Krishnamurti on Measurement
‘When you are free, when the brain is free of measurement, the very brain cells that have been used to measurement, conditioned by measurement, have suddenly awakened to the truth.’
This week’s episode on Measurement has five sections.
The first extract (2:26) is from the fifth question and answer meeting in Saanen 1980, titled ‘We have fallen into the habit of measurement’.
The second extract (28:18) is from Krishnamurti’s sixth talk in Saanen 1983, titled ‘The ‘better’ is measurable.’
The third extract (40:34) is from the second talk at Brockwood Park in 1972, titled ‘Measurement brings fragmentation’.
The fourth extract (1:01:52) is from the third question and answer meeting in Ojai 1982, titled ‘Where there is measurement there is no spirituality’.
The final extract in this episode (1:07:31) is from Krishnamurti’s seventh talk in Saanen 1978, titled ‘Attention is freedom from measurement’.
We Have Fallen Into the Habit of Measurement
Question: I think I can solve my problems. I do not need any help with them. I have the energy to resolve them, but beyond this, I come to receive. And if you don’t like that word, to share something measureless to man, something that has great depth and beauty. Can you share that with me?
Krishnamurti: It is a quotation by Coleridge: ‘measureless to man’. That phrase, measureless to man, is from a poem written by Coleridge called Kubla Khan. And the questioner says: I can solve all my problems – and problems can be solved without the help of others because the problems are created by oneself in relationship to another, and these problems, however subtle, however superficial, however grave, can be solved if one applies one’s mind and heart to resolve them. That is fairly clear. That is, if one has energy, not be slack, lazy, and if one really wants to solve them, they can be solved. The questioner said that is simple. But he wants to go much further. He says: I can do all that, and I have come here to share something, as he calls it, measureless to man, something beyond all measure, something that is not given in churches, and you know, all the rest of it.
First of all, we are sharing this together. I am not a Delphic Oracle. There is no authority here. I happen to sit on a platform for convenience so that everybody can see – if you want to see. And that little height doesn’t give him any authority whatsoever. And I really mean this. You are not my followers and all the rest of it.
So first thing is to realise is what we mean by measure. He uses the word ‘measureless’. Thought can be measured; distance can be measured: from here to there. And the so-called progressive evolution can be measured: one was this yesterday, and through meeting the present, what was yesterday is modified, and the movement to the future. That can be measured. Measured: if you are good today, tomorrow you might not be, and that can be measured. And thought, which is a material process, can also be measured. The shallowness of one’s thinking, the superficiality, the deeper and the deepest. As long as there is the more and the less, that can be measured. Comparison is a process of measurement – please follow all this if you are interested – and imitation can be measured. Conformity can be measured. And the word ‘measure’ in Sanskrit too, means to regulate, to measure. Meditation, that word means not only ponder, think, investigate, observe, but also it means to measure – from the Sanskrit word ‘Ma’.
So as long as there is measurement, the mind can only function in that measurement, whether it is long or short, wide or narrow, it can only function in that which is measurable. And the word ‘meditation’, in that word is implied also measurement. Now, the mind, the brain has been trained, accustomed, has fallen into a habit of measurement, obviously. And something which is not measurable, if there is such thing, can the mind, the brain and the heart – they are all one – can that whole structure be free of measurement? Then only you can find out.
The brain is, as we pointed out several times – and the scientists are beginning to agree too, so perhaps you will also accept it because the moment you talk about scientists, you worship them and you think they have achieved something, and when they also say, ‘Yes, partly you are right,’ then perhaps you will also come along.
You see, the brain, as we said, is not your brain. It is the brain which has evolved through time – millions and millions of years. And that brain is the common brain of humanity. You may not like to see that, because we are accustomed to the idea that we are individual and our brains are individual – mine, not yours. And that concept has been a constant tradition through millennia, so the brain is conditioned to that. That brain is constantly measuring – the more, the less, the better and the best. The very word ‘better’ is measurable. So this brain is constantly functioning in that pattern. I don’t know if you have observed yourself; you can see this in yourself.
Physically, objectively, you can see that a workman becomes a foreman, and if he is good he is a manager. A priest becomes a bishop, cardinal, pope. The apprentice, then the master. The master carpenter. This is the whole pattern of our existence, which is all measurable. And the questioner says: is there something beyond measure, measureless to man?
Now how are you going to find out? We will share this together. As the questioner says, share it with me. How are we going to find out if there is something beyond all measure, that is beyond all time? Because time is measurement – yesterday, today, tomorrow – 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, measurable – distance, measurable. And thought is measurable, if you have gone into it, which you are doing now, please. Whoever the questioner is, please do listen. Is there something beyond time which is thought?
Time is movement and thought is movement. So time is thought. Thought is born out of memory, experience, knowledge. That is the process of memory, of thought. And this process is a material process because in the very cells of the brain are the memories. So it is a material process, and everything that it creates is a material process. Please follow this, not accepting or denying, but logically observing it in oneself, and also observing externally.
So as long as thought is measuring, moving in measurement, there can be no other than measurement. Obviously. Now the question is: can all measure end? Measure as comparison; comparing oneself with somebody else – the hero, the example, the ideal, the perfect one, and so on, so on. If you observe for yourself, from childhood we are trained to compare – better marks in school, the various classes, college, university, a degree – it is all measurements, which is essentially comparative. Now, can you, the questioner who is sharing this with us, stop comparing completely? That is, psychologically. Naturally, the other thing, academically, you have to. So can you psychologically end immediately? Not tomorrow, another day, but immediately all sense of comparison, if the mind wants to go much further. And imitation, conformity, which are all the same movement – comparing, conformity, imitation, are all the same movement – can that movement end totally? In comparison there is aggression, there is competition – I am better than you, and all that. And have an insight into measurement.
I explained very carefully, if I may repeat it again briefly: insight has been, as man, scientists and others, have experimented, insight is the accumulation of knowledge, and from that accumulation of experience, knowledge. Have an insight into the understanding of the structure that is based on the past. Now we are saying that is not insight. Insight is total perception of the whole complex movement of measurement. And you can have only that insight when you perceive it without previous knowledge. Then if you are using the knowledge, it is comparative, it is measurable. Insight is not measurable. Then when there is that measureless insight, the unfolding of the whole movement of comparison, all that is not only seen but ends immediately. You can test it out. You don’t have to accept the speaker’s word for it, you can test it out.
So, what is beyond measure? There must be freedom from fear, naturally – deep rooted, conscious or unconscious fear. That is a problem which can be observed, resolved, because the root of fear – the root, not the various branches and the leaves of that tree – the root of that fear is time. I am afraid of tomorrow. I am afraid of what has happened. The physical pain which I have had is gone, and the fear it might occur again – the whole physical phenomena of pain. And psychologically too, one has done something wrong, not right, not honourable – ‘honourable’, I am using the word in its dictionary meaning, not what you call honourable – psychologically fear is time. I am afraid of dying. I am living, but I dread what might happen. Which is the measurement of time. So the root of fear is time and thought. Now, to have an insight into that is the ending, totally, of fear. When one ends fear, you will say, ‘What is there?’
So, the ending of fear, which means the understanding of time and the ending of sorrow. If the mind and brain are not afraid, then there may be something more. But you see, we want to be assured, we want it guaranteed, like a good watch – especially in Switzerland! – like a good watch, you want it guaranteed, that will last at least three years. In the same way, we have the same attitude, that if I do this what will I get? That is commercial mentality. If I do this, will you guarantee me that? There is no guarantee, and that is the beauty of it. This you have to do for itself, not for something. And that is very difficult for people. One gives up this in order to reach that – nirvana, heaven, whatever it is – which are all acts of measurement.
So can the mind – we are sharing this together – can the mind be free of all measurement in your relationship to another? Which is much more difficult. And to be free of all that is to be measureless. Then something totally different takes place. When that is described, that which has taken place beyond measure, that which is described is not ‘what is’. You can describe the mountain, the shape of it, the line of it, the shadows; you can paint it, make a poem of it, describe it – all that is not the mountain. We sit in the valley and say, ‘Please tell us about the mountain.’ We don’t walk there; we want to be comfortable.
So there is a state – not a state – there is something beyond, measureless, beyond all measure.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 5
The ‘Better’ Is Measurable
We live by measure. Measure is time. I measure myself: what I am now and what I should be. That is a measurement.
I hope you are listening, not trying to go off into some kind of meditation. I hope you are listening to find out for yourself because nobody – nobody – can teach you what meditation is, however long-bearded the gentleman is or whatever strange garments he may wear. But find out for yourself and stand by what you find out for yourself, and not depend on anybody.
So for that, one must understand very carefully the meaning of that word, which means to measure, basically. What does that imply? From the ancient Greeks to modern times, measurement in engineering is essential. The whole technological world of the West, Northern West rather, is based on measurement. You cannot possibly put together a bridge without measurement, or build a marvellous hundred story high building without measurement. And also inwardly we are always measuring: I have been, I will be; I am this, I have been this, I must be that. Which is not only measurement but comparison. Measurement is comparison. You are tall, I am short. Or I am tall, you are short. I am light and you are brown – measurement. Understand the meaning of measurement and the two words ‘better’ and ‘more’ – to understand those two words and never use those two words ‘better’ and ‘more’, inwardly.
Do you understand all this? Are you doing it now as we are talking together? You have understood the meaning of that word ‘meditation’ – to consider together. I won’t go into more of it – to consider together, not I consider and I’m right, but together consider. That means you and I are willing to let go our own prejudices and consider. And also it means to think over together. And to see the depth of the word ‘measure’. We have touched it briefly. I can go into it much more; I don’t want to go into details. But to see the meaning of that.
So can the mind, the brain be free of measurement? Becoming is a measurement. So for the brain to be free of measurement – you understand what has happened when you are free, when the brain is free of measurement? The very brain cells which have been used to measurement, conditioned by measurement, have suddenly awakened to the truth, to the fact that measurement is destructive psychologically. Therefore the very brain cells have undergone a mutation.
May I repeat that, if you are not clear? One’s brain has been accustomed to going in a certain direction. Let us say our brains have been accustomed to going North or North East, and you think that is the only way to whatever there is at the end of it. What is at the end of it is what you invent, naturally. But you come along and tell me that direction, North East, will lead you nowhere. I resist. I say, ‘No, you are wrong. All the tradition, all the great writers, all the great saints, and blah, blah, blah, say you are wrong.’ Which means you really haven’t investigated but you are quoting somebody else. Which means you are resisting. So the man says to me, ‘Don’t resist, listen to what I am saying, listen to what you are thinking, what your reaction is, and also to what I am saying. Listen to both.’ And to listen to both, you must give attention, which means space.
So to find out whether you can live a daily life, not at moments of peculiar meditation, but to find out if you can live a daily life without measurement. You understand what the implication of that is? Never to use the word ‘better’, ‘more’ – ‘I am the more, I am better than I was yesterday’ – silly nonsense! ‘I am less angry. I have disciplined myself a little more today.’ This is what we are all doing in various categories. So to live a life without any sense of measurement, that is meditation. To think together, to ponder together, to be concerned together, together to have no measurement – except of course when you buy a suit or when you buy a car, you have the better; you have to look at various models and so on.
So meditation implies a sense of deep understanding of that very word, and the very understanding, the perception, the insight into that word is the action which is to end measurement, psychological measurement. Are we doing this, or you are just playing with this?
First of all, don’t we measure? If we are honest with ourselves, aren’t we measuring always? Obviously. I was poor, now I am rich. I have understood now, I had not understood before. Which is such nonsense – because you didn’t pay attention at the beginning, now you are being forced to pay attention, and so on. To live a daily life without comparison, psychologically without measurement. Which means the brain cells, which have been accustomed all their life to measure, have suddenly ended measurement. Therefore there is a mutation in the brain cells. You may not do it but see the fact, the logical, intellectual fact. It is like your brain is mechanical – obviously; there is no question about it – responding to various programmes, various propaganda and so on, one’s brain has become mechanical, in routine, going to the office from 9.30 until 5, or 9 to 5, to the office, and so on, so on. So your brain, its cells, have been conditioned, and to break that conditioning instantly, not through evolution, time, is to listen to something that is totally new. That is, no measurement psychologically. Therefore, when you see without any resistance that fact, then that very perception brings about a radical change in the very structure of the cells.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1983, Talk 6
Measurement Brings Fragmentation
Religions throughout the world, apart from their absurdities, superstitions, beliefs, rituals, gurus and all that nonsense, apart from that, religions have maintained that there is a God, a reality, which if you enter into that reality, only then you can see the whole of life, life as a whole, in which there is no division as you and me, we and they and all the rest of it. Division exists only where there is measurement. Measurement is comparison, and comparison is the movement of thought. So thought is measurable, comparative – the more, the less, the better, and so on. And it is only a mind that is free from measurement that can see life as a whole.
How is one then to be free of measurement, and yet use measurement? It is necessary. Measurement being knowledge, experience, the vast accumulation of memory, conscious as well as unconscious – all that is measurement because it is the product of thought. And where there is measurement, there is fragmentation. That is, I am not happy but I will be happy. I am ugly but I will be beautiful. This constant comparison, this constant measurement makes one feel superior or inferior or lonely or expansive – ideological unity. And can the mind which is so heavily conditioned in measurement – because after all the whole of science and mathematics, the way we live, is based on measurement – and is it possible for the mind to learn to live without measurement so that the mind never compares? Comparison brings about fear and pleasure.
As we said, we are learning together. Because the speaker happens to sit on a platform, a little higher than you are sitting, which is only for convenience, it doesn’t make him into an authority, it doesn’t make him something special. What we are trying to do together is to learn, to learn about a mind that is free from measurement, and therefore free from fear. Free, and therefore free from this constant struggle to be or to become something. And it is this measurement, which is thought, that brings about fragmentation. I see this, not as an idea, not as a theory, but as an actuality in my life, in one’s living. I haven’t learnt it from somebody else.
If I learn it from somebody else, it is his learning, not mine. And when I learn it, it is neither yours nor mine, it is a state of learning. And therefore all authority ceases. Then our relationship is entirely different. Then we are walking on the same road, with the same intensity, with the same vitality, with the same passion to learn. If we could establish that between the man sitting on the little platform and you, then our relationship in communication and learning is entirely different, because all our conditioning is one of the factors of authority: you know, I don’t know; you are enlightened, I am not; you are my guru and I am your disciple, tell me, teach me; I will learn from you, I put you on a pedestal, worship you because I think you know, I don’t know what you know but I think you know. This is very important because what is happening in the world is more and more gurus are springing up. Before it was the Church with its priests, with their rigmaroles, and now it is these gurus coming in replacing them, which is again a factor of division – your guru and my guru. Your guru knows much more than my guru does – you know all that tommyrot that goes on.
So when we are learning together, there is no division and therefore there is no authority. That is a marvellous thing, you know, if one really sees that because then we teach each other, we learn from each other, and there is no you who is the teacher and me as the disciple. And in that learning, there is great beauty because in that there is real companionship and therefore there is real love.
So what we are trying to learn – not trying; what we are learning is whether the mind can learn to live totally, which means it has no quality of measurement at all. I am only putting the thing differently. We said thought has its right place and that thought can be used only efficiently, sanely, reasonably, logically and healthily when there is freedom from thought. And thought, we are saying, is measurement. All Western civilisation is based on measurement, and they have tried to escape from that by or through religious concepts, which again are the product of measurement. What we are doing is trying to find out, learning whether the mind can be free altogether from fragmentation, and therefore look at life, act as a whole healthy human entity without any fragmentation. That requires, if I may use the word, religion in the right sense of that word. It is what religions have tried to do. Not organised religions with their priests and all that hierarchical rubbish, but the real religious mind has tried to do this. Which is, it says absolute freedom is only possible when there is no movement of thought. The movement of thought is fragmentation, and the movement of thought is necessary, but not when the mind is in a state in which there is no measurement at all, which means the immeasurable.
How do you learn this? Do you understand my question? I see my life is fragmented. That is a fact. And I see the futility of integrating the fragments. I see contradiction in these fragments, conscious as well as unconscious. And I have tried various methods, means, systems to bring about a unity in all that. And I can play that game endlessly till I die. And I haven’t learnt a thing because basically thought is in operation in all this. I want to find out, I want to learn, the mind wants to find out and learn a dimension in which the immeasurable is, the state of mind which has no measurement at all, and therefore no ‘me’, which is measurement. The moment I have the ‘me’, there is the ‘you’. The ‘me’ is the product of thought; the ‘me’ as an idea gives security. And thought is seeking all the time security. And seeking security in a belief, in dogma, in any form of neuroticism gives it security. It is neurotic to believe in God.
All right, I’ll plunge into it because you know nothing about God, you only know because… or you think you know because you are conditioned. The communist doesn’t believe in God. He says, ‘What are you talking about?’ And God can be approached through a process of time, through perfection, through this ideal of always becoming more and more and more and more perfect, and you have established a pattern, a ladder on which you are always climbing. And all that structure is the product of thought, obviously. If one has an insight into that, now as you are sitting there, if you have an insight into this, not induced by the speaker but see it for yourself, then you are out of time. Because time is part of thinking and time and thought has said, ‘I will find gradually the state where there will be non-fragmentation.’ So thought, seeking security all the time, physical as well as psychological, conscious or unconscious, has established for itself various beliefs, dogmas, superstitions, neurotic activities, and is caught in that; it has become a habit.
Now, can one break that habit without effort? The moment you make an effort, you are back again: there is contradiction in that, there is a duality in that – the one that sees that it must be broken and makes an effort. But one who sees it must be broken is the thinker, and the thinker is thought – there is no thinker without thought. To have an insight into that now, instantly, is to break it, is to break the chain of habit – to be aware of all this, the whole movement of thought. And one can be aware of it only when you don’t condemn it. Then you observe. And to observe without the observer because the observer is the entity who says, ‘This I will keep, this I won’t keep; this is right, this is wrong; this should be, this should not be’ – he is always comparing. The observer is the entity that measures.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1972, Talk 2
Where There Is Measurement There Is No Spirituality
Do levels of spirituality or levels of consciousness exist? That is, is one more spiritual than the other? The more – that is, is one nearer truth than the other fellow? Now, what is the meaning of the word ‘more’? ‘The more’ is a measurement – I am this but I will be more rich tomorrow. Or I am violent now, but I will not be violent in another week’s time. So the mind is always measuring – I am tall, you are short, you are fair, somebody is black, somebody is yellow, somebody is pink – measurement. That is, measurement is comparison, and the word ‘measure’ also plays part in meditation. Measurement and meditation are related. Please, this is very important if you want to understand this.
Why do human beings measure? Not for clothes; I’m not talking about that. Psychologically, inwardly, why do we want to measure ourselves with somebody? That is the measurement of ‘what is’ towards ‘what should be’. I am not good today but give me time, I will be good. Which is, the allowing of a time interval is the measure. When I have the concept of psychological time, that time implies measurement.
So the questioner says: is there in spirituality – whatever that word may mean, for the moment we are using the ordinary sense of that word, the accepted sense of that word – is there in spirituality a measurement? Where there is measurement there is no spirituality. A guru, a bishop and so on, so on, so on, so on – there is this concept, this idea that someone is nearer God, nearer truth. ‘God’ – I don’t mean God – nearer truth. And he has achieved something, and I have to achieve that. And to achieve that, I must have time and I must measure myself every day. And this is obviously so utterly mundane, utterly physical. That is, I am a clerk in an office, and perhaps next year I’ll be a superior clerk, and ten years later I will be an executive. It is the same movement carried over into the psychological area. And so there is the nearest disciple and the noviciate right there.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1982, Question and Answer Meeting 3
Attention Is Freedom from Measurement
So attention is freedom from every form of evaluation, measurement. Because in that, there is no centre. I don’t know if you have discovered it for yourself – if you attend completely to something there is no centre. There is no ‘me’ being attentive – that is too silly. If you see that, I mean see the fact of it, then you realise there is no practice, there is no system to be aware, to attend, to concentrate – that is all again so extraordinarily silly. The moment you see, understand this whole business of awareness, concentration and attention, then you are attentive. That attention may last two seconds or five minutes, and you may lose that attention, but don’t go back and say, ‘I must be attentive.’ Attention came because you knew what it means. There was understanding, deep understanding – not intellectual – of what attention is. It came naturally. But if you begin to say, ‘I must have constant attention during the day,’ you are being terribly greedy and it is no longer attention. It is a desire to have something which you call attention.
So when there is such attention, the mind, because there is no centre from which to attend, the mind is completely quiet. Not that you train the mind to be quiet, which all of them practise. To be quiet. Or often one has heard this phrase, ‘I must have peace of mind.’ They will have a piece of mind but it is not peace. They’ve just a little piece of something.
So, when there is complete order in our life, which is the beginning of meditation, and one understands the nature of awareness, concentration and attention, then all effort has come to an end. All effort. When you put everything in order, there is no effort. So the mind becomes extraordinarily quiet – uninvited, not cultivated, something totally new. And religion, not this nonsense that is going on around us with all their priests and ceremonies and all that circus that goes on, then religion means the ending of the self, the ‘me’. It is only then that the mind can be absolutely, irrevocably quiet, and therefore silent. Which means the ending of thought as time and measure. Then if the mind has gone that far, in that silence which is vast space and energy, there is totally a state which cannot be put into words. But if you put everything in order and so on, it will come to you without your invitation. You cannot invite truth. There is no path to truth. There is no intermediary or gateway or anything between you and truth. You have to come… if the field is right, then that thing comes to you with such glory. That is ecstasy. In that there is great sacredness. That is holy.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1978, Talk 7