Commentaries on Living Read by Terence Stamp 2

Episode Notes

Commentaries on Living is one of Krishnamurti’s most well-known and best loved books. In it, he recalls many of the private conversations with those who came to see him. With encouragement from Aldous Huxley these meetings were written down by Krishnamurti and published in 1956.

Terence Stamp is an Oscar-nominated actor. It was through working with Fellini that he met and became friends with Krishnamurti, who, in Stamp’s words, ‘used his presence to pause my thinking.’

Thanks to the Karina Library in Ojai, California for these recordings.

Chapters included in this episode are Continuity, Awareness, Loneliness, and Silence.


Part 1: Continuity

The man in the opposite seat began by introducing himself, as he wanted to ask several questions. He said that he had read practically every serious book on death and the hereafter, books from ancient times as well as the modern ones. He had been a member of the Psychical Research Society, had attended many seances with excellent and reputable mediums, and had seen many manifestations which were in no way faked. Because he had gone into this question so seriously, on several occasions he himself had seen things of a super-physical nature; but of course, he added, they might have been born of his imagination, though he considered that they were not. However, in spite of the fact that he had read extensively, had talked to many people who were well informed, and had seen undeniable physical manifestations of those who were dead, he was still not satisfied that he had understood the truth of the matter. He had seriously debated the problem of belief and non-belief; he had friends among those who firmly believed in one’s continuity after death, and also among those who denied the whole thing and held that life ended with the death of the physical body. Though he had acquired considerable knowledge and experience in psychic matters, there remained in his mind an element of doubt; and as he was getting on in years he wanted to know the truth. He was not afraid of death, but the truth about it must be known.

The train had come to a stop, and just then a two-wheeled carriage was passing, drawn by a horse. On the carriage was a human corpse, wrapped in an unbleached cloth and tied to two long green bamboo poles, freshly cut. From some village it was being taken to the river to be burnt. As the carriage moved over the rough road, the body was being brutally shaken, and under its cloth the head was obviously getting the worst of it. There was only one passenger in the carriage besides the driver; he must have been a near relative, for his eyes were red with much crying. The sky was the delicate blue of early spring, and children were playing and shouting in the dirt of the road. Death must have been a common sight, for everyone went on with what they were doing. Even the inquirer into death did not see the carriage and its burden.

Belief conditions experience, and experience then strengthens belief. What you believe, you experience. The mind dictates and interprets experience, invites or rejects it. The mind itself is the result of experience, and it can recognize or experience only that with which it is familiar, which it knows, at whatever level. The mind cannot experience what is not already known. The mind and its response are of greater significance than the experience; and to rely on experience as a means of understanding truth is to be caught in ignorance and illusion. To desire to experience truth is to deny truth; for desire conditions, and belief is another cloak of desire. Knowledge, belief, conviction, conclusion and experience are hindrances to truth; they are the very structure of the self. The self cannot be if there is no cumulative effect of experience; and the fear of death is the fear of not being, of not experiencing. If there were the assurance, the certainty of experiencing, there would be no fear. Fear exists only in the relationship between the known and the unknown. The known is ever trying to capture the unknown; but it can capture only that which is already known. The unknown can never be experienced by the known; the known, the experienced must cease for the unknown to be.

The desire to experience truth must be searched out and understood; but if there is motive in the search, then truth does not come into being. Can there be search without a motive, conscious or unconscious? With a motive, is there search? If you already know what you want, if you have formulated an end, then search is a means to achieve that end, which is self-projected. Then search is for gratification, not for truth; and the means will be chosen according to the gratification. The understanding of ‘what is’ needs no motive; the motive and the means prevent understanding. Search, which is choiceless awareness, is not for something; it is to be aware of the craving for an end and of the means to it. This choiceless awareness brings an understanding of ‘what is’.

It is odd how we crave for permanency, for continuity. This desire takes many forms, from the crudest to the most subtle. With the obvious forms we are well acquainted: name, shape, character, and so on. But the subtler craving is much more difficult to uncover and understand. Identity as idea, as being, as knowledge, as becoming, at whatever level, is difficult to perceive and bring to light. We only know continuity, and never non-continuity. We know the continuity of experience, of memory, of incidents, but we do not know that state in which this continuity is not. We call it death, the unknown, the mysterious, and so on, and through naming it we hope somehow to capture it – which again is the desire for continuity.

Self-consciousness is experience, the naming of experience, and so the recording of it; and this process is going on at various depths of the mind. We cling to this process of self-consciousness in spite of its passing joys, its unending conflict, confusion and misery. This is what we know; this is our existence, the continuity of our very being, the idea, the memory, the word. The idea continues, all or part of it, the idea that makes up the ‘me’; but does this continuity bring about freedom, in which alone there is discovery and renewal?

What has continuity can never be other than that which it is, with certain modifications; but these modifications do not give it a newness. It may take on a different cloak, a different colour; but it is still the idea, the memory, the word. This centre of continuity is not a spiritual essence, for it is still within the field of thought, of memory, and so of time. It can experience only its own projection, and through its self-projected experience it gives itself further continuity. Thus, as long as it exists, it can never experience beyond itself. It must die; it must cease to give itself continuity through idea, through memory, through word. Continuity is decay, and there is life only in death. There is renewal only with the cessation of the centre; then rebirth is not continuity; then death is as life, a renewal from moment to moment. This renewal is creation.

Part 2: Awareness

There were immense clouds, like billowy white waves, and the sky was serene and blue. Many hundreds of feet below where we stood was the blue curving bay, and far off was the mainland. It was a lovely evening, calm and free, and on the horizon was the smoke of a steamer. The orange groves stretched to the foot of the mountain, and their fragrance filled the air. The evening was turning blue, as it always did; the air itself became blue, and the white houses lost their brilliance in that delicate colour. The blue of the sea seemed to spill over and cover the land, and the mountains above were also a transparent blue. It was an enchanted scene, and there was immense silence. Though there were a few noises of the evening, they were within this silence, they were part of the silence, as we were too. This silence was making everything new, washing away the centuries of squalor and pain from the heart of things; one’s eyes were cleansed, and the mind was of that silence. A donkey brayed; the echoes filled the valley, and the silence accepted them. The end of the day was the death of all yesterdays, and in this death there was a rebirth, without the sadness of the past. Life was new in the immensity of silence.

In the room a man was waiting, anxious to talk things over. He was peculiarly intense, but sat quietly. He was obviously a city-dweller, and his smart clothes made him seem rather out of place in that small village and in that room. He talked of his activities, the difficulties of his profession, the trivialities of family life, and the urgency of his desires. All these problems he could grapple with as intelligently as another; but what really bothered him were his sexual appetites. He was married and had children, but there was more to it. His sexual activities had become a very serious problem to him and were driving him almost crazy. He had talked to certain doctors and analysts, but the problem still existed and he must somehow get to the bottom of it.

How eager we are to solve our problems! How insistently we search for an answer, a way out, a remedy! We never consider the problem itself, but with agitation and anxiety grope for an answer which is invariably self-projected. Though the problem is self-created, we try to find an answer away from it. To look for an answer is to avoid the problem – which is just what most of us want to do. Then the answer becomes all-significant, and not the problem. The solution is not separate from the problem; the answer is in the problem, not away from it. If the answer is separate from the main issue, then we create other problems: the problem of how to realize the answer, how to carry it out, how to put it into practice, and so on. As the search for an answer is the avoidance of the problem, we get lost in ideals, convictions, experiences, which are self-projections; we worship these homemade idols and so get more and more confused and weary. To come to a conclusion is comparatively easy; but to understand a problem is arduous, it demands quite a different approach, an approach in which there is no lurking desire for an answer.

Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem. This freedom gives the ease of full attention; the mind is not distracted by any secondary issues. As long as there is conflict with or opposition to the problem, there can be no understanding of it; for this conflict is a distraction. There is understanding only when there is communion, and communion is impossible as long as there is resistance or contention, fear or acceptance. One must establish right relationship with the problem, which is the beginning of understanding; but how can there be right relationship with a problem when you are only concerned with getting rid of it, which is to find a solution for it? Right relationship means communion, and communion cannot exist if there is positive or negative resistance. The approach to the problem is more important than the problem itself; the approach shapes the problem, the end. The means and the end are not different from the approach. The approach decides the fate of the problem. How you regard the problem is of the greatest importance, because your attitude and prejudices, your fears and hopes will colour it. Choiceless awareness of the manner of your approach will bring right relationship with the problem. The problem is self-created, so there must be self-knowledge. You and the problem are one, not two separate processes. You are the problem.

The activities of the self are frighteningly monotonous. The self is a bore; it is intrinsically enervating, pointless, futile. Its opposing and conflicting desires, its hopes and frustrations, its realities and illusions are enthralling, and yet empty; its activities lead to its own weariness. The self is ever climbing and ever falling down, ever pursuing and ever being frustrated, ever gaining and ever losing; and from this weary round of futility it is ever trying to escape. It escapes through outward activity or through gratifying illusions, through drink, sex, radio, books, knowledge, amusements, and so on. Its power to breed illusion is complex and vast. These illusions are homemade, self-projected; they are the ideal, the idolatrous conception of Masters and saviours, the future as a means of self-aggrandizement, and so on. In trying to escape from its own monotony, the self pursues inward and outward sensations and excitements. These are the substitutes for self-abnegation, and in the substitutes it hopefully tries to get lost. It often succeeds, but the success only increases its own weariness. It pursues one substitute after another, each creating its own problem, its own conflict and pain.

Self-forgetfulness is sought within and without; some turn to religion, and others to work and activity. But there is no means of forgetting the self. The inner or outward noise can suppress the self, but it soon comes up again in a different form, under a different guise; for what is suppressed must find a release. Self-forgetfulness through drink or sex, through worship or knowledge, makes for dependence, and that on which you depend creates a problem. If you depend for release, for self-forgetfulness, for happiness, on drink or on a Master, then they become your problem. Dependence breeds possessiveness, envy, fear; and then fear and the overcoming of it become your anxious problem. In the search for happiness we create problems, and in them we get caught. We find a certain happiness in the self-forgetfulness of sex, and so we use it as a means to achieve what we desire. Happiness through something must invariably beget conflict, for then the means is vastly more significant and important than happiness itself. If I get happiness through the beauty of that chair, then the chair becomes all-important to me and I must guard it against others. In this struggle, the happiness which I once felt in the beauty of the chair is utterly forgotten, lost, and I am left with the chair. In itself, the chair has little value; but I have given it an extraordinary value, for it is the means of my happiness. So the means becomes a substitute for happiness.

When the means of my happiness is a living person, then the conflict and confusion, the antagonism and pain are far greater. If relationship is based on mere usage, is there any relationship, except the most superficial, between the user and the used? If I use you for my happiness, am I really related to you? Relationship implies communion with another on different levels; and is there communion with another when he is only a tool, a means of my happiness? In thus using another, am I not really seeking self-isolation, in which I think I shall be happy? This self-isolation I call relationship; but actually there is no communion in this process. Communion can exist only where there is no fear; and there is gnawing fear and pain where there is usage and so dependence. As nothing can live in isolation, the attempts of the mind to isolate itself lead to its own frustration and misery. To escape from this sense of incompleteness, we seek completeness in ideas, in people, in things; and so we are back again where we started, in the search for substitutes.

Problems will always exist where the activities of the self are dominant. To be aware which are and which are not the activities of the self needs constant vigilance. This vigilance is not disciplined attention, but an extensive awareness which is choiceless. Disciplined attention gives strength to the self; it becomes a substitute and a dependence. Awareness, on the other hand, is not self-induced, nor is it the outcome of practice; it is understanding the whole content of the problem, the hidden as well as the superficial. The surface must be understood for the hidden to show itself; the hidden cannot be exposed if the surface mind is not quiet. This whole process is not verbal, nor is it a matter of mere experience. Verbalization indicates dullness of mind; and experience, being cumulative, makes for repetitiousness. Awareness is not a matter of determination, for purposive direction is resistance, which tends towards exclusiveness. Awareness is the silent and choiceless observation of ‘what is’; in this awareness the problem unrolls itself, and thus it is fully and completely understood. A problem is never solved on its own level; being complex, it must be understood in its total process. To try to solve a problem on only one level, physical or psychological, leads to further conflict and confusion. For the resolution of a problem, there must be this awareness, this passive alertness which reveals its total process.

Love is not sensation. Sensations give birth to thought through words and symbols. Sensations and thought replace love; they become the substitute for love. Sensations are of the mind, as sexual appetites are. The mind breeds the appetite, the passion, through remembrance, from which it derives gratifying sensations. The mind is composed of different and conflicting interests or desires, with their exclusive sensations; and they clash when one or other begins to predominate, thus creating a problem. Sensations are both pleasant and unpleasant, and the mind holds to the pleasant, thus becoming a slave to them. This bondage becomes a problem because the mind is the repository of contradictory sensations. The avoidance of the painful is also a bondage, with its own illusions and problems. The mind is the maker of problems, and so cannot resolve them. Love is not of the mind; but when the mind takes over there is sensation, which it then calls love. It is this love of the mind that can be thought about, that can be clothed and identified. The mind can recall or anticipate pleasurable sensations, and this process is appetite, no matter at what level it is placed. Within the field of the mind, love cannot be. Mind is the area of fear and calculation, envy and domination, comparison and denial, and so love is not. Jealousy, like pride, is of the mind; but it is not love. Love and the processes of the mind cannot be bridged over, cannot be made one. When sensations predominate, there is no space for love; so the things of the mind fill the heart. Thus love becomes the unknown, to be pursued and worshipped; it is made into an ideal, to be used and believed in, and ideals are always self-projected. So the mind takes over completely, and love becomes a word, a sensation. Then love is made comparative: ‘I love more and you love less.’ But love is neither personal nor impersonal; love is a state of being in which sensation as thought is wholly absent.

Part 3: Loneliness

Her son had recently died, and she said she did not know what to do now. She had so much time on her hands, she was so bored and weary and sorrowful that she was ready to die. She had brought him up with loving care and intelligence, and he had gone to one of the best schools and to college. She had not spoiled him, though he had had everything that was necessary. She had put her faith and hope in him, and had given him all her love; for there was no one else to share it with, she and her husband having separated long ago. Her son had died through some wrong diagnosis and operation – though, she added smilingly, the doctors said that the operation was ‘successful’. Now she was left alone, and life seemed so vain and pointless. She had wept when he died, until there were no more tears, but only a dull and weary emptiness. She had had such plans for both of them, but now she was utterly lost.

The breeze was blowing from the sea, cool and fresh, and under the tree it was quiet. The colours on the mountains were vivid, and the blue jays were very talkative. A cow wandered by, followed by her calf, and a squirrel dashed up a tree, wildly chattering. It sat on a branch and began to scold, and the scolding went on for a long time, its tail bobbing up and down. It had such sparkling bright eyes and sharp claws. A lizard came out to warm itself, and caught a fly. The treetops were gently swaying, and a dead tree against the sky was straight and splendid. It was being bleached by the sun. There was another dead tree beside it, dark and curving, more recent in its decay. A few clouds rested on the distant mountains.

What a strange thing is loneliness, and how frightening it is! We never allow ourselves to get too close to it; and if by chance we do, we quickly run away from it. We will do anything to escape from loneliness, to cover it up. Our conscious and unconscious preoccupation seems to be to avoid it or to overcome it. Avoiding and overcoming loneliness are equally futile; though suppressed or neglected, the pain, the problem, is still there. You may lose yourself in a crowd, and yet be utterly lonely; you may be intensely active, but loneliness silently creeps upon you; put the book down, and it is there. Amusements and drinks cannot drown loneliness; you may temporarily evade it, but when the laughter and the effects of alcohol are over, the fear of loneliness returns. You may be ambitious and successful, you may have vast power over others, you may be rich in knowledge, you may worship and forget yourself in the rigmarole of rituals; but do what you will, the ache of loneliness continues. You may exist only for your son, for the Master, for the expression of your talent; but like the darkness, loneliness covers you. You may love or hate, escape from it according to your temperament and psychological demands; but loneliness is there, waiting and watching, withdrawing only to approach again. Loneliness is the awareness of complete isolation; and are not our activities self-enclosing? Though our thoughts and emotions are expansive, are they not exclusive and dividing? Are we not seeking dominance in our relationships, in our rights and possessions, thereby creating resistance? Do we not regard work as ‘yours’ and ‘mine’? Are we not identified with the collective, with the country, or with the few? Is not our whole tendency to isolate ourselves, to divide and separate? The very activity of the self, at whatever level, is the way of isolation; and loneliness is the consciousness of the self without activity. Activity, whether physical or psychological, becomes a means of self-expansion; and when there is no activity of any kind, there is an awareness of the emptiness of the self. It is this emptiness that we seek to fill, and in filling it we spend our life, whether at a noble or ignoble level. There may seem to be no sociological harm in filling this emptiness at a noble level; but illusion breeds untold misery and destruction, which may not be immediate. The craving to fill this emptiness – or to run away from it, which is the same thing – cannot be sublimated or suppressed; for who is the entity that is to suppress or sublimate? Is not that very entity another form of craving? The objects of craving may vary, but is not all craving similar? You may change the object of your craving from drink to ideation; but without understanding the process of craving, illusion is inevitable.

There is no entity separate from craving; there is only craving, there is no one who craves. Craving takes on different masks at different times, depending on its interests. The memory of these varying interests meets the new, which brings about conflict, and so the chooser is born, establishing himself as an entity separate and distinct from craving. But the entity is not different from its qualities. The entity who tries to fill or run away from emptiness, incompleteness, loneliness, is not different from that which he is avoiding; he is it. He cannot run away from himself; all that he can do is to understand himself. He is his loneliness, his emptiness; and as long as he regards it as something separate from himself, he will be in illusion and endless conflict. When he directly experiences that he is his own loneliness, then only can there be freedom from fear. Fear exists only in relationship to an idea, and idea is the response of memory as thought. Thought is the result of experience; and though it can ponder over emptiness, have sensations with regard to it, it cannot know emptiness directly. The word loneliness, with its memories of pain and fear, prevents the experiencing of it afresh. The word is memory, and when the word is no longer significant, then the relationship between the experiencer and the experienced is wholly different; then that relationship is direct and not through a word, through memory; then the experiencer is the experience, which alone brings freedom from fear.

Love and emptiness cannot abide together; when there is the feeling of loneliness, love is not. You may hide emptiness under the word love, but when the object of your love is no longer there or does not respond, then you are aware of emptiness, you are frustrated. We use the word love as a means of escaping from ourselves, from our own insufficiency. We cling to the one we love, we are jealous, we miss him when he is not there and are utterly lost when he dies; and then we seek comfort in some other form, in some belief, in some substitute. Is all this love? Love is not an idea, the result of association; love is not something to be used as an escape from our own wretchedness; and when we do so use it, we make problems which have no solutions. Love is not an abstraction, but its reality can be experienced only when idea, mind, is no longer the supreme factor.

Part 4: Silence

It was a powerful motor and well-tuned; it took the hills easily, without a stutter, and the pick-up was excellent. The road climbed steeply out of the valley and ran between orchards of orange and tall, wide-spreading walnut trees. On both sides of the road the orchards stretched for fully forty miles, up to the very foot of the mountains. Becoming straight, the road passed through one or two small towns, and then continued into the open country, which was bright green with alfalfa. Again winding through many hills, the road finally came out on to the desert.

It was a smooth road, the hum of the motor was steady, and the traffic was very light. There was an intense awareness of the country, of the occasional passing car, of the road signals, of the clear blue sky, of the body sitting in the car; but the mind was very still. It was not the quietness of exhaustion, or of relaxation, but a stillness that was very alert. There was no point from which the mind was still; there was no observer of this tranquillity; the experiencer was wholly absent. Though there was desultory conversation, there was no ripple in this silence. One heard the roar of the wind as the car sped along, yet this stillness was inseparable from the noise of the wind, from the sounds of the car, and from the spoken word. The mind had no recollection of previous stillnesses, of those silences it had known; it did not say, ‘This is tranquillity’. There was no verbalization, which is only the recognition and the affirmation of a somewhat similar experience. Because there was no verbalization, thought was absent. There was no recording, and therefore thought was not able to pick up the silence or to think about it; for the word stillness is not stillness. When the word is not, the mind cannot operate, and so the experiencer cannot store up as a means of further pleasure. There was no gathering process at work, nor was there approximation or assimilation. The movement of the mind was totally absent.

The car stopped at the house. The barking of the dog, the unpacking of the car and the general disturbance in no way affected this extraordinary silence. There was no disturbance, and the stillness went on. The wind was among the pines, the shadows were long, and a wildcat sneaked away among the bushes. In this silence there was movement, and the movement was not a distraction. There was no fixed attention from which to be distracted. There is distraction when the main interest shifts; but in this silence there was absence of interest, and so there was no wandering away. Movement was not away from the silence but was of it. It was the stillness, not of death, of decay, but of life in which there was a total absence of conflict. With most of us, the struggle of pain and pleasure, the urge of activity, gives us the sense of life; and if that urge were taken away, we should be lost and soon disintegrate. But this stillness and its movement was creation ever renewing itself. It was a movement that had no beginning and so had no ending; nor was it a continuity. Movement implies time; but here there was no time. Time is the more and the less, the near and the far, yesterday and tomorrow; but in this stillness all comparison ceased. It was not a silence that came to an end to begin again; there was no repetition. The many tricks of the cunning mind were wholly absent.

If this silence were an illusion, the mind would have some relationship to it, it would either reject it or cling to it, reason it away or with subtle satisfaction identify itself with it; but since it has no relationship to this silence, the mind cannot accept or deny it. The mind can operate only with its own projections, with the things which are of itself; but it has no relationship with the things that are not of its own origin. This silence is not of the mind, and so the mind cannot cultivate or become identified with it. The content of this silence is not to be measured by words.

From Krishnamurti’s Book Commentaries on Living 1

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