Krishnamurti on Experience
‘Experiences are always in the past, never at the moment, and any experience you have is recognisable, otherwise it is not an experience.’
This week’s episode on Experience has two sections.
The first extract (2:49) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in New York 1966, titled ‘Can experience bring about transformation?’.
The second and final extract in this episode (54:42) is from the first question and answer meeting at Brockwood Park in 1985, titled ‘Is there experience without an experiencer?
Can Experience Bring About Transformation?
Man has always tried to go beyond his problems, either escaping from them through various methods or inventing beliefs which he hopes will renew the mind that is always deteriorating. He goes through various experiences, hoping that there will be one experience which will transcend all others and give him a total comprehension of life. He tries so many ways – through drugs, through meditation, through worship, through sex, through knowledge – and yet through all these methods he doesn’t seem to be able to solve the central factor that brings about this deterioration.
Is it possible to empty the mind totally so that it is fresh every day, so that it is no longer creating problems for itself, so that it is able to meet every challenge so completely, so totally, that it leaves no residue, which becomes another problem? Is it possible to have every kind of experience that human beings have, and yet at the end of the day not have any residue to be carried over to the next day, except mechanical knowledge? Don’t let’s confuse the two issues. If this is not possible, the mind then deteriorates, naturally; it can only disintegrate.
Our question is: can the mind, which is the result of time, of experience, of all the influences, of the culture, of the social, economic and climatic conditioning, can it free itself and not have a problem, so that it is always fresh, always capable of meeting every challenge as it comes? If we are not capable of this, then we die: a miserable life has come to an end. We haven’t resolved our sorrows; we haven’t ever satisfied our appetites; we have been caught in fulfilment and frustration; our life has been a constant battlefield.
We must find an answer to this question, not through any philosophy, for of course no philosophy can answer it, although it may give explanations. To answer it is to be free from every problem so that the mind is tremendously sensitive, active. In this very activity, it can throw off every problem that arises.
We understand what we mean by a problem: the inadequate response to a challenge. There are endless challenges going on all the time, consciously or unconsciously. The more alert we are, the more thoughtful we are, the more acute the problems become. Being incapable of resolving them, we invent theories; and the more intellectual we are, the more cunning the mind is in inventing a structure, a belief, an ideology, through which it escapes. Life is full of experiences which constantly impinge on the mind. As most of our lives are so utterly empty, lonely, boring – a meaningless, sorrowful existence – we want more and more, wider and deeper experiences. The peculiarity of experience is that it is never new. Experience is what has always been, not actually what is. If you have had an experience of any kind, you have recognised it, and you say, ‘That is an experience.’ Recognition implies that you already know it, that you have already had such an experience, and therefore there is nothing new in experiencing. It is always the known that is capable of recognising any experience, the past that says, ‘That experience I’ve already had,’ and therefore it is capable of saying it is an experience.
Both in Europe and in this country, LSD is giving new experiences to people, and they are pursuing these new experiences – ‘taking a trip’, as it is called. These experiences are the result of their own conditioning, of their own limited consciousness, and therefore it is not something totally new. If it is something totally new, they would not recognise it as an experience. Can the mind be in such a state of activity that it is free from all experience?
We are the result of time, and during that time, we have cultivated all the human tendencies. Culture, society and religions have conditioned the mind. We are always translating every challenge in terms of our conditioning, and so what happens generally is, if we observe ourselves, that every thought, every movement of the mind, is limited, is conditioned, and thought cannot go beyond itself. If we did not have experience, we would go to sleep. If there was no challenge, however inadequate the response is, with all the problems that it brings, we would go to sleep. That is what is happening to most of us. We respond inadequately. We have problems; the problems become so enormous that we are incapable of solving them, and so these problems make us dull, insufficient, confused. This confusion and this inadequacy increase more and more and more, and we look to experience as a measure for bringing about clarity, bringing about a great, fundamental change.
Can experience of any kind bring about a radical change in the psyche, in consciousness? That is the issue, that is the problem. Our consciousness is the result of the past. We are the past, and a mind functioning within the field of the past cannot at any time resolve any problem. We must have a totally new mind; a revolution must take place in the psyche. Can this revolution come about through experience? That is what we are waiting for; that is what we want. We are looking for an experience that will transform us. That is why we go to church or take drugs or sit in meditation, because our craving, longing, intensity is to bring about a change within ourselves. We see the necessity of it, and we look to some outside authority, or to our own experience.
Can any experience, through any means, bring about this total revolution in the psyche? Can any outside authority, outside agency, such as God, an idea, a belief bring about this transformation? Will authority as an idea, as grace, as God, bring about a change? Will authority transform the human mind? This is very important to understand, because to us authority is very important. Though we may revolt against authority, we set up our own authority, and we conform to that authority, like long hair, and so on.
There is the authority of the law, which obviously one must accept. Then there is the psychological authority, the authority of one who knows, as the priest. Nobody bothers about the priest nowadays. The so-called intellectuals, fairly clear-thinking people, don’t care about the priest, the church, and all their inventions, but they have their own authority, which is the authority of the intellect, reason or knowledge, and they follow that authority. A man afraid, uncertain, not clear in his activities, in his life, wants some authority to tell him what to do. The authority of the analyst, the book, or the latest fad.
Can the mind be free from authority, which means free from fear, so that it is no longer capable of following? If so, this puts an end to imitation, which becomes mechanical. After all, virtue, ethics, is not a repetition of what is good. The moment it becomes mechanical, it ceases to be virtue. Virtue is something that must be from moment to moment, like humility. Humility cannot be cultivated, and a mind that has no humility is incapable of learning. So virtue has no authority. The social morality is no morality at all. It is immoral, because it admits competition, greed, ambition, and therefore society is encouraging immorality. Virtue is something that transcends memory. Without virtue there is no order, and order is not according to a pattern, according to a formula. A mind that follows a formula through disciplining itself to achieve virtue, creates for itself the problems of immorality.
An external authority which the mind objectifies, apart from the law, as God, as moral, and so on becomes destructive when the mind is seeking to understand what real virtue is. We have our own authority as experience, as knowledge, which we are trying to follow. There is this constant repetition, imitation, which we all know. Psychological authority – not the authority of the law, the policeman who keeps order but the psychological authority, which each one has, becomes destructive of virtue; because virtue is something that is living moving. As you cannot possibly cultivate humility, as you cannot possibly cultivate love, so also virtue cannot be cultivated. And there is great beauty in that. Virtue is non-mechanical; and without virtue there is no foundation for clear thinking.
That brings in the problem of discipline. For most of us, discipline is suppression, imitation, adjustment, conformity, and therefore there is a conflict all the time. But there is a discipline which is not suppression, which is not control, which is not adjustment. That discipline comes when it becomes imperative to see clearly. We are confused, and out of that confusion we act, which only increases confusion all the more. Realising that we are confused, to not act demands great discipline in itself.
To see a flower demands a great deal of attention. If you really want to look at a flower, at a tree, at your neighbour, at your wife or husband, you have to look; and you cannot look if thought interferes with that look. You realise that; you see that fact. The very observation of the fact demands discipline. There is no imposition of a mind that says, ‘I must be orderly, disciplined, in order to look.’ There is the psyche that demands authority to guide itself, to follow, to do the right thing. Such an authority ends all virtue, and without virtue, you cannot possibly think clearly or live a life of tremendous sensitivity and activity.
We look to experience as a means to bring about this revolution in the psyche. Can any experience bring about a change in consciousness? First of all, why do we need experience? We demand it because our lives are empty. We’ve had sex; we’ve been to churches; we have read; we have done hundreds of little things and we want some supreme experience that will clear away all this mess. What do we mean by experience, and why do we demand it?
This is a very serious question; do go into it with me. Find out for yourselves why you want experience – not only the experiences that LSD gives but also other forms of experience. Obviously, these experiences must be pleasurable, enjoyable; you don’t want sorrowful experiences. Who is it that is experiencing? When you are experiencing, in a state of experience, is there an experiencer who says, ‘I am enjoying it’? All experiences are always in the past, never at the moment, and any experience that you have is recognisable, otherwise it is not an experience. If you recognise it, it is already known; otherwise you can’t recognise it.
A mind that demands experience as a means to bring about a radical revolution in the psyche is merely asking for a continuity of what has been, and therefore it is nothing new in experience. Most people need experience to keep them awake, otherwise they would go to sleep. If there was no challenge, if there was no response, if there was no pleasure and pain, we would just become vegetables, cow-like. Experience keeps us awake, through pain, through suffering, through every form of discontent. On one side, it acts as a stimulant, and on the other it keeps the mind from having clarity, from having a revolution.
Is it possible to keep totally awake, to be highly active, intelligent, sensitive? If the mind is sensitive, tremendously active, it doesn’t need experience. It is only a dull mind, an insensitive mind that is demanding experience, hoping that through experience it will reach greater and greater and greater experiences of enlightenment.
The mind is the result of many centuries, thousands upon thousands of years. It has always functioned within the field of the known. Within that field of the known there is nothing new. All the gods it has invented are from the past, from the known. Can the mind by thought, by intelligence, by reason bring about a transformation? We need tremendous psychological change, not a neurotic change, and reason or thought cannot do it. Neither knowledge nor reason, nor all the cunning activities of the intellect will bring about this radical revolution in the psyche. If neither experience or authority will bring it about, then what will? This is a fundamental question, not a question that can be answered by another; but in examining the question, not in trying to find an answer to the question, we will find the answer. To put that question, we must be tremendously earnest, because if we put the question with a motive because we want certain results, the motive dictates the answer. Therefore we must put the question without motive, without any profit; and that is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do because all our activities, all our demands, have personal motives, or a personal motive identified with a greater motive, which is still a motive.
If thought, reason, knowledge and experience will not bring about a radical revolution in the psyche, what will? Only that revolution will solve all our problems. I am examining the question; I’m not answering the question because there is no answer, but in investigating the question itself, we will come upon the answer. We must be intense, passionate, highly sensitive and therefore highly intelligent to pursue any investigation, and we cannot be passionate if we have a motive. Then that passion is only the result of wanting to achieve a result, and therefore it becomes a pleasure. Where there is pleasure there is no passion. The very urgency of putting that question to ourselves brings about the energy to examine.
To examine anything, especially non-objective things, things inside the skin, there must be freedom, complete freedom to look. That freedom cannot be when thought as the response of previous experience or knowledge interferes with looking.
If you would look at a flower, any thought about that flower prevents your looking at it. The words ‘rose’ or ‘violet, ‘it is this flower or that flower, that species,’ keep you from observing. To look there must be no interference of the word, which is the objectifying of thought. There must be freedom from the word, and to look there must be silence; otherwise you can’t look. If you look at your wife or husband, all the memories that you have had, either of pleasure or of pain, interfere with looking. It is only when you look without the image that there is a relationship. Your verbal image and the verbal image of the other have no relationship at all. They are non-existent.
May I suggest something? Please listen. Don’t take notes. This is not a class. We are taking a journey together into one of the most difficult things, and that demands all your attention. If you take notes, it means that you are going to think about it later, which means that you are not doing it now, and therefore there is no urgency. A mind that has no urgency about fundamental problems is a dead, dull, stupid mind, although it may be very cunning, very erudite. The urgency of a problem brings about energy and passion to look.
To observe there must be freedom from the word, the word being the symbol, with all the content of that symbol, which is knowledge, and so on. To look, to observe, there must be silence, otherwise how can one look at anything? Either that silence is brought about by an object which is so immense that it makes the mind silent, or the mind understands that to look at anything it must be quiet. It is like a child who has been given a toy, and the toy absorbs the child. The child becomes completely quiet; so interesting is the toy that he is absorbed by it. But that is not quietness. Take away the object of his absorption and he becomes again agitated, noisy, playful.
To look at anything, there must be freedom to look; and freedom implies silence. This very understanding brings about its own discipline. There is no interpretation on the part of the observer of what he’s looking at, the observer being all the ideas, memories and experiences which prevent his looking.
Silence and freedom go together. It is only a mind that is completely silent – not through discipline, not through control, not through demand for greater experience, and all that silly stuff – that can answer this question. When it is silent, it has already answered the question. Only complete silence can bring about a total revolution in the psyche – not effort, not control, not experience or authority. That silence is tremendously active; it is not just static silence. To come upon that silence, you have to go through all this. Either you do it instantly or you take time and analyse. When you take time through analysis, you have already lost silence. Analysis, which is psychoanalysis, analysing yourself, does not bring freedom; nor does the analysis which takes time, from today to tomorrow, and so on, gradually.
The mind, which is the result of time, which is the residue of all human experience – your mind and my mind – is the result of our endless human struggle. Your problems are the problems of the Indian who goes through immense sorrow, like yourself. This demand to find the truth, whether there can be a radical revolution in the mind, can be answered and discovered only when there is complete freedom, and therefore no fear. There is authority only when there is fear. When you have understood fear and authority, and the putting away of all demands for experience, which is really the highest form of maturity, then the mind becomes completely silent. It is only in that silence, which is very active, that you will see, if you have gone that far, that there is a total revolution in the psyche. Only such a mind can create a new society. There must be a new society, a new community of people who, though living in the world are not of the world. The responsibility for such a community to come into being is yours.
Krishnamurti in New York 1966, Talk 5
Is There Experience Without an Experiencer?
Question: At various times we have had mystical and spiritual experiences. How can we know if they are illusions unless we know reality?
Krishnamurti: How do you answer such a question? If it was put to you, how do you approach it, what is your reaction to it? How do you come so close to it that the question itself unfolds, the question itself begins to evolve? If you are merely seeking an answer, it is already determined. To find an answer is fairly easy, but to delve into the question, to see all the complications of that question, it is like having a map of the world in front of you, seeing all the countries, the capitals, the villages, the hamlets, the rivers, the oceans, the hills, the mountains, the whole of it. How do you look at this question? Not the answer. Perhaps the response to the question may lie in the question.
So at various times we have had mystical and spiritual experiences. What is an experience? We are just asking each other. What is an experience? And who experiences? I may have had, or be having, some kind of mystical experience. Before I use the word ‘mystical’ or ‘experience’, what do I mean by experience? And does experience involve recognition? Does it involve a sense of something happening to me from heaven or from someplace, or something or other which I call mystical, which is not the daily experience but something totally outside, which happens to me? And I call that mystical or spiritual. I’d like, if one may, stick to those two words – ‘spiritual’ and ‘experience’.
Is there an experience without an experiencer?
Are we together exploring into the question or are you waiting for the speaker to explore it? So we are walking together, step in step, slowly or fast, but we are together, step by step; we are friends talking over this problem.
I have had a spiritual experience, suppose, and what do I mean by those two words? Experience, something new, something that I have already had renewed, or something that is happening to the experiencer. And if the experiencer is experiencing, and that experiencing is a form of recognition, that is the remembrance, identification and so on to that which I call experience, then there must be in that feeling that I have already known it. Otherwise I couldn’t recognise it. It is fairly simple, isn’t it? I don’t want to labour the point. It is fairly clear. As long as there is an experiencer experiencing, then it is something that is happening to the experiencer, something separate, something which is not ordinary, which is not a daily, boring, habitual experience that one has. So as long as the experiencer is there, every kind of experience, call it mundane or spiritual, or holy or sacred, or releasing energy and all that stuff that goes on – mostly nonsense – then what is important in this process – experiencer, experiencing? What is most important is the experiencer. He is gathering. So when there is an experiencer, it gets more and more subliminally egotistic, more and more: ‘I know a great deal which you don’t know. I have had marvellous spiritual experience. I am illumined. Poor chap, you are not, come with me. Give me all your money then you will be quite safe.’ They are playing this game, I assure you. ‘Surrender yourself. Put on the beads I give you’ – and all that rather silly game that is going on in the world.
And what is spiritual, religious? Something holy? Something unexpected? Something totally out of the ordinary? Why do we want something totally outside daily life? Go on, please answer this question. Which means something totally different from our daily life. Then we are bored with our daily life: the habits, the loneliness, the despair, the attachments, you know, power and all the rest of it. We want to avoid all that and invite heaven, which is called spiritual. We can deceive ourselves so enormously. We have the capacity to deceive ourselves incredibly. Christianity is based on belief and faith. Sorry, I am not trying to hurt anybody, just pointing out. Two thousand years. And go across the ocean to India and there, three thousand to five thousand years old. The same process of selling God. Why do we have to believe all this? Because we are frightened? We want to know the unknown and so on – we don’t have to go into all that.
So what is illusion? And what is reality? The questioner says: how can we know if they are illusions unless we know reality? Then we have to examine what reality is. What is reality? The real, the actual is you are sitting there and the speaker is up here, unfortunately. And reality is nature, that tree, that animal, that dog, the marvellous earth, the blue sky about us. Reality. Reality: I have feelings for my wife, husband, sister and so on – the whole movement of recognition. And the actual, you and the speaker are sitting now, at twelve o’clock. That is actual. There is wind. I hope it won’t rain. And the actual is nature, the birds, the rivers, the water and so on. And the questioner says: I can’t know what is an illusion unless I know reality. What is reality in ourselves? Is there anything real in us, actual? Or is it all a movement, change?
The other day in Switzerland, when we closed the Saanen Gathering altogether – no more – some people came up and said to us, to the speaker, ‘We are so sad we have closed it.’ And the speaker said, ‘When you are sad, it is about time we closed it.’ We closed it. So nobody wants a change. Very few people want fundamental change.
And the questioner says: if I knew reality, then I’d know what is illusion. So we should look at illusion, the word. What is illusion? The word itself, in a dictionary, means something you play with – ‘ludere’ – something you invent, enjoy yourself: I am God, I am whatever it is, I am Napoleon, or I am such a great man. You play with something that is not actual. One has pain, a despair, a sense of tremendous, unaccountable loneliness. That is actual, precise. And we create an illusion that somebody is going to help us, somebody is going to fulfil our lives, make us feel not lonely. That is all illusion. The actual fact is one is desperately lonely.
So it is fairly simple to see for oneself, if one wants to, what is an illusion, what is reality and why this craze for experience. We have had sexual experience, thousands and thousands of experiences. Everything going from here across the field, you see the birds, the housemartins and so on, that is an experience, but you don’t call that spiritual. I see you sitting there; it is a challenge, it is moving. So what is important in all this is why the experiencer invents all this, why the experiencer has become so important. Is there a period where the experiencer is not? That is the real question, not what is reality, what is illusion, what is experience and all the rest of it, but is there a period, a length of time, a space, where the experiencer, the observer is not? Then you don’t want experiences. There is nothing. You see that is the word. The word ‘nothing’ – sorry, I am not a dictionary – means ‘not a thing’. Not a thing of thought. Nothing means there is the end of time and thought. That is where there is no experiencer at all. That is the real thing, not all this.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1985, Question and Answer Meeting 1