in scientists or in politicians left, right or centre. And none of them have given…
So what is wrong with us? Why are we doing this all the time? Or if you don’t do it, you become cynical or bitter, saying, ‘Not worth it,’ and you lead your own narrow little ugly life, and that is that. But if you are asking for certainty, which you are, where do you find it? In a human being? In a priest with his garb, with his mitre, with all that? Or in India? Where do you find it?
What is uncertainty? Where do you find certainty? In somebody else? In an idea? In a concept? In the State? In having plenty of money and feeling completely safe? There is no such person anymore. So where do you seek certainty? Please, if you seek it, you won’t find it. Because you have sought it in everything around you.
I used to know a man who one day was walking along the beach and he found a piece of wood washed by the sea for many, many, many years. A piece of wood which looked like a human head, with a face and eyes. It was the most beautiful thing, polished wood, and he took it home and put it on the mantelpiece. He said, ‘What a beautiful thing that is, I am glad I found it.’ And he looked at it week after week. One day he put a flower on it, and then a few days later incense, and began to worship it. By some misfortune, the maid or somebody burnt it, pushed it into the fire and burnt it. The man came to me and explained the whole thing, and he was literally a grown-up man in tears. You understand what I am saying? There was his certainty, in a piece of wood.
So where do you seek it? If you don’t seek it anywhere outside you, what happens? You understand my question? Apply it to yourself – we are sharing this thing together. What happens if you don’t seek certainty in anything that thought has created – in God, in illumination, you know, the whole thing. So you don’t ask for certainty. You have asked there, and you found none, and you are going to ask if there is here, inside your brain, your mind, your heart. And you know your brain is volatile, moving, changing, adjusting, breaking one pattern, taking another pattern. The same phenomenon which was out there is happening inside. So the moment you don’t seek certainty, certainty is. That means you have really stopped seeking any kind of permanency, in yourself or out there. If you have sought it there, you turn inward and discover it is the same thing.
Can I trust myself? I can when I am doing technical work, but can I trust myself, myself which has been put together by thought? Thought has put trust in you, and thought has discovered there is no trust there. It is the same movement. So when you don’t seek certainty, there is something far greater than certainty.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 5
Be Free and Live in a State of Uncertainty
Most of us seek security of some kind because our life is an endless conflict from the moment we are born to the moment we die. The boredom of life and the anxiety of life, the despair of existence, the feeling that you want to be loved and you are not loved, the shallowness, the pettiness, the travail of everyday existence – that is our life. In that life there is danger, there is apprehension; nothing is certain; there is always the uncertainty of tomorrow. So you are all the time pursuing security, consciously or unconsciously. You want to find a permanent state, psychologically first and outwardly afterwards – it is always psychological first, not outward. You want a permanent state where you will not be disturbed by anything, by any fear, by any anxiety, by any sense of uncertainty, by any sense of guilt. That is what most of us want. That is what most of us seek outwardly as well as inwardly.
Outwardly we want very good jobs; we are educated technologically to function mechanically in a certain bureaucratic way, or whatever it is. And inwardly we want peace, a sense of certainty, a sense of permanency. In all our relationships, in all our actions, whether we are doing right or wrong, we want to be secure. We want to be told this is right, that is wrong, don’t do this, do that. We want to follow a pattern because that is the safest way to live – either a pattern set by you or by another, by society, by the guru, or by your own ideals and impressions. So there is this constant demand for outward security as well as for inward security.
Inward security is made much more complicated when there is the authority of an idea. We mean by an idea the ideal, the pattern, the example, the formula, the hero. That is permanent, and towards that we are striving, and therefore there is always a distance between what is and what should be, and therefore there is conflict. When the mind is seeking security, you must have authority, whether it is the authority of society, of law, or whether it is the authority set by society as an ideal, as a person who will tell you what to do and what not to do. And ultimately, the perfect security that we seek is in God. That is the pattern according to which we have lived for centuries upon centuries.
Man has existed as man, as has been discovered, for nearly two million years. And there are paintings and all kinds of things to indicate that man has always been in this constant anxiety, constant fear, constant state of apprehension. It is a stream on which man has floated all the time seeking, seeking, and in the very search establishing the authority of a book, of a person, of an idea. And consciously he is doing this.
Observe, please, as I said, your own mind, your own life. That is what you are really interested in mostly – outwardly, security, money, position, power, comfort; and inwardly, an undisturbed state free from all anxiety, free from all problems, free from all sense of danger, imminent or in the distance. That is our life and we have accepted this pattern of existence; we have never questioned it. When we are very disturbed, we try to run away from it through temples, through various other forms of escape. We have never questioned and never inquired into ourselves, whether there is such a thing as security, consciously or unconsciously. And we are going to question now. You may not like it; you may resist it because you are not used to facing things at all. We are not used to looking at ourselves as we are. We would rather see things that are not there, or imagine things that should be there, but now we are going to look into ‘what is’ actually.
First of all, is there such a thing as inward security in relationship, in our affections, in the ways of our thinking? Is there an ultimate reality, which every man wants, hopes, pins his faith to? The moment you want security, you will invent a God, an idea, an ideal, which will give you the feeling of security. But it may not be real at all, it may be merely an idea, a reaction, a resistance to the obvious fact of uncertainty. So one has to Inquire into this question of whether there is security at all at any level of our lives. First inwardly because if there is no security inwardly, then our relationship with the world will be entirely different; then we shall not identify ourselves with any group, with any nation, or even with any family.
Therefore, we must first inquire into the question of whether there is permanency, whether there is such thing as being secure. This means that you and I are willing, happily, easily, without hesitancy, to look into ourselves.
We are bound by authority – again outer and inner; the authority of society, or the authority which we have established for ourselves through experience, or the authority given to us by tradition – we are trained to obey because in obedience there is security. And to find out if there is such a thing as security, one must be completely free from all authority. This is very important to understand because all religions have maintained that there is a spiritual, permanent entity – call it by different names: the soul, the atman, or whatever you like to call it – and we have accepted it because of propaganda, conditioning, our own fears, our own demands for security. We have accepted that as a comforting, actual thing, as reality. And there is the whole world which says: there is no such thing, it is just a matter of belief; it has no validity. That is the communist world or the atheist, or those we call the ungodly – as though you are very godly because you have a belief!
So, one who would inquire into this question of security must be completely, totally free of every form of authority – not the authority of the law, not the authority of the State, but the authority that the mind seeks or establishes security in a book, in an idea, in an experience, in life. Please follow all this, consciously or unconsciously. Only such a mind that is free from authority can begin to inquire into this immense problem of security. Otherwise, you and I would have no communion because I say there is no such thing as security psychologically.
If you try to find security in God, it is your invention. You are projecting your desire on a symbol you call ‘God’, but that has no validity at all. So you have to be free of authority in that sense. The mind seeks authority, establishes authority in an ideal, in a formula, in a person, in a Church, in a particular belief, and conforms, obeys. It has to be free of that, not only consciously but unconsciously – which is much more difficult. Most of the so-called educated people, do not believe in God because it is not very important because they either have a very good job or they have a fair bit of money, and belief in God is just an old-fashioned idea, and so they throw it out of the window and carry on. But to inquire into the unconscious and be free of the unconscious urge to find authority is much more strenuous.
I am not going into the unconscious very deeply; I am touching it briefly. The unconscious is the past of many thousand years. The unconscious is the residue of race, of family, the collected knowledge. The unconscious is the whole tradition which you may deny consciously, but it is there. And that becomes our authority in moments when there is trouble. Then the unconscious says: go to church, do this and do that, do puja – whatever you do. The prompting, the hinting of the unconscious with all the past becomes the authority, which becomes our conscience, the inner voice and all the rest of it. So one has to be aware of all that, understand it and be free of it in order to find out if there is security, and to live in the truth which you discover for yourself whether there is security or not.
Also we find a great deal of security psychologically, emotionally in identifying ourselves with an idea, with a race, with a community, with a particular action. That is, we commit ourselves to a certain cause, to a certain political party, to a certain way of thinking, to certain customs, habits and rituals, as the Hindu, the Parsi, the Christian, the Muslim and all the rest of it. We commit ourselves to a particular form of existence, a particular way of thinking; we identify ourselves with a group, with a community, with a particular class or with a particular idea. This identification with the nation, with the family, with a group, with a community gives also a certain sense of security. You feel much more safe when you say, ‘I am an Indian,’ or ‘I am an Englishman,’ or ‘I am a German,’ whatever it is. This identification gives you security. One must be aware of that too.
So, when you put to yourself the question whether there is security or not, the problem becomes extremely complex if you don’t understand directly the question, not all the side issues. It is the desire to be secure, when there is probably no security at all, that breeds conflict. If psychologically you see the truth that there is no security of any kind, of any type, at any level, there is no conflict. Then you rule with life; you are active, creative, volcanic in your action, explosive in your ideas; you are not tethered to anything. Then you are living. And a mind that is in conflict obviously cannot live clearly, with clarity, with an immense sense of affection and sympathy. To love, you must have a mind that is extraordinarily sensitive, but you cannot be sensitive if you are perpetually afraid, perpetually anxious, perpetually worried, insecure, and therefore seeking security. And a mind in conflict obviously, like any machine that is in friction, is wearing itself out; it becomes dull, stupid, bored.
So first, is there such a thing as security? You have to find it out, not me. I say there is no security of any kind psychologically, at any level, at any depth. It is not a reality to you – if you repeat it, you will be telling a lie because it is not true to you. So you have to find it out because it is an urgent problem because the world is in a chaos, the world is in a dreadful condition of despair, violence, brutality. By ‘the world’ I mean the world you live in – not Russia, China or England – but the world around you, the family, the people you come in contact with. That is your world. In that world, if you look deeply and not just casually pass by, you will find this immense sense of despair, anxiety, degeneration, and constant imitation. And to understand this life with all its vastness and the extraordinary beauty and the depth of life – not imaginary depth, not imaginary beauty but the actual, palpitating, vital, strong beauty of life, of existence, of living – your mind must be completely in a state where not a scratch of conflict has remained.
So you have to find out for yourself, and you are finding out for yourself. If you feel that there is security inwardly, then you will be living in a perpetual state of conflict. You will be living in a perpetual state of imitation, obedience, conformity, and therefore you will never be free. And your mind must be free completely, otherwise it cannot see, otherwise it cannot understand. If it is not free, it cannot see the beauty of a tree or the loveliness of the cloud, or the exquisite smile on a face.
Is there security? Is there permanency, which man is seeking all the time? As you notice for yourself, your body changes, the cells of the body change so often. As you see for yourself in your relationship with your wife, with your children, with your neighbour, with your State, with your community, is there anything permanent? You would like to make it permanent, the relationship with your wife. You call it marriage and legally hold it tightly, but is there permanency in that relationship? Because if you have invested permanency in your wife or husband, when she turns away, or looks at another, or dies, or some illness takes place, you are completely lost, you become jealous, you are afraid, you run to the temple, you do puja, you invite all kinds of nonsense.
Please observe your own mind, observe your own life. Because if you do not understand your life, the misery, the unhappiness, the constant battle of your life, of your everyday existence, you cannot go very far. You may talk about God, you may talk about love, you may talk about beauty, but they have no validity at all. To go very far, you must begin very close. And the closest thing to you is yourself; there you must begin.
So you have to inquire and find out for yourself if there is such a thing as security, permanency, an undisturbed state. Not what other people have said – Sankara or somebody else – wipe them out for the moment; they have no truth in your life; they have as much truth as a good detective story. What is truth is your life – the battle, the misery, the conflict, the problems. Unless you understand that field completely, you cannot possibly go any farther. If you do, you will be going into an illusion, a fancy, a myth that has no validity at all.
Now, when you begin to inquire, you inquire to find out what is true, what is factual – factual in the sense of psychologically what is actual; not what you would like it to be, not what you think it ought to be. The actual state of every human being is uncertainly. Those who realise the actual state of uncertainty either see the fact and live with it there, or they go off, become neurotic because they cannot face that uncertainty. They cannot live with something that demands an astonishing swiftness of mind and heart, and so they become neurotic, they become monks, they adopt every kind of fanciful escapes. So you have to see the actual, and not escape in good works, good action, going to the temple, talking. The fact is something that demands your complete attention. The fact is that all of us are insecure and there is nothing secure.
The fact is that there is nothing certain. Nothing. My son may die, my wife may run away, I may fall ill – nothing is certain. Now, why don’t we accept it and live with that? Do you know what it means to live with it? Have you ever tried to live with something and not get used to it? You know, one can get very easily used to a tree, to the beauty of a sunset – that is very easy – but to live with a tree, to see the sunset every day anew, to see the leaf as though you are seeing it for the first time, with clarity, with an intensity, with a sense of extraordinary beauty of that leaf, that requires not memory; that requires that you should look at it anew, each day, afresh, with an intensity.
So one has to live with uncertainty because it is only the mind that is uncertain that is creative – not the mind that has continuity, not the mind that is completely secure and then creates, writes a poem – that is too immature, too juvenile. When you live in that state of complete inward uncertainty, you will see that you meet every problem of life, at any level, any crisis, any challenge, with clarity, with swiftness. Because for most of us, the inadequacy of response to a challenge is the beginning of conflict. Life is constantly giving us, each one in different ways according to one’s temperament and taste, challenges, conscious or unconscious, all the time, twenty-four hours of the day. How do you respond completely each time so that there is no conflict at all? Your response has to be completely adequate, and you cannot keep this up all the time. When there is inadequacy of response, it creates a problem. Then one has to meet that problem immediately and resolve it immediately. And that can only happen when your mind is completely in a state of movement, untethered, living, vital. And you can only be vital, moving, tremendously active, in inaction, only when the mind is completely free from all the fear of security.
But you see, for most of us, our everyday life – going to the office, the family, the sex, the many pleasures – brutalizes us. I do not know if you have considered a man who has spent thirty or forty years of his life going every day to the office! Look at his mind. He cannot function in any other way except in that. Like a doctor who specialises in a particular disease, his heaven will be that disease. And after spending thirty or forty years, your mind is worn out, it is not fresh, it is not young, it is not innocent; it is being brutalised, specialised, beaten, shaped, and so it keeps to itself tight in a corner, and life goes by. That is what you all want your children to be, to have a good job for the next thirty or forty years so that they will be dull, stupid, not capable of facing life. That is all you are concerned with.
There are wars. Man is destroying man. There is terrible cruelty, everyone is out for himself, in the name of God, in the name of society, doing good, going and helping people and all the rest of it, using everybody to profit oneself, or for the idea with which one has identified oneself. That is the state of man. I am not using the word ‘individual’ because an individual is something entirely different. There is real individuality only when you are alone, when you are completely free from all social, environmental control and shaping. You are a human being tortured, caught in this terrible world of misery, and you cannot escape from it. It is a fact. You have got to grapple with it, you have to put your teeth into it. And that requires energy, and that requires passion. And that passion and that energy you cannot possibly have if you waste your life in conflict.
So from the beginning to the end, a mind has to understand this immense problem of struggle, trying to become something endlessly, everlastingly – and that we consider evolution. When one struggles everlastingly to become, fight, fight, there is never a moment of actual peace. Not imagined peace, not the peace of the stagnation of the mind that says, ‘I have found God, I have found some reality, and I am happy with it.’ If a man has not understood conflict, if he has not understood his being, if he has not gone into himself deeply, widely, with clarity, then he has no peace, do what he will. He may pretend to others; then he is a hypocrite. But to find that reality, one must completely understand this question of security, be free and live in that state of uncertainty.
For most of us, life is empty. Being empty, we try to fill it with all kinds of things. But if you understand this question of security and insecurity, you will find, as you go into it deeper and deeper – I am using the word ‘deeper’ in the sense, non-comparatively – that it is not a question of time. Then you understand completely this problem of security and conflict. Then you will find – find, not believe – for yourself a state where there is complete existence, complete being, in which there is no sense of fear, no anxiety, no sense of obedience, compulsion; a complete state of being, a light that does not seek, that has no movement beyond itself.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1964, Talk 2