Krishnamurti on Accumulation
‘Accumulation is the centre, the ‘me’, the ego, and to learn about it one must be free of accumulation.’
This week’s episode on Accumulation has three sections.
The first extract (2:39) is from Krishnamurti’s third talk in Madras 1971, titled ‘Learning is a constant movement with no accumulation’.
The second extract (15:30) is from the fifth talk in Saanen 1982, titled ‘The accumulating brain is mechanical’.
The final extract (38:03) in this episode is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Madras 1966, titled ‘Accumulation leads to inertia’.
Learning Is a Constant Movement With No Accumulation
It is important to understand oneself, not what others say about yourself – the psychologists, the analysts, the religious teachers and the religious books – because if you follow what they or others say you are, you are not discovering yourself, you are discovering what others say. That is, if I followed a psychologist or a philosopher or an analytical, intellectual person, or one of the ancient teachers, however ancient, respected and all the rest of it, you are merely following what they are telling you about yourself. Therefore you have to deny all that because then you begin to find out what you are. Meditation is part of this because without knowing yourself, not only superficially but at the very depths of one’s being, you have no basis for any action; you have no foundation whatsoever on which you can build. The mind can build a house that is stable and orderly. So it is absolutely necessary if you would really take this extraordinary journey – and that is what we are going to do, journey together into this enormous complex problem of understanding oneself. Please see the absolute essential necessity of it, that nobody can teach you about yourself except yourself. So you have to be the guru and the disciple yourself, the teacher yourself and learn from yourself. What you learn from another is not truth. So you have to find out for yourself what you are and to learn how to observe yourself.
It is one of the most arduous tasks to go into this. It is like taking a journey together. You know, when you walk together you must be friends, you must love walking together, you must love. And that is one of the most difficult things, and we are going to find out. To learn about oneself is not to accumulate knowledge about oneself. Please follow this. I want to learn about myself, so I have to observe myself. If I learn about myself through the accumulation of knowledge, I do not learn about myself.
Look, I want to learn about myself. There are two ways of learning: to learn in order to accumulate knowledge, and from knowledge observe; observe through the screen of the past. I learn about myself, observe myself, having experiences and accumulating knowledge from those experiences, and looking at myself through those experiences. That is, looking at myself through the past, for knowledge is the past. That is one way of looking at oneself. The other is to observe and watch the movement of all the thoughts, of all the motives, and never accumulate. Therefore learning is a constant process. I see it needs further explanation; let’s go into it.
I see myself being violent, and I have condemned it or justified it, and I have learned from it that there should be no violence. I have learned from it. The next time I observe myself being violent, I respond according to my knowledge of what I have learnt. Right? Do you see this? And therefore there is no fresh observation – I am looking at the new experience of violence with old eyes, with previous knowledge, therefore I am not learning. Learning implies a constant movement, not from the past, a movement from moment to moment so that there is no accumulation. Because we are the result of thousands of accumulations. We are accumulating, and if you would understand that accumulation you have to learn about it and not further accumulate. Right? You see this? So there must be an observation which is a constant learning without accumulation. Accumulation is the centre, is the ‘me’, the ego, and to learn about it, one must be free of accumulation and not accumulate at another level in a different direction.
So there must be learning about oneself by watching, not condemning, not justifying, but just watching – the way you talk, the way you walk, the words you use, the motives, the purposes, the intention, to be totally aware without any choice. Awareness is not a matter of accumulation, learning. Be aware from moment to moment. When you are not aware, don’t bother; begin again so that your mind is always fresh. Therefore the learning about oneself is not only at the conscious, superficial level, but also the deeper levels, the so-called unconscious, the hidden.
How are you going to learn about something that is very deeply rooted, hidden, not open? Our whole consciousness is superficial and hidden, and one has to learn the content of all that consciousness because the content makes up the consciousness. The two are not separate: the content is consciousness. Therefore, to understand the content there must be an observation without the observer.
I don’t know if you understand this – we’ll go along. You know, it is one of the most fascinating things in life to find out how to look anew at life.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1971, Talk 3
The Accumulating Brain Is Mechanical
Is there anything to learn, except technologically or learning a language, learning how to fly, or write a letter, learning fairly necessary things in life. That is necessary. How to read a book, how to drive a car, how to be a very good carpenter – you learn, accumulate, and then you use that knowledge to act skilfully. That is what most of us do when we use the word ‘learning’ – accumulating a lot of information and knowledge stored in the brain, which the brain directs and acts. That is generally what is understood by what we mean by learning – external learning about the atmosphere, about various things – the peripheral learning. Now, is there any other form of learning? Is there a learning which is psychologically accumulated by various incidents and experiences, and stored up psychologically, which then in our relationship, in our daily life, will that knowledge help or bring about clarity?
Most of us – as you are doing now perhaps; and I hope you are not; you are listening and learning, in the ordinary sense of that word, to what is being said, accumulating it, and then saying, ‘Yes, I have understood it.’ First the listening, then observing the fact or the falseness of what is being said, and clinging to something that you feel to be real, and holding on to that, and from there act, accumulate more and more and more. Again the same phenomenon as one does outwardly when learning a language and so on. This is the whole process of learning.
We are asking a question, you and I: is there a different way of observing without accumulating? Because the moment one accumulates and acts from there, it becomes mechanical. Our brain has become mechanical, but when the brain is free of the mechanical process of thought, of reactions, then it has immense capacity, infinite capacity. Look at what human beings have done in the technological world, in the world of computers, in the world of warfare, in the world of communication and so on – within the last perhaps a hundred years, tremendous advancement technologically. So the brain is capable of extraordinary things. The scientists are saying so. Perhaps then you will accept it. That is not being said sarcastically.
Now, when we learn, as is commonly understood, the learning, accumulating knowledge, that very accumulation process becomes automatic, mechanical. So we are asking a question together: whether this mechanical process will ever free the mind, the brain, so that it has an immense, unlimited state. You understand my question? I hope this question is somewhat clear.
Our brain is not yours or mine. That is obvious. Because how can your so-called personal brain evolve? It is the evolution of time – evolution means time – through millennia upon millennia, and this process of evolution has conditioned the brain to certain rewards and punishments, to certain reactions, and so it has made itself limited. And in this limitation it is accumulating knowledge and functioning from that knowledge, and therefore it makes itself more and more mechanical. It is so obvious, isn’t it? It is not something exotic or irrational, but when one observes oneself deeply, in the sense of being aware what is happening outside and inward, one can see how the brain has been conditioned. And that very knowledge which has been accumulated is becoming its own instrument of limitation.
Are we aware of this? Are we aware that our brains are first of all limited, conditioned – nationalism and so on – conditioned – and we are acting from that conditioning, learning from that conditioning, therefore increasing the conditioning more and more and more? Are we aware of this, know it, perceive it, not accept that our brains are limited and repeat that they are limited? Whereas if one is aware of this condition then one can ask a different question altogether, which is: is there any form of psychological learning at all? You understand my question? Are we together in this?
What is there to learn about oneself? Learn in the ordinary sense of that word. What is there when I observe myself? The conditioning, the responses of that conditioning, the reactions to various pressures, influences, strains, and seeing this constant pressure externally and inwardly, the strain of it, which becomes more and more, introducing a greater factor of conflict. And is it possible to be aware of this, to observe this as it is, and find out for oneself whether it is possible to go beyond it? Not to learn what is beyond – because then it is just a quid pro quo.
This is very important, please, because we are going to something presently which requires your real inquiry.
So we are saying learning must be there – obviously. Learning about the external world totally, as much as one can because learning is never complete about the external world; there is always something being added or taken away. But can one learn or observe oneself, never recording what is observed? Otherwise, the recording becomes the knowledge and you are back again.
Please, we are talking over together. It is not the speaker laying down any dogma, any belief, any statement – we are inquiring together that humanity has accumulated a tremendous lot of information, knowledge, which is necessary, externally, with all its pitfalls, with all its dangers, with all its limitations. And is there anything to learn about oneself? Or there is only the act of observation, not learning. We must differentiate between the two: observation, and accumulation as learning. To observe the condition, to observe the reactions, the reactions with their responses as reward, punishment, good and bad, the more – just to observe. And that observation implies holding that which is observed without any movement of thought.
One observes that one is afraid. There is fear, conscious or unconscious, deep down. The immediate response is to go beyond it, to be free of it, to suppress it, to escape from it. That is our natural… our conditioning. Now, to observe, be aware of fear and not rationalise it, not give an explanation, not try to discover the cause of it, just to observe it. Are you doing it as we are talking? You observe that you are greedy or envious. Envy is not only at the social level but much deeper. Envy implies the ‘more’. The more is measurement – the more, the better and so on; it is a form of measurement. Now, can you observe envy which has a cause in measurement, in comparison, in imitation, in conformity, in pursuing an ideal – which are all measurements, which are all comparison?
Now, to observe envy without any accumulated responses to it. Are we doing it? Please, don’t make it difficult; it is really simple. I am envious because I see that you have brains, I see that you are capable, I see you have got extraordinary capacity which I haven’t got. And I compare myself with you. That very comparison is the cause of envy – the more. Now, to be aware of this process and just not move away from my envy, from the envy which as a reaction arose. Can you so hold it? As a vessel holds the water, hold it?
Perhaps some of us are not used to this kind of inquiry. Some of us perhaps come out of curiosity here, or to see that chap, what he is talking about, why he is against or for, and all the things that goes on in one’s mind, the chattering mind. If one can for an hour give one’s attention. It may be sporadic, but give your attention to understand a very complex problem. And the complex problem is: what we have learnt and accumulate all the time is making the brain mechanical. So knowledge is becoming mechanical, making the mind mechanical. I learn how to be a carpenter, be an apprentice to master carpenter, and I learn. I have accumulated a great deal of knowledge about the instruments of carpentry, the wood and so on, and from there I act: I become a carpenter. That becomes more and more mechanical. If I am a specialist in a certain direction, it is the same thing.
So we are asking a very serious question, which is, is knowledge, psychological knowledge, not the outward knowledge – is psychological knowledge making us more and more mechanical, therefore more and more limiting the capacity of the brain? The brain has an extraordinary capacity, infinite capacity, but we have reduced it to a very small affair. So can one observe this fact that psychologically we have been told what we are by the specialists, and according to them we try to understand ourselves, according to them we conform, but we never investigate apart from the psychologists. That means inquiring, not knowing, moving.
So, there is a hearing, a different action of learning through observation. That learning is not accumulation. The water flowing is never accumulating – it is moving, moving. And when there is this total process of listening, never accumulating from any experience, never recording that which has happened, this can only take place when you are observing very, very closely so that the brain, which has become more and more conditioned, more and more mechanical, limited, can break down this limitation.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1982, Talk 5
Accumulation Leads to Inertia
Energy is force, and very few of us have the energy to bring about a radical transformation in ourselves. The force, the energy, the drive, the passion, the deep intention – very few of us have it. To gather that energy, to have that energy, in which is included this tremendous intensity, passion, drive, force, we think that certain forms of habit are necessary – a certain establishment of a behaviour, morality, a certain resistance to sensation, with which we are all quite familiar.
We have lived for so long, for so many generations, for so many thousands of years, yet we have not found the energy which will transform our ways of living, our ways of thinking and feeling. And I would like, if I may, to go into this question because it seems to me that is what we need: a different kind of energy, a passion which is not mere stimulation, which does not depend on, which is not put together by thought.
To come upon this energy, we have to understand inertia – understand not how to come by this energy, but understand the inertia which is so latent in all of us. I mean by inertia ‘without the inherent power to act’ – inherent in itself. There is, as one observes, within oneself a whole area of deep inertia. I do not mean indolence, laziness, which is quite a different thing. You can be physically lazy, but you may not be inert. You may be tired, lazy, unwilling – that is entirely different. You can whip yourself into action, force yourself not to be lazy, not to be indolent; you can discipline yourself to get up early, to do certain things regularly, to follow certain practices and so on, but that is not what we are talking about. That can be easily dealt with and understood; we can come back to it a little later, if time allows.
What we are concerned with is this inertia which is so inherent in all of us, which very few of us come upon and actually do something about. We know what to do about laziness; we know what to do about a mind that is dull. You can sharpen it, polish it, freely discuss it, but that is not what we are talking about. We want to go into this question of inertia, which is without the power to act, which is so inherent in all of us, deep down. This inertia is essentially the result of time. This inertia is the result of accumulation. And what is accumulated is time. One needs time not only to gather information, knowledge, experience, but also to act according to that experience, knowledge and information.
So there is this accumulative process going on, of which most of us are little conscious. Both in the unconscious as well as in the conscious, this accumulative process is going on all the time. As you are listening to me, you are gathering, you are accepting, accumulating. That very accumulation is going to result in inertia. You watch it and you will see it, if you examine this a little bit closely.
I learn a technique, and it takes time by the watch, by the day, by the year, and I store it up. According to that knowledge, according to that technique, I function. But also, at a deeper level, this accumulative process is going on as knowledge, as tradition, as my own experience, or what I have read and so on. There is also that accumulative process going on of which I am not conscious at all.
Please don’t merely, if I may request, listen to the words, but actually go through what is being said, actually open the door so that you will see this process going on. Look, if you are a Hindu, you have gathered tremendous knowledge about God, about this, about that. You have accepted it. You have accepted it for various reasons, which are obviously fear, conformity, public opinion and so on. You have accepted it; it is there, both in the conscious as well as in the unconscious – not that there is a division between the two; it is a total movement. This accumulation is inertia, and this inertia is time. To accumulate you must have time, otherwise you cannot gather. Please don’t say, ‘How am I not to accumulate?’ When you say, ‘How am I not to accumulate?’ you are again accumulating, inevitably. Please, this needs very careful, subtle thinking out, going into.
This inertia is without the power of inherent action. Inherent action is not acting from what one has accumulated as knowledge, as an idea, as a tendency, as a temperament, as a capacity or a gift or a talent. Essentially, a gift, a talent, knowledge, is inertia, and we strengthen this inertia through various forms of resistance. I resist any form of change, both outwardly and inwardly; I resist it through fear of insecurity and so on. One does not have to go into this in great detail. So there is inertia through accumulation, through resistance and through commitment to a particular course of action. Please follow this a little bit. Inertia, which is the lack of the power to act in itself, is also the result of having motives. That is fairly simple. So this inertia is built, put together, through motivation, through accumulation as knowledge, as information, as tradition, outwardly as well as inwardly, as a technique, and also through commitment to a series of actions. There is the communist, the socialist, a particular type who meditates in a certain way – one is thus committed, and therefore that commitment strengthens the inertia. Though one may be terribly active outside, walk up and down the lane, pursue every reform and do all kinds of things, it is still an activity which is strengthening inertia. And inertia is built through resistances: I like, I don’t like; I like you, and I don’t like you; this pleases me, this doesn’t please me. So there is this inertia built up through conformity, through activity and so on. You see this happening in yourself. I am not saying something fantastic – this is what is going on in all of us, all the time.
So we enlarge that field of inertia through various forms of knowledge, commitment, activity, motive, resistance. And becoming conscious of this, you say, ‘I must not,’ ‘I will not commit myself to any action,’ or ‘I will try not to have motives,’ or ‘I will try not to resist.’ Please follow this. The moment you say, ‘I will not’ or ‘I should,’ you are only strengthening the inertia. That is fairly clear. That is, the positive process is the strengthening of the inertia, as is the negative process also. So we have to realise this fact that all our life, all our activity, all our thinking, strengthens this inertia.
Please follow this. You are not accepting a theory; you are not disputing an idea with your own opinion. This is a fact, a psychological fact, which you can observe if you look at yourself very deeply. If you cannot look, don’t agree or disagree, but examine.
So what is one to do? How is this inertia to be broken up? First, I must be conscious of it. I can’t say, ‘I am inert’ – which means nothing. You will translate it in terms of laziness, or insufficient physical activity, or mental pursuit, or stimulation. And that is not what we are talking about – we are talking of something at a much deeper level, which is: the whole of consciousness is inert because the whole of consciousness is based on imitation, conformity, acceptance, rejection, tradition, gathering, and acting from that gathering as knowledge, as technique or as experience. Ten thousand years of propaganda is consciousness. A mind that realises this extraordinary state, what is it to do?
What is a mind to do which has become aware of this inertia and which knows, not verbally but actually, that the whole of consciousness is essentially inert? It can act within the field of its own projection, of its own concepts, of its own knowledge, of its own information, of its own tradition, of its own experience which is being gathered. The gathering, which is consciousness, is inherently inert.
Please, you are not accepting what is being said. If you look at it very deeply, you will see that it is so. You may invent, you may think out that there is a state of mind which is beyond being inert – ‘God’ or whatever you call it. But it is still part of that consciousness. So, what is one to do? Can one do anything at all?
Now, to find out what to do and what not to do is meditation. Now I am going to go into that.
First of all, the word ‘meditation’ is very heavily loaded. Especially in this country and to the east of this country, that word brings all kinds of reactions. You begin immediately to sit more straight – I see it happening. You pay a little more attention; you react according to your tradition. Or because you have practised – whatever it is you practise – for years, thinking about a mantra or a phrase, repeating it, and all that, at the very mention of that word, all this surges up and you are caught in the thought. To the speaker, that is not meditation at all; it is a form of pleasure, of self-hypnosis, a form of worshipping a projection of your own mind, conditioned as a Hindu, as a Buddhist, or as a Christian; and you can get caught up in that marvellous vision, seeing Christ, Buddha, your own gods and all the rest of it. But that is not meditation at all. You can sit in front of a picture everlastingly and you will never find anything beyond the picture. You can invent.
You know, there is a story, where a patriarch is sitting alone, under a tree, and a disciple, a seeker, comes and sits in front of him, cross-legged, with the back straight and all the rest of it. And presently the patriarch says, ‘What are you doing, my friend?’ The disciple says, ‘I am trying to reach a higher level of consciousness.’ And the patriarch says, ‘Carry on.’ Presently, the patriarch takes up two pieces of stone and rubs them, making a noise. The disciple then says, ‘What are you doing, master?’ The patriarch replies, ‘I am rubbing these two stones to produce a mirror!’ And the disciple laughs and says, ‘Master, you can do this for the next thousand years; you will never produce a mirror.’ The patriarch then says, ‘You can sit like that for the next million years…’
So meditation is something entirely different. If you would go into it, you have naturally to abandon all your concepts of meditation, all your formulas, your practices, your disciplines, your concentration, because you are entering into a field which is something totally new. But your practices, your visions, your disciplines, are all the result of accumulated activity and therefore lead essentially to deeper inertia.
So, what we are concerned with is: what is a mind to do, that is aware of this inertia and how it has come about? Can it do anything? Knowing that any activity on its part is still the result of this inertia which is consciousness, how is that mind to be totally still and yet completely awake? That is, one sees deeply within oneself this field of inertia. And one realises that any activity on the part of the brain – any activity, any movement in any direction – is still within the field of consciousness and therefore imitative, accumulative, and therefore strengthens the inertia. One also realises that not to strengthen that inertia, one cannot practise, one cannot say, ‘I will not be inert’ – which is part of the same old. Then one sees what is necessary: an inaction which becomes action in silence.
Now, how is the mind to be still? When I use the word ‘how’, it is not a method or a system. I am asking: is it possible for the mind, for the brain also, to be totally awakened, totally still? The brain is the result of time with all its accumulated knowledge, information, reactions and conditioning. And the brain will respond much too quickly for you to control it because it has been trained for centuries to react. So the brain cells have to be quiet for the total mind to be quiet. Do you see the difficulty of the problem? Don’t just say, ‘I will force myself, I will control my thoughts’ – it becomes too silly, too immature; it has no meaning.
So one sees that any movement in any direction, at any level of consciousness, conscious or unconscious, only strengthens this quantum, this field, this area of inertia, and therefore the mind has to be totally still, and also the brain. And it is only when there is the totality of silence that there is action which is not of inertia. But if you say, ‘I must make my mind silent,’ and practise all kinds of tricks, if you take drugs, practise and do all kinds of things, then you are still building within the field of that inertia. Only when the mind – including the brain, including the body, naturally – is totally still is there a mind which is not of the inert.
Obviously, silence is outside the field of consciousness, and that silence has not been put together by consciousness, by thought, by desire, by resistance, by practice, by any trick that one plays. So that silence is something entirely different, and that silence can only come about when the brain, the mind, realises that any movement within it is strengthening inertia.
So meditation is not tradition; it has nothing whatsoever to do with all that nonsense. I call it nonsense because any grown-up can see the basic fact of what is involved in the ordinary, traditionally accepted meditation, which is self-hypnosis, a habit of doing something over and over again, and so the mind becomes dull, stupid and ugly. We are not talking about that. We are talking of meditation as something entirely different, and in that meditation there is great fun, there is tremendous joy, there is a new state altogether. And that can only come about, not sought – you cannot seek it, you cannot pursue it, you cannot ask, ‘How am I to get it?’ – all that has no meaning. Meditation then is the understanding or being aware of the total process of consciousness, and not doing a thing about it – which means dying on the instant to the past.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1966, Talk 5