Krishnamurti on Mutation
‘There must be a revolutionary change, a complete mutation at the very root of our being, otherwise our problems, both economic and social, will inevitably increase.’
This week’s episode on Mutation has five sections.
The first extract (2:40) is from the fourth talk in Saanen 1964, titled ‘There must be a mutation and it must take place now’.
The second extract (28:59) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Saanen 1983, titled ‘What is going to happen to the human brain?’
The third extract (50:14) is from the third talk in New Delhi 1966, titled ‘How do we bring about a mutation?’
The fourth extract (55:25) is from the second question and answer meeting in Saanen 1983, titled ‘With perception there is a mutation’.
The final extract in this episode (1:05:29) is from Krishnamurti’s tenth talk in Saanen 1963, titled ‘Out of mutation there is action’.
There Must Be a Mutation, and It Must Take Place Now
There is, I consider, a vast difference between change and mutation. Mere change will not lead anywhere. One can become superficially adaptable, very clever at adjusting oneself to the different environments and circumstances of society, and to various forms of inward and outward pressure, but mutation demands a quite different state of mind, and I would like to point out the difference between these two.
Change is alteration, reform, the substitution of one thing for another. Change implies an act of will, conscious or unconscious. And considering the confusion, the starvation, the oppression, the utter misery that exists throughout undeveloped Asia, there must obviously be a radical, revolutionary change. There must be not only a physical or economic change but also a psychological change – a change at all levels of our being, outward as well as inward, in order to bring about a better existence for man. I think this is fairly obvious, and even the most conservative accept it. But even though we accept this obvious fact, I am afraid that most of us have not gone very far into the question of what is implied in change.
Does adjustment, substitution, reform, go to any great depth, or is it merely a superficial polishing, a cleansing of morality in human relationship? I think we ought to understand pretty deeply and thoroughly what is involved in this process of change before we go into the question of mutation.
Though change is necessary, to me it is always superficial. I mean by change a movement brought about by desire or will, an initiative focussed in a particular direction, towards a well-defined attitude or action. All change obviously has behind it a motive. The motive may be personal or collective, it may be manifest or ulterior; it may be a kindly, generous motive or a motive of fear, despair, but whatever the nature of the motive, at whatever level, the initiative or movement springing from that motive does produce a certain change. I think this is fairly clear.
Most of us are very susceptible, individually and collectively, to modifying our attitudes under influence, under pressure, and again when there is a new invention of some kind which directly or indirectly affects our life. We can be made to change our thoughts, orient them in a different direction, by a newspaper article or by the propagation of an idea. Organised religion insists on educating us from childhood in a certain form of belief, thereby conditioning the mind, and for the rest of our life any change we make is generally within the modified limits of that belief.
So very few of us change, except with a motive. The motive may be altruistic or personal, limited or wide; it may be the fear of losing a reward, or of not attaining some promised future state. One sacrifices oneself for the collective, for the State, for an ideology, or for a particular form of belief in God. All this involves a certain change, brought about consciously or unconsciously.
Now, what we call change is a modified continuity of what has been, and in this so-called change we have become very clever. We are constantly making new discoveries in physics, science, mathematics, inventing new things, preparing to go to the moon, and so on, so on. In certain areas we are becoming extraordinarily knowledgeable, very well informed; and this kind of change implies having the capacity to adjust oneself to the new environment, to the new pressures which it creates. But is that all? One perceives the implications of this superficial form of change. Yet one knows, inwardly, deeply, that there must be a radical change, a change not brought about through any motive or as the result of any pressure. One realises that there must be a mutation at the very root of the mind itself, otherwise we are just a lot of clever monkeys with extraordinary capacities, not really human beings at all.
So, realising all this deeply within oneself, what is one to do? One sees that there must be a revolutionary change, a complete mutation at the very root of our being, otherwise our problems, both economic and social, will inevitably increase and become more and more critical. One needs a new, fresh mind, and for this there must be, right through one’s consciousness, a mutation which is not brought about by an act of will, and which therefore has no motive.
Seeing the necessity of a change, one can exercise will to bring it about – will being desire strengthened in a particular direction by determination and initiated by thought, by fear, by revolt. But all such change – the change brought about by the action of desire, of will – is still limited. It is a modified continuity of what has been, as one can see from what is going on in the communist world, and also in the capitalist countries. So there must be an extraordinary revolution, a psychological revolution in the human being, in man himself. But if he has an aim, if his revolution is planned, then it is still within the limits of the known, and therefore it is not a change at all.
I can change myself, I can force myself to think differently, to adopt a different set of beliefs; I can stop a particular habit, get rid of nationalism, reform my thinking, brainwash myself instead of being brainwashed by a party or a Church. Such changes in myself are fairly easy to make, but I see the utter futility of all that because it is superficial and does not lead to a great depth of understanding from which one can live, be, and function. So what is one to do?
If I make an effort to change, that effort has a motive, which means that desire initiates a movement in a particular direction. There is the action of will, and therefore any change brought about is merely a modification, not a change at all.
I see very clearly that I must change, and that the change must come about without effort. Any effort to change defeats itself because it implies the action of desire, of will, according to a pre-established pattern, formula, or concept. So what is one to do?
I do not know if you feel the same way I do about all this – how extraordinarily interesting it is, not only intellectually but as a vital factor in one’s own life. For millions of years, man has been making a ceaseless effort to change, yet he is still caught in misery, in despair, in fear, with only an occasional flash of joy and delight. And how is this entity, who has been so heavily conditioned for so long, to throw off his burden without effort? That is the question we are asking ourselves. But the throwing off of the burden must not become another problem because a problem is something we do not understand, something we have not the capacity to go to the very end of and finish with.
To bring about this mutation – not ‘bring about’; those are the wrong words. There must be a mutation, and this mutation must take place now. If you introduce time as a factor in mutation, then time creates the problem. There is no tomorrow, there is no time at all for me to change in – time being thought. It is now or never. I see the necessity of this radical change in me as a human being, as part of the whole human race; and I also see that time, which is thought, must not be a factor in it at all. Thought cannot resolve this problem. I have exercised thought for thousands upon thousands of years, yet I have not changed. I carry on with my habits, with my greed, with my envy, with my fears, and I am still caught up in the whole competitive pattern of existence. It is thought that has created the pattern, and thought cannot under any circumstances alter this pattern without creating another – thought being time. So I cannot look to thought, to time, to bring about a mutation, a radical change. There can be no exercising of will, no allowing of thought to guide the change.
Then what have I left? I see that desire, which is will, cannot bring about a real mutation in myself. Man has played with that for centuries, and it has produced no fundamental change in him. He has also used thought as an instrument to bring about a change within himself – thought as time, thought as tomorrow, with all its demands, inventions, pressures, influences – and again there has been no radical transformation.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1964, Talk 4
What Is Going To Happen to the Human Brain?
What is the future of mankind? What is going to happen to our brain when the computer and robot take over, when the great industries invent all the machineries of ultra-intelligent machines? And you, what is your future as a human being? This is happening; it is not something in the future. It may take ten years. They say, ‘We will do it in ten years,’ and they are going to do it in ten years, for commercial reasons. So they are acting from the outside on the human brain, through biochemistry, through electric currents and so on. From the outside. And they may change our conditioning – from the outside. And probably they will. They will invent better gurus than any other guru in the world. (Laughter) Don’t laugh, please – this is very, very serious. It sounds funny, humorous but it is a fact. The computer will invent the best God on earth, will bring about a society that will function mechanically. Face all this.
And what is the future of man if we as human beings don’t change from the inner, from the inside? They are going to change you from the outside. This is inevitable. It is in the cards. We laymen know nothing about all this, what they are doing. And perhaps we don’t want to know. What is going to happen to our brain, the human brain, not the mechanical brain invented by top computer experts and the biochemists and the genetic engineers acting from the outside to control the brain? We are not painting a dark picture, it is a fact, it is happening. And what is going to happen to the human brain when we have vast leisure because the computer and robot will do all the dirty work? They will build cars, they will sweep the roads, perhaps establish a better relationship between you and your wife. Please this is serious what we are saying. It may give you all the sexual experience through computers. Swallow that also.
So what is the future of man? Your theories, your particular guru, your doctrines, your churches, will have no place at all because the computer brain is much more active, much clearer, in the millionth of a second it will answer a question. Take all this in, not being frightened, not being depressed by it, but see the actual fact of what is going on. A friend of ours, who is building a computer, meeting all the top people, in discussing we saw what the future of man is.
Our brain is now conditioned by experience, successive incidents which bring about experiences, the fears, the pleasures, the aches, the anxieties, the pain of sorrow, and death. We are conditioned linguistically, climatically. That is our conditioning. And if we admit that during the successive years or periods of evolution, we will gradually inwardly change, which means continue what we are almost indefinitely, which is evolution. Or a sudden jump – which is psychologically impossible.
So as two friends talking together – as two friends we talked yesterday with this person; we have known him for years, and also some of you, we have known each other for years – and we are talking over together amicably, in friendly spirit. These are facts, irrefutable facts. And can we, even a few, change, bring about a mutation in the very brain cells of the brain?
Does it take time? Does it take a series of incidents, successive memories to bring about a mutation in the conditioning? Realise that in investigating conditioning, we are not investigating personal conditioning; it is the conditioning of the human brain. And that brain has evolved through time. It is not your brain. So we are not talking about your individual transformation, or individual mutation that you become more enlightened, more happy, more some kind of nonsense. We are talking about the human brain because you as a human being represent all humanity. You are all humanity because you suffer and they suffer. You are humanity, not just one person isolated, individual, secretive, concerned with your own beastly little self.
Now we are going to find out. If we don’t radically bring about psychological revolution in the sense of bringing about a mutation, our brains will wither, because the computer and the robot, and other things that they are inventing will make our brains inactive. Now you have to think, you have to investigate, you have to work. That means your brain has to be active. But when the computer and the robot take things over, what is going to happen to your brain? Either it is going to wither or go off into some kind of vast entertainment, which is also taking place. I do not know if you have not noticed what great importance they are giving to sports – the Olympics and all that business. So it will be caught in that. This is happening. Or you have to investigate whether you can, as a human being who is the rest of humanity, if there is a radical mutation you affect the whole consciousness of mankind.
I do not know if you have not noticed if in America or in Russia, or in some remote part of Japan, they invent something, the rest of the world picks it up much… it is there. It is happening. So if when one or two or a dozen or a hundred bring about fundamental freedom of conditioning, they affect the whole consciousness of humanity. This is so, as Hitler has affected the whole consciousness of mankind. Napoleon, your religious leader, or the other religious leaders, they have affected humanity.
So can we, after stating all this, bring about, not through a gradual process of evolution – that is out, finished – can we bring about a mutation in our whole being, in our whole behaviour, in our way of looking at life?
So we have to investigate together the content of our consciousness, of which you are, because the content makes up consciousness. Without the content, consciousness as we know it doesn’t exist. If I am a Hindu, with all that business, with all the superstitions, with their gods, with their rituals, you know, with their circus, as you as Christians with your circus, and faith, belief, habits, all that – can all that be radically changed? A total change.
And if we pursue our life, our daily life, as we are living now, year after year until we die, as vast millions and billions of people are doing, they are not contributing anything to the whole collective consciousness of man. But if you and a few of us basically, fundamentally bring about a mutation in the conditioning of the brain, which means in the very brain cells themselves – and that is possible only when we are aware of our conditioning, meet it head-on, fear, all the faiths and the dogmas, the stupid rituals, fears, pleasures, sorrow, of which we are. If there is no mutation, we will be contributing to the ugliness of mankind.
So there is only one choice for us, only one direction for us: either we enter into the world of entertainment – the football, the literature, the painting, the talk about paintings, and the cinemas – the whole world of entertainment, that vast industry which is gradually taking us over – and that industry includes all the rituals of the religious people, which are a form of entertainment. They don’t change by going day after day, day after day, to mass, or to the Indian rituals.
There is a temple in India near the school where we live. It is one of the most famous temples in India. They take vows to that image inside, and they pour in thousands of dollars a day. It has become a tremendous business affair, like all religions, the churches of the world.
So when one actually sees all this spread out in front of you like a clear map: the computer, the robot, biochemistry, genetic engineering, and the search into the activities of the brain to read other people’s thoughts on one side; the other side, vast entertainment – unless one is extraordinarily aware you are going to be caught in all this. Probably you are already caught. And when there is a change, a radical mutation in the conditioning, which means freedom from all conditioning, that freedom is love; it is not self-interest. That freedom is compassion, in which there is sympathy and all that. But compassion is not attached to any religion. It isn’t because I love Jesus or Krishna or somebody that I am compassionate, or I go and help the poor country. Compassion is born only out of total freedom.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1983, Talk 5
How Do We Bring About a Mutation?
Question: If we accept mutation as a necessity, how are we going to bring about that mutation?
Krishnamurti: Why do you want to accept it? If you accept it, you could also reject it, couldn’t you? And so I am asking you: why do you accept such things? Don’t you for yourself realise the necessity, when you observe what extraordinary misery there is in yourself and in the world, don’t you want to change, not accept some idiotic idea from somebody else? So there is no question of acceptance, first. There is only a question of fact. You can reject the fact, saying that man cannot change, that man has been dumb for ten thousand years and he will always be stupid, and that is the end of it. But the moment you observe what is taking place in yourself and the utter despair of man, of which you must be aware – if you see that then you must demand, then you inevitably ask the right question: which is, can man totally change?
The questioner asked: how is it possible to bring about mutation? Now, when you ask ‘how’, you want to know the method, don’t you? The ‘how’ implies a method, a system, a way. The ‘how’ is always that. I do not know mathematics, and I say, ‘How am I to learn it?’ You are told there is a way, there is a method, there is a system, there is a formula, and you follow that and learn mathematics. Just listen to the word and the feeling of the word. Is there a system to help you to change? If there is a system, then you become a slave to that system and what it promises. Therefore it is not mutation. There are people who say that there is a method for meditating by which you will reach the highest. There is a method even in madness, but it is still madness.
There is no method, there is only attention, observation, beginning with yourself because you are the result of the whole of human endeavour, human misery, human sorrow. You are the result of the past, whether the past is of the community or the past is of the race. And by merely asking ‘how’, you are pursuing the past which is the mechanised process of thinking. So there is no ‘how’. But you have only to observe yourself, to observe what you say, to observe and to be aware of what you think and the motives behind it, how you treat another, how you eat, how you walk, how you look at a woman, or how you look at a man, how you look at the stars or see the beauty of the sunset – to be aware of all that choicelessly. And out of that, if you can pursue it to the very end, you will find that the mutation comes without your knowing.
Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1966, Talk 3
With Perception There Is a Mutation
The questioner asks: as the mind is outside the brain, the mind is not contained in the brain, but outside. We have discussed this with some scientists, and they say yes – perhaps casually to please me, or theoretically they see, but the speaker is talking factually for himself. He may have a hole in his head but… So, he says: how can this perception, which takes place only when there is no activity of thought, how do the brain cells, which are a material process, bring about a mutation? That is the question.
Keep it very simple. That is one of our difficulties: we never look at a complex thing very simply. This is a very, very complex question but one must begin very simply to understand something very vast. So let’s begin simply. Traditionally you have pursued a certain path – religiously, economically, socially, morally and so on, a certain direction all your life. Suppose I have. You come along and say, ‘The way you are going leads nowhere. It will bring you much more trouble, you will keep everlastingly killing each other, you will have tremendous economic difficulties,’ and he gives you logical reasons, examples and so on. But you say, no sorry this is my way of doing things, and you keep going that way. Most people do. Most people, ninety-nine per cent of the people keep going that way, including the gurus, including the philosophers, including the newly-achieved enlightened people. And you come along and say, ‘Look, that is a dangerous path, don’t go there. Turn and go in another direction entirely.’ And you convince me, you show me the logic, the reason, the sanity of it, and I turn and go in a totally different direction. What has taken place?
I have been going in one direction all my life. You come along and say, ‘Don’t go there, it is dangerous, it leads nowhere. You will have more trouble, more aches, more problems. Go in another direction, things will be entirely different.’ I accept your logic, your statements sanely, logically, all that, and I move in another direction. What has happened to the brain? Keep it simple. Going in that direction, suddenly move in the other direction – the brain cells have themselves changed. I have broken the tradition. It is as simple as that. But the tradition is so strong, it has all its roots in my present existence, and you are asking me to do something which I rebel against. Therefore I am not listening. But whereas I listen, find out what you are saying if it is true or false. I want to know the truth of the matter, not my wishes, my pleasures, but I want to know the truth of it, therefore being serious I listen with all my being and I see you are quite right. I have moved. In that movement there is a change in the brain cells. It is as simple as that.
If I am a Catholic or a devout Hindu, a practising Catholic and so on, you come and tell me, ‘Don’t be silly, all that is nonsense. They are just tradition, words, words, without much meaning, though the words have accumulated meaning.’ You point out, and I see what you say is the truth. I move. I am free from that conditioning, therefore there is a change, a mutation in the brain.
I have been brought up… we have all been brought up to live with fear. We are all brought up not only in fear of something, but fear. I won’t go into it now, the nature of fear. And you tell me it can end. Instinctively I say, ‘Show it, let’s go together, find out.’ I want to find out if what you are saying is true or false, whether fear can really end. So I spend time, I discuss with you. I want to find out, learn. So my brain is active to find out, not to be told what to do. So the moment I begin to inquire, work, look, watch the whole movement of fear, then I accept it and say, ‘I like to live in fear,’ or I move away from it. When you see that, there is a change in the brain cells. It is so simple, if you could only look at this thing very simply.
There is a mutation – to make it a little more complex – in the very brain cells, not through any effort, not through will or through any motive, when there is perception. Perception is when there is observation without a movement of thought, when there is absolute silence of memory, which is time, which is thought. To look at something without the past. Do it. Look at the speaker without all the remembrance that you have accumulated about him. Not his gestures, but watch him. Or watch your father, your mother, your husband, wife, girl and so on – it doesn’t matter what – watch without any past remembrances and hurts and guilt and all that coming into being. Just to watch. Then when you so watch without any prejudice, then there is freedom from that which has been.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1983, Question and Answer Meeting 2
Out of Mutation There Is Action
You will find it is only when the mind is completely quiet, empty, that anything can be fully perceived. You need space, you need emptiness to observe. I cannot observe you if there is no space between you and me. Similarly, a mind that is crippled with sorrow, burdened with problems, a mind that is full of its own vanities, its frustrations, its urge to fulfil, a mind that is caught in nationalism and all the other petty things of life, such a mind is not empty, it has no space, and therefore it is utterly incapable of observing. When such a mind says, ‘I must explore to find out if there is something beyond the mind,’ it has no meaning. The mind must first explore itself.
When the mind is completely quiet, empty – and that demands astonishing awareness, effortless attention – then, as I have said, there is the beginning of meditation. Then it can see, observe, listen to find out directly for itself if there is something beyond the measures devised by man to discover reality. To the speaker, there is a reality beyond the things man has put together. But the speaker has no authority for anybody. Each one has to find out for himself. The individual has to be in a state of tremendous revolution, and out of that mutation there is action. In the very process of uncovering yourself, of discovering the whole content of consciousness, there is action. Such a mind in action is explosive. It inevitably affects society, but it is unconcerned with whether it has an effect or not.
Most of us want to change, to reform society, but every reform needs further reform, and every change breeds disintegration because it is a denial of complete mutation. I am talking of psychological revolution. And when there is that revolution, there is total action, not partial action from different levels of our consciousness. It is only the total action from one’s whole being that has a tremendous effect on the world.
So a mind that is seeking reality must be in a state of constant observation, which means that there is no accumulation and no authority. It must also be in a state of questioning, of doubt. There must be a healthy scepticism with regard to everything it thinks or feels, everything that it considers important or unimportant, so that it strips itself of all its comforting supports and stands completely alone. Only such a mind is innocent. Only such a mind can find out whether or not there is reality.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1963, Talk 10