Krishnamurti with Ronald Eyre
Ronald Eyre was a leading director for cinema, opera, television and the theatre. He was nominated for a Tony Award in 1975 as Best Director. He was also a television presenter and writer. His most well-known series was The Long Search, a survey of world religions.
Recorded at Brockwood in 1984, this conversation with Krishnamurti explores playfulness and distraction, the cycle of fear, and whether we do anything we love. Krishnamurti asks if we are afraid of life. What are love and death? Why is there such a tremendous craving inwardly? What is the root of fear? Why does thought enter into the realm of the psyche? What is creation that is not born out of knowledge?
Ronald Eyre: I would like to ask you about playfulness which matters to me more and more. I seem to…
RE: Playfulness, being able to, knowing that if I tackle a piece of work with a certain solemnity, however serious I am, it sort of destroys itself, but if there is in it an element, in my approach, of playfulness, of letting it happen, ease…
K: I wonder what you mean by playfulness.
RE: Well, I suppose over-solemnity is rather conceited. I mean you have an idea that you would like to do this, you would like to finish it, you have the end in the beginning, you know what it is going to be. What I mean by playfulness is allowing for things to come in from the side which you hadn’t expected – thoughts, or notions.
K: Yes, you mean when you are working you are concentrated, and when that concentration is not focused then the other things…
RE: Yes, you see I was brought up, like many of us, in a very puritanical way, brought up to believe that effort was a fine thing. And I believe I am having to learn that effort is a double-edged matter, and that it can be over-solemn, it can push you towards conclusions, it can blind you and deafen you to all sorts of things you should be hearing and seeing. And that you need, I need, I feel, to kind of sit back and play more. Does that…
K: Letting other thoughts come in rather than have one continuous effort and thought.
RE: Yes, and let it organically shift so that it shapes itself organically, maybe in a direction you hadn’t intended.
K: Which would be, would you say that distraction is necessary? It is that, I’m…
RE: Yes, it is distraction, isn’t it? It is to do with – if I could use a phrase like mindful distraction, it’s not merely being open to anything.
RE: That’s right.
K: So, concentration, a sense of distraction of which you are aware.
RE: That’s right. Feels quite important.
K: Yes. But when you are aware that it is distraction, is it distraction?
RE: (Laughs) It is extremely subtle concentration perhaps.
K: That’s what I am asking.
RE: Yes, I feel it to be. I feel that when an element of – well, it is connected with fear, I think. When an element of fear comes into it, a fear you may go wrong or that something unwelcome may happen, then it freezes you, and you think you are concentrating, you are actually shutting out. Would you say that is correct?
K: That’s partly isn’t it, only. Can we discuss what is concentration and then come to the other? What do we mean when we say concentrate? To focus one’s thought.
RE: Focus feels a bit positive as though your intention is maybe a little too much in it.
K: Yes. Concentrate on what one is doing.
K: Don’t let anything come in.
RE: To be available totally to what one is doing is another way of putting it.
K: Yes, all right. What does that do when one is so centred, focused? Aren’t you shutting off every other form of thought, every other form of distraction, if we can use that word. So you build a wall round yourself and say, ‘‘No, please, don’t think of anything, let’s think about this’.’
RE: There is a distinction isn’t there though, between somebody as it were – when you did that gesture it was a slightly worried gesture, you know, please don’t bother me, I am concentrating on this. Now, that, I think is possibly – although we all, I certainly do it quite a lot – it seems to me to have fear in it and to be probably not so useful as an openness to a thing which merely quietly presses other things to the side.
K: I am not sure.
RE: Ah! Tell me more.
K: I mean, could we begin by discussing what makes us concentrate – will, desire, an end to achieve, a motive, a direction, a purpose, an intensified desire which is will, and say, ‘This I must do, this is necessary’, I concentrate and therefore I push aside every other thought comes in. So I build a wall round myself for a moment – and there. So that is a form of resistance. That is a form of – may I put it different? – a self-centred attempt to hold something, which then becomes fear.
RE: Yes, I see. It is quite certain, I find, that when you describe that, and the shutting out, I know that that is a prelude to failure. It’s the thing that happens before you can’t do it.
RE: Isn’t it. So I am interested in the further state of what is the state then in which you are really – well, we have to use the word ‘concentrate’ again because it is the language, but perhaps there is another word…
K: There is another word.
RE: …when you are really freely open and available for things to come in.
K: Yes – another word: ‘attention’.
RE: Attention, more useful, yes.
K: But that is much more complicated. Not one is available, but to attend.
RE: In attention do you allow yourself to be surprised by things that come in to you?
K: I would like to discuss that a little bit. When one is attending, which means giving all your energy, all your sensitivity, your nervous organism as well, not only hearing, eyes, everything is tremendously alive, in that state of attention there is no centre as the ‘me’ attending. Therefore there is no fear in that.
RE: Ah, yes.
K: I don’t know if I am making myself clear.
RE: I understand absolutely, yes.
K: We have been trained from childhood to concentrate. Teachers say, ‘Concentrate. Don’t look out of the window’. And so there is a contradiction there, I want to look out – so fear begins. So effort.
RE: So why I started talking about playfulness was entirely in this area. That I am interested in that very necessary and fearless attention you may say, which is not unserious but it isn’t solemn. There’s a little line.
K: No, attention is attention.
RE: It’s just where it is. (Laughs)
K: Yes, sir.
RE: You see I am interested in the word ‘play’ because it happens that professionally, all my life, I, as a child who never got tired of stories, that has been my burden and my pleasure so I naturally work in a theatre, and I tell stories to myself and others, or I write them. And then the word ‘play’, of course, happens to be the word given to these events and when I working, when I was in India making some films…
K: You saw that statue?
K: Of Siva playing.
RE: Playing – absolutely. And Lila as play, and I wanted you to talk to me about that because it seems wonderful that the word ‘play’ should actually be the word to describe the way things are.
K: That’s why one has to – dancing, playing football, playing golf and so on – why have those things become important? You play them, you dance, but when we say it is a release, away from concentration.
K: That’s what we are doing – work all day in an office, nine to five or whatever it is, and then go to a bar, drink, distracted, you know, cinema, this, that, the other, so there is tremendous contradiction in this.
RE: And none of it is play.
K: None of it is play, (laughs) it is a distraction. Distraction isn’t a play.
RE: I have an increasing feeling – I mean I don’t give myself programmes for what I am on earth for, but I give myself a little programme just to think that that’s my job, it seems to me, is to increase the amount of play. In one way of putting it. Does that make sense to you? To increase the possibility in my life, or even in things which could be drudgery, it is kind of to avoid drudgery, that does mean altering your job.
K: No, no, of course not. But suppose if we drop the word ‘distraction’, ‘play’, for the moment, then what happens?
RE: How do you mean?
K: I have been working in the factory and it is a terribly tiring, dirty, noisy, smelly job. I come home, or go to a bar, and there I relax, take a drink and all the rest of it, go home in that state of relaxation, the wife begins to quarrel, say something, I get irritated and we keep that up, and in between, sex and all that, but I keep that going. So sex becomes a distraction. You follow? So the whole thing, the job forces me to distraction – the night club, you know what is happening.
RE: Yes, sure. I suppose I can look on areas of my life – I think of myself as very free-footed because I move from job to job, that in another sense I move from distraction to distraction, I actually move, I go to a situation for comfort – if you take on a new job it feels comfortable temporarily, and then eventually it becomes its own straightjacket and imprisons you, and you have to move from that prison, so I don’t know quite – well I know there must be an alternative because…
K: You see in all these there is an element of fear.
K: I am not doing my job properly, I drank too much, or sex too much, and my god, I am losing – you follow? – so there is this cycle of fear set going.
RE: Now we can’t crack that cycle by thinking cracking that cycle, can we.
K: First of all, do we do anything that we love?
RE: (Laughs) Not much.
RE: If anything.
K: If any. One is forced by circumstances, specialised as a carpenter, or as a scientist, or a writer, you know all that. So gradually the brain itself becomes very, very narrow, limited. And that limitation itself becomes a bore. Right? And then break that – go and play, beer, sex, night clubs, golf, football.
RE: There is almost a process in each of these things that for the moment of change it is almost as if a whiff of oxygen is given to you, a whiff of extra energy at the moment of change, and then as soon as you get into the next phase, whatever it is, beer or sex, or whatever distraction it may be, it hardens up and the oxygen is then drawn away.
K: So is there an energy which is not wasted at all? And therefore no fear.
RE: And can this energy ever be constantly available?
K: It is there.
RE: Is it there?
K: Of course. But I misuse it. I do something which I hate to do. I want to go on a lovely morning like this for a walk but my wife says let’s go to church.
RE: Yes, that’s right. Yes. So what are we frightened of then?
K: Are we talking – that is what I wanted to ask – are we talking of the ending of fear and therefore living? – not, playing and not playing.
RE: Do you think we think we will die if we don’t have the next diversion?
K: Of course, of course. There is this terrible fear of death.
RE: In many subtle forms.
K: Of course.
Sir, I don’t know if you want to go into all that.
RE: Please, I do, yes.
K: You see that involves a becoming, not only physical becoming – I am weak but I will get strong, I haven’t run so much but I will – you follow? – get physically well, and I make tremendous efforts towards that. They are all doing that now, that is the fashion. And has that spilt over into the psychological realm? I don’t know if I am conveying.
RE: Yes, I understand. You mean we are not talking about the fear of death, we are talking about trying to avoid the cycle of life in a way.
K: Therefore if I am afraid of life… (laughs) So, the whole way of living has become a movement in fear – fear of death, fear of losing a job, fear of my wife or husband, I am not becoming a successful man – you follow? – this whole way of living has become step by step leading to ultimate fear of death.
RE: Yes. Good. That’s wonderful, yes. All fear has these roots going back to fear of death. If fear is to be absent at any moment it is some conquest of death.
K: No. No, just a minute. If we understand living, the significance of living, not this perpetual battle, struggle, conflict, I must have, more, better, this constant measurement of myself with somebody else, he is famous, I must become famous, he is on the television, I am not. (Laughter) This terrible sense of poverty.
K: And in the attempt to be rich there is the burden of fear. I may never get rich because there is somebody much richer. (Laughter)
RE: Sure. So in a sense I see that these little prisons we inhabit, one by one, these little distractions, are… the fact we know as we go into them that they are incomplete, there is something in us that knows that it won’t work. So that is the cause of great misery. I mean at least if you go into a place where you think it may be nice you are not deceiving yourself until it becomes nasty. But there is something in us that knows that it doesn’t work.
K: We know it doesn’t work but we go on with it.
RE: Isn’t that strange.
K: Like war, we know it is appalling, most wasteful, destructive. I don’t know, I heard the other day, you know when they had the D-day celebration, twenty thousand young men were killed first…
RE: …first attack.
K: First attack. Twenty thousand! And the politicians… (inaudible)
RE: The problem is, isn’t it, that of course, you see now if you, for instance, express if you won’t watch D-day celebration, or your pour scorn on the whole thing of these memorials, you are considered to be disrespectful to those who died, which is quite the opposite. I mean it’s infuriating.
K: (Laughter) It sounds so monstrous.
RE: What you want to say is, because I love those who died I don’t want to have anything to do with the poppies.
K: Poppies – quite.
RE: For some period of years, when I was making films that had a name religion over them I began to find obviously that religions obviously frequently been used as temporary havens from fear of death, obviously they have, but one can’t just stop there because anything, a house can be a religion in that sense, or a job, or a distraction, so the world isn’t quite so tidy, is it? If we could only say the religions are doing it we would feel free. But it isn’t the case.
K: So what are we talking about?
RE: Well I am talking about fear of death, I feel, which isn’t… Because I feel it to be pervasive and I can not understand why moment by moment in my life there is some sort of censor or judge or…
K: Would you say death is part of play?
RE: Absolutely. In the sense that good death is part of play. The good death is part of play.
K: What do you mean by ‘good death’?
RE: Well I just mean the possibility if you climb a thing and may fall off it and don’t care, then there is the possibility of the fall, of the other side of the action. That’s what I mean by a good death – a kind of the other part, the other half of the action is what I mean by good death.
K: Say for example, a very rich man who has got everything in life, writes books, and at the end of it he says, ‘I have had a jolly good life’, and dies. Right? And there are those who are paralysed or maimed and all those terrible cases that are more and more increasing in the world, to them death may be an extraordinary event.
RE: What may be an extraordinary event?
K: The paralysed…
RE: Yes, yes.
K: The invalids, the incurables. Are we talking about fear of death, or fear of life which makes us fearful of death?
RE: That’s more like it.
K: So, why are we afraid of life? What is the cause, what is the reason, many reasons, that makes one fearful of living?
RE: I wish I knew.
K: One of the – let’s discuss – one of it is from childhood I am forced to learn, memorise, and I am trained to meet problems. My brain… one’s brain has been conditioned to solve mathematical problems from childhood, college, university – problems, problems, problems. So the brain is conditioned to problems, and then it meets problems and its resolution of the problem is making the problem more complicated, and in the solution of it increase ten different other problems. That is what the politicians are doing.
RE: You are talking… I get something quite good. Our education seems as you describe it to be a series of trial runs for solving problems. But the problem when it arises is not the problem that you have done the trial run on, ever.
K: No, therefore what happens?
RE: You apply the rules…
K: The old rules.
RE: You apply the rules you have learnt in the hope that they work…
K: They don’t work.
RE: …and they don’t.
K: So, that is one of the real problems of human beings, to approach a problem without having problems at all.
RE: Very good. Yes, in fact I suppose the way you are taught defines the problem for you, but the problem may be quite, quite different.
RE: So you can only solve the problems you have been taught to solve. You can only see as problems things that you have been taught to solve and may be much greater and more terrifying things are killing you.
K: Yes. And therefore you approach it with a brain that is trained to a problem.
K: Say, I mean most religious people in the world believe in god. And to reach that godhead you must torture yourself, you must fast, you must undergo every kind of denial – no sex, don’t look around you, don’t feel anything, control your desires. You follow? And we are conditioned to that. So to reach god I go through all this. And you become a saint.
RE: Isn’t it crazy when you come to think of it, that in certain…
K: That’s it.
RE: …in Christian scriptures, for instance, there is an enormous amount of stuff about people who were outsiders, about the prostitute and so on, but in the living, as the religion becomes hardened and institutionalised it isn’t so, is it?
K: They are crazy! So just let’s look at it for a minute. We are afraid of living because we have lost… then we say, what is the significance of living, what’s the meaning of life. And not finding any we invent – the philosophers comes in, the specialists come in, and the psychologists come – you follow? – we invent. And that invention becomes our security. Then I hold to that. I fight for that, kill for that.
RE: Like a poison, isn’t it?
K: That’s it.
RE: Like a poison one’s taken in.
K: This is what is happening, sir.
RE: Do you know why I am here actually? One of the reasons – I will tell you a little story that happened last time, that when I came here for the first time there was two hours to wait and I was put in a room and shown video tapes of you. And over two hours I conceived quite a strong dislike for you.
RE: A strong dislike. And then I went with my dislike to have lunch, and a voice behind me said, ‘You should try the grated carrot, it’s very good’, and that’s was you and we got on fine after that. Now this is the curious thing you see, I was obviously manufacturing, I was educating myself in you, I was trying to see what you were about – you see what I mean? – and getting all sorts of notions and the effect of them was deeply depressing. And yet carrots and your presence was fine, I had no problem with that. So I am extremely keen that anything we should say today should not be capable of giving any of that sort of feeling that we have anything of importance, although you never know.
K: We are discussing, aren’t we, why life has become so meaningless. The tree doesn’t ask that question, the tiger doesn’t ask that question. Right? It says, ‘I am living’.
K: So sir, if there is no conflict in living I would never ask that question. I don’t know if I am conveying something.
RE: No, I didn’t understand the last sentence.
K: If there is no conflict in one’s life, no conflict whatever, you would never ask that question.
RE: The question of the meaningless of life.
K: What is the meaning of it all.
RE: Because implied in it is an idea of some perfection which you ought to be having.
RE: Which is another fiction. So we sort of blunder from fiction to fiction.
K: Illusion to illusion, fancied, and so on.
RE: And I suppose the awful truth is that any system…
K: What makes human beings ask this question? Because in their own life it has no meaning – going to the office from nine o’clock to five o’clock till you are sixty, responsibilities, house, mortgage, insurance, and the conflict between relationships and so on, so on, so on. And at sixty-five, seventy, eighty, you pop off. And then you say, what is the meaning of it all?
RE: What was it about.
K: Then there is death. And then you say, ‘I am going to die, I hope I will live next life’ – you follow? – that whole cycle begins. Hope, despair, depression, fear, I have achieved so much this life, and what does it mean, coming to the end of it all? I was told of a man, I met them both, who was enormously rich – enormous. His cupboards were filled with them – gold, paper money of every description, especially Swiss. And he was dying, he said, ‘As I can’t take it with me, keep it all open, keep all the cupboards open so that I can look at them as I am dying’. Just think of…
RE: Wonderful. What a wonderful last thought. Yes. I just have a feeling, you see when you talk about it, death has a sort of – I mean we know it is the obscenity, we know it is the thing we may not talk about, I mean you know, the last century it was sex, we can’t talk about death this century. I have got a feeling the absence of really living with it, sitting with it, just makes our situation so impossible.
K: I am not sure, sir. After all death means total ending – all the memories, all the experience, the knowledge, the attachments, the fears, the sorrows, the anxieties – end. It is like somebody cutting all the thread which you have gathered to pieces – ending. We ought to discuss what is ending. Do we ever end? Or in the ending there is another continuity.
RE: It seems unnecessary – yes, I don’t. I don’t know – I haven’t had ever much sense of starting, or not much sense of the time going on, and I have not much sense of my ending either, so I have every reason to believe that what is around will certainly – am I making sense?
K: Oh, yes. What is ending? That is death. Right? I may believe I shall be born next life.
RE: Death is something observed by somebody else, surely.
K: Not only by somebody – I want to believe it, it is comforting.
RE: You want to think that it…
K: I want to believe it. It gives me great comfort, say, well at least I have another chance.
RE: I see what you mean.
K: I mean the whole Asiatic world believes in reincarnation. And some of that is accepted here now, books are written, people say, I believe, and all the rest of it.
RE: Well the afterlife, anyway, I mean the afterlife which is well generally believed, I think, in this country, in this tradition.
K: Yes, here, Christian world they believe in a different form – resurrection and so on.
RE: This is a subtle way of keeping you quiet about what is going on now.
K: Yes. So there is death, ending, and there is living. The living has become so – we don’t have to go into it, we know it very well. And there is that waiting – not waiting, it is there. We are all going to pop off, die. That’s the question. Right? There is a time interval. The time interval may be a hundred years, or five years, of fifty years, it is a time interval. And during that time interval I am living – I am acting, living, suffering, despair, all the rest of it. I haven’t solved this problem, this way of living, if there is a way of living in which there is no pain, there is no suffering – you follow? – and there is also the other, which is the ending of all this. Now, if there was no time interval, (clap) – together.
K: Therefore which means ending everything every day.
RE: Yes, yes.
K: Your attachment – this is my school, my… You follow? That makes the brain so small, limited.
RE: But our means of attachment are so extraordinary, aren’t they? I mean one can congratulate oneself on getting rid of attachment A, while B to Z line up to take over.
K: Yes, sir.
RE: It is an extraordinary killing problem.
K: So is it possible to live that way?
RE: What do you think?
K: Oh yes, I…
K: That is the only way to live otherwise you go through hell.
K: So that life is not – or rather life contains death, living is death. So every day what you have collected, put it aside.
RE: Shed it.
K: If I am attached to this house, I know death says, ‘Old boy, you can’t; it is the end of you’, so I say, ‘All right, I will be free of attachment to this house’. Be not attached – you follow? – not just say…
RE: Yes, unattached, yes, that’s right.
K: You are completely free of it.
RE: And yet use it – this is the problem. Non-attachment can frequently go into forms of resistance.
K: So I am living in this house, I am responsible for this house, I am responsible what is happening here, but also I am going to die. So, while I am living that day I am fully responsible.
RE: And you are not responsible for the day when you are not here.
RE: There must be something in us that thinks that life will hurt if we live it.
K: Life hurts.
RE: If we live it.
K: Yes, sir.
RE: We must have a feeling – you see while the mind will say, oh yes, I know that it is stupid to believe in whatever it is, relationships, or drink, or the job, or whatever it is, to be a little haven, while the mind is saying that it must also subtly, with a quiet voice be saying, ‘But the alternative is more terrifying’.
K: Yes. (Laughs) You see that’s why one has to enquire, is there a becoming and therefore the ending of becoming is fear.
RE: The ending of becoming is fear – yes.
K: And is there psychological becoming at all? But there is a becoming in the world. I mean, one is apprenticed to a master carpenter and you gradually work with him till you become as good as him.
K: That same attitude, or that same activity is spilled over, or extended into the other field – psychological, the inner field, I must become something. If I don’t I am lost, I am failure, I am depressed, look you have become something, I am nobody.
RE: That implies somehow that the later stage is preferable to the earlier, that the master is preferable to the apprentice. I have a sort of feeling that the people I admire as well as having their calendar age have also stuck at another age. The people I really like are about three years old.
K: (Laughs) Children.
RE: Yes, but also people who have got that curious sort of wide- eyed thing. It’s strange, though I am always a bit suspicious at the thought of, you know, building up to anything, or a growth to something. I have a feeling that it has already been neglected. Does that make sense, that it has already been here – reclaiming one’s childhood, in some way. And any way that one tries to devise to as it were break out of one’s little prisons, whatever it is, because it is an idea, because it is an idea has the fear written into itself as an idea.
K: Idea – quite.
RE: So we are curiously…
K: So idea becomes fear.
RE: That’s right. And so the idea of liberation is fear. So we wait.
RE: What do we do then?
K: Whether it is possible to end fear.
RE: To end fear.
K: End fear.
K: Not of a particular fear, but end fear, the whole tree of fear. And we are trying to trim the fears, you know.
RE: What is the axe? How do you get at it? How do you…
K: I’ll show… We will go into it.
What is time?
RE: What is time.
K: Not by the watch, the clock, sun rising, sun setting.
RE: I think I can only understand time from something that is past. Is that right?
K: Sir, you have said it. So time is that which has happened yesterday…
RE: That gives me the idea of time.
K: Yes. That which has happened yesterday, or a thousand yesterdays, or forty-five thousand years man supposed to be on earth, that is the whole duration of forty-five thousand years, which is in the present.
RE: Our thought is in the present and everything we know of it is in the present.
K: Yes, all that is in the present. And the future is the present.
RE: A projection – we assume there is going to be one and we make it into a fiction.
K: The future, tomorrow.
RE: Yes, sure, you can’t have it tomorrow, you have got to have now.
K: No, no. The past, as we say, is now, in the present.
RE: That is how we must take it, yes.
K: That’s so, actuality.
RE: Sure, sure.
K: I remember meeting you last year, so there is that duration of time, the recognition, if I… recognises, and the future is the same as now because I will meet you again next year and say yes, hello, how are you and so on.
K: So, the future is also now. So the present contains the past, the present and the future. So there is no future. I don’t know if you see…
RE: Yes, I do see what you mean. Yes.
K: The future is what you are now.
RE: It is amazing how we inhabit this future, invented future, with ill possibilities, and lord knows what. Yes.
K: So the future is now. And if I… if there is no breaking down of the ‘me’ now I will be tomorrow exactly the same. So one questions, I question whether there is any psychological evolution at all. You understand?
RE: Yes I do.
K: There isn’t any.
RE: There doesn’t seem to be able to be, except some fiction, again that somebody has invented in observing you. Yes.
K: So I see for me there is no ‘more’ or ‘better’ – better is future.
RE: Good, yes.
K: Better is measurement, what I should be. And so ‘what I should be’ is an avoidance of what I am. So that creates a conflict.
K: So, if I actually, not theoretically or sentimentally, the actual fact that the whole of time is now and therefore there is no becoming, no ideal to be reached.
RE: That is such a radical thought. I mean, you know, the feeling about it that one has kind of heard it, it is not an unfamiliar thought but it is desperately unfamiliar, it challenges everything which one lives by. Tell me about this axe as well, I mean the…
K: I am coming…
RE: (Laughs) Because I want to take it away.
K: Sir, what is change? If I change according to the future ideal, that ideal is projected by thought, which is also implied time – thought is time. So if one really grasps the depth of this statement, or the feeling of time is all now, and so therefore there is no tomorrow, in the sense, I will be something tomorrow. So there is an ending to conflict.
K: Which is an enormous factor. We have accepted conflict as a way of life. There is no conflict at all. That is, I have to understand change. I am this but if I don’t change I will be exactly tomorrow what I am now. So what is change? Is there psychological change at all? I don’t know – you understand? Or only ‘what is’, and the giving attention to ‘what is’ is the ending of ‘what is’.
K: But one can’t give total attention to ‘what is’ when you have got an ideal.
RE: Yes, that’s right.
K: I was asked to speak at the United Nations. It is a contradiction in terms, United Nations, first of all. And they say we must gather together, become friends, give all that blah, and it never takes place, because the principle is wrong – my country and your country, my god and your god. The Russians have their ideal and… So, if one really realises, feels the depth of this, that all time is now – the whole, it is like a lightening that change…
RE: When you say, all time is now, is ‘now’ always joyous?
RE: Is ‘now’ always happy?
K: Don’t use the word ‘happy’.
RE: All right. (Laughs) You see…
K: Why should it be happy?
RE: No – quite. That’s my point.
K: Why should it be anything?
RE: Anything. Indeed.
K: You know sir, there is something which we should go into, if we have time: what is to be nothing? Because we want to be something. The wanting is a sense of lacking. I haven’t got a good house, I want a better house. I don’t know all the knowledge of books, I must read. So there is this tremendous craving. And what is that craving for? I am not a philosopher, I am not talking…
RE: No, no, I know.
K: To me that’s… What are we craving for? We want peace. We crave for peace, and we live violently.
RE: We always look for the sources of the violence outside ourselves.
K: That’s it. And therefore we say, non-violence. While a human being is violent, living violently, fighting, quarrelling, in conflict, and he is working for peace.
RE: I’ll tell you actually where my ‘happy’ – I didn’t really… I mean I wasn’t really talking about happy in the sense that I think would cause a problem. It was just I remember there was a thing at a big exhibition at Olympia, of Mind, Spirit and something or other, and there were many little booths with various people, various religious persuasions, and they were all smiling. And they were selling this sort of smile, this blissed-out quality – you know. And I ached to have one booth where everybody in it had a splitting headache. Do you know what I mean? (Laughter) And I just wanted to kind of go to them and be there, not because it was either bad or good, because that’s also… one mustn’t be kind of… there is very great difficulty, I mean anything you say can so easily be associated with extremely destructive thoughts, can’t it too. I mean this is your burden.
K: Yes. (Laughs)
K: So sir, the word ‘change’ implies I am this, I must be that.
RE: Want to be that.
K: We are conditioned from childhood to that.
RE: To expect it.
K: So heavily conditioned. I see a small car, I must have a bigger car. I see you on the television, and by god, why am I not there?
RE: We should be there together, you see.
K: (Laughs) You know, this tremendous craving, not just for publicity, but the inner craving for god, for illumination, for living a right life, that we must all be together. Why do we have such craving?
RE: I don’t know. There is a great unlovedness about it, a feeling of actually that you are not loved, and that possibly the larger car will put its arms round you in a way that the smaller car doesn’t, and will make up for this. It is a displaced feeling, of lack of affection, I would have thought, isn’t it?
K: Partly. Is there… is it in oneself the sense of insufficiency? I am not loved.
RE: That feels to me very… quite real as a motive.
K: I am not loved. I am not loved by that woman or by that man. And I must be loved by that man, or by that woman. But that leads to another very complex question: what is love?
RE: I would tend to say, possessiveness.
K: Of course it is. Attachment, possessiveness, jealousy, sexual pleasure, desire for more…
RE: It is also self-love, isn’t it?
K: We call all that area love.
RE: Yes, yes.
K: Somebody, I mean some person told me, how can there be love without jealousy? Which means without hate. You follow?
RE: Yes, sure. Yes. Well in the sense of possession there can’t. Yes.
K: And therefore one asks: what is the relationship between love and death?
RE: Love in the sense we are talking about it, this possession?
K: Possession, all that, the whole idea, in that one word so many things are contained.
RE: But if you’re saying perfect love casteth out fear, it is not perfect, is it?
K: I don’t know what… don’t let’s…
RE: No, exactly, I know, I know, it’s a killer! (Laughs)
K: If you ask that question, sir, what is love, and what is that state of love with death? – the love in the ordinary sense of that word. Is there any relationship at all? And if it has a relationship how does that show itself? How does that manifest itself?
RE: I can see love in the sense we are talking about it as a series of faulty insurance schemes against death, where the insurance house is really bound to collapse. But you still take out the insurance.
K: We never ask – first of all we never ask that question.
RE: The connection between love – no. As we are plunging into love we certainly don’t.
K: Now if you ask that question, I put to you that question, if I may, what is your response to it?
K: To that question.
RE: The connection.
K: Yes, what is the connection, what is relationship? Is there any relationship? If there is, what is its nature?
RE: Well it feels like an attempt to ward it off, to have it not happen. Possession in the terms we are talking about it is an attempt to have a permanence where there can be no permanence. Therefore it is an attempt to contradict the fact that things die.
K: That’s it. Death is impermanent.
RE: Death is impermanent. Death is a permanent word to describe an impermanent happening.
K: Death is impermanent. And possessiveness, hoping for permanency.
RE: Absolutely. An attempt to make it go on for ever.
K: Go on for ever.
RE: Yes. It is curious how love poetry, at least cheap love poetry, has always got a doing everything for ever. Hasn’t it? Good love poetry is usually about things collapsing.
K: What is the relationship? What is the relationship between darkness and light?
RE: You can’t have one without the other.
K: No. To ask that… but I am asking the relationship between the two.
RE: Could you tell me?
K: That is, darkness, we know when there is no moonlight, no stars, nothing, dark in a forest – I have been like that – dark, absolute impenetrable darkness. And the sun comes up and everything is light. What is the relationship between that and that?
RE: You tell me.
K: I don’t think there is any.
RE: (Laughs) Really?
K: Light is light. Wait a minute, let me put it the other way. What is the relationship between good and bad? Is there a relationship at all?
RE: Well if I could, before we do good and bad, if I could do dark and light. If I am asked to describe something, if I am asked to describe it then I do need the presence of one before I can do the other. For instance if I am describing this forest in which I can’t see a tree, that’s darkness, then of course when the light comes up the trees become visible.
K: So you are judging light and darkness according to your perception.
RE: Yes. That’s right.
K: That’s so, obviously.
RE: Yes, that’s right. But it is only when I come to have to describe it, that the relationship exists because of that.
K: But move a little further, deeper. What is the relationship between that which is good and that which is so-called evil or bad? Is the good born out of the bad? Because I know what is bad, or experience that which is painful, bad, all the rest of it, and so I am moving, or trying to get away from the bad to the good.
RE: I would use good or bad to describe very temporary effects – no?
K: No, no.
RE: I am not getting your drift.
K: Is good temporary?
K: That which is good, that which is beautiful, it is not temporary.
RE: Why not?
K: I’ll show it – let’s look at it for a minute. If the good, or any other word you like to use, is the outcome of the bad, has its roots in the bad, then it is not good, it is part of the bad. So every opposite has its roots in its own opposite.
RE: Good. I get that.
K: So is there a good which is not born out of the bad?
RE: Not something that I could give that word to. I couldn’t give that word to it because we have already used it.
K: Give another word, it doesn’t matter. The good old- fashioned word, the good, the beautiful, the truth. Now, I question altogether whether there is an opposite at all.
RE: To good, to a good in the sense we are talking.
K: No, to opposite.
RE: Any opposite?
K: Any opposite.
RE: Yes, yes.
K: Of course there is man, woman, tall, short. I am not talking…
RE: Sure. These are conveniences.
K: Yes. Apart from the conveniences, is there something so absolute and not related to the relevant?
RE: I would be always conditional myself about handling it. I couldn’t do it in any way. I would be very frightened of people who do because they become murderers.
K: Oh, no, no, on the contrary.
RE: What do you mean? (Laughs)
K: I mean the freedom of goodness, not the misuse of freedom of good. Of freedom. The misuse of freedom is what is happening in the world. But freedom is good, it has the goodness quality in it. I don’t like to use the word ‘moral’, ‘virtue’ and all that, it has no meaning, but that sense of depth in it.
RE: We are somehow alongside fear again, and absence of fear.
K: That’s what – of course.
RE: Aren’t we.
K: That’s why we said, is it possible to be free of fear totally? Not what might happen, of which I might be afraid, or that which has happened of which I am afraid, but these two elements, the past and the future, is now. Right? So, can the now, which is fear, be completely wiped away?
RE: Almost the presence of now, as you would handle it, is dependent on having these fictions of past and future with one.
K: That’s right.
RE: So even to talk about now is risky.
K: But one has to use that word ‘present’, ‘now’. You are sitting there, I am sitting here, that’s now.
RE: Yes. But you have got to get the scalpel further.
K: Of course, of course. I mean you have to have a little bit of subtlety in this…
RE: (Laughs) Yes. That’s right. But the fear remains until the knife has gone much further…
K: That’s it, that’s it.
RE: The now.
K: Yes, of course. So what is fear? Not theoretically, actually in my heart, in one’s brain, what is fear, how does it come? What is the source of it, the root of it, the beginning of it?
RE: I mean roughly, off the top of my head, it is something to do with not being in the right place, a feeling of not filling where you should be. An ‘ought’ is involved in fear; you ought to be this shape, that shape.
K: We have said that. The ought to be, I will to be…
RE: Yes. You are talking about another fear.
K: Fear. All this is fear. What is the root of it? I mean we said fear is like a vast tree. There is a marvellous tree here, an oak, it covers the ground, an acre. Now, our fear is like that, but the root of that oak is there, in the centre, the branches are enormous.
RE: What is the root? How would you describe the root? Oh you’re asking me to describe it.
K: Not describe. The fact of it is time and thought.
RE: We can play with thought but not…
K: No, time and thought are the root of fear. We are trying to understand whether it is possible to be free of fear, totally, completely, psychologically we are talking about. And the root of that, the beginning from which all the oak tree grows, becomes enormous, the root of it is time and thought – time being, I will be, if I am not I am frightened. Right? Thought says, I have been, and my god I hope I will be.
RE: Is there a sort of fear that is not connected with thought? Or is all fear connected with thought?
K: It is all connected with thought.
RE: All connected with thought.
K: Of course.
RE: If suddenly something happens to you which terrifies the organism…
K: At that second there is no fear, but then thought comes in.
RE: The intervention of thought, however rapidly, beyond the speed of light, and then the reactive fear. Yes. Yes. Good.
K: Then the question arises: can thought in certain areas be active – writing a letter and so on… talking and so on – active, fully active, and other areas not at all, which is in the psychological world, not at all.
RE: Discursive thought I have never understood at all. I have never had any feeling for actually even putting sentences together. I have always worked… I’ve always felt that the things that have ever made sense to me have come like that, it’s like sudden flashes of a thing.
K: Our thought is linear.
RE: Well we are trained in a linear way, but I have never felt comfortable.
K: We are trained, like the Chinese, it is still linear.
RE: Sure. It is still linear. That’s right, yes. That’s the schooling, isn’t it, that’s where you pass or fail your exam.
K: Thinking is a series of connections, associations, always…
RE: So you are running a school based on thought to stop thinking.
K: No. Thought is necessary in certain areas, absolutely. That requires a great deal of attention, a great deal of knowledge, a great deal of capacity, skill, and ingenuity, invention.
K: And is it that same activity has spilled over or extended into the other area?
RE: Very good, yes, that’s excellent. To know it where it is useful, to have it as a useful tool.
K: Of course.
K: If I understand, really see the depth of it, seriousness of it, then I would question why is it thought is always moving, active, in the psychological world. The psychological world is the ‘me’ – my consciousness, my failure, my success, my reputation, my ‘I must be’, ‘I must not be’, my faith, my belief, my dogma, my religious attitude, politics, fear, pains, pleasure, suffering – all that is me. All that is memory. So all that is memory, me is memory.
RE: And the ‘me’, if you are brought up in, like a lot of us are in this country in an…
K: All over the world.
RE: All over the world maybe, in a sort of Bunyan tradition of you hold your own, you are responsible for yourself, I mean there is an element again in which that makes sense. There is also an element again in which it is quite destructive. I remember hearing, somebody told me a story, I think in Japan, they said it was a possible way of life, a man running away from his own shadow, who then realised that all he had to do was to hop under a tree and the shadow disappeared. And I remember feeling immediately very methodistical about that, you may not get away from your shadow. But obviously you may and must.
K: So thought and time are the root of fear. Why does thought come into this area, realm of the psyche?
RE: I wonder. Is it that… I mean it appears to stop danger because when you have a thought it is like asbestos to hold something hot, you have the illusion that with the thought you can control something which in its uncontrolled state might be overwhelming.
K: So that is, there is the thinker who holds something hot and the thought that says, don’t hold it.
RE: Yes. Beware.
K: So there is two separate entities: the thinker and the object of which you think. Now what is the thinker?
RE: A thought.
K: Thought says, I am the thinker separate from…
RE: (Laughs) Yes.
K: But to realise that the observer, the thinker, the experiencer, is the experience, is the object, are one, they are not separate. Sir, that means a tremendous revolution, inwardly, psychologically. Which means when there is no division, there is no conflict. There is only that fact. And when you give attention to the fact, the fact is burnt away. But thought is kept to plant a tree…
RE: Yes, of course.
K: …bring that flower into…
RE: Makes sense, yes.
K: So if you give attention to that, then that will never create problems.
RE: Yes, I understand. It’s bringing, you see everything we are saying is bringing something to a T-junction.
K: Yes, sir.
RE: Because we can’t conceive, it is uncomfortable for us to think that you have to shed various ways of handling the world.
K: The other day somebody said, you have to burn your icons.
RE: Burn your icons, indeed. Yes. And that’s uncomfortable, and there’s no way past it.
K: So, when you burn your icons, death is… You understand?
K: And also, sir, I don’t know if you have gone into this, not theoretically but actually, what is creation then? Not invention, I am not talking invention. Invention is born out of knowledge. The scientist can invent more atom bombs, or something new, but it is always born out of knowledge.
RE: What is creation in what sense?
K: Creation which is not born out of knowledge. Because knowledge is limited.
RE: Limited, yes indeed.
K: Now or in the future.
RE: And it is pre-limited, even though it… Yes, that’s right.
K: It is limited. If creation is born of knowledge it is not creation, it is invention, it is all kinds of things.
RE: Certainly even in my, in whatever I have done, humdrum ways, there have been odd moments, maybe writing something where certainly it was not any form of pre-knowledge which created it, but when boundaries, my boundaries seemed almost to be illusory, and that I was not as confined for some reason, and then something else was fed in, and then you write something or you do something which has a muscle which is not yours.
K: No, let’s be clear. Is creation… Must creation always be expressed? You understand?
RE: Sorry – must…
K: Must it always be expressed? Put it into writing, in a sculpture, in doing a painting. You follow?
RE: Yes. I don’t see why it should at all have to be expressed.
K: So, if we both of us see the fact that creation cannot be born out of knowledge…
RE: Yes, that’s for sure.
K: Born out of knowledge is vast invention, of various kinds, at various levels and so on, so on. But is there a state of mind, brain, or mind, where knowledge is not? I mean this is…
RE: Where creation is.
K: Where creation is. You understand what we are saying?
RE: Well I think, I mean there must – there is, I am sure there is. Well a lived… Why should one have to write it, that seems an awfully… That seems…
K: No, I mean, I don’t know. First of all, am I, who have been writing, talking, or inventing, and call my invention creation – I paint a picture and say it is a marvellous creation. Leonardo paints something and I say, ‘What a marvellous creation that is’. We have used that word both as an invention and also…
RE: We do. It is an end stop, it’s a product isn’t it, we use it as a product.
K: A product.
RE: Thus when you get sketches by, say, a master, because we may as well use their example, a sketch, an incomplete thing, part of a process, somehow makes you tingle in a way that may be the finished thing doesn’t.
K: Of course, of course.
RE: Because the patron, the man who has paid for the picture somehow comes into it frequently at the stage when it has to be completed. Whereas the energy, whatever was going on in the making of it, didn’t have to push it to that conclusion, and it is present in an early stage.
K: You see this has been one of the questions that have been asked by the most ancient people, that is, is there a state of mind, brain, mind, where knowledge ends? Though it is useful in other directions, don’t let’s… Complete ending of it. Then only there is something new. And that thing is creation. That is creation. You understand?
RE: The end of knowledge is creation itself, yes.
K: That requires not a discipline of conformity but tremendous alertness inwardly, a sense of deep watchfulness that the other doesn’t slip in.
RE: You have to shed everything then. You wouldn’t be who you are, you know, it is a scary thought.
K: We had better stop because it is a quarter past one.
RE: Yes, we have done well. Thank you very much indeed.
K: No, sir. Do we stop?
RE: We have gone for an hour and a half. We are stopping, aren’t we? Well done, yes.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park, 24 June 1984