Krishnamurti on Effort

Episode Notes

‘All effort implies resistance, all effort implies contradiction, all effort involves an idea separate from action; and hence our daily lives are in contradiction.’

This week’s episode on Effort has four sections.

The first extract (2:53) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in Madras 1964, titled ‘Why do we make effort?’

The second extract (17:15) is from the sixth talk in Saanen 1965, titled ‘Effort implies conformity.’

The third extract (29:04) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in New Delhi 1964 titled, ‘Is it possible to live without effort?’

The final extract (38:30) in this episode is from the seventh talk in Saanen 1981, titled ‘Does meditation require effort?’

Part 1

Why Do We Make Effort?

All our life is based on struggle, friction, effort. That is all we know: struggle, effort, friction, which engenders certain forms of energy, and that energy keeps us going. Ambition, greed and envy are friction, and that keeps us on. That greed, that envy, that ambition makes us make effort to achieve what we want, and that gives us a certain quality of energy – and that is all we know. And when that energy creates misery, confusion, sorrow, we try to escape into various forms of religious absurdities, or drink, or women, or amusement – in ten different ways we want to escape, and we do. But the problem still remains, the problem of effort, of conflict, of contradiction.

Education, society, religion and the so-called sacred books all maintain that you must make effort, effort, effort. Man is told that he is inherently lazy, sluggish, indolent, and that unless he makes effort, he will vegetate, he will become lazy, lethargic and incapable. That is what you are brought up on from the days of school till you die, that you must make endless effort, not only in the family but in the office; you must make an effort to be virtuous, to be good and so on. We never question if there is another way of living altogether, which is without effort, without friction.

A life without friction is the religious life. And a mind without friction, without conflict is the religious mind. When that mind acts, it has every problem dissolved; it has no problem. And we are going into that because one must understand that first before we go into the question of fear.

So why do we make effort? The obvious answer is to achieve a result. And without effort, we feel we shall degenerate. But before we make an effort, we never inquire into the question: why has the mind to make an effort at all? Is it not possible to learn without effort, to observe without effort, to listen, so that that very act of listening is learning?

There is effort only because we are in contradiction. If there was no contradiction at all, there would be no effort. And a man who has completely identified himself with a belief makes no effort – like those people who are unbalanced, who are psychotic; they make no effort; they are so completely identified with a certain belief, with a certain idea, with a certain concept, that there is no effort; they are that because they have no sense of contradiction. Please do follow this – we have to understand from the very beginning that a mind that makes an effort is a destructive mind and therefore is incapable of learning. We have gone before into the question of learning.

When do you learn? I am not asking about the accumulation of knowledge, which is quite a different thing. We are asking: when does one learn? I mean by ‘learning’ a movement which is not accumulative, which is constantly flowing, learning, learning and never accumulating. The electronic brains accumulate knowledge; they have knowledge but they cannot learn. And what is the state of the mind that learns? As we were saying the other day, life is a movement in relationship, and if you make that movement merely an accumulative process as knowledge, then you do not learn from that movement at all. One can learn only when there is a movement, a constant movement, either from curiosity or of exploration or of comprehension, not in terms of accumulation.

You only learn when the mind is completely quiet. Then only you begin to learn. If, for example, you are listening to what is being said with ideas, with opinions, with knowledge which you already have, or if you are comparing what is being said with what somebody else has said, then you are not learning. You can only learn if you listen. And listening is an act of silence; it is only the mind that is very quiet but tremendously active that can learn.

So we are learning together about this question of effort. And to understand it and to learn about it, is that effort? ‘Life is effort – what are you talking about? We are brought up on effort. We make effort, otherwise what you say has no meaning’ – when you assert that, you have already stopped learning. To learn, which is to share, which is to communicate, you must obviously be in a state of inquiry, and therefore your mind must be free from the state of knowledge, of accumulation and therefore capable of moving, living, acting. Therefore, sharing is an active process between you and the speaker. And it is only when you share that there is learning.

We make effort because we are in a state of contradiction. The contradiction is not only between the idea and the action – the idea being the belief, the concept, the formula, but also the difference between our thinking and our acting. I think one thing and do something else; I am violent and I pretend to be non-violent – which is called the ideal. So there is always a contradiction, all our life. That contradiction is established deep down in us through society, through our own experiences, through all the innumerable accumulations of what the saints and the teachers and the books have said.

So there is this sense of contradiction, invited or existing. We never question it. We never learn about that. So we keep on making effort. Because man does not want contradiction which brings misery, an extraordinary sense of frustration, conflict, confusion, he makes more and more effort to get out. But he never inquires or learns about this sense of contradiction.

So, is it possible to live without effort of any kind, at any level? We say it is; don’t accept it.

Krishnamurti in Madras 1964, Talk 2

Part 2

Effort Implies Conformity

I would like, if I may, to go into the question of conformity, in which is implied imitation and moulding thought according to a certain pattern, whether imposed by society or put together by our own experience, and thereby never coming near the original. When I use the word ‘conformity’, all this is implied: the counterfeiting process, the desire to conform to a particular pattern, to imitate, to accept, to obey.

First of all, are we totally aware of this conforming process that is going on within each one of us, whether we are conforming to the past, to a present concept, or to some future ideal or utopia? And if we are aware of it, then should we not ask ourselves whether it is possible to end this conformity? Surely, to be free of the whole process of conflict and effort, we must first understand and be free of conformity; and because effort implies conformity, we must find out whether it is possible to live in this world without conformity and therefore without effort.

One can see that the more effort one makes, the more conflict and confusion there is, and hence the greater the sorrow, the greater the pain. So we must find out whether it is possible to live without effort, that is, to live originally and therefore to be free of all conformity.

Now, to come to that point, I think one must first be aware – which seems so obvious – of the nature of a mind that conforms. Why do we conform at all? Please bear in mind that when I use the words ‘to conform’, I mean to counterfeit, to imitate, to obey authority, to adjust oneself to a pattern – all this is implied. So why do we conform? Conformity implies effort, does it not? And when there is effort in any relationship, there is no relationship. If I make an effort to be kind, to be affectionate, or to be polite to you, it has no meaning. Kindliness, gentleness and affection spring from a state of mind in which there is no effort, and to understand that state of mind, one must fundamentally understand this question of conformity.

One naturally conforms in certain outward, superficial things, but that is not what we are discussing. I conform here when I put on this kind of clothing, whereas in India I conform in another way: I put on something else. When I drive a car, I conform by keeping to the right side of the road here, and to the left side in England. I conform in a certain way when I have to post a letter, and so on. But have I to conform to the poison of nationalism? Must I conform to a particular pattern of existence, to a particular way of thinking which society seeks to impose on me and through which my mind is shaped by organised religion, by economic and social influences? So, if I would live a life in which there is the establishment of right relationship, right conduct, right behaviour, I have to find out whether it is possible to live without effort, because where there is effort, all that is denied.

Where there is effort, there must be conscious or unconscious conformity. I see that. I may see it verbally, intellectually, but that is too easy; it has very little meaning. I have to be aware of it in myself. Am I aware in my daily activities, in my daily relationship with my family, with my friends, to what extent I conform? Being aware of it means knowing that I do conform, not merely superficially but very deeply; because it is the very nature of the unconscious to conform, and one has to be aware of all that. In talking together this morning, the speaker may be aware of your own unconscious conformity. You have to be aware, not merely of your adjustments to superficial things but also of your deep-rooted conformity.

As we have seen, conformity implies effort, and where there is effort there is no real relationship of any kind, but only imitation and a second-hand kind of life. One is aware of this – it is all so obvious. Then one asks oneself whether is it possible to be totally free from the deep form of conformity.

Superficially we have to conform in certain things. You have to sit there and I have to sit here, unfortunately. We have to put on this or that article of clothing, and so on. Very superficially, it is necessary to conform. But to search out this question of conformity in the deep psychological sense, and to find the right answer – not an answer according to one’s pleasure or according to a particular concept, formula or religious dogma, which is no answer at all and which becomes so utterly meaningless and stupid – one has to inquire into the question of fear.

We are afraid, and that is why we conform. If one had no fear of any kind, would one conform?

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1965, Talk 6

Part 3

Is It Possible To Live Without Effort?

So, one asks oneself: is it possible to live without effort, at every level of our being, not at fragmentary levels? Is it possible to live our daily life of routine – going to the office, the boredom, the insults, the dirt, the squalor, the beauty of a sunset – to live with all this, our modern life, so completely that there is no effort involved at all? Because when there is an effort of any kind, it is a distortion.

You make effort because of an idea, a memory, a previous experience, which says, ‘You must,’ or, ‘You must not.’ Is it possible to live, without effort, our daily life, because that is the only life we have and that is the only thing that matters? Not your ideas about God and nirvana, heaven and the future; they have no value at all. What has value, what has significance, what has vitality and energy is your daily life – the ugliness, the squalor, the bitterness, the disappointments, the anxiety, the poverty, the starvation, the things that are going on in the world – the disintegration in this country with which we have to deal every day. Unless we have a totally different operational approach to this daily existence – not a future utopia, not the lovely communist world or the lovely religious world – unless we understand this present life, with all its complexities, we cannot possibly under any circumstances change what is taking place in the world, in the family and about you.

We need a complete revolution, a complete mutation – not of ideas, not of a formula however intelligent, however clever, however erudite. We need a complete change of mind, a complete revolution, a mutation of the mind. And it is only such a mind that can stop the disintegration that is going on, that can bring about a new sense of living, a sense of creativeness. Therefore one has to find out whether it is possible to live without effort because all effort implies resistance, all effort implies contradiction, all effort involves idea as separate from action; and hence our life, daily living, is a contradiction. Unless that contradiction totally disappears – not in little things; I am not talking about little things but of the contradiction deeply seated in our consciousness, whether conscious or unconscious – we shall disintegrate, we shall be in a state of corruption, and we shall not bring about a different state of mind which can alone solve the immense problems that exist in the world.

So, is it possible to live without effort? Don’t say yes or no, don’t agree or disagree or say, ‘Well, all that I know is a life of effort; I do not know anything else; and what you talk about a life without effort is silly. We see actually that through opposites, through contradictions, through thesis and antithesis, a synthesis is brought about – which is a constant battle of effort. That is all we know.’ If you go a little deeper behind this pattern of effort, you see that effort comes about only when there is resistance. I mean by the words ‘to resist’, I like, I do not like – which is merely an opinion according to a memory, according to an idea, according to an experience, and therefore you are not facing facts. When I see that colour, I immediately say, I like it or I do not like it, therefore I have created a contradiction. Can I look at that colour without any judgment? When I merely look at it without any judgment, in that look I am immediately in contact with that colour, and therefore there is no contradiction. Please, this is really very subtle but important to understand – as it is to listen to something.

You are listening to me now. I am saying something which you do not know anything about. Your instinctive response is: we cannot do it, or it is nonsense, or he is talking about some stupid, ideological stunt. Therefore you push it aside, which is resistance. And from that resistance there is a contradiction, and contradiction implies effort, a waste of energy. Whereas there is no contradiction if you listen to what is being said, not agreeing or disagreeing, not opposing your opinion against the fact, because what I am talking about is a fact, and the issue is whether the pattern of action which we know of can be broken down, not whether you agree or disagree with it.

Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1964, Talk 2

Part 4

Does Meditation Require Effort?

Meditation demands attention. To attend is to give your whole capacity and energy to observation. Attention is different from concentration. Concentration is an effort made by thought to focus its capacity as energy on a particular point. That is concentration.

When you are in school, the teacher says, ‘Concentrate on your book, don’t look out of the window, look at your beastly book.’ And you are trained to concentrate, that is, to bring all your energy to a particular point. Which means in that concentration you are not allowing any kind of other thoughts to interfere. That is to control; concentration implies controlling thought, not to wander away, but to focus your thought on a particular subject, on a particular page, on a particular picture. Which is, thought says that it is important to focus my attention, focus my energy on that. It is the operation of thought. I wonder if you realise. Are we meeting? It is the operation of thought in which there is compulsion and control, which says, ‘Look.’

So in concentration – please understand this carefully, if you don’t mind – in concentration there is the controller and the controlled. My thought is wandering off. I say it should not wander off. I bring it back, the controller who says, ‘I must concentrate on this.’ So there is a controller and the controlled. Who is the controller? The controller is part of thought. The controller is the past – the controller who says, ‘I have learnt a great deal and it is important for me, the controller, to control thought.’ That is, thought has divided itself as the controller and the controlled. So it is a trick that thought is playing upon itself. I wonder if you see all this. Please, we must understand this very carefully because in attention there is no controller nor the controlled; there is only attention. So it requires a careful examination into the nature of concentration with its controller and the controlled.

All our life there is this controller – I must do this, I must not do that, I must control my desires, control my anger, control my impetus – you know, control, control, control. Therefore I have gradually learnt to inhibit myself. And there are those people who say, ‘Don’t inhibit, do whatever you like.’ That is the game also being played by the gurus.

So one must be very clear in understanding what is concentration and what is attention. As we are pointing out, in attention, that is to attend, there is no control. Please understand this because as we are going to find out presently: is there a way of living our daily life in which there is no control? That is part of meditation. I wonder if you see. This is a question one must ask oneself: is there, in daily existence, a way of living in which every form of control doesn’t exist at all? Control means effort, control means division between the controller and the controlled: I am angry, I must control my anger; I smoke, I must not smoke, I must resist smoking, and so on, so on. What we are saying is something totally different and therefore it may be misunderstood and may be rejected altogether, which is very common because we say, ‘Well, all life is a control. If you don’t control you will become permissive, nonsensical, it has no meaning, therefore you must control.’ Religions, philosophy, your teachers, your family, mother – control. But we have never inquired into who is the controller. The controller is put together in the past. The past is the knowledge, which is thought. Thought has separated itself as the controller and the controlled. And concentration is all that. And in understanding that, we are asking a much more fundamental question, which is: can one live in this world with a family, all the rest of it, without a shadow of control? First of all, see the beauty of that question.

Our brain has been trained for a thousand years to inhibit. You control, control – it is never operating with the wholeness of the brain. See what it is doing for yourself. You are not learning from me, from the speaker, you are watching your own brain in operation, rationally, a critical examination in which there is no deception or hypnosis and so on.

Most of the meditations that have been put forward from the Asiatic world are to control; control thought so that you have a mind that is at peace, a mind that is quiet, not eternally chattering. Because silence, quietness, absolute stillness of the mind, brain, is necessary in order to perceive. Therefore all the types of meditation, however subtle, have the basis: to control. Or hand yourself over to some guru, to some idea, and forget yourself because you have given yourself over to something and therefore you are at peace. Which is again the movement of thought, desire and the excitement of something you have offered and it’s been accepted.

Whereas attention is something entirely different. It is not the opposite of concentration. If it is the opposite then the opposite has its root in its own opposite. If love is the opposite of hate, then love is born out of hate. Any opposite has its root in its own opposite. So we are saying that attention is not the opposite of concentration; it is totally divorced from it.

So we are going to inquire together: what is attention? Does it need effort? That is one of our principal activities: I must make an effort. I am lazy, I don’t want to get up this morning, but I must get up, make an effort. I don’t want to do something but I must.

I am getting tired of this. See how extraordinary it is that we cannot catch the significance of it immediately – it has to be explained, explained, explained. We seem to be incapable of direct perception – between concentration – not concentration camps – concentration and attention. To have an insight into attention and be attentive. Well, we will go into it.

When does attention take place? Obviously not through effort. When you make an effort to be attentive, it is an indication that you are inattentive and trying to make that inattention become attention. – you understand? I am tired of these explanations! Personally, I have never learnt about any of this nonsense. Personally, nobody explained all this to me, thank God! Personally, I have never read about all this – it wouldn’t be authentic, it would have no meaning. But to have quick insight – you understand? – to see instantly the falseness of all religious organisations, all of them, and therefore you are out of it. To see instantly that the observer is the observed, and therefore no effort. It is so. Effort only exists when there is division. So does it indicate our brains have become so dull because we have been trained, trained, so that it has lost its pristine quickness, its capacity to see directly without all the explanations and words, words, words? But unfortunately one has to go into this because our minds, our brains cannot grasp instantly, for example, that truth has no path. To see the immensity of that statement, the beauty of that statement, and put aside all paths – the Asiatic, the Western, the North, South, East, West, so that your brain becomes extraordinarily active.

One of the difficulties is that we are becoming mechanical. The computer is learning more quickly than we are learning. The computer can go so far ahead of us. And so if our brains are not extraordinarily alive and active, our brains will gradually wither away, because now we exist because we have to think, we have to be active partially, but when the computer can take all the work, all the thought – most of the thought – and operate at a rapidity which the brain cannot, then the brain is going to wither. Please realise all this; this is happening; it is not an exaggerated statement of the speaker. It is happening now; we are unaware of it.

So we are inquiring into what attention is. In concentration there is always a centre from which you are acting. You can see it. This is clear. When I concentrate, I am concentrating for some benefit, for some deep-rooted motive, for something to gain and so on, which is, from a centre I am observing. Whereas in attention there is no centre at all. When you look at something immense like the mountains, their extraordinary majesty, the beauty of the valley, the line against the blue sky, the beauty of it for a moment drives out the centre. Haven’t you noticed this? And you are for a second stunned by the greatness of it. Beauty is that perception when the centre is not. Like a child given a toy, he is so absorbed by the toy, he is no longer being mischievous, he is completely with the toy. But remove it or if he breaks the toy, he is back to himself. So most of us are absorbed by various toys. And when the toys go, we are back to ourselves. Now, in the understanding of ourselves without the toy, that understanding without any direction, without any motive, that very understanding is the freedom from specialisation which makes the whole of the brain active. Now, the whole of the brain when it is active is total attention.

Look, I’ll point out something else: we are always looking or feeling with one of the senses. I like the taste of something, or hear some music, but one never listens, one never looks at anything with all one’s senses. Have you ever done it? Oh, gods! When you look at a mountain, because of its majesty, your senses are fully in operation, therefore you forget yourself. Now, when you look at the movement of the sea or the water, or the sky and the slip of a moon, when you look at it totally with all your senses, that is complete attention in which there is no centre. Which means that attention is total silence of the brain that is no longer chattering – completely still.

Is it taking place with you now? Is your brain completely still? Because we are talking about a stillness, an absolute silence of the mind, of the brain. There are various forms of silence – the silence between two noises, the silence between two notes, the silence between thoughts, the silence when you go into a forest when there is great danger, of a dangerous animal, everything becomes totally silent. I don’t know if you have noticed – no you haven’t; here you have killed everything.

So this silence is not put together by thought or through fear. When you are really frightened, your whole body, your nerves, your brain becomes… – haven’t you noticed it? Oh lord! So this is not that quality of silence; it is entirely different. It is the operation of the whole of the brain with all its senses active. It is that freedom which brings about total silence of the mind. And it is only such a mind, such a brain – mind-brain; I don’t want to divide it into two for the moment; we will stick to the brain – such a brain that is absolutely quiet, not brought about by effort, determination, by desire, by motive. It is the freedom of order which is virtue, righteousness in behaviour. And in that silence alone there is that which is nameless and timeless. That is meditation.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Talk 7

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