Krishnamurti on Pleasure

Episode Notes

‘At the moment of perception there is no pleasure. There is only perception.’

This week’s episode on Pleasure has five sections.

The first extract (2:23) is from Krishnamurti’s fourth talk in Saanen 1973, titled ‘Is pleasure the meaning of life?’

The second extract (21:32) is from the second talk at Brockwood Park 1976, titled ‘Continuance of pleasure’.

The third extract (31:58) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Saanen 1975, titled ‘Thought pursues pleasure.’

The fourth extract (51:24) is from the second talk at Brockwood Park in 1978, titled ‘Is it possible not to register pleasure?’.

The final extract (58:42) this in this episode is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Saanen 1970, titled ‘A life of ecstasy in which pleasure doesn’t enter’.

Part 1

Is Pleasure the Meaning of Life?

Can you look at your culture, of which you are a part, the culture that says, ‘The meaning of life is to work endlessly in the office or factory and bear the responsibility of a family’? And your culture, whether it is this culture, Western culture or Eastern culture, it doesn’t matter – all cultures are more or less the same – your culture says that you will live in heaven if you are good on earth, and that is the meaning of life, going to heaven! And also culture says, ‘Why bother what the meaning of life is, just live, put up with the ugliness, the beastly existence, the sorrow, the pain, the anxiety, the pleasures, the fears, the utter boredom, the loneliness, put up with it, that is part of your life, you can’t go beyond it, therefore enjoy, therefore make pleasure as the main thing of your life.’ And that is what you are doing.

So we are asking: is pleasure the full meaning of life? And that is what you want, that is what you are seeking, a permanent, enduring, continuous pleasure, not only sexually, but also in your relationship with others – the pleasure, which you derive in work, in fulfilment, in becoming ambitious, achievement, success, in possession, either of ideas or of things. So the principle of pleasure is for most people the meaning of life.

Please let’s be terribly honest. We can so easily deceive ourselves.

In the pursuit of pleasure, fulfilment becomes extraordinarily important – sexually, fulfilment of your desires, fulfilment to be somebody important, famous, successful – all that. Now, is pleasure the full, deep meaning of life? Which is what you want. Is that the meaning of life? If you accept that, as you do, that is the meaning of life: the fulfilment, the self-aggrandisement, the sexual pleasures, the pleasure of competition, success, wanting to be known, self-importance, self-centred activity – all that gives pleasure. If that is the meaning of life, then life becomes terribly superficial, doesn’t it? And that is what we have done. That is what we have done, actually – we have made life, in the pursuit of pleasure, very superficial. Haven’t you noticed it? You may be very clever, you may be a great artist, pianist, or whatever you are, an expert, a good or swindling politician, whatever it is, but it is all on the surface.

So knowing that it is a superficial life, then you ask: is there not a deeper meaning? After having made life superficial in the pursuit of pleasure, as a reaction to that we say that life must have a much deeper meaning. So we begin to investigate the deeper meaning. Which is, joining sects, joining groups, investigating into occultism, into telepathy, extra sensory perception, you know, all the things, hoping to give life a deeper meaning. Look at yourself in your mirror. And when you are doing that, naturally gurus spring up like mushrooms, and that indicates degeneracy. Then if you are a Catholic, you drop that and become a Hindu; if you are a Hindu, you drop that and become something else, and play this game endlessly, thinking you are digging very, very deeply. But your intention is the pursuit of pleasure.

So is pleasure, in different forms, not one form, the whole content of pleasure, which expresses itself in different ways, the quality of it, is that the meaning of life? If it is then you will depend on others. Sexually you are attached to others – you cannot possibly stand alone. Intellectually you must be stimulated, entertained; you must have companionship, you are afraid of your loneliness; so property, things become extraordinarily important – your houses, your furniture, the property, land. And if you have no land, property or things, then you have things of the mind – your beliefs, your ideals, your experiences, the visions that you have. So where pleasure is the principle, is the full meaning of life, then you must depend on things, and therefore from that comes fear. If I depend on you for my pleasure, physically, psychologically, intellectually, or so-called spiritually, in that dependence there is anxiety, there is fear, there is incessant sense of insecurity. And that is your life: fear, the sense of loneliness because you depend on others, which you have covered up through dependence. And when that dependence is shaken, you become anxious, jealous, furious, hateful, antagonistic, violent. Those are all the issues of the pursuit of pleasure. That is your culture, of which you are. And you are the world, and the world is you. And there is the fear of death, obviously, which we will discuss at another meeting.

So is that the meaning of life, the life that you are leading? Then if it is not, or if it is, what are we going to do? You can’t discard pleasure. You can’t say, like the monks did of former days, ‘I won’t have pleasure, and in the place of having pleasure, I’ll put the image which I have created by my mind in its place,’ whether it is Jesus or Krishna or Buddha.

Oh wake up! For God’s sake wake up!

I was once walking behind a group of priests and monks, high up in the mountains. It was the most beautiful country – the lakes, the water and the trees, in the springtime; the birds were full of enchantment, the sky was clear bright blue; everything was singing. The waters were playing, dreaming, rushing over rocks. And these monks and priests, about a dozen of them, never looked at the sky, never looked at the beauty of the land. They were so immersed in the image of their own salvation, of their own ideas, of their own meditation, they never looked. And it was their pleasure. And because they were monks, they had given up the world, sacrificed. They were respected people, but essentially they were pursuing pleasure. And remove their image, take away from them their ideas, their sense of what enlightenment is and they are lost, they are frightened. Therefore they cling, as we do. So can pleasure be discarded and say, ‘I won’t have pleasure,’ as the monks do? And because they have said it, and because they want it, they are breaking all that up, getting married and, you know, all the games they are playing. But holding on to their own particular ideas of salvation, saviours and all that.

So pleasure cannot be denied. When you look at a mountain, a lovely tree, when you listen to the waters or when you see a beautiful face, you can’t deny pleasure. There is beauty. But the demand for it, the pursuit of it, the desire to continue, there begins the mischief.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1973, Talk 4

Part 2

Continuance of Pleasure

We are talking about pleasure. And it’s very important to understand, I think, what a great part it plays in our lives. We have accepted it as a natural thing and never really examine it very deeply. We were saying that thought is a movement in time and measure, and we are asking what actually is pleasure?

Is there that awareness of that sentiment or that feeling at the actual moment of experience, of perception, of observation, or does it come a second after? If it comes a second after, then it’s the movement of thought. But at the actual second of seeing some marvellous beauty – the sunset, a lovely tree in a field or a beautiful face, at that moment of perception there is no pleasure, there is only perception. But a few seconds later, memory begins to operate. That is, thought says, ‘I must have more of it.’ So at the moment, there is no recording. At the moment of any action which we consider pleasurable, at that second there is no registration in the brain at all. Registration takes place when thought says, ‘I must have more.’ Haven’t you observed this in yourself? So, it is only when thought takes over that the registration process in the brain takes place. And so thought then pursues it, in image, in desire, and so on.

So at the moment of the actual incident, actual happening, the brain is not registering at all. This is very important to understand because the function of the brain is to register, and it wants to register because in that registration there is security. The brain can only operate perfectly when it is secure. In neurotic action or neurotic belief there is security. So registration takes place in order to be secure, or to continue the pleasure of that incident. So pleasure is non-existent at the moment of action, at the moment of perception; it only takes place after. So can there be no registration after, only perception, and not a continuity of that which you call pleasure?

Have you understood what I’m saying? Is this somewhat clear? You see a mountain, snow-capped, a marvellous sight, dignity, stability, endurance, an extraordinary thing to observe. Then the very dignity and the beauty and the majesty of that mountain absorbs all your thought. It’s so great you are absorbed in it, but a second later registration takes place: ‘How marvellous that was!’ The registration and the expression in words, ‘How marvellous it is,’ is the movement of thought. So, pleasure is the continuity of that which has happened. This is very simple. Sexually, in observation, it is always after.

Now we are saying, can there be observation only and not the movement of thought interfering with that observation? Have you tried this in your life? To see something beautiful, observe it and then end it there, not let thought take over and pursue it, through image, through desire and all the rest of it.

So in order to understand the full meaning of pleasure one has to examine not only thought but also desire. One must understand desire. Again, religions have said: wipe out desire, control desire, be without desire. I don’t know if you have been to a monastery and watched the priests, talked to them. You will see this fear of desire. Desire must be expressed, otherwise it becomes a burning flame inside. So one must understand what desire is.

What is desire? When you are asked that question, what is your inward response to that question? What is desire? Probably you have never even asked it. If you ask it, what is it? It’s obviously sensation, the beginning of it. Sensation: seeing something beautiful, a dress, a car, a woman, a man, whatever it is – see, perception, then contact, sensation, then thought comes. That is, sensation, plus thought equals desire. Desire then creates the image. This is simple. Sensation, thought, desire, and the image that desire creates.

So thought is the response of memory. If there was no memory, there would be disorder. Memory is necessary to function in daily life: technologically, educationally, reading, learning a language, driving a car, and so on, so on, so on. Memory and the remembrance stored up in the brain is necessary, but the disorder comes when there is no order in the structure of memory.

Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1976, Talk 2

Part 3

Thought Pursues Pleasure

Pleasure has been identified with beauty: the beautiful woman – the beautiful, which is lovely. So love and beauty and pleasure apparently have gone together. And one questions that whole concept. It is a concept, that love is beauty, and the pursuit of beauty is pleasure. So one has to go into this question of what pleasure is. Freedom, which is an enormous thing, an enormous issue – then there is intelligence. We said intelligence is an act of total perception, not the cunning mind that reads between the lines, or having a very alert mind. You can have a very alert mind by taking drugs, by various forms of stimulation, but that’s not an alert mind. That is gradually becoming a dull mind. And also freedom, intelligence and this quality of beauty with which is identified love and pleasure.

So is love pleasure? We have associated love with pleasure, with desire. What is pleasure, and why does man everlastingly pursue that pleasure? If you have watched yourself, if you have gone, looked at yourself even for ten minutes, ten seconds, this is one of the great principles, like suffering and fear. And why does man pursue to the very end of his life, or beyond it, as coming nearer to God – the ultimate pleasure? Why? And what is pleasure? Is there such thing as pleasure? Please go into it.

There are three things concerned with pleasure: joy, enjoyment and pleasure. Look at it; you are going to find out what the relationship is between the three of them. Joy, real enjoyment of a lovely day, the enjoyment of seeing the mountains, hearing the great thunder rolling among the hills. And the mind that is pursuing the pleasure of that which has happened yesterday, with that lightning.

So what is pleasure? Is there a moment of pleasure, when you can say, ‘This is pleasure’? Or you only know it after. You recognise it as pleasure when it is over, which is the movement of thought as time. So is there a moment when you say, ‘My God, this is great pleasure!’? But only when thought, when that incident which has been called pleasure has been registered in the brain and then the awakening of thought and recognising that as delight, pleasure and pursuing it – sexually and in so many ways. So what is the relationship of thought to pleasure? Pleasure being emotions, great feeling, sentimentality, feeling tremendously sentimental, gooey, romantic, ideological. What relationship has pleasure to thought, or is pleasure the movement of thought only?

There has been a pleasure, what we call pleasure. Flattery. Someone flatters you: ‘Marvellous, how beautiful, what lovely writing that is, what a marvellous speech you made!’ That is pleasure. And you listen to that, and you like the flattery of another. Which means you are not really concerned with the truth of perception but the flattery of someone who says, ‘What a marvellous fellow you are.’ Then thought picks that up, pursues it, and you who have flattered are my everlasting friend, and I seek more and more flattery. That is the pursuit of pleasure, which also acts in the other opposite way, which is: you hurt me, and I pursue that hurt, thought pursues that hurt, and you are my enemy, or I don’t like you, I avoid you. It’s the same principle. So is thought the pursuer, not pleasure?
We are not pursuing pleasure, but thought is pursuing pleasure. And when thought pursues something, it must be in the field of time. Therefore yesterday: the sexual pleasure, the remembrance of it and the pursuit of it. Seeing the pleasure, all pleasure, the mountains and the sunset and the thunder rolling among the hills, and thought pursuing that sound, pursuing that marvellous light of an evening, on the snow. So it is the movement of thought as a remembrance in time that is the pursuit of pleasure.

I pursue a guru – not I; I have an abomination of gurus because they are the new priests. Before, you accepted Catholic domination. You were told exactly what to do and you did that. Now you are bored with that and you take on new gurus. And you will get bored with that, and then you will go on to the gurus from China or Japan or Russia. It is the same pattern.

So, can thought not pursue? You flatter me, and I listen to it, and that’s the end of it. Thought then doesn’t carry it over. You have said something which was maybe right or wrong; I listen to it. There’s the reaction, and there’s the ending of it. The light on those mountains yesterday evening, with all that great sense of space, stillness and great strength. See it, end it, so that thought doesn’t come and say, ‘What a lovely thing that was, I am going to pursue it’. That means to be totally awake to the whole problem of pleasure.

What is the relationship between pleasure and enjoyment? You enjoy a good meal – if you do – and you want the repetition of that enjoyment tomorrow. So there is the enjoyment of the moment, and thought pursuing that enjoyment of the moment as a movement in time. I wonder if you see that. Is pleasure… what is the relationship of pleasure to joy? Is there any relationship at all? Or the joy comes unexpectedly, not invited. That which is invited is pleasure as thought in time.

So is love pleasure? That is, we said the pursuit, the hunter, is the thought. So is love to be hunted by thought? Which it does, as we live now. And is that love? Has love any relationship to thought? Please go into it. And if it has no relationship to love, then what is my relationship to another whom I so-call love? Find out all this, not from another because each one is concerned with his own life. His own life is the life of the world, and the life of the world is you – because you suffer, you are anxious, you pursue pleasure. There is suffering, you have fear, so has another. So you are the world, and the world is you – and this is your life. Don’t waste it. For God’s sake, don’t waste it. And find out what it is to be totally free.

So freedom, intelligence, beauty and love, and the pursuit of pleasure, are all interrelated; they are not the separate things we have made it. ‘I must be beautiful’ – not only physically attractive, sexually appealing. This is our education, our conditioning, and to see all this as a whole, not as fragments, not as broken-up as freedom, something separate, intelligence something separate and so on, but to see the whole of it as a whole. That is the act of intelligence, that is beauty, that is love, that is freedom.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1975, Talk 5

Part 4

Is It Possible Not to Register Pleasure?

Registration does not take place when you are alert, awake, totally aware with all your senses open; there is nothing to be registered psychologically. Will you do it? No, you won’t because pleasure has become immensely important for us. If you observe yourself very carefully, you will see what a great part, perhaps the greatest part, pleasure plays in our life. The pleasure to find God or illumination, the pleasure to be free, the pleasure to have money, possessions, a lovely wife or husband, and all that business – pleasure of sex, pleasure of power, the politicians with their pleasure of immense power. And so the registration of pleasure in most of our lives is tremendous. And the pursuit of pleasure has become a dominant factor. That is the remembrance of a past pleasure and the pursuit of that past pleasure as remembrance, and desire behind it, and searching out, asking, demanding, wanting. Our religious organisations are based on that. It is a vast entertainment, it gives great pleasure, which is great sensation, that you are in the presence of holy things and so on.

So we said the registration of pleasure, of an event that gave you great delight, is registered, and the pursuit of it in our life.

Now the question is: what is pleasure? When you are enjoying something, at the moment you don’t say, ‘How pleasurable it is, how lovely’ – you are in it. Only a second later, thought comes along and says, ‘What a lovely time that was, how beautiful that was, what a great sensation it gave me, what a lovely experience,’ so registration has taken place, then thought is in operation.

We are talking about all this because it is part of knowing oneself, not from books, not from words, not from descriptions, but actually knowing oneself. Knowing doesn’t mean accumulating memory about oneself and from that accumulation observing. If you observe through accumulation, you are only accumulating what you have already known. But whereas, if you are observing afresh each time, then it is like a vast river with a volume of water flowing, moving.

So what is pleasure? Is it time? Is it thought as fear? We said the root of fear is time, the root of fear is thought. Thought is remembrance. Thought remembers certain events that caused fear, registered; the remembrance of it, and the next time this whole remembrance is projected. So is pleasure time and the movement of thought? Or they are both the same: thought and time are essentially the same. So thought is the movement of pleasure. Which doesn’t mean you can’t look at a beautiful tree and enjoy it, a beautiful person, a painting or a lovely valley, with all the purple shadows in it. Look at it, but the moment it becomes registered and remembrance, it is no longer delight; it becomes a pleasure, which is the remembrance of things that have happened before. Now if you see the whole nature of this completely, then pleasure has its place, and delight, and therefore psychologically, inwardly there is no registration of that event. The brain then becomes extraordinarily alive, young, fresh.

Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1978, Talk 2

Part 5

A Life of Ecstasy in Which Pleasure Doesn’t Enter

Is there joy which is untouched by thought and pleasure? Because if it is touched by thought, it becomes again pleasure and therefore fear. So is there a way of living daily, having understood pleasure and fear, a way of life which is joyous, which is enjoyment, not the carrying over of pleasure from day to day, and the fear?

You know what enjoyment is? To look at those mountains, with the beauty of the valley, the light on the hills and the trees, and the flowing river – to enjoy it. And when do you enjoy it? When you say, ‘How marvellous it is!’ – when thought is not using that as a means of pleasure. You can look at the mountain, or the face of a woman or a man, the lines of a valley, the movement of a tree, and take tremendous delight in it. When you have done that, it’s finished. But if you carry it over, then pain and pleasure begin. Can you look and finish with it? Be careful of this, be very watchful of this.

That is, can you look at the mountain and not be absorbed by the beauty of the mountain, like a child with a toy being absorbed by the toy and return to mischief again, but to look at that beauty? And the very look is enough, the delight in it, but not to carry it over, wishing for it tomorrow. Which means – see the danger – the instant pleasure, sexual or otherwise, you can also play that trick. You can have some great pleasure and say it’s over. But is it over? Is not the mind consciously or unconsciously building, chewing over it, thinking about it, wishing it to happen again soon? So, thought has nothing whatsoever to do with joy. Please, all this is a tremendous discovery for yourself – not being told, not writing about it, interpreting it for somebody to read.

So there is a vast difference between delight, enjoyment, joy, bliss, and pleasure. I do not know if you have not noticed, all the religious pictures in the Western world avoid any kind of sensuous pleasure taking place. Have you noticed it? Oh, I won’t go into all that, sorry.

Questioner: Why not?

Krishnamurti: Because it is so obvious. If you saw early paintings, before Giotto, before all the paintings, you will notice there is no scenery at all, only the human body, tortured, or the Virgin Mary and so on and so on. There is no landscape because that distracted you. That was pleasure, therefore be concerned with the figure, the symbol of that figure, what it implied, all that stuff. Only much later this thing came on, the introduction of the scenery. Whereas in China and India, it was part of life.

You are understanding all this? This is not a school, please. I am not a professor.

So you can observe all this and find out the beauty of living, in which there is no effort, but living with great ecstasy in which pleasure and thought and fear don’t enter at all.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1970, Talk 5

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