Krishnamurti with Christopher Titmuss
This conversation between Krishnamurti and Titmus was recorded at Brockwood Park in 1984. Krishnamurti asks: What do we mean by the word ‘meditation’? Why should we meditate? Do we need to be taught how to meditate? Have we extended ambition from this world to the spiritual world? Who is the controller that controls thought?
Christopher Titmuss, a former Buddhist monk, is a teacher and writer in the Buddhist tradition. He teaches and hold retreats in many countries around the world and many of his talks are available online. His books include The Buddha of Love, Light on Enlightenment, An Awakened Life and Poems from the Edge of Time.
Christopher Titmuss: Firstly, I wish to express my appreciation and gratefulness to you for the opportunity to come here to meet with you today; it’s something which I personally have looked forward to for a long time. Krishnaji, I would like to discuss and explore with you the field of meditation; and I wish to discuss it with you because it is an area of life which I am very much… primarily, involved; and my work is such that I travel to different parts of the world as a facilitator, one might say, in the sphere of meditation. I’m emphasizing and stressing the importance and significance of it. One of the…
Krishnamurti: You are only concerned with meditation?
CT: I’m concerned with other areas of…
K: But primarily…
CT: …primarily meditation.
CT: Yes, and one of the questions which arises with great frequency, of course, in regard to your approach and outlook upon life, is the question of meditation with form, structure, method and technique, as emphasized in many of the eastern traditions, in contrast to your emphasis, which is very much that meditation must be rather free from all of that.
K: We’ll go into it, sir; we’ll go into it if you want to..
CT: And it is within this area that I would like to explore…
K: Shall we begin right from the beginning?
K: What do you mean by the word meditation?
CT: In the use which I give to it, I make this concept somewhat interchangeable with concepts such as observation, mindfulness, giving total attention to, therefore I use the word in a broad way.
K: Yes, but I’m… I want… I’m asking the… what the word conveys, not the structure of meditation.
CT: But what the actual word conveys?
CT: Um, the word to me…
K: The etymological meaning of the word.
CT: To me it means to give care and attention to the here and now.
K: No, sir; just a minute; you’re not… we’re not meeting each other.
CT: I wonder if these batteries are working. Can I just test this…?
(Pause in recording)
K: As far as I understand, looking into the various dictionaries, it means ‘to ponder over’.
K: ‘To think over’, and also the word in Sanskrit too, I believe, means to measure.
K: Right? So it’s really a process of measurement.
CT: Yes. To measure what?
K: What is; what should be.
CT: Ah, ah, yes.
K: What one might achieve, what has been.
CT: And this comes within meditation itself?
K: Just a minute.
CT: Yes, okay.
K: We are inquiring into the question what is meditation, not how to meditate…
K: …not all the various systems, whether the Buddhists, Hindus, Tibetan or any other guru with their particular system of meditations. We’re not discussing for the moment if that is correct, but what is meditation itself.
K: I think it implies – the meaning of the word; the meaning, substance of the word – is constant endeavour, constant self-recollectedness…
K: …constant observation what one is doing, what one is not doing; attention to your body, the movement of your body; the controlling of the…controlling thought…
K: …and forcing thought to hold itself. Right?
K: All this is implied in all the systems.
K: Right? Whether it is Zen Buddhism – right? – …
K: …whether it is the Tibetan, the Hindu, the Buddhist, or even the Christian contemplation, is a sense of effort is involved. Right?
CT: Right. Now, this… the application of the mind which includes effort, includes giving care and attention to…
K: All that’s implied.
CT: Yes; is that within the scope of meditation?
K: That is generally understood as meditation.
CT: Yes; yes.
K: Probably that’s what you also help to do.
K: So you – if I may; I don’t know what you do – if I can include you…
K: …what you do in all this.
K: Let’s be clear. First; there’s the whole Zen system: awareness; sitting absolutely still, and having quiet in the mind, controlling the brain, controlling every reaction.
CT: Yes… (inaudible) I would say the element of control certainly comes in because…
K: Yes, of course, of course. Control, part of control.
CT: But that’s more the initial expression because of the unfamiliarity of being obliged to sit still for varying periods of time.
K: Just a minute.
K: So these are the central factors of meditation – right? – yours or any others, which is to control. Hm?
K: Control in the sense, to hold.
CT: Yes, but… right, but that is… I would say, a certain stage within a scope of meditation.
K: Yes, sir, that’s measurement; that’s measurement. Right?
CT: Yes, right.
K: That’s why I use… in meditation, the word meditation implies measurement, the beginning and the end.
K: Whether that end and the beginning are… a distance, or no measurement.
CT: Right; yes. But isn’t it quite often, say, the individual enters into a new area, such as meditation and giving his or her conditioning says, ‘I am going to meditate in order that I come to somewhere else’?
K: Yes, that’s generally what is understood.
CT: Right. But that initial understanding, of course, may change as a person’s understanding of meditation changes.
K: Yes, that is… that’s all measurement…
K: …I am not understood but I will understand…
K: …if I move…
K: …which is, I am this – whatever this is – and I will come to that.
K: Which is a time interval, a distance – all that is measurement.
CT: Right. But are you implying here that by establishing a measurement, it in some way negates the purpose?
K: No, I’m just observing first, not condemning or agreeing or changing.
K: I’m… K is saying that in meditation, those who practice meditation, taking various postures, cross-legged or whatever posture it be, there is the element of time, measurement, control…
K: …and something to be achieved. Right? These are the central factors in all meditations.
CT: Yes; but I… in listening you are speaking very precisely and accurately about all forms of meditation, but there’s an underlying feeling which I get, that it’s inappropriate… (inaudible).
K: I’ll tell you exactly what I will tell you; there is no underlying, hidden something. Now, these are the various factors, or various facets of meditation.
K: Which you also perhaps, and the others. Right? But we never ask: why should I do all this? Why should I meditate? What’s the…?’ I am doing exactly the same thing in other directions.
K: Right? I want…I’m a poor man, I want to become a rich man; I don’t know but I will know.
K: Right? I am a clerk but I will become the executive; I don’t know how to drive a car but give me three weeks’ time, I’ll learn it.
K: Just… (inaudible). It’s the same movement.
CT: Absolutely, but there is a qualitative difference.
K: Wait; it’s the same movement. Here, you are trying something so-called spiritual – right? – there you are… it’s mundane, it is worldly, it is necessary. Hm? Right?
K: One has to have money, clothes, shelter, therefore it’s necessary to work, etc, etc. I have there also certain discipline there, and here too I must have discipline. Right?
CT: Yes; absolutely.
K: Hm? Right?
CT: But within the…
K: I’m not condemning anything; I’m just watching.
CT: Right. So within pointing out that there are two major parallels between one movement of mind which is more…
K: Not parallel; they are exactly the same.
CT: Yes, they are exactly the same in terms of the movement of mind.
K: Yes, sir, brain; it is exactly the same the clerk saying, ‘Give me another ten years, I’ll be the manger, and then give me another five years, I’ll be top boss.’ Right?
K: Here too, give me… I am the beginner, I’ll progress and come to the top, which is nirvana, heaven, illumination, understanding, say, ‘I have found truth’, all that. Right?
K: What’s the difference between these two?
CT: I feel there is a certain difference. I don’t wish to exaggerate the importance too much of the relative path of inner development …
K: It is exactly the same thing, only you call that worldly development; here, ‘spiritual’, ‘inner’.
K: This is psychological, subjective, under the skin.
K: The other, I go to office or factory everyday… I practice there.
CT: But the… I would say the difference is that in spite of identical nature of the two, one does contribute towards intelligent inner change and the other denies it.
K: Sir, wait, sir; no, the other doesn’t deny it.
CT: The other doesn’t help it.
K: I change from a clerk, now I’ve got a Rolls Royce or a Mercedes; I’ve changed; I have a better house, better garden and… etc., blah, blah.
CT: But hopefully, looking at things in a positive way…
K: Ah, this is… if you say… I don’t… these are both positive.
CT: Right; right. So are you saying then, Krishnaji…?
K: Wait, sir, I’m… I just pointed out; I’m not saying anything yet.
CT: All right.
K: I’m just showing, perhaps we have extended that – money, clerk, executive, we have extended the same thing to this world.
CT: Yes; right.
K: I say we… perhaps we have extended the same ambition to this world of… the so-called, quote, spiritual world.
CT: I mean, there is certainly an enormous danger in this transference from one kind of world into the other.
K: They are both the same.
K: Just a minute, sir; it appears that way. Right?
K: So you are telling me, if I’m a… I come to you and you say, ‘Meditate.’ He says, ‘I don’t know what you mean by it,’ and you tell me, ‘Begin, investigate, pay attention to what you are doing’, you know, all that things that you and others say, ‘Carry on.’ Right?
CT: Right. But one has to – hopefully – be able to communicate to the position, the actual position that somebody is in at a present time.
K: What does that mean?
CT: That may mean that a person is experiencing frustration or confusion or pain…
K: Wait. So… so… right. Which means what?
CT: It means that the primary emphasis, initially…
K: No, don’t… primary or secondary…You see, that’s what… that means that you are already measuring.
CT: Yes, but…
K: Sir, just look what you are saying. I’m not criticising, please; I’m just observing what you are saying. You say, ‘Primary, the beginning.’
K: And the beginning therefore has an end.
K: That’s what you’re saying; that’s what all the gurus, all the eastern philosophers… ‘Begin and you will get it.’
CT: I’m not saying that.
K: ‘You will come near it.’
CT: I would say that there is the potential within a person to deepen their receptivity to life.
K: Sir, I… Forgive me.
K: What do you mean ‘Deep something in the person’?
CT: No; to deepen their receptivity.
K: I receive there too.
CT: In which way?
K: I receive all kinds of reactions there. Right?
K: Receptivity there is enormous. Right?
CT: But that receptivity tends to be on the backs of other people, to some degree or other.
K: So, there you are trying to escape; leave that; depend on yourself.
CT: I’m more towards questioning all of that form of…
K: Yes, sir, questioning.
K: Look, I question – pursue it, sir, logically – I question all that; hm?
K: I can find a rationale for all that; if I have more money… better… I have to live in this beastly society therefore I must have more money, otherwise I’ll be destroyed; hm?
K: All that goes on there.
CT: Yes, and one looks at that and sees that there is certain emptiness to it, in some degree or other.
K: Ah, that’s it; that’s it. There it’s empty – right? – here, if I do certain things, I won’t be empty.
CT: That may or may not be changed…
K: Sir, do look at it, sir. I’m not criticising anything.
K: I’m not… I’ll tell you what I think presently…
CT: All right.
K: Not ‘think’, not… to me, what meditation is.
CT: Yes. I would say in the flow of our discussion, as I listen to you what comes to my mind is the condition of a number of people that I have contact with, who in the initial period of some inquiry find it extraordinarily difficult to make a leap which leaves behind the relative condition of, say, material pursuit – in the various forms we have described – and a spiritual pursuit which implies, certainly a beginning, though it may not have to imply the end as such.
K: Sir, just a minute; that’s what you… you are saying, repeating – forgive me – you are repeating the same thing. Right? That’s what they all say – Tibetans, Buddhists, the Hindus, the gurus, they say…
CT: Does that undermine the fact, that it has a certain repetition to it?
K: Yes… no.
CT: Does that disqualify it?
K: Certainly not, but I’m saying I understand what you have said; by repeating you are not making it clearer.
CT: Oh. I’m… in a way I am… by repeating I am – how to say it? – trying to acknowledge the reality of, in various individual human condition.
K: Sir, human beings all over the world are conditioned.
K: As Christians, as Buddhists, or as scientists, as doctors, as carpenters, or gurus, they are all conditioned. Right?
K: Those people who meditate and those people who don’t meditate.
K: They are all conditioned, by their culture…
CT: Yes. But is that conditioning… (inaudible) the spiritual conditioning, is it such that it’s a total form of conditioning?
K: That’s the question; that is, is there in the human condition a part, or an inward state where there is no conditioning, a small part? Is that what you’re saying?
CT: Well, not so much a small part which isn’t conditioning, but it does seem within our mental processes that given a certain outlook and attitude on life, we can listen more clearly and directly, both inwardly and outwardly, and therefore my question really is: are there optimum conditions, beneficial conditions for this kind of receptivity?
K: We have to go into the question, sir, what do you mean by condition?
CT: The bringing together…
K: Condition; I’m asking what do you mean by the word condition. The meditator is conditioned.
CT: Yes; but again, within that conditioning of the meditator, is it such that it blinds the meditator to a consciousness which can see clearly?
K: That means he must be free of the conditioning.
CT: At least not overwhelmed by it or over-awed by it.
K: Ah, no, no, no. This brings a question whether the whole brain, which is, after all the only instrument we have…
K: …because their brain is all the reactions, all the responses, nervous, neurological and ambition, greed, envy, the brain contains this.
K: So in the brain, you’re asking, which is the condition within the skull, is there something that will help to free the brain of its conditioning.
K: Are you sure you’re asking that question?
CT: I think I’m conceited enough to know I think I know the answer, so my question is more: within our mental faculties, within our brain, there is an element of mindfulness or observation which is able to see the mental processes clearly and directly.
K: So then we have to go into the question of observation.
K: Ah? Seeing clearly.
CT: And can we in seeing clearly use…?
K: No, before, sir, what do you mean by seeing?
CT: An awareness…
K: No, just… don’t… you see, tell me… I’m totally ignorant of your words; don’t put me into awareness and all the rest. What do you mean by seeing, observing?
K: I observe that sofa; I observe that child. Right?
CT: Yes; right.
K: There is visual observation, the colour, the whole window, what she’s doing; I observe. Right? There is observation of that. Right? Right?
K: And in observing, the reactions are verbal: red, blue, dark, black, so there is the… in that observation there is a whole process of verbalization. Right?
CT: Of which one also can be aware of, so that…
K: Yes, but first this is what is happening. Right? Don’t introduce more… we’ll come to that presently. So… I don’t know if we can come to it; we’ll see. In this process there is a verbalization: ‘That is green, that’s a child’… So that means remembrance and recognition – right? – then there is organization. Right? Then there is – what? Go slowly, sir; then there is what? Representation; I represent the ideal; I have… the first principle, the ideal. So these three are operating all the time.
CT: Are they operating all the time?
K: Of course.
(Pause in recording)
CT: Well, so in our… we were speaking about… you asked me what is an experience, and I just responded that an experience is something which affects one.
K: Yes. What is the one? Who is it that is being affected?
CT: In my use of the language here, I would say that there is, in more impersonal language, consciousness and the field of mental experience.
CT: There is the field of mental experience; that means moods, feelings, thoughts, emotions.
K: Yes, sir; yes, sir; all…
CT: Right? And that affects the consciousness; and oneself identifies, as it were, the I sense identifies with the consciousness in its connection with the field… (inaudible).
K: So what is consciousness?
CT: The element of being conscious of.
K: I am conscious of that chair.
CT: Right; and in that there is a relationship formed between the element of consciousness and the chair.
K: Ah, no, no; that is consciousness. I see from childhood that’s been chair. Right? So would you say, to bring it without too elaboration, consciousness is its whole content?
K: Its whole content, not just some content; whole the (inaudible); memories, reactions, fears, pleasure, pain, depression.
CT: But given our moment to moment existence, the content …
K: Varies; but it’s still content.
K: Within this area which we call consciousness – whether it’s small, big, that’s not important – all the… physical, biological elements, reactions – right? – responses, memories…
K: …the tendencies and so on; fears, sorrow, pain, depression, aspiration, envy and brutishness; I am a British, I am an Indian – all that is my consciousness.
CT: Right, but in the form of language that you’re using here, you’re making the consciousness and the content totally identical.
K: I said without the content there is… the consciousness as we know it is non-existent.
CT: Right. I mean, certainly one cannot have a separate existence from the other.
K: I didn’t say ‘the other’. You are saying ‘the other’.
K: I… Sir, take an ordinary person, any person; his consciousness is what he is – right? – what he thinks, what he feels, what his aspiration, his God, he believes in God, he doesn’t believe in God; he is a Catholic, non-Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist; and his own fears, his own tendencies, his longings, his loneliness, his despair – all that is his consciousness.
CT: Yes. Right. And so there is the condition of the consciousness…
K: That is his condition.
CT: Right; and within that condition of the consciousness…
K: No. That is his consciousness. There is not another consciousness.
K: You can invent another consciousness – super-consciousness, but it’s still within the consciousness.
CT: Right, but it’s not a point I… it’s quite clear to me because, in looking, for example, at the chair, it’s too far to say the consciousness is the chair.
CT: There’s an object in… I would say an object in consciousness.
K: Of course.
CT: And that object in consciousness means that there is a stated relationship which is there.
K: I said so, sir.
CT: Yes. And doesn’t that apply equally to the whole scope of the mind experience?
K: So I’m saying the whole brain is conditioned.
K: Conditioned… this conditioning is its consciousness.
CT: Yes; right.
K: So if I am born in India…
(Pause in recording)
CT: To find within oneself…
K: How can I…?
CT: …a greater clarity of the events which are happening.
K: Yes, sir, that’s very simple. Clarity of what is happening.
K: There is a meeting between Reagan and Gromyko. They are both playing games.
K: One is playing political game to get more elected, the other is definitely concerned about his opinions, his… etc., but that’s very clear. You don’t have to say what they’re going to say.
CT: No; no… (inaudible) apparent.
K: It’s very clear. Now, a professor comes along… I’m coming in a few minutes… (inaudible).
Mary Zimbalist: I just want to tell you… excuse me…
CT: Yes, please… (inaudible).
MZ: We’re upstairs in the wallpaper room and when you’re through, if you’d be kind enough…
MZ: If you’d stop by in the wallpaper room when you’re finished.
K: Right; right; right.
Sir, we are moving away from the central fact that human beings are conditioned; they are being programmed as computers. Right?
K: That’s obvious… (inaudible).
K: And human beings, from before homo sapiens, has been searching something, wanting something spiritual, what he called religion – let’s put it there – and that’s a fact. Right?
K: And there have been people who have been saying, ‘Yes, there is something there, spiritual,’- so-called spiritual, religious – and this has been going on for million years. Hm?
K: And you come along and say, ‘To find that, meditate.’ Put it crudely. I can put it much more subtly if you want to.
CT: I prefer subtlety.
K: Yes, all right. To reach that sublime thing the mind… the brain must be tranquil.
K: They say the same thing, the Buddhists, the Zen, the Hindu; the Christians haven’t gone into this question very deeply; the others have. So then the problem arises: who is it that’s going to make it silent? Right? Right?
K: Who is the controller that controls thought?
K: Right? We never ask that question. K is asking that question. We say, ‘We must control thought’. Gurus also: ‘Control thought.’
CT: But within the scope of inner observation with form, such as sitting still… (inaudible).
K: I must be very careful, say… ‘inner observation’ – what do you mean by that?
CT: Meaning in this case, sitting…
K: Wait, wait.
K: Why should I do that when I could do it much more simply? Which is, my relationship to my wife or husband, I watch my reactions there.
CT: Yes, but that… one doesn’t exclude the other.
K: Ah, no. No, I begin there.
K: That I begin to see in my relationship the whole structure of myself.
K: I don’t have to go to you to teach me how to meditate.
CT: No, one certainly doesn’t have to go and…
K: But I’m saying that’s what is happening in the world. You have become the guru. I am… please, I’m not being insulting, please.
CT: That is an insult to me (laughs).
K: So I say to… don’t go through all this elaborate process of meditation and all that; you have a very good opportunity to learn about yourself.
K: Which is self-knowledge, knowing yourself; which is, your relationship with nature, to your wife, to the politician, to your neighbour, to whom you are talking to. You can be aware of all your reactions.
CT: Yes. Right.
K: That is… Then go further.
CT: Right. Now…
K: I don’t need anybody to tell me how to go; that’s my interest; I want to find out.
CT: Now… right; and certainly that must be, in fact, the major emphasis.
K: That is the only emphasis; not major.
CT: Okay. But given the…
K: Not ‘okay’ (laughs). You see, that is the only thing I can begin with, because I am related to everything all my life.
CT: But if I may say, people within the pressure of the social reality…
K: Oh, yes.
CT: …find it…
K: Now I say… that means you haven’t understood society and your relationship to society. You have created this awful, corrupt society because you are like that.
CT: But, if within that, the person is genuinely floundering within it.
K: Then stop; stop.
CT: What? Stop what?
K: This floundering. Wait, sir, you have…
K: You see, this is all so simple. And there is somebody stands up and says, ‘I’ll help you.’ This game has been going on for a million years. Somebody, the priest, who intervenes between you and God, it’s the same… psychiatrist – they are all trying to help.
CT: And that…Yes.
K: And therefore you are making the listener, whom you are helping, weaker, because he relies on all this. You don’t tell him, ‘Everything… find out; don’t depend on anybody.’
CT: Yes; and that is an indispensable emphasis, to encourage people to…
K: I don’t want to… You see how you are using these words? I don’t want to encourage anybody; I don’t want to help… K doesn’t want to help. It is so; look; it’s right in front of your nose; the whole world and yourself in relationship to the world. And… there is something much greater than that, you go into it.
K: Why should I be a leader? We have had… sir, historically, how many leaders have we had?
CT: Yes, yes; I agree completely with you.
K: Sir, we talk about meditation; if you really want to talk…
K: K says this: any form of conscious meditation is no meditation.
CT: Oh, this is tough language. Why…?
K: It is desire that’s making me sit cross-legged; it is desire that says, ‘I must achieve.’
CT: But can’t the desire…?
K: Ah… Sir, then you haven’t understood what is desire, what is the nature of desire, why…. Sir, please, meditation is something entirely different, not all this intellectual, emotional, or effort. It is something that must be done… – not ‘must be done’ – something which has consciousness, with all its travail, with all its anxiety, pain, loneliness, sorrow, all that must be understood first. That is the corruption, not pornographic books and drugs. Corruption is when one is selfish, arrogant, personal, envious.
CT: Yes. So within…
K: That is… there is… there begin; start there.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park, 26 September 1984